Cashlessness

count-back-change cashier

Say goodbye to cash.  You might want to frame a few crisp new one dollar bills.  They are about to become history.

Have you noticed how few occasions we have left to use cash? The decline started years ago when credit cards were introduced.  However, as banks were earning windfall profits as we all went into massive debt, we     learned to temper our enthusiasm for the new ‘currency.’  Banks then introduced debit cards to earn fees in another way.  Cash was really beginning to take a backseat.  In 2011, with changing regulations and fees to merchants limited, the banks wavered for a moment, while they tried to decide if debit cards were still good business. Banks are getting people to use debit and credit cards in greater and greater numbers, earning more and more fees.

Mastercard and Visa once charged merchants a flat $0.15 fee plus a percentage of the billed amount. When the item was very small, $1 to $5, the $0.15 plus 2 1/2% or more fees became a hefty portion of the overall transaction.  This caused merchants to discourage card use for small items.  Merchants posted signs “Minimum $10 purchase to use credit cards”.  Those signs are all but a thing of the past when regulations made the fees for all purchases big and small the same. The days of cash for small items were numbered.

People don’t carry much cash anymore.  Now, there are just a few cash holdouts left.  Using cash for tips became more difficult as the check amounts got larger and people paid the bill with a card.  It was just easier to add the tip to the amount.  EZPASS made cash for tolls a thing of the past.    There’s a small “cash only” Italian restaurant in Brooklyn that we frequent and cash only sidewalk food carts.  You can still buy a “BEER HERE!” at the ballpark with cash.  The babysitter still requests cash.   Taxis have had to accept cards when the bills got too damn big.  I’m still in the habit of going to the atm and withdrawing cash the day before long trips.  I’m used to cash-intensive taxi/hotel/airport travel days.  But even those days have become cashless.  It seems like the only thing my wallet is good for now is to hold my bank cards and thousands of receipts.

Take a selfie with a dollar bill. They are soon to go the way of the subway token.

Trust no one. Never sell. HODL forever.

TheOldProspector

Bitcoin is at the latest, cutting-edge of technology, the bleeding-edge.  Things are a little bit dangerous, a little rough around the ‘edges’.  The ‘edges’ haven’t been polished yet.  That is because the latest technology never works the way it is supposed to. It’s too new.  When everything gets refined, when it’s made to work just right, after thousands of trials and tests, and millions of customers, and tons of revisions, it’s not considered the latest technology anymore. It just becomes our stuff.  We don’t give it a second thought.

The Bitcoin visionaries, the early adopters, were willing to put up with a certain amount of chaos and things not working just right.  They were speculators and prospectors, as well as technologists. It’s okay that the bitcoin exchanges didn’t work that well.  The Bitcoiners were willing to put up with a little nonsense.  They were a tough bunch.

Anecdotal evidence suggests that the newest wave of bitcoin investors, the group buying Bitcoin now, isn’t as thick-skinned as the Bitcoin oldtimers.  An ‘oldtimer’ is someone who has been in bitcoin six months or longer.  If you see someone wearing a sweatshirt that reads “I bought Bitcoin at $50.” extend them the proper respect.  They are a tough, old breed.

Trial by fire. This old breed’s mantra: “Trust no one. Never sell. HODL forever.”

*HODL is a misspelling of HOLD in a tweet that just stuck.

Bitcoin (Smartmoney) Is Here To Stay

Screen Shot 2018-01-08 at 1.36.16 AMCryptocurrencies are not a bubble, not a Ponzi scheme, and not a flash-in-the-pan, here-today-gone-tomorrow phenomenon.  Cryptocurrencies (think Bitcoin) are here to stay.  They are the next generation of money.  As fiat currency (paper money) disappears, we use checks less and less, we use debit and credit cards more and more, and we send and receive money via all sorts of electronic methodologies, it is quite apparent to me that we are moving towards virtual currencies.  In fact, we’re moving not just to replace dollars with virtual dollars but we’re moving towards a state where we have many different currencies to handle many different situations, many different circumstances that we will use throughout the day, throughout our lives (think Airmiles).

Have you ever wondered why we bother to purchase Metrocards to use in the subway?  Why don’t we swipe our credit or debit cards through the turnstiles directly just as we swipe our Metrocards?  The answer is because the Metrocard is doing something a Mastercard or Visa card can’t do.  The Metrocard has an ID number embedded in the magnetic strip that tells the system who is using the card or under what conditions the card is to be used.  If you purchased a monthly MetroCard, the card might look the same as any other MetroCard but the ID number lets the system know that you have paid for the right to travel in the system for a period of one month.  You are free to use the system as much as you want during that time.  Your debit or Visa card doesn’t have that kind of ID number nor can it hold that kind of information.  The ‘contract’ you have with the system is unknown by the transit system.

