It's fascinating how stock traders can get so excited about a few abstract numbers on an electronic display. These numbers represent real money, and every small fluctuation can mean the difference between being rich or poor.
What we usually don't realize is that money itself is already a virtual phenomenon: a representation of value constructed to replace the awkward, imprecise trading of physical goods. Indeed, paying $50 for a pair of sneakers is much easier than trading two chicken or a basket of apples for them. As long as we all believe in its value, money works fine. But once we start making money with money, the system feeds back on itself, and things start to get peculiar. Money is just a representation, but nevertheless it makes the world go round. What started as a symbolic representation has now become a kind of reality. It's almost Platonic; almost like in the movie The Matrix.
From our Fake for Real series.