A Cashless Economy Would Contribute to Digital Dementia


Melbourne, Australia:  4 October 2013 – Australia's growing reliance on digital gadgets and cashless payments could lead to ‘digital dementia’, resulting in a growing inability to concentrate, read other people’s body language, or discipline our spending, according to Social Futurist Mal Fletcher.

In a paper published today by the London-based Think Tank 2020Plus, Fletcher argues that what we view as signs of dementia now could become something like the normal state of mind within a decade, with the population showing a decline in social and mental functions, including the ability to manage finances.

The younger generation, already showing signs of 'digital disconnection', are in danger of losing sight of the value of money as physical commodities are replaced by weightless code, he believes - especially in a nation like Australia, which MasterCard rates as number six in the world's top 'cashless' nations.

"Our minds are wired to associate value with something that has substance and weight," he says. "Australians already carry a total of $1 trillion in personal debt. Without the physicality of cash, it becomes easier for us to think less and spend more."

Digital money, he argues, is a marketers dream. The move towards 'wave and pay' systems and smart phone payments adds to the body of Big Data, which companies and governments use to predict and influence consumer choice.

"Cash may not seem as sexy as the code we push around via mobile apps, but if someone steals my cash they can't use it to steal my entire bank balance - or, worse, my identity. ID theft already costs Australians $1.4 billion per year."

Another challenge with going cashless involves the loss of funds stored on wave and pay systems, such as the 'myki' system run by Public Transport Victoria. Consumers often put funds into more than one card and never fully utilise them, providing more money for government but less for private use.

"Digital dementia impacts everything about how we see our relationship to our world."

"What would happen to a baby’s development if, instead of interacting with a live human mother, it was interacting only with mum on a video screen. What would happen to the parts of the human brain responsible for reading physical, biometric signals, if we talked more via text, social networking or online video than we did face-to-face?”

"By the same token, what would happen to the parts of our brain responsible for arithmetic if we ceded even the most basic sums, the type we perform when using cash, to machines?"

Mal Fletcher, a Social Commentator, leads the 2020Plus Think Tank based in London.  Originally from Australia, he is widely broadcast and published, has researched social trends for two decades and is a regular commentator for the BBC and other media outlets.

His article, Going Cashless - The Buck Stops Here is published at 2020Plus.net. Mal Fletcher is in Australia for a lecture tour until October 18.



© Copyright 2020plus.net with Mal Fletcher

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