Science Fiction Today – Money

MMoney in today’s world is a vital part of how the world works and a reason for a lot of the problems present in our world. If you have more than enough money then it is always the question of what are you doing with it and do you deserve to have as much? When you have too little money it can be all that you focus on because it is the way that you can get basic necessities.

Often when looking at money in science fiction these concepts are exasperated. One possible outcome is that the concept of money in general changes, where suddenly it either does not exist or exists in a different commodity, for example food or time. The other direction is that money does still exist, but it is no longer a physical thing that gets carried around.

Oh, and sorry that this is the topic for Tax Day – totally on accident!

Virtual Money

A direction that the world is already going and you can see in many Science Fiction scenarios is money that does not exist in physical form. This is already the case in credit cards because we just swipe plastic card and money gets transferred from point A to point B.

What happens when our medical and banking history is all accessed through a chip in our arm or some other biometric tether? Suddenly we can transfer funds at a moment’s notice and yet none of that money exists except digitally. This sort of future is often seen in Science Fiction where the world exists pretty much as it does today, but the technology has become more advanced. Some of it is that at any moment people have access to all of their funds at a moments notice because if it is digital it is accessible from almost anywhere.

No Money, No Problem

The other idea is that money no longer exists or at least does not exist in the way that we think of it. In Star Trek it seems that money does not really exist anymore, at least for the Federation. With replicators it makes sense because if you can just have items appear from nothing without a cost why do you need to pay for anything?

Another option where no money is a concern is when the resources are doled out among people. It is about everyone getting resources evenly (although this does not always work out evenly in practice). You see this in a lot of post-apocalyptic societies, with limited resources.

Then there are stories where instead of trading money for goods you trade other things. In The Hunger Games there is some money, but what is really traded – in the establishment at least – is the kids putting their names in to have an increased chance of being chosen for the games. This gets them food to be able to feed their families. Another option that is explored in the story In Time is that the commodity that humans have is time. It gives a darker look at what happens with class inequality.

This post is part of the April A to Z Challenge, and also part of our occasional series on Science Fiction Today. You can read an explanation of both here. We are striving to keep these posts short, and know that we have not covered every example or angle – plenty of room for discussion!

8 responses to “Science Fiction Today – Money

  1. Mmm, I don’t have much to say on this topic that I didn’t mention before, earlier in this series, but I’m kind of hoping we have a more creative method of “payment” in the future. Or at the very least, our perspective about money changes. The system as it is now is hardly sustainable, and I’m not even talking about income disparity!

    Liked by 2 people

  2. I wonder about the future of stuff like Bitcoin. While Bitcoin itself might not last, the idea of a currency not backed by a country or a precious metal… backed instead by technology, and secured and operated via technology. It reminds me of Ready Player One, and how the in-game currency in the Oasis becomes the strongest currency on Earth!

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Star Trek is such an odd example. In the original series they referred to “credits” and prices once or twice, but then you have Kirk’s statement in The Voyage Home that they don’t have money in the future. The usual interpretation is their money is almost totally abstracted and Kirk just doesn’t know how “leaving money on the table to pay for food”-type money works.

    Lemme think of a Chappie reference… Much of the plot is driven by criminals’ need to pay off another criminal, but they want to do it by robbing cash from an armored car. Not quite far enough in the future to have changed money.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Pingback: Science Fiction Today – Robots | Comparative Geeks

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