For ages, money has meant little metal disks and rectangular slips of paper. Yet the usefulness of physical money—to say nothing of its value—is coming under fire as never before. Intrigued by the distinct possibility that cash will soon disappear, author and Wired contributing editor David Wolman sets out to investigate the future of money…and how it will affect your wallet.
Wolman begins his journey by deciding to shun cash for an entire year—a surprisingly successful experiment (with a couple of notable exceptions). He then ventures forth to find people and technologies that illuminate the road ahead. In Honolulu, he drinks Mai Tais with Bernard von NotHaus, a convicted counterfeiter and alternative-currency evangelist whom government prosecutors have labeled a domestic terrorist. In Tokyo, he sneaks a peek at the latest anti-counterfeiting wizardry, while puzzling over the fact that banknote forgers depend on society's addiction to cash. In a downtrodden Oregon town, he mingles with obsessive coin collectors—the people who are supposed to love cash the most, yet don't. And in rural Georgia, he examines why some people feel the end of cash is Armageddon’s warm-up act. After stops at the Digital Money Forum in London and Iceland’s central bank, Wolman flies to Delhi, where he sees first-hand how cash penalizes the poor more than anyone—and how mobile technologies promise to change that.
Told with verve and wit, The End of Money explores an aspect of our daily lives so fundamental that we rarely stop to think about it. You’ll never look at a dollar bill the same again.
Advance Praise for The End of Money
“A world with different and new money will be a different and new world. We are headed there more rapidly than most suppose. The lives of citizens and central bankers alike will be profoundly altered. This book should be read by everyone who cares and that should be almost everyone.”
—Lawrence H. Summers, President Emeritus of Harvard University, former Secretary of the United States Department of the Treasury, and Charles W. Eliot University Professor at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government.
“Cash is a mystifying artifact of a bygone era. It’s inefficient, inconvenient and downright dirty—yet we still have wallets full of it. But not for much longer. Over the next few years, money will change more than it has for centuries. David Wolman’s globetrotting exploration tells how, with riveting anecdotes and insights into the past and future of payment.”
—Chris Anderson, Editor in Chief of Wired magazine and author of The Long Tail and Free: The Future of a Radical Price
“Gather up your 25 rectangles of colored cotton fiber and assorted scrap metal plugs and put them down on the bookstore counter, my friends. This is the sharpest, most amazingly well-researched and fascinating book to come along in a very large while. Especially stunning chapter on counterfeiting, past (fake wampum!) and present (North Korean supernotes!). Read this book and you will understand how the world works and where it is headed, and why a culture perched on the brink of cashlessness is still minting pennies.”
—Mary Roach, author of Stiff and Packing for Mars
“Say what you will about sophisticated financial instruments like credit default swaps and collateralized mortgage obligations. Our biggest financial blind spot may be the cold, hard cash in our pockets. David Wolman uncovers the hidden costs of coins and currency in this entertaining and eye-opening book that will appeal to anyone with a pocketbook.”
—Daniel H. Pink, author of Drive and A Whole New Mind
“Alternating between in-depth reporting and personal rumination, Wired contributing editor Wolman tries to figure out what a cashless society would mean and whether it is an idea whose time has come…He has plenty of thoughts about what could replace physical money, but he is wise enough to understand that he cannot imagine all of the unexpected outcomes. An intriguing book on a topic that many readers have always taken for granted: the cash in their purses and wallets.”