Monday, October 17, 2005

Pre-Paid Minutes as Currency?

That seems to be one of the odder outcomes of the explosion in cell phone usage in Africa.
Prepaid air minutes are the preferred means of usage and have created their own $2 billion-a-year industry of small-time vendors, the Celtel chief says. Air minutes have even become a form of currency, transactable from phone to phone by text message, he says.

This is particularly useful in Africa, where transferring small amounts of money through banks is costly.

Or other uses of cell phones themselves.
Wildlife researchers in Kenya and South Africa have put no-frills cell phones in weatherproof cases on a collar that goes around an elephant's neck. The phone sends a message every hour, revealing the animal's whereabouts.

It cuts the cost of tracking wildlife by up to 60 percent, said Professor Wouter van Hoven of the University of Pretoria's Center for Wildlife Management.

Comparing social evolution to biological evolution is old hat. Still, this is such a clear example of unforseeable memetic evolution that it deserves to be added to any arsenal of cases.

In any evolution, however, there are parasites.
On the downside, however, bus passengers on cross-country journeys have to turn off their cell phones because criminals are known to use them to coordinate highway robberies.

If anything, this outcome is even greater reinforcement of the concept of social evolution being highly similar to biological evolution.

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