Is Total Cashlessness Inevitable?
Debates abound as global trends move forward
“All that is necessary is to wait out a short term in the cycle of human history and a cashless society will inevitably befall us because this is a development that is automatic and inevitable.”
– Robert Hendrickson, (book) THE CASHLESS SOCIETY (1972)
The inevitability of a “world without money” has been an ongoing debate since the subject first entered the social scene in the early ‘70s. I know. I’ve been tracking the topic since that time. It’s been one of the most amazing journeys through the evolution of our times as one could imagine. Having spent my entire adult life in both retail and reporting, I have seen the retail industry go from old mechanical cash registers to card swiping to smart phone scanning … and, from there, we enter the full ubiquitous age of what I like to call The Diginomic Era! Everything goes fully digital … especially our money.
According to The Mobile Economy 2018 Report produced by GSMA Intelligence in Europe, “2017 was a milestone year for the mobile industry: the number of people connected to mobile services surpassed 5 billion globally, with 3.7 billion in developing markets. As such, two out of three people in the world had a mobile subscription at the end of 2017. Looking out to 2025, the mobile industry will reach new major milestones across key indicators – unique subscribers, internet users and 4G/5G connections.”
In the meantime, by 2025, the report also predicts “the more significant growth opportunity will lie in mobile internet … reaching a milestone of 5 billion mobile internet users.”
As the world goes increasingly and irreversibly mobile, the obvious white elephant in the room is the fate of fiat currency. Will the world see the eventual (if not inevitable) demise and disappearance of hard, tangible currency? Will the “money” in your pocket finally go away and be replaced with computer digits that will be called “legal tender”?
Katina Stefanova, writing for FORBES in its April 9, 2018 edition, noted: “Today, an innovative generation that cares very little about what the established titans of our industry think constitutes ‘currency’ have completely redefined how currency is created, exchanged and stored.”
In her article, “Digital Currency Economy: What is the Future of Your Bitcoins?” she goes further to say, “It seems as though the only thing one needs for a currency to exist is buyers and sellers who want to transfer value between each other. The subculture gains momentum taking the establishment by surprise; who thought that Bitcoin would be worth over $10,000?”
As you read across the Internet on the subject The Future of Money, you come across a plethora of philosophical discussions and theorems, but they all seem to have this common thread, as relayed in an article on Quora (Oct. 18, 2010): “Money is likely to become much more decentralized and even more ‘virtual’ … money is likely to become increasingly invisible. Rather than handing someone cash, you’ll give them your cell phone number and they’ll request payment by typing that number into an online form on their cell phone. You’ll get an SMS message from the payment processor and reply to confirm. Alternatively, you might give them your email address and respond via email. Another possibility is that you’ll ‘bump’ your phones together, and that will initiate the exchange in the cloud.”
Going cashless is inevitable if for no other reason than the fact that advancing technology will see to it. The new adult generations of the Millennials and beyond already have it in their cultural DNA.
There are as many different private key combinations as there are physical atoms in the known universe.