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Cash will eventually go away. So will checks. Someday all you will need is a retina scan and a password, or an embedded chip, or something along those lines. Imagine a world where all transactions are digital. I'm not sure we know what's ahead.

For starters, you wouldn't have to prepare your taxes. All of your transactions would be reported to the IRS as they happened. Perhaps you'd have a separate password for business-related transactions to keep things straight.

I wonder how much of the budget deficit could be closed by eliminating the ability for cash businesses to lie on their taxes. It's probably a big number. A cashless world could create a huge shift of the tax burden to lower income folks who currently get paid in cash.

When you eliminate cash, you also eliminate a lot of crime. Criminals need cash to stay off the radar. In a cashless world, drug dealers and crime syndicates could try to set up fake businesses to launder their revenues, but it wouldn't work. Imagine setting up a fake dry cleaner, for example. The government could easily determine whether that business is buying the type and quantity of dry cleaning supplies typically needed, and whether the profit margins are at industry norms. All of that information would be available through the tax records. A drug dealer could pretend to be a consultant, but even then you expect a digital trail for buying printer ink, business travel, and the like. Perhaps the drug dealer's address and educational level would be tip-offs too.

Violent crime will greatly diminish too, because so much of society's violence happens in the context of criminal enterprises that will no longer be profitable or practical.

In the cashless world, you would never need to carry a wallet. You would never need to balance a checkbook or spend an evening paying bills. Many of you have already reached that point. But you'd also never have to drive to an ATM because some caveman paid you with a check, and you'd never need to wait in line behind someone who is paying by check. I can't wait.

Everyone's fear, of course, is that a cashless society is more vulnerable to government tyranny. But realistically, moving from a 95% cashless world, where we probably are today, to 100%, probably doesn't generate that much extra tyranny, unless you're a drug dealer.

There's a privacy issue, too. But as I have argued before, privacy will someday be a quaint footnote in history. When privacy goes away completely, we'll all be freer. There's only a penalty to privacy when your asshole neighbor can look down his nose at your hobbies while secretly masturbating to Field and Stream magazine. The best two situations for society are when you have either complete privacy or complete non-privacy. It's the middle ground that creates problems. That's where we are now.

Kids already have no privacy. Their texting and browsing histories can be monitored. Their locations can be tracked. And if they have a credit card, their purchasing can be tracked. In practice, parents don't take advantage of all the ways they can monitor their teens, but everyone understands that the tools exist. That generation will never have a memory of privacy as their parents knew it.

 

 

    
 
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Dec 23, 2010
Teenagers have/need privacy too! I realise you don't have kids, but teens are usually smart enough to hide information from their parents if they want. They usually don't bother, thugh, because parents rarely check.

PS: I am a teenager, btw.
 
 
Aug 31, 2010
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0 Rank Up Rank Down
Jul 10, 2010
If we eventually get to a cashless world, I think A great way for it to work would be RSA encryption,
or rather the signing part.


to transfer money you would specify how much money to transfer, and encrypt that with your secret key(the ONLY secret number you need to memorize unless possibly you have a company or something) so that people can decrypt it with your public key to confirm it is from you. then add that it is from you so they know who's public key to check it with(they could try everyones, but this would be faster) then you encrypt that with the recipients public key, so that only they can read it.

so they would decrypt the message with their private key, see that it claims to be from you, decrypt it with your public key, and obtain the money. (although the money transfer part seems a bit fuzzy)

a different possible system: you could make the message to send the desired amount from your account to someone else's, specifying the amount of money to transfer. then you encrypt that with your private key and then add your name and encrypt it with the "bank" 's public key.
the "bank" then decrypts it with their private key, and then you public key, and transfers the money to the other account, possibly sending the other account owner a notification (encrypted with the banks private key and their own public key) that they have received the moneyand that it is from you.


however for this to work the "bank" has to be completely trustworthy or else the bank can transfer any money they feel like, or even just increase money or deplete it.

but its not like current banks can't do similar things.

you could also send other messages to the back, such as checking your balance(encrypted in the same way, except they send a message back to you also encrypted) and also to send arbitrary messages to people both insuring who you are and that only the recipient.

RSA is powerful (but quantum computers with enough [qu]bits would be able to break it)
 
 
Jul 8, 2010
Now re-imagine that with some crafty criminals. Chips will be read and hacked, probably tricking people with a *Free* Safety Scan. Future camera technology will be smaller with a higher resolution enabling retina details to be captured from anything you are likely to stare at. When outside you will have to wander around with your eyes unfocussed to avoid being caught out, taking special care around attractive foreigners with suspicious clothing who seem very keen on sending you an accurate birthday card and keep asking for your pets' names. Once your banking details are compromised it will be almost impossible to convince anyone you didn't book the luxury Vegas suite followed by tickets to Rio. Once their computer tells them your unique identifier was used, the one remaining bank clerk in your time zone will assume you have a multiple personality disorder and call in the cops. You will be crying "I am not a number" all the way to the sedation room. Of course that's if you even find out. The first you will probably hear about it will be when the IRS audit your business for the missing taxes on the 20,000 iPod Picos they know your company shipped to Hong Kong.
 
