California artist rebuilds world economy with antimatter

The overlap with the title of the blog I write for CNET, Matter/Antimatter, is completely coincidental.

Tech Culture
Modernism Gallery

The overlap with the title of this blog, Matter/Antimatter, is completely coincidental, but since most meaningful events are coincidental, it makes perfect sense that it prompted San Francisco-based conceptual artist Jonathon Keats to send me a note pointing to his upcoming exhibition "The First Bank of Antimatter."

Keats' previous artistic enterprises include applying string theory to real estate development, and in the wake of global economic collapse, Keats is now introducing a hedge against future catastrophe by creating a mirror economy designed to skyrocket as world markets plummet: the first holistic response to the great recession.

"Economic equilibrium is upset by our unbalanced pursuit of material wealth," explains Keats. "My plan is to offset materialism with modern science, by exploiting the economic potential of antimatter, which is the physical opposite of anything made with atoms, from luxury condos to private jets."

Backed by private Swiss funding, his scheme will be implemented beginning on November 12, 2009, when the First Bank of Antimatter opens in San Francisco's Monadnock Building, the location of Modernism Gallery. The bank will serve as a hub for antimatter transactions worldwide, eventually financing the building of antimatter infrastructure and providing the public with a full range of investment opportunities. "But our first order of business will be printing money," says Keats. "Cash is the foundation of any economy, and an anti-economy is no exception."

Issued in three convenient denominations, ranging from 10,000 positrons to 1,000,000 positrons, and initially trading at an exchange rate of $10 to $1,000, the anti-money will be backed by antimatter stored in the bank's vault. Because matter and antimatter annihilate each other on contact, antimatter positrons will be continuously produced on location by decay of the radioactive isotope potassium-40.

"We want our customers to be confident that the antimatter is available on demand, but we're advising clients to conduct transactions strictly in paper currency," says Keats, who has used his artistry to design the money in multiple colors including red, blue and green. "The paper is cotton rag, archival enough to survive economic Armageddon" he promises. "It's an essential asset in any balanced portfolio. Antimatter is a natural haven for wealth when everything becomes worthless."

Like advertising guru Rory Sutherland said at TEDGlobal: "Most of our problems are problems of perception." And: "We need more intangible value." I always knew we could rely on artists (and advertisers!) to (re)-build an anti-economy of meaning, and I am thrilled to see this vision finally materialize.

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