How the Future Shaped the Past: The Case of the Cashless Society

Categories : Digital Money and payments, Technology and Operational Enablers


Author: Cleo Turner

The future matters to business history, because the adoption of new technology and new organizational forms has often been driven by acceptance of a collective sense of what the future will be. Investments are made and strategies set on an industry-wide basis, influenced by the predictions of business consultants, industry groups, and futurists. To explore the part played by the future in shaping the past, the paper focuses on the establishment and early acceptance of the idea of a rapid and inevitable transition to a “cashless society” in the US retail financial services industry during the 1960s and 1970s. The aim is thus to advance a methodological point rather than to arrive at a definitive conclusion about the future of money.