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The Rich Life of Money and How Its History Has Shaped Us
- Read in 10 minutes
- Audio & text available
- Contains 6 key ideas
Coined (2015) offers an in-depth explanation of money, a powerful and complex force that many of us take for granted. It examines money’s historical roots and explains the relationship between it and our emotions, while offering theories on the future evolution of money.
Key idea 1 of 6
Money arose as a medium of exchange when communities began to produce surpluses.
Money is a crucial element of survival in the society we've constructed. We use cash as a medium of exchange for getting the things we want or need.
And if you really want to understand money, you first have to understand how it works in the context of the laws of nature.
The nature of exchange is a key concept for all living creatures. Organisms work together to survive, often entering into symbiotic relationships, or symbiosis. In such a relationship, two different organisms benefit each other so that they together can better survive and reproduce.
That's how bees and flowers work. Bees derive energy from the nectar in flowers and then make honey to store through the winter. In turn, they spread pollen from flower to flower, thus fertilizing the flowers and ensuring their survival.
Bees and flowers also exchange electrical energy. Flowers have a “negative” charge and bees a “positive” charge – like magnets, that's why they're attracted to each other. The bees are pulled toward the negatively charged pollen, which then sticks to them so they can easily transport it and pollinate other flowers. Both species benefit equally.
Ancient humans, in contrast, came to realize that they as a group had a better chance of survival if they helped each other.
So humans specialized in different skills and created divisions of labor. Some individuals hunted, while others raised children, for example.
Eventually, humans started producing more food than they could consume. For the first time, they had a surplus that they could trade with other groups for goods they needed. Thus groups began trading technology, such as hand axes or spears.
Over time, humans learned that trade was easier and more effective if there existed a universal tool for exchange, rather than exchanging goods or services themselves – and money was developed.