Dry goods | Nick Szabo: The origin of the currency (END): the properties of the original currency

Collection properties

Since the evolution of mankind into a small, largely self-sufficient and vendetta-like tribe, the use of collectibles has reduced the need to document Ende and made it possible for us to explore the wealth transfer system discussed above ; For most of the species, the problems solved by these systems are much more important than the throughput problems of barter. In fact, the collection provides a basal improvement in the operation of reciprocal altruism, extending the way humans work together beyond what other species can do . For them, reciprocal altruism is strictly controlled by their unreliable memories. Some other species also have large brains that also build their own nests and also make and use tools. But no other species has created such a tool that can provide such important support for reciprocal altruism. Archaeological evidence shows that this new historical process has matured 40,000 years ago.

Menger called this first type of currency "intermediary goods" – also known as "collections" in this article. Some handicrafts that are useful for other scenes, such as cutting, may also be used as collectibles. However, once the tools associated with wealth transfer become valuable, they are only created because of their collection attributes. So what are these attributes like?

In order for a particular item to be selected as a valuable collection, it must have the following attributes (at least relative to those that are less valuable):

  1. Safer and less prone to accidental loss and theft . For most of history, this attribute means that it can be carried around and is easy to hide;
  2. Its value attribute is more difficult to forge . An important subset of this attribute is the extremely extravagant, almost unforgeable product that is considered extremely valuable for the reasons we have explained above;
  3. It is easier to estimate its actual value by simple observation or measurement . That is, simple observations can lead to more reliable conclusions, and even less effort.

Humans everywhere in the world have a strong incentive to collect items that better satisfy these attributes. Some of these motives may come from instinct that evolves with genes. These items are collected purely because of the pure pleasures of the collection process (rather than for any clear or practical reason), and such pleasure is almost universally present in human culture. One of the direct motives is decoration. According to a study by Professor Mary C. Stiner of the University of Arizona, “ornaments are commonplace in all modern human ancestors” [W02] . For evolutionary psychologists, this kind of behavior (dressing, decoration) that has no practical reason other than pleasure can find a good ultimate explanation from the perspective of natural selection: decorative behavior is a candidate for evolution, it becomes The pleasure of genetic evolution has stimulated the collection behavior. If the reasoning in this article is correct, this is why humans have the instinct to collect rare objects, art, and especially jewelry.

Point 2 needs further explanation. First of all, it seems to be very wasteful to make it just because an item is extravagant. However, these unforgeable luxury items can continue to add value through the transfer of valuable wealth in the media. Whenever it makes a transaction impossible, or from extremely expensive to affordable, part of the cost is recovered . The cost of manufacturing is completely wasted at first, but it is constantly amortized as the transaction proceeds. The monetary value of precious metals is based on this principle. The same applies to collectibles. The rarer and less easy it is to manufacture, the more valuable it is. The same is true for products that can prove that they contain highly skilled and unique human labor, such as art.

We have never found or created a product that can perform flawlessly in three ways. Artworks and (in modern culture) collections can only satisfy (2) and cannot satisfy (1) and (3). Common beading can only satisfy (1) and cannot satisfy (2) and (3). Jewelry was originally made from the most beautiful and least visible shells, but in most cultures it turned to precious metals, which was more balanced when it met three attributes. Precious metal jewellery is usually thinner (such as necklaces and rings), which is no coincidence, as such products can be tested at any location for cheap inspection. The metal currency goes a step further – the small but standard weight and the mark used for inspections drastically reduce the cost of small transactions using precious metals. Money itself is just another step in the development of collectibles.

The movable art (such as small statues) made by the Paleolithic humans also conforms to these attributes. In fact, the things that humans made in the Paleolithic era were either very practical, or they were compatible with the above three attributes.

There are also some puzzling items in the artifacts associated with Homo sapiens: useless or unused meteorites (such as the unsuitable meteorites of the Clovis people mentioned above). Culiffe [C94] discussed hundreds of meteorites in the Middle Stone Age of Europe. These meteorite blades were well-made, but after careful analysis they found that they never cut things.

