2
$\begingroup$

In my story something happened about sixty years ago, that gave (and continues to give) every adult a superpower. I have a list of fifty categories of powers that have been registered all over the world.

Two powers, matter creation and digipathy (communicating and influencing computers and electronic devices), are very good at creating either material currency or digital currency as we know it. Even if I would only consider these two powers, they would make up almost one 25th of the world.

How would the economy compensate for such a large population of potential forgers? I've already considered alternative currency or a total lack of currency, but I can't really make it work, because I suck at economics.

For the sake of the discussion you can assume that any superpower you know is there, except time-travel and teleportation.

$\endgroup$

closed as too broad by TrEs-2b, Aify, Hohmannfan, Green, JDługosz May 30 '16 at 7:15

Please edit the question to limit it to a specific problem with enough detail to identify an adequate answer. Avoid asking multiple distinct questions at once. See the How to Ask page for help clarifying this question. If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

  • $\begingroup$ Why not have the superpower to safeguard currency value? Otherwise you're stuck with IOU's which does not work on any grand scale. $\endgroup$ – Bookeater May 28 '16 at 22:05
  • 4
    $\begingroup$ That is awfully powerful. Perhaps for the matter creation power to work, they need to "walk through" the object's creation in their mind. That would let a carpenter conjure up a desk, because he knows how to make one himself, but only someone with intimate knowledge of the bills'/coins' chemical makeup and stamping process could forge currency. Matter creators would be prohibited from working in the Department of the Treasury. Interesting scenario of genetic discrimination in the workplace. $\endgroup$ – Pedro May 28 '16 at 22:40
  • $\begingroup$ @Bookeater - All fiat currency is essentially an IOU. And while the long-term viability of such currency may be questionable, it's worked adequately for billions of people for the best part of a century. If that's not a grand scale, I'd like to hear your definition. $\endgroup$ – WhatRoughBeast May 29 '16 at 0:17
  • $\begingroup$ @bookeater It's only been 60 years since the first superpowers to appear, which is an awfully small amount of time compared to the time material money has been around. Society has to reinvent themselves completely, so it's okay for the effect not to work. I'm just looking for options to consider. $\endgroup$ – Notthegrouch May 29 '16 at 10:52
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ I feel this is a good time to mention smbc-comics.com/?id=2305 $\endgroup$ – Andrew May 30 '16 at 8:34
1
$\begingroup$

If every adult was given a superpower of that magnitude, your best bet is to rewrite all of society, from scratch, not just the economy. What you describe is a world completely and utterly unrelated to our world in every way, except that the dominate species still has two arms and two legs (does it?)!

As for economics, the value of every single good ever traded in the history of mankind would suddenly be changed to arbitrary values when any one individual's superpowers can suddenly replace an entire nation-state's worth of production. Things that were thought to be difficult to produce suddenly become easy (this includes printing dollars). Economics would collapse overnight, if not faster.

Of course, you also have to worry about the thousands of criminals who are suddenly super powerful. In the long term, that will be balanced out by "the forces of good" having a few billion people with superpowers on their side. However, in the short term, the transients would rock society to its core. Those who are trained and willing to use powers to take advantage of others will have a temporary advantage over those who are unwilling.

I hate to think of what the religious wars will look like...

$\endgroup$
  • $\begingroup$ Well, you just described the entire core of my story. Of course Economics isn't the only part of society that change, it's the only part I'm stuck on. $\endgroup$ – Notthegrouch May 29 '16 at 18:20
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ You may be stuck on it because it may completely and utterly vanish, only to be reborn in a new form, which would be very specific to exactly which superpowers come out on top. When you not only shake but shatter nearly every assumption of economics, such a discipline rarely survives. Instead, a new discipline forms in its wake, but exactly what it looks like would be incredibly dependent on which of your incredibly powerful superpowers dominates the globe. $\endgroup$ – Cort Ammon May 29 '16 at 18:23
  • $\begingroup$ I think it's safe to say that a new worldwide discipline hasn't been found yet. Not in just sixty years it has been since the big change. I accepted your answer mostly because of the comment you added. It really helped me on my way. $\endgroup$ – Notthegrouch May 29 '16 at 22:20
3
$\begingroup$

There is no true solution.

