Brett Scott is an author, journalist, economic anthropologist and former financial broker. His latest book Cloudmoney: Cash, Cards, Crypto and the War for our Wallets (Penguin/HarperCollins, 2022) explores the battle between cash and digital money, and is described by the Financial Times as a ‘compelling case against the contactless society’.
His previous book, The Heretic’s Guide to Global Finance (Pluto Press, 2013), was a hands-on guide to financial activism and alternative finance for people who wish to change the financial sector for the better. He’s written on cashless society, fintech, cryptocurrency, monetary reform, economic activism, and the politics of tech for publications like The Guardian, Business Insider, New Scientist, Huffington Post, Wired Magazine and CNN.com, and has spoken at over 300 events in over 30 countries.
Brett Scott regularly appears on TV shows, radio broadcasts and documentaries across the world, including BBC World News and Sky News. He’s provided input to reports for multilateral institutions like the United Nations Research Institute for Social Development, UN Principles for Responsible Investment, and UN Environment Program, and has presented on financial inclusion at EU Parliament, EU Commission and IMF events.
He obtained a degree in anthropology in South Africa and a Masters in international development from Cambridge University (UK), and worked in the world of financial derivatives in the midst of the 2008 financial crisis, after which he worked on financial reform campaigns and alternative finance projects with a wide range of groups.
Debates about the future of money contain a confusing jumble of predictions warped by misunderstandings and commercial interests. We’re told that a cashless society is inevitable, that CBDCs are the result of Bitcoin, that stablecoins are going to displace the banking sector, and that cryptocurrencies are compelling with the US dollar. But few of these forecasts are accurate. In this talk, Brett Scott will lay out a clear framework for understanding the different layers of money in our global economy, so we can map how they battle each other, and who the victors may be.
Pronouncing the death of physical cash has been a futurist cliché for decades, but these predictions are often based on flawed mental models of the cash system and how it relates to digital money. In this talk Brett Scott shows why cash is not an outdated ‘horse cart of payments’, and why it’s far better thought of as the ‘bicycle of payments’. The cash system is certainly under attack, but in a future of climate change, geopolitical insecurity, cyber-attacks and digital burnout it stands to make a strong comeback.
Since 2008 fintech has been promoted as a revolution in finance. Fintech evangelists claim that it brings ‘financial democratsation’ and financial inclusion, but in reality fintech is often just the automation of the existing financial system, and its primary purpose is to bridge the systems of Big Finance with those of Big Tech. In this talk, Brett Scott will critically explore the four faces of fintech – digital payments, front-end apps, back-end AI, and interbank DLT – and ask whether this financial automation truly produces democratsation and inclusion. Is fintech just promoting a digital corporate enclosure, or can it be steered towards reforming the financial sector?
We’re often told that the end of cash is inevitable, and that we are the ones driving this change from the bottom-up. In reality, the cash system has been under attack from the top-down for decades, as the banking, card payments and fintech industries have worked to undermine it. Now tech firms are at the forefront of presenting cash as old-fashioned, inefficient and dangerous. Cash slows down automation, which means the corporate sector – particularly Big Finance and Tech – work to remove it, and many governments follow them in promoting ‘digital transformation’. In this talk, Brett Scott will show why this has severe political consequences, and how it’s linked to the rise of the far-right.
Debates about cryptocurrency rage between crypto-evangelists who predict the end of fiat currency, and detractors who mock tokens like Bitcoin as worthless frauds. Both sides often miss the point, and to understand the nuance of the situation we must explore how the vision of Bitcoin – its story – interacts with its reality. Brett Scott began exploring crypto-token systems in 2011, and in this talk he’ll break down why the ‘cryptocurrency vs. fiat’ story is primarily a deceptive marketing pitch for cyber-collectibles traded within the normal monetary system. Nevertheless, tokens like Bitcoin gain moneylike properties through a phenomenon called countertrade, which could have fascinating consequences for future economies.
Blockchain technology has gone through many shapeshitiing phases, from the early Bitcoin community in 2009, to the ‘Blockchain 2.0’ systems spearheaded by Ethereum, to the corporate DLT systems promoted by corporations like Microsoft. It’s been through several re-namings, but how has the technology forked and fragmented into the constellation of ‘Web 3’ players we see nowadays? Brett Scott began exploring crypto systems in 2011, and in this talk he’ll provide an overview of a decade in the space, covering the shifts in philosophy, practice and public reception in order to inform our understanding of its future.
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