Caution Towards a Cashless Society

I am always leery of proposals for a cashless society:

IEEE Spectrum Digs Into the Future of Money: First time accepted submitter ArmageddonLord writes ” Small, out-of-pocket cash exchanges are still the stuff of everyday life. In 2010, cash transactions in the United States totaled US $1.2 trillion (not including extralegal ones, of course). There will come a day, however, when you’ll be able to transfer funds just by holding your cellphone next to someone else’s and hitting a few keys — and this is just one of the ways we’ll wean ourselves off cash. In ‘The Last Days of Cash’, a special report on the future of money, we describe the various ways that technology is transforming how we pay for stuff; how it’s boosting security by linking our biometric selves with our accounts; and how it’s helping us achieve, at least in theory, an ancient ideal — money that cannot be counterfeited.”

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Read more of this story at Slashdot.

I don’t know if its my inner luddite or my inner libertarian that makes me hesitant of digital-only transactions. Historically, there have always been some type of physical medium used to facilitate the exchange of goods, whether it was a direct barter of something you want from someone else for something you have that they want, or money, whether a hard currency such as gold or silver, or a fiat currency such as Federal Reserve Notes (dollars). Even with a fiat currency such as the US Dollar, you have a failsafe; with dollars in hand, you can buy something when the digital infrastructure goes down. The same cannot be said of a cashless system. Granted, most transactions today do not involve real money; they are just bit transfers from your account to another account in the global banking grid. This requires a fair amount of confidence in the banking system’s ability to maintain systems integrity. Using the Slashdot example of fund exchanges via personal tech, you have to have stronger faith in another set variables:

  • Cell phone providers, acting as clearing houses for transactions, will maintain systems integrity at least as well as traditional banks have.
  • Their tech doesn’t fail (i.e. transactions process when signal is lost)
  • Malware won’t be able to intercept your transactions and steal your identity
  • All devices are compatible
This system is fraught with problems. For one, search for some of the problems people have had with PayPal (Disclosure: I’ve never personally had any problems with PayPal) freezing their accounts. Many people, myself included have used Paypal as a bank. Money comes and goes entirely as bits. If you account is frozen, access to your funds is non-existent. So, what if your phone provider freezes your account? How will you access your money?
Or what about when Big Brother (pick a nation, a specific one is irrelevant for this argument) decides to perform a 100% audit of all financial transactions conducted by its citizens? I would assume that even most honest, free people don’t want their governments knowing *everything* they spend their money on. Nothing in anonymous in a digital system. Tie all this in with online medical records and such, and you can see where your local dietary enforcement officer would contact you to find out if you really needed that greasy cheeseburger you just bought, given you’ve already been flagged as obese and a health cost risk on the social healthcare system.
And in a TEOTWAWKI situation, you’re even further up a creek than you would be with fiat currency. You don’t even have paper that someone might be willing to trade goods for. To paraphrase Cypress Hill, when the bits go down, you better be ready.
I guess this is just my pessimistic nature. To quote Solomon from Ecclesiastes 1:9: “That which hath been is that which shall be; and that which hath been done is that which shall be done: and there is no new thing under the sun. (ASV). Not that I think all tech has existed in the past, just that history repeats itself; only the specific details change. Roman civilization believed it was the apex of society, had great plans, and collapsed. The Greeks likewise before them. All their knowledge was lost of centuries. Are we that much greater than those great cultures? Is our tech more robust? No, I would say that we have the most fragile tech that has existed in human history. A thousand years from now what tangible parts of our culture will archaeologists have to assess us? If we go the route of digital currency, it sure won’t be our money.
So I call on you, my fellow compatriots of anachronism, to stand up for the cause of physical money and resist the perceived convenience of all-digital currency. Jingle the coins in your pocket with pride. Pay cash when conducting business with humans. Barter for goods (but don’t evade taxes). Obey Gresham’s law. And last but not least, let you wallet be made of dead cow and stuffed with dead presidents, not made of lifeless plastic and stuffed with negative electrons.

9th May 1812: Poem “Welcome Ned Ludd," Nottingham

From the Luddite Bicentenary blog:

9th May 1812: Poem “Welcome Ned Ludd,” Nottingham: This paper was posted up in Nottingham on Saturday Morning May 9th 1812
Welcome Ned Ludd, your case is good,
Make Perceval your aim;
For by this Bill, ’tis understood
Its death to break a Frame—
With dexterous skill, the Hosier’s kill
For they are quite as bad;
And die you must, by the late Bill-
Go on my bonny lad!—
You might as well be hung for death
As breaking a machine-
So now my Lad, your sword unsheath
And make it sharp and keen—
We are ready now your cause to join
Whenever you may call;
So make foul blood, run clear & fine
Of Tyrants great and small!—
PS.- Deface this who dare
They shall have Tyrants fare
For Ned is every where
And can see and hear
This is a Home Office Clerk’s copy of a document, and can be found at HO 42/123.

