From barter to coins to paper to credit to data, cryptocurrency is the latest step in money’s evolution. Via computers, humans have found a way to digitize money such that outside entities may no longer intrude. Sure, there are the inevitable hackers who briefly invade the systems, however, the new exchanges are building their firewalls and promptly securing once-porous borders. The bottom line is, cryptos are the new storer of value, and if Amazon decides to accept Bitcoin next month, your little dollar bills are going to go the way of eight-track cassettes and roller-skating waitresses. In today’s world, where small groups of bankers can inflate currency with the flick of a printing press’ button, we are now at an interesting intersection.
Still, there is the problem of unintended consequences. Assuming coins and dollars disappear, what are the socio-economic implications? Imagine the following: You pull up to your local gas station and exit your car. A man approaches – torn jeans, unshaved visage, the sad scent of an un-cleansed existence – and tilts his styrofoam cup your way. His theme music is from the Great Depression, “Brother, can you spare a dime?” Tapping into your compassionate side, you reach into your wallet and grasp at the dusty air. In your head you can already envision Kanye sitting at his laptop trying to capture the era, “Brutha, you know, I’m so low, I need some Crypto?”
There’s a whole segment of society who won’t be able to access the transactional landscape. What will they do? A world where barefoot beggars are traveling around with digital wallets is unfathomable. Eventually, they will disappear, starved off as the world drifts further into the matrix, the ones and zeros becoming the have’s and have not’s in a cruel representation of our increasingly binary society. To be penniless is painful. But to be Bitcoinless? My God, the horror!
Perhaps, I am wrong though. Maybe some social justice entrepreneur will invent a digital wallet for the homeless, a sort of cold pack which also serves as cold storage. Someday, we might see gas station clientele have long alphanumeric exchanges by the fuel pumps, as cryptocurrency passes from the ones to the zeros. At some point, we might pause in the grocery check-out line and read about Homeless Harry, the resilient bastard who solicited his way to a millionaire’s existence via binary bumping behind some Exxon station south of Wichita. I don’t think so though.
I believe this move to digital currency is going to have some seriously detrimental effects on the world’s panhandlers. I believe we’re all going to have to become a lot more charitable with our time, to go inside and buy a sandwich for our fellow human, to hit the local Target for a blanket to cover our frozen humanity. Then again, maybe the cryptos won’t catch on. Maybe we’ll retreat from the paper-to-credit-to-data evolution and return to metal coins as a means of transaction. Either way, I bet Vegas will find a way to make it work.