Who Will Own, and Operate, the Money We Use?

As Fintech Challenges the World Order.

We know how fundamentally the internet and the web have changed not just the world of work, business and commerce but all our lives and the way we live, around the world.

It’s touched and changed just about everything – from the way we socialise (or don’t) to the way we work and play – and even date and relate.

Making some things that were impossible possible, and removing friction which means that many more things which were simply impracticable become possible too.

While it has been apparent to some of us that we are now in the process of remaking money, globally, as well as the internet, it was not until Facebook and its partners published the Libra whitepaper that the rest of the world, the mainstream, caught up.

It has quite literally changed the game simply because it is now widely understood, part of the zeitgeist, that it is only a matter of time before we get global money – whether Libra achieve their aims or not.

Indeed we have seen the IMF and central banks now talking seriously about what they rather fetchingly call CBDCs (central banks digital currencies) – while they’re missing the point… or at least one of them.

The point of Global Digital money is first of all that it is global, secondly that it’s frictionless, and thirdly that it’s largely cost-free and almost instant.

In case you missed it this is the killer app for the world and the financial system. The switch from expensive, friction rich, toll roads – to superfast, open and free to use highways, that are friction free and open to all.

That is the Promise. That could be a future. But will it materialize? And if it does who will own it. Will it be owned ‘by the people for the people’. Or by Google, Facebook and Amazon – or a consortium on 100 corporates – with a corporate agenda?

It is a great responsibility, with which goes great power. A power that needs to be guarded.

But might we, on the other hand, end up with a patchwork, or even a plethora, of store-card currencies-with every major global corporate vying for Supremacy for their own global money.

Because technology is again taking us into new territory. Since the Second World War and the formation of the United Nations (and it’s predecessor the League of Nations) the nation-state has served well enough as the Democratic unit.

But as we enter a world of global money, with full-on cryptocurrencies as well as the likes of Libra, it has already begged and is begging the question of global governance, which can now no longer be dodged.

Indeed the process has already started with the US Senate hearings this month and manoeuvers from the G8 and the G20 and the financial action task force (FATF) seeking to bring in global regulation via the backdoor – to deliberately introduce so much friction from the old into the new so is to disable it and enable incumbents to colonize it.

This is why we have created and will be running two ‘Great Debates’ on the future of money during London Fintech Week on Monday and Tuesday 8th and 9th July and will be debating it further at Thursday’s Westminster Frontier Technologies Forum as the start of an ongoing open debate on these important issues where “Fintechnologists” are leading the way for the world.

Barry E. James is a tech pioneer, writer, serial entrepreneur and changemaker in Blockchain, Fintech, Crowdfunding and Medtech who chairs the British Blockchain & Frontier Technologies Association (bbfta.org). Recognised internationally as a thought leader, championing innovation – including smarter regulation. He writes for City AM and Crowdfund Insider, hosts ICOrad.io, is co-chair of the Westminster Frontier Technologies Forum and is a Visiting Fellow at the University of Portsmouth Business School.

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