Heather Schlegel is a futurist and social scientist with a background as a writer and entrepreneur. Her current project is to produce a mini-series on the future of money. She funded a small amount of it through Kickstarter, which helped her better understand through participation the burgeoning field of crowd funding. Strangely though, 90% of her donations through Kickstarter were from people she already knew. Calling it an “ATM to tap your social capital” she says she now has a “a monetary value of what [her] social network is worth.” This ties in with her idea that the new financial paradigm is one where “non-financial data is layered on top of financial transactions.” Examples of this would be the reputation of a business on Yelp or the ideologies associated with Bitcoin which makes using the currency an “act of financial activism.” Schlegel does not see us moving away from using physical money, rather that more information will be tracked and available to help better understanding something’s overall value.
Other pieces of this paradigm shift are diverse currencies and ways of transferring money. There are already many cryptocurrencies as alternatives to Bitcoin such as Litecoin, Dogecoin, and Quarkcoin. In one of Heather’s short films, “Fly Me to the Moon,” a waiter prefers his tip to be in credits for space travel that function like frequent flyer miles. A currency like Bitcoin which can be transferred for no additional cost is beneficial because it changes the role that banks and consumers play in the market. Already companies like Dwolla and M-Pesa (popular in Kenya) are making payment simpler, and sites like Kiva are changing how loans work. Schlegel says banks have a role to play in the future, “how big a role depends on them.” She encourages these companies and currencies and predicts they will increase as a corrective result of our economic crises; “in the wake of 2008, there are flaws to the international monetary system which must be corrected by innovation … [there is a] flawed dichotomy that either the whole system is working great, or the whole system collapses suddenly. In reality, complex systems evolve over time, and new players and behaviors emerge. That’s what we’re seeing all over the place now.”