1. Meteor
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    Meteor Active Member

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    Currency in a semi-post apocalyptic cyberpunk world

    Discussion in 'Setting Development' started by Meteor, Jul 12, 2016.

    Hi everyone and thank you for taking the time to read this post.


    I'm here to ask today about currency for my world. Not something I've ever put a ton of thought into but, I decided that it would help bring the world to life. It doesn't help that I have limited knowledge on how currency works. At any rate originally I was just going to call the money Chrome which would be solid coins encoded with data which determined the value of the coin. High tech machines would scan the coin after a quick decryption and tampering scans before making the value into a digital form called digital credits(I have a few name ideas). Once in digital form you could simply transfer it to an account or carry it in a digital wallet. The option to only convert part of the chrome coin's value was also an idea. I thought this would be better than making everything purely digital. I even considered making a 'black market' currency for the criminal scene, a shady but, accepted form of money. My big issue really is what the standard backing the money would be or if there even needed to be one at this point. What do you guys think so far?
     
  2. Iain Aschendale
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    Iain Aschendale Contributed Member Contributor

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    Just a quick comment on the title of the post: When I think "post-apocalyptic", my idea of currency is canned food, shotgun shells, and stable antibiotics, not digital currency.

    That having been said, what you're talking about sounds somewhat like the status of money in William Gibson's "Sprawl" trilogy. It's been a while, so I may be off on the details, but most people carried something like a debit card that was used for pretty much all legitimate transactions. Early on, the MC in Count Zero is on the run, so he can't use his card, but fortunately he's got a roll of New Yen paper money. Unfortunately, almost no one accepts cash, so he's forced to (memory is a little hazy) get someone to pay for a sandwich or something with their debit card, paying them a ruinous amount of cash to do so.

    I don't know the details of your world, but in Gibson's, governments still exist, so the money is backed by the same thing modern fiat currency is: the confidence that someone will give you something in return for it. Unless a complete absence of government is a thing in your world, I wouldn't think you'd need to say what backs the currency.
     
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  3. Aled James Taylor
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    Aled James Taylor Contributing Member Contributor

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    You could use the LETs system (Local Exchange Trading). Money is transferred digitally or by written cheque, form one account to another but never leaves the bank. Some people are in credit while others are in debt. The total amount of money is zero. You could have competing banks associated with competing criminal gangs. For a fictional story, I'd try to think of a system that seems plausible enough in theory to be believable but dysfunctional in practice so as to cause tension.
     
  4. Sniam
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    Sniam Member

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    Let's talk about what a currency is (yaaaay) : it is something in which people believe there is value.
    So I guess it depends on just how post-apocalyptic the world is. Indeed, if it's about 10 year or so after the apocalypse, you would bargain with cigarets, food, clean water, ammunitions and medics. There is no way a stable system will have emerged yet. However, after a century or two, I could see digitalized money without any problem. That could be counter balanced with "safe currency", by which I mean platinum, gold, silver, even copper sometimes : the kind of material that will always be valuable no matter what currency you're looking at because they are rare. You could also find drugs, I guess, I haven't done much research on the subject :)
     
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  5. BayView
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    BayView Contributing Member Contributor

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    I don't really see the practical benefit of having digitized coins - It seems like the worst of both worlds (easily stolen/lost and heavy to carry like coins, dependent on infrastructure like digital). If I were reading this, I'd want to see a pretty compelling explanation for the system that overrode those issues.
     
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  6. newjerseyrunner
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    newjerseyrunner Contributing Member

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    I think you're going about it backwards. You wouldn't be able to know how money would work without knowing how the central government works. A digital currency would require a very good infrastructure and a very strong central government to control it. Is this a Socialist state? Capitalist? Feudalist? Each would have their own problems with a digital currency and probably handle them very differently. When I see post-apocalyptic, I tend to think of feudalism. In that case, I would think each lord would have their own currency among their subjects, but have a combined currency they trade with each other.

    What is valuable in that world? Resources? Labor? Materials? Information? Money tends to be tied to something. For a long time it was food, then slaves, then gold/metals, now it's information. In your world, I'd imagine labor being the most valuable thing to a state, so if I were king, I'd prefer payment or taxes in the form of slaves/serfs.
     
    Last edited: Jul 12, 2016
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  7. Iain Aschendale
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    Iain Aschendale Contributed Member Contributor

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    Or corporate scrip. Anybody know the exchange rate between Sony Yen (SNY) and General Motors Dollars (GMD) today?
     
  8. Mumble Bee
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    Mumble Bee The writer formerly known as Chained. Contributor

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    Since its post-apocalyptic you could always use something from the previous world, like Fallout and its bottlecaps.
     
