Photo by Sharon McCutcheon
COVID19 has (hopefully) shown us just how dangerous the unseen can be. It’s also made us much more aware of the potential effects of a cough, a handshake, an itchy nose, and even a ten pound note or a pound coin and their ability to spread viruses and other nasty things. There was even a rush to disinfect cash in Asia after the initial outbreak of COVID19. Some banknotes last up to fifteen years, and research shows are passed between up around 600 people every 3 years.
In recent years, use of digital currency has boomed – we’ve seen the rise of cryptocurrencies like bitcoin and ethereum, then a much needed, mature step toward stable cryptocurrencies backed by assets in a real bank – or backed by other cryptocurrencies or materials like gold, and now we’ve even seen full-fledged bills to introduce Central Bank Digital Currencies – also known as CBDCs. This week the Coronavirus Stimulus Bill in the US introduced the idea of infrastructure for a central bank issued digital currency, likely an indirect response to China doing the exact same thing, but ahead of the curve. Coronavirus seems to be speeding up what was thought to be on track anyway, but in a more distant future.
In China, laws are already being drafted so it can begin issuance of its digital currency. Though China is largely a cashless society anyway with nearly 50% of all payments being done by mobile. The only people who seem to be still using cash are in rural China – which the government aims to focus on adjusting in the coming year.
Sweden also aims to go completely cashless in as little as four years. Though there is currently no talk of a digital currency issued by the state – cash is no longer king in Sweden either.
Programmable Money – “If This Then That”
At its core, cryptocurrency offers the potential for programmable money. It allows rules to be implemented into transactions through smart contracts. This is best looked at through the popular phrase “If this, then that” – two parties pre determine terms and if/when requirements are met, the contract will be executed automatically. This is particularly useful in insurance policies or financial transactions that require an escrow. Code can now control money for the first time, and this allows much easier creation of new financial tools and levers.
So not only is our society becoming cashless, but also programmable too – less administrative tasks, less errors, and most importantly increased flexibility, security and control over our money.
The coming decade should see a rapid migration towards these concepts, and the countries experimenting the most with them will have the ability to do things with money that boggle the mind and streamline human life significantly.