Your wallet may soon be a collector's item. In a report published this morning, 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.
That finding doesn't just mean bad news for the coin-minters and wallet-makers of the world. It could also mean new possibilities when it comes to financial transactions themselves. A cashless (or, more realistically, a nearly cashless) default of economic exchange could encourage, among us walletless wanderers, a broader conception of what "exchange" means in the first place. Because cash -- and, really, money itself -- is not merely a vehicle of financial transaction; it is also a cross-cultural paradigm. It has shaped the way we think about exchange as a basic economic proposition: not X for Y, but X for $Y. (Or, you know, for ¥Y or £Y or €Y.)