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A Cashless, High-Value, Anonymous Currency: How? 400

Posted by Soulskill
from the this-must-be-the-mysterious-step-2 dept.
jfruh writes "The cashless future is one of those concepts that always seems to be just around the corner, but never quite gets here. There's been a lot of hype around Sweden going almost cashless, but most transactions there use easily traceable credit and debit cards. Bitcoin offers anonymity, but isn't backed by any government and has seen high-profile hacks and collapses in value. Could an experiment called MintChip brewing in Canada finally take us to cashless nirvana?"
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A Cashless, High-Value, Anonymous Currency: How?

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  • Mint Chip? (Score:5, Funny)

    by Moheeheeko (1682914) on Friday June 29, 2012 @01:00PM (#40495795)
    So ice cream for currency?
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday June 29, 2012 @01:00PM (#40495801)

    Theft, yes. Bitcoin itself ever hacked, no.

  • Gold (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday June 29, 2012 @01:01PM (#40495821)

    Gold:
    [x] Cashless
    [x] High-Value
    [x] Anonymous

    • Re:Gold (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Iceykitsune (1059892) <stevemon23@gma[ ]com ['il.' in gap]> on Friday June 29, 2012 @01:03PM (#40495863)

      Gold:
      [x] Cashless
      [x] High-Value
      [x] Anonymous

      [ ] Digital

      • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

        by Anonymous Coward

        [ ] Digital

        This feature was not included in original requirements. Scope creep!

      • Re:Gold (Score:5, Interesting)

        by istartedi (132515) on Friday June 29, 2012 @01:33PM (#40496353) Journal

        GLD; but then you blow the anonymous feature. Of course gold is "cash" too, so I don't know what the GP means when he says it's "cashless". If he means, "not requiring government backing to have value", then yeah, sure; but AFAIK the definition of "cash" is tangible money whereas "cashless" to me implies money that is only a ledger entry in electronic form. The ledger entry may be associated with physical hardware; but the hardware itself is not the money, simply a means of proving that there is a unique ledger entry symbolizing money.

        This whole topic is silly anyway. The summary implies that a cashless society is "nirvana" which in the west we synonmize with "paradise" or "heaven". For many, myself included, the vsion of cashless is "hell", which for our Hindu and Islamic friends I do not know how to translate. Dystopia. I think we can all understand that.

        For me, heaven was when I was a kid and adults still paid for a lot of things with coins because they actually had some purchasing power. We could bring back this bit of heaven by simply striking new coins of the same composition with 10X the value. A "new penny" would carry a value of $0.10, a "new nickle" $0.50, etc. Pocket change would be worth something again, the zinc lobby would be OK with it (only reason we still have the penny is the zinc mining lobby), the vending machine people wouldn't have such a hard time accomodating this, and we would effectively and painlessly introduce dollar coins in the form of dimes instead of bulkier coins that people hate.

        Of course there would be some resistance at first; but society ran just fine when a dime had a purchasing power equivalent of $2.00 today!

    • by x0d (2506794)
      "[x] High-Value" - That's pretty subjective.
    • You forgot:

      [x] Does not scale.
      • Re:Gold (Score:4, Informative)

        by plover (150551) * on Friday June 29, 2012 @01:37PM (#40496395) Homepage Journal

        And that's precisely why it holds value.

        • Re:Gold (Score:4, Insightful)

          by betterunixthanunix (980855) on Friday June 29, 2012 @01:43PM (#40496499)
          No, that is why it is not useful when the population grows faster than gold can be mined. Gold has value primarily because at one time, it was accepted as currency by most world governments, which only happened because no better system could be devised with the technology of the time. The industrial uses of gold account for almost none of its value, and make gold even less useful as a currency (since some currency may simply vanish when it is used industrially).

