So we have established that money can't buy you happiness, but how will the world look as we move closer and closer to a "moneyless" society. Will the term "filthy lucre" finally be rendered redundant?
Money is going out of fashion. At least coins, notes and cheques most certainly are, only to be replaced by electronic transactions of all kinds. It has been a very long time since the numbers in your bank account had anything to do with real wealth. Currency once stood in as a token for something valuable - like gold - but modern currencies are more like a mass mirage that we can all see. As long as we all agree that a currency has value, and preferably the same value, then it all stacks up. Virtual Goods
Due to an overall increase in consumer confidence, analysts believe the sale of virtual goods could rake in more than $2.2bn this year and around $12.5bn worldwide, according to ThinkEquity. That's a dramatic burst of cash compared to just two years earlier, when the virtual goods market tallied $738mn in the U.S. and $6.3bn worldwide. Risky Business
In the UK, a 29-year-old hacker was caught stealing the identities of two Zynga employees
and swiping $12mn in the company's virtual currency. Given the potential loopholes, International regulators are now wrapping their heads around an industry that only a decade ago hardly existed. Virtual CurrenciesBitcoins
are produced without the involvement of governments or banks, thus avoiding taxes. Instead, they are generated by software and are stored in an online e-wallet, similar to cash. As of May 2011 there were 6.2mn Bitcoins in circulation and the value has rocketed to over $6 per Bitcoin, making the total Bitcoin economy worth over $36 million.
Several of Silicon Valley's tech behemoths are also battling to take control of this burgeoning market. After dabbling more than a year on tests with its Credits system, Facebook's virtual currency
hit its stride last September when it became, among other things, the exclusive payment method for most applications created by Zynga, the developer of a roster of games including Mafia Wars and FarmVille (the latter now boasts 65 million players). Besides online, Credits can be purchased in the form of gift cards at brick-and-mortar retailers such as Walmart, Best Buy, and Target. And they aren't just exchanged for dollars, but euros, Danish krone, and 13 other currencies. Mobile Payments
Mobile payment transactions already total $240bn annually, but that's just the tip of the iceberg. Juniper Research predicts that the market will grow 2 or 3 times in the next 5 years.
So how will we keep track in a world where everyone is spending and lending both real and virtual currencies? It seems that cellphone apps like the recently launched Google Wallet
will be key. An app could let you manage any number of currencies and trade them with your friends - or even do it for you. It will be a simple case of letting the phone sort it out.