A short overview of a trip to Malmo, Sweden where the Many attended this fantastic conference that blew their minds.

The Conference, one conference to rule them all, a whirlwind of creative thinking and speculative views on the future whilst learning from our collective past. Set in the tech hub of Malmo, Sweden.

A cashless society

There were many seminars I wanted to attend but the one that most interested me was about our move to a cashless society. The reason I gravitated to this seminar was in part due to my adoption of Monzo as my main bank account, as such I was curious about the future of cash. It started off with Jonah Hedman from the Copenhagen Business school, discussing why cash is “dumb” and that we could create programmable currency making money fit for purpose in today’s world. For example:

• A parent could give their child pocket money that could only be spent on healthy food

• A welfare grant that would, without fail, be spent on the child, rather than the parents’ next holiday

• Billions saved in lost VAT money due to money laundering

• The system could be more democratic too, money could be traced to political campaigns, making the process more transparent.

I was left optimistic and proud to be an early adopter of a future that the majority of people have yet to be fully on board with.

See the talk here

Down with banks

Then it happened, my world was flipped upside down, Brett Scott an economic hacker, believes we put too much trust in banks. It’s not a cashless society, it's a “bankful” society, he suggested. Banks have countless data points on how we use our money. An example of this unregulated data use occurred in Hong Kong recently, as protestors started using paper tickets (as opposed to their smart transit passes) to avoid being tracked by the government.

There are so many risks with adopting a fully cashless — bank controlled — financial system. What happens if a bank collapses? Could I lose my earnings and savings at the whim of irresponsible bank lenders, the same ones that had a hand in 2008? My mind raced.

My overall bias towards making my money totally card-based changed. Should I start hiding some banknotes under my bed in a shoebox? All the time wondering if it will be legal tender in years to come. Can we trust banks to control and guide money ethically?

After the seminar, I was left confused and concerned about the more vulnerable people in our society, mainly the homeless. After posing a question on this subject to the panel of presenters it was clear that they were uncomfortable discussing the subject. Away from the crowds, I asked one of the presenters again, his response was that “cash is only a tool, homeless people will find a way to use this new tool eventually.” How many people will have to suffer? The stock response given to a homeless person asking for help is already: “sorry, I don’t carry any change any more.”

See Brett in action here

Hacking democracy

Next, Maria Malho took to the stage to talk about Hacking Democracy. She went into detail about how Demo Helsinki ran a two-year experiment to see how giving a test set of 2,000 unemployed people a universal basic income would change their lives and help the country as a whole.

The results were surprising, the people did not necessarily get more work, but they were happier and would volunteer more. Her study found the need for more universalism to help thrust society into a new era. Harking back to the industrial revolution, institutes were created to combat the changes in society. The comparisons from that revolution to now are strikingly similar highlighting how we could be heading towards a dim future if we don’t do anything about it.

During the Q&A I was compelled to ask Maria: “Does it have to get worse before it gets better?” Her response is that we should learn from our past and so hopefully it won't. With the likes of Trump and Brexit in the world, I’m not so sure about that, especially when compared with what has happened in recent history, it seems like mankind hasn’t really learnt anything.

Take a look at her vision for the future here

To infinity and beyond

The conference was a two-day rollercoaster which left me thinking about the future society we might be living in. That was, until Dr James Beacham’s “What is outside the universe?” presentation. As a scientist at CERN, he works with the Large Hadron Collider, his talk focused on how the search for the god particle would lead to larger questions about our reality. I couldn’t hope to explain anything from this seminar as I wouldn’t be able to do it any justice. What I can do is leave you with my favourite quote (it blew my mind): “If infinity is possible, anything is possible. Sometimes you need to take the big leap… Ask the big big questions, step into the unknown. It’s the fear distracts us.”

And that is where we are, the unknown digital revolution where anything is possible. Thank you The Conference for blowing my mind.

See what's outside the universe here

Related Links

If you want to see all these seminars from The Conference this year, click the link here

And finally our very own Isaac Pinnock talked at The Conference in 2015, check it out here

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