Even to the most hardened sceptic, there’s no doubt that a moneyless and tradeless society will exist at some point on humanity’s timeline. It’s evitable that technology will some day surpass all human labour and market forces. The only question is when.
Many people however – including myself – believe that this moneyless society can be a reality very much sooner if enough people push for it. However, many such advocates seem to look mostly at the better application of science and technology as the gateway to this money-free paradigm. I disagree.
Though science undoubtedly has a major role to play in making our lives easier, a money-free world will not, in my opinion, come about simply because of better systems or machines – nor would it even be a good idea, as we may not be culturally ready for it. Productivity and social connection are still very much key to our personal fufillment and happiness. Thus a super-automated world might have unexpected social consequences.
Also, it can be be reasonably argued that if science and technology were to bring a money-free world, we could have had it once automation and mechanisation started going mainstream in the 70s and 80s. But instead, business owners just reaped (and continue to reap) the lion’s share of the benefit that technology brought – ultimately creating the stupendous equality gap that we see today.
And, sadly, there’s not much evidence to predict that this monopolistic trend will change significantly as artifical intelligence and more advanced systems come online. The desire to profit and safeguard one’s future is a very powerful one and technology will undoubtedly continue to create profitable opportunities.
So, as I see it, our obstacle to a money-free society is almost entirely behavioural, not technological.
So what does a money-free world really mean?
Everyone wants a fairer world. To money-free activists, this means an open access economy, or a resource-based economy, or Ubuntu or a plethora of other flavours the same basic aim: a world beyond money.
But more than anything else, a money-free world requires a fundamental shift in our priorities, our incentives and our daily habits. The way we interact with each other and the world is currently not working. We seek profit and status, we idolise, we despise, we over-consume, we waste, we don’t take responsibility, we crave convenience, attention and instant gratification. These are clearly not problems of any technological shortage.
Human beings will never be perfect of course, but we need to realise that our current economy is in fact an outgrowth of all these less savoury attributes. Our economy didn’t make us like this. We made the economy in our image – and it’s not always a pretty one.
Breaking it down
Whatever way you view the world politically, our lives revolve around a trading economy. Being ‘conservative’ or ‘liberal’ is really not much more than players arguing over which colour socks to wear at a ball game. The game is trade and it dominates our lives.
And trade is something that – technologically at least – could be quite easily relegated to the past, since we can now quite easily provide all the things we need with minimal human effort.
But what is trade really?
When you further break it down, we can see that trade is really just a replacement for trust.
By and large we don’t feel the need to trade with people we know and trust very well. But with strangers, we do. So rather than hoping someone will ‘do the right thing’ by us, we trade items of equal value – be it money, goods or services. We do this to ensure that we don’t lose out, or mistakenly hope that they might later reciprocate. It seems a perfectly logical safeguard of course, but this substitution of trust with trade comes at a price: It erodes our ability to trust – and ultimately breeds mistrust.
So we are effectively living in a negative feedback cycle of trading because we don’t trust, then mistrusting more because we trade. We have done this now to the point where acts of unconditional generosity are usually greeted with shock – or more often – suspicion.
However, we are in control, and this is a cycle we can also reverse. Just as trade begets more trade, so trust begets more trust. So the more we trust, the more we normalise trust, the more it becomes possible.
To create this positive feedback loop of trust, we need to fundamentally alter how we deal with each other at an economic level.
And the best way to do that is sharing.
A sharing world
Sharing – outside of familial circles – is the very essence of offering and inviting trust. It has been how strangers greet each other or how we resolve conflicts since time immemorial, and here’s why.
Our most basic bodily urge – survival – is utterly dependent on external resources. So how we obtain the things we need to survive has a profound effect on our world-view. This is why money is such a potent force – because it links directly to our survival. And this is also why sharing is the antidote.
Sharing is the antithesis of trade. It allows us to have the things we need and strengthen human connections rather than weaken them. And it’s also the very essence of a money-free society. If we truly want to share our world together equitably and fairly, then sharing is the obvious way to start.
This is the key to transiting to a money-free world. To create a world of greater trust, compassion and limitless possibilities, we have to start building an economy today based on those principles.
