What happens when the mechanisms for buying, selling, and purchasing change from the conventional way we are used to? Perhaps we can remove the need for banks or currency exchange bureaus. That’s the radical promise of a world powered by cryptocurrencies.
In the TED Talk “The Future of Money,” Neha Narula, a digital currency researcher, argues that fiat currencies do not need to have a certain form to hold value. She goes on to state that, “There’s nothing inherently invaluable about a dollar or a stone or a coin…The only reason these things have any value is because we’ve all decided they should. And because we’ve decided that, they do.”
Narula points out that most of the money we exchange could already be considered digital; we have converted to digital money through tasks like direct deposits, online bill payments, and online savings accounts. However, there’s a catch to all of those transfers: The money stays in the possession of gatekeeper institutions such as banks, credit cards, or investment firms.
“The future of money is programmable. When we combine software and currency, money becomes more than just a static unit of value, and we don’t have to rely on institutions for security,” Narula says, referring to cryptocurrencies. She goes on to say, “Programmable money democratizes money, and because of this, things are going to change and unfold in ways that we can’t even predict.”
Narula explains that the current state of cryptocurrencies are similar to the automobile when it was first introduced to the general public. “If you were the first person on your block to get a car with an internal combustion engine, your neighbors would probably think you were crazy. ‘Why would you want this large, clunky machine that breaks down all the time, lights on fire, and is still slower than a horse.” She goes on to say that once the potential for programmable money is realized, the story of cryptocurrencies will unfold in the same way that the automobile did.