February 13, 2018

Week 3 | Human Foreign Exchange

If you’ve been following along, you know I’ve been running an instagram account called 100 Days of Currency. What isn’t really told about this account is how I’m doing it which I decided to focus this post on.

Ever since I selected the topic of currency, I wanted to take an ‘on-the-ground’ approach to help me think about my thesis more. I proposed the ‘why’ for my thesis in the following way:

Currency is political, philosophical, multilingual, cultural, and important in today’s society. If the future of currency becomes just bytes and strings of alphanumeric characters, then we lose the human elements of what makes currency. Currency, in all its various forms, are a creation by both humans and technology. Currency allows societies to function, it shapes our behavior, and provides access to necessities for life.

I decided to look within my network to find physical currency to see what I could learn. Here’s some stats on what I collected from friends :


  • 100 New Taiwanese Dollar ($3.41) via Bryan (gifted)
  • 5 British Pound ($6.94) + 10 British Pound ($13.89) via Ariana (gifted)
  • 1000 Chilean Peso ($1.68) + 2 Argentine Peso ($0.10) via Alejandro (gifted)
  • 2000 Chilean Peso ($3.36) via Gaby (gifted)
  • 1000 Japanese Yen ($9.29) + 5000 Japanese Yen ($46.45) via Kenzo (purchased)
  • 500 Indian Rupee ($7.79) + 50 Indian Rupee ($0.78) + 100 Indian Rupee ($1.56) via Nitish (gifted)
  • 5 Euro ($6.18) + 10 Euro ($12.36) via Ziyu (gifted)
  • 100 Chinese Yuan ($15.76) via Ziyu (gifted)
  • 50 Chinese Yuan ($7.88) via Ziyu (gifted)
  • 10 Chinese Yuan ($1.58) via Ziyu (gifted)
  • 5 Chinese Yuan ($0.79) via Ziyu (gifted)
  • (2x) 1 Chinese Yuan ($0.32) via Ziyu (gifted)
  • 2 Brazilian Rea ($0.61) via Jeff (gifted)
  • 10 Peruvian Sol ($3.06) via Jeff (gifted)
  • 2 Argentine Peso ($0.10) via Jeff (gifted)
  • 10 Argentine Peso ($0.50) via Jeff (gifted)
  • 50 Argentine Peso ($2.50) via Jeff (gifted)
  • 2 Belize Dollar ($1.00) via Jeff (gifted)
  • 10 Hong Kong Dollar ($1.28) via Jeff (gifted)
  • 5 mysterious Chinese dollar (?) via Jeff (gifted)


This roughly amounts to $149.17 simply from searching within my network. What was insightful about doing this was really centered on this idea of human trust. These were people I knew through my grad program and who understood what I was trying to explore. While these currencies hold ‘value’ they’re relatively not as useful here in the U.S. as the dollar is what we exchange with one another. These currencies have a physicality to them and aesthetic that exemplifies the global world we operate in. And fundamentally these paper notes should capture our trust that it’s value can be exchanged freely.

Unfortunately, that’s not the case. Currency in many ways have borders which create hurdles for people, especially in a globalized world. It left me with this one thought about how currency is very much like physical borders; they’re actually invisible and a human creation, and everyone’s seeking help from technology to secure them.

I’ll save for another post how this segways into blockchain and cryptocurrencies. I’ll leave you with this Economist article Prof. David Yermack believes began the sweeping (read: mainstream) interest in crypto currencies in his class I’m taking. I find it apt that the article is titled The Trust Machine

© Patrick Presto | 2018