A generation that has experienced peace as the status quo might easily tend to forget that war has historically been more of a status quo than peace. Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institute and historian Niall Ferguson’s books are full of examples. The long period of peace in historically hostile Europe was due to the hard work of visionary figures after the Second World War. They worked on a European concept of unity and cooperation. An idea that was unthinkable in the past but is a reality today. For all the shortcomings we may experience, it is of the utmost importance to always remember what a great goal has been achieved over such a long period of time: PEACE.
It would be of utmost importance to create even more initiatives like this as a basis for addressing the global challenges that lie ahead. Challenges that we can only solve on a global basis.
GOST has made it a priority to support INTERNATIONAL UNDERSTANDING through its missions by teaching history and raising awareness of issues of global importance. We are proud to have achieved this again with Expedition Blue Ocean ( www.ExpeditionBlueOcen.org ).
The list of supporters is long and we would like to extend a special thank you to
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A plea for trust in a time of mistrust. Trust is the foundation on which monetary systems are built. Trust forms the basis of international diplomatic relations and is the foundation for all progress.
But what happens once trust is shaken?
The diplomatic dispute over a multibillion-dollar submarine treaty – which took place three months before the Russian – Ukrainian war, concerns about a new cold war, and the collapse of the Bretton Woods system exactly 50 years ago are the manuscript for this maritime-themed French-American story about money and trust. It is an object lesson for our times, where we are witnessing the emergence of crypto-financial markets and thus stand on the threshold of a new form of money.
TIME OF MISTRUST
by Jochen Werne
After the traditional long summer vacation, France awakens in September from its brief self-created slumber, as it does every year. Life begins to take its usual course, even if some are still reminiscing, perhaps enjoying the first harbingers of post-Covid worry-free life. Not so Philippe Étienne. For him, on the other side of the Atlantic, in Washington, which is actually picturesque at this time of year, autumn begins with a diplomatic thunderstorm. A storm that must have been new even for the 65-year-old gray-haired eloquent ambassador of France. 6160 kilometers away, at the Élysée Palace, Président de la République Emmanuel Macron decides to call his top diplomat in the United States, along with his Australian counterpart Jean-Pierre Thebault, to Paris for consultations. The unprecedented act in Franco-American history is justified by Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian with the “exceptional gravity” of an Australian-British-American announcement, and impressively underlined with the words “lie,” “duplicity,” “disrespect” and “serious crisis.”
At the heart of this crisis is the surprise announcement by the aforementioned countries to enter into a strategic trilateral security alliance (AUKUS) with immediate effect. An alliance that also provides for the procurement of nuclear-powered submarines for Australia, effectively putting to rest a 56-billion-euro French-Australian submarine order already initiated in 2016. The conclusion of the agreement comes at a time when U.S. President Joe Biden has asserted to the UN General Assembly, “We do not seek – I repeat, we do not seek – a new cold war or a world divided into rigid blocs.” However, experts, such as renowned historian Niall Ferguson, have been talking about this so-called “new cold war” between the U.S. and China since 2019, and it is not about nuclear arms races, but rather about technology supremacy in cyber security, artificial intelligence and quantum computing. Even though nuclear-powered submarines are at the center of the diplomatic dispute, one is quick to note in the AUKUS agreement that cooperation in the aforementioned fields is one of the most important components of the treaty. An objective that is perhaps also congruent with French interests. But the dispute between the old friends is less about the “what” than about the diplomatic “how” – that is, about the breach of trust that is triggered when close allies are simply presented with a fait accompli. Facts that also affect them financially and personally.
Because money and trust are closely interwoven. The trust of a bank that the creditor will repay its debts. A citizen’s trust that the currency in which he or she is paid their salaries is stable. A state’s trust in a currency system that the agreements made there will be honored by all. Georg Simmel, in his “Philosophy of Money,” sums it up this way: “Money is perhaps the most concentrated and pointed form and expression of trust in the social-state order.”
Last year marked the 50th anniversary of another French-American trust-busting melodrama with a maritime backdrop. Benn Steil, senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, describes the moving events of August 6, 1971, in his book, The Battle of Bretton Woods, as follows: “…a congressional subcommittee issued a report entitled ‘Action Now to Strengthen the U.S. Dollar` that concluded, paradoxically, that the dollar needed to be weakened. Dollar dumping accelerated and France sent a warship to pick up French gold from the vaults of the New York Fed.”
At first glance, this dramatic gesture by then French President Georges Pompidou in the final act of the collapse of the Bretton Woods system seems as strange as the withdrawal of ambassadors today. The basis, however, is similar and lay then as now in an equally shaken trust between the great nations that were nevertheless so closely intertwined. Without going deeper into the new monetary order created after World War II, with the U.S. dollar as the anchor currency, it is important to understand the reason for the French revolt evident in the “White Plan.” The plan provided that the U.S. guaranteed the Bretton Woods participating countries the right to buy and sell gold indefinitely at the fixed rate of $35 per ounce. The dilemma of this arrangement became apparent early on. For by the end of the 1950s, dollar holdings at foreign central banks already exceeded U.S. gold reserves. When French President Charles de Gaulle asked the U.S. to exchange French dollar reserves for gold in 1966, the FED’s gold reserves were only enough for about half that amount. The ever more deeply anchored loss of confidence forced the American president Richard Nixon on August 15, 1971 to cancel the nominal gold peg and the so-called “Nixon shock” ended the system as it was.
And where something ends something new can or will inevitably begin.
Today we live in a world where the stability of our currency is based on our confidence in government fiscal policy, the economic strength of our country, and the good work of an independent central bank. However, we also live in a time when new currency systems are already looming on the dense horizon. The basis for this was laid in 2008, not surprisingly, by one of the most serious crises of confidence in the international banking system that modern times have seen. And the new systems are being implemented with the help of cutting-edge distributed ledger blockchain technology. The new, with its decentralized nature, is challenging the old. While many of the new currencies in the crypto world, such as bitcoin, are subject to large fluctuations, stablecoins promise a link and fixed exchangeability to an existing value, such as the US dollar or even gold. However, the old Bretton Woods challenge of being able to keep this promise at all times remains in the new world. Millions of dollars in penalties imposed by the New York Attorney General’s Office on the largest U.S. dollar stablecoin, Tether, for not being fully verifiable do little to help trust, especially when less than 3 percent of the market capitalization is actually deposited in U.S. dollar cash. As always with new ones, trust has to be built up. This can be done privately, perhaps with a stablecoin backed 100% by central bank money, or by the state, with well thought-out central bank digital currencies, such as the digital euro planned by the European Central Bank.
