Sunday, November 23, 2014

"Money is the Crystallisation of time and Free Will"

From the Financial Times Magazine:

Douglas Coupland: 3.1415926535
The invention of the hamburger was a way of homogenising cows. Take whatever you want from any number of animals (but one hopes cows), grind it all up and suddenly you now have a consistent and uniform beef unit: the hamburger “patty”. In this same manner, humanity took time as it was once experienced and converted it into seconds, minutes and hours. A second is basically a “time patty”, or “the duration of 9,192,631,770 periods of the radiation corresponding to the transition between the two hyperfine levels of the ground state of the Caesium 133 atom”.1 Romantic!

Modern culture since 1900 has been about the relentless homogenising of anything that can be homogenised: pig by-products into hot dogs; coffee into Nespresso capsules; junk bonds into hedge funds.

In this spirit of investigation I began to wonder, “What, then, does money homogenise?”
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The average person with a high school education uses 3,000 words a day and is able to recognise about 20,000. But when it comes to sequences and numbers, when does a word stop being a word? Examples: is the alphabet itself a word? Abcdefghijklmnopqrstuvwxyz – we all know it. It ought to be. Is the sequence 1234567890 a word?

We know that 1,000,000 is a word but is 1,000,001 a word, too? My high school maths teacher gave us all an extra point if we memorised pi to 10 decimal places and, of course, we all did, so is Threepointonefouronefive-ninetwosixfivethreefive a word? And if so, is it a different word from pi to nine decimal places?(Three-pointonefouronefiveninetwosix-fivethree.) Who would even know the answer to this?
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A few years back, I was cleaning out an old space that came with the house and, from inside a rusty paint can, I found a canvas bag filled with silver coins – silver Canadian pre-1967 dimes, plus a wide selection of older US coins. I don’t know what it’s like to find treasure but it must surely feel like finding a rusty paint can full of coins. I mentioned it on the phone to my mother, and she said, “Bring it over right now. Have you sorted them out yet?”


“Dump them all back in the can. I want to sort them here.”

I went to her place and she had a magnet ready to help sort them out (silver isn’t magnetic). It was my first money-sorting party in the Scrooge McDuck tradition and, in the end, the value of the coins came to $2,100. If my accountant phoned to say he’d found a tax break for $2,100, I’d be in a good mood – but it wouldn’t have felt like treasure. Good accountants should hide bags of rebated money all around your house. Imagine the joy they could bring to people....MORE