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This Week in the New Normal #33

Our successor to This Week in the Guardian, This Week in the New Normal is our weekly chart of the progress of autocracy, authoritarianism and economic restructuring around the world.

1. Cashless & cardless society?

Yahoo News reports that soon we may be able to “pay with a smile”.

The cashless society has been on the horizon for a long time, but the push on to a likewise cardless society is also in the works.

It has been reported recently that every major British supermarket chain is planning to bring in biometric payment systems, even entirely replacing all existing systems.

US payment processor Stripe is also making strides on introducing biometrics. And two-factor authentication company Feitan is teaming up with Fingerprint Cards to do the same.

It was also reported this week that Inkript, Zwipe and VISA are teaming up to roll out biometric payment platforms across the Middle East and North Africa.

This comes on the back of Mastercard’s announcement they were trialling technology that would allow customers to “pay with a wave or smile”.

Biometric payment systems have been in the offing for a little while now. Alibaba (forever at the forefront of dystopian tech) already support paying with fingerprint scanners and instituted “pay with a smile” technology to their AliPay platform all across China in 2017.

What all of this is about is harvesting data. Huge amounts of data.

Just as social media companies brilliantly normalised the idea of simply telling a giant corporation (and therefore the state) everything you do, think, wear and eat – biometric payments will see companies conning customers out of their most private data in the name of convenience.

The security, privacy and surveillance implications of uploading your fingerprints, facial recognition patterns or even “digital DNA” to a multi-national corporate database cannot be overstated.

2. Climate-related bans on the way

The Telegraph reported this week that Sir John Armitt, chairman of the UK’s National Infrastructure Commission, was calling for a ban on gas-powered boilers in domestic homes by 2035.

This would be an extension of the policy already in place to ban the sale of new petrol-run cars by 2030, and hybrids by 2035.

The EU has got an almost identical ban planned to be in place by 2035. So, it turns out, Brexit may be entirely pointless

As the New Normal agenda gathers momentum this kind of sweeping ban will likely become more common.

The Netherlands has already gone further than this, outright banning all gas-fuelled central heating by 2026, with mandatory installation of heat pumps or “connected heat networks”.

I’m sure the fortune some companies will make being paid by the government to replace perfectly functional central heating systems has nothing to do with it.

BONUS: Societal insanity of the week

Last Sunday was the platinum Jubilee, in case you didn’t hear. However, since her majesty was, ahem, indisposed, they drove the coronation carriage around London with a holographic projection of the queen inside it…

Yes, it’s come to this. People standing in the streets literally cheering a clapping a carriage they know is empty. Madness.

It’s not all bad…

This week Spain, the US and Canada all removed (or at least loosened) their Covid entry restrictions. The list of countries you can visit without having to test or vaccinate is growing. Kayak.co.uk has a helpful map showing entry restrictions by nation.

The Telegraph, of all things, ran an article “The Dangers of a Cashless Society”. I can’t for the life of me figure out how that made it to print, or what agenda could be served by running it. Regardless if its sincerely meant or not, all its points are entirely valid and, hopefully, it will wake a few people up.

We’ll also go to our near-routine endorsements of the always-eloquent Neil Oliver…

…and Bob Moran:

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All told a pretty hectic week for the new normal crowd, and we didn’t even mention this defence of monarchism for keeping nationalism in check, or the worst ad in the world…

There’s a lot of change in the air, a lot of agendas in the works, if you see a headline, article, post or interview you think is a sign of the times, post it in the comments, email us or share it on social media and we will add it to the next edition.