We live in a world of perpetual rapid change and trust is, as Osterloh describes it, “the will to be vulnerable.” Without trust, there are no alliances, no togetherness, no progress.
Philippe Étienne was back in autumnal Washington after just a few days and has since been working again on what diplomats are best trained for – building trust.
Billon-Gallan, A., Kundnani, H. (2021): The UK must cooperate with France in the Indo-Pacific. A Chatham House expert comment. https://www.chathamhouse.org/2021/09/uk-must-cooperate-france-indo-pacific (Retrieved 24.9.2021)
Brien, J. (2021): “Stablecoin without stability”: Tether and Bitfinex pay $18.5 million fine. URL: https://t3n.de/news/stablecoin-tether-bitfinex-strafe-1358197/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=news (Retrieved: 9/30/2021).
Corbet, S. (2021): France recalls ambassadors to U.S., Australia over submarine deal. URL: https://www.pressherald.com/2021/09/17/france-recalls-ambassadors-to-u-s-australia-over-submarine-deal/ (Retrieved 9/25/2021).
Ferguson N. (2019): The New Cold War? It’s With China. And It Has Already Begun. URL: https://www.nytimes.com/2019/12/02/opinion/china-cold-war.html (Retrieved: 9/30/2021).
Graetz, M., Briffault, O. (2016): A “Barbarous Relic”: The French, Gold , and the Demise of Bretton Woods. URL: https://scholarship.law.columbia.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=3545&context=faculty_scholarship p. 17 (Retrieved 9/25/2021).
Osterloh, M., Weibel, A. (2006): Investing trust. Processes of trust development in organizations, Gabler: Wiesbaden.
Steil, B. (2020): The Battle of Bretton Woods: John Maynard Keynes, Harry Dexter White, and the new world, p. 377.
Stolze, D. (1966): Does de Gaulle defeat the dollar? In ZEIT No. 36/1966. URL: (https://www.zeit.de/1966/36/besiegt-de-gaulle-den-dollar/komplettansicht (Retrieved: 9/26/2021)
The Guardian Editorial (2021): The Guardian view on Biden’s UN speech: cooperation not competition URL: https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2021/sep/22/the-guardian-view-on-bidens-un-speech-cooperation-not-competition(Retrieved: 9/29/2021)
Unal, B., Brown, K., Lewis, P., Jie, Y. (2021): Is the AUKUS alliance meaningful or merely a provocation – A Chatham House expert comment. URL: https://www.chathamhouse.org/2021/09/aukus-alliance-meaningful-or-merely-provocation (Retrieved: 9/24/2021).
Time Online (2021): France sees relationship in NATO strained. URL: https://www.zeit.de/politik/ausland/2021-09/u-boot-deal-frankreich-australien-usa-streit-nato-jean-yves-le-drian?utm_referrer=https%3A%2F%2Fmeine.zeit.de%2F (Retrieved: 9/25/2021)
Ein Plädoyer für Vertrauen in einer Zeit des Misstrauens. Vertrauen ist die Grundlage, auf der Währungssysteme aufgebaut sind. Vertrauen bildet die Basis internationaler diplomatischer Beziehungen und ist die Grundlage für jeden Fortschritt.
Doch was passiert, wenn das Vertrauen einmal erschüttert ist?
Der aktuelle diplomatische Streit um einen milliardenschweren U-Boot-Vertrag, die Sorge um einen neuen kalten Krieg und der Zusammenbruch des Bretton-Woods-Systems vor genau 50 Jahren sind das Manuskript für diese maritim angehauchte französisch-amerikanische Geschichte über Geld und Vertrauen. Sie ist ein Lehrstück für unsere heutige Zeit, wo wir das Entstehen von Kryptofinanzmärkten miterleben und somit an der Schwelle zu einer neuen Form des Geldes stehen.
Nach dem traditionellen langen Sommerurlaub, erwacht Frankreich im September wie jedes Jahr aus dem kurzen selbst kreierten Dornröschenschlaf. Das Leben beginnt seinen gewohnten Gang zu nehmen, auch wenn manch einer noch in Erinnerungen schwelgt und dabei vielleicht die ersten Vorboten post-Covid-sorgenfreien Lebens genießt. Nicht so Philippe Étienne. Für ihn beginnt auf der anderen Seite des Atlantik, im für diese Zeit eigentlich malerischen Washington, der Herbst mit einem diplomatischen Gewittersturm. Ein Unwetter, das selbst für den 65-jährigen grau-melierten eloquenten Botschafter Frankreichs neu gewesen sein dürfte. 6 160 Kilometer entfernt beschließt im Élysée-Palast Président de la République Emmanuel Macron seinen Spitzendiplomaten in den USA, samt seines australischen Amtskollegen Jean-Pierre Thebault, zu Konsultationen nach Paris abzuberufen. Der in der französisch-amerikanischen Geschichte einmalige Akt wird von Außenminister Jean-Yves Le Drian mit der „außergewöhnlichen Schwere“ einer australisch-britisch-amerikanischen Ankündigung gerechtfertigt und mit den Worten „Lüge“, „Doppelzüngigkeit“, „Missachtung“ und „ernste Krise“ eindrucksvoll unterstrichen.