  9. Meteor
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    Meteor Active Member

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    Alrighty, thanks for the answers guys. I suppose a little bit of background on the idea behind the world would likely help out here. I actually took the time to set up the world to the best of my ability. This will basically be the short version of what I actually wrote for the world. I mean short because I have an entire chronology which begins at 2041 and works its way up into about 2132 just to give a time frame for you.

    From about 2041 to 2050 is when i set the third world war to take place. There is extended albeit very uneasy peace for about thirteen years after the fact. With such high diplomatic tensions the global changes are almost completely ignored. The National Geological Survey is(and has been for some time)reporting disturbing tectonic activity across various parts of the world. A fourth world wide war kicks off around late 2062 between two groups called the Western Coalition and the Federation of Communist states. During this time South America is also in turmoil of its own after years of a unity called the United Southern States is torn apart by differing views. Africa and the Middle East are areas of conflict due to resources they possess. A new source of energy is also being used. Europe, America and allies have recently developed something called Gamma-voltation whereas the Federation is utilizing Nuclear Fusion plants. South America is also utilizing Fusion plants with a few countries in Africa using either Fusion or Gamma-voltation depending on who they decided to bargain with for the technology in exchange for resources.

    During this time wealthy corporations are slowly becoming the backbone of weakening governments who are being drained from years of war as well as consistent excess spending on weapons research. Private Military Companies start to take over the war scene. These same companies are also the ones who have begun listening to groups such as the National Geological Survey who are attempting to bring to light the issues of the changing world. As the fighting continues they begin stocking resources for possible disastrous events. Mass amounts of resources like metals, seed banks, foods and much more. The actual disaster strikes around 2082 in the form of massive world wide quakes which cause a variety of other issues like tsunamis and so forth. This isn't counting the nuclear disasters experienced during the war either; they are from enemies targeting each others power supplies for a brief period during the war. The World population was sitting around 7.2 billion and when the aftershocks finally began to end around 2090 it had dropped to around 3.12 billion. There were massive land shifts including the sinking of some lands and raising of new ones. Volcanic activity exploded during this period as well and the Earth still suffers slightly in 2132 from continued activity in some parts of the world.

    Once the dust began to settle in 2090 surviving corporations and whatnot began to utilize their supplies to rebuild. They took in surviving people, using the latest in fabrication technology to speed up the building process over the next twelves years. Super cities had emerged by 2117 with populations scaling from the upper tens of millions to the hundreds of millions as people flocked to the safety of such zones. During the years of rebuilding the corporations took over and often indebted the citizens they were protecting through free medical care, food etc. before turning around, demanding repayment. The corporations have become the government and often control specific zones of their super cities through private armies. Wars are waged digitally through information and infrequently with physical violence ranging from assassinations to rare open conflicts between private armies. That's the basic run of everything. It needs a lot of polishing but, that is why I am here.
     
  10. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    If you're going to have a currency, someone has to back it up--unless the currency itself has inherent value, as coins made of precious metals did. By "back it up" I mean, for example, that if someone shows up at Town Hall with a gazillion Whatsits in digital form, the official at Town Hall will hand over an appropriate amount of gold. Or corn seeds. Or Cheetos. Or whatever the currency is based on.

    At least that's how I understand it.

    Is there a stable organization to back up the currency? And if there is, what do they get out of going to the trouble of creating a currency?
     
  11. Meteor
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    Meteor Active Member

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    Hm....what about a regulated currency? A simple universal digital currency with no backing and a set value but, that is extremely limited in supply allowing for money monopoly?
     
  12. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    I see no way for a currency to exist without backing or a stable powerful government. That's not how currency works.
     
  13. Meteor
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    Meteor Active Member

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    Yes I just did some reading on universal currencies. While it is possible and has advantages the disadvantages seem to far outweigh the advantages. It used the euro as an example and how it actually contributed to financial issues in countries like Greece. It would be based on interest/mortgage rates influenced by inflation and deflation which to me sounds like a pretty poor form of money.
     
  14. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    I feel that I somehow haven't been clear, but I'm not sure where your understanding of currency is, so it's hard to clarify. Your discussion above depends on the currency being backed by a government, and your fictional scenario doesn't seem to assume a government.

    I'm going to say some things.

    You can't just have Joe and Jane say, "Hey! We'll say that little wooden beads are currency!" Because if Jane buys something from Joe and pays him with little wooden beads, and Joe takes those little wooden beads over to Marvin to buy something, Marvin's going to say, "Um...little wooden beads? Those aren't worth anything. I don't really care what you and Jane agreed; that's not my problem."

