Very soon I suspect we will see the rise of machine in the next couple of decades if people continue abusing Moore laws, suppose robot laws are hardwired into their core how can we make them believe in the value of money and what will be the form of currency be like? For all I know bitcoin is dead and I need the form of currency to be recognized by the droid and majority of us! Let me simplified my question: If a banana can bribe a gorilla for a selfie what can be used on droids?

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    $\begingroup$ To be honest. I think this question needs working. It seems very broad. For example: What kind of droids are they? do we have the Three Laws of Robotics? do robots serve humans, are they equal or are humans subservient? are humans elimiated completely, in which case this is a purely robot-to-robot trading system $\endgroup$
    – Raisus
    Commented Aug 31, 2016 at 9:30
  • $\begingroup$ @Raisus: enlighten me please. $\endgroup$
    – user6760
    Commented Aug 31, 2016 at 9:31
  • $\begingroup$ Other things to think about, what are your droids made of, what kind of parts do they need, would said parts be worth trading for? Does money even exist in this theoretical world or are trades done by other means like favours? $\endgroup$
    – Raisus
    Commented Aug 31, 2016 at 9:33
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    $\begingroup$ For what it's worth... Moore's law will not apply forever. We can only take it so far before it cannot be applied any longer. And we don't "abuse" this law. It is only an observation. $\endgroup$ Commented Aug 31, 2016 at 14:59
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    $\begingroup$ If the droids' neural networks were trained on the contemporary Internet, then presumably they would value cat pictures as a currency. $\endgroup$
    – Crashworks
    Commented Sep 1, 2016 at 2:40

11 Answers 11


US Dollars, Euros, or any internationally strong currency used by humans in your world.

Let's face it - most of our "currency" is already in bank accounts; not as any physical form but as electronic entries machines "understand" as well as, or better than, we do. What does a droid need? Maintenance? Spare parts? Power source? All of these can be easily bought with regular currencies.

TL;DR: No need for anything new, normal money will work.

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    $\begingroup$ I'd generalize this to "any currency currently in use by humans at the respective time". If humans and droids are going to interact financially, there will have to be some common ground, and unless there's a very good reason to do it differently, people are going to be familiar with whatever currency they are used to at the time. The droids can convert this to some other currency that is naturally useful among themselves if they have a reason to do so, just like humans exchange one currency for another for travelling or cross-border purchases. $\endgroup$
    – user
    Commented Aug 31, 2016 at 11:20
  • $\begingroup$ @MichaelKjörling not just "any". But "any strong, international" is true. Answer updated. $\endgroup$
    – Mołot
    Commented Aug 31, 2016 at 12:24
  • $\begingroup$ Certainly fair enough. $\endgroup$
    – user
    Commented Aug 31, 2016 at 12:28
  • $\begingroup$ they could exchange them for nuts, bolts and portable batteries. $\endgroup$
    – Skye
    Commented Sep 1, 2016 at 13:32
  • $\begingroup$ not just "any". But "any strong, international" is true. - and that is the main problem with your answer. $\endgroup$
    – MolbOrg
    Commented Sep 1, 2016 at 19:12

Energy backed money

Our predecessors used salt, shells, gems and gold pieces as a currency before banking era. The same way we can use energy (kWh) as a modern universal equivalent, which is valuable for droids. Using energy instead of money is common among various sci-fi settings. Later it could evolve to the energy backed currency.

Energy backed money is a real concept:

  • $\begingroup$ Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. $\endgroup$
    – Tim B
    Commented Sep 2, 2016 at 9:19

Computational power modules to feed their mainframe

Think about their mainframe (not saying they are a hive mind) but kind of like the droid that droids go to to figure something more complex out quicker.

Compared to human currency

Now this droid/device is like a government to the droids and since our currency relies on our government's worth, adding more power to this mainframe or having more power for this mainframe mobile would be worth something between the droids as well as humans.

So the currency will be a module such as hot-swappable CPU or full device like the Raspberry Pi, which contains cpu, motherboard and ram, which they can plug into this mainframe should they please.

