We live in a rapidly evolving world that is rushing headfirst toward a technological revolution. This means adopting a digital currency and moving toward a society where cash is obsolete and made irrelevant by laws. What does that portend for the future crime novelist? Will it change the way we chronicle criminal behavior? Will it render us as futurists and science fiction storytellers, seeing that everything in our lives will be moving over to technology?
And how will authors write about a society in which petty theft, burglary and drug transactions no longer occur on a regular basis? Will some form of black market currency replace the dollar and allow individuals to continue to pursue their darkest desires? What will happen to blackmail, robbery and extortion when digital currency makes ‘follow the money trail’ much easier.
These are fascinating questions for future and current writers of crime fiction. A cashless society, on the surface, seems like a good idea. The absence of hard currency will no doubt eliminate certain vile crimes in society, but at what risk? Do we really want the government—Big Brother—knowing what we spend our hard-earned money on? Or tracking our spending habits? What about tax evasion, the type Al Capone committed? And how will digital transactions affect the vice industries such as strip clubs, prostitution, drugs and pornography?
It might seem sad that I pay homage to the future loss of these criminal enterprises. As a human being, I recognize that it’s a positive development to watch these vice industries slowly fade away. The human tragedy that occurs from such degrading and dehumanizing activity is significant and worth eliminating. But this is our reality right now in certain pockets of the country. It reveals the disturbing darkness that lives in the hearts of many persons. It also reveals the general public’s complicity in allowing such horrible behaviors to perpetuate and simmer. Does that mean that authors decades from now will only be able to write about such activity through the lens of historical fiction? These are the questions I keep asking myself when considering future novels.
Cash greases palms and makes it possible for bad things to happen. It’s the engine that fuels aberrant behavior: behavior not fit for proper society. Cash facilitates crime, anonymously and with lightning speed, however repulsive these behaviors are. Digital currency will all but eliminate these unlawful actions. But will it cause humans to repress their desires and stop engaging in such risky behavior? Will the knowing eye of Big Brother shut the door to certain cash-based crimes that can only occur if there’s fiat currency?
As an author, I ask what will happen to the hooker with a heart? The neighborhood bookie who collects numbers and helps out the elderly people in his neighborhood? The corrupt politician who takes cash bribes on the sly in exchange for a desirable outcome? The local drug dealer? The purse snatcher? The pimp? Is there a more celebrated character in crime movies and novels as the pimp? Will the changing face of crime in the twenty-first century reflect these new realities or morph into something completely different?
I’m sure financial methods will change over time, as all things are wont to do. Thieves will learn how to manipulate this new technology and profit illegally from it. It may not be as violent as a street mugging, but it certainly will be more lucrative. Hacks will plunder cryptocurrency accounts and transfer these assets into personal wallets. They’ll steal digital fiat out of banks and financial institutions. Recently, the Colonial Pipeline paid five million dollars in cryptocurrency to retrieve breached information that was hacked from their website. Thieves ride the subway every day during rush hour, their devices skimming off NFC phones left unlocked by fellow passengers. These thefts are silent and lucrative, highly technological in nature and leaving no physical injuries behind.
As bad as I feel for the many victims of vice and violent crimes, I’m not yet ready to give up my cash and cede our privacy over to Big Brother. So I will continue to chronicle these stories. Maybe in ten years we’ll have a cashless society, but until then make sure to keep paying off your bookie’s nut and tipping your waiters and waitress. Cash is still gold to us writers. Thank goodness.