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Opening Arguments

Money talks

An interesting story about how our spending habits are going to change:

Imagine it’s 2040.

You go to the grocery store, and when you look for the checkout counter there is none. There’s no place to pay for your groceries because you already did.

When you walked into the store, a sensor identified you, perhaps from a ring or watch you were wearing that transmitted the information. Or perhaps you didn’t need to wear anything special. Maybe a device in the store figured out who you were using a combination of facial recognition, 3-D body shape identification and your gait.

Your unique identifier is attached to your digital wallet, which transmits payment for the groceries directly to the store. But you don’t pay in dollars. Your wallet has a dozen digital currencies in it, all with different values based on a variety of factors, including loyalty programs. At certain stores, you might pay with their version of frequent-flier miles. At others, you might pay with the equivalent of a virtual credit card — except the credit card isn’t issued by a traditional bank.

You might also pay with credit that you received through a peer-to-peer online exchange that connects investors with people seeking short- and long-term loans. That’s how you got your mortgage and financed your self-driving car, too.

Welcome to the future, courtesy of the minds of some of the sharpest futurists around. The scenes just described may sound as if they came from a futuristic movie or an episode of “The Jetsons.” Yet, that’s just a middle-of-the-road view of the future; it gets wilder from here.

If the last three decades revolutionized the information and telecommunications industries, the next three may upend the basic tenets of finance: currency, credit and banks, as well as payment and transmission systems. Your children may even ask you, “What was it like to see that old-fashioned building called a bank?”

The piece is titled "A Revolution in Money," which I think misstates the case. It's an evolution, not a revolution. Money has never been about the mediums itself but about the faith we have that the medium will be honored. Whether it's hard currency, bitcoins or a credit card, money is just how we keep track of how we spend our time and what it is worth.

And if I'm imagining 2040, never mind the disappeared bank, what is this "grocery store" we're speaking of? My groceries will be beamed directly to my holodeck after the chip in my head picks up the order as I think of it.

We're already in the middle of this evolution, so I don't think the changes will be rapid enough to be too startling. Look at how many transactions we already do that don't involve our old-fashioned concept of money. My brother orders me an Amazon gift credit. I spend that credit at the Amazon book store. By ebooks show up on my Kindle. Nothing physical ever changed hands, and I haven't even had to leave the house. And I marvel at the fact that with my debit card, I have immediate access to several thousand dollars, not just the handful of bills in my pocket.

No matter how thngs change, two things will still always be true: 1. Money makes the world go 'round. 2. I never have as much as I want.

Posted in: Science, Web/Tech