Book Trek: A Review of “Before Babylon, Beyond Bitcoin – From Money That We Understand To Money That Understands Us”By admin_45 in Blog
The Author David Birch Background: Director of Innovation at Consult Hyperion, a consultancy the author helped to found. He is a widely quoted expert on digital identity and digital currency, with decades of real-world experience in these fields. Length and Readability 233 pages of text, plus short forwards/acknowledgments/appendix This is the sort of book you read when you want a 360 degree view of a topic that includes both ancient history and potentially far-off futures. The author brings his broad experience to bear with specific case studies and useful historical context. This is a complex subject, however, so you can’t skim past the challenging bits and expect to understand the whole. Recommendation Recommended for anyone interested in a thorough analysis of money, past present and future. The author is a recognized thought leader in digital money, and unlike many pundits he has decades of real experience to share. His case studies include success and (just as usefully) failures. What is the “Big Idea” in this book? Money sits at the intersection of “Society” and “Technology”. When either – or both – of those things change course, money goes along for the ride. History is very clear on that point. For example:
- The printing press made it possible to create paper-based currency rather than just using coins made of precious metals.
- Telephony initially allowed money to travel at the speed of light and later provided the systems needed to support credit and debit cards.
- Financial crises like the one in the U.S. in 1907 forced the creation of the modern Federal Reserve Bank system and the inflation caused in part by the Vietnam War ended the dollar’s link to gold prices.
- The recent Financial Crisis and trust in technology gave rise to bitcoin as an alternative to central bank issued money.
- Because trust is a precondition for any monetary system, our personal social identities can eventually provide a new solution for that requirement. Wonder why the new iPhone has facial recognition? The digitization of your unique facial characteristics is one way to assure that only you have access to the money stored on a phone, or your Facebook account or any other means of identifying you.
- Crypto-currencies represent a disruption for the current financial system for two reasons. First, they allow for peer-to-peer transfers outside the global banking system. Second, they maintain decentralized independent ledgers of transactions rather than residing in one institution.
- Technology allows for new kinds of money. In addition to old-school central and commercial banks “Creating” money, crypto currencies allow anyone to set up their own monetary equivalent. Communities of people can also establish their own money for trade between themselves.