Overnight in excess of 7 billion humans (current entire human population) are struck by a curse, the passive ability to read the mind of anyone within close proximity (10m radius). Since then privacy is broken and so is banking, no secret is safe nor are any safes. Would banking still work? If not, how to remedy this?

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    $\begingroup$ I think the immediate social effects of such a curse (e.g. discovering exactly what your 'friends' think about you) would render the effects on the monetary system as a minor inconvenience. $\endgroup$ Dec 29, 2016 at 9:36
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    $\begingroup$ I think Facebook and Gmail would be hit harder than the banks. The banking system generally uses two-factor authentification, so you cannot "just steal" the bank password of someone. $\endgroup$
    – Thalantas
    Dec 29, 2016 at 9:55
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    $\begingroup$ @Thalantas That should probably be two-factor authentication rather than two-way authentication. "Two-way auth" implies that both sides are authenticated at least to an equal level; when was the last time you asked the bank teller for their ID and an explanation of how they got the job? $\endgroup$
    – user
    Dec 29, 2016 at 9:57
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    $\begingroup$ My kingdom for a tin foil hat!!! $\endgroup$
    – Bookeater
    Dec 29, 2016 at 12:16
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    $\begingroup$ @user6760 please edit the question to add relevant info. Comments are temporary and with less visibility. $\endgroup$ Dec 29, 2016 at 13:36

5 Answers 5


Privacy is broken, but safes are not.

Combination locks can no longer be used, but good old key locks would still function.

Computer passwords will be broken, but key cards and other physical dongles will still protect you.

Modern computerized encryption is built on keys so long humans cannot remember them, so nobody can steal them.

The good old-fashioned guard is also working. In fact, guards will work better than before since their employers can find out if they are loyal, and the guards can find out if other people are honest.

There will be a period of chaos where things protected only by secrets will be stolen, but I think we will sort things out quickly.

Also remember that thieves will have a hard time hiding. They can't sell the stolen goods without the buyer knowing they what they are buying. Those buyer can't show off their new stuff without radiating "This is stolen goods."

I think the criminal underworld will have a very hard time surviving in this new world.

Most people have a vested interest in society working as normal, and we will conspire to keep things going. Having banks and money is so useful that we will all continue pretending nothing has changed.

Consider a locked glass door. Anybody can break the glass and enter, but very few people will actually do that. The new society will have a lot of "locked glass doors". And very few of them will be broken. (I think)

Some rich people are probably going to isolate themselves and only speak to people by phone. Their loss.

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    $\begingroup$ There's also two-factor identification, like texting your phone to verify it's you. In terms of digital security, this would simply speed the death of the already dying password. $\endgroup$
    – SethWhite
    Dec 29, 2016 at 15:13
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    $\begingroup$ I'd add on a mention of a loophole in the "selling stolen goods" department- if you never come within 10m of the seller, you won't read their mind. I foresee a lot more stolen sales becoming phone-call > arrange dropoff, or a lot more handlers that are too stupid to realize the stuff is stolen. $\endgroup$
    – Delioth
    Dec 29, 2016 at 15:32

No. Let's talk about money. The main purpose of money is to serve as a medium of exchange. Basically, if I am a farmer and you are a butcher, but you want clothes today, we can't do business through the barter system. Instead, we do business by paying each other in money and then we can purchase whatever we want from third parties.

Money does nothing more than make transactions easier. The value of money, therefore, is not based on what that money is made of, but rather, what you can buy for your money.

That doesn't change in this situation. Foremost, most simplistic economic models which people learn in introductory and intermediate economics assume perfect information. This is basically that. Issues with adverse selection, used-car salesmen hiding information from others, and swindlers would go down dramatically, because people will know exactly what they are buying.

Money secured by computers and combination locks might be less secure, but quite a lot of money (circulating currency) is secured not by those computers, but rather, 'rough men [who] stand ready in the night to visit violence on those who would do us harm'. If you want to steal someone's wallet, you will still have to wrestle that wallet away from them.

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    $\begingroup$ "people will know exactly what they are buying" To the point that anyone physically near them does, at least. $\endgroup$
    – user
    Dec 29, 2016 at 9:59
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    $\begingroup$ Good to see someone integrating a quote from George Orwell (if I have recognized it correctly) into their answer. The secret of how used-car salesmen work is not that hide information from their customers, but they don't know how cars work or what could be wrong with them. With the perfect innocence of ignorance they can sell tainted goods with conscience free of doubt (and knowledge). $\endgroup$
    – a4android
    Dec 29, 2016 at 11:36

I don't think banking will be affected at all. Let's assume that now this curse is applied to everyone around me. I use credit card and internet banking. They know the password of my credit card, but I still have the card, so the password is useless without the card. They also know my password for internet banking. When they try to login to my account, my bank still sends my phone which I still possess a one-time code for authentication, and without that one-time password, my login password is also useless.

Their only option is to impersonate me. To do that, they need a valid paper( my personal ID) and they still need my face(Face database of the government). Also now this curse is applied to everyone and everyone is aware of it, extra cautions will be taken to prevent impersonation (Also I know your evil thoughts about stealing money from someone). Banking system won't have any threats other than it has now.

Unless you beat me up and steal my card or my phone(I know that you will because of the curse , so I break my card or phone before you touch it), there is not much to do.

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    $\begingroup$ Even if they do have your ID and impersonate you, if they do that in person, the teller can read their thoughts, rendering the impersonation useless, no matter how many pieces of paper they have. $\endgroup$ Dec 29, 2016 at 15:23
  • $\begingroup$ @ErinThursby exactly. Thats what I meant by saying 'I know your evil thoughts about stealing... ) $\endgroup$ Dec 29, 2016 at 15:31

Despite all the marketing, when I go to the bank office I know that it is not that they care about me, but about the money they can make with me. Yet I keep going.

There is no need for privacy for banking; economical data is (usually) kept private for other reasons (people who do not want other people knowing how well/bad off they are doing).

In fact, telepathy would bring us closer to the ideal capitalist setting, in which the consumer/investor is supposed to have perfect information (and also be rational, whatever that means). If I know that the bank clerk can offer me up to 1% and the bank clerk knows that I want a 2%, we can before wasting anybody's time. And just a few fast visits to the other banks in the city will tell me which one is willing to give me more, which would lead to increased competitions from the other banks.

Switzerland and other tax evasion/money laundering havens would end being hurt most for this measure, but regular banking would not. At most they would have to stop ending password protected internet business and use identification by biometrics or by hardware tokens.

  • $\begingroup$ bank clerk knows that I want a 2%, we can before wasting anybody's time Can what before wasting anybody's time? $\endgroup$
    – Zack
    Dec 29, 2016 at 14:47

No, banking isn't rendered worthless, circa 2016. However, people would need to spend a bit of an extra effort to not be victims.

  • 2-factor authentication takes care of (lack of) privacy attacks. Anything from physical cards/tokens, to push notifications to trusted device creating one-time temporary second factor.

  • Biometric authentication can phase out passwords. iPhone can already use your fingerprint to authenticate Apple's wallet systems. Iris scanning is feasible.

  • Blockchain technologies help with ensuring authentication as well.


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