          Money that is deflationary encourages hoarding, which only worsens the deflationary trend. That is why currency needs to at least scale with a growing population.
    • by Sir_Sri (199544)

      1. Has all the same problems as cash (theft, controlled production by someone else etc.), with the added downside that if you 'lose' gold (say in the world trade centre or a sunken ship). If you had gold in a WTC vault you might have been years getting it back, and if it's lost at sea you might never get it back or you might only get back part of its value. Cash? Burned up, bottom of the ocean etc? No problem, the government can just print more to make up for it.
      Has only value anyone ascribes to it, wh

    • by Kjella (173770)

      Gold:
      [x] Cashless
      [x] High-Value
      [x] Anonymous

      But only if you deal in actual, physical gold which is not what 99% of the gold market does. In practice people don't actually take possession of it, it's just stored in an approved vault and they don't issue cashier's checks that you can pass around anonymously so you're even less anonymous than cash. And even if you do get physical gold it usually comes with a certificate like this [wikipedia.org] which you can see is numbered. Maybe that's okay if you got it anonymously but if you bought it some other way you'll have to

    • Gold:
      [_] Cashless
      [x] High-Value
      [x] Anonymous

      You're really referring to fiat currency and not cash-carrying in a broad sense. Although given that the penny's metal now has intrinsically more value than its decree, anything can change. Imagine how valuable paper bills would become if some catastrophe destroyed the world's forests? (Let's assume it also destroys book scanners. ;)
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Krugerrand#History [wikipedia.org]
      http://www.forbes.com/sites/afontevecchia/2011/07/13/bernanke-fights-ron-paul-in-congress-golds-not-money/ [forbes.com]
      http://archive.mises.org [mises.org]

  • by ZiakII (829432) on Friday June 29, 2012 @01:01PM (#40495829)
    I have been waiting for the moment to happen, I have a large collection of Disney Dollars [wikipedia.org] saved up for this moment!.
  • There's been a lot of hype around Sweden going almost cashless, but most transactions there use easily traceable credit and debit cards

    Since when does "cashless" mean "untraceable"?

    • by AthanasiusKircher (1333179) on Friday June 29, 2012 @01:45PM (#40496547)

      There's been a lot of hype around Sweden going almost cashless, but most transactions there use easily traceable credit and debit cards

      Since when does "cashless" mean "untraceable"?

      It doesn't, and your quotation does not in any normal linguistic sense imply that it does. Effectively, it is a statement of the form: "Sweden tried a currency with property X, but it still lacks another desirable property Y." (If you're slow, X = "cashlessness," while Y = "anonymity.")

      If you read the title to the bloody post at the top of the page, "A Cashless, High-Value, Anonymous Currency: How?" you might realize that this is a question about achieving currency with not one, nor two, but THREE distinct properties.

      Sheesh. The fact that this has been modded insightful worries me.

  • by bill_mcgonigle (4333) * on Friday June 29, 2012 @01:02PM (#40495851) Homepage Journal

    ... what the best way will be, any anybody who professes omniscience on this is lying to you. We'll have to experiment to find the best solution.

    If you're in the US, ask your legislators to support a short act [opencongress.org] to make such experiments legal. Right now, trying to figure this out is a good way to land in prison.

  • Why? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by SirGarlon (845873) on Friday June 29, 2012 @01:03PM (#40495857)
    For the sake of discussion: what is wrong with cash and/or what is the benefit of doing away with it?
    • Nothing. But this involves technology so it must be better. If you're not thinking of convoluted ways to do something simple, you're too old.

      It's all about technology and how we can insulate ourselves from having to communicate or gasp! interact with other people.

      • by nschubach (922175)

        It's all about technology and how we can insulate ourselves from having to communicate or gasp! interact with other people.

        But... we are communicating and interacting right now.

    • Yesterday, I got a cheap dinner with a friend; it came out to about $5 for each of us. I handed the cashier a credit card, since I have not been to an ATM in quite a while, and he gave me a dirty look.

      That anecdote illustrates the problem. On the one hand, we have a cheap, anonymous, private way to make payments (cash), but it requires us to have physical paper or coins in our pockets. On the other hand, we have electronic methods that require a connection to an online transaction processor, which res
      • by snowraver1 (1052510) on Friday June 29, 2012 @01:28PM (#40496269)
        'Real' digital cash lives at a banking institution, and may be private (depending on your definition of private), but it is not anonymous. Electronic payment certainly does not have the same advantages as cash. You can't use it without an account. How can you give your child $5 for candy? It is not anonymous, and is not accepted everywhere. Real cash is easier too. Cash is also easily converted between different currencies. It's not as easy to convert a Visa card to a Mastercard.
        • by betterunixthanunix (980855) on Friday June 29, 2012 @01:33PM (#40496343)
          Someone forgot to look at the work done by this guy:

          https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/David_Chaum [wikipedia.org]

