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Interaction: Numismania

Myers: Good evening, and welcome once again to the programme on which you can hear yourself make fools or be made foolish. This is Interaction, and this week we are discussing cash. Is it still relevant? Money, money, money still makes the world go round, just as in the past, but today when money goes round, it is most often in the form of bits and bytes, rather than coins and notes. Is there still a place for traditional currency? Will this technological influence lead to a currency merger in the style of the eurozone? And who will be left with stacks of cocaine-sprinkled banknotes with nowhere to redeem them? We’ll be talking about all of these issues tonight. I’m Debbie Myers, and with us this evening in Frankfurt, Germany, we have the editor of New Cash magazine, Ms Dian Patricks.

Patricks: Hi Debbie.

Myers: In Tanana, AK, USA, we have lifestyle specialist and author of the recent book Yes, You Can Live Without Money – And Enjoy It, Mr Ryan Deng.

Deng: Hi Debbie.

Myers: Joining us from New York City, NY, USA, is the senior vice president at FirstCityMergedNationalCongloBank, Mr Henry Jones.

Jones: Good to be here.

Myers: And with me here in our Warwickshire studios is the currency correspondent at KCTV Global, Ms Yesi A Tarantula.

Tarantula: Good evening.

Myers: Welcome, all of you. Dian, you are editor of a magazine that discusses the role of nontraditional currencies. What precisely does that entail?

Patricks: Well, we discuss quite a few different types of currency. There are those that have a direct correspondence to hard currency, such as credit cards, gift cards, bus tokens, or casino chips. There are community currencies like Ithaca Hours, as well as local exchanges and MMORPGs like EverQuest or World of Warcraft. Finally, we also concern ourselves with fictional currencies like Space Bucks from Spaceballs.

Myers: Well, fictional currency would be a step up for you, Ryan. You’ve made a name for yourself as a person who lives entirely without currency of any sort. Do you feel that without money you can still make a smash?

Deng: Absolutely. I simply barter and agree to provide different services for those about town in exchange for services or goods that I require. It’s easy.

Myers: Henry, how dependent is a large bank such as yours on technology, and what would happen in the event of a major failure of that technology?

Jones: Well, in fact, we place the utmost emphasis on security and redundancy. So if we were to lose external power, we would still have backup generators. If we were to lose one set of servers due to a virus or something like that, we would still have backup servers. And if we were to lose one set of pens on the little beady chains, we would still have backup pens on the little beady chains.

Myers: Yesi, there has been quite a long time since the last disastrous stock market crash or massive run on a bank in the West. But does the banking industry really have reason to be confident in its infrastructure?

Tarantula: I would say so, Debbie. Each bank has a responsibility to its customers to safeguard their money, to maintain meticulous records, to keep adequate cash reserves, to close early on Fridays, to offer services that don’t make sense rather than what consumers actually want, to find any excuse to charge absurd fees, and to put up plexiglass barriers that prevent communication between tellers and customers.

Myers: Dian, credit cards, debit cards, and the like are now nearly universal in many nations. Do you believe that hard cash is in fact on the way out?

Patricks: Not yet, Debbie. There are still many countries without nationwide electronic banking networks, and that means people must be paid in cash.

Myers: And what of those who cannot or do not wish to participate in a nationwide banking network, even when it does exist?

Patricks: They can barter.

Deng: Yes, absolutely. You don’t need cash, or credit cards, or cheques, or anything like that. What you need is a desire to live without them, and the resources to find other ways to complete transactions.

Myers: With that, then, let’s continue to our viewer questions. There are a number of ways you can reach us, including telephone, text message, E-mail, snail mail, facsimile, and brush fire. Our first question tonight is by brush fire, and it’s from Colin in Westchester, AZ, USA. He asks how he can start a local independent currency in aaaaiiieeeeee. Dian?