    If Jane buys something from Joe and pays him with an object that has inherent value, like gold, and Joe takes the gold to Marvin, then you don't have that complication.

    Except, you might have the complication of wondering if that gold is really gold, if it's as pure as you expected, if it weighs as much as you expected, and so on. I'm tentatively guessing that that's part of the reason for making coins--that if the coins were made by Josh's Coin Minting Shop, and people trust Josh, and Josh puts a distinctive pattern on them that is hard to forge, then there's more confidence that the coins really do contain the amount of gold that you expect. I'm not at all sure if this is one of the reasons for coins. Anybody know?

    Now, more often, coins weren't made by Josh's Coin Minting Shop, but instead by King Josh's Mint, because King Josh was king of the country where the coins were made, and so more people trusted his Mint. So a coin that looked more or less right could be more or less counted on to have a given amount of gold in it--let's say, for the sake of argument, four grams of gold.

    Then comes the next step, where King Josh says, "Y'know, gold is heavy. It would be a lot easier for my citizens if I just kept all the gold in bars in the Government Vault, and printed paper certificates that are each worth four grams of gold. Then people could carry the paper money instead of the gold coins." So King Josh starts stockpiling gold, and for every four grams of it, he issues a paper certificates.

    So if someone brings forty grams of gold to King Josh, they can get ten certificates. If someone brings ten certificates to King Josh, they can get forty grams of gold. So now, the citizens of King Josh's nation are mostly trading paper certificates with each other--in other words, paper money.

    Then comes the next step, where King Josh says, "You know, I'm going to stop saying that you can get four grams of gold for each paper certificate. I'm just going to print the number of paper certificates that make sense to me." And the country goes nuts because Joshania has gone off the gold standard, but the power of the government keeps the money kinda reasonably stable. Edited to add: In fact, we've gone full circle to "Um...little wooden beads? I don't care what you and Jane agreed." Except it's no longer Joe and Jane who agreed on the value of the little wooden beads, or in this case the paper certificates. It's a whole country full of people who will hand over their products for those certificates, so now Marvin does care what was agreed.

    It doesn't sound to me like the last option is an option--you don't really have a government stable enough to say, "Eh, just trust us." Your currency needs to have some stable entity that will hand you something valuable in exchange for the currency, or your currency needs to actually have value of its own.

    I'm open to being told I'm wrong. But that's how I understand it.
     
    Last edited: Jul 14, 2016
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  15. yadi javadi
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    yadi javadi Banned

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    Funnily enough I'm a poker theorist who recently devised a workable model for a capitalist society which doesn't use money, nor trade.

    All you need is for everybody to choose when and where to contribute to society, and for their contributions to be recorded and displayed for others, who, want to decide when and where to contribute their own efforts. Each person is completely in charge of his own time/goods, and contributes what he thinks is needed to whoever he thinks needs it. If nobody thinks what the person is doing is worth anything, nobody will help them, nor contribute to them anything which there is not an abundance of.

    This would create a new type of environment where there is no middle man between the advertiser and the customer. The middle man which is removed is money, and instead each contributor advertises themselves. Big businesses would still exist. It would all be the same as now except without the money. Oh and everything would thrive and life would not require much effort... people would do other things with there time.
     
  16. Iain Aschendale
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    Iain Aschendale Contributed Member Contributor

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    @ChickenFreak , I don't think you're wrong, but there are the various cryptocurrencies like BitCoin. Of course, those are subject to wild swings in value, and I don't know if they could exist without more or less stable external currencies (like the dollar or euro) to be valued against. However, the OP's world does have powerful corporations, which fits with my suggestion of company scrip. Workers of large companies could be paid in currency issued by their employers, valid at the company-run stores. Other exchanges, like a car company buying steel, would be harder to do, but there are precedents for outright barter between large corporations. In the 1980s, the USSR decided to allow the sale of Pepsi Cola. The Soviet ruble wasn't an exchangeable currency, so Pepsi established a trade of liters of Pepsi syrup for liters of Stolichnaya vodka. No idea what the exchange rate was, but it was done outside of a currency-based framework.
     
  17. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    I agree that company scrip, from a reasonably stable company, could work just fine for individuals. I'm thinking that larger transactions, like your example of a car company buying steel, could be handled by some computerized barter system? So in an instant, there could be a swap transaction of cars-> salt -> computer chips -> knitted hats -> tomatoes -> labor hours -> Siamese kittens -> antique netsuke -> steel.

    OK, it would probably be hard to get enough Siamese kittens to be a commodity, but you see what I mean.
     
