Square and the Future of Commerce

So, I wrote this science fiction story in 1994. I’m not going to post it because it wasn’t very good. But in it, the idea of “home” was more or less abolished for most people. Homelessness was de rigeur (they’re called “HoPers” in the euphemism of the day) because most of what people needed — their money, their entertainment, their work, their communication — was wholly mobile. Everyone else was just too poor to have a home (with some notable exceptions, like the biohackers who grew trees to live in). The protagonist, such as he was, wandered around the countryside of the US with this beat-up gadget in his pocket that connected him to other people. There’s a point in the story where someone pays him to hack a computer system and pays him by rubbing their gadgets together to transfer credit.

The gadget was the iPhone. Earlier smartphones (I’ve got a Treo) don’t really do it. They’re little computers that communicate, sure, but they don’t actually integrate into daily life well. The iPhone does, and I’m hoping Android gives it a good run to stop their bullshit.

But, like it or not, an important thing about modern society is the ability to trade money for goods and services. PayPal’s iPhone app is a joke. For some reason, it didn’t occur to them that people might want to use it to get paid for things.

When I heard about Square, probably a year ago, I jumped. This is just that thing! This means that you can pay for things in ways aside from cash when you’re in person. It’s not embedded in a particular object (I suspect that will come when computation and sensors are cheap enough that you can actually embed it in the cards themselves), but it fulfills that function.

Square found itself in a patent fight with its own hardware designer for months, which is sad. They look to have done some excellent information and object design, and I was worried that their creation would never reach the market. But now it has.

Now, my friends consider it ironic that I was so excited about the prospect of such gadgets all my life, but don’t own an iPhone or iPad. The great irony is that I don’t have the money right now. But expect to see me taking credit cards at my next selling-con.

0 thoughts on “Square and the Future of Commerce”

Leave a Reply