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October 19, 2011

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Virtual Money: A commentary on Google Wallet
by francisco.rendon Oct 3, 2011 1:11 am
Leo Postovoit, Spartan Daily

The end is near, friends.
Google released the first version of the Google Wallet application last month, foreshadowing the death of paper money and the birth of the “wallet-phone.”
This app, available now to all Nexus 4G users on the Sprint mobile network, will eventually, according to Google’s website, contain “all the cards you keep in your wallet today.”
You can scan your phone at Mastercard PayPass stations to make transactions with a quickness usually reserved for viral videos, Facebook messaging and, when it’s convenient, telephone calls.
Beyond this, Google is also using its status as a corporate behemoth to get special offers and rewards, like free cupcakes at a local bakery and discounts at local stores, for people who make purchases with the Wallet app.
No doubt, within a short amount of time, having your wallet in your cellphone will be more convenient than having to fumble with bills and coins or having to reach for the right piece of plastic and signing a printed receipt.
Not even Abraham Lincoln and George Washington can compete with free cupcakes.
I will leave the “Big Brother” implication alone, with the observation that a phone this smart would advance it to become the central instrument of most people’s financial, social and business activity.
Beyond the “1984” paranoia however, this phone represents a larger trend in our society — the movement toward convenience.
We love making things easy in the global culture of consumerism in which we live.
In large cities, the places where consumerism thrives most, companies are all suing each other and fighting tooth and nail to be the one to offer the next convenience that makes all the city dwellers’ lives that much easier.
But do our conveniences make our lives better?
If you brought a cellphone to the middle of the desert or a village in the mountains and expected them to scan your Google Wallet to make a digital transaction, you would be out of luck.
Beyond this, your cellphone holds little practical use when you are in a place without the infrastructure to support it.
Gold, one of the oldest forms of currency humans have used, was valuable because of its malleability, its ability to be reshaped into any form themaker required, such as jewelry or ornaments.
So why, exactly, are our numbers on a screen valuable?
Ultimately, currency — and indeed what we actually own — is becoming less and less real.
While we once had a representative piece of the gold in Fort Knox assigned to our money, our greenbacks’ only monetary value lies in what the government assigns it.
This theoretical value, shifting through decisions of government officials and foreign economists, may soon only be numbers on the screen of a conveniently sized phone.
Most people have no idea how this neat little screen on a phone actually works, how to make one or how to fix it if anything goes wrong. If our screen screws up, it ruins our day and we have to pay someone to fix it or replace it.
Yet if you even suggest the idea of taking away a high schooler’s cellphone, I suggest you anchor yourself against the oncoming tide of obscenities.
I am 23 years old, and yet many people my own age lack not only the ability to state outright problems within their social environment, but once in difficult situations they find themselves even without the ability to express what it is they want.
Our generation’s increasingly apparent lack of communication skills demonstrates that technological advances, far from making us better people and teaching us practical applications of knowledge, are actually proving fundamentally disempowering, particularly to the youth of our culture.
In my spare time, I have done community-building service with youth ages 12 to 14, and I have found that rather than exploring their communities and affecting each others lives, more and more young people choose to remain inside their homes, on computers, texting their friends and watching television.
Increasingly, despite all the bright lights and loud sounds we can buy in a store, we are more and more finding ourselves slaves to the conveniences that corporations market so aggressively.
If these things are taken away from them, they often do not know what to do. I worry about what will become of future generations as their relationship with money goes in the same direction as that of the traditional telephone.
Yet because the option is available to us, and it is, undeniably, more convenient, Google wallet will no doubt become more prevalent.
So here’s to the free cupcakes.

0 Vote up Vote down Ted Rudow III, MA

Standard Poor’s decision to downgrade the United States has led to a lot of criticism of Standard Poor’s. The White House called their performance, which included a miscalculation of about $2.1 trillion, “amateur hour.”The move by S&P, one of three leading credit rating agencies, came just days after Congress approved a $2.1 trillion deficit-reduction plan.S&P didn’t just miss the bubble. They helped cause it. They were paid by the banks to award their AAA-stamp of approval to all manner of financial products that were anything but riskless -- which, ironically, makes them an accessory to the resulting explosion of U.S. debt. Lowering the nation’s rating to one notch below AAA, the credit rating company said "political brinkmanship" in the debate over the debt had made the U.S. government’s ability to manage its finances. There’s not much mention anymore of the recession or economic hard times, because the people at the top are doing great. And that is an upward redistribution of wealth by cutting taxes for the wealthiest, and in subtle ways, raising them for the poorest and for the middle class. The big business game is to see how fast you can rob the other guy.
Ted Rudow III, MA
Class of 1996

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