The Long Tail

*Sigh.* I clicked the link, so they accomplished their goal of driving site views, but this article highlights the worst sort of prognosticating:

Pew surveyed a selection of academics, authors, and other experts, asking them questions about the future of money. Their conclusion: The future of money is digital. And that future might not be, actually, entirely about money.

The survey asked its participants — more than 1,000 of them — to agree or disagree with the following statement:

By 2020, most people will have embraced and fully adopted the use of smart-device swiping for purchases they make, nearly eliminating the need for cash or credit cards. People will come to trust and rely on personal hardware and software for handling monetary transactions over the Internet and in stores. Cash and credit cards will have mostly disappeared from many of the transactions that occur in advanced countries.

Given the explosion of mobile transactions over the past several years, it’s hard to disagree with that proposition, and with the general idea that cash and credit cards are, effectively, on their way out. Which is probably why, in the end, 65 percent of the experts agreed to the statement. And only 33 percent percent agreed with the converse proposition that, mostly due to consumer privacy concerns, cash and credit cards would remain the norm.

While I am sure that digital currency and hardware/software monetary solutions will in fact be a big technology in 2020, there’s no way that means cash and credit will be even close to dying in just 8 years. A recent survey found that 1 in 5 adults still don’t use the internet – nearly 20 years after its release. The internet is a much more disruptive, much more ubiquitous technology, and we’re still only at 80% penetration.

Cashless/creditless technology is still on the fringes of the economic picture – to predict that it will have supplanted one of the oldest inventions in the world (cash) in just 8 years seems crazy to me. Go pretty much anywhere outside Europe, North America or parts of Asia and cash is still by far the dominant medium of exchange. For that matter, even in those places, while cash has been largely supplanted for many transactions, it’s still pretty neccesary for getting around in the world – as a Slate writer found it when he tried to go without it.

Even if you use digital means of exchange for your big purchases, you still have to settle bar bills, pay cabbies and tip your valet. Thinking Like a Fox means  remembering the limits of your predictive powers and in tempering enthusiasm with a sense of history.

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About thinklikeafox

I'm a Naval Officer living in Southern California. I hope to be attending law school in the next year or two, and I started writing this blog out of a desire to improve my writing and critical thinking skills after a couple years outside of academia.
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