After the turn of the century we were promised a paperless office – now we’re being promised a cashless economy.
The rise of computers in offices and internet communication made it seemingly inevitable. The idea seemed revolutionary: we wouldn’t ever lose files because they were all on a machine and, most importantly, we could stop shredding everything we saw.
In 2016 – although pretty much everybody is using cloud storage services, email and conference calling – paper remains a part of office life. People like to print things to edit them, some things are too sensitive to send online and some people simply prefer to read a hardcopy.
Sure, the amount of paper has been reduced, but it’s not gone.
This year promises to be the start of a new revolution – the cashless economy. Now, call me naive especially considering my opening example, but to me this seems like a potential reality. Over the last couple of years we’ve seen the introduction of contactless payments being embraced around the country and – most importantly – Apple and Android Pay, which will pave the way for even the end of debit cards.
The introduction of contactless has helped to reduce several problems which previously stopped the cashless economy being a reality.
First and foremost? Self-consciousness. When people had to put their card into a machine, type out their pin and then wait for the payment to go through, it felt like quite a task and, by implication, was reserved for bigger purchases: your weekly shop, a new bike or perhaps an IKEA trip.
However, when all you have to do to pay by card is hold your wallet over a machine for less than two seconds it becomes more natural. It’s easier than paying by cash. All of a sudden, thanks to this relatively new technology, it is socially acceptable to pay for a packet of chewing gum by card, a Freddo or a single pint.
People love to point out that the current generation is the laziest in history. We apparently don’t need to meet up to talk to each other, we don’t remember when things are because we can just use Google Calendar and no one does mental maths because everyone has a calculator on their phone.
And yes, to be honest everyone does like to make everyday tasks a little easier, which is why technology is such a wonderful thing. That’s another win for contactless. No need to scrabble around for exact change, just tap and go. It is undoubtedly easier than paying by cash – hands down.
So it seems that circumstance favours contactless payments ahead of cash – they’re quicker, you don’t need to carry change and your fiver doesn’t turn into a bunch of silver coins when you buy a single packet of crisps.
However, as with all technological advancements there have to be losers.
When self driving cars inevitably take to our streets, thousands upon thousands of cabbies will lose their jobs. When self service was introduced at UK supermarkets, staff were cut across the country. If we really do go cashless there will inevitably be people losing out as well.
In this case, buskers and beggars could feel the effects most. As people move away from cash for little, everyday purchases then they also move away from having loose change. If you don’t break your fiver buying a coffee then your pocket probably won’t jingle and your won’t have spare change you’re inclined to give away.
It seems pretty likely that the cashless economy is just around the corner – a decade perhaps? – and when it does come the effects are bound to be interesting. It will make most of our daily lives easier in the way smartphones have, but some people will inevitably feel the squeeze.
Are buskers or the homeless going to start carrying chip and pin devices instead of cups? It’s a strange thought. Have your say in the comments below.
Image credit: flickr.com/ ingnl