In a future world, that sort of unintelligent ‘money’ is unacceptable.  We are living in a world that is and will continue to be more and more dependent on ‘intelligent’ interactions between the systems we use. The transit systems, including buses, subways, taxis, airlines, water taxies, highways, tunnels, and bridges, will be smart systems which will allow us to establish ‘contracts’ with them.  These ‘contracts’ will be like the Metrocard ‘contracts’ for different rates at different times, for different periods of time, for different numbers of people, at different rates depending on the age of the user, to what use it is being put, and for what duration it is to be used.  The money will have to keep pace with these types of contracts.

We have EZPASS in the Northeastern United States for paying highway, bridge and tunnel tolls.  The system automatically replenishes our accounts without our direct involvement.  When our automobile passes through one of the EZPASS readers, the system knows what our ID number is and what ‘contract’ we have with the system.  Similar systems will appear in the coming years for other systems that we use.  There might be one for parking your car, buying and delivering food, taking taxis, using music, downloading information, buying online, vacationing, renting hotels, renting sporting equipment, online gaming, online gambling, education, going to the movies, renting furniture, renting art to hang on the wall, taking singing lessons, learning to skydive, and ordering a babysitter.  The list is endless.  Are you getting the idea?  The way we will conduct our lives in the future will be systematic, without currency, by a computer, online and by a ‘contract’ which is a set of guidelines agreed upon by both the party ordering the goods or service and the system or party delivering the goods or services.  To facilitate those transactions will be virtual currencies.

Cryptokitties

Screen Shot 2017-12-08 at 10.29.39 AMCryptokitties is an early demonstration of the ability of cryptocurrency, in this case, Ethereum, to allow two persons, completely unknown to one another, to trade valuable possessions without the fear of being ripped off.  Using cryptocurrency ensures that their trade is bona fide and that they actually receive what is promised to them.  Imagine meeting a complete stranger, and accepting $500 as payment for something of value which you then hand over to him, comfortable that the entire transaction is safe and sound?  Pretty good, huh? People are buying and selling Cryptokitties worth hundreds of dollars doing just that.  It’s terrific. Your opinion of Cryptokitties is not relevant here.  Granted, not everyone loves Cryptokitties or thinks they are worthwhile.

The Cryptokitties website allows participants to buy, sell, collect, trade, and breed Cryptokitties.  They are adorable and sure to be a huge sensation.  Even now the site has taken 4% of the Ethereum network and caused huge delays as interest is fierce and commerce brisk.  To economists and Crypto enthusiasts alike Cryptokitties shows us the power and promise of blockchain technology to transform the wild, wild west aspects of the world wide web into stable trade platforms in the future.

 

Airmiles

Screen Shot 2017-10-03 at 9.52.26 AMDon’t understand cryptocurrency? Think ‘airmiles’.  You know, the premiums given out by various airlines, credit cards and other players as a reward for flying or shopping referred to as airmiles.  Almost every airline gives out some form of airmiles.  Airmiles are virtual.  There’s nothing physical thing you can point to called an airmile.  They exist in computer programs.  For each airline’s airmile program there exists a formula by which you earn and use airmiles.  You might have to spend a dollar on a participating credit card to earn an airmile, for example.  Or, you might have to accumulate 30,000 airmiles to use airmiles to fly from New York to Chicago at no additional cost.  You know the drill.  Cryptocurrencies are similar.  Each cryptocurrency has a specific function and value proposition.

How can something virtual have value?  How do airmiles equal a trip to Chicago worth $250?  Because that is its value proposition.  That’s how it was set up.  That’s what you get if you take the necessary actions.  That is the social contract that has been set up for each individual airmile program.

Cryptocurrencies are the same.  There is a cryptocurrency that is used for online gambling, one for online gaming, and even one for sports betting.  There’s one which is the currency of international money transfers, one for healthcare and one for real estate.  Before we’re done you will see thousands of different cryptocurrencies.  We’re just getting started.  Some will be valuable and worthwhile acquiring.  Some will not be worthwhile at all.  We, as a society, are just now learning how to use cryptocurrencies.  It is only now that they are even being considered a new asset class, a new form of wealth.  There are bound to be missteps and mistakes.