By Samson Williams and George S. Pullen
Why Data is greater than Money
Data is greater than money because its worth more. Now there are lots of different ways to say that but once you state the obvious the realization comes home quickly. Data is greater than and even better than money. Why this is is for a myriad of reasons but for the purposes of this article we’ll stick to the basics. Yes, it will sound a bit conspiratorial. Alas, every major paradigm shift in Human history was “crazy” until it became so normalized that we forgot exactly how revolutionary it was when:
After 200+ years the sun finally set on the British Empire
The fledgling United States of America, less than a generation removed from its own Civil War, became the global superpower
The gold standard was abandoned with the stroke of a Presidential pen
The USSR dissolved overnight, leaving the winning side of the Cold War perplexed
This thing called the internet transformed humanity in less than a generation
The world’s richest man built rocket ships for the sole purpose of deploying satellites in orbit to provide “free” internet to the world…and collect all their data in exchange
Again, this sounds conspiratorial. However, in digital ecosystems “money” isn’t the desired commodity. Data is. Money after all, isn’t actually anything beyond a record of debt. And in a digital ecosystem with digital currencies, Central Bank Digital Currencies (CBDCs), cryptocurrencies etc…”money” gets reduced to currency and the realy currency of the metaverse isn’t cash/money, its data.
For instance, if a 1B people read this article and I was able to steal all the money in their bank accounts, how much money would I have? Maybe $900B given inflation and today’s exchange rates? But what if instead of stealing 1B people’s money I could instead set up a system that collected, aggregated, analyzed and monetized “their data”, what is the value of that system?
Further, upon monetizing “their data” I didn’t have to share in the revenue that “their” data generated. How much would that system be worth…today and for the next 100 generations of their descendants?
Thats the thing about cash, money, fiat, cryptos, stablecoins, bitcoin, etc…All those things only represent value, whereas Data is value. Data is the reason that Elon Musk built Tesla and then invested billions of dollars of US Taxpayer money into SpaceX. (Side note – Elon Musk is the real Welfare Queen but we’ll talk about that later.) Tesla isn’t actually a car company. Even Tesla will admit that.
What Tesla is, is a mobile data collection entity that collects, aggregates, analyzes and montizes data by using that data to refine AI and autonomous algorithms the world over. Yes, they also monetize user data (aka Drivers). From what your favorite songs are, to what restaurants you drive to, to where you charge your car, to what bank you bank at. Tesla’s real business isn’t transportation.
Its hoarding driver’s data to monetize it in a million different ways, apps and marketplaces; while never paying their real employees (the drivers) for creating this treasure trove of priceless data.
Data > Money. Money expires. Money is perishable. Depending on inflation, country of origin and what that money has been programmed to do, money can be a very fleeting thing. Yes, money can be programmed. Programmable money is the whole point of Central Bank Digital Currencies (CBDCs). The “beauty” of CBDCs is that they’re not money.
They’re data tracking chips designed to capture every transaction that the user engages in. What this means is that the government who issued the CBDCs (China’s Digital Yuan, US Digital Dollar, Bahamian Sand Dollar etc…) isn’t just issuing a medium of exchange that is universally accepted, aka currency. No no no. CBDCs are programmable tracking chips that a) track your every financial transaction, complete with geospatial information and b) can be programmed however the issuing government wishes.
The programmable features of CBDCs is why Big Brother China is so keen on rolling out the Digital Yuan not only to the 1.24B WeChat users but the 100+ nations who are part of their Debit Trap Diplomacy schemes executed under the Belt And Road Initiative. And not to be left out of the value conversation in the 5th Industrial Revolution Uncle Sam is also keen on issuing its own CBDCs. Does it have the same surveillance goals of authoritarian China? TBD. I personally feel that Uncle Sam just wants to program “your” money to pay your taxes automatically. That would be great wouldn’t it?
Programmable money that pays it’s owner’s taxes automatically sounds like a futuristic novel idea. Until we recall, that the biggest paradigm shifts in Human history all become very obvious in retrospect. This paradigm shift, Data > Money, is one that has been in the works ever since the first internet nodes launched.
It gained momentum with the invention of wifi, has become a topic for mainstream dialogue as blockchain and decentralized ledger technology asks the fundamental question of, “What does data sovereignty mean?” And so as we stand on the precipice of a world where the largest, most profitable companies in human history are all “data businesses” what does that mean for you, me and our kids? What kind of world will they inherit?
While we can only speculate as to what exactly the future holds, mull this quote over next time you log into a free web services, “The wealthy accumulate data, in order to pay the rich in cash, so the poor can be paid and taxed in cryptos, stablecoins and CBDCs.”
About the Authors
Samson Williams and George S. Pullen are founders of Milky Way Economy, a Washington, DC based think tank who specialize in understanding the economic foundations of the Fifth Industrial Revolution and the Space Economy. In addition to writing, researching and being investors in 5th Industrial Revolution companies, Samson and George are adjunct professors at the University of New Hampshire School of Law and instructors at Columbia University in NYC. Additionally, George is a Marine (retired) and guest lecturer at the National Defense University.
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