Im Mittelpunkt dieser Krise steht die überraschende Ankündigung der genannten Länder ab sofort ein strategisches trilaterales Sicherheitsbündnis (AUKUS) einzugehen. Ein Bündnis, welches auch die Beschaffung atomgetriebener U-Boote für Australien vorsieht und somit einen bereits 2016 initiierten 56 Milliarden Euro schweren französisch-australischen U-Boot- Auftrag quasi ad acta legt. Der Abschluss des Abkommens fällt in einen Zeitraum in welchem US-Präsident Joe Biden vor der UN-Generalversammlung beteuert: „Wir streben nicht – ich wiederhole: wir streben nicht – einen neuen kalten Krieg oder eine in starre Blöcke geteilte Welt an“. Über diesen sogenannten „neuen kalten Krieg“ zwischen den USA und China sprechen Experten, wie der bekannte Historiker Niall Ferguson jedoch bereits seit 2019. Es geht hierbei nicht um atomares Wettrüsten, sondern vielmehr um die Technologievorherrschaft in Cyber Security, Künstlicher Intelligenz und Quantum Computing. Auch wenn nukleargetriebene U-Boote im Zentrum des diplomatischen Disputs stehen, so stellt man im AUKUS-Abkommen doch schnell fest, dass die Zusammenarbeit in den oben genannten Feldern einer der wichtigsten Bestandteile des Vertrags ist. Ein Ziel, welches vielleicht auch mit französischen Interessen kongruent ist. Doch geht es im Streit zwischen den alten Freunden im ersten Moment weniger um das „Was“, sondern viel mehr um das diplomatische „Wie“ – das heißt, um den Vertrauensbruch, der ausgelöst wird, wenn man enge Bündnispartner einfach vor vollendete Tatsachen stellt. Tatsachen, die sie auch finanziell und persönlich betreffen.
Denn Geld und Vertrauen sind eng verwoben. Das Vertrauen einer Bank, dass der Gläubiger seine Schulden zurückbezahlt. Das Vertrauen eines Bürgers, dass die Währung, in der er oder sie ihre Gehälter ausbezahlt bekommt, stabil ist. Das Vertrauen eines Staates in ein Währungssystem, dass die dort getroffenen Vereinbarungen von allen eingehalten werden. Georg Simmel bringt es in seiner „Philosophie des Geldes” so auf den Punkt: „Geld ist die vielleicht konzentrierteste und zugespitzteste Form und Äußerung des Vertrauens in die gesellschaftlich-staatliche Ordnung.“
Eine weiteres französisch-amerikanisches Vertrauensbruchsmelodrama mit maritimer Untermalung jährt sich in diesem Jahr zum 50. Mal. Die bewegenden Ereignisse des 6. August 1971 beschreibt Benn Steil, Senior Fellow des Council on Foreign Relations, in seinem Buch „The Battle of Bretton Woods“ wie folgt: „…ein Unterausschuss des Kongresses gab einen Bericht mit dem Titel ´Action Now to Strengthen the US-Dollar` heraus, der paradoxerweise zu dem Schluss kam, dass der Dollar geschwächt werden müsse. Das Dollar-Dumping beschleunigte sich und Frankreich schickte ein Kriegsschiff, um französisches Gold aus den Tresoren der New Yorker Fed abzuholen.“
Diese dramatisch anmutende Geste des damaligen französischen Präsidenten Georges Pompidou im finalen Akt des Zusammenbruchs des Bretton-Woods Systems wirkt auf den ersten Blick genauso befremdlich wie der Abzug der Botschafter heute. Die Basis jedoch ähnelt sich und lag damals wie heute in einem ebenfalls erschütterten Vertrauen zwischen den doch so eng verwobenen großen Nationen. Ohne tiefer auf die nach dem Zweiten Weltkrieg geschaffene neue Währungsordnung mit dem US-Dollar als Ankerwährung eingehen zu wollen, ist es wichtig den im „White Plan“ offensichtlichen Grund des französischen Aufbegehrens zu verstehen. Der Plan sah vor, dass die USA den Bretton-Woods-Teilnehmerstaaten garantierten, Gold auf unbestimmte Zeit zum festen Kurs von 35 US-Dollar pro Unze kaufen und verkaufen zu dürfen. Das Dilemma dieser Regelung wurde früh sichtbar. Denn bereits Ende der 1950er Jahren überstiegen die bei ausländischen Zentralbanken befindlichen Dollarbestände die Goldreserven der USA. Als der französische Präsident Charles de Gaulle 1966 die USA aufforderte die französischen Dollarreserven gegen Gold zu tauschen, reichten die Goldvorräte der FED, nur für etwa die Hälfte. Der immer tiefer sich verankernde Vertrauensverlust zwang den amerikanische Präsidenten Richard Nixon am 15. August 1971 die nominale Goldbindung aufzukündigen und der sogenannte „Nixon-Schock“ beendete das System wie es war.
Und dort wo etwas endet kann oder wird zwangsläufig etwas Neues beginnen.
Heute leben wir in einer Welt, in der die Stabilität unserer Währung auf unserem Vertrauen in die staatliche Finanzpolitik, der Wirtschaftskraft unseres Landes und auf der guten Arbeit einer unabhängigen Zentralbank beruht. Wir leben jedoch auch in einer Zeit in der sich am dichten Horizont bereits neue Währungssysteme abzeichnen. Die Basis dafür legte 2008 nicht überraschend eine der schwersten Vertrauenskrisen in das internationale Bankensystem, die die Neuzeit erlebete. Und umgesetzt werden die neuen Systeme mit Hilfe modernster Distributed-Ledger Blockchain Technologie. Das Neue mit seinem dezentralen Charakter fordert das Alte heraus. Während viele der neuen Währungen in der Kryptowelt, wie etwa der Bitcoin, großen Schwankungen unterworfen sind, versprechen Stablecoins eine Bindung und fixe Umtauschbarkeit an einen vorhandenen Wert, wie beispielsweise den US-Dollar oder auch Gold. Die alte Bretton-Woods-Herausforderung, dieses Versprechen auch jederzeit einhalten zu können, bleibt jedoch auch in der neuen Welt bestehen. Von der New Yorker Generalstaatsanwaltschaft verhängte Strafen in Millionenhöhe gegen den größten US-Dollar Stablecoin Tether wegen nicht lückenloser Nachweisbarkeit helfen dem Vertrauen wenig, besonders wenn weniger als 3 Prozent der Marktkapitalisierung auch wirklich in US-Dollar Cash hinterlegt ist. Es gilt wie immer bei neuem, Vertrauen aufzubauen. Sei es privatwirtschaftlich durch eventuell einen zu 100% mit Zentralbankgeld hinterlegten Stablecoin oder staatlich, mit durchdachten Central Bank Digital Currencies, wie dem von der Europäischen Zentralbank geplanten digitalen Euro.
