Issue #22 Cashless is king 👑 — Thoughts on Tech & Things

Howdy👋🏾, the pandemic supercharged trends in digital transformation. COVID forced us to adapt to a new cashless world of tablet power checkout systems and real-time payment platforms.

Restaurants entering the pandemic quickly discovered that online ordering and delivery would be critical to their survival, forcing them to reevaluate point of sale (POS) systems for modern platforms with online storefronts and support for direct integration with popular delivery sites like DoorDash and Uber Eats. This digital transformation drove tremendous growth for companies like ToastClover, and Square.

Retailers saw similar disruption and rushed to offer e-commerce storefronts using services like Stripe and Shopify that, in some cases, expanded their reach by integrating with digital storefronts like Amazon, Etsy, and eBay. Retailers like Uniqlo have eliminated clerks and began using radio frequency identification readers in their checkout machines. Shoppers drop their items in bins at automated checkout stations that read RFID tags, eliminating the need for scanning by hand.

As the pandemic ended and customers began to return in person, we walked into a world that had changed more than most of us realized. In restaurants, wait staff sported handheld devices strapped to their wrists that took orders and payments. Those giant black POS systems were replaced with slim tablets on swivels. Several store layouts changed to support the parallel process of online and in-person orders, with cubicles or shelves dedicated to order pickups.

As all this happened, you have to wonder, is cash still king? Credit and debit card payments have long become the norm, but increasingly, retail establishments have begun saying no to cash. At first, many retailers feared COVID and how the contagion spread, but as those policies became normal, many noticed left shrinkage and pushed further with cashless policies.

For my kid’s generation, cash has always been a bit of a sideshow. Their birthday and Christmas cards from grandma came with gift cards or digital tokens for their favorite gaming platform. As teenagers, they shifted to payment platforms like Cash App, Venmo, and Zelle. Their allowance comes through platforms like Greenlight that provide kids with debit cards, access to stocks and investments, and parent-backed saving accounts.

The use of cash has diminished to the point that the number of ATMs in the US continues to decline. Heck, ATMs today can take cash and output gift cards for those who find themselves in cashless stores. If you cut open the mattress, maybe you’ll find tons and tons of gift cards that don’t expire and a few coins no one knows what to do with. Now on to some thoughts on tech & things:

⚡️That could have been a press release. Apple launched an uncharacteristic Halloween-themed event to announce new M3 processors that blow any Intel chip out of the water. With it came new iMacs and Macbook Pros, all sporting these high-speed chips, but at the same time physically identical to their predecessors. The new chips are a technological advancement that should be celebrated, but somehow, it feels formulaic and unexciting. more >

⚡️ChatGPT is not the only game in town. Anthropic’s Claude 2 continues to impress, and I’m not the only person taking notice of a Large Langauge Model (LLM). Google just invested 500 million, promising to inject up to 2 billion, just weeks after Amazon offered to invest up to 4 billion. Do yourself a favor and give Claude a trymore >

⚡️ EVs just aren’t working? The news on EV issues over the last two weeks has been pretty negative, with several prominent car executives admitting that sales haven’t been there. Cost is a huge part of that, with the average EV cost reaching 54k (down from 65k in 2022), well above what most families are willing to spend. EV first adopters who can afford it leaped, leaving us with an oversupply tied to a skeptical consumer base wondering why they should pay more for an EV. more >

⚡️Hertz regrets its EV investment. Hertz made a huge bet on EVs, planning to buy 100,000 Teslas with lower routine maintenance costs. The problem is that maintenance costs might be lower, but repair costs after accidents have come in substantially higher than expected. Several EV owners have found themselves flabbergasted at 20k repair bills, especially when the car’s batteries are destroyed or require repair. more >

⚡️Cruise suspends cars. Weeks after my first ride in a Waymo, GM’s Cruise shut down all of its self-driving cars after a human-driven car knocked a person into the robotaxi’s path. The taxi, knowing it was in an accident, pulled over, driving an additional 20 feet with the person pinned beneath the car as it moved. more >

Going cashless is not a bad thing, but it’s a significant shift for many and puts a lot of trust in our financial system. Cash is cash. You know what you have, but our digital cash is stored in some system that is dependent on other people and bank regulations. When a bank like Silicon Valley Bank closes or a large trusted Bitcoin exchange like FTX shuts down, it can make you question our reliance on lesser-known companies like Cash App or Venmo. Lucky for us, Elon Musk and X are here to save the day, or maybe it’s time we reconsider what we call a bank.

Speaking of cashless, WordPress VIP and Mindgrub are putting our first free GovTalk on Expanding Government WordPress Reach with AI and Multilingual Content. The event will be in person at The Pitch at the Wharf in DC at 9 AM. I would love to see you, and be sure to RSVP!

-jason

p.s. The AI deep fakes are here, and it’s only going to get harder and harder to tell the truth from fiction. Scarlet Johansson is suing a developer for using her likeness and voice in a series of ads. This is after a warning from Tom Hanks and others about ads that are not them. Things are going to get very interesting