Technology is reinventing the very building blocks of our finances. As long ago as the 16th Century BC, goods were exchanged for a form of currency – cowrie shells.
Later, in the 7th Century BC, coins were first minted in Lydia, in modern-day Turkey, from electrum – a natural alloy of gold and silver found in riverbeds.
Much later, paper money was introduced in China. Known as “flying cash” owing to its convenience and lightness, it was backed by the central authority. According to Ben Alsop, curator of the Citi Money Gallery at the British Museum in London, that introduced a vital concept – trust.
Trust of the authorities, and trust that this piece of paper was actually worth something. So, for years, currencies have traditionally been issued by governments via central banks.
Now cryptocurrencies can be created and stored electronically on a completely decentralised system. More than 1,000 of them exist globally, the best-known of which is Bitcoin.
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