Most people who read this blog don’t need to be told that money is a virtual concept. That the piece of paper we routinely exchange for food, fuel and other goods has little or no intrinsic value; it’s just a piece of paper representing a stored value. That the stockmarket is one big virtual game; and that Sun Microsystems professes to run the world’s biggest MMOG by virtue of providing the backbone on which Wall Street plays that game.
However, I would venture that a vast majority of people don’t give the institutions and processes that provide the foundation for currency exchange a second thought. They don’t know the history of currency and don’t likely care. These are sometimes – maybe oftentimes – the same people struggling to understand how a person can pay “real” money for virtual goods… while they shell out hundreds of dollars for good seats at a concert.
My interest in currency probably peaked shortly after reading Stephenson’s Cryptonomicon, but my fascination with what the public perceives as real and what it considers virtual continues unabated; especially as the two continue to collide.
For that reason I’ve been following a thread on Terra Nova, “Property Rights in Virtual Worlds” (Link) which, like other discussions, somehow seems disconnected. It’s not that it isn’t interesting for those of us who pay attention to such topics, but Terra Nova attracts the kind of crowd that would find it interesting. What you likely won’t find is Joe Average consumer spending any time on Terra Nova (unless the headline contains the word “s-e-x”).
Joe Average just isn’t interested in ideas or discussions about where currency comes from or debates on something as esoteric as virtual property rights. Nope. Joe is probably searching for stuff that’s practical (like where he can get a part for his car), sports-related, videogame-related, or something he doesn’t want Mrs. Average to discover in the computer’s cache.
It’s because the Joe Average’s of the world are blissfully ignorant that I wanted to point instead to a story on Reuters, “New age town in U.S. embraces dollar alternative” (Link). I’d seen this reported on television a few weeks/months ago, but with the Bragg vs Linden Lab case moving forward, it seemed a good time to point out now how some Americans are beginning to get a real life education in currency.
Now if only there was an exchange rate between Lindens and BerkShares to really mix things up.