Ideology of Technological Money


“Nothing is more persuasive and insidious than money.”[1] It impacts every person regardless of race, nationality, social status, or religion. And as globalization continues to grow, it is nearly impossible to discuss global trends without having a conversation about money. Simultaneously, technology has grown at blinding speeds. What was once defined as a tool used by humans, these tools are evolving to form a “technopoly”, as Neil Postman defines.[2] And for a modern person, technology has become synonymous with digital technologies. A broad review of history suggests that money and technology grew hand in hand, particularly during the Industrial Revolution.[3] However, what happens when money and technology become one in the same?

In this paper, I argue that as money and technology marry to form what is commonly known as cryptocurrencies, the combination of these two powers will form a new ideology that people have yet to perceive. I will initially provide general overviews of both money and technology and discuss technological innovations surrounding money. I will then present what this new ideology could be and lastly provide a critique from a theological worldview.

There are inherent limitations to my research as most scholars have the benefit of hindsight being 20/20. While it is important to learn from history, I believe it is an ever more critical time to apply and prepare ourselves for the future changes to come. My analysis is done in broad strokes, with the hope that this paper will just be the beginning of equipping both scholar and layperson to take money matters more seriously.

Overview of Money

The Merriam-Webster dictionary provides five different entries for the definition of money.[4] Most intriguing is the phrasing, “something generally accepted as a…” [italics mine]. This something is further defined as official coins or stamped metal currency, money of account, or paper money. The functions of money as defined by an institutional investor are a “1) Store of value, 2) Means of payment, and 3) Unit of account.”[5] While an average person may not consciously make these distinctions, one may very well behave in these patterns by opening savings accounts, using credit cards, or simply looking at products in a grocery store. What is more revealing is that no one would think twice about what money truly is or how it is used. For most, it is enough of a task thinking about how to obtain more. Yet, “Nothing, whether in human nature or in the nature of things, whether in technology or in reason, adequately explains the original act of creating and accepting money.”[6]

Based on a modern person’s understanding of how money works, one would logically conclude that a barter system was the antecedent to money.[7] However this has recently been challenged as a myth by anthropologists such as David Graeber—rather, money was birth as an abstract ledger of credit and debt, or a unit of account.[8] Over time, money has evolved beginning with commodity money or specie currency, to a bullion standard, fiat currency, and now a possible transition to post-fiat currency. This current era of fiat currency largely began once the United States ceased to operate under the gold standard in 1971. The predominate form of money today is “sustained by a collective trust in [its] value rather than any intrinsic worth.”[9] “The fact that a central bank issues paper doesn’t make currency any more legitimate than any other vehicle or commodity that a community trusts or values for trade or commerce,” states David Birch, creator of the Digital Money Forum.[10] Whether from a sociological, economical, or historical view, the abstraction of money is complicated to say the least.

The current form of money has developed certain ideologies during present times. Particularly for the modern West, it is the system’s exaltation of the monetary unit, or capitalism’s Money Metric, coined by Craig Gay, that has ultimately redefined or objectified value, reshaping and even diminishing traditional meanings.[11] Society has bought into this Money Metric, pursuing money as an end goal and whatever pleasures its fruits can provide. Clearly, money and its power has persisted throughout history in many different shapes and forms. Theologian and sociologist, Jacques Ellul argues, “Money is not a power because man uses it, because it is the means of wealth or because accumulating money makes things possible. It is a power before all that, and those exterior signs are only the manifestations of this power which has, or claims to have, a reality of its own.”[12]

Overview of Technology

Technology may be just as, if not more, complicated as money.[13] The definitions are muddling at best and I would argue most would not typically define it in scholarly terms. One crass definition asserts technology is, “Anything that has to do with computers. Often misused by stupid people and corporations that market to said stupid people.”[14] While an exploration of technology deserves its own space, I will briefly describe its evolution mainly borrowing from Neil Postman’s Technopoly. Postman frames his narrative by categorizing cultures into three types: tool-using cultures, technocracies, and technopolies.[15] In a very simple summary, cultures have evolved from a tool-using culture, where tools were used to serve a specific purpose[16] to a technocracy, where tools were “a central role in the thought-world of the culture,”[17] to lastly a technopoly, the complete totalitarian dominance of technology, where our so called tools are questioning and redefining all past traditions and social spheres such as government, religion, economy, education, and family.[18]

It is in this current paradigm most of the developed world exists as well as developing cultures are headed. “In Technopoly, we are surrounded by the wondrous effects of machines and are encouraged to ignore the ideas embedded in them. Which means we become blind to the ideological meaning of our technologies.”[19] Two clear examples of this effect that is now coming to surface is the impact of social media and smart phones. When a major technology company creates an application to possibly limit the use of their own product, I would argue, is a pretty good indicator of a greater issue at hand.[20] The most harrowing effect of the growth of technology is how much trust we place in it, which I will expound upon later.

