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Hiccups in a Cashless Society

CmdrTaco posted more than 14 years ago | from the that-ain't-so-good dept.

65

jchaw sent us a story thats running over on CNN and talks about hiccups with Singapore's Cashless System which apparently messed up 4500 transactions and caused a quarter of a million dollars to be lost in the system. Kinda creapy- as we become more and more reliant on credit cards, debit cards, and ATM cards, the chances of bugs popping up increases.

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65 comments

Just like on those 7-Up commercials. (1)

cpeterso (19082) | more than 14 years ago | (#1809525)

Those feds are trying to track down the "Un"! god damn, betta protect yo self..

the value of gold (1)

delmoi (26744) | more than 14 years ago | (#1809526)

wow, I don't know of many nice guns you could get for $20 ether, fortunetly gold is $250 per troy oz....
_
"Subtle mind control? Why do all these HTML buttons say 'Submit' ?"

BTW, what's the chance it ran under NT? (1)

tlhIngan (30335) | more than 14 years ago | (#1809527)

Definitely high. With M$ offering lots of money to places in SE Asia (Hong Kong also signed a deal with M$, and I believe Singapore did, too), it's quite likely that those computers also ran NT [and basically, everything was done using some M$ product or another].

Something to consider.

Similiar computer problems with (evil) Buy.com (1)

cpeterso (19082) | more than 14 years ago | (#1809528)


There was a Wired.com article [wired.com] earlier yesterday about (more) Buy.com computer problems. If someone made a purchase under $5, Buy.com's computers would continually deduct $40 from the customer's credit card every half-hour!!

I've plenty of articles about Buy.com's terrible customer service and experienced it first hand. I ordered some books from them because they were a few bucks cheaper than Amazon.com. The problem? Maybe books didn't arrive for another month !! Their customer service reps gave me the run-around. I'll never buy from Buy.com again.

HAHAHA (2)

Ektanoor (9949) | more than 14 years ago | (#1809529)

The typical "do it all" automatic system. It is pretty interesting that the thing debts accounts *before* transaction is Okyed. And yes "it's not a bug, it's a feature..."

Such features are the most hillarious thing I ever seen. Well we have all these credit card, robberies, electronic frauds and so on. But is pretty funny to see algorithms based on the idea that things are bug, *oops*, feature free.

This is a sad side of such things. The good side is seeing ATM's working like jackpots. One friend of mine got once 5 times more cash than he had required. But the best was that ATM _didn't_ debt him on it!

Why gold (1)

delmoi (26744) | more than 14 years ago | (#1809530)

the reason we use gold, an have for thousands of years, is beacuse it's rare, but not to rare.
gold is $250 an ounce right now, compared to $5 for silver.
in order to store $160,000 in gold, you would need about 40 pounds. you would need over one ton of silver.
there are other elements that are worth more, platum and paladium come to mind, but they arn't worth much more. and golds already been around
some elements used as indsutryal Catalysts can be worth millions of dolars per oz... but those arn't practial beacuse they are so rare.
_
"Subtle mind control? Why do all these HTML buttons say 'Submit' ?"

Digital cash (1)

discHead (3226) | more than 14 years ago | (#1809531)

Reading stories like this makes me sad that technologies such as eCash [digicash.com] -- the convenience of electronic exchange with the anonymity of hard currency -- seem to be having a hard time catching on. I regret not buying any eCash while there was still a U.S.-based bank working with it.

From a Singaporean (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1809532)

Just want to say something from a Singaporean perspective.

The screwup in question is the NETS [nets.com.sg] system, which is a national realtime deduct-from-your-bank-account cashless system. Terminals are everywhere: supermarts, retail shops, public transport ticketing system, post offices, resturants, you name it. The NETS card is a 2-in-1 with the banks' ATM card.

What I want to say is that for the 10 plus years (I think) that it was in operation, it worked beautifully. Such a system works only if it's universal enough, and in the Singapore's context, it is.

Re:not gold price, gold value (1)

icarus_flies (41179) | more than 14 years ago | (#1809533)

Actually, that is not the case either. Gold, being a widely traded commodity, trades quite independantly of any currency. It's fluctuations is not linked to inflation, or changes in consumer purchasing power.

