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Baker Street Irregulars
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There are different types of money floating about the
place. Some of it is real, a lot of it almost real, and
plenty of it is just plain imaginary. But none of it,
despite what you may have heard, is smart. Until now.
Cash is great. It provides a highly convenient way to
conduct a wide range
of financial transactions, and,
except perhaps for a big slab of gold, is about as real as
money can get.
It does have a few problems however; It wears out, it
gets used for illegal purposes, and it occasionally gets
Using existing materials technology, it ought to be
possible to build a note (or coin for that matter) that
from the point of issue, is able to log each and every
transaction it gets involved in.
How? I'll tell you.
Every person is issued with a thingy by their bank. The
thingy (which might take the form of a wallet, or could
be slipped into a wallet or purse) issues and receives a
coded signal over a very short range. Cash in close
contact with the thingy stores this fact in its memory.
Equally and oppositely, the thingy remembers the fact
that note A4352311BQX was in close proximity to it.
Now you go down to the shop, and buy a chocolate bar,
handing over note A4352311BQX in the process. Your
wallet notes the loss of the note, and the note is placed
in close proximity to the store owner's thingy. The note
takes a note of its new owner, and the owner's thingy
also has a record of having received A4352311BQX - he
may even have a computer system clever (or anal)
enough to recognise that A4352311BQX was received in
exchange for a Mars bar.
You get the idea.
By the end of the note's life, it will have a log of every
person through whom's hands it passed.
The happy store owner doesn't have any problem filing
his accounts or taxes, because he has a complete,
itemised record of every transaction he's ever made.
At the end of every note's lifespan (after some arbitrary
number of transactions) it returns from circulation and
has its memory downloaded into a massive central
computer that is able to see the movements of money
between individuals. Analysing this web of commerce
should assist in gathering intelligence about criminal
operations, terrorist things, scams, thefts and other
It is always going to be a few months/years behind
(depending on how quickly the notes are taken out of
circulation)but this sort of analysis could even be as
useful as to providing important (and much more timely)
data about the ins and outs of the economy.
Because now, you really will be able to see where the
smart money goes.
[Vernon]'s idea, showing us that sometimes, the truth is pretty strange. [zen_tom, Aug 19 2005]
They did it already! [zen_tom, Aug 19 2005]
||So a thief would put stolen money in his thingy? Right before he makes a donation to the Police Benevolence Fund. Is all money removed from one thingy and not placed into another thingy considered stolen? Does my kid have to have a thingy to keep track of her allowance? So many questions, so few thingys.
||Your child doesn't *need* one, but she might like the piggy-bank ones that are available.
||All the money does is quietly remember who it has belonged to - if someone chooses not to have a thingy, they might have problems convincing a shop to accept large quantities of cash that doesn't appear to belong to them. Meanwhile, the guy who runs the corner shop down the road probably wont care so much.
||It's all completely voluntary.
||If you discover that your money has been stolen, you upload the last status of your thingy to the bank - and they then know exactly which notes have been stolen.
||Once those notes are taken out of circulation (which of course, eventually they will be) they can be tracked back to the first transactions after their theft. This wont necessarily catch the criminal, but it will either keep him out of the system, or, force him to think very hard about how he spends his money.
||OK, think of it this way, it performs all the functions of a national ID card, without actually being a national ID card.
||There, I've said it - let the bone-torrent commence.
||The information gathered is more interesting than what someone's eye colour and blood type might be - plus it really would help the authorities target their investigations into undesirable activities, without directly violating anyone's rights to privacy(?!).
||In addition, it also provides the benefit of being able to quickly show changes in patterns of spending behaviour across the country, allowing a government to respond extremely quickly to variations in regional economies.
||[Pa`ve] that's true, but you can't fund terrorism, or buy vast suit-cases full of cocaine by using your debit card, it's just not practical.
||Now perhaps you are suggesting we remove the concept of cash altogether, and all use our debit cards. Fine, but imagine a New York deli, with impatient customers all having to watch the people in front of them go through the card/swipe/print/sign ballet, when they could have just handed over $15 and got change - sometimes, cash is great, because it's so instant.
||Anyway, it looks as though this idea is baked already in Europe and (possibly) in the US - as per [Vernon]'s idea (linked)
||Could you hack the money's memory to get a market cross-section on demographic spending? Like a system to replace those oh-so-fickle Microsoft 'error reports' corporations have to rely on for their market research. Not that I'm insinuating anything.
||And this ladies and gentlemen was posted a full 2 years
before Satoshi Nakamoto posted his ideas on Bitcoin, a cash-
like currency that operates on the fundamental principle
that the global transaction ledger is publically available, and
for which the types of analysis described above is routine - so
much so, that (for example) wallet-scrambling services have
emerged to circumvent such analysis.
||What's better about the BitCoin idea however (and what
makes that proper genius, and this just fluff) is the entirely
decentralised nature of it.