Meteorite is also very similar to the first type of collection, the aforementioned special collection, just like jewelry. In fact, the earliest meteorites may have been created for their cutting purposes; as a medium of wealth transfer, contributing to the systems mentioned above, these added values ​​are unintended consequences . These systems, in turn, have driven the creation of specialized collections, first with no use for meteorites, and then with a variety of jewels developed by Homo sapiens.

– Shell currency from the Sumer region, 3000 BC –

In the Neolithic Age, in many parts of the Middle East and Europe, some types of jewellery became more standardized—so that standard size and assayability were more important than good looks . The amount of jewellery used in the commercial sector sometimes exceeds that of traditionally stored jewellery. This is the middle stage from jewelry to metal currency, and some collections are increasingly using interchangeable forms. In 7000 BC, King Lydia began to issue metal coins. With standard weight precious metals, market players such as workers and tax collectors can “test” their uncountable and expensive attributes, by trusting the founder’s reputation, instead of Just pick a position on the metal coil and cut it to see the color.

It is no coincidence that collectibles have the same attributes as precious metal currencies and reserve commodities in most physical support currencies. However, the currency achieves these attributes in a more pure form than the collections used most of the prehistoric times.

– Silver ring and coil currency used by the Sumerians in 2500 BC. Note that the cross-sectional size is also standard. And the weight of most of these items is standard, from 1/12 shekel to 60 shekel. To test the value of a silver ring or coil, you can use the method of weighing and randomly selecting the position to cut. (University of Chicago, Courtesy Oriental Institute) –

One of the new things of the 20th century is the fiat currencies issued by the government (“Fiat” means that the currency is not supported by any physical reserves, as opposed to the gold and silver-based currencies of the past). Although fiat money performs very well as an exchange medium, its value storage function has proven to be very poor. Inflation has destroyed many people's "cash tanks." This explains why the market for rare items and unique artworks has been vibrant for the past century (because they have the collectible attributes described above). Ebay (EBay), one of the most technologically advanced markets of our time, is also full of such objects with original economic attributes. The collectibles market has also become larger than ever, although the proportion of our investment in collectibles has become smaller than when they assumed important evolutionary functions.

Collectibles satisfy our original impulses while maintaining their ancient role as a safe value store.

in conclusion

Many types of wealth transfers, whether one-way or two-way, voluntary or forced, are leading the transaction costs . In a voluntary transaction, both parties have income; gifts that are not accompanied by obligations are often the product of relative altruism. These transactions bring value to one or both parties and are no less inferior to manufacturing activities. The tribute brought benefits to the winner; the referee who caused the damage placed further violence and benefited the victim. Heritage has made mankind the first species to pass on wealth to the next generation of relatives. These heirlooms can in turn be used as collateral or means of payment in exchange for goods, famine foods or in-laws. The cost of achieving these wealth transfer behaviors—that is, transaction costs—is really low enough that people can successfully pass on value is another problem. Collectibles played a pivotal role in the birth of these transactions.

The collection magnifies our mind and language as a prisoner's dilemma solution, so that we don't, like all other animals, can't cooperate with non-relatives afterwards . The reputation mechanism may encounter two major problems—what may be wrong with who did what, and may miscalculate the value or degree of infringement created by the behavior. Within the clan (ie, small and neighboring relatives, or magnified families, a subset of the tribe), our brains can minimize these errors, so open reputation and mandatory sanctions can provide powerful Motivation has become the main driving force behind the post-reward mode, so that people do not have to be suspicious and stop because of the cooperation ability and betrayal ability of the counterparty. The brains of Neanderthals and Homo sapiens are quite large (may be similar at this point), and it is likely that each local clan member is concerned with the network of others. In small-scale relatives, the use of collectibles for trade may be rare. Collectibles trading and human relationships are possible among different clan of a tribe. But among the tribes, the collectibles completely replaced the reputation and became the driving force of reciprocity, although violence still played an important role in the enforcement of rights and became the main obstacle to most transactions.

When the items are condensed with uncountable expensive consumption – glass beading for trade, made in Venice in the 16th or 17th century, unearthed in Mali, Africa. Such beads are very popular in places where European colonists encounter Neolithic culture or hunting-collecting culture.

