A noted cultural anthropologist Professor Jack Weatherford observed in his fascinating The History of Money:
“In the 20th century, we saw money turn rapidly from paper into plastic and then into mere electronic blips generated in computers, transferred over telephone lines and through computer terminals, and without any corporal existence outside of the electronic domain. Throughout its history, money has become steadily more abstract. By moving at the speed of light, electronic money has become the most powerful financial, political and social force in the world. Money has become even more like God: totally abstract and without corporeal body.” (p. 248)
In this book Weatherford identified three great mutations in the story of money. The first began with the invention of coins in the Anatolian kingdom of Lydia 3000 years ago, sparking a monetary revolution that underpinned classical Greek and Roman civilizations. Next, family-owned, credit-giving banks of Renaissance Italy ushered in the modern world capitalist system, which swept away feudalism and abetted the expansion of European hegemony to the Americas. In the third major transition, predicted Weatherford back in the mid-1990s, the current age of paper money will give way to an era of cybermoney, or electronic cash, in which transactions are conducted via the Internet and by other forms of electronic transfer. Along the way, the book traces the rise of banking systems and other financial institutions and shows how national governments are playing a dominant role in managing the money supply.
Weatherford, Jack. 1997. The History of Money. New York: Crown Publishers.