When was the last time you thought about money? Sure, you pay your monthly bills—and budget and track of all relevant balances. But how often do users of money allow themselves to wonder about the nature of the medium of exchange the world is built around? Rachel O’Dwyer, a lecturer in digital cultures at the National College of Art and Design in Dublin, has given the topic a lot of thought. She’s spent years talking to finance industry experts about and researching the dynamic history of financial exchange media. And she’s now condensed those insights into her new book Tokens: The Future of Money in the Age of the Platform.
The upshot: Although cash—i.e. notes and coins—once upon a time revolutionized the way the world conducted business, it’s only part of the story of modern commerce. Another tectonic shift is today underway as technology changes the way transactions are carried out. So are the old, reliable paper notes, as a result, destined to become just a historical footnote? IEEE Spectrum spoke with O’Dwyer about her book and what might be in the offing as transactions go digital and money ventures out beyond the nation state.
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