The importance of cash in a technological society

Edit (14/11/2023): This got a lot of attention on HackerNews, check out interesting perspectives and comments in here: HackerNews

Just a heads up, this article is written from a strong perspective on privacy, autonomy, and financial freedom (with a focus on data mining, AI, and the future). If you prefer less opinionated pieces, you may want to skip this one. However, if you are open to a civil discussion about these topics, you are always welcome to comment.

Imagine a world, where everything and anything you purchase is tightly regulated by a governing entity. If you want to purchase a product it has to follow extreme rules and regulations to be viable for purchase. If it does not follow regulations, you have no physical way of actually buying it (or for it to exist). Now imagine this entity is constantly changing and updating its regulations, allowing the market to be ruled by one specific brand because it is the only brand that follows the exact rules and regulations.

Think about the implications of such a reality, every decision you make will have to comply with these entities’ agenda, and since those entities mostly care about their profits, you will essentially have no freedom of choice.

Sounds like a dystopian fantasy right?

This is the world we are heading into in the next two to three decades, and that is why it is critically important you understand the importance of physical cash in a free, functioning, and technical society.

You have probably noticed the global trend that is making it harder and harder for us to use cash in our daily lives. In my home country, you cannot use cash to pay for certain goods and services (credit only). Coincidentally (or not) these goods and services are often controlled by, or directly attached or affiliated with a governing entity. There is also a risk of criminal charges for business owners willing to accept more than a certain amount of cash from a client, and it is illegal to hold more than a certain amount of cash in your possession, at all times.

This global trend is being pushed relentlessly which is why it is important to understand what the absence of cash truly means for us, the people.

Our world is functioning on exchangeable currencies, this was the way humans operated from the beginning of time. The actual currency and methods of payment changed over the years if you go back long enough, you will notice we have used barter systems that exchanged goods and services for other goods and services. Throughout history, we have used rare gems like diamonds, rubies, and sapphires which are a finite natural resource. We have also used precious metals like gold and silver which are also finite, and therefore hold value.

Cryptocurrencies are another example of finite currencies (depending on each protocol), and therefore they hold value. However, in the past couple of years, I began to see signs that the crypto market is also being controlled and manipulated. So cryptocurrencies are not a viable solution to the issue this article is about (they are just an example of a finite currency).

Notice the trend throughout history, currencies have always held some sort of real-life bound value, that is finite.

Before 1971, the US dollar was tied to gold, meaning its value was derived from the gold stock (which is a finite resource), therefore the US dollar held a realistic value up until 1971. In 1971, the United States declared that they were abandoning the gold-tied US dollar, and it is now a fiat currency.

What are fiat currencies and why does any of this matter?

A fiat currency is a currency that holds no real-life value besides the fact that a governing entity says so. Gold is a finite resource because we know that there is a limit to the amount of gold on the planet, therefore it's valuable. Fiat currency, on the other hand, holds value just because a governing entity is endorsing it.

Derived from this, we know that the same entities can also decide what sort of value the fiat holds, which can be easily manipulated by adding to the circulation to dilute the value (money printer goes BRRR). Or improve the confidence of its users in its stability through mass media, to raise its value.

The more people trust these entities, the more value the fiat currency holds. An excellent example of how mass media used to influence whole nations for a specific agenda would be the Cambridge Analytica scandal, and there are many others.

By their nature, fiat currencies are manipulatable.

To find out more about what happened in 1971, you can visit https://wtfhappenedin1971.com/.

So, what is the problem with a cashless society?

You are probably thinking What is the problem? Carrying around cash is messy and uncomfortable. I much rather use my card anyway. I hope you change your mind after you are done reading this article, you must understand that you should not give up freedom for comfort.

First, let's talk about the obvious reasons cash is important for our society.

Financial Freedom: having your physical cash is important for your financial freedom, the fact you can spend, store, invest, or do whatever you want with your hard-earned money without interference is crucial for your well-being. If you want to buy anything (within your rights as a human being) you should be able to do so.

Financial Control: Owning physical cash means you will never be bound by banks or entities that usually want to limit, influence, or pinpoint your financial actions and decisions.