Technology, similar to money, has a wide-ranging impact. While advances in technology has generally improved living for most, there are detrimental effects as well. Economist Raghuram Rajan best explains, “… technological advance is a good thing for everyone in the long run… But in the short run, technological advances can be extremely disruptive, and the disruption can persist into the long run if people do not have the means to adapt.”[21]

Technological Advance of Money

It is the technological advance particularly in the financial services industry that is of particular concern. PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), released a paper in 2016 highlighting ten technological disruptions the financial service industry ought to prepare for.[22] The authors are well aware that, “It is now becoming obvious that the accelerating pace of technological change is the most creative force – and also the most destructive – in the financial services ecosystem today.”[23] More alarmingly, 81% of banking CEOs surveyed are concerned with this pace of change more than any other industry sector.[24]

One of the technological disruptions mentioned is the blockchain, the essential technology cryptocurrencies are built on. “Cryptocurrency,” as PwC defines, “is a medium of exchange, such as the US dollar, created and stored electronically in the blockchain, using encryption techniques to control the creation of monetary units and to verify the transfer of funds.”[25] What is interesting is how PwC compares cryptocurrency to the US dollar as a medium of exchange. While most cryptocurrencies are not currently backed by any major government, there is a clear interest in adopting or creating their own digital currency. Regardless, there is a difference between “government-based legitimacy or legitimacy based on law” and a market-based legitimacy, as Jon Matonis, Executive Director of the Bitcoin Foundation, argues. “Bitcoin doesn’t necessarily require the former to be successful or functional.”[26]

Bitcoin was initially created as a peer-to-peer, electronic payment system. The mysterious creator, Satoshi Nakamoto, writes, “What is needed is an electronic payment system based on cryptographic proof instead of trust, allowing any two willing parties to transact directly with each other without the need for a trusted third party.”[27] In essence, this is the culmination of the evolution of money, allowing strangers to transact with one another without the limitations of current forms and systems. This “Trust Protocol,” coined by Don Tapscott, is “a trustworthy global platform for our transactions.”[28] “Today thoughtful people everywhere are trying to understand the implications of a protocol that enables mere mortals to manufacture trust through clever code.” [emphasis mine][29]

It is this disruptive technology, initially starting with bitcoin in 2009 to the countless cryptocurrencies, coins, or tokens constituting the crypto universe, that has the attention of all global powers. “In the sense that cryptocurrencies are an abstract unit that can be used as a token of exchange by anyone with a computer, they are, by most definitions, money. However, they do not cohere to the modern, global economic definition of the function of currency.”[30] It will be interesting to see how this narrative will unfold, especially as global powers such as Japan seek to create their own cryptocurrency.[31] If history is any indicator of what is to come, historian William N. Goetzmann best illustrates this point: “financial technology allowed for more complex political institutions, enhanced social mobility, and greater economic growth—in short, all the major indicators of complex society we call civilization.”[32]

This review of the technological advance focused solely on the form of money or perhaps what it is evolving to be. Blockchain has only garnered the attention of media, unsurprisingly, when pegged to price fluctuations. The applications of this technology are much deeper, reshaping digital identity, supply chain management, and telecommunications to name a few. Other disruptors such as robotics and artificial intelligence are making significant headway in financial technology and other sectors as well. How all these changes will affect global society and humankind is another matter altogether.[33]

New Ideology

Based on the material discussed thus far, I will briefly attempt to forecast how these tectonic shifts may further impact our global society. I believe the most significant shift in ideology will be related to trust. Up until this point, society has not valued technology to the degree of trust. No one would hoard multiple iPhones or attempt to exchange software as transactional values. However, what seems to be happening is that global powers are looking for a new store of value in the form of technology, whether that be bitcoin or a different protocol (e.g. Ethereum or Ripple). It is already evident that cryptocurrencies are a valid and more effective medium of exchange. And lastly, the distributed ledger may serve as a global unit of account. Simply put, society has increasingly valued money, despite the abstract form that it has already taken today. Society has also put a certain level of trust and dependency on the various forms of technology. Now with technology marrying or perhaps even overtaking this abstraction of money and becoming money itself, it is evident not only how much trust we put in technology, but that it becomes the very value we seek to desire. This will naturally have a waterfall effect in all spheres of life. There is already a growing distrust, whether it be of corporations or governments. Search results for words of the year in 2018 are misinformation, toxic, and justice.[34] It is only a matter of time society will put their collective trust in technology and code than in any major institution, and perhaps even in other people and humankind.