Wir leben in einer Welt immer währenden schnellen Wandels und Vertrauen ist, wie Osterloh es beschreibt, „der Wille sich verletzlich zu zeigen“. Ohne Vertrauen gibt es keine Bündnisse, kein Miteinander, keinen Fortschritt.
Philippe Étienne war bereits nach ein paar Tagen zurück im herbstlichen Washington und arbeitet seither wieder daran wofür Diplomaten bestens ausgebildet sind – Vertrauen zu schaffen.
From Antarctica to Artifical Intelligence, a man-made journey between brilliance and madness
by Jochen Werne
When we look carefully at our past, we come across a fascinating and sometimes schizophrenic human history of partial madness and absolute brilliance – not only when it comes to the use of new technologies. Let’s take a look into some of these stories.
1961 HAVANNA, CUBA: The world is on the brink of a nuclear holocaust. A reality created by the effects of the Cold War, political doctrines, hard borders and, not least, technological progress. Only diplomacy and pure instinct for the essence of human existence on both sides prevented the worst.
A story that reflects the precarious situation of the world at that time particularly well is found in Fidel Castro’s indirect offer to the Soviet Union to “solve the problem” and carry the communist revolution to victory by launching nuclear missiles from Cuban soil. His comrade-in-arms Che Guevara even went a step further, saying, “We say that we must tread the path of liberation, even if it may cost millions of nuclear war victims. In the struggle to the death between two systems, we can think of nothing but the final victory of socialism or its downfall as a result of the nuclear victory of imperialist aggression.” In 1962, the former First Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, Nikita Khrushchev, replied in a letter to Fidel Castro that he did not agree with the idea because it would inevitably lead to thermonuclear war and that there was still a need for a world into which the revolution could be carried.
1961 NEW YORK, USA: In the same year, 12 nations ratify a treaty for the joint administration of an entire continent. A continent larger than the United States. A continent that is home to 90% of the world’s freshwater reserves and is of extraordinary importance for the climate of our planet: Antarctica. It is the year in which one of humanity’s most encouraging treaties was signed – the Antarctic Treaty.
OPEN-SOURCE CONCEPT: The treaty – contains several chapters on the exclusively peaceful and scientific use of Antarctica. Along with this, the treaty also regulates the joint use of all research results and data. A concept that seemed revolutionary for the time and which is crucial for finding solutions to the great challenges of our time – such as climate change or effectively combating a pandemic.
2022 PLANET EARTH. Throughout history, we have often underestimated both the positive and negative impacts on society that come from revolutionary technologies. But technology itself cannot be judged in terms of good or bad. Rather, it is how society uses it that must be judged. Today, we are again on the brink of such a societal challenge.
We live in a globally connected world. Technological progress has made data one of the most important resources. The co-founder of Twitter, Evan Williams, surprisingly stated the following in a New York Times interview in 2017: “I thought that if everyone could speak freely and share information and ideas, the world would – automatically – become a better place. I was wrong”.
It would be easy to get the impression that this phenomenon is new, but Niall Ferguson, professor of history and senior fellow at the Hoover Institute, is convinced that today’s technological progress and its impact on society are comparable to the invention of the printing press by Johannes Gutenberg in the 15th century. The printing press had many positive effects on the progress of mankind and catapulted the Bible to the top of the book bestseller list for 200 years. Unfortunately, the same technology made “Malleus Maleficarum”, also known as the “Hammer of witches”, number 2 on this list for the same period. The book was the basis for the witch hunt and brought death to so many innocent people. Certainly, today the contents of the book would be called “fake news”.
PRESENT & THE WORLD OF TOMORROW
We are all shaping the world of tomorrow today, and our aspirations have already led to much good. Technology and human creativity have, for example, contributed to a massive reduction in poverty rates worldwide. In the last 25 years, more than one billion people have been lifted out of extreme poverty.
If we look at the moment, we cannot avoid dedicating a few lines to the current COVID-19 pandemic. It is a global challenge and could be the next story of human brilliance and madness. We will witness tremendous advances in medical research and pandemic response measures thanks to AI-based analytics. But we will also witness a recession, which historically has always been an element for populism and nationalism. All this in an environment of fear and closed borders. In these situations, where many feel helpless, change has always come from progressive thinkers who were convinced of their ideas, from Kant to Ghandi to the thought leaders of today.
In our open society and with machine and deep learning technologies in our hands, we have the opportunity to make the world a better place. We can make a difference in our professions, and we can stand up and make our voices heard against polarising movements and injustice in every way. We can use our creativity and intellect to defend “the progress of thought”, which has always had the goal of “freeing man from his fear”, just as it was one of the goals of the Age of Enlightenment.
Does cash have a future? An article by Dunja Koelwel, editor in chief of gi Geldinstitute | 20.10.2020 – 13:02
Please follow this LINK for the original source in German. Translation made by DeepL.com
Cashless payment is on the advance worldwide, only the Germans hang on to cash. gi Geldinstitute therefore wanted to know from Ralf-Christoph Arnoldt (Bundesverband der Deutschen Volksbanken und Raiffeisenbanken BVR), Jochen Werne (Prosegur Germany), Dr. Harald Olschok (BDSW) and Leif Wienecke (Solarisbank) Does cash still have a future?
Signs such as “Cash only” should be a thing of the past in Germany, according to the digital association Bitkom. Wherever customers can pay, at least one digital payment option that can be used throughout Europe should be offered on a mandatory basis, according to the “Bitkom theses on freedom of choice in payment”.
“Cash shows itself to be an anchor of trust in uncertain times. With increasing concern about the corona virus, the amount of physical cash in circulation in the USA, for example, has risen,” says Jochen Werne, member of the management of Prosegur Cash Services Germany. gi geldinstitute therefore asked: What is the current situation regarding ‘war on cash’?
Since the Corona crisis, more and more people have been paying with cards or smartphones instead of with coins or notes. Is this a trend that is slowly eliminating cash? What is your perception?
Ralf-Christoph Arnoldt: Indeed, in recent months we have seen gains in card payments, especially in payments with Girocard. In the first half of 2020, transaction figures have increased by 20.7 percent compared to the same period last year. However, cash still plays an important role in everyday life in Germany, even if this love is eroding.
