The way that we interact with money is changing – and it’s going to keep changing over the next five, 10, 20 years. This got designers at London design firm, Method, thinking about what would happen if all assumptions about how money should behave were removed.
They took a few months last year to conduct a series of social experiments to investigate. “We wanted to take a step back from those everyday problems and really think about some of the major trends that we felt were going to affect these experiences in the future,” Philip O’Dwyer, Method’s executive creative director told WIRED. Here’s what they found…
What if your payments were public?
In the social media age we are becoming more and more open about every aspect of our lives, with the way that we use our money being one of only a few exceptions. But what if every single transaction that you carried out was public?
Method conducted a social experiment to log their transaction for one month using Instagram to post every single that they bought. “It’s still a social taboo [to talk about what you buy],” says O’Dwyer. “It was slightly uncomfortable.”
It soon became clear that the participants did not want to share everything that they bought, finding some purchases uncomfortable or inappropriate to be shared. For these, they created an anonymous submission system linked to an automated printer – a digital confession booth – where they could own up to only spending £1 on flowers for Mother’s Day or £500 on a dress.
What if spending habits were tied to physiology?
Financial services seem to be designed for idealised humans, rational beings who make informed and sensible choices, Method claims. But is that really how humans work? Generally, our purchases are a result of decision-making processes that we are unaware of and incredibly driven by intuition.
To investigate, Method created a ‘Physiological Bank’ that looked at what might happen if our payments were tied to our physical wellbeing. What would connecting health to spending tell us about spending habits? Would it justify or explain the way that we spend money?
The team designed a conceptual toothbrush that would harvest hormonal data from saliva twice a day. That data, when synced up with your spending habits, would give insights into what you’re buying and why.
“What if you could look back at patterns in our hormones from previous week or month and maybe see when you are doing things like comfort spending,” says O’Dwyer. “Maybe you could see that you had higher oestrogen levels and that’s why you were buying extra stuff. That could potentially be interesting.”
While there’s no proof that more sleep and exercise or lower cholesterol impacts on your purchasing decisions, having that data could help you to spot potential correlations between hormone levels and spending, giving a layer or context and understanding to the numbers.
What if money were smart?
Devices that we use every day claim to know us. Through our constant use of phones and tablets, these smart objects are able to tailor their services to be highly personalised. But what if that level of personalisation came to our money?
Method gave money a personality for a week. Five employees from the agency shared control of their finances with digital personalities – adventurous, mindful, jealous, frugal and hedonistic – that were controlled by their colleagues. These personalities offered advice and gave directives based on their assigned traits. For example, an employee whose controlling personality was adventurous gave half of his weekly budget to be invested in cryptocurrencies.
“The default patterns of services are very much the same for everyone,” O’Dwyer says. “But people are complicated; we need lots of different experiences.”