This technological change will have ecological effects—it will neither be additive or subtractive, rather “one significant change generates total change.”[35] As with all technological advance, there are immediate, superficial benefits. Taking one example, the remittance industry is plagued with archaic processes and high fees. Companies such as TransferWise[36] have begun to disrupt this industry, however, companies like Abra are utilizing blockchain technology and are envisioning “open access to the global financial system and drive greater financial inclusion.” [sic][37] There may be no need for remittances as this technology can be the catalyst in including those who are incapable of participating in the global economy. David Birch states, “…it’s not just people who are already fairly wealthy, or who are already fairly tech savvy, who can enjoy the benefits of money in electronic form, but actually we’ll be pulling more people into the economy and helping them with their finances and spending behavior and all of it because of these tools.”[38] While no one may overtly disagree with helping those in extreme poverty, these massive shifts will only fuel the narrative to trust in technology over any institution. As decentralization provided through technology proves to be a more effective method in governance and consensus, it will only exacerbate issues already created by digital technology.[39]

Theological Response

“Today, we live in a global community, one where commerce is now transacted in ways the Sumerians, Greeks, Chinese, Italians, and other early founders of our monetary system could never have conceived of.”[40] I would add that we live in a global community that the early church could never have conceived of. The universal church is no longer an abstract theological doctrine, but is now a reality. Financiers see the need for “Seeing the future clearly and developing a proactive, strategic response – rather than simply reacting to events,” which “will set apart the winners from the losers in a fast-evolving market.”[41] The leaders of the global financial system known as the Masters of the Universe are clearly preparing for these major disruptions.[42] Will the global church be proactive about these shifts rather than simply reacting to them?

I would argue that the church has predominately been reactionary thus far. In his lecture turned paper, “Should We Listen to the Churches When They Speak on Economic Issues?”, Professor Anthony Waterman illustrates the differences between strong and weak utterances and how to speak on these issues in a free verse un-free society.[43] Weak utterances are broad, usually pastoral, and largely uncontroversial. I believe Craig Gay’s remark, “we are occasionally encouraged to reflect about the ethical implications of the ways that we spend money,” would fall under this weak utterance.[44] However, “the implications of assigning monetary values to things is not typically something that we worry very much about… Yet it is important to stress that everything — including even religious understanding — is indeed effaced in the alchemy of monetary commodification.”[45] While one can hope this is not true or disagree, it is difficult to see how most modern Western churches are not influenced by or operating under the Money Metric, where success is measured by false proxies such as attendance and finances.[46]

Waterman also discusses examples of strong utterances, such as when Canadian bishops made their recommendation on unemployment verse inflation, where they “risk making themselves and their church look foolish or irrelevant if it turns out that they used their sacred office to recommend disastrous economic policies.”[47] Another example is Michael Schluter’s relational economy, where he acknowledges that “First and foremost, there has to be a change in worldview, where the dominant values of individualism and materialism are replaced by those of ‘Relational Thinking’. Unless people learn to think differently, and prioritise relationships over wealth for example, other changes will be cosmetic.”[48] Schluter’s critique is mainly regarding capitalism and while hopeful, it is still nonetheless a view looking through a lens through past and present situations only.[49] I do wholeheartedly agree with his conclusion that, “Rather than wait for these sinister alternatives to emerge, Christians need to read the signs of the times. To protect society for the wellbeing of our children and children’s children, the time to press for radical economic and social reform is not in 20 years’ time. It is today.”[50]

I believe the other extreme response would be almost Platonic in nature—i.e. to dismiss or ignore the significance of economic matters and place an unbalanced focus on non-earthly ones. I believe the balance for a Christian is first to be faithful to God’s will. “Everything that tends to turn us away from this faithfulness (first expressed as recognition of sin, then as acceptance of grace, finally as personal commitment to personal action) diminishes Christian effectiveness, even if outwardly we do a great deal, changing institutions and mobilizing the masses.”[51] I would also agree that “What the churches have to say to us ‘when they speak on economic issues’, in other words, is far more important, far more truly radical, than any mere advocacy however well-meaning, however well-informed. It is simply that there are really no such things as ‘economic issues’ at all.”[52] Upon this foundation, do I believe it is critical to tackle the looming changes at hand. Regardless of one’s eschatology or theological doctrine everyone will have to face these changes on this side of heaven. Whether we simply and blindly adopt blockchain technology and use cryptocurrency once the greater masses start doing so, or think about these changes and speak into them despite its inevitability, is something individuals will all have to act upon and not rely on some vague collective response.


This paper presents a broad scoping overview of the technological change of money and the potential it has in forming a new ideology and thus the ecological effects it will have on society. There is much more to address and much has been omitted, however my hope is that this paper will spark an initial interest to dive deeper into the complicated world of cryptocurrency and technological disruptions. My hope is that Christians would not be irrelevant to these broader changes and be rulers even over money.

[1] Clive Lim, “APPL/INDS 564: Money Matters: Money, Mammon, & the Meaning of Life,” accessed Dec 21, 2018.