Once we begin to see how we can serve all our basic needs just by sharing, then money will lose its power over people. And this is what a happier, money-free world looks like – not creating a system where technology is so pervasive that we literally don’t need to do anything ever.
We need to be productive, we need to be socially engaged in order to live happier, fulfilled lives. Society needs to be our responsibility and our daily business.
With this in mind, I would like to propose a simple six-stage transition plan for manifesting a money-free society. Obviously this is going to be very broad and idealised and cannot hope to predict all eventualities, but I believe this to be the general direction we need to be moving in:
Understand that you are an equal part of the problem and therefore a vital part of the solution.
There is no ‘them’. There is only us. Blaming others has more to do with how we feel about ourselves rather than with the actions of others. Yes, some bad people have a lot of influence, but so do lots of good people. We need to stop externalising our problems or waiting for anyone’s ‘god-like’ intervention to solve them for us.
There is no alterable ‘system’. The system we experience is merely the observable effect of our collective actions. To change the system, we have to alter the way we act. It is our habits and expectations of life that drive the destructive system.
We need to each take responsibilty for creating our own, better world.
2. Change the way you consume
Consume less, re-use more, make or grow your own, share, borrow, upcycle, buy second hand.
Our current level of personal resource consumption is unsustainable and we need to revise our expectations of life. It has long been established that owning more does not make you happier, whereas increased social engagement does. Happiness through consumption is a myth perpetuated by advertising.
However, consuming less doesn’t mean being miserable or going without. In fact, becoming more self-sustaining and economically inventive is actually very personally rewarding and gets quite addictive once you start!
Also, make the switch to open source technology and software wherever you can. This is the future of money-free, today. Embrace it and support these projects.
It’s also a good idea to consume less mainstream media. Shock news, junk TV and shame advertising are all ways of shaping our behaviour and emotional responses in a negative way. Ads are designed to make you consume; news is designed to make you fearful or outraged.
3. Start sharing
Engage in small acts of sharing any way you can.
Share your excess or unwanted items, share your easily given skills and knowledge. Find others who will share theirs with you. You can do this online or in your local area – or both.
This vital step requires a certain amount of discipline however, as there are usually much easier ways to do things – like just trashing or buying something. Sharing is not always the easiest option, and requires some persistence and determination.
Start sharing and make it part of your routine. That means giving and receiving. Don’t be afraid to ask for something from someone who you think will share with you. Sharing needs to be a two-way system.
It’s important to stress that early adopters of sharing groups will have an uphill battle at first and will need to make considerable effort to make it work.
4. Create or join community-based sharing groups
Get involved with more people at a sharing level.
Who can argue that sharing is a bad idea? It’s good for the community, good for the environment and it saves money. And crucially, sharing does not require subscription to any particular ‘outlandish’ ideology. Anyone, left, right, black, green or yellow can engage in and benefit from sharing.
Local councils and charities get involved as community service projects become more widespread.
As more people join, they will bring more diversity to the sharing pool which will bring higher value items and skills. With more activity and a greater selection of shareable things will come greater confidence in the system. This is crucial to making it work as people learn that they can rely on a certain amount of support from within the community.
5. Sharing approaches parity with trading
Community size, diversity and confidence reaches a point where sharing becomes a realistic alternative to trading. This is the point at which very large numbers of people will become curious in community sharing platforms and local initiatives – when they see that they have a credible choice of either getting something they need freely from the sharing community or paying for it through traditional retail channels.
It’s probable at this point that some businesses and service providers may choose to adopt a limited sharing policy in order to remain competitive and appear contemporary.
6. Sharing supercedes trading
Critical mass. Sharing overtakes trading as large companies and civic institutions reorganise to a new cultural paradigm, yielding to immense pressure. Money-free society begins.
Welcome to a money-free world
This is not to say it will be easy, and undoubtedly the initial steps will require considerable discipline and effort to maintain in a wholly money-driven society. But it will be those persistent early adopters of this new system who will be crucial to blazing a trail to make it easy for others to follow.
Also, better technology and systems will flow naturally from this point once we have shifted more towards a sharing mindset and better understand our responsibilities towards each other and planet.
A money-free world is a sharing world. There’s really no other way to see it. Let’s begin manifesting this behaviour today and create a new system together.