Rich countries are racing to dematerialise payments. They need to do more to prepare for the side-effects.
For the past 3,000 years, when people thought of money they thought of cash. Over the past decade, however, digital payments have taken off— tapping your plastic on a terminal or swiping a smartphone has become normal. Now this revolution is about to turn cash into an endangered species in some rich economies. That will make the economy more efficient—but it also causes new problems that could hold back the transition(转型).
Countries are removing cash at varying speeds. In Sweden the number of retail cash transaction per person has fallen by 80% in the past ten years. America is perhaps a decade behind. Outside the rich world, cash is still king. But even there its leading role is being challenged. In China digital payments rose from 4% of all payments in 2012 to 34% in 2017.
Cash is dying out because of two forces. One is demand— younger consumers want payment systems that plug easily into their digital lives. But equally important is that suppliers such as banks and tech firms (in developed markets) and telecoms companies (in emerging ones) are developing fast, easy-to-use payment technologies from which they can pull data and pocket fees. There is a high cost to running the infrastructure behind the cash economy—ATMs, vans carrying notes, tellers who accept coins. Most financial firms are keen to abandon it, or discourage old-fashioned customers with heavy fees.
In the main, the prospect of a cashless economy is excellent news. Cash is inefficient. When payments dematerialise, people and shops are less open to theft. It also creates a credit history, helping consumers borrow.
Yet set against these benefits are a couple of worries. Electronic payment systems may risk technical failures, power failure and cyber-attacks. In a cashless economy the poor, the elderly and country folk may be left behind. And a digital system could let governments watch over people's shopping habits and private multinationals exploit their personal data.
Many students have trouble sitting quietly. They play with pencils, talk out of turn, and jump to do things before thinking. Others can sit still but find it hard to focus on classwork. They may daydream, struggle to organize their work and forget to do assignments.
Most people feel restless or unglued from time to time, but some feel this way almost all the time. Nearly one out of ten kids have ADHD ( Attention-Deficit /Hyperactivity Disorder ). But ADHD does not have to be a roadblock to achievement. Here, two professionals in their fields share the secrets of their success.
Astronaut Scott Kelly has flown on four space tasks, including one that lasted close to a year. But when he was growing up, he had trouble focusing in school. As a result, he earned low grades. 441 read a novel in college about the space program. The book motivated me to study harder and become a much better student and eventually, an astronaut. The lesson I learned was: Don't give up on yourself. Find something or someone that motivates you and use that to help motivate yourself.
Figure skater Zachary Donohue placed fourth for ice dancing at the 2018 Winter Olympics. In elementary school, Zachary had a hard time making friends because his classmates thought lie was wild, overly excitable and lacking orderly continuity. "A lot of very successful people have ADHD, so wear it with pride. When I was 16, I realized that it was OK for me to be different than others. Now, at 27, I'm learning to understand my own feelings. I still struggle with ADHD, but I've learned that I'm responsible for more than just myself. I've learned how important it is to be organized and to be a step ahead. "
There was a lot of news related to artificial intelligence, or AI, and machine learning. Among the stories were two dealing with direct competitions between humans and machines.
In one competition, machines that used AI performed better than human beings in a high-level reading test. Two natural language processing tools beat human in the experiment. One of the tools was built by the American technology company Microsoft. The other was created by Chinese online seller Alibaba Group.
In another competition, a computer took on humans in live, public debates.
The event demonstrated how AI-powered computers are increasingly being developed to think ' and sound like humans. The organizer of the debates, U. S. technology company IBM, announced split results. It said a majority of those watching said they felt the machine had done more to improve their knowledge of the subject. But, the human got more praise for communicating their ideas.
This year, we also explored the many ways AI and machine learning are now being used. For example, some U. S. judges use machine learning systems to help them decide when, and for how long, criminals should be jailed. The system uses computers to examine data from thousands of court cases.
One fast-growing area of AI is facial recognition, which is increasingly being used for security purposes. Recently, Atlanta's Hartsfield-Jackson airport became the first in the U. S. to permit passengers to use facial recognition technology to get on flights. A Chinese company showed off an AI system it developed to recognize individuals by body shape and walking movements. The system is already being used by Chinese police in Beijing and Shanghai.
In addition, machine learning was used during 2018 to predict results of the World Cup soccer competition. The technology also created artwork that sold for a large amount of money. And it is being used to help farmer save time and money, while reducing environment-harming chemicals. Other technology systems are being used to follow farm animals and wildlife to collect information on their activities.
Our plan was to drive into Cambridge, catch the 7:34 train to Liverpool Street Station, then to separate and meet again for lunch. We should have arrived at Liverpool at 9:19, but due to a typical London fog, the train had to move along so slowly that it was not until 10:30 that it got there. In spite of our late arrival, Joan, my wife's sister, decided that she would go to see the Crown Jewels in the Tower of London while we went shopping. It was only after her sister had disappeared into the fog that my wife realized that we hadn't decided where we should meet for lunch. Since I had our three tickets for the concert in my pocket, this was indeed a problem. There seemed to be nothing we could do except taking a taxi to the Tower of London, and try to find her there. Needless to say, we didn't find her.