Firearms and the KISS Principle.

The following article is a great example of why sometimes it pays to practice the KISS Principle:

Electromagnetic Interference caused K-11 KABOOM:
A Korean news website has revealed that in October last year a S&T Daewoo K11 exploded after one of its 20mm grenades was prematurely detonated. The soldier who was operating the gun suffered cuts on his hands and face. Ironically another problem with the gun, the poor lethality of the small 20mm grenades, saved the solider life.


The Korean Department of Defense attributes the problem to electromagnetic interference from the Fire Control System. Reading between the lines, it sounds like it may have been a software bug with the FCS.

I am troubled that it was even possible for the grenade to detonate. The grenade it supposed to be spin-armed, ensuring it has been fired a certain distance before detonating. Maybe a bug in the software (either on the grenade or on the FCS or both) allowed the grenade to be armed at a distance of zero, allowing it to be detonated in the barrel.

Kindly translated from Chosun.com by Uribury …

Electromagnetic wave interference caused K-11 rifle explosion

October 14th, 2011. A K-11 rifle exploded during field test.

Shooter, private second class Lee of ROKA 32nd div suffered some cuts and scrapes on his hands and face but not life threatening injures

This accident caused another delay of K-11 rifle production.

Early 2011 K-11’s poor quality control and lack of reliability caused production delay, after trouble shooting and more field test, it was said to begin production in november 2011.

And this accident messed all up.

Department of defense made a team to inspect this accident and recently announced electromagnetic wave interference between rifle FCS and 20mm ammo fuse caused the accident.

This is what happened. The transmitter which sends trigger signal to ammo fuse was not properly fixed because of design defect.

And the shooter squeezes trigger a little before fire, it interact with not properly positioned transmitter and send wrong signal to 20mm ammo fuse.

It caused 20mm round explosion in the barrel.

Fortunately K-11’s titanium barrel or 20mm ammo’s lack of lethality saved the soldier.

An official of DEPA(Defense Acquisition Program Administration) which under DOD said that all 246 already produced K-11 will be recalled and will change triggering system design, FCS program.

Plus, there will be improvement on short battery life in cold weather and laser range finding trouble on rainy day will be fixed on next version of the rifle.

Until June all the improvement will be examined through performance test and confirmation of technology study committee then will judge field the weapon or not.

[ Many thanks to uribury871 for emailing us the link and translation. ]

Advanced technology is great until it (literally) blows up in your face. Given the increase in solar activity and such, maybe this type of weapon should be TEMPEST rated.

The luddite-statist attacks on Amazon

I’ll caveat this by stating up front that while I style myself a Luddite, I own and enjoy several tech devices, including a Kindle Fire. That being said, I do not see it as a replacement for real dead-tree books. My Kindle serves four purposes: web appliance, reader for public domain texts, reader for books that I’m not interested in keeping in perpetuity (text books), and reader for books that I have a print copy of as well.

The following article by Gen LaGreca attempts to ally modern luddites with statists, and has an introduction pitting the scribes of handwritten books against the Gutenberg Press. Here is an excerpt:

The luddite-statist attacks on Amazon: Two articles appearing on the front page of its business section on April 16, 2012 illustrate what happens when the Luddites, ie, those hostile to technological development, meet the statists, ie, those who look to achieve their ends through government See all stories on this topic »

There are a couple problems with this scenario: 1) the historical luddites fought against the textile owners and were ultimately decimated by the British government, 2) neo-“luddites” oppose tech that they either do not understand, fear, or reject. We must not confuse neo-luddites with the Amish, and with no disrespect intended, have eschewed modern society in general (there may be something to be said of that lifestyle, and they will probably be better prepared for TEOTWAWKI, or the zombie-pocalypse than the rest of us). The premise of the article is that the publishers are the luddites soliciting the services of the government to suppress their competition. This is not luddism, this is mercantile despotism and crony capitalism. There may be peripheral similarities, but it is the opinion of the writer that this is not luddism.

Now that I have made my feeble attempt to defend the institution of luddism, I’d like to share some clips as to why dead-tree books are superior to digital books:

Kindle commercial parody

Antiques Roadshow parody (anti-textbook cabal)
The Book vs. The Kindle, Round 1: The Buy Counter