With almost every kind of super power being common:

  1. Digital currency? Digipath redirects it to his account.
  2. Your account recognises your voice? Someone can mimic your voice.
  3. Facial recognition? Someone can steal your face.
  4. PIN number? Someone can read your mind as you type in your PIN.
  5. Physical money? Someone can float it out of your pocket. Or someone strong could push you over and take your money.

I don't think people would focus on forging—they would just take someone else's money. There's no way to truly verify you are you, so people would no longer trust a third party (i.e. bank) to hold their wealth.

Currency would revert back to material goods

"I'll give you this wrench if you give me a dozen eggs."

Special services would become a strong currency

"I can move earth around with my mind. You can fly. I'll build a storm shelter under your house if you take my son flying for his birthday."

Alternative—anti-power currency

With multi-power environments, usually there's some guy with powers that dampen all other powers. Let's say he starts making gems that dampen powers. People could no longer steal/recreate them magically because their powers go away when they get too close. Proof of genuine currency could just be testing whether it does take away powers. This would take powers away from markets, which might help with law-enforcement as well.

$\endgroup$
  • $\begingroup$ Wow... you actually did give some valid new points to consider. I never even thought using superpowers for something as simple as robbery/pickpocketing! $\endgroup$ – Notthegrouch May 29 '16 at 11:03
  • $\begingroup$ I think robbery/pickpocketing is the first thing that 70% of the world will think of :P $\endgroup$ – Mirror318 May 29 '16 at 20:21
  • $\begingroup$ I guess I wouldn't be a very good thief, then. Luckily I'm a writer! ;) $\endgroup$ – Notthegrouch May 29 '16 at 21:58
1
$\begingroup$

Prevent money forging

Let's get this out of the way. Cryptocurrencies are what you are looking for. Computer science are not perfect at protecting things (and probably ultra-vulnerable to digipath). Math are. Don't get me wrong here. You can still steal bitcoins (It happened before, even without digipath), the thing is, you can't forge any so the problem moves from "how to prevent money forging" to "how to keep my coins safe". The price of bitcoins would probably skyrocket as soon as traditional currencies become unsafe and most governments would switch from their traditional currency to some "government approved and regulated cryptocurrencies".

There has always been forgers, there will always be forgers no matter what technique they use. But each time a new forging technique appears, people use this technique, make profit, governments learn about it, find a counter. It never destabilized the economy durably before. Even with a huge "power up" in forging techniques we are very far from out of solutions.

$\endgroup$
1
$\begingroup$

Why trade?

The questions to ask are "What do the powers provide?" and "What do the powers require?"

Trade operates because people want or need things that others have.

If matter creators can trivially create anything that they want, they won't need much of anything except luxuries like art and metaphysical goods like love... or safety.

In the real world, there already are those with the capacity to convert lead into gold and make pretty much any object man can make, but they need time and materials. If your matter dudes create whatever they want but need energy of a particular sort and extensive knowledge of the design, well, they could get rich but would still need physical and intellectual goods. Certain patterns might be hard for one to duplicate due to rare energy or matter requirements or difficulty concieving. (Clever mints might employ particularly crafty ones to make it hard to duplicate and keep such currencies active.)

Fundamentally, though, for an economy to remain without automatically putting those matter guys on top, they need to want something that others can provide better. Whether modern fiat currencies survive is a very distinct question from whether or not trade survives in a meaningful form.

Powers that allow trivial slaughter or protection can become critical to those who would otherwise have it all. A guy who can create toys from nothing would still fear those who can destroy him with a thought. Point being: Even if one group can create everything that another wants doesn't mean that they can create everything that they want.

Healers, for example, would have to trade their powers pretty restrictively, to make up for the fact that most people don't need healing on a daily basis, yet really need it when they do. That's just how they have to trade unless there is some constant stream of damage to heal and/or people cover their needs in a slump. Healers that can grant temporary regeneration have a thing that people would like to buy even if healthy. Delayed healing, such that the next X amount of injury heals faster, but can wait indefinitely, would have to cost differently.

Juju

If the magical power source funding this stuff has availability limitations, it can become the fungible exchange commodity.