Variation in currency

If trading with these droids became standard then, like currency, these modules would be separated into categories to define their worth. probably small categories like cents and dollars or pence and pounds

so powerful module, standard module and lesser module like platinum, gold and silver

This answer assumes you want a currency that will carry through the ages to when droids go to other universes to trade

  • $\begingroup$ Consider economy of scale and algorithms that don't parallelise well, so a module that does 10 arbitrary computing units does more and is cheaper to maintain than 10 modules doing 1 unit each.Huge computing farms that sell "computation vouchers" would outcompete trading the hardware directly.Actually, that's what all "cloud compiting" thing was about and now you can buy computations quite flexibly.If you really need this to stick, though, you need some clever cryptography so provider cannot spy on what you're doing: you can pay with your enemy's gold, you can run on your enemy's servers. $\endgroup$ Commented Aug 31, 2016 at 14:44
  • $\begingroup$ @Daerdemandt yeah i was thinking of how when faster computing components come out how the older components lose value. but a rise in newer faster CPUs when be akin to the same thing that Zimbabwe went through and that their currency is now worth nothing and are thus switching to a new currency (the chinese currency) and have been using American dollars in the mean time. I'm sure we will reach a stage in the future where CPU's that are faster will be harder to produce and could take a decade to increase on die computational power. $\endgroup$
    – Sarfaraaz
    Commented Sep 1, 2016 at 5:56

Energy and energy backed money

It was mentioned already by @enkryptor, but lead to some discussion why energy and not currencies or other arbitrary tokens would be used.
I wish to address at this point that this is an extension to enkryptor's answer. Although I'm not a financial expert, and this should be included in equations by those who can do it, for others, there are just a few aspects as I see them at the moment.

Why energy?

Energy is objectively measurable, just like any other form of money (currencies, oil, salt, whatever) - there is no significant difference. The value, or buying strength, of it is also not fixed - it changes itself over advances in using it (technology), or because of a change in demand, production and etc.

What is good about it - it can't be diluted by definition.

  • One of the reasons is mentioned here The Truth About The Fall of Rome: Modern Parallels. I can't say it is the truth as it is (I have an opinion, but that's all), but there are concerns about different kinds of manipulation and the subject probably is beyond a single answer at all, and this particular answer for sure.

It is relatively easy to check or count them - you are pouring them in your energy pocket and counting them at the same time. Counting them and verifying them is the same single process.

It can not be falsified. Even if using them does not prevent fraud, the tokens themselves can't be falsified.

No need for a single emitting center. That is actually an important moment - especially when we are talking about humans vs machines, as it might be the question of survival for both of those kinds, and if they have to exchange some goods, it is probably a good idea to have something which is universally acceptable, despite the relations between the parties using it.

  • as an example the emitting center might say: screw you, all bonds with numbers xxx to yyy you possess - we will not accept them, we do not have obligations for them, our reasons for doing that are stronk etc. And inform other parties about the decision too, to prevent selling those bonds. It will do harm to the droid/human relation, but it is not the same harm(from humans perspective) - it's a lesser one than when humans would say that about other humans. (And they do it sometimes by freezing accounts, etc. - the system still works) A distributed system will prevent such types of manipulations.

It is not totally fiat money, and it has a definite intrinsic value for a particular group, which can be different for different groups (as part of the relativistic aspect of energy money), and that value could be kept in secret, be less predictable for an opponent, and probably eliminate the possibility of the existence of a definite winning strategy. So you do not have to use other forms of interaction like stock exchanges - remember we talk about "droids" humans, they might have different values and not disclosed goals (there are a lot of social aspects as consequences in choosing energy as money - in short, it allows to connect social structures with little or no common/shared social basis).

The intrinsic value does not depend on stocks. It is defined by the capabilities of that group alone, and if they have all sets of technologies they need, they are not so dependent on values up/downs/fall of some currency. There is no need to have lots of them in your pocket, no need to care about stock prices, exchange rates (no need to dedicate resources for those who cares like financial advisers, brokers etc). The Domino effect is much much less problematic than it is now, or at least there are more solutions to prevent participating in it. Vanishing one of the players just means there is now a free place, objectively free, more place under the sun. (Kind of like it is now, but not quite so IMHO).

Despite gold and other substitutions - energy is used in every single task, product, service etc. It is at least one definite thing we can say about any civilization: humans, alien, droids, etc. Not sure about Olympian god's - but it looks like to some extent it is true for them too. (Not sure about creatures with a source of infinite energy, which is created from nothing - but I guess at least for some time we can exclude these from our equations. Olympians were limited in their power - so not a big deal for us.)

