7 April 2018

How to force a cash-free numismatic policy to people, part II

I have not blogged in ages, but I felled compelled to touch upon a topic I wrote on some time ago. This is the insistence of Swedish government to get rid of cash entirely. When I first wrote about it, two years ago, I outlined the steps that a government must take in order to enforce this. And I was right. I also wrote
And so, little by little, there will be no cash in the country. Everybody, regardless of whether they want it or not, must use a credit card (or some form of electronic transaction). Unlike the US or the UK, credit cards are not free. I am charged something like 50 US dollars per year for a credit card. (The cost is 0 for my US credit card.)
and commented on the fact that if anything goes wrong with electronic cash then it is the individual's responsibility in Sweden.

What I did not anticipate was that there would be some voices, in Sweden, that would be against such a change. I read about this yesterday on BBC. It is an interesting article but,

Here are then some further comments:
  1. Responsibility. If you only use cash and lose your wallet, then you just lose your cash. But worse, much worse things can happen if you use electronic cash. The question is who is responsible. If you lose your cash then, clearly, you are responsible. If someone steals money from you electronically by compromising the electronic banking system then, rationally speaking, it should be the bank that should bear responsibility. But not in Sweden. It is almost always the case that the responsibility is upon the individual. 
  2. Vulnerable groups: The BBC article says "Some worry about the challenges it poses for vulnerable groups, especially the elderly." In fact, this is very true. I know elderly people who do not use smart phones or computers. Are these people considered undesired citizens in Sweden? At Uppsala, a town/big village, with no traffic and plenty of parking, it was decided that parking fees be imposed almost everywhere, 24 hours a day. What is worse, is that you can't pay with cash or even credit card. You are forced to have a "smart" phone with an app. A Swedish elderly lady I know used to visit her friend several times a week and drive to her because she can't walk. The increase in the cost and the inconvenience of the payment method forced her to cancel her visits and she now stays home all the time. Does anyone care about her mental health?
  3. Foreigners/visitors: What about people visiting Sweden from abroad? How can they pay if you must have a Swedish phone, a Swedish ID, a Swedish app? Well, again, Sweden does not care. This happened to me several times when I was a newcomer to Sweden. I would try to pay, with, say, my mobile phone, but it was impossible.
  4. Data leaks: The aforementioned BBC article states "Swedes are very trusting but I think that is changing. For example the recent Cambridge Analytica scandal has made people more aware of how their data is being used." But they don't mention what is worse: the huge scandal that took place a few months ago because Sweden outsourced almost all details of nearly everyone in Sweden to some private company and then all data leaked to unknown sources, leading to the biggest data leak in history. Yes, Swedes are trusting but they shouldn't blindly trust their government. However, since trusting the government in Sweden is, for now, much strongert than a religious dogma, this will not be easily reversed.
If a cashless society is desired then this should be designed carefully, by revealing all steps of the process, by being frank about the goals, by talking about responsibilities (in case of data breach), by making everything very clear to everyone.

I believe that the cashless design will be successful, not because the steps above will take place, but because it is happening under the carpet, and in ways that nobody can ever voice any disagreement. In the end, it will be triumphantly announced that "the people wanted a cash-free society, the people got it, long live the people!"

I shall conclude this posting with three images, giving a very partial glimpse of what the future is like, not just in Sweden, but even in your country. Sweden simply represents the future.
Faithful believers giving money to their church using electronic means
Homeless person accepting
Swedish title says: We only take cards; no cash. Notice that the "sorry for any inconvenience" is mentioned only in English. This is actually a very common phenomenon. The words "sorry" and "apology" are meant to be only for English speakers who still believe that the words are not obsolete.


What measure theory is about

It's about counting, but when things get too large.
Put otherwise, it's about addition of positive numbers, but when these numbers are far too many.

The principle of dynamic programming

max_{x,y} [f(x) + g(x,y)] = max_x [f(x) + max_y g(x,y)]

The bottom line

Nuestras horas son minutos cuando esperamos saber y siglos cuando sabemos lo que se puede aprender.
(Our hours are minutes when we wait to learn and centuries when we know what is to be learnt.) --António Machado

Αγεωμέτρητος μηδείς εισίτω.
(Those who do not know geometry may not enter.) --Plato

Sapere Aude! Habe Muth, dich deines eigenen Verstandes zu bedienen!
(Dare to know! Have courage to use your own reason!) --Kant