Wednesday, January 23, 2019

The devil's deal of the cashless society

by Megan Morris (writer), , February 07, 2017

Credit Cards

The pushing is coming to shove, as more and more banks, governments and lobbies press forward on the suppression of cash from western and developing economies.

Resorting sometimes to de facto deletions, or sometimes to soft selling, one thing always remains : it is always sold as being "in the public's interest". Too good to be true? Examples of double-edged technologies are numerous in our times. Two examples shed insightful light on the crossroads we are at today : nuclear power and genetic engineering. Both have indeed brought humanity on the road to great progress, but at the cost of high risks, which some consider unacceptable enough to give up on the benefits altogether.

Nuclear power didn't enter the world in favorable light. Though the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombs did arguably save the millions of lives which would have had to be sacrificed to win the war with conventional means, both on Allied and Japanese side, it was the most effectively devastating attack ever launched onto civilians in history. Since then, alternate applications have been designed and put to more peaceful use. Over the past half-century, nuclear power has enabled us to power reliably entire continents, to give our ships more reach and make them less polluting and to push the human boundary into space. Michael Burgess, US representative who specialized in atom power, said "Nuclear power helps provide the electricity that our growing economy needs without increasing emissions. This is truly an environmentally responsible source of energy." However, setting up these potential bombs all over the planet and into the oceans means placing human and animal lives at risk all around them. The Tchernobyl disaster cost the lives of an estimated 4000 people, among the 600 000 who were directly exposed to the radiation. The Kyshtym plant, in 1957, is said to have caused over 8000 casualties, while Fukushima caused an estimated 1600 casualties, though none directly related to radiation. Nuclear expert Steven Starr from PSR think tank says "Fukushima officials stated that 159,128 people had been evicted from the exclusion zones, losing their homes and virtually all their possessions".

Genetics has also acquired a checkered reputation of the decades of its development. The list of direct benefits yielded by genetic engineering. Conflating genes from one food source to another has enabled entire populations to solve malnutrition problems in their respective climates. It has ended many famines in any places of the globe. Bacteria "taught" to produce insulin has brought relief to millions of diabetics in the world. Gene therapy has cured many individuals with genetic disorders, with a high success rate. Kevin Senapathy, who writes on GMOs on Forbes, says "When it comes to genetic engineering, science-based regulation is the way to go." So, what's not to like? The tricky answer is : we don't know. Because, unlike with natural organisms, we have no perspective on the future developments of genetically modified organisms, which we may or may not master. There is cause for concern in taking nature in our own hands : are we sure that we will be able to control the monsters we create? In the wake of Monsanto's brimstone reputation, Doctor Mercola writes "A shift from polyculture farming (diverse crops) to monoculture farming (primarily cotton) had depleted the soil and increased pest infestation on crop", as promoted by genetic engineering companies. Here again, a high price to pay for a very uncertain future...

This brings us so to the question of moving past cash in our economic operations. Banks are fond of idea, as are governments and many companies. The move is being presented as safer, more convenient and economically healthier than the current cash-containing economies : better control over economic policies, more police capacity to fight crimes, sleeker banking processes, and digital-level operations for businesses. Bukesh Mutani, financial expert for the Financial Express, writes in the wake of India's recent cash-killing move, "Recent efforts have shown a healthy coordination at the G20 forum to promote cashless society. Several governments are driving a crackdown on cash economy and tax evasion". But once again, are we engaging onto a slippery slope in the hope of a little convenience? Is it wise to place citizens' lives entirely under the control of governments and banks – a control they will never let go of once they acquire it? In recent years, major companies (which all rely on cashless operations) have been singled out for breaching basic privacy rights for their users. Citizens are worried that they would gather too much knowledge, and therefore power, on users ; something a cashless economy would clearly make worse. As Edward Snowden made very clear, at the expense of his career, western governments (first of which, the US government) have successfully been attempting to expand its knowledge, control and power over populations, with no end in sight. Marc Fober, a well-known financial forecaster, warns of the risk of drifting into an Orwellian society : "You have a group of people that want to have more and more control over you and me. They want to know where you are, what you do, what you're looking at." If cash, the only unmonitored currency, dissappears, private and public organizations will have total and irreversible power over people.

All disasters started with a good idea. Tchernobyl was a tremendous technological advance, a soviet crown jewel, before it devastated its area. Today, the array of paying methods we have seem to fill its intended use very well : cash for small day-to-day operations, plastic for other purchases – as we see fit. Clearly, the move to kill cash would serve corporate and governmental benefits far more than it would serve ours. And once we've shaken hands with the devil, it will be a hard road to reverse on.

About the Writer

Megan Morris is a writer for BrooWaha. For more information, visit the writer's website.
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