To be used as a universal form of wealth storage and wealth transfer tools, collectibles must be embedded in at least one system that can form a collection cycle, so that non-discretions that discover and/or manufacture collectibles can be made in multiple transactions. Get amortization. Further, the collection is more than just a beautiful ornament. It must have several major functional attributes, such as being portable, easy to hide, and condensing the unscathed luxury . Moreover, this luxury attribute is acceptable to the recipient (verification techniques must be simple enough) – they use the same techniques that many collectors today still use.

The theory presented in this paper can be based on the characteristics of the “valuables” that are often exchanged between cultures, the economic benefits of measuring the circulation of valuables, and the observation of different cultures (including modern culture). The item's preferences are tested.

With this unprecedented cooperation technology, mankind has become the most terrible predator on the planet. They adapt to the changing climate, and many of the large animals that they hunted were rushed to extinction by climate change and human hunting in the Americas, Europe and Asia. Today, most large animals are afraid of projectiles – this should only come from a hunter (human) [R97] . Cultures that rely more on collection than on hunting also benefit greatly. What followed was a population explosion—the Homo sapiens could multiply in more places, and the population density could be ten times that of the Neanderthal [C94] , although the bones of the Homo sapiens were softer and the brain capacity did not increase. . Much of this improvement comes from the social systems of efficient wealth transfer tools and language—trade, marriage, inheritance, tributes, mortgages, and the ability to assess violations and suppress revenge.

The original currency is not our common modern currency. It has some modern currency functions, but in the form of heirlooms, jewels and other types of collectibles. The use of the original currency is so long that the desire to explore, collect, produce, display, identify, properly keep, and trade each other's collections has become a universality of humanity – even a certain degree of instinct . This desire to collect humans can be called "collecting instinct." Searching for rare materials (such as shells and teeth) and making collectibles takes up considerable time for ancient humans, just as many modern people regard these activities as habits and a lot of energy. In this way, the search for slaps, beats and beats, for our ancestors, the result is to give the first reliable expression of value that is different from practicality, and the predecessor of our currency today .

(End of the article)


Five years ago, I studied anthropology in college classes. It was in the anthropology class that I learned about the anthropological exploration of Malinowski in the Western Pacific. When he studied Kula in the Melanesian Islands (in fact, it was a beaded bead), he criticized it quite a bit. The meaning of the domestic social capitalist culture – you look at the residents of these small islands, never use money as God, not just for money, kula is not only a tool for exchange but also a symbol of identity for them.

Three years ago, my economics teacher explained the "The Wealth of Nations" to me, and mentioned a sentence that was equally shocked to Yan Fu more than 100 years ago. The meaning was that "human civilization is mostly in the lower reaches of the river." The teacher's meaning is that Adam Smith explained the origin of human civilization with transaction costs – only in the densely populated river network, transportation costs are low enough, and the result of cross-communication is the prosperity of human civilization.

Knowing Ricardo's trade theorem (also known as the "comparative advantage theorem"), it is a commonplace to say that market transactions and sub-union trades bring economic prosperity to mankind. But I can't match the story of this economics with the story of anthropology that year.

For this reason, the translation of Nick Szabo's "Shelling Out" experience gave me a windfall and matched the two stories – Kula is a primitive currency that cannot be traded and divided without the help of money. Human beings cannot grow or even survive. There is no copper smell on the so-called West Pacific island, which is Malinowski's wishful thinking.

In the same way, because of my recent personal experience, I have more empathy for the social system mentioned in the article, and I have become more aware of the long-term habits of human habits—the kinds of customs we are used to today, the cores of which may be The history of mankind is also a long time.

Nick Szabo's summary of the three attributes of the collection is really accurate and profound. The unscathed luxury cost is to obtain an attribute that can still gain value through time and space. Without this attribute, the store of value would be impossible to talk about.

Original link:


Author: Nick Szabo

Translation: Ajian

(This article is from the EthFans of Ethereum fans, and it is strictly forbidden to reprint without the permission of the author.