Why? Because gold has no intrinsic value. As one other poster recognized, gold is just a lump of metal with no real purpose (at least not $250/oz worth of purpose!). Its value is linked to what people are willing to pay for it on the spot market, regardless of any other factors.

There really is nothing in the world that has no fluctuations the way you speak of gold.

-rt

big story here is the OPENESS OF OFFICIALS (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1809534)

It is amazing that the officials in this bank and govenment payment system openly admitted the scope and details of the error. The number of transactions is listed. The error being in the communications part of the software. The fact that debit of customer account occurs before anything else. [Why can't it be simultaneous--and auto-rolled-back if not confirmed simultaneously?] Banks in the USA and Europe would NEVER reveal such details. Surely a millions of dollars DAILY "disappear" because of fraud, theft, programming errors, etc. But you will not hear of this.

No (0)

mattc (12417) | more than 14 years ago | (#1809535)

If we use a "gold standard" you have things like the Great Depression happen. It is easier to control inflation and so on when you aren't stuck to some arbitrary standard.

Re:The reason I like cash is ... (1)

mattc (12417) | more than 14 years ago | (#1809536)

I'm sure they care. A lot! When 'big brother' finds out you've been eating potato chips, there will be trouble!

I was caught drinking an entire liter of pepsi once. The feds rushed in my house, pinned me against the wall, and tore out my tongue. Now I can no longer enjoy pepsi like I used to! Damn credit cards!

Re:Sigh... (gold less reliable than paper?) (1)

Daffy Duck (17350) | more than 14 years ago | (#1809537)

In the last four years the price of gold has dropped nearly 40%. If our currency had done the same thing, a lot of us would be having significant trouble accessing the net while standing in breadlines.

Re:Sigh... (1)

Trepidity (597) | more than 14 years ago | (#1809538)

The problem is that gold doesn't retain its value. The price of gold in the last ten years or so has dropped by more than 30%, largely due to countries selling off millions of tons of gold from their (now unnecessary) reserves. The resulting huge increase in supply causes the prices to go down. The same thing would happen if a huge new gold deposit was found, but the chances of that are less than the chances of another country selling off a lot of its reserves (like Britain is doing right now).

No (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1809539)

Us dollar works fine. Gold's value isn't as stable as it was before. US dollar is plenty stable and along with US T-bills have always been reliable means of exchange around the globe these few decades.

Re:Sigh... (gold less reliable than paper?) (1)

Sun Tzu (41522) | more than 14 years ago | (#1809540)

History is full of much more dramatic collapses of unbacked money. Arguably, if gold were the standard, it would actually be *more* stable than it currently is.

However, your point about the recent movement between gold and dollars pales in comparison to the historic, and opposite, trend.

Singapore Straitstimes articles (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1809541)

Here's coverage of the story from Singapore's one and only Straitstimes:

http://straitstimes.asia1.com/sin /sin43_0710.html [asia1.com]

http://web3.asia1.com.sg/ archive/st/5/sin/sin28_0709.html [asia1.com.sg]

Highlights include:

The bank offering a paltry S$1 (about US$0.60) compensation for every false deduction made - which as some victims point out, is hardly enough to cover the time and transport cost spent recouping the money.

And

The Minister of State exhorting citizens not to 'shun' cashless payments; it's not as if, he points out, that 'people's money was wrongly taken away.'

NYC kicks ass! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1809542)

In New York everything still runs on cash! If you
pull out a credit card people will laugh at you in
fifty-two languages. Come Y2K when everyone else
on Earth is fighting and killing for bread
and water, all us NYC folks are going to be
sucking down pizza and drinking Snapple.

Definition of Money (2)

LL (20038) | more than 14 years ago | (#1809543)

OK guys, some basics

The properties of a unit of current are related to its functions.
1) long-term store of value
2) convenient medium of exchange
3) measure of economic goods and services

Gold has some nice properties
1) extremely stable and durable
2) divisible into smaller subunits
3) considered a luxury item and thus independent of goods and services.