 
+1 Rank Up Rank Down
Jul 8, 2010
Taking our privacy away will make crime go away? Don't think so.

It will make it easier for the predators in and out of government to prey on those of us who (foolishly?) follow the rules. Contending abolishing privacy will make everything better greatly over-estimates the benevolence and the effectiveness of government as well as vastly underestimates the resourcefulness and resilience of those determined to march to the beat of different drummers.

Still can't see how someone who routinely ridicules big business would think that big government is better in any way. At least in business, occasionally, someone makes an effort to fire all the Teds (and those indistinguishable from Ted - at least using the useless personnel data systems, schemes and cults available) and PHBes ... until a higher ranking PHB fires them. In gov-land, that does not happen. Institutional incompetence grows to exponential heights.

I'd recommend a series of strips about the lunacy of raising taxes, environmental nonsense compliance and giving labor effective veto power over any decision ... but then expecting all that to engender a growing economy. But I'm not sure whatever Scott's technical expertise was extends to economics. Also, no shortage of disfunctional economists exist to sufficiently muddle the common consensus concerning the conditions necessary for heathly economic growth.
 
 
+4 Rank Up Rank Down
Jul 7, 2010
I think diamonds would be easier to carry around than cash anyway. And they're really compact, don't rip, and are very hard to damage. No printing presses required. It's also very hard to make counterfeit diamonds, it takes some fairly specialized equipment.

I would love to pay with gems. How much for that stolen Lamborghini? 15 diamonds, 3 emeralds, 2 sapphires, and 92 rubies? Let me check my gem bag. What? And I get a brick of coke just for buying with you, during your Crazy Dayz sale? Sweet!

Crime won't go away because of no cash money.

I'm sure a lot of viruses will though.
 
 
+11 Rank Up Rank Down
Jul 6, 2010
The attitude that "moving from a 95% cashless world, where we probably are today, to 100%, probably doesn't generate that much extra tyranny, unless you're a drug dealer" is one I hear often, from people claiming that we don't need civil liberty X if we're not criminals.

In many cases, the reason to have civil liberty X is so that you can use it, IN A CRIMINAL MANNER, to organize against the government if the government starts oppressing. Revolutionary activity is by definition illegal. An essential part of civil liberty is having the ability to rebel against an oppressive government. Hence, for example, freedom of moment, the right to bear arms, and so on, are less meaningful if the government keeps track of where you're moving, or of who has arms.
 
 
Jul 5, 2010
I see no valid justification for this statement: "The best two situations for society are when you have either complete privacy or complete non-privacy." Complete privacy is what America most strives for and that sets the stage for criminal activity and as for the other extreme, George Orwell's 1984 is a good example of why that sucks.
 
 
+4 Rank Up Rank Down
Jul 5, 2010
There's no doubt the World is heading toward being cashless. As far as small purchases go, people in other countries can already make vending machine purchases with their cell phones by just pointing the phone at the machine, pressing some buttons, and presto out pops the item and it gets charged to their electronic account. But, if someone today could throw a switch and make it happen overnight my guess is over half of all small businesses would cease to operate because the expenses and taxation of small business is such that they wouldn't survive without some level of graft. As far as stealing goes, it is absurd to surmise that if nobody carries cash crime will suddenly come grinding to a halt. The criminals will just shift to cyber-stealing. Drug dealers will either cut out your retinas or hold a gun to your head while you stare into the machine. Cyber crimes are already happening now and they'd simply get more brutal and/or sophisticated in the event of a cashless world. http://www.usatoday.com/money/perfi/credit/2010-07-04-atm-skimmer-scams_N.htm

 
 
+19 Rank Up Rank Down
Jul 3, 2010
Why are you so cheerful when you're describing a very boring, totalitarian world. The world is NOT 95 percent cashless as you assume. I'll doubt even North America is.
Checks are different than cash. We may becoming a checkless world, but not a cashless one. Can't you tell the difference?

And why is your solution to the privacy limbo to eradicate privacy altogether? That's ludicrous. I hate to spout a cliche, but you're throwing away the baby with the bathwater.
Privacy is not just about being able to jerk off without anyone knowing. It's about information control. I do not want everyone knowing everything about me, which is why I don't use social programs like Facebook or Twitter.