          Real digital cash involves an issuing authority, which can be a bank or a government, but which neither knows who it has issued any specific token to nor when or where that token has been spent (well, strictly, it only requires this if it is to be both scalable and support offline payments). Real digital cash allows transactions to happen offline i.e. requiring no parties other than the two parties involved in the transaction. That is what Chaum and many other cryptographers spent lots of time developing.
    • by residieu (577863)
      It's incompatible with IPv6.
    • by Sir_Sri (199544)

      Cash isn't hugely problematic except that cash transactions can dodge tax, and move large amounts of money around (especially in the EU when they have 500 euro notes) for criminal enterprise without government oversight.

      The main things with cash that people don't like is that government can simply print more of it to devalue it, so holding physical cash for any length of time gradually loses the relative value of the cash, and that cash can be 'lost' due to fire theft etc. and it's inherently hard to secure

  • How is one supposed to pay for these things with digital currency? Pimps and drug dealers love paper trails!

  • Watts (Score:4, Interesting)

    by krn1p4n1c (2673551) on Friday June 29, 2012 @01:06PM (#40495889)
    Why not use what it all comes down to in the end? Watts. Secondary benefits would be that there would be a huge push to make transferring and storing more efficient and people would actually be able to correlate what they're buying with the cost.
    • Re:Watts (Score:5, Funny)

      by ImprovOmega (744717) on Friday June 29, 2012 @02:47PM (#40497433)
      This is far too dangerous. It's bad enough that our cars are running around with gasoline equivalent to about 600kg of TNT (132MJ / gallon of gas, 4.164MJ / kg of TNT *20 gallons in a big tank) though gas is certainly less immediately explosive. Now imagine carrying far more than that on your person, in a far denser medium and imagine the mayhem that would ensue when people started letting loose with uncontrolled discharges of energy.

      Laptop batteries already accidentally start fires from overheating. If something like you're proposing overloads we could be missing a city block or two.
  • Corrections (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Cyphase (907627) on Friday June 29, 2012 @01:06PM (#40495891) Homepage

    "Bitcoin offers anonymity, but isn't backed by any government and has seen high-profile hacks and collapses in value."

    "...isn't backed by any government..."
    Sounds good to me. Certainly true anyway.

    "...has seen high-profile hacks..."
    Bitcoin hasn't been hacked, some Bitcoin websites have been hacked.

    "...collapses in value."
    There was certainly that big bubble, but other than that it's been fairly stable. Certainly for the last many months.
    http://bitcoincharts.com/charts/mtgoxUSD#tgCzm1g10zm2g25 [bitcoincharts.com]

    • by jythie (914043)
      As another poster pointed out, lack of government backing drastically impacts who will accept the payment. Traditional business that pay taxes have trouble working with anything not government backed,.. which cuts out a lot of critical things like food, fuel, utilities, banking, etc. So while payment methods outside government sanction can exist, the lack of backing severally limits the scope of their utility... in other words they can not rise to the level of 'I can work exclusively in this currency' for
    • "...isn't backed by any government..."
      Sounds good to me. Certainly true anyway.

      So what creates the demand for Bitcoin? See, that's the difference between monopoly money and government backed money: a government backing a currency creates a substantial demand for that currency -- the courts will base damage awards and property value assessments on that currency (by extension, loans will be issued and must be repaid using that currency), taxes must be paid in that currency, and the general legal structure surrounding the currency makes it safer to use in a transaction. Now, if you

      • by geekoid (135745)

        You also need to know how much money is where for many economic reasons.

        Lets say you have a million but bucks, or what ever. How much of that is available for lending? what is consumer spending doing? Interest? Currency swaps?

  • by hawks5999 (588198) on Friday June 29, 2012 @01:07PM (#40495897)
    Is a benefit of Bitcoin.
    • by gatfirls (1315141) on Friday June 29, 2012 @01:26PM (#40496243)
      Not backed by anything...is a flaw in bitcoin. I find it hilarious how gold bugs and paultards are some of the biggest fans of a "currency" that has literally nothing behind it. At least our little fiat currency has an army and a bunch of nukes backing it. I'm not against a digital currency but no one in their right mind is going to seriously consider a ponzi-ish currency with absolutely no security in value as a legitimate alternative to the banking/CC industry middlemen for electronic transactions.
    • It also raises and endless series of questions about the real value of Bitcoin -- you know, the value that is determined by the supply and demand. Where does the demand for monopoly money come from? Why should Bitcoin have more demand than monopoly money?