The history of money is rather intriguing as historically, people have used different mediums for exchange (eg. roman solders used salt from which we've derived salary). The reason why gold has traditionally been used is that it is very hard for governments to dilute it's value. However, relying on it has rather negative consequences when everybody is using it as there are physical costs and circulation (ie liquidity) problems. Oh, plus the rather inconvient fact that the world's largest suppluers are in South Africa and Russia so whether you are leftist or rightist, you're sure to alienate half your population by depending on it as the sole measure of your economic future.

The modern fiat money system is based on trust (e.g. social security) backed by the laws of the host country. That is why the feds get rather irritated with things like counterfeiting and trying to escape the tax system as it dilutes the trust and ultimate value of the currency. Of course, they're also hoping that nobody points out the clothesless emporor in by inflating the currency through increasing the M3 supply, they automatically devalue the currency. Considering the US owes nearly 6 trillion to the rest of the world and, as a global reserve currency, is not on the gold standard, they can theoretically inflate away the entire debt through accounting tricks. (one reason why the Euro has appeared and indebted countries are so pissed off).

Governments and banks would dearly like to move people into an electronic currency (consider it as the pure economic laws without the paper or cheque bits fiddly bits) as it eliminates the horded value locked up in circulating paper (one reason why Russia is so bad is that all the rubles have been tranformed into illiquid assets and horded, thus denying their use as a circulating unit of exchange) and allows financial firms to cut handling costs (not to mention lend on the stock exchange for the hours in the day you're not using it).

Modern capitalistic countries are already seeing this with the move towards a credit-based society. Of course, if the system screws up (as the Singapore case shows), the population gets rather annoyed as nothing brings out the fear of mob hysteria than losing your shirt. However, no matter what currency you use, it still has to satisfy the functions of a universal store of value, common medium of exchange and independent unit of pricing.

LL

PS As an interesting academic exercise, you can figure out the instrinsic value of software by creating synthetic measures of its value, much like you can trade Hollywood futures on the future value of stars and films.

Check out E-Gold (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1809545)

E-Gold is an electronic precious metals broker with a twist. It's free to open an account. You can deposit money to them and it gets converted into Gold, Platinum, Paladium or Silver.


Users can perform or receive payments easily. They even have an online payment system, that you can use on your e-commerce site as a replacement or addition to credit cards. I use it and they're pretty cool. You can even use it to pay your bills, where they convert it into a check and mail it for you.


Their URL is http://www.e-gold.com/ [e-gold.com]. I can definitely recommend it.
-Pelle

Re:Hmm (1)

scrytch (9198) | more than 14 years ago | (#1809546)

> I guess stealing and counterfeiting are problems that could be eliminated,

Never heard of credit card or wire fraud then, have you?

Transactions would have prevented this (1)

Cato (8296) | more than 14 years ago | (#1809547)

The interesting part was how one operation in the transaction (the debit) could be done even though the other operation failed. In the world of online transaction processing (OLTP), a transaction has to be atomic no matter how many operations it covers, even if they are on different systems (using two-phase commit or similar). In other words, if one operation completes and the other fails, the whole transaction is reversed out, undoing the one that completed.

Examples of systems that do this are IBM's CICS (works on *nix and mainframes) and Bea Tuxedo (www.beasys.com).

If the people doing this system had used a transaction based approach, this would never have happened.

not gold price, gold value (1)

unitron (5733) | more than 14 years ago | (#1809548)

What looks like changes in the price of gold are actually changes in the gold purchasing power of paper money.

Re:Similiar computer problems with (evil) Buy.com (1)

ksheff (2406) | more than 14 years ago | (#1809549)

I've heard others on Slashdot complain about buy.com, but I've always had great service with them. I've never had to deal with their customer support though. I guess I should consider myself lucky

Re:When you have things like WWI... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1809550)

So, what you're saying is that if we assume that all the peoples of the world will live together in peace and harmony and there'll be no more wars then the gold standard is a good system?

But what if the little fairies create more gold with their magic?