According to the Eurohandelsinstitut (EHI), the share of cash in turnover in 2019 was still 45.5 percent. Cash offers some advantages from the customer’s point of view. Paying with cash is convenient for the customer, anonymous, immediately final. Cash is freedom for customers. Regulators and business circles involved in the cash circle should accept this as a fact and not force them to change it.
Dr. Harald Olschok: Without doubt, a new phase of “war on cash” began during the Corona crisis. 75 percent of the member companies of the BDGW expect sales next year to be up to 20 percent lower than in the past. We assume that the proportion of cash payments in the retail sector will fall from around 48 percent at the beginning of 2020 to well below 40 percent. However, the crisis has also shown that Germans continue to have great confidence in cash as a secure means of payment and store of value. According to a survey by YouGov, Germans also cannot imagine living in a cashless society.
Leif Wienecke: Since the Corona crisis, we have seen an acceleration of many trend developments, some of which were already foreseeable before. This also includes contactless payment. This customer behaviour, which is relatively new in Germany, fits in well with corona-related hygiene measures. Basically, it can be said that, in addition to hygiene considerations, end customers are primarily looking for speed when choosing a means of payment. This is where digital and contactless payment methods come into play. Over the next few years, we will see a further decline in cash payments and an increasing use of digital payment methods such as mobile wallets.
Jochen Werne: What is important to people when it comes to their money – the “fruits of their labour”? Certainly its unlimited availability. If they can have confidence that they can get their money at any time, people choose the payment option that is most convenient for each individual. Some prefer to pay by smartphone, while for others it’s “only cash is true”. It is fundamental that we as consumers are free to decide from which means of payment we can freely choose. Freedom of choice is the key word.
A “per cash” argument often made is that technology is vulnerable and that in a crisis the value of security is always the highest good. This is why many people have been hoarding cash at the beginning of the lockdown. Do you believe that this money will now come back into circulation? And what do you think about the technological error potential of digital payment options?
Ralf-Christoph Arnoldt: The fact that cash was hoarded at the beginning of the lockdown was more due to the fact that people thought the cash supply could be endangered because of the Corona crisis. But that quickly proved to be incorrect. In the meantime, the hoardings have been continuously disbanded. We can see this, among other things, in the fact that the payout volumes at ATMs are still about 25 percent below the pre-corona level. If you want to compare the security of cash with card payments or digital payment options, you don’t get very far. If cash is stolen, for example, it is gone for good. If a payment card is stolen, the bank is usually liable.
Jochen Werne: It is undeniable that cash is seen by many as an anchor of trust in uncertain times. Electronic payment methods always risk a loss of trust due to technical failures. One of the last of these incidents was not long ago: during the pre-Christmas business on 23 December 2019, of all days, EC card payments were not accepted at many terminals. Many consumers who rely solely on digital payments have probably already had similar experiences of lesser consequence. Such situations can be observed time and again at the cash desks in department shops and supermarkets – for example, when the NFC chip on a card or simply the card reader does not work. Soon the eyes of the people standing around in the shopping queue turn to the payer, impatient and interested, trying to find out the name on the card of the supposedly insolvent unlucky person. Nevertheless, modern technologies are becoming more and more stable over time and a balance will be established between the various payment methods. Just as the “hoarded” will be returned to consumption or investment after the crisis. A cycle that, soberly, has always existed historically.
It became apparent that banks would no longer be able to offer free cash withdrawals from ATMs in the long term. This affects in particular people on low incomes, the elderly and, in general, all those who do not have access to digital forms of payment. Which solution do you think makes the most sense?
Leif Wienecke: Indeed, an accelerated dismantling of bank branches has been observed in recent months, but also before. The cost-benefit ratios seem to be out of proportion. Many end customers, especially older people, are suffering as a result. At the same time, however, one can also read about the creative solutions that savings banks, for example, are using to offer customers in rural areas the service they are used to (e.g. branch on wheels, transfer bus). I believe that other companies will fill the gap left by the banks. For some years now, supermarkets and petrol stations, for example, have been offering free “withdrawal” of cash. This trend to integrate banking services into the context of everyday life is known as contextual banking. The end customer wants to have access to cash or transactions wherever he or she is. As Solarisbank, we see the future in banking here.
Jochen Werne: Making an individual’s assets available as cash causes costs, just as paying with a card costs consumers money. The latest evaluation of 294 account models of 125 credit institutions in Germany by Stiftung Warentest shows that 55 models already charge fees for payment with the Girocard. It is the task of the institutions not only to manage their customers’ money, but also to meet the customer’s wish to make these assets available to them again in the form of cash or book money. The current practice of offering cash or accounts without fees and cross-subsidising them in return is a German phenomenon. The former head of BaFin, Dr. Elke König, already raised the question critically more than five years ago at the “Bank of the Future” event.
Today’s pressure on margins at banks now demands this adjustment. It is undisputed that, according to the German Bundesbank, ATMs are the most popular source of cash, accounting for 84 per cent of all cash withdrawals. Their number has risen by a good 18 per cent in Germany in recent years. On average, there is one ATM per 1,415 inhabitants. ATMs are therefore of enormous social and economic importance. It is not surprising that the area of “cash supply” is expressly listed as a “critical service” in Section 7 of the Critical Service Ordinance of the Federal Office for Information Security (BSI-KritisV), as a “service for the supply of the general public (…), the failure or impairment of which would lead to considerable supply bottlenecks or to threats to public security”. The fact that banks have to provide cash and cards to their customers, but are generally not able to do so profitably without charging is a long-term problem and needs to be improved. However, there is room for debate as to whether charges are the right way forward for consumers.
For US economics professor Kenneth Rogoff, the abolition of large banknotes is a first step. According to Rogoff, cash is synonymous with crime and the shadow economy – and in this respect it is a threat to the general public. Is cash really more “crime-sensitive” than digital payment methods?
Dr. Harald Olschok: As a “learned” Freiburg economist, I am always appalled by the populist and simplistic theses of the former chief economist of the IMF. It is much worse than you suggest. For Rogoff, “there is no question that cash plays a vital role in criminal activities, including drug trafficking, organised crime, extortion, corruption of authorities, trafficking in human beings and money laundering. (Der Fluch des Geldes, Munich 2016, p. 11). Oh yes, and undeclared work and illegal immigration are also owed to cash. Unfortunately, it has also been heard in the euro area. The 500 euro banknote has already been abolished. At the heart of the Rogoffian theses is the abolition of cash in order to impose negative interest rates. People should not save, but spend their money. This ignores the fact that fraud with non-cash means of payment, such as crypto-currencies, is booming. I expect that these forms of fraud will continue to increase. We must therefore assume the opposite.