      ...and what will happen when Chaumiam-style digital cash is issued and is backed by some governments (hint: Bitcoin will die because people will flock to that currency)?
    • by geekoid (135745)

      No, it's a massive flaw.
      There is more to money then you buying a soda.

    • A benefit in a way, but not that much.

      The only reason why fake (fiat) currencies are popular is that it allows you to pay the thugs (government) the money they rob from you (taxation). Other than that, physical things like precious metals, copper, etc. are much, much better.

      Bitcoin is an interesting experiment in cryptography, but isn't backed by anything. Why would I accept bitcoin?
      • So on the one hand, you agree that government backed currency is the only useful currency, since the demand is made clear (taxes, legally enforced debts, court verdicts, etc. -- just so nobody is confused as to why a government backing a currency creates value). On the other hand, you say that precious metals are better than fiat currencies.

        What's the difference, in terms of backing? None. The real difference is that those metals are both hard to find and industrially useful. The first means that the
  • hm.. (Score:4, Insightful)

    by niado (1650369) on Friday June 29, 2012 @01:07PM (#40495899)
    I can't figure out if this is a cleverly disguised Bitcoin advertisement or not....
  • by Animats (122034) on Friday June 29, 2012 @01:17PM (#40496079) Homepage

    With the currency troubles in Greece and Spain, a "cashless society" is much further off. One plan for Greece is to suddenly convert the bank account of everyone in Greece from euros to drachma, then immediately devalue the drachma. Since this is well known, everyone with any money is pulling it out of Greek banks.

    Keeping money in "the cloud" means someone else controls it. For a good laugh, read the EULA of WePay [wepay.com], a wannabe PayPal competitor. Or those of Dwolla [dwolla.com], which is a pseudo financial institution run out of a hacker space in Iowa. The terms offered by most psuedo-banks in the "cloud" are awful.

  • by jdavidb (449077) on Friday June 29, 2012 @01:25PM (#40496221) Homepage Journal

    Bitcoin offers anonymity, but isn't backed by any government and has seen high-profile hacks and collapses in value

    Clever wording there. Yes, you could say bitcoin "has seen high-profile hacks," but you couldn't say that bitcoin has been hacked.

  • Better Question: (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Stickerboy (61554) on Friday June 29, 2012 @01:30PM (#40496295) Homepage

    Why?

    If anonymity is that important to your transaction, cash is still the way to go. If digital anonymity is what you want, then you need an escrow holder that will take cash and convert it to some form of one-shot unique digital account without any personal information involved.

    If you want digital, anonymity, and convenient, well good luck with that. The combination of the 3 just screams "counterfeit". Like the old saying goes, pick two.

    • If you want digital, anonymity, and convenient, well good luck with that. The combination of the 3 just screams "counterfeit". Like the old saying goes, pick two.

      Except that we have ways to deal with that. Chaumiam systems, for instance, will de-anonymize anyone who tries to double-spend their money (the equivalent of counterfeiting; true counterfeiting is hard because of the properties of digital signatures).

    • by geekoid (135745)

      "If anonymity is that important to your transaction, cash is still the way to go."
      Al Capone used cash.

      Contrary to most peoples opinion, cash isn't really that anonymous in any practical way.

  • > "Could an experiment called MintChip brewing in Canada finally take us to cashless nirvana?"

    When you see a headline in the form of a question, the answer is always "no".
    It means the writer doesn't have enough (any?) evidence to back up a conclusion, but the conclusion will attract readers, so he posits it in the form of a question.

  • by goodmanj (234846) on Friday June 29, 2012 @01:33PM (#40496355)

    "Hey Rocky, watch me pull a rabbit outta my hat!"
    "But that trick never works!"
    "This time for sure!"

  • what is currency (Score:5, Insightful)

    by circletimessquare (444983) <circletimessquare&gmail,com> on Friday June 29, 2012 @01:38PM (#40496405) Homepage Journal

    It is an abstract representation of value that only has meaning in the context of a society.