Re:The reason I like cash is ... (1)

scrytch (9198) | more than 14 years ago | (#1809551)

Run a greenhouse? The feds have broken in and searched people's homes, causing damage and distress, merely on the basis of them buying an inordinate number of grow lamps and fertilizer. Not that cash helps here, because they're known for using IR cameras to look for hotspots anyway.

Conspiracy Theories About This Incident (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1809552)

This having taken place in Singapore, we should consider possible conspiracy theories.

Any such system installed there would be insecure. Singapore is claimed to have the most advanced means of spying on its citizens in the world.

So, there is an interesting question. Could somebody have found a back door? Or perhaps a rogue employee at the security services has done something weird to the system?

Or maybe Singapore's government has decided the system is insecure (from THEIR standpoint) and has decided to manufacture an incident, and "fix" the system with a new one?

Re:The reason I like cash is ... (1)

ksheff (2406) | more than 14 years ago | (#1809553)

I went to a local Chinese restaurant a couple nights ago and my bank card was denied. This was odd, given I had plenty to cover the bill. So I went to one of my bank's ATMs. It didn't work either because it said the bank network was down. Luckily, I was a somewhat regular customer, so the owner took a check.

It was an eyeopener to how dependent I had become on a bank debit card. The owner of the restaurant said that all Chinese (or at least the Chinese he knows) do not trust banks, so they use cash as much as possible. Aparently in his Tiawan there have been some bank failures or mergers where the depositors only get a fraction of their money out of the bank and that is one reason he uses cash (having the IRS tracking your income is another). He said it was not uncommon for some of his wealthy friends in California to have 1/2 a mil in cash hidden away in their homes (a real bummer if there is a wildfire and the house goes up in smoke). That attitude doesn't sound that much different from those who lived through the Great Depression.

Also note that the Federal Reserve is increasing the amount of cash in circulation because of the demand to have cash for y2k purposes.

Why We Don't Base Our Currency on Gold (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1809554)

The reason why the gold (and silver) standards were abolished is ultimately because they were based on an assumption of low technology. It was assumed that the amount of bullion in circulation was far larger than production- a valid assumption for most of human history.

The "classical" gold standard collapsed after the discovery of vast silver fields in the western United States, and above all, the gold deposits of the Witwatersrand area around Johannesburg. Between 1895 and 1914, an amount of gold was extracted from the Witwatersrand (despite the interruptions during the Boer War) equal to the amount of gold in circulation previous to that time. At that point it was decided that in a technologically advanced society, there are farr more stable things to base a currency on than gold.

There are other problems as well. In the early days of the Saudi Arabian oil fields, they had to pay people in bullion because of a lack of a local currency, and they had all sorts of trouble lugging all the stuff around. This problem, however, could be fixed by paying out certificates redeemable in gold. Of course, that means you have to trust the entity which issues the certificates.

In fact, the IMF now requires that a country must not be based on gold in order to join.

Re:NYC kicks ass! (1)

ksheff (2406) | more than 14 years ago | (#1809555)

That's an interesting view. I've heard several y2k 'experts' fear that NYC may become like Beruit if there is a major power grid/communications failure in the NorthEast.

Whether there is a power failure or not, I wouldn't be surprised if some of 'celebration' of the end of 1999 includes a few riots and looting sprees. Hey, it happens when the Bulls win the NBA finals, why not with Y2K?

Re:Hmm (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1809556)

Heh, well I meant like mugging people at the ATM or those big counterfeiting rings we see in movies(I'm guessing they really do exist...).

Yeah, I guess its a bit easier to steal money that way, but there's less of an actual confrontation like with cash...

Re:HAHAHA (1)

qmrf (52837) | more than 14 years ago | (#1809557)

Similarly, I've seen people use prepaid gas station cards to pay for stuff, and not have the card's balance change in ten trips...

Re:Definition..can it be reconvieved? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1809558)

Must money function as a store of value? What if it COST you money to leave it in the bank? It's been tried, and has proven to increase the velocity of money [transaction.net], and to motivate investment in long-term values rather than short-term killings.

