[Dave Birch] The Australian Payment and Clearing Association did me the great honour of inviting me down to Sydney to chair their 20th anniversary symposium about, appropriately enough, payments 20 years from now. In my introduction, I think I may have annoyed some of the people present by saying that nothing much had happened in payments in the last two decades (since the introduction of the debit card, really), arguing that apparently innovative systems such as PayPal ran on the existing rails. I was teasing slightly, of course, to get the day going, but there is a point to be made here. I think I may have also annoyed a couple of people in the discussion session as well because I said that it was pointless to ask consumers and merchants about what they wanted from payment systems because (with reference to the famous “innovator’s dilemma”) they will ask for slightly better versions of what they already have.

This doesn’t mean that it’s pointless to ask anyone about the future of anything. In the deluge of surveys, predictions and forecasts about mobile payments that passes across my metaphorical desk, for example, this caught my eye.

Your wallet may soon be a collector’s item. In a report published this morning, Pew surveyed a selection of academics, authors, and other experts, asking them questions about the future of money. Their conclusion: The future of money is digital. And that future might not be, actually, entirely about money.

[From Cash and Credit Cards Will Be (Nearly) Dead Within the Next 8 Years – Atlantic Mobile]

In my opinion, that last comment is a far more interesting aspect of that report than the basic prediction about mobile payments, which is no longer interesting. The technology and business drivers over the foreseeable future are straightforward in this area: payments are going mobile and the role of non-banks is growing. That’s not even a prediction any more, just an observation. Putting my MasterCard into my mobile phone is great but it doesn’t represent a revolution or a shift in paradigm. On the other hand, the transition to the mobile phone as the platform for payments does make it possible (probable, in my opinion) that people will begin to use payment schemes that eschew the fiat currency of today. And that is a revolution.

In a world of increasingly cashless commerce — a world that is also taking tentative steps toward normalizing experimental currencies and modes of exchange — we have less reason than we did before to assume that, when it comes to purchasing things, it’s money or nothing. A deviation from the currency paradigm could be incredibly liberating for people on both ends of economic exchange, because an ecosystem in which cash is no longer the norm might also be an ecosystem that is freer to experiment with other forms of transaction

[From Cash and Credit Cards Will Be (Nearly) Dead Within the Next 8 Years – Atlantic Mobile]

Yes! Absolutely! I was thinking about this sort of thing when I went along to the San Francisco Unmoney Convergence event that was timed to coincide with the Future of Money and Technology Summit. As you might imagine, as an “unconference” it attracted a rather different audience to the Summit (more tattooes, for example) but in some ways I found it more stimulating. There were fewer people like me, and so I found bouncing ideas around with the group more thought-provoking. Obviously, I can’t pretend I was going along to increase the sum total of human knowledge: I was looking for ideas for new products and services for our clients in the financial services and telecommunications worlds, and I continue with my conviction that there’s something bubbling in the alternative and parallel currencies world that they might be able to take advantage of.

Sadly, the impositions of paying customers meant I was restricted to half the day at Unmoney, but it was fun. And, when it came down to it, I did come away with a new idea (about using trust-based non-money within communities but using exchange-based near-monies between them), which is all I ask from an event.

These are personal opinions and should not be misunderstood as representing the opinions of 
Consult Hyperion or any of its clients or suppliers



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