For many people, that phrase usually appears in close proximity to musings about jet packs or flying cars. Occasionally it gets used in conjunction with reviews of 3D printers being used to make food of some description. For me, this weekend, it came with successfully using my Android phone to pay for my groceries in the local supermarket.
Yes, I’m aware that Apple got to market first. This isn’t about hardware or operating system preferences. This is about the memories evoked of playing Shadowrun and Cyberpunk 2020 back in the late eighties and early nineties. Amid all the guns and tech and imagery of sunglasses worn at night was a concept that was almost a throwaway line.
Cash was obsolete, and everyone had tech of some description to wirelessly transfer sums by touching devices. It even had the concept of prepaid throwaway “cred sticks” that weren’t tied to a bank account and were therefore relatively untraceable. Prepaid credit cards ring any bells for anyone?
It’s always stuck with me, with my antennae twitching when Oyster travel cards were introduced. I was interviewed for the job of project managing the introduction of Oyster across all London buses. I remember being told that the elimination of cash from public transport was a high priority. I didn’t get the job, but the statement stuck in my memory.
Fast forward a few years, and you now can’t use cash on London buses, but in addition to Oyster cards you can now use wireless transfer from your visa and debit cards, and now your phones. That strange Cyberpunk prediction is front and centre in millions of people’s lives now.
I’m actually a big enough geek to love the concept, despite everything. Will I be investing in an RFC-blocking phone case? Probably not as there’s not as yet been an issue with the cards in my wallet, but a sensible eye on the news may change that over time.