If juju trickles in to recharge, and the more expensive tricks cost significant juice, a refreshing beverage could be made from fluby dust or, perhaps, donated from the personal stores of others. (In this case, recharge juice represents time and, perhaps, increased capacity.)

If the power simply falls on their heads in a lump, (whomp. puberty says "Have hair in weird places. Oh, and here's your lifetime supply of juju.") and that's it, the ability to recharge any of it would be extremely valuable. Recharging is extending capacity in this case. Presuming power use is a skill, this would allow experts to continue.

If the power itself is granted to all, can be transferred, but not otherwise replenished, you have a conflict brewing. Since people wouldn't want to waste their limited juice, once they figure that out, most will conserve it. If transfer and theft are possible, some coercion will happen.

Of course, how do people come to know any of these things? What if recharge juice is hard to figure out, so people think they have a limited supply of juju, and the discoverers hide that from the public and attempt to capitalize on the edge? Wrecking the economy might be a painful side effect, but that's unlikely to be their goal; more likely a group would intend to create a utopia or take over the world. (or just a country; modesty, after all.)

Upshot

You need to define the rules before any particular effects can be sussed out. If you have desired outcomes, list 'em and we can probably help you achieve them.

$\endgroup$
1
$\begingroup$

The hard solution is to change back to a currency that has innate value.

Whether you use gold/silver coins or trade goods, it doesn't matter if it's forged if the value is intrinsic. The problem is with the fiat currencies we're using at the moment which, beyond the word of the government backing them, are utterly worthless.

This does cause economic problems, currently cash flows are dependent on the amount of money in circulation not being fixed, banks and share traders believe they generate value by their trades, if the central bank wants to introduce "quantitative easing" (aka devalue the currency), they just have to declare that there's more of it in circulation. If the currency had actual value then they'd have to find more raw materials from somewhere and the current economic model is lost.

Consequences
Change back to cash economy
All currencies effectively become gold backed
The international exchange rates stagnate
Moving money becomes heavy and riskier
International trade becomes increasingly risky as payment needs to be carried not just transferred
Increase in piracy on the high seas
Money laundering becomes easier
Inflated property prices would drop
Large company pay day would be a nightmare, either you need to pay cash or everyone needs to use the same back (possibly even branch) as the company

The list goes on.

All in all, economic chaos.

$\endgroup$
  • $\begingroup$ First off gold and silver don't have innate value, yes they have some uses but they would be massively devalued if people were only using them for industrial purposes. Secondly, this would in no way solve the problem the problem is that a large number of people can easily generate currency out of thin air, this will be true regardless of what kind of material you decide to use, given the value per weight of gold is much higher than 100$ bills this would only make "forgery" even more lucrative. $\endgroup$ – Vakus Drake May 30 '16 at 4:18
  • $\begingroup$ @VakusDrake they'd quite quickly cease to be more valuable than paper bills but for some reason people consider shiny metal to be valuable. It's lost to me why. $\endgroup$ – Separatrix May 30 '16 at 6:03
  • $\begingroup$ Yeah the problem here is people generating currency out of thin air, switching over to a currency like gold coins would make the problem much worse because it has a greater value density, so it would be even easier for "forgers" to cause hyperinflation. $\endgroup$ – Vakus Drake May 30 '16 at 14:54
  • $\begingroup$ @VakusDrake, the economy is already a mess, but gold has the value it's given, though that's a higher value than true fiat currencies, it's still not a true value so I really don't care if they replicate it.The trick I suspect is to move them on to replicating stuff that's truly useful. The trade in high tech goods for example. I want to be paid in solid rocket boosters. $\endgroup$ – Separatrix May 30 '16 at 15:30
  • $\begingroup$ Ok you are missing the point, it doesn't matter what worthless junk you decide to assign value as currency. What matters is that you can count on that thing holding semi-consistent value, as thus using fiat currency and using gold are functionally indistinguishable. In the sense that both would be equally affected by people creating lots more currency out of thin air. If you decide to switch over to high tech goods you are using a barter system, well it's more complicated than that... $\endgroup$ – Vakus Drake May 30 '16 at 16:57

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.