Are we witnessing the end of money? “Yes,” replies currency expert Andrew Gause. “And we should be scared as hell.” Gause, who has been tracking our trend to a cashless society for the past 10 years, predicts that by the year 2000, 99.5 per cent of all financial transactions will be made electronically. In the next century, when electro-bucks, cyber-cash and e-money flash at the speed of light between banks, consumers and merchants, most of us will use paper money with about the same frequency that we use “money orders” today.
Noting Consumers’ unswerving faith in plastic, companies like Visa and MasterCard are scrambling to offer up their own particular versions of “smart cards”, where actual amounts of cash are stored on computer chips laminated within the plastic card. MasterCard plans to add the “smart cash” feature onto all their credit cards by 2000. Visa already debuted its “smart card” at the 1996 Olympics.
With hands-down convenience over traditional cash, why is Gause not jumping on the electro-buck bandwagon? Gause maintains that there are three main problems with “electronic cash”:
1. Computer Outages and System Errors High-tech currency systems are vulnerable to high-tech glitches. When there is a power outage, without electricity, how do you get money for emergencies, or to feed your family? And what happens when your dog eats a smart card with $1,000on it?
2. High-Tech Fraud and “Cyber Theft “ Cyber-hackers have broken into electronic bank accounts all over the world. Will high-tech thieves find a way to electronically siphon away cash stored on your smart cards? Will cyberpunk vandals be able to create computer viruses that completely “erase” your cybercash savings account?
3. Surrender of Personal Security and Privacy Not only will your entire purchasing history be available for electronic inspection, but other personal information will also eventually be available on the smart card. Experts agree it is likely to become a Universal ID Card, a complete dossier on you as a citizen, consumer and taxpayer: Social Security number, driver’s license number, address, phone, next-of-kin, medical history, police record, parking tickets, credit bureau reports – the card will store all these facts.