Re: Not a big deal (1)

Hard_Code (49548) | more than 14 years ago | (#1809559)

I don't really see what happened as a "big deal". Yes, "lots" (relatively...actually that's a paltry sum when distributed over many people), of money was incorrectly debited. But that is exactly it: *incorrectly debited*. Not *vanished*, or *disappeared*. The asynchronous notification just never made it back due to slow communication lines...something which should have been accounted for but wasn't for some reason. This is a lot *less* serious than data being scrambled, records being lost, and money *actually* *disappearing* with no electronic (or otherwise) memory left over. That this problem was immediately found, recognized, and reversed in such a short time *boosts* my confidence in such a system. Now if it really disappeared without a trace that would be a Bad Thing...

Oh, by the way GOLD and SILVER retain no value whatsoever with me (re: "GOLD and SILVER still retain value"). What the HECK do I really need a lump of metal for??? Money has value because of an implicit TRUST amongst people. That trust, to me, is the same, whether it is paper money, electronic records, or a lump of metal. In fact, I'd rather not keep piles of metal around just so I could buy stuff.

That an economy and government would be subject to crumbling due to a shift away from solid currency is just evidence that people are stupid and irrational (oh no, this paper is worth nothing!! where are those lumps of metal I can buy stuff with!?!?! Ahh!!)

Cash is unreliable, too (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1809560)

I'd imagine most people have had far more cash lost or stolen than with cashless systems.

gold standard is ridiculous (1)

sh_mmer (63202) | more than 14 years ago | (#1809561)

guys,

do you really think that all of the gold in the world is as valuable as all of the cash in the world? if not, what good is it to gurantee your ability to trade cash in for gold when you can't possibly do it?

besides, i personally have little use for gold itself--the best i can hope for is that someone else will be willing to trade me for something that i do want--but that's just exactly what i hope for when i earn my little green pieces of paper.

Re:Definition of Money (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1809562)

Damn someone knows his/her ECON.

I'm impressed to hear it applied to a situation like that. I honestly thought that my Macroecon class this past semester was good for nothing but sleeping after lunch.

*Sound of one fool clapping*

Sigh... (2)

Vladinator (29743) | more than 14 years ago | (#1809563)

This illistrates perfectly why moving away from the gold standard was a Bad Idea(tm). When infrastructure freaks out, get's destroyed, it's government falls, etc. GOLD and SILVER still retain value. This is why it's good to have real gold coins, etc. locked away.

I use VISA, but that's as far I as trust this plastic crap. I was pissed when my former employer (The US Navy) FORCED me to go to direct deposit to get paid.

All things considered, this kind of tech is not ready yet. I'd like cash, please.
"I have no respect for a man who can only spell a word one way." - Mark Twain

Cash are more prone to error (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1809564)

Lack of knowledge on the subject of money cause profound hysteria in the community. I encourage before you say "kinda scary" you look at the ramification and technical details on the evolution of money and their efficiency. We started using cattles and land to do trading. That didn't work too well because the physical size of the trading and the validity of trading if distance is a concern. Then we move to gold, silver, and possibly diamond. Metals are bound by the limit as to how much we can carry. Limited amount of money can be delivered effective using this system -- Along comes paper money -- it has been quite an effective form of exchange for hundred of years until we find a better form of exchange, digital exchange. Most effective and efficient from of monetary exchange is digital exchange. In place are banks that rely on computers to manage the billions and trillions of dollars transact every days, months, and years. Safe keep from prone of errors are log to indicate the time of transaction, and the purpose of transaction. Back tracks are easy to determine versus a paper society when tracing is very difficult.

Gold... (2)

Jeremiah (3476) | more than 14 years ago | (#1809565)

Isn't (paper) cash money only backed by trust, though? Unless you barter every transaction with valuable property, you're going to have to accept some level of immateriality in your money.

There is a hotel that accepts items in exchange for accomodations. There was a recent story about a man who tried to pay for his stay with an iguana. When they refused, he let it loose. I have not yet heard the report of its capture.

Hmmm... this crash may revive other definitions... (1)

Sun Tzu (41522) | more than 14 years ago | (#1809566)

of the word "crash". Imagine such a system crash happening on a large scale. 1929, here we come!

Re:Sigh... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1809567)

Interesting idea. Why do gold and silver retain value though, is it JUST their scarcity? What if we found a really huge gold deposit? Would all that gold still be the same value?