It was now one o'clock, and the concert began at 2:30. "Perhaps she will think of waiting outside the concert hall," suggested my wife hopefully. By this time the fog was so thick that road traffic had to stop, and the only way to get there was by underground railway. Hand in hand we felt our way along the road to where we thought the nearest station should be. An hour later we were still trying to find it. Just as I was about to lose my temper completely when we met a blind man tapping his way confidently through the fog. With his help we found Tower Hill tube station just fifty yards down the road.
By now it was far too late even to try to get to the concert hall before the performance began at 2:30, so we decided to return to Cambridge. It took seven long hours instead of the usual two to make that journey. Nor were we able to get any food and drink on the train. Tired and hungry we finally reached home at ten, opening the door to the sound of the telephone bell. It was Joan; she had seen the Crown Jewels, had managed to get another ticket for concert, and had had a wonderful dinner at a restaurant near the hotel where she decided to stay for the night. Now she was ringing to discover whether we had had an equally successful day.
When my brother and I were young, my mom would take us on Transportation Days.
It goes like this: You can't take any means of transportation more than once. We would start from home, walking two blocks to the rail station. We'd take the train into the city center, then a bus, switching to the tram, then maybe a taxi. We always considered taking a horse carriage in the historic district, but we didn't like the way the horses were treated, so we never did. At the end of the day, we took the subway to our closest station, where Mom's friend was waiting to give us a ride home—our first car ride of the day.
The good thing about Transportation Days is not only that Mom taught us how to get around. She was born to be multimodal (多方式的). She understood that depending on cars only was a failure of imagination and, above all, a failure of confidence—the product of a childhood not spent exploring subway tunnels.
Once you learn the route map and step with certainty over the gap between the train and the platform, nothing is frightening anymore. New cities are just light-rail lines to be explored. And your personal car, if you have one, becomes just one more tool in the toolbox—and often an inadequate one, limiting both your mobility and your wallet.
On Transportation Days, we might stop for lunch on Chestnut Street or buy a new book or toy, but the transportation was the point. First, it was exciting enough to watch the world speed by from the train window. As I got older, my mom helped me unlock the mysteries that would otherwise have paralyzed my first attempts to do it myself: How do I know where to get off? How do I know how much it costs? How do I know when I need tickets, and where to get them? What track, what line, which direction, where's the stop, and will I get wet when we go under the river?
I'm writing this right now on an airplane, a means we didn't try on our Transportation Days and, we now know, the dirtiest and most polluting of them all. My flight routed me through Philadelphia. My multimodal mom met me for dinner in the airport. She took a train to meet me.
I was enjoying this afternoon more than I had expected. Often, the tryouts for the spring musical tested the limits of my patience and nerves, with one hopeful girl after another taking turns walking onto the wooden stage, delivering an adequate but uninspired version of some Rodgers & Hammerstein number, and then being politely excused by Mrs. Dominguez as the next name on the list was called.
However, this was to be my third straight year in the musical, and the confidence that my seniority afforded me around the more nervous newcomers allowed me to take pleasure in radiance (光辉) of my own balance.
I had already sung my audition (试唱) song an hour ago, starting the day's ceremonies. This year, I used "God Bless the Child", a choice I found to be quite sophisticated since Billie Holiday's version of it was familiar mostly to adults, and even then, mostly to adults of the previous generation. More importantly, it required a reserved performance, which I felt showcased my maturity, especially because most of the other auditioners chose songs that would show their enthusiasm, even if it meant their technical mastery would not be on full display.
Normally, the first audition was feared by most. Mrs. Dominguez would ask if anyone wanted to volunteer to "get it over with," but no one would make a sound. Then, she would call the first name off her list and the room would drop into an uncomfortably serious silence as the first student walked nervously up to the stage. I often imagined during those moments that I was witness to a death-house resident taking his march toward a quick curtain.
But not this year. I had decided to make a show of my own self-confidence by volunteering to go first. Such a fearless act, I had figured, would probably instill (灌输)even more fear into my competition because they would realize that I had something they clearly lacked. Mrs. Dominguez had seemed neither surprised nor charmed by my decision to go first. Although she was annoyed by my escalating (增加) pride, I also acknowledged that I was one of the more talented actors and was probably correct in assuming myself a winner.
At this late stage of the afternoon, I felt like a queen, sitting in the back of the auditorium with my royal court of friends and admirers. They took care to sit far enough away from Mrs. Dominguez that they would not be caught in the act of belittling (贬低) the other students' auditions.
To me, the endless parade of the ambitious who sang their hearts out for three minutes each was like clowns performing for my amusement. As Mrs. Dominguez read another name off her list, I prepared myself for a special treat.