Paris, Atlanta (15/10 – 10)
The raging fashion today is “digital” this and “digital” that. This buzzword is slapped on practically every product and service, to pump its prestige (and price). Now we are being told that “digital money” is going to be the currency of the future, unstoppable, efficient, secure and smooth.
Let’s take a close look at the concept: the shiny side, and the dark side. Jump-cut to eastern China.
I was walking down an alley in a medium-sized city in Jiangsu with my Chinese doctor friend, in late 2017. We passed a stall selling fried gristle. I was not interested (always wary about strange foods) but he ordered a half-dozen pieces, freshly grilled, and suddenly, without a word, swiped a card on a reader sitting by the seller, who glanced at this but said nothing. As we walked off I must say I was impressed by the casual convenience of such instant payment. No dirty, sticky bills or coins fumbled with; no need to haggle of take a chance of getting the wrong change. Neat.
The problem is that such a payment protocol depends on a fantastically-complex, fragile and expensive chain of technology. Kindly think back to a time when you were desperate to get cash from an ATM, only to find that each and every one presents an ERROR message (and no money), or worse, the machine swallows your ATM card and sticks out its tongue at you. Ha ha, you lose.
A couple of such experiences and you learn not to walk around with zero walking-around money in your pocket. Further, ATMs may be a “vanishing breed”, as these days a growing number of banks seem to be attempting to uproot the ATM network – many “ghost kiosks” around Jakarta, my home town, where just a few days previously there had been a cash machine. But now no more.
Digital payments cost money. Maybe it’s only a small cut of the transaction, but if you happen to be a poor fisherman on a distant island with six hungry children, every centavo counts.
Today there are close to 140,000 base transceiver stations (BTS) sprinkled across the Indonesian archipelago, which explains why nationwide internet and cell phone service is so fantastic (Australians visiting this company are stunned at how much better and cheaper internet connections are).
This is the infrastructure that “digital money” is quickly building on. Lightning-fast, secure transactions, tiny to titanic, can zip from bank to seller to customer to bank again. This is particularly relevant for the urgent push to stimulate and facilitate trade at small and medium enterprises (SMEs), a central Government of Indonesia concern since the start of the pumped-up Covid-19 panic (another foreign influence, from the heavily-compromised WHO, that Indonesia should have been wary of). Deaths-to-date (2021) from Covid-19: 159,000. Meanwhile, blithely ignored: “Tobacco kills about 290,000 people annually. Tobacco causes a quarter (25.3%) of all male deaths and 7.2% of female deaths.” Where’s the Panic Button for this? [Ignored]
Not to mention that of the former figure for “Covid-19 fatalities”, practically all those who died and were categorized as “Covid-19 victim$” were either ancient, obese or riddled with comorbidities which would have soon killed them anyway.
What happens to the farmer living in a distant town, or the small trader on the road, when a heavy lightning storm (common in this country) or volcanic eruption (ditto) knocks telecommunications out of service? No “digital money” today, in or out, sorry.
Will consumers accept such insecure service? Cash in your pocket is power.
Worse, what happens when Government authorities, for better or for worse, decide they don’t like you? We all know how authority tends to be abused, either from a drunken policeman who doesn’t like the way you look at him to a tax official who decides to give you an especially hard time, because his wife beat him up that morning.
So dear citizen, do you want every transaction you make tracked, moment to moment, and recorded by the all-seeing computer? Everything you eat, every place you pay to enter, every debt you pay off. Is this not scary, in the least? That’s the weak point in the “digital dough” protocol: some bank, or government official, or mysterious party, can cancel your cash “…until further notice”. We are all aware that governments tend toward “over-reach”. The lockdowns, forced inoculations of experimental chemicals and mass-masking and other Theater of the Coronavirus, which did not prevent infections from spreading, provided an opportunity for big government to stick its nose into every aspect of your private life. Look at Israel: one of the most-vaccinated countries in the world, and one of the highest rates of Covid-19 infection. Does that not tell the tale?
Now extend that behavior to the precious money that you earn, and your family’s survival. How alarming. Technology is not always your friend.