Hmm.. so if the whole infrastructure did go down, do you really think people would start dealing in gold? That would be weird...

Re:Sigh... (1)

Maxwell_E (16977) | more than 14 years ago | (#1809568)

I disagree with the point about having some gold on hand. If the US dollar isn't worth squat for whatever reason, then presumably, some bad Juju has hit the fan. You'd be better off spending your gold now on canned goods, bottled water and extra ammunition. (To latter to protect the former, eh?)

Re:Sigh... (1)

Vladinator (29743) | more than 14 years ago | (#1809569)

Oh, I beleave it. Not to sound like a survivalist nut or the like, but I also have weapons. What if there was no law either? I'm well trained in thier use, and as I said, I'm not a nut. Gold has been currency for a long long time. Same with silver. In the United States, our money used to be redeamable for silver directly! FWIW, I'm not predicting WW3 here, or Mad Max type stuff. I'm just saying, have some food, water, weapons and gold onhand. You never know.
"I have no respect for a man who can only spell a word one way." - Mark Twain

Re:Sigh... (precious metals and scarcity) (1)

Sun Tzu (41522) | more than 14 years ago | (#1809570)

Hmmm... The planet has been scoured for millenia by people searching, sometimes desperately, for gold. Sure, there might be a big deposit uncovered tomorrow, but I think it's a tad more likely that there will be a big inflating of the bogomoney supply tomorrow. The latter is certainly easier and the controls are guarded by people you probably wouldn't sign your mortgage over to in a trust.

US Dollar is backeb by ICBMs (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1809571)

Trust? Ha!

Re:Sigh... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1809573)

Gold retains its value because most of it is locked up in goverment bank vaults. When they decide to sell some as the british gov is doing at the moment the price drops to reflect the increased supply.

basically its a rigged market far less reliable than actual paper money in your account.

The reason I like cash is ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1809574)

I like using cash because credit card companies target you based on your spending habits and sell this information to other companies. I don't like the Establishment knowing that I do drugs (alchol and caffiene), don't always eat a healthy diet (root beer, chips), what kind of clothes I wear and that I stay up way too late. Screw 'em. Use cash.

US basically cashless at institutional level (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1809575)

Banks don't send bags of money to each other.

Large bills are hardly ever handled with cash.

Credit card use is now or will soon outpace cash use.

What worries me the most... (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1809576)

is that an error rate of one in 10,000 transactions is NORMAL? there is no mention of what an "error" is either...

Re:Sigh... (2)

craw (6958) | more than 14 years ago | (#1809577)

I don't necesarily agree with your comment about moving away from the gold standard. However, your main point about owning gold is something to consider. While gold (and silver) prices do fluctuate, it tends to be more stable than some national currency (e.g., the ruble). This I believe is because the value of gold is globally based.

People in many parts of the world do invest heavily in gold. In the middle east and India, gold jewery is primarily 22 carat (not the pathetic 14 carat here in the US). Why? Because gold jewery is an investment that one can also conveniently wear. The price is also very low. Furthermore, IIRC, in certain cultures one does not wear jewery of a dead person. Instead, one melts it down and makes new jewery.

As you may know, the IMF, Switzerland, the US, and others are seriously thinking about selling off part of their gold reserve in order to finance some projects. For instance, the Swiss sell off would be used to provide compensation for victims of the Holocaust.

However, the article that I read listed some interesting numbers. It said that 4000 tons of gold is supplied to the global market each year (the US has 8000 tons). So, 4000 tons per year X 2000 lb per ton X 16 ounces per lb X $260 per ounce = $33 billion per year. By today's economic standards, this is a paltry amount of money.

Re:What worries me the most... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1809578)

And this is without people trying to induce beneficial (to them) errors in the system. When electronic fund transfer becomes the defacto standard for banking transactions, bank robbers will be using computer assaults, and not assault rifles.

