What Happens Next
Blockchains, data transactions, “smart banknotes”—five fiscal experts describe their vision of our financial systems.
Joe LubinCo-founder of Ethereum and founder of ConsenSys
The co-founder of Ethereum says we’re thinking about money all wrong
Maja VujinovicCEO of OGroup and former chief innovation officer of emerging tech at General Electric, Digital
Cryptocurrency isn’t reinventing money: It’s reinventing value
Ignacio MasExecutive director and co-founder of the Digital Frontiers Institute
Smart banknotes will be the cash of the future
Where We Thought We’d Be
Think you can predict the future? Here are some experts from the past who got it right—or delightfully wrong.
- 1888 (for 2000)
At least 50 years before credit or debit cards were conceived of, science-fiction writer Edward Bellamy described a cashless society in his novel Looking Backward. He wrote that these cards would “totally obviate” normal business transactions, and that the state would give everyone a generous allowance to spend.
- 1911 (for 2011)
Not worth its weight
In one of his dimmer moments, Thomas Edison declared gold was on its way out. “The day is near when bars of it will be as common and as cheap as bars of iron or blocks of steel,” he claimed. The reason? A chemical philosopher’s stone—”the secret of transmuting metals”—was close at hand, and soon “it will be an easy matter to convert a truck load of iron bars into as many bars of virgin gold.”
- 1950 (for 1970)
Haves and have-nots
Diners Club president Alfred Bloomingdale foresaw a cultural and socioeconomic divide across two classes of people: those with credit cards, and those without. When that chasm emerges, “there’s going to be one hell of a split in society,” he said.
Paul Armer of the RAND Corporation tried to warn a flummoxed US senate subcommittee about the privacy concerns that would come with digital banking. Armer foresaw that a whole lot of data on how people spent their money would be created as a byproduct of transactions going digital—and that this information would be ripe for misuse.
The British economist Friedrich August von Hayek suggested an alternative to present-day coins and notes in his book, Denationalisation of Money: The Argument Refined. Rather than clinking currency, he suggested “plastic or similar tokens with electronic markings which every cash register and slot machine would be able to sort out, and the ‘signature’ of which would be legally protected against forgery.”
More from What Happens Next
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Future of College
While the internet has made online learning virtually free, the price of traditional teaching is still soaring. When the job market is transforming more quickly each year, how can we reinvent education to keep up?
Future of Water
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Future of Gaming
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Future of Home
Technology is transforming homes all over the world. In some places, cheap devices are powering and connecting homes long left off the grid. In others, newly automated and networked machines are reinventing convenience—but at what cost to privacy and human connection?
Future of Work
If automation continues at its current pace, 400 million workers around the globe will be displaced by 2030. In spite of the vast economic effects these changes will bring, will we seize the opportunity to reconceive the very meaning of work?
Future of Food
As global climate change worsens and the population expands, humanity must produce more food in the next 50 years than it has in the past 10,000. Are lab-made meat and automation the key to farming in the future, or must we tend to the soil we already have?
Future of Cities
By 2050, nearly 10 billion people will share our planet. As mega-cities rise and technology reshapes the urban landscape, how will these changes affect the vast majority of the world’s poor?
Future of Fact
Online manipulation and immersive media have begun to eradicate our shared notion of authenticity and trust. How will society change when we can no longer believe what we see, hear, or think?