The Future of Money

Chris Buck, Kyra Darnton, Solana Pyne, Laurence B. Chollet, Karen M. Sughrue, Erik German, Maria Villaseñor, Noah Mado and Je Bernier

People from the Pacific island of Yap have long used rocks as a form of currency: “stone money” (in the form of enormous stone discs) is still valued on Yap, particularly in ceremonies and exchanges that reinforce social ties. In “Future of Money,” the nonprofit, online-only news organization Retro Report first traveled to Yap to explain its monetary system, wherein the island’s oral tradition enables residents to remember who owns each rock, without the need of any intermediary, like a bank or the government. Retro Report then compared Yap’s ancient ways to the newest forms of money, like Bitcoin, which in the virtual world groups together transactions into blocks that when linked together are called blockchains. These blockchains function without any government or banking intermediaries and portend huge changes to a fundamental aspect of our daily lives. Using interviews with experts and scholars, as well as with residents on Yap, Retro Report produced an entertaining and enlightening video about how the future of money is deeply rooted in the past. Distributed on multiple platforms with help from Quartz, Retro Report concluded that the Bitcoin blockchain is the “global, digital automated version of the oral tradition that tracked ownership of the stones on Yap. In essence, a blockchain is just a high-tech, universal record book.”

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