Money at 30: “Cloudmoney” Audiobook Review
For years, I’ve been writing about the FinTech sector and reviewing applications that fall under that banner. In turn, I’ve become a fairly large fan. Thus, when I was looking for new books to check out and came across one that seemed critical of the advent of these financial technology firms, I was definitely intrigued. The book in question is Cloudmoney: Cash, Cards, Crypto, and the War for Our Wallets by author Brett Scott, which I managed to consume in just a few short listening sessions — remaining engrossed throughout.
First, specific to the audiobook version of this title, I should note that the book is not narrated by Scott but by Coleman Pedigo. Personally, I thought Pedigo did a great job with the material — though I am always curious to hear how the author themselves would present it. In any case, while I’ve nitpicked some audiobook elements before, I found this one to be just about perfect.
Moving onto the actual content of the book, I appreciated how Scott didn’t just harp on the perceived issues he has with the “cashless future” but, instead, pointed out a number of contradictions that such a setup presents. On that note, Scott proves to be a master of metaphors (or similes in some cases) as he regularly makes comparisons to help illustrate his point. One particularly humorous observation that stood out to me involved the phrase “cash or card?” As he argues, this is like asking “will you be traveling by bicycle or car key?” since the card itself isn’t making the payment but, instead, initiating a series of other actions.
Of the many contradictions Scott calls out, one of my favorite sections was when he looks at the relationship between FinTechs and banks. As he rightfully notes, startups often position themselves as disruptors — rebels who are ready to overtake the banking status quo. All the while, many of these firms are partnering with banks as well as major payment networks, making them more beneficial to these larger entities than their ad copy would lead you to believe. Speaking of wording, I was also taken with Scott’s assertions that oft-used phrases such as “unbanked” suggest that those without banking accounts are in need of one… even though this may not be true. Trust that the author has no shortage of examples to show why such language has become the norm and why big players from Visa and Mastercard to Amazon and Facebook are happy to embrace the anti-cash sentiment.
Jumping from there, another aspect I found fascinating was the vilification of cash that Scott documents. Even without explicit mention of issues such as civil asset forfeiture (which often results in court cases with names such as “United States v. $124,700 in U.S. Currency“), he mentions how physical currency is now seen as suspect. Meanwhile, the pandemic has also reframed cash, albeit in a different way.
Of course, you can’t talk about FinTech and digital money without discussing cryptocurrency. Luckily, this is one area that Scott is more than qualified to speak on. In fact, his explanations of concepts were stellar. Specifically, I now feel that I actually know some of the key differences between Bitcoin and Ethereum — and, even more interestingly, what led to forked currencies such as Bitcoin Cash and Ethereum Classic.
So did Cloudmoney end up converting me to a cash enthusiast, ready to fight back against the FinTech revolution? Not exactly — although I am definitely more skeptical of (or at least less excited for) a cashless future than I was before. Incidentally, I get the feeling he’d be perfectly happy with that outcome as he doesn’t seem to suggest that these digital options shouldn’t exist, but just that consumers should still have the option of using cash without demonization. I also think that Scott makes some excellent points about privacy along with other downsides of an all-digital system, which I will admit did give me some pause. Overall, I found Cloudmoney: Cash, Cards, Crypto, and the War for Our Wallets to be a riveting read/listen that’s also approachable even if you’re not well-versed in crypto, FinTech, or DeFi. So, no matter where you currently stand on these matters, I think it’s worth checking out.
Also published on Medium.