…and our data is the real cryptocurrency
There’s another “modern means of exchange” which, unlike bitcoin, has no official value, yet “is anything but useless”, says Philip Aldrick. And that’s our data. “Since the turn of the millennium, we’ve built a 21st century version of the barter economy,” swapping our personal information for free services like Facebook and Google. But while “peasants in the Middle Ages knew what two loaves of bread would buy them”, we haven’t a clue what the data we generate on a daily basis is worth. There are ways of “approximating a value”. The $1bn that Facebook paid for Instagram’s 30 million users in 2012 translates into $33 for each user’s pictures, locations and friendships. Companies are “hoarding data like treasure” as an investment in the future. What do they need it for? “Even they don’t know yet.” But as both a medium of exchange and a store of wealth, data is “money, in another form”. None of this shows up in the official GDP figures, suggesting that in today’s digital economy, the methods we use to measure output are “increasingly obsolete”.