Zero Sum Upgrade or Is there actually any real money?

American express card with padlock for post about zero sum game

Who would have ever thought that convenience could be so dangerous? Is it a zero sum game? That’s what I often think about while I am enjoying some of the perks of this highly connected electronic world. A world where I can efficiently purchase anything and everything via plastic cards, transfer funds via a mobile device, or correspondence with anyone globally. Untethered, unlocked, and in comparison, to the previous age of cash, checks and telephones, you can do it anywhere and anytime. Oh the freedoms! The promise of the capabilities of civilization delivered, on time, on budget, and available with a monthly subscription.

Useful for sure, but just like the boon of finding a Magic Lamp, the freshly released genie has a dark side few rarely stop to consider.  With each connection, exchange or transaction we simultaneously risk a stranger also enjoying the efficiency of our credit cards or transferring my hard-won funds to the Bank of North Central Kiribati, or allowing me to correspond with the famously generous Prince of Ethiopia.  

Once upon a time we worried about who was in the next room over hearing what we said, who was lurking around the literal corner. Then came the risk of someone “shoulder surfing” to steal a bank card pin.  Now it is so much worse than anyone dreamed. Every transaction, interaction and communication there is a very real risk of including an eavesdroppers, or worse yet more nefarious types who are looking to steal our data, our money (literally or via credit card numbers, bank details, or even our identity) and all the things that entitles us to. 

These risks represent the other side of the conveniences that inspired the internet-enabled digital-era. Never one for shying away from risk, our species, not only absorbed all of these risks, but collectively as a civilization, we became quickly addicted to practically every widget thrown our way and just as fast abandoned the tried and true legacy methods of communication via a “landline” in our homes or, gasp, a public phone booth when out and about.   Money builds empires yet we tossed out coins and the all American wad of cash now only famous in rap music videos. Instead we use pieces of paper that we have all agreed are worth something as money, credit cards, electronic funds issued by central banks or Crypto Currencies created by 3rd parties which stand to unbalance global powers, disrupt modern commerce and have sent government, treasuries, and criminals alike scurrying to establish new rules.

Considering that a single innocent “click” could extinguish years of financial progress, we are effectively living on the precipice of oblivion as long as we dare to co-exist with the wonders of the cyber age. It is within reason to question if these sweet conveniences may be in reality a delusion, or a alluring deception, or perhaps even an addiction. Either way, by trick or temptation, the double edge of modern conveniences are coming at us on a full steam freight train called “Midnight Zero Sum Train” whilst we are all helplessly tied to the tracks.

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Cybersecurity Architect / Evangelist Elliott has 30+ years of experience as an IT Manager/Engineer across a broad spectrum of technologies and roles. He writes here on Cyber Security and Data Privacy.

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