At first, having more of something than what you needed was an accident. Either by having luck and finding food laying around, managing to kill an animal bigger than expected, or plain stealing it from someone else. But there wasn’t much incentive to have extra anything, most of if was perishable and therefore got stale very fast, or if it was something durable like a tool or extra clothing, it was a burden to transport.

On top of that, everything you have in excess makes you a target, so there’s a risk associated with having something extra. It wasn’t like trading with other was super easy either, finding something that you need and the other person don’t, and at the same time something else that works the other way around, is super tricky. That left others in need of your thing with no other resource but to steal it from you, and if you stand in the way of that, attacking you.

This was not super cool for us, a bunch of standing mammals with oversize brains. Just like we started to invent language to be able to tell each other complicated stuff, and communicate things that weren’t happening in that precise moment, we ended up inventing money. Money at its core is nothing else but a tool to save that extra something we don’t need right now. If everybody else uses the same money, we can agree that this money is going to be accepted between us in the future. What starts to happen organically, is that if I manage to have more food than I need today, I trade that food for money, the other person gets to eat, and next week, maybe I’m a bit sick and unable to hunt for myself, but I can trade that money again and eating anyway.

The act of saving was already possible in some ways, but inventing money supercharged it. People started to realized that it was a better survival strategy to get very good at something that others needed but weren’t so good at. If you are a generalist and therefore a bit good at everything, the moment you can’t perform (because you’re ill for example) or the conditions get above your skill (harder prey to hunt), you’re doomed. But if you are the best medic of the group, you don’t need to even hunt, you can trade your skills for money, and when you need food, that money for food.

Saving made us specialize. And with specialization, we went from basic mode to advance. We developed better tools to make our specialized work even more efficient, better communications to be able to reach further and further away, and thanks to those advances, we died less often.

One of those tools we made better and better every time was money itself. Money allowed more and more efficient trading and saving, is one of the technologies that made so many of us being here today possible. So if we can keep inventing better money, we can keep propelling ourselves to better lives.

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