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  18. Iain Aschendale
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    Iain Aschendale Contributed Member Contributor

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    Especially when you consider how quickly they devalue into adult Siamese cats :)
    (I don't actually have any breed preferences, all of my cats have been mutts. I get along well with calicos though)
     
  19. newjerseyrunner
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    newjerseyrunner Contributing Member

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    I think your timescale is a little off. Why would they start rebuilding so quickly? At that point, most of the people would be out purely for survival and they'd be a generation deep into the war so they would have no ideas about what was before, only that it was better than it is now. That would disenfranchise them, not cause them to rebuild. I suggest looking at time scales and what the people did after real apocalypses. Some civilizations slowly declined, however, Rome just imploded in a way very similar to what you describe. Afterwards you have power struggles, war, famine, and overall disenfranchisement. Nobody was eager to rebuilding, the powerful people were purely interested in power and the people knew that life was better before, but had no idea how to fix it. The bigger they are, the harder they fall.
     
  20. Gazzola
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    Cyberpunk likes hacking and powerful computers. Instead of making something abstract currency, why not use something that's probably used all the time and is important for this environment? I'll start typing what comes to my head and let's see where this takes us:

    The currency:
    The currency is "Processing Power/Time", like Bitcoin.

    The digital part:
    Each corporation controls a super computer and, when money is traded, whats being traded is "time" in that super computer. Some corporations have better computers than others, so their currency is more valuable since it can do more in less time, which gives you an exchange rate.

    Instead of mining for precious materials they wage war for blueprints of powerful processors, advanced nanotechnology to build smaller processors that consume less energy and hacking techniques to attack the other corporation's super computer and use those computers processing power for themselves.

    The last part of the equation is the lack of energy sources. Gamma Voltation does a lot, but has some kind of quirk or something that prevents it from supplying all the energy needed. How do you add parts to your super computer if you are limited by energy available? Answer: you go Matrix style and use humans.

    The physical part:
    The coins are batteries. The population carries that battery with them and it charges through their movement and metabolism. There are batteries that can hold only a little charge and those that can hold more. If the user lets a battery get filled but doesn't use it, he is wasting money. That's why the batteries that take less charge are less valuable.

    Why would anyone use these batteries instead of using processing power? Simple: the corporations are the ones who sell energy, and they make it more expensive than time in their super computer. This is an incentive for people to always have a few batteries with them to charge. Since the battery is at hand and is more palpable than "time", of course some people will prefer to trade using it.

    The underworld:
    You don't have only old style robbers going after those physical batteries. There's also human trafficking and human farms. The most abused drugs are the ones that increase your metabolism and make charging batteries faster.



    All right, this is as much as I can come up with for an alternative currency that is both digital and physical.
     
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  21. Meteor
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    Meteor Active Member

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    I was actually a little concerned this might be the case. Still, when people are hungry, afraid and desperate they will often turn to the first thing that offers them that which they lack. Especially safety. People just got out of a cataclysmic event and major war and have nothing. Corporations offer them safety, food and shelter which they can provide at accelerated rates. Why make such an offer? Indentured society is the most easily controlled society. Why would the citizens jump at the offer? Even today people are sick of war, looking to the next person who swears they can make it all stop at long last. People are tired of poverty and famine, willing to give anyone money or service who offers them food or can give them clean water. Make things ten times worse, especially for the spoiled first world citizens and I think a similar, if not more desperate, song will be sung. We live in far different times than Rome however, history has a history of repeating itself. I think I'll see about extending the timeline a couple of decades.
     
    Last edited: Jul 17, 2016
  22. zoupskim
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    zoupskim Contributing Member Contributor

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    Creds man, good ol' hard credits. Slit, swipe, plastic gold, Herbert's spice, digidollars, square blares, brah. You got a server!? I'll debug that shit for shavings, girl. Gimme a price, I'll clean the lice. Mind if I plug the ol' skull cap while I work? I haven't cracked into nightland in a while and my implant's startin' to itch. I'm clean, I swear. No viruses.
     
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  23. Terrie000
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    Good topic, I also coming across the currency topic in my fantasy novel. Something creative other than gold coins would be great. Mine exist is a fantasy ancient time fill with magical possibilities, but sounds like your world is in the future where technology is very advanced. How about everyone carries a wallet device (you can think of it as an iPhone in today's world). You can load up a virtual digital quantity (of Chrome) on the device that represent your wealth. Each scan using your device will represent a transaction. This will work, unless you are planning to use a physical currency... but it will have to be convenient to carry, backed by government like the others said, or have some real values to it.
     
  24. Vagrant Tale
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    Vagrant Tale Active Member

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    Bitcoin?
     
  25. OurJud
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    OurJud Contributing Member Contributor

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    I very much want to read this novel! :D
     
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