What is money?


We all try to save it, but sometimes we spend too much. We need it to get by, but we all agree that it’s not needed for the most important things in life. It’s one of those things that if we ask ten people what it really is, we can expect at least eleven answers, if not forty. Money Changes Everything. Money Can’t Buy Me Love. Money, That’s What I Want.

Now I am pretty old. In fact, my sixtieth birthday is this week. (I know, I don’t look that old, and thank you!) and I think of money as paper notes and coins. I have been fortunate enough to have traveled all over the world and I keep a little bit of money from every place I visit. I have boxes of foreign coins and bills, enough that should I ever go back to a place, I have at least cab fare in my pocket. But that’s not the real reason that I keep all that money on hand. Money, you see, is magic. Take out a dollar (or pound or Euro or Kroner or Ringgit or whatever) and look at it. I see pictures of legendary heroes (in my case, George Washington or Abraham Lincoln) and various magical symbols, totems etc. (Eagles, stars, pyramids with eyes, what have you) Those are there as cultural icons to help inspire faith in the money.

If enough people stop believing in money, it can become worth nothing overnight. This has happened many times in history, and, in fact, for most of human history there was no money at all. There are many people alive today who rarely use money for the things they do every day. Money is an intermediary medium; a token that we use to exchange for goods and services. We are so used to it that we don’t think there is any other way for us to do business, and yet, it is only one way and only useful in a society that is based on it’s existence. Inside your family, for example, you have assigned duties and get expected return. Sometimes this includes the distribution of money, and sometimes it is all just goods and services. Mow the lawn, and get lunch, or a ride to the beach, or whatever.

There are all kinds of money. I live in the USA, and we have money based on something called the FEDERAL RESERVE SYSTEM. This is so complicated that I am sure nobody has every really figured it out. (this is a joke, please don’t offer to explain it to me) Recently, people have suggested that there should be monies with no relation to a government of any kind, and we see the rise of cryptocurrencies, the most well known of which is BITCOIN. But the point I am trying to make is really beyond all of this argument. Money is a medium of exchange, but the real point is this: money is information.


Only a few percent of the dollars in circulation are ever printed or minted. The reset exist only as units of information. Once upon a time those units were ink on a ledger, the records of debts and exchanges in a bank or an exchequer or a depository or whatever you called it. (the magical temple of finance) but nowadays the money only exists that can be found in a computer.

All the money in the world is only money in a computer.

You might have a checkbook or savings passbook that is a record of what you own. You might actually have a trust deed that you own a house, or a pink slip (here in the us) that means you own a car, but let’s get serious–if that piece of paper does not agree with the computer, guess who wins?

This is one of the best reasons that we are taking so much care to protect not only your computer, but your accounts, your sessions, your passwords, your data, and your privacy. You need to use these tools in the world with confidence. This is only one of the reasons why.

We help to protect the magic.

Happy Cyber Monday from David Perry and all of us here at F-Secure.

[Image courtesy of epSos.de]


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