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Not that long ago contactless payment was introduced in my country; it's fast, and still safe as larger amounts still require a PIN. However, a few days ago, I was kind of shocked. I wanted to go to the toilet in one of the train stations, and to my amazement, I could go in by just holding my card next to entrance gate of the bathroom, which took 0.70EUR of my card.

I thought it was kind of cool, I told my (old) dad that I expected that within 20 years cash would be old-fashioned and that contactless payment would be the new way to go; to pay for WiFi at an airport, to enter a building/area of some kind etc.

But I also imagined that in low populated areas, it could be used to turn on streetlights for a short time for example. Or how it could be used to heat your hotelroom for a short amount of time, or to have access to X liters of water at a public tap. Or to have your garbage collected. I thought the idea of micro paying for thse kind of things was quite cool and that it's good for the environment.

Until my dad told me: "It's all fun and games, until there are people who have no money on their cards. They can't go anywhere, they can't use anything. They are hopeless." Which reminded me of the movie "In Time" which suddenly made me quite skeptic about the whole idea of contactless payment.

So the question is, will our society turn into a micropayment society? And if it does, what are the consequences for poor people?

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    $\begingroup$ Trasfer me $.03 and I will tell you the answer $\endgroup$ – Keltari Feb 10 '17 at 10:18
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    $\begingroup$ While i like your question, it does not belong here, because it is not only too broad and primarily opinion-based, it's also not about worldbuilding. $\endgroup$ – Burki Feb 10 '17 at 10:20
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    $\begingroup$ I agree with Burki, whilst the question is interesting perhaps more suited to world building is a question where you are writing a story based on the premise that we have turned into a micropayment society and want to know if some effect is reasonable or perhaps you've got a particular idea about the change and want to know how it might effect some part of society. $\endgroup$ – Lio Elbammalf Feb 10 '17 at 10:47
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    $\begingroup$ If you are a bit tech-savvy you might want to have a look at different blockchain-based technologies, such as Bitcoin and Ethereum. There is a project called Raiden which aims to provide an extension to Ethereum to allow fast micropayments. We are talking here about fractions of a cent. Read the paragraph Application for some high-level usecases. All in all: we are on our way! $\endgroup$ – Secespitus Feb 10 '17 at 11:51
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    $\begingroup$ Offtopic: But WTF is that about paywalling a toilet in a train station. $\endgroup$ – Faerindel Feb 10 '17 at 11:54
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Partially

  • Transaction costs

Each transaction has its cost. A micro-payment system can be more expensive especially if there is cost splitting between stakeholders. You can automatize that by game theoretic auction agents, but still you need to design rules for splitting etc. It can be a source of volatility in a price:

  • Budgeting

People are beginning to accept to pay for a service rather than a limited ownership. They no longer buy CD:s for music, but a contract of having an access to the music online. Fixed annual charges have less risk because they can predict the ultimate costs better. Concretely you can see this in swap options where companies change their interests because another has a better fixed interest rate and the another gets Euribor tied or such rate. So they may be willing to pay for the fixed charge a premium that the service provider may be willing to take.

For the poor it has a varying effects. A micro-payment can remove some barriers, as everybody has that 1 cent for some service, but a poor one may not have the amount of liquid funds to have an automatic paying agent that pays for example of loitering around and using the streets. Depends...

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There's a few problems with your model there.

Micro-payments are great when the purchase directly applies to the person buying the product or service.

So, for train journeys, buying oranges, phone charges, it works great.

But what happens when those goods/services are shared either intentionally or unintentionally?

Streetlights - you might not be the only person walking past that light - why should you pay for light that someone else is using? Is it ok for you to withhold payment? Is it a good thing that poor people are implicitly at more risk in the darkness?

Hotel room heating - Heat tends to stick around for a while within buildings, so when you pay for a nice toasty room, are you ok with also providing some heating for your neighbours and people who rent the same room after you?

Leaky tap/faucet - Are you ok with continuing to micro-pay for a tap/faucet that you last used (and either leaks or you didn't close off properly)?

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  • $\begingroup$ I think OP view is to pre-paid so you would pay only for water you use and it would also stop any leak by cutting of unpaid water. But all your problem create possibility for shared economy. $\endgroup$ – SZCZERZO KŁY Feb 10 '17 at 11:45
  • $\begingroup$ OP specified a "public" tap. Who pays for those leaks or someone forgetting to turn it off? $\endgroup$ – user10945 Feb 10 '17 at 11:47
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    $\begingroup$ That's what prepaid do. You can only use the amount you paid for. So if you pay for 1 litre and use only half then after pouring another half the tap turn itself off. Fixing a leak is in operator remit. He's losing money when water no one paid for is being wasted. $\endgroup$ – SZCZERZO KŁY Feb 10 '17 at 12:06
  • $\begingroup$ @SZCZERZOKŁY is right about my view on the water tap. And Pete, I agree with the hotel room heating. But with the street lights for exampe; there may be a system that turns street lights on in a 100m radius around you if you pay 2 dollars per hour for example. Especially at night, when it is costly for the government to run all streetlights even though nearly nobody is using them. I like your answer though pete! $\endgroup$ – Thomas W Feb 10 '17 at 12:39
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"will our society turn into a micropayment society?" - we already are, we just don't "micropay" with one channel. For example, you pay for something with sms, you pay for stroopwafel with cash and you pay for toilet with card.

In the end it's all linked to your account. So to answer your second question " what are the consequences for poor people?" - how much credit do they can make on their account?

And because I'm a dark person with pessimistic view on the future I see the enforcing non cash transactions to enslave people into being forever in debt to pay for the basic necessities.
And to introduce total invigilation and gathering of people habits.

On the bright side the free people will escape to the mountains and soon war will ensue between the Nondebtarians and Creditcarders.

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