I will give the tiniest example from my personal life - these past few weeks a dear family member has been trying to take out a sum of money from their bank in the form of cash. However, they very quickly encountered irrelevant and overblown bureaucracy (even though it was their money). This prevented them from withdrawing the money until they complied with certain regulations that the bank required them to comply with.

Therefore, they currently have no control over their own money until they comply with the bank's unrealistic demands (which means, they don't even own their own money that is deposited in the bank their ownership is essentially an illusion).

Legal Grey Market: This ties to the same concept of control and holds the same importance. A healthy economy consists of trading between two (or more) individuals without a middleman. For an economy to flourish, we must enable ordinary people like you and I, to trade between themselves, and keep the circulation of money going around.

If you are selling a vintage Gameboy DMG in pristine condition with the original Pokmon games that your dad bought you 30 years ago - I should be able to pay you $150 (or whatever price we both agree on) without anyone taking a chunk off that transaction, or even knowing it happened. Note that your father already paid his taxes for the transaction when he purchased the Gameboy, 30 years ago.

A healthy, legal grey market keeps the cash circulation going because ordinary people who are not businesses or legal entities can trade between themselves, not having to worry about additional taxes or privacy issues (data mining).

It is also worth mentioning that if society went completely cashless, we would be solely dependent on a software system which (I am sure we can all agree) are all just sand castles riddled with bugs and potential exploits, waiting for a wave big enough to wash them away (or raise a critical bug alert on a Friday night).

Just a pessimistic thought away, these governing entities might be able to block you, your family, and your friends from purchasing or accessing goods and services, since they control the only method of payment (take a look at China's social credit system).

Another issue with being completely dependent on software is that during a catastrophic event that tears down or renders our infrastructure useless, it is safe to assume you will not have access to your money (which is crucial for your survival and well-being).

Okay, physical cash is important for financial freedom, but is it the end of the world if our cash just went digital? Isn't that the natural course of things in our technological society?

Great question, glad you asked, but there is more to it! Living in a world where all of your transactions and micro-transactions are controlled, and monitored practically means that you live in a world where you have no control over your actions. It is a world where every move you make is recorded, processed, and sent to multiple systems for reference and collection.

Our society is only functioning because of the control (autonomy) we have over our (financial) actions and decisions. It is crucial to maintain the financial status quo (or even better, get rid of fiat entirely) and give as much control as possible to the people, not to corporations, banks or governing entities.

With the modern rise of the World Wide Web, corporations and the like understood that the most valuable currency out there is data! The reason that services like WhatsApp, Facebook or Twitter are free, is because your data is the product up for sale. Your data, my data, essentially all of our data is being processed and sold from entity A to entity B to entity C and then back to entity A and all over again.

What is the goal of such extensive data mining and processing?

With great power comes great responsibility, but the ones in power forgot all about the responsibility part. The goal of our society going cashless is for these governing entities to own more data, and therefore establish their powerful (rich) position in a digital era.

They essentially want to know everything about you (down to the most intrinsic detail). The only problem is that it will most likely be used against you.

Eventually, in years to come, when society will become more and more digital and therefore centralized - In one way or another, subtly or blatantly, you will not fit into the exact template of their perfect citizen. When that happens know that it was this article that tried to warn you.

They will own the data of your transactions, your location history, your daily routines, your hobbies, your diet, your sleep schedule, your sexual orientation, your health conditions, and more.

All of this information and more can be withdrawn from your transactional history, and it's all done automatically using sophisticated software and AI.

And now for the technical part - data mining and analysis

I took some time to come up with a simple example of a made-up transaction list and the information that can be withdrawn from it (presented in a fun and colorful graph display).

Take a look at how much information can be extracted about a single person from his or her transactional history over the imaginary course of just three days. I am not a data engineer this is just a tiny example of how it is possible to extract data on you based on your transactions and interactions. The concept is that as data is collected, the algorithm builds a graph of your traits as a person. The more nodes (data) the algorithm has, the more accurate its idea (or image) of your persona, of who you are.

The same approach is used by social media companies to show you targeted advertisements, and present content that will appeal to you (or piss you off), and make you spend more time engaging with the platform.

