Newswise — Futurists and visionaries have predicted the imminent arrival of the cashless society for at least 50 years. It would avoid the loss of billions of dollars monthly in financial and other crimes, and deliver unprecedented convenience and security to consumers. And yet somehow cash endures, to the benefit of tax cheats, smugglers, and muggers. Nevertheless, the virtualization of money has been going on for centuries, and new technologies are now poised to bring us closer than ever to a cashless ideal. Starting with the gold coins of antiquity, we have arrived at a point where fewer than a quarter of retail transactions are done with cash. And several technologies and trends will accelerate the trend toward cashlessness. One is the proliferation of smart phones, the latest of which are equipped with near-field communications. These communication technologies, coupled with encryption chips in the phones and also infrastructures being developed by Google and others, are already starting to allow convenient cashless transactions at retailers worldwide. Cryptocurrencies, such as Bitcoin, are another emerging alternative to cash. And advanced biometric technologies being developed in Japan are emerging as an intriguing alternative to complex encryption schemes. Taken together, these trends are starting to make cold, hard cash a thing of the past.
"The Beginning of the End of Cash," by Glenn Zorpette (212-419-7580, [email protected]): Cash's role is waning, as mobile, encryption, and other technologies let us plug directly into the digital economy. "Let a Thousand Currencies Bloom," by David G. W. Birch (Philip Ross, 212-419-7562, [email protected]): The mobile phone will create a new monetary order based on a host of currencies not backed by any government. "Blood and Money," by Eliza Strickland (212-419-7505, [email protected]): Banks in Japan use vein-scanning biometrics in their ATMs. Could this technology turn our hands into wallets? "Cashing Out," by David Wolman (Ariel Bleicher, 212-419-7559, [email protected]): Is it possible to create your own cashless society? One man tried it, and it tested his resources. "A Brief History of Money," by James Surowiecki (Jean Kumagai, 212-419-7551, [email protected]): The evolution of money through the millennia is one of increasing abstraction and complexity--and that's okay. "The Cryptoanarchists' Answer to Cash," by Morgen E. Peck (Joshua J. Romero, 212-419-7550, [email protected]): Bitcoin has resurrected the dream of private, irreversible online transactions. "Virtual Currency Gets Real," by Rachel Courtland (212-419-7920, [email protected]): The rise of Facebook Credits and other virtual currencies could pose some economic risks. "Quantum Cash and the End of Counterfeiting," by Michael Brooks (Eliza Strickland, 212-419-7505, [email protected]): Physicists are experimenting with quantum tricks to create money that can't be copied. "Phone-y Money," by Philip E. Ross (212-419-7562, [email protected]): Schemes enabling smartphones to emulate credit cards are spreading everywhere but in the United States. "No More Waiting on Near-Field Communications," by Joshua J. Romero (212-419-7550, [email protected]): Phones already have enough technology to make mobile payments work. "The Microsecond Market," by David Schneider (919-942-4499, [email protected]): The financial industry's high-frequency traders vie to shave millionths of a second from their reaction times. "The Long Life and Imminent Death of the Mag-Stripe Card," by Jerome Svigals (Tekla S. Perry, 650-328-7570, [email protected]): The story of IBM's mag-stripe technology starts in the '60s and is about to come to an end. The Data: "The High Cost of Money," by Mark Anderson (Steven Cherry, 212-419-7566, [email protected]): What you pay for something is nothing like its cost to the seller.