Sunday, 4 August 2013

Is This The Way To Cyberspace # 1

Prototype : Makeshift Studios 2013

"Take the off-ramp marked 'End of Universe' mate. It is actually a lock-up somewhere in Gorgie* housing a black Ford Fiesta"

"Okay, black Ford Fiesta, check..."

"When you get to the back of the garage you will find a brick wall with a white painted sign eight inches high, 'End Of Universe', you get me?"

Ever asked yourself : 'Where are we headed?'

Travelling in the rush hour, on a crowded subway train, bus, or gridlocked in traffic, sitting at a meeting with the nodding heads and a monosylabic and boring speaker.

' see...this..erm...oh yes, just remembered...ahem...sorry (nervous laugh)...what is this presentation about?'

And, you are thinking....

Are we really the children of a burgeoning cashless society? But, more than that, and more frightening than that, are we really the children of a society which will live out existence somewhere we only know as cyberspace?

Data (where you find the message) shows that we increasingly use our credit cards for the daily round of transactions unless they are predominantly small item purchases like buying a McDonalds ready meal, a magazine, a pack of cigarettes. About 7 per cent of all US transactions are now hard and fast cash and coinage (it is around 9 percent for the Eurozone), the rest are carried out on credit card cyberspace.

For most larger items we will find ourselves flashing the plastic or, increasingly, simply using the cyberspace of computer to computer.

In Sweden, it is now estimated, that as little as 3 per cent of all transactions are carried out with paper cash and coins, and there are now towns in the Scandanavian country where it is no longer possible to enter a bank and use cash!

In addition, Professor Friedrich Schneider of the Johanes Kepler University in Austria has argued that Sweden, with an increasingly digital-based economy, has less of a problem with financial corruption than nations with a prevalent cash culture, like Italy and Greece.

There is also a crime angle on this, I mean why mug someone, or, indeed, rob a bank, if they no longer need to carry cash or credit cards? A 100 per cent digital economy will also make it easier for governments to recover tax, but some worry that a cybereconomic world will prove a bonanza for our banking fraternity.

Maybe, they rub their hands, at the thought of 'the world' having to come to them to have their financial business dealt with in that anonymous space between computers. Maybe, they might place a small charge for all transactions from their 'captive' audience.

Technology linked solely to coloured blips on a computer screen will mean that the once omnipotent credit card will also be rapidly marginalised and that, like paper and coins, will soon be a thing of the past.

To these ends, smartphone apps are now available that allow us to link directly to our bank accounts by using something called near field technology. In the future, we will be able to walk into a shop and purchase goods via our cell phone network. In addition, as we have discussed before, we increasingly go online to shop in cyberspace. Our computer calls 'their' computer and voila we purchase what 'they' - whoever 'they' are - sell.

AXA real estate has estimated that by 2016 around 90 per cent of retail sales growth will be the result of online consumerism.

From our armchair we can order that birthday present using our smartphone, we will be able to buy those tickets for that sporting event, make arrangements to travel, order our groceries ...and we will be able to do all that, increasingly, in cyberspace.

We no longer need to take the car to the mall, or queue in our local bank, or even wait by the Automated Teller Machine (ATM or cash machine) until it is our turn to ask for cash we can simply use the latest generation of smartphone.

In fact, we can carry out all our business seated in our armchairs and between computers in a 'black' (maybe it is white or blue or green or red or many coloured) and invisible world we know only as 'cyberspace'.

Moreover, this is a transition or evolution which is happening before our very eyes as we increasingly move our lives and, with that, our social interactions and transactions into 'cyberspace'.

But where is it...really? What will it really mean for us, for all our futures?

There are no Google maps that will show us the landscape or doors to knock. What it comes down to is asking ourselves what is it? Where is it? Who controls it and for what reasons? That, for me, is worth thinking about...

Author's note : *Gorgie is a district in the city of Edinburgh.

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