Money is a token of cooperation

The biology of indirect exchanges

– Morality confuses altruism with cooperation
– Cooperation requires the situated ability to choose partners
– I propose a game theoretical definition of these concepts
– I provide evidence from anthropology, history and cryptocurrency

Author: Jose Maanmieli

Abstract: : I propose a clear definition of money, as opposed to credit, through a biological distinction between the concepts of cooperation and altruism. I argue that these aspects of animal sociality are often confused because they are evaluated from a sociocentric perspective. Objectively speaking, the function of a monetary token is to mediate interactions that are more constructive than reciprocal altruism, synergistic interactions involving partner-choice and non-additive benefits. This focus on proximate mechanisms explains the challenges encountered by monetary theorists, who typically emphasise the utility of a token or its symbolism. The invention of Bitcoin provides empirical support. Indeed, the value of bitcoins does not come from any intrinsic utility nor does it come from an institution. This form of digital money has simply emerged on the internet, an open network akin to the ecological environment in which trade has evolved. Like Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies, money is naturally created by humans as a signal of cooperative intent. This potential for indirect exchanges is then seized by altruistic systems of reproduction that transform money into credit. The understanding of money thus helps elucidate the nature of human society and our ability to cooperate indirectly.

Keywords: game theory, partner-choice, morality, social evolution, credit-money, bitcoin


Reviewers: This article has been reviewed by a post-doctoral researcher in Theoretical Biology, a Doctor in Economics, and a Professor of Ecology, among others. Please, get in touch for details.

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