Re:Sigh... (gold less reliable than paper?) (1)

Sun Tzu (41522) | more than 14 years ago | (#1809579)

I'm not so sure. 120 years ago you could buy a new hunting rifle for about an ounce of gold. That price has remained pretty constant. However, I don't know of any decent, much less new, hunting rifles going for $20 today. Before claiming the value of gold to be less stable than unbacked currency, I think the long-term value of each should be compared. I believe the value of gold will appear *almost constant* compared to baseless currency.

You're right, of course, in your first point about governments and gold value. Governments can, through massive coordinated actions, dramatically affect the price of gold.

I don't think your second point logically follows, however, because a single government, through a simple sustained lapse of discipline, can much more drastically affect the price of your cash. History is full of examples.

Re:Sigh... (1)

Brandon S. Allbery (500) | more than 14 years ago | (#1809580)

...and canned goods, bottled water, and ammo will be worth a lot more if that happens. Barter is far more fundamental than gold/silver/etc. standards, and almost guaranteed to survive any conceivable disaster that leaves anyone around to care about the aftermath.

HAHA Check gold prices lately? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1809581)

Let's just say its better to invest in a savings account.

I am always reminded of... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1809582)

...a picture in National Geographic that had pictures of folks in some small god-forsaken African country who's currency collapsed. The currency sheets were folded up into useful products like baskets and napsacks.

E-Money is no different, except that you can used it for something useful when the shit hits the fan. So, the next time someone tells you that cyber-this and internet-that is the future, remeber that you still shove atoms down your gullet to keep your nasty human body working.

Nothing has ever been the same since countries started hopping off the gold standard. Internet IPOs will be the next major "adjustment" to once again shake the tree of stock market faith.

gold? (1)

RoLlEr_CoAsTeR (39353) | more than 14 years ago | (#1809583)

You know, gold wouldn't be so cool to have as a standard if people didn't think it was so pretty, and if, for some reason, people didn't regard it so highly. We could have just as easily decided that lead, tin, etc, etc... was to be the standard for backing up currency. However, due to gold's apparent wide-spread appeal (and it's value in electronics, perhaps?), it appears to have been the unanimous choice (except for when, sometime in America's history, a candidate for president ran on the silver ticket, or something like that) for the standard currency throughout America/the world. What happens if/when we "run out"? (Or, is it possible to "run out" of gold?)

The error is just like the ones here... (1)

Barbarian (9467) | more than 14 years ago | (#1809585)

When the computer screws up and says a code that means "Transaction timed out" but the dumb cashier thinks it means "Pick up card and snip in half" because they haven't seen it before.

I'm sure we have more than 1/10000 error rate with Credit and Debit cards too.

When you have things like WWI... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1809586)

Government's needing funds for war and reparations creates funny money and imbalances. Gold standards didn't cause the depression.

Re:HAHA Check gold prices lately? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1809587)

Gold had a period too...

It's just that you can't pull up all data you need to see it from that nifty CD-ROM of the Standard&Poor's last 20 years of finicial data reduction.

I'll the the small chance of error (1)

symbolic (11752) | more than 14 years ago | (#1809588)

associated with cash ANY DAY OF THE YEAR over something that can be tracked, profiled, pimped, and misused in general. Initiate a transaction with a card (or other device designed to identify you), there's no telling WHO might end up with the information. Make one with cash, and no one knows you from Adam - which, for the most part, is just how it should be.

gold or currency value (1)

BB (5050) | more than 14 years ago | (#1809589)

What strange about that comparision is that 120 years ago guns started to become very cheap to manufacture due to industrial technology. Using the price of a gun in terms of dollars or gold isn't a very good measurement of value.

What has really risen dramatically is the ability of a person to buy an ounce of gold or a rifle. The cost today is about 1% of an average annual salary, while 120 years ago it was probably 10%.

Maybe the most important feature of gold is that the value of it is largely based on the worldwide market, albeit a market under control of all the rich countries. Currency, on the other hand, is completely controlled by the individual government, albeit most governments have obligations to other government in the form of treaties and agreements. Thus, if if trust your government there is no need for gold. If you don't trust your government and you do trust all the governments together, buy gold. If you don't trust any government, stockpile food, water and weapons. Or perhaps just a lot of weapons. :-) And a few beautiful girls.
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