8/25/2009

money, the future, and the black market

Here's something I've been wondering about while I work on an outline: how would the black market operate in a future economy where money exists only in digital form? How would you buy and sell things you weren't legally allowed to buy and sell if money primarily or solely existed in some electronic medium which could be monitored with relative ease?

Thinking hard.

7 comments:

Anonymous said...

Any system can be circumvented if you have the right skills or know someone that does. We've already got credit fraud today.

Lawrence said...

How about barter? Not terribly convenient, but it would keep your transactions below the radar of a police state that monitored digital transactions.

neil williamson said...

Barter is what I was thinking too, Lawrence. Certainly, some commodity trading that did not go through official channels - until you wanted it to.

Perhaps an entire alternative digital monetary system that could be interfaced with the bona fide economy via highly risky digital "fences". Risky, because the real digital system would be sensitive to being flooded by bogus funds.

That would mean that if you had a "black" account you could spend your money with underworld establishments or possibly in "grey" neighbourhoods, or buy some software/pay someone/corrupt an AI to convert your black money to white money.

Or something.

Craig said...

I believe that in a digital medium, there must always be a method for (eg) card to card transfer for children, pocket money, small change transfers, bus fare etc. This is the loophole that will be exploited. The digital age has made it easier every time to hack / cheat the system. Long live the blackmarketeers

gary gibson said...

I was starting to think a kind of shadow economy using its own barter/trade system. Found out from a Bruce Sterling piece that in some parts of South America, black market items are paid for in ... cellphone minutes. All you need is a barcode, and it's otherwise anonymous. Interesting.

Craig ... I thought of a form of 'poor card' which would be an effective second economy. Like a credit/debit card with DNA profile attached, but hackable. It would only be provided to the very poor to pay for basic amenities. That's your basic barter/black market cash right there. I also considered pharmaceuticals as cash - genengineered stuff, very illegal, but worth a lot. A 22nd century equivalent of powdered rhino horn, if you will.

Thanks for the ideas!

jimsteel said...

There's always the 'free gift' situation. You pay, say, £40 for a 'collectable', pre-owned paperback, and get a bonus 'free gift'.

Gav said...

There's always a way.

The easy thing would be barter for services. That makes perfect sense when you consider a futuristic black market where most things are manufactured, most people don't understand them and you have a marketable skill...

However I think the easiest way to deal with this would be through pre-charged credit. You can purchase cards which have a set credit value. So you use a shell company to purchase the cards then dismantle the audit trail.

The problem is that William Gibson pretty much covered this in his Cyberpunk books.