Ralf-Christoph Arnoldt: Passing on a USB stick with millions of dollars in crypto-currencies, for example, is as easy as passing on a banknote. Criminals and the black economy are also part of the trend towards digitalisation, unfortunately sometimes even ahead of the investigating authorities.
Leif Wienecke: There is a lot of discussion on this topic and also conflicting studies. The Federal Government’s decision to tighten the reporting requirements for notaries, for example in real estate transactions, underlines Rogoff’s thesis. Nevertheless, I believe that it is not possible to generalise. Certainly, the anonymity of cash brings some advantages for criminals and money laundering can be curbed by switching to more strongly regulated, digital payment procedures.
And what about security? With cash, the problem is counterfeiting, with digital payments, for example, the tapping of identities and data. What is easier to protect?
Ralf-Christoph Arnoldt: I don’t see a big difference. It is always a mutual arms race. New security features for cash require more know-how and greater investment for counterfeiters. It is becoming more difficult, the number of offenders is getting smaller, but the sums that a counterfeiter puts on the market are bigger. The situation is similar for digital payments. As a financial group, we are doing everything we can to stay one step ahead of criminals through new cryptographic procedures, hardened systems and so on. It is not without reason that our experts are already working on cryptographic solutions that will be able to withstand the coming era of quantum computers. The challenge here is to maintain the convenience for the customers.
Jochen Werne: By its very nature, cash is without doubt the most robust payment method. This is regularly demonstrated in extreme scenarios such as disasters, failure of a digital infrastructure due to cyber attacks, natural disasters or technical failure. Cash is not tied to electricity, digital infrastructure, passwords or other technical features. In addition, the introduction of the second series of euro banknotes has enhanced security features and made banknotes more secure and more counterfeit-proof. As the Bundesbank reported at the beginning of the year, the number of counterfeit banknotes has fallen by a further five percent. With digital payment methods, consumers themselves have a responsibility to protect themselves. At the beginning of the Corona crisis, for example, the payment limit for contactless payments, such as in supermarkets, was increased. At first glance, this sounds harmless. But as a result, anyone can use a card – and it does not have to be their own – to pay for higher-priced goods without further security checks, such as by entering a PIN. And as far as data protection is concerned: with every cashless payment, consumers disclose personal information. Data that many companies use commercially.
Dr Harald Olschok: The risk of coming into contact with counterfeit money in Germany is still low. Most counterfeits are easy to detect. The security features of the current Euro series make it difficult for criminals. However, if digital payment methods are attacked, consumers should be aware that they lose much more than just their money.
China wants to take a step in this direction from 2021 onward at the state level as well. The aim is to link the Alipay payment solution with all private and state databases, including those in which cashless payment transactions are stored. The aim is to record and evaluate consumer behaviour. Subsequently, either rewards are offered or sanctions are threatened. Anyone who accumulates too much debt or fails to pay it back is no longer allowed to use express trains or planes in China. Although such a development is completely out of the question in European democracies in the foreseeable future, do you also expect consumer behaviour to play a much greater role in credit rating in the future?
Jochen Werne: Harvard history professor Niall Ferguson coined the term “new cold war” over a year ago. This “Cold War” is mainly about one technology leadership in artificial intelligence and takes place between the United States and China. Technologies are not good or bad, but how and for what purpose they are used by us humans, determines the outcome. Just because something is now technically possible, it does not necessarily make sense for a society. It is a great value of liberal democracies that these issues are discussed, that privacy is protected and that the state cannot act on its own authority.
On the question of creditworthiness, it can be said that the better a credit institution knows the borrower, the better a risk assessment can be made in order to quantify credit default risks. When assessing creditworthiness, the institution is required to use all relevant and available data for the decision. Today, it is technically possible to enrich the data provided by the future borrower with information about him/her from the Internet and social media and to round off the data with the help of AI algorithms and peer group comparisons. However, there is a high risk that private personal data may be processed here if inadvertently and the protection of privacy may be violated. This must be prevented. However, it remains to be seen how this will be dealt with in the future.
Leif Wienecke: First and foremost, it is a matter of making sensible use of the many possibilities of generated data to create added value. Companies such as banks primarily face the challenge of preparing their customers’ data in a meaningful way and integrating it for new applications. The ecosystems of the “GAFAs” or Alipay are “data first” companies which are integrated into the everyday life of their users. In principle, they only make decisions based on data and empirical findings. The above description from China, however, does not go hand in hand with our understanding of data or consumer protection, so we do not see this coming either.
On the other hand, it is of course essential to pursue data-driven innovation. Even the credit rating system that exists today can certainly be extended via relevant, contextual data points, in the interests of consumers and credit institutions. The topic of “social scoring”, i.e. the use of customer data from social networks, is controversial in Germany and is discussed above all in the context of consumer protection. This is correct, because the consumer should not only have to give his consent for such scoring, but should also be able to understand the algorithm and complain in case of discrimination.
Recently, initiatives have been heard repeatedly to make a CBDC (Central Bank Digital Currency) accessible to all citizens and not to limit an e-euro to institutional participants in the financial markets. What do you think about this?
Leif Wienecke: The CBDC issue is still in its infancy and has many facets. It is mostly about increasing the efficiency of payment transactions. End customers also benefit from this. In principle, innovation processes and initiatives to transform the financial industry are to be seen as positive. As with all topics with a European or international scope, it is important to create a uniform regulatory framework. Precisely because the introduction of a digital central bank currency for the public would not be accompanied by a change in the existing monetary system. At Solarisbank, we have been dealing with the block chain and crypto currency industry for over two years. Last year, we founded the subsidiary Solaris Digital Assets to realise our vision of the broad use of digital assets.
