Editor's note: Money, money, money

Okey Chigbo, Editor of CPA Magazine, introduces the features in the May 2014 issue.

Money. What is it? In the 2013 book Money: The Unauthorised Biography, author Felix Martin tells us that at the beginning of the 20th century, the remote Pacific island of Yap was still using a sophisticated form of coinage consisting of limestone wheels up to 12 feet in diameter. The obvious thought is, shopping must have been a chore — how on earth did they lug that stuff around? They didn't need to. We 21st century westerners are really not that different: we don't cart all our money around with us, do we? Some Yap money existed as huge stones at the bottom of the sea, just as much of ours exists as abstract numbers or a series of coded on-off switches in a bank computer. It appears that while money takes different forms in time and space, it is universally whatever we are collectively willing to accept.

The theme of this month's issue is money, and we made an effort to discover as much about it as we can. It seemed appropriate that we first try to explain money by looking at its history. In "Money Then and Now," writer John Lorinc tells us that "ever since the early Mesopotamian settlements began using a form of cur-rency thousands of years ago, human societies have grappled with basic questions about the nature of this thing we call money." In recent times, forms of money have proliferated — credit cards, gift cards and virtual money such as bitcoin. The rapidly changing story of money, Lorinc writes, "reminds us that currency is… and, in fact, has always been a fluid confection of tender, trust and terms."

Writer Yan Barcelo's feature "Easy Money" examines a troubling issue facing western economies (including Japan's): central bank efforts in the United States, Europe and Japan sought to prevent economic collapse by pumping vast quantities of money into the system. It is agreed that putting the patients on such life-support saved them. But will the medicine ultimately kill the patients? Does anyone know?

In "This is Your Brain on Money," CPA Magazine senior editor Tamar Satov tells us what the research says money does to human behaviour. Does money make us less honest? Does it make us less empathetic? Find out the answers to these fascinating questions here.

What is "the gold standard" anyway? If you cannot answer the question — and even if you can — please read the highly informative and entertaining feature "Gold Nuggets" by writer Mary Teresa Bitti. It is a compendium of information about gold, some of which may actually be useful. For instance, is gold really a good hedge against inflation? Find out more here.