Virtual money and real problems

Linden Dollar ATM

Some of you will know what a Linden Dollar is. It is the virtual currency of the popular game Second Life. Due to the opportunity to exchange Linden Dollar for US Dollar (and the other way around), the virtual economy of Second Life is somehow linked to our real economy.

Regarding the financial globalization and its beginning (probably by having a look at one of my papers 😉 ), all our money became a one or a zero. It doesn’t mean that either you have money or not – it simply means the digitization of money. My money for example is stored on the bank account of a direct bank. Thus, accessing my money is only possible via Internet or telephone. For the banks’ systems it’s just a row of one’s and zero’s. Hundred years ago, most of the people like me had their money in their trousers, house or hidden within the filling of their pillow.

So what changed? Well, I don’t want to discuss the whole thing about virtual transactions, financial globalization and inter alia hedge funds – at least not now and not here – a good friend of mine made me double-think about this topic. She argued that she’s doing only online shopping because it is easier for her to spend the money. Otherwise she would never buy anything, watching her coins changing the ownership. Same with me. When I go to supermarket I try only to spend the money I have in my wallet. If I’m planning to pay with my debit card you can be sure that I spend more than I would have with the existence of ‘real’ money in my hands. I think there is no much difference whether you take buying stuff online or paying with your credit/ debit card in a restaurant. You don’t really feel like your money is spent. And all hell breaks loose at the end of a month with the arriving of your credit card bill. There is a certain danger of spending too much money due to the fact that the relationship between money and owner changes (even though, and I’m pretty sure, the money doesn’t really care).

Side bar: This time it is only about us spending the money not wisely enough. I will not make any reference to the thousands of credit card details which might have been stolen some days ago – and the banks handing out new credit cards and trying to avoid a disaster. Electronic payment can’t simply be as secure as me handing my money over to someone else.

So, what’s the problem? According to guys like Neil Postman, this is – in a way – technological determinism. A part of the behavior of our society is changed by the technological possibilities we have. Well, you can argue that men and women developed digital and electronic payment and therefore it is not the technology which is changing us, but this is – sorry – nonsense. Thus, the technology of electronic payment makes us spend our earned money, caring less about it. The bad thing: The bill comes at the end of the month anyway. We live in a technological society. Technology shapes us and we develop new technologies. This is a silent mutual agreement. The only way to avoid selling all my houses on the Second Life planet is: Be aware, behave conscious.

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