Ralf-Christoph Arnoldt: Unfortunately, very different things are mixed up here. Firstly, there is the technology on which most crypto currencies are based: the block chain. It is highly interesting because rights (to money, benefits from contracts, etc.) can be transferred securely and traceably. This technology has its use cases and will increase in importance. To issue a currency based on this digital solution is certainly forward-looking but not without risks. The speed with which sums of money can be transferred would in itself increase the speed at which money circulates to an extent at which we lack economic experience. Questions also remain to be answered about the security of the currency and who is responsible for the counter-value. It is therefore to be welcomed that we are dealing with this issue at an early stage so that we can learn with manageable and calculated risk.
The concept of the euro, on the other hand, suggests a digital currency as a means of payment. In my view, it is still too early for that. Not only because the overall economic effects can only be estimated to a limited extent at present, but also because this technology is geared to the security and distribution of data, not to transaction efficiency. The number of transactions is technically limited. There are concepts such as the Lightning technology to circumvent this and allow more transactions. However, the latter again functions as an intermediary according to principles similar to those of traditional payment transactions. Transactions are executed and then “booked” in the block chain – similar to a central bank transfer.
Likewise, too little attention is paid to the ecological aspect. According to estimates, Bitcoin alone consumed around 74 terawatt hours in one month at the end of 2019. By way of comparison, Germany’s total electricity consumption over the same period was around 47 terawatt hours.
And now the crucial question at the end: How do you make cashless payments?
Ralf-Christoph Arnoldt: With the Girocard – as far as possible contactless of course, and with pleasure also by mobile phone.
Leif Wienecke: I use Google Pay with my debit cards from our partners Tomorrow, Vivid Money and Bitwala. Offline I use the corresponding Visa cards. And online I also use PayPal.
Jochen Werne: Of course with cash and cashless.
Dr. Harald Olschok: In food retailing and gastronomy regularly with cash. For larger expenses, including refuelling, with credit cards.
Bei sorgfältiger Betrachtung unserer Vergangenheit stoßen wir auf eine faszinierend und teilweise schizophren anmutende Menschheitsgeschichte von partiellem Wahnsinn und absoluter Brillanz – nicht nur, wenn es um den Einsatz neuer Technologien geht. Werfen wir einen Blick in einige dieser Geschichten.
1961 HAVANNA, KUBA: Die Welt steht am Rande eines nuklearen Holocaust. Eine Realität entstanden durch die Auswirkungen des kalten Kriegs, politischer Doktrinen, harter Grenzen und nicht zuletzt technologischen Fortschritts. Nur Diplomatie und der reine Instinkt für das Wesen der menschlichen Existenz auf beiden Seiten verhinderten das Schlimmste.
Eine Geschichte, die die prekäre Lage der Welt zu jener Zeit besonders gut widerspiegelt findet sich in dem indirekten Angebot Fidel Castro an die Sowjetunion, „das Problem“ zu lösen und die kommunistische Revolution durch den Abschuss von Atomraketen von kubanischem Boden, zum Sieg zu tragen. Sein Kampfgefährte Che Guevara ging sogar noch einen Schritt weiter, indem er sagte: „Wir sagen, dass wir den Weg der Befreiung beschreiten müssen, auch wenn er Millionen von Atomkriegsopfern kosten kann. Im Kampf auf Leben und Tod zwischen zwei Systemen können wir an nichts anderes denken als an den endgültigen Sieg des Sozialismus oder seinen Untergang als Folge des nuklearen Sieges der imperialistischen Aggression.” 1962 antwortete der ehemalige Erste Sekretär der Kommunistischen Partei der Sowjetunion, Nikita Chruschtschow, in einem Brief an Fidel Castro, dass er mit der Idee nicht einverstanden sei, weil sie unweigerlich zu einem thermonuklearen Krieg führen würde und dass es doch noch eine Welt bräuchte, in die die Revolution getragen werden könnte.
1961 NEW YORK, USA: Im selben Jahr ratifizieren 12 Nationen einen Vertrag zur gemeinsamen Verwaltung eines ganzen Kontinents. Ein Kontinent, der größer ist als die Vereinigten Staaten. Ein Kontinent, der 90% der Süßwasserreserven der Welt beheimatet und für das Klima unseres Planeten von außerordentlicher Bedeutung ist: die Antarktis. Es ist das Jahr, in dem einer der ermutigendsten Verträge der Menschheit unterzeichnet wurde – der Antarktis-Vertrag.
OPEN-SOURCE-KONZEPT: Der Vertrag – beinhaltet mehrere Kapitel zur ausschliesslich friedlichen und wissenschaftlichen Nutzung der Antarktis. Damit einhergehend regelt der Vertrag auch die gemeinschaftliche Nutzung aller Forschungsergebnisse und Daten. Ein Konzept, das für die damalige Zeit revolutionär erschien und das für die Findung von Lösungen für die großen Herausforderungen unserer Zeit – wie Klimawandel oder die effektive Bekämpfung einer Pandemie – von entscheidender Bedeutung sind.
2020 PLANET ERDE. In der Geschichte haben wir oft die positiven wie auch die negativen Auswirkungen auf die Gesellschaft unterschätzt, die von revolutionären Technologien ausgehen. Doch kann Technologie selbst nicht mit den Begriffen gut oder schlecht beurteilt werden. Vielmehr muss beurteilt werden, wie die Gesellschaft diese nutzt. Heute stehen wir wieder am Rande einer solchen gesellschaftlichen Herausforderung.
Wir leben in einer global vernetzten Welt. Technologischer Fortschritt hat Daten zu einer der wichtigsten Ressourcen gemacht. Der Mitbegründer von Twitter, Evan Williams, erklärte in einem Interview der New York Times 2017 überraschenderweise das Folgende: „Ich dachte, wenn alle Menschen frei sprechen und Informationen und Ideen austauschen können, wird die Welt – automatisch – zu einem besserer Ort. Ich habe mich geirrt“.
Man könnte leicht den Eindruck gewinnen, dass dieses Phänomen neu ist, aber Niall Ferguson, Geschichtsprofessor und Senior Fellow des Hoover Institutes ist davon überzeugt, dass der heutige technologische Fortschritt und seine Auswirkungen auf die Gesellschaft mit der Erfindung des Buchdrucks durch Johannes Gutenberg im 15. Jhdt. vergleichbar sind. Die Druckerpresse hatte viele positive Auswirkungen auf den Fortschritt der Menschheit und katapultierte die Bibel 200 Jahre lang auf den ersten Platz der Buch-Bestsellerliste. Leider machte die gleiche Technik “Malleus Maleficarum”, auch bekannt als der „Hexenhammer“, für dieselbe Zeit zur Nummer 2 auf dieser Liste. Das Buch war die Grundlage für die Hexenjagd und brachte so vielen Unschuldigen den Tod. Sicherlich würde man heute die Inhalte des Buches als „Fake News“ bezeichnen.
