Tuesday, February 19, 2013

The Fast Disappearing Legal Tender

Technology & Science

My mom (God rest her soul) would always ask me (I was 45 the last time she did this.), "Ricky, do you have money in your wallet?" I would often reply, "No, Mom." Then I would be berated with a sermon prefaced with a long suck-teeth, "Boy, you know you should always have money in your pocket?" And she would then proceed to stuff a twenty in my pocket or in my wallet. Moms...you gotta love them. 

I hardly have money in my pocket or in my wallet these days, not because I don't have any (though I can certainly use a lot more than I have), but simply because advancement in computer technology has obviated the need for me and countless others to carry around money on our persons. In fact, I can hardly remember using paper money or coins in the last few months. We get paid by direct deposit. The idea of a  literal pay check is a thing of the past. We do all of our transactions electronically, receiving goods and services with just the swipe of a card or typing in an account number. Money as we are accustomed to knowing it is no longer a physical construct; it seems to have become a mere idea, something intangible - no longer a thing we exchange for goods and services. In effect it might soon become obsolete, as obsolete as 8-track and cassette players Even the term "money" might become extinct. The new terminologies will be "earned access" (debit) or "borrowed access" (credit) to goods and services, with access determined by how many units of debit or credit we have available in some account. Bank robberies and robberies of stores will be things of the past, for banks and business will no longer have "money" (as we know it) on their premises, effectively driving those robbing for "money" out of "business".

So do not be surprised if some time in the future you attempt to pay with coin or paper money and you are told, "Sorry, we accept only credit/debit cards." or be asked by the person at the register, "What is that? I have never seen it before." In a way it is already happening, for in some stores there are check out lanes for only credit/debit card transaction. And moreover, you can only shop online if you have a credit/debit card. I wonder what my mom would say.

[Photographic Art by Ric Couchman]