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Wed 04 Oct 2006

About Luca, and Tomorrow's Money, and Truth

Category : Commentary/tomorrowsmoney.txt

I've finished (finally!) version 2.3 of Luca. I've made so many changes to the code that I'll need to do another few days of testing before I can release it. So, for the people who're looking to run Luca on 10.4.8, please wait - I'll have a version ready for you to run, hopefully, by the end of the week.

I've made changes to Luca's data structure and so I've devised a way for people to update their database to the latest structure with maybe a couple of clicks.

Most of the changes centre around making Luca handle multiple currencies more gracefully, so that it'll be able to handle differences in display formats and numerical precision and allow a user to specify these for individual currencies.

So I was reading the following passage in the latest book by Alvin and Heidi Toffler - "Revolutionary Wealth" - with more than the usual interest :

The basic unit of currency of money in America is the "almighty dollar". Few of those who use it every day know that until the industrialization of the nation was ramping up, the government-backed dollar was only one among as many as eight thousand different wildcat currencies in the United States issued by states, banks, individual companies, merchants and miners.

The standardization of money imposed by the U.S. government in 1863 paralleled the standardization of products, prices and consumer tastes that came as part of the process of industrialization. And the same was true in other countries as well.

The Japanese yen didn't become the national currency until 1871, as the Meiji restoration was starting the country on the path to industrial modernity. Similarly, the deutschemark did not become Germany's monetary unit until 1873, as Germany raced to overtake Britain as the leading industrial power.

China long suffered from monetary chaos - with warloads, states, revolutionary bases, foreign enclaves and others each issuing their own currencies - right down to December 1948, as the communists took over and introduced the renminbi yuan. And Europe, of course, has only recently standardized on the euro.

Ironically, this belated standardization - like much else in the European Union - comes just as the knowledge-based wealth system begins to move advanced ecoonomies in the opposite direction. In fact, homogeneous currencies are about to be challenged by a dizzying diversity of alternatives.

Am I only solving yesterday's problem with Luca? Like a good sailor, we've got to keep one eye on the horizon no matter what else we're doing, lest we end up broken like the Titanic.

Coming back to the Tofflers' book, it had somewhat mixed reviews on Amazon but I enjoyed it. Some books merely provide you with more of the same information, a few will deepen your understanding of a subject, but fewer still actually introduce new dimensions to think with. I enjoyed the book because I found new ways of looking at things.

For example, what is truth? How do we know that something is true? Because a majority of people believe it to be so? Because we've always believed it to be so? Because a person in authority tells us it's so? Because it feels right metaphorically? Or because it can be proven right logically? It's interesting to do what the Tofflers did - list out the many ways in which we are led to believe that something is true. And see what remains valid now that we have so much information on tap, available so quickly, and that is so easily filtered and compared, debated and corroborated.

As a boy from a Catholic family brought up by Protestant aunts and educated in Catholic schools, I used to wonder why nobody else I knew asked this question - who decided what books went into the Bible, as it was obvious (at least to me) that the Protestant and Catholic bibles were somewhat different? Now I have Elaine Pagels' "The Gnostic Gospels" on my bookshelf, and I've read as much about the Dead Sea Scrolls as I could find in the Libary, and I've just finished "The Lost Gospel of Judas". And I only have to search Google to know I'm not alone in wondering what really happened around the Sea of Galilee two thousand years ago and about the subsequent events that led to the founding of the Christian church. It's about deciding, after all is done and dusted, what's probably true and what's really a matter of faith - not nearly enough to justify a crusade or whatever names that has been known by - but Faith is about sincerity and I believe that's what really matters to God, if you believe He or She exists.

So, to return to that constant theme of this weblog, "Man shapes his tools and in turn his tools shape Man".

Technology is not neutral. So many chains of events are set off with the introduction of a really life-changing, life-defining technology. And we're living in such an age. It remains to be seen whether we're cursed or blessed to be living in these interesting times.

Posted at 4:05AM UTC | permalink


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