What a cashless society really means for you

TBD Conference
3 min readApr 3

Being totally cashless hasn’t been hard for this Apple Watch wearing, technoluster, or others, it seems. Still, for others, it’s proven incredibly hard and while a cashless society may seem like an amazing idea (lower crime rates, less money laundering, time/resources saved from making money and easier currency exchange when travelling) but there are some vast downsides too.

Zero cash — no notes or coins — looks like how things are going about how quickly we get there is up for some debate. Going totally digital means 100% traceable, digital and fully controlled, and there are lots of forces out there that don’t want that world. There are lots of larger issues surrounding going cashless that many rage against.

Going cashless may seem like a simple issue of things like no more cash in birthday cards to piggy banks being a thing of the past, but the issues go deeper, the divides that a cashless society may cause could be a turning point.

Mayada El-Zoghbi, Managing Director for the Center for Financial Inclusion (CFI), an independent U.S. think tank, isn’t thrilled about this future when she spoke to Reuters: “A move to a cashless society will not benefit all groups equally. The groups that are most likely to be excluded will be women, rural communities, and the elderly. In some countries, like the U.S. where a large part of the low-income segment does not have a bank account, pushing out these payments has been a challenge,” she said.

Charity collections, the homeless community and older people who struggle with technology could be shaken by fast cashless society shifts — although tools like Goodbox are bridging the gap. Banks and financial institutions ‘controlling’ every penny you own is rightly unnerving to some. Dan Ariely, author of ‘The Honest Truth About Dishonesty: How We Lie to Everyone — Especially Ourselves’ agrees and believes going cashless isn’t good for society; “The more cashless our society becomes, the more our moral compass slips.” Others find that, with open banking evolving, this could lead to better fiscal behaviours because a fuller picture of people’s finances is now possible thanks to every transaction being recorded. Most people’s fears surround the issue of having no alternatives should the worst happen (blocking, hacking, loss etc.). While this may sound dystopian, the possibilities for it to be used for good are equal to those for it to be used badly.

The immediate future sees a ‘war on cash’ for a wide variety of reasons, and while cash, in general, will likely play a less and less important role in society, whether this trend continues is up to multiple forces — the biggest being the consumer themselves and the governments around the world. For or against, the arguments aren’t binary in this war.

Written by Paul Armstrong, Founder of TBD Group; originally posted on Forbes and adapted for Medium. Make sure you subscribe to the new member of the WD_DTW family, ‘What Did OpenAI Do This Week?

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