Patricks: Well, a local currency requires buyin from as many influential stakeholders as you can find. So first, get to businessmen or politicians in Aaaaiiieeeeee to ask them about their interest in your currency. Find out what they want from it, and how you can get them to benefit from it as well. Before long, other interested parties will appear, and you’ll have yourself a larger and larger community of Aaaaiiieeeeee spenders.

Myers: Interesting. Rachel in Inverness, Scotland, UK, are you there?

Rachel in Inverness: Yes, hi.

Myers: What is your question?

Rachel in Inverness: Well, I want to live without money. What can I do to get there?

Deng: May I address this question, Debbie?

Myers: Who else here is qualified to address it?

Deng: Maybe Dian could.

Myers: Well, we’re going to have you address it instead, Ryan.

Deng: Really? Thanks. Okay, well, you want to live without money. What was her name?

Myers: Rachel.

Deng: Rachel. That’s a real pretty name. Well, what you want to do is determine what kinds of goods and services you need, and figure out who can provide them for you. Then you want to figure out what kinds of goods and services you can provide for them, and who else might want those goods and services. Then figure out what kinds of goods and services those people can provide, and who might want those, and who can provide those, and who might want those, and who can provide those, and –

Myers: I... I think we get the picture, Ryan.

Deng: Wait! I haven’t told Rachel what services she can provide for me!

Myers: That’s too bad. We’re going now to Kelly in Taipei, Taiwan. Kelly, are you there?

Kelly in Taipei: Hi.

Myers: Hello Kelly. What is your question?

Kelly in Taipei: Well, I’ve often paid for things with cards, which has made me wonder one thing. What if I could turn into a fire-breathing hippopotamus?

Tarantula: I’d like to address this one, if I may, Debbie. Well, I would venture a guess and say that you would have difficulty learning to manage your new powers, and you would inevitably knock down a telephone box or two. Your clothes would come off every time you changed into the fire-breathing hippopotamus, and so whenever you changed back, you’d be completely nude. Although I suppose you could try to find clothing that would fit you in both shapes. I would also forecast that the first few times people enrage you, you would change into the fire-breathing hippopotamus, and you would do things you’d regret later.

Myers: In any case, we must now move on to our next question. It’s a text message from Suka in Watford, England, UK, who asks Ryan what he does when he wants a loaf of bread.

Deng: May I take this question, Debbie?

Myers: What a brilliant idea.

Deng: Last week, I got a loaf of bread, and here’s how I did it. First I cleaned out Ms Vicotene’s leaf trap, if you know what I mean. She got me a bag of Skittles. I took those to Sharon, who provided me with a Second Life character who owned a virtual accordion store. With this character, I sold 319 virtual accordions in three days and then passed the character back to Sharon, who in exchange gave me sets for travel Yahtzee, travel bingo, travel Monopoly, travel Risk, and travel Scrabble. Then I played all five games simultaneously against Mr Hoiphant, who beat me in all but Monopoly. But in exchange for the companionship, I received two days’ worth of maid service by Annie. Being in no need of maid services myself, I passed that on to Annie’s cousin Frederick, who gave me a crate of macadamia nuts, which are very hard to find up here. I enjoyed a few of the nuts and then distributed the individual jars to people all around town, earning back a number of services. One of these, an hour’s worth of books on tape recording, I passed to Brian Wellscott, who in exchange presented me with a loaf of bread. And that’s how I did it.

Myers: Well, that needless excursion has taken us to the end of this week’s edition of Interaction, and so we must thank Ms Yesi A Tarantula, Mr Henry Jones, Mr Ryan Deng, and Ms Dian Patricks for joining us today. Next week we will be talking about the recent start of ticket sales for the 2008 Summer Olympics, and our guests will include a ticket sale organiser, a Beijing ticket broker, a fan organisation leader, and a cyclist who is hoping to make his country’s judo team. Until then, good night.

Jones: Hey! I barely got to speak at all!

Deng: If you can get me a naked picture of Mischa Barton, I can give you a chance to speak.