A world without money: an impossible dream?
English model and actor Lily Cole and the ‘moneyless man’, Donegal’s Mark Boyle, dare to imagine a more altruistic, less cash-dependent future. Is it feasible or pie in the sky?
Lily Cole is an unlikely Don Quixote for the 21st century. The 26-year-old English model and actor has appeared in big budget films and on the cover of magazines such as Vo gue and Playboy, and made millions along the way. But like the 16th-century Spanish gentleman, she has an impossible dream and is trying to bring the world together through her “gift economy”.
The what now? We live in a hard and cynical world, so the notion that a successful social network could be built almost entirely on altruism seems improbable – but Cole’s website impossible.com might just pull it off.
But what is impossible.com? It is “a platform we have built trying to connect people to get them to do things for each other for free. You can post things that you want help with or that you want to offer the community,” says Cole.
The big idea is to “encourage people to do things for each other for non-monetary reasons”. Her altruistic start-up has attracted some significant funding, and Nobel Peace Prize winner Muhammad Yunus and Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales serve as impossible.com consultants.
If Cole is Quixote, maybe Donegal man Mark Boyle is her Sancho Panza. He is a pioneer of the “freeconomy” movement, which seeks to encourage a more sustainable lifestyle. For more than three years, Boyle has been trying to get by without any money, and he says he has “never been happier and never been healthier”.
He has two books – The Moneyless Man and The Moneyless Manifesto – and has spent years hitching lifts, growing his own food and foraging. He is currently living in Co Galway, where he is starting to build a community that intends to thrive without cash.
The pair connected through the impossible.com website after Cole posted a wish to meet him after hearing a talk he gave on the freeconomy concept. “When I saw a video of what Mark was doing, calling to question our dependence on money and actually applying that to his own life, it really spoke to me and touched me,” she says.
Their meeting takes place – incongruously – in a swanky five-star hotel in Dublin, and Pricewatch gatecrashes it. After establishing that someone else is paying for the fancy soup and sandwiches, we ask her what on Earth she is doing. And how did she acquire the address impossible.com? That she picked it up for a song after discovering it lying around in some dark corner of the web seems, well, impossible. It is.