The value and thereby the price of a wide set of goods and services are well defined for that particular group for the buyer. It is defined at different levels: a single individual, some parts of a group, for the group as a whole, for the whole civilization. It can have a different value on every level and for every group - but it is defined in each particular case by the buyer. He can more precisely estimate what is a fair price for him based on his capability, not on how much he can pay for it. It is less of an object of speculation or subjective perception of self-worth, or speculative efforts of individuals to manipulate stocks. And the conception of a fair price is more defined. You always (ideally) know what the fair price for you and for your situation is.

  • It has a place in some particular cases, like knowing what has to be done to produce this or another good and actual capability to go from a plan to actually doing that production. And with other possible parts of that system, like sharing technologies and p2p development - it could be true, and more easily to estimate. Also it will have a benefit for p2p development - just a part of it or a way to share information about the possibility of more efficient production of something because at the end it lowers your personal prices as a buyer of particular goods (I should probably skip that part because the explanation of it is far beyond the scope of that answer, but whatever.)

The ability to not participate and do not rely on stocks exchanges to determine a fair price eliminates the need to understand mass behavior of humans in an effort to determine if it is the next upcoming bubble or it is a real trend, and what the nature of that trend is. We are a separate kind and we do not have to understand why pokemons are back and why they are worth something, just as a weird example, the thing is more complex than that, but it is, again, about sharing common cultural values, even not themselves, but sharing that basis which makes them possible. And as droids are a different kind, it doesn't have to be expected that they will share even some of that basis, or at least big enough to produce common cultural values at all (probably a few are expected, but not a lot - energy is one of them).

Another kind of why?, which I wish to separate from others

The things above where some local details, or aspects and realization benefits. But there are some factors, as we (I) can imagine them now at more global scale, which should not slip from attenuation in situations, such as droids vs humans.

One of the universal things, which we believe to work for all as of now known living things - is survival. So if droids are so independent that they have money instead of orders, my bet is that those survival principles will apply to them too (no instant FTL for infinite distances (in case the universe is not finite), no infinite energy - both are equivalents).

Within a solar system, the available energy is great but finite. Within the sphere expanding with the speed of light, it is big, but finite, even if it changes over time for quite a long time. It is big, but finite within our galaxy - and there is a considerably longer time until the next source in terms of expansion. (But if you are interested in that you could, maybe, read this, that, and all videos from this YT Channel Isaac Arthur).

Despite the possible intellectual differences and knowledge between civilizations, Samuel Colt Made Them Equal Energy is possibly the way to compensate for intellectual and knowledge-based differences between all parties.

One possible way of keeping an equilibrium, and a way to grantee to be respected by the other party despite other factors, which could be not so much superior, is to have enough energy and preventing others from having it. Someone can be smart, but without energy to realize that smartness in actions it is worth nothing.

That alone might be a social reason to switch our perception of money to energy, to ensure that this is a subject of interest of every single human alive. And humans are tools to control that subject and detect any changes in it. Someone could outsmart us, but as long as we care about each other we should notice changes in our counts, or any direct or indirect obstruction of energy flow (force is stronk) to us as humans.

You have to understand that a top notch AI needs the energy to outsmart us as a system. It does not need a lot of energy or intellect to outsmart a single person, but as a system, we are much more robust, and the task itself is more complex. So even with a perfect AI (or a system of "droids"), this energy equilibrium exists. It is not a stable state without other shared and respected interests between parties. Shared interest makes this situation more stable (we are lazy and are happy to expect some inventions from AI, so we have a base interest in its existence. AI also might have some interest), but even in that situation, someone has to keep an eye on the energy balance. Without shared values, it is vital to have humans en masse based Joda collective - which "feels" that energy flows.

The biggest energy supply in our system at the moment is the Sun. So, on the solar system arena, we are talking about establishing control over a $382.8 * 10^{24} \frac{J}{s}$ source. It is not the biggest and most powerful source which is possible within our system - because of its inefficiency and low power output per unit of mass. But at least it is within a few (at least one as I'm aware of, or as my imagination stretches) orders of magnitude near that value.

As we definitely have an interest in the existence of AI, I suggest we should have 51% of it, in case droids efficiency is equivalent to human efficiency - efficiency in terms of intellectually and technology/energy wise combined. If they are more efficient, then we should accumulate more power.

Establishing that equilibrium, and power over power probably will not be a one day process, and the amount of energy in possession and energy sources will determine how fast parties move to that equilibrium. Probably it was not worth to notice because the equilibrium establishing still might be more like catch than a long run, but the initial energy will be one of the factors which determine the outcome.

