2013 Writing Contest: Future World: How Would You Like to Pay For That?
Third Place Essay
Becoming Dystopia, A Prediction for 2020
Thus far, it is impossible to know for sure exactly how anything in the future will play out. lt is possible however, to guess and speculate based on current and past trends. The potential for revolutionary new technology has become overwhelming at this point; almost anything is possible given enough time and manpower. The tough competition among technology businesses is forcing them to explore new ideas. By the year 2020, unimaginable advancements could have been made in ways not yet dreamed of, but for now, all we can do is hypothesize based on past and present events. Even now the rules of economics are being altered by technology and the impatience of consumers.
I picture the future world of 2020 to look, at a glance, very similar to the world of today. However, upon closer examination, l think technology will be much more integrated information, even more instantaneous, and interaction with information nearly seamless. For instance, an enterprising company has been working with the idea of bionic contacts since at least 2011 (Danigelis). The contacts would have a visual display similar to that of a computer, or phone screen, and would be used for everything from gathering information, to gaming, to purchasing online. Another relatively new innovation is the in-body chip (Neal). So far the chip is used only on pets, but there is a chance that could all change if consumer America realizes that a chip could replace credit cards and cash money. Along with those properties, the chip would, of course, enable parents to track their children.
While both of these amazing new inventions are likely to exist, and be fully accepted by 2020, I believe that cash will still be used regularly, although not by everyone. There will be those who simply do not wish to update their lifestyle of course, but the primary reason for the persistence of cash will be the ability to hide a purchase, or at least the content of a purchase,from anyone viewing their credit statements. This could mean illegal transactions, but buying gifts for spouses who share bank accounts is another reason that cash may still be in use.
There are plenty of incentives for people not to use cash - reasons that I think are more compelling to the masses than the reasons to keep using it. The convenience is the foremost reason not to carry cash. That's part of the reason behind credit cards in the first place. The new innovations would be completely hands-free, making it unnecessary to carry a wallet, and impossible to forget a license or ID. Just as credit cards made it more difficult to be robbed,these inventions make it even more difficult for thieves. People would be able to spend money that they don't actually have, like with credit cards, in the blink of an eye, and without even needing to leave the couch where they were sitting when they saw the ad for the "must have" item.
The ability to truly impulse buy will most likely increase demand for items that can be bought online, and decrease demand for rival items that cannot. Aside from being able to shop on the fly like that, the online consumer saves money on fuel and saves the time that it would take to go to the store. The human chips would be a rather cheap method that would have further benefits than just entertainment and internet. With a unique chip assigned per person, it would be nearly impossible to steal an identity.
As previously stated, the ease of access to stores online would cause rise in demand. The side effect of this is, of course, a rise in prices. Because the transactions of most stores and all of the online shopping records are kept in computer databases, hackers would be able to keep tabs on the supply of items as well as the demand. They could, in theory, buy the last reserves of a sought-after item as it went out of stock, and resell the goods for higher prices.
There is a very noticeable downside to these new inventions, even aside from inflation. Being tracked every second of life from birth to death is not something a lot of people are ok with, and because records can be altered, it could lead to falsification of evidence in court cases to come. Being tracked constantly would cause more cases of paranoia and stress than any singular event so far. lf the bionic contact and the human chip implant are in fact utilized in the future, they should be optional for this reason.
This new world seems to be a great place for large corporations that can afford to upgrade to the latest payment systems, but not so bright for the mom and pop store that primarily uses cash because of the high cost of doing business digitally. The new world consumer will live in a buyer's paradise that attempts to accommodate every whim in an effort to wring every possible credit from each available shopper. Our privacy will be a thing of the past as each purchase, every delivery, and most of our activities will be webcast in real time and available to the highest bidder. The answer to this dilemma has been offered quite a few years ago. Benjamin Franklin put it this way, "Those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety." lf we sacrifice our privacy for convenience we place ourselves at the mercies of Big Government, Big Business and worse: each other. ls it better to trade privacy for convenience or should we try to learn a little patience and in doing so retain our free will?