GEGENWART & DIE WELT VON MORGEN
Wir alle gestalten heute die Welt von morgen, und unser Streben hat bereits zu viel Gutem geführt. Technologie und menschliche Kreativität haben bspw. dazu beigetragen, die Armutsquote weltweit massiv zu senken. In den letzten 25 Jahren wurden hierbei mehr als eine Milliarde Menschen extremer Armut befreit.
Betrachten wir den Moment so kommt man nicht umhin der aktuellen COVID-19-Pandemie einige Zeilen zu widmen. Es ist eine globale Herausforderung und könnte gleichzeitig die nächste Geschichte des menschlicher Brillanz und Wahnsinns sein. Wir werden dank der KI-basierten Analyseelemente enorme Fortschritte in der medizinischen Forschung und bei den Maßnahmen zur Pandemiebekämpfung erleben. Wir werden aber auch Zeugen einer Rezession werden, die historisch gesehen immer ein Element für Populismus und Nationalismus war. All dies in einem Umfeld von Angst und geschlossenen Grenzen. In diesen Situationen, in denen sich viele von hilflos fühlen, ging Wandel immer von fortschrittlichen Denkern aus, die von ihren Ideen überzeugt waren, von Kant über Ghandi bis zu den Vordenkern der heutigen Zeit.
In unserer offenen Gesellschaft und mit Machine- und Deep Learning Technologien in unseren Händen haben wir die Möglichkeit die Welt zu einem besseren Ort zu machen. Wir können in unseren Berufen viel Neues bewegen, und wir können gegen polarisierende Bewegungen und Ungerechtigkeit in jeder Hinsicht aufstehen und uns Gehör verschaffen. Wir können unsere Kreativität und unseren Intellekt einsetzen, um „den Fortschritt des Denkens” zu verteidigen, der schon immer das Ziel hatte, den Menschen von seiner Angst zu befreien“, genau wie es eines der Ziele des Zeitalters der Aufklärung war.
Almost every day, experts in the media try to create a historical analogy for us in order to explain the dynamics and speed with which changes are taking place today at all levels of our lives – from private consumption and our working world to international politics. Often analogies are drawn to different decades of the 20th century. The prominent British historian and Harvard professor Niall Ferguson contradicts these comparisons and sees an analogy rather in the effects that the invention of the printing press in the 15th century had on our lives and on our society. Only that today the changes due to exponential technologies and the Internet take place much faster.
For us as the HUMAN Factor, these comparisons are incredibly important. In times of uncertainty, they help us to better assess the changes and thus at least maintain a certain reassuring feeling of security and explainability. However, if we do not succeed in setting the right filters in times of social media and “information overload”, we run the risk that this feeling of understanding does not materialize and that we all too easily become victims of supposedly simple explanations and “fake news”. Ferguson uses a striking example to illustrate that this is not a new phenomenon and that serious technological changes have also brought major and often turbulent changes to society. In times of the invention of book printing, knowledge was spread more cheaply and a broad part of the population gained access to higher education. One of the first books to be printed in large numbers was the Bible. But also other writings, like “Malleus Maleficarum” or in English the “Hammer of Witches” became famous. The “Fake News” book served to justify the persecution of witches, appeared in 29 editions and has been second place on the book bestseller list for 200 years.
At the latest since the end of the 1990s, since the mass “democratization” of the Internet, our lives have been shaped by the exponential progress of modern technologies. The associated digitalization – the DIGITAL Factor – is not only a technical and economic challenge, but also a societal one. However, the enlightened man began, not to accept everything that a “Beautiful New World”, sometimes reminiscent of Aldous Huxley’s novel, promises. This is shown by citizen projects such as the so-called “Charter of Digital Fundamental Rights” of the European Union.
The word “exponential” automatically hides the logical conclusion that change will take place even faster in the future. These changes affect almost every industry and what is seen today as a billion-dollar future market can quickly become a basic business with significantly lower costs and thus significantly lower profit margins tomorrow. The camera chip of our smartphones costs today only about two to three Euros, a Spotify subscription, and thus the access to an incredible amount of music, only a few Euros a month.
The conclusion for companies in the 21st century is simple: Those who do not understand these exponential dynamics of technical development or do not take them sufficiently into account in their business model can quickly lose touch – not only with customers but also with potential business partners. But why is it so difficult for us to correctly assess the development potential of the technologies? The answer: People think linearly. This is why technologies are usually overestimated at the beginning of their development, but tend to be underestimated in the long run. This was first described in 1965 by the Intel engineer Gordon Moore – later known as Moore´s Law, one of the essential theoretical foundations of the “digital revolution”. In times of exponential technologies, our society risks a split between the group of people with an affinity for digital and digital natives and a group of people who have growing difficulties with the speed of change of our time. The latter have not learnt to keep pace with fast-moving digital innovations due to their low affinity, age or lack of points of contact in everyday life.
Throughout history, new technological possibilities have always come with threatening concepts that have been published and discussed on all media channels available during this period. Today it is: “total transparency”, “transparent consumer”, “constant availability” or even job loss due to ongoing automation and artificial intelligence. At the social and state level, attempts are being made to counteract such fears, to increase competitiveness and to involve the population in the process of change. Two of the many good examples referring to Germany are the strategy on artificial intelligence put in place by the Federal Government and the Platform for Learning Systems initiated by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research.
It is important never to forget, that every change – even if the trigger is a rapidly developing technology – requires a certain time horizon to be implemented and to create broad acceptance. Here the “CULTURE Factor” often comes into play. One example is cash. While the Scandinavian countries, above all Sweden, are about to digitalize their payment systems to a large extent, in Germany currently about 80 percent of all transactions are carried out with cash.
In every business model, global trends need to be identified, changes need to be driven, and local conditions need to be taken into account in order to be successful in this market. The same formula applies to societal change. Especially when it comes to creating an agenda for the use of new technologies for the benefit of our society.