This way of changing the energy balance, so as energy exchange and energy money use might become an even more fundamental thing, as a way to overcome our human separations, laziness (we have inventions, and productions, we can't buy only with droid relations) etc. in the face of that "droid" system, and will determine the true worth of groups.

As a conclusion

These are some of my thoughts and reasonings about the subject that lead me to believe that using energy as money is more than just money energy, and as some of us are expecting some AI to come to existence, I suggest we start using them sooner than later, even if it might have deep benefits now, it might have even deeper benefits later.


The boring answer is "money, because money is a proxy for resources".

But money is a lossy proxy. It was designed with human limitations in mind, for an economic structure also designed around human limitations.

It is possible that an AI, stripped of human limitations, would engage in a different kind of economics -- economics 2.0 -- that doesn't rely on the approximation of "money" to facilitate trade.

As a simple example, imagine if all trades where arranged based on a a multi-party barter system possibly spanning the world. You don't sell your chicken for money, you sell it for exactly the resources. It never transitions to being an arbitrary unit of currency. The chicken trade ends up resulting in an obligation by someone on the far side of the world to manufacture the fence posts you'll need in 3 weeks to repair the expected damage to your coop, plus a delivery of pizza tonight. The person you gave the chicken to promised various other things in an extremely long and complex chain that led to those things being delivered.

We can go a step further and have the economics be based on promises and obligations of particular form that are not actually concrete goods, whose value fluxates based on the expected ability for each party to do their job.

Going even further, the trade might involve being paid to have your own AI software modified in certain ways, changing your own preference function in exchange for satisfying your current needs.

And that might be economics 1.1, because at least you can understand the description.

The thing of value being traded may eventually be something actually beyond human ability to understand even a simplified version of it. Imagine describing credit default swaps to a gorilla. Now how about more complex financial instruments.

If said economic system is sufficiently more powerful than ours, ours will be swallowed. What resources we are afforded will be along the lines of what resources we provide gorillas or other non-economic actors: their economic value to the system is determined less by their own actions and what they provide us, than what we decide it is. They have no framework to understand what behavior would optimize their supply of resources, other than hoping that the rate at which the optimal behavior changes is slower than their ability to adapt to the seemingly arbitrary demands placed on them.

Of course, if the droids are dumb (say, no smarter than us), then probably an economic system similar to our current one (or at least one we understand) will be used to trade with them.

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    $\begingroup$ More like stock exchange 2.0 :) $\endgroup$
    – user6760
    Commented Aug 31, 2016 at 14:59
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    $\begingroup$ "The chicken trade ends up resulting in an obligation by someone on the far side of the world to manufacture the fence posts you'll need in 3 weeks to repair the expected damage to your coop, plus a delivery of pizza tonight." Human economics are more complex than this not because we're humans, but because this arrangement is far too simplistic. Unless your droid can predict the future, such a rigid arrangement would be next to useless. $\endgroup$ Commented Aug 31, 2016 at 17:52
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    $\begingroup$ @LightnessRacesinOrbit Sure. You can trade that right to fence posts away for what you need. Or anything else, all without a unit of exchange. But even this is far too simplistic: the economy is about things trading hands, not payment. A system that results in the same things trading hand with no notion of payment could exist (we just couldn't arrange it). A system that somehow distributes the goods in some "more efficient" way (how to measure it?) could dominate over one that is based off payment. $\endgroup$
    – Yakk
    Commented Aug 31, 2016 at 18:12
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    $\begingroup$ Thing is, that becomes the unit of exchange, and as the list of possible things to trade grows ever larger, the unit of exchange becomes more abstract. Before you know it, it's money. People tend to forget but money is just a promise of a favour. $\endgroup$ Commented Aug 31, 2016 at 22:18
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    $\begingroup$ @light it becomes abstract because we are not smart enough to deal with concrete promises on the required scale and complexity. A critter smart enough can drop the absraction. But a critter smarter than that might work out a different way to allocate resources entirely. $\endgroup$
    – Yakk
    Commented Aug 31, 2016 at 22:33

The financial system could be under significant pressure from droids.

  • they can work 24/7 without needing a break
  • they don't need to eat
  • they don't need a home

These are the primary limitations on the human body along with being the primary costs keeping the money in circulation.

There are secondary factors, for example humans desire stuff. Meatbags have a tendency to want to keep up with the Jones, to indulge in financial vanity, to be seen to have wealth and spend it. This is another factor keeping money in circulation, again droids don't have these urges (unless artificially written in).