    It has no meaning or value in and of itself: can't do much with a sack of gold in the middle of the Sahara, unless you meet some tauregs, which brings us back to the point: whatever you agree is a medium of exchange has to derive meaning in terms of what other people think of as value.

    Gold has ancient meaning, but ones and zeroes have to stand for something else: a sack of gold in a bank somewhere.

    Which implies accountability, traceability, authority.

    Without those things, no one in their right mind will accept your currency.

    You have to know what currency actually means, and you can't design currency that defies those meanings, or what you have isn't really currency. Except amongst other idealistic clueless fanboys of alternacurrency, but this is a fringe group playing silly games, not actually making something that will replace real currency at large.

    There is no trust in the parameters you have outlined. And with no trust, no trade.

    • by na1led (1030470)
      Well, since money is really just a promissory note, you need some kind of secure guarantee for people to make transactions. Either a system like PayPal, or something that is very difficult to counterfeit. I sort of like using PayPal, because not only is it difficult to counterfeit, but anyone doing so can be traced. If our currency was very secure, it would probably reduce inflation increases, and wasteful spending. But then, the bad guys will always overcome this with high value commodities like Gold, Diam
  • Never happen. Having a currency out of bounds means there is no way to know what's going on with the currency. Is someone counterfeiting it? hording it?

    And cash isn't really anonymous, never has been. Ask Al Capone.

    How do I knw this? bcasue I was on a team that did it. Create a smart card system(first to be used by a financial entity) and you could use it to pay a shop keeper, get paid from a shop keeper, and use it for bank transaction.

    So what happened, like in a day, was that people stopped using banks.

  • by Thaelon (250687) on Friday June 29, 2012 @01:39PM (#40496417)

    Bitcoin offers anonymity, but isn't backed by any government

    I'm not sure that's a bad thing anymore given what governments around the world are doing to people these days. I wish it was feasible to move all my money to bitcoin, honestly. Banks and governments can't freeze it at will.

    and has seen high-profile hacks and collapses in value.

    This is misleading as all hell. Bitcoin itself has never been hacked. And pretty much every non-electronic currency collapsed in value in 2008. I'm not sure bitcoin did. It's new, but it's totally usable and stable enough.

    Having used bitcoin personally for several things, I have nothing bad to say about it except that it's a little bit slow for transfers to happen. Still way faster than a bank and it operates 24/365.

    • I wish it was feasible to move all my money to bitcoin, honestly.

      What are you going to do when some idiot crashes his car into your living room? You are going to go to court and have a judge resolve things, because in all likelihood, the idiot is not going to fix the damage on his own. You know what the court ruling will be in terms of? Your nation's currency, because that is how courts work.

      Governments do actually provide useful services, like courts. Those services must be paid for, like anything else, and governments collect taxes to pay for those services.

  • once again, the sandwich heavy portfolio pays off for the hungy investor. - Z

  • I'm personally a big supporter of using cash. I use it at every opportunity, even if that means going out of my way to go to an ATM.

    I havn't heard a convincing argument for cashless yet. Cashless isn't anonymous, requires both parties to use special devices or services,, and ties us into the banking system and thus gives an already overinfluential sector more power than it deserves.

    Here in the UK, banks and credit card companies charge a percentage to the retailer for using a card machine, which of course c

  • It's a TRAP (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Ralph Spoilsport (673134) on Friday June 29, 2012 @02:52PM (#40497487) Journal
    This would put banks in control of ALL money. That's a Very Bad Idea. If you can't "hide it under your mattress", you essentially have ZERO privacy.
  • by jvillain (546827) on Friday June 29, 2012 @04:29PM (#40498857)

    It is currently essential for developer to obtain a starter pack, because within it contains the necessary closed source library files required to communicate to the MintChip MicroSD.

    Awe some. Security through obscurity. What's to go wrong?

    Only available on Windows, Android and Blackberry. Well Blackberry is over. I wouldn't trust a payment system on my cell phone and I am never ever going to use Windows again. Besides as the MPAA proved with Blu-ray there is no better platform to lose you security with than Windows. Not to mention that this mean the mint is out sourcing control of the money supply to the US as there will be no Canadian companies involved.

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