All this did was encourage me to use cash more. I'm really glad you're not in charge of my life, no matter how great you think your own ideas are.
 
 
Jul 2, 2010
Note that there are implementations to render cashless transactions anonymous so it's not clear to me to that going cashless is really going to have the impact that you expect.
 
 
Jul 2, 2010
When did everyone start trusting the government and the banks and the credit card companies? How trivial is it to steal or unfairly tax you if you never have physical control over your assets?

You should all turn in your guns and invest in all T-bills. I'm sure the government will never do wrong by you.
 
 
+3 Rank Up Rank Down
Jul 2, 2010
I remember reading a long time ago that the billions of dollars in US currency that are used overseas in places where the local currency is essentially worthless (e.g. Russia, Afghanistan, etc.) in reality constitutes a HUGE loan to the US that is kept off the books. That is, currency that is dispersed by the US government, and is taken overseas but which never comes back to the US, is essentially a free loan that is never called for repayment. For that reason alone, I can't imagine the US government ever allowing us to go to a currency-free market.
 
 
+7 Rank Up Rank Down
Jul 2, 2010
95% Cashless world? Woah! Where did that statistic come from? And I don't relish the day when I have to make my shadier business transactions with a briefcase full of eyeballs to be retina scanned.
 
 
Jul 2, 2010
Currency can take on many forms. Therefore, cash as we now know it can easily be replaced by some other currency. There will always be something valuable to trade. Therefore, the drug dealer can ask for guns in trade, or gold, diamonds or other tangible items which he could use to furnish his empire. Even food could be used as currency. Maybe he will trade a kilo of cocaine for someone elses wife? We used to call it bartering. In the end, this will have the reverse effect indended, as the government will quickly lose control of its economy as people quickly realise how easy it really is to avoid paying taxes!
 
 
Jul 2, 2010
everyone saying a powercut would cripple the system. Umm... NO. a powercut at the moment cripples your local branch of your bank and any ATM or other Cash dispenser. They all need an internet link to your account to know that your allowed the cash in the first place. No power = no link = no cash.
Not actually a worse state than scots suggestion.

Everyone that said, "someone would 'hack' the system" again, removing the Cash element doesnt change this, you can have all the money pulled from your bank now, leaving you pennyless. Unless you keep ALL your money in pressed £10 notes under the matress, your at no greater risk.

In fact a cashless sociaty would escalate the security measures taken in handling e-commerce. whilst yes there will still be people capable of hacking the system, the risk would be no greater than it is now. Scot is right, it would reduce tax evasion, and streamline hundreds of processes accross the country. The greatest barrier is that the US is a collection of indipendent states that are all capable of making their own laws. Uniformed change is impossible.
 
 
Jul 2, 2010
everyone saying a powercut would cripple the system. Umm... NO. a powercut at the moment cripples your local branch of your bank and any ATM or other Cash dispenser. They all need an internet link to your account to know that your allowed the cash in the first place. No power = no link = no cash.
Not actually a worse state than scots suggestion.

Everyone that said, "someone would 'hack' the system" again, removing the Cash element doesnt change this, you can have all the money pulled from your bank now, leaving you pennyless. Unless you keep ALL your money in pressed £10 notes under the matress, your at no greater risk.

In fact a cashless sociaty would escalate the security measures taken in handling e-commerce. whilst yes there will still be people capable of hacking the system, the risk would be no greater than it is now. Scot is right, it would reduce tax evasion, and streamline hundreds of processes accross the country. The greatest barrier is that the US is a collection of indipendent states that are all capable of making their own laws. Uniformed change is impossible.
 
 
0 Rank Up Rank Down
Jul 2, 2010
larskj - "if we make it possible to have small amounts of transferable cash without password for petty cash issues, and just allow you to transfer funds to this account using a password when it runs out. This solves the petty cash issue."

Good plan, and it's already happening in London. Londoners use a card called called "Oyster" (no idea why!). You just wave the card past a scanner and the correct money is deducted; no need to sign anything, put in a pin, even to take the card out of your wallet. It was originally introduced to pay for public transport, but is now being extended to shops.

Obviously, to prevent too much fraud if the card is stolen, it's best to keep this to low-value transactions, and keep some other proof of ID (PIN, retina scan, whatever) for bigger ones.
 
 
0 Rank Up Rank Down
Jul 2, 2010
if we make it possible to have small amounts of transferable cash without password for petty cash issues, and just allow you to transfer funds to this account using a password when it runs out. This solves the petty cash issue.
 
 
Jul 2, 2010
No cash at all, not even coins? How will we pay for newspapers and magazines? Oh, smack to the forehead, right, newspapers will be obsolete. But then what will Wally read in the men's room?
 
 
 
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