This leads to a classic problem that the Luddites will always protest against. Each droid puts 3-4 people out of work and generates almost none of the economic activity for the money earned relative to those people. The people who want the things they produce will have no money to buy them due to being out of work. Total economic collapse results. At least that's the theory, in practice it never seems to work that way as industries automate.

The solution is to keep the droids as slaves and not give them money at all. Limit how many droids a household can own and each one is permitted to take the work of a member of the household who is responsible for its maintenance and to whom the droid's earnings go.

What could possibly go wrong, slaves never rebel after all.

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    $\begingroup$ If we assume a droid can do the work of 4 people, all we need is for that droid to kill 4 people first and we solve the lack of work problems. As far as spending money goes, well we just need to increase power bills so that droids need to work to pay their power consumption. Also, death rays consume a lot of power, and you can't be a proper robot without a personal death ray. $\endgroup$
    – darthzejdr
    Commented Aug 31, 2016 at 10:57
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    $\begingroup$ All we need to do is ensure that our droids have desires; problem solved. What could possibly go wrong? $\endgroup$ Commented Aug 31, 2016 at 17:51

This answer is a meta-answer, but the angle has not been touched on by others. It would be very interesting to enforce good behavior by requiring a robot to have a stream of some non-elemental (not power, not material) token to operate. Feel free to modify this answer to be more concrete... A token that authorizes access to information (kbytes, including sensory input) is the closest I can come to this, but it's hard to make guarantees that it can't be cheated...

In that way, robots that misbehave are sanctionable. Maybe the lack of specificity of this idea means it's not possible to make something that a robot/computer can't independently steal or create. But this would make an ideal wage for a robot. If a paid transaction got a robot in trouble, the sponsor would be responsible in some way as well... This is a bit law and orderly perhaps or Orwellian, since someone has to decide what actions can be sanctioned, but it would solve the problem of robots out of control, or robots utilized for nefarious purposes in cases where the three laws of robotics fail. If society agrees, the robot can act...

I would never argue for a human to be ruled exactly like this, though there is an aspect to this to human society already. "Freedom" is the token. If society disagrees on an action, any amount of freedom you obtain from your situation goes away when you go to jail...


The thing to keep in mind about trade is that it occurs when both parties get something of greater value than the things that they give up.

For example, I buy bread from a baker because I value eating that bread more than the dollar I give up. The baker takes the dollar because he values the dollar more than the bread he baked. I used "bread" and "dollar" in this example, but this applies to any two people, and anything that they might want to trade.

Thus, to understand what forms of currency a droid will want to use, you need to understand what the motivations that a given droid may have, and what the droid calculates will help accomplish its goals.

For example, if a droid decided it wanted to go to the moon, it may very well create widgets that humans really like, so that it can get dollars from humans (or perhaps gold, or something else entirely, instead -- it could be that, due to inflation and poor government policy, no one -- droid OR human -- will want anything to do with dollars), which it can then use to buy rocket fuel and ingersol (from humans and other droids alike!) to build something that will take it to the moon.


Electricity. Or rather, access to power when needed. Maybe power storage would be valued as well.

Upgrades. Some may value expanded capacity or capability.

Spare parts. On the other hand, with extra options, more might be required / requested of the unit, so there may be a value in NOT upgrading. Regardless, one spare in storage is worth two in the store.

Clock cycles. Access to extra ticks makes many jobs easier, or at least faster.


Let's assume the Droids of which you speak, are self aware, having needs, wants and desires. Then the droids will use whatever money is in wide use at that time to trade for those things they need. Reason being that money is just an easily carried, stored and/or traded "object" which represents a fairly specific amount of goods and/or services. Society itself decides what objects will be generally accepted as currency/money at that specific time in history.

So it is not so much getting a droid to see the value of money, it's getting the droid to recognize and use whatever form of currency/money has value in the society in which lives, works and plays.

Now, if your question is what are we going to pay droids for working, than the answer gets a bit more difficult. It would depend on if their self awareness made them selfish as well. That would be the point in time that a machine refuses to work without receiving a reward or a "bribe" to use your word.


Time. For the (assuming self-aware, three-laws compliant robots) robots, time takes the form of energy supply - if they run out of energy, they run out of time. For the humans, time takes the form of robots performing services for them, even earning money for them. Leaving them free to do whatever they want.
The exchange rate (between robot time/human time) would be something to work out though.


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