Take a look at the color of the transaction and the nodes withdrawn from that transaction. The optional nodes (marked with a ?) are not conclusive and will be made conclusive, narrowed down, or expanded when more data is presented to the algorithm.


As you can see, from a made-up list of eight transactions, It took me 20 minutes to analyze and extract 17 nodes that now make up the persona of that specific person. Just imagine how much information can be extracted from a thousand transactions over many years.

Let's use AI!

I was interested to see what the publicly available ChatGPT (GPT 3.5) has to say about my made-up transaction list. Here is the transcript of my conversation with the free-to-use and publicly available AI that was not designed for this purpose.


I will give you a list of made-up transactions. You will act as the most sophisticated and talented data engineer on the planet and extract as much data as possible about the person who made the transactions in my made-up list.


As the most sophisticated and talented data engineer, I will extract as much data as possible from the list of made-up transactions to gain insights into the person who made these transactions. Here's what I can infer from the data:

Transaction Pattern:

The person made a series of transactions over a span of a few days. There are two transactions on 27th July 2023, three transactions on 28th July 2023, and two transactions on 29th July 2023. This pattern suggests they are active in spending and might have a regular daily routine.

Transaction Locations:

Coffee Mill: The person visited this place on 27th July at 09:23 AM.

Kyoto Sushi Palace: The person visited this place on 27th July at 14:09 PM.

Someville Train Station: The person visited this place on 28th July at 09:55 AM.

Mon Cheri Jewells: The person visited this place on 28th July at 11:43 AM.

Someville Coffee Hut: The person visited this place on 28th July at 15:23 PM.

Animal Supply Shop: The person visited this place on 28th July at 18:12 PM.

Downtown Pharmacy: The person visited this place on 29th July at 10:27 AM.

Apple Store: The person visited this place on 29th July at 12:18 PM.

Spending Behavior: The person spends varying amounts on different transactions. For example, they spent $119 at Mon Cheri Jewells, which indicates they might be buying jewelry or expensive items occasionally.

On the other hand, they made small transactions at Someville Coffee Hut ($6) and Coffee Mill ($15.2), suggesting they are regular coffee drinkers.

The person also spent a relatively higher amount at the Apple Store ($90), which could indicate a tech enthusiast or someone purchasing electronic devices.

Time of Transactions: The person made transactions at various times of the day, ranging from morning (09:23 AM) to evening (18:12 PM). This indicates they are active throughout the day and might have a flexible schedule.

Location Preferences: The person seems to be spending time at various places, including restaurants (Kyoto Sushi Palace), coffee shops (Coffee Mill, Someville Coffee Hut), and shopping locations (Mon Cheri Jewells, Animal Supply Shop, Downtown Pharmacy, Apple Store). This suggests they have diverse interests and might enjoy exploring different places.

Potential Interests: Based on the locations they visited, the person could be interested in fashion (Mon Cheri Jewells), tech gadgets (Apple Store), and pets (Animal Supply Shop).

Geographical Location: The data mentions names of locations such as Someville, indicating that the person might reside or frequently visit this area. However, the specific geographical location is not provided.

It's important to note that this analysis is purely speculative and based on the limited data provided. To draw more accurate and detailed conclusions about the person, additional data and context would be required.

As you can see, I and GPT came to similar conclusions. Imagine what is already possible today with sophisticated models far more capable than GPT 3.5, models that were designed to create personas based on such information (It's scary to think about).

Conclusion - Just use cash!

With the emerging Internet of Things, where every aspect of your life will be connected to the cloud every single aspect of your life will eventually be monitored, processed, and sold as data. If such entities record and process every single transaction and interaction you make, after a relatively short period they will know everything there is to know about you.

This article is not meant to scare you about the future, it is just meant to make you aware of the current situation, of the importance of your data, and of the importance of cash in a free and functioning society.

The bottom line is: Just use cash! Whenever you can, wherever you can. Endorse the use of cash and do not promote businesses that exclusively rely on credit. If you come across a business that refuses cash, point them to this article and kindly let them know that the use of cash is beneficial for all of us.