The Least Understood But Most Important Field

Money is absolutely integral in our lives — it has become the default metric to evaluate a human's life (for better or for worse). Money is surrounded with dogmas and judgement by different factions of society, but stripping it down to its core, money is undeniably a necessity for humans in the 21st century — without money, our basic needs would go unmet (how much one needs/should morally desire is a completely different story). Despite the central role it plays in modern human society, most people have an extremely poor understanding of this social technology. On one level, it is bad enough that a large subset of people have close-to-zero knowledge about personal finance and succumb to extremely damaging problems such as debt traps. They are over-exposed to poor credit and under-exposed to smart investing due to a lack of fundamental financial knowledge. However, on another level, I would argue that the larger and more subtle problem of our time is not a poor understanding of the usage of money, but a poor understanding of money itself.

What is money? Why does it have value? Why did we use precious metals to denominate the value of money? Why don't we anymore? Why can the government create money out of thin air?

These questions are extremely difficult to answer and require deep reading and understanding of the history of finance and monetary theory. It is fundamental, yet severely under-appreciated as a field of study. Introductory classes in economics go in depth about macroeconomic policies but completely gloss over the 'What is Money' question. I would go so far as to guess that even many economics and finance thought leaders have an incomplete understanding of what money actually is.

It is arguable that for the longest time in history, this deep understanding of the concept of money was largely irrelevant. The history of humanity has been mostly dominated by groups of people who operate under an authoritarian leader — and this leader defines money for each individual society. Asking questions about the origins of money or the efficacy of monetary supply policies made for nothing more than entertaining thought experiments over wine and cheese. Even if you strongly believed that the concept of money was broken, the most you could do is sip tea and write a book about it.

However, I would like to believe that we are now in a truly special time in history. With the creation of Bitcoin and the subsequent crypto-currencies, we now have a truly decentralized form of money. Throughout history, money was defined and hence controlled by the leaders who ruled our societies, but now we are able to circumvent these leaders altogether. If we have an idea of what money should be, we can build it and deploy it to every human on earth. It is now up to the people to pick and choose which monetary system they think is best — a truly meritocratic system.

This is why I believe that understanding the concept of money is now more important than ever. We have the opportunity to build and test different monetary systems that exist independent of authoritarian rulers, and could potentially shape the way humans perform commerce for the next millennium. John Nash, the legendary mathematician and creator of Game Theory, had a hidden work he worked on for decades called 'Ideal Money'. It is the idea that money, in theory, should be comparable to standardized units of measurement like a watt of power or a second of time. Money should be inherently stable and be a form of measuring and transferring utility.

Money must exist as a unit of measurement of utility, untainted by corrupt governments who manipulate it for selfish means. Money must be representative of work, where the prices of goods and services are directly representative of the work required to produce them — not affected by macroeconomic factors like exchange rates and political distress. But to build this ideal form money which will have perfect utility, we must first understand what money is in its entirety.