[2] Neil Postman, Technopoly: The Surrender of Culture to Technology, Reprint edition (New York: Vintage, 1993).

[3] David S. Landes, The Wealth and Poverty of Nations: Why Some Are So Rich and Some so Poor (New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 1999), 187.

[4] Merriam-Webster Dictionary, s.v. “money,” accessed on Dec 15, 2018,

[5] John Pfeffer, “An (Institutional) Investor’s Take on Cryptoassets,” accessed Dec 21, 2018.

[6] Jacques Ellul, Money and Power (Eugene, OR: Wipf & Stock, 2009), 81.

[7] Adam Rothstein, The End of Money: The Story of Bitcoin, Cryptocurrencies and the Blockchain Revolution., New Scientist’s Instant Experiment (Boston, MA: Nicholas Brealey Publishing, 2017), 115.

[8] Ibid.

[9] Rothstein, End of Money, 121.

[10] Brett King, Breaking Banks: The Innovators, Rogues, and Strategists Rebooting Banking (Singapore: John Wiley & Sons Singapore, 2014), 120.

[11] Craig M. Gay, Cash Values: Money and the Erosion of Meaning in Today’s Society (Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans and Regent College Pub, 2004), 42–43.

[12] Ellul, Money and Power, 76.

[13] Some define money as a tool or technology. While there are certain aspects that qualify money as a technology, the distinction I will make is money from a digital technology.

[14] Urban Dictionary, s.v., “technology” accessed on Dec 18, 2018,

[15] Postman, Technopoly, 22.

[16] Ibid., 23.

[17] Ibid., 28.

[18] Ibid., 48.

[19] Ibid., 94.

[20] See Apple’s recent Screen Time app.

[21] Raghuram Rajan, Fault Lines: How Hidden Fractures Still Threaten the World Economy (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2010), 22.

[22] PwC, “Financial Services Technology 2020 and Beyond: Embracing Disruption,” accessed Dec 21, 2018.

[23] Ibid., 3.

[24] Ibid., 9.

[25] Ibid., 14.

[26] King, Breaking Banks, 128.

[27] Satoshi Nakamoto, “Bitcoin: A Peer-to-Peer Electronic Cash System,” accessed Dec 21, 2018.

[28] Don Tapscott and Alex Tapscott, Blockchain Revolution: How the Technology Behind Bitcoin Is Changing Money, Business, and the World (New York: Portfolio, 2016), 6.

[29] Ibid., 5.

[30] Rothstein, End of Money, 130.

[31] Arjun Kharpal, “Japanese banks are thinking of making their own cryptocurrency called the J-Coin,” accessed Dec 20, 2018.

[32] William N. Goetzmann, Money Changes Everything: How Finance Made Civilization Possible (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2016), 14.

[33] I must reiterate at this point that this review has been done in broad strokes. Much more can be said about money and the various role it plays in different systems, as well as blockchain technology and the implications it may have. Matters such as decentralization, privacy, and ownership will all play a role alongside the technological shift in the form of money. The importance here is not to discuss what has passed nor what has progressed thus far, but rather what will come.

[34] See, Oxford, and Merriam-Webster, respectively.

[35] Postman, Technopoly, 18.

[36] See

[37] To note, Abra initially began as an app to aid remittances primarily between the US and Philippines. See Accessed Dec 20, 2017.

[38] King, Breaking Banks, 133.

[39] Due to the limits of this paper, I avoid bringing into discussion the works of previous scholars such as Peter Berger’s, The Homeless Mind. Berger discusses, much better than I can, the effects of technological production on the consciousness of mankind. I believe these new technologies will heighten some of these effects or birth new ones altogether, adding to the ecological effect of technological money.

[40] King, 121.

[41] PwC, 4.

[42] Tapscott and Tapscott, Blockchain Revolution, 55.

[43] Anthony Waterman, “Should We Listen to the Churches When They Speak on Economic Issues?” of Recent Developments in Economics and Religion, ed. Paul Oslington, Paul S. Williams, and Mary Hirschfeld (Cheltenham, UK: Edward Elgar, 2018), 351-62.

[44] Gay, Cash Values, 60.

[45] Ibid.

[46] The idea of a false proxy was taken from, Dave DeVries, “Measuring Success in Your Church,” accessed Dec 21, 2018.

[47] Waterman, 356.

[48] Michael Schluter, “Beyond Capitalism: Towards a Relational Economy” of Recent Developments in Economics and Religion, ed. Paul Oslington, Paul S. Williams, and Mary Hirschfeld (Cheltenham, UK: Edward Elgar, 2018), 258.

[49] Note, Schluter’s paper was written in 2010 during the early inception of bitcoin, thus his views may certainly have changed.

[50] Schluter, 260.

[51] Ellul, Money and Power, 19.

[52] Waterman, 361.