BY RICHARD STALLMAN 09.28.136:30 AM
This article is relevant now and worthy of your time to read (1 page). –john
It is now 30 years since I launched the campaign for freedom in computing, that is, for software to be free or “libre” (we use that word to emphasize that we’re talking about freedom, not price). Some proprietary programs, such as Photoshop, are very expensive; others, such as Flash Player, are available gratis — either way, they subject their users to someone else’s power.
Much has changed since the beginning of the free software movement: Most people in advanced countries now own computers — sometimes called “phones” — and use the internet with them. Non-free software still makes the users surrender control over their computing to someone else, but now there is another way to lose it: Service as a Software Substitute, or SaaSS, which means letting someone else’s server do your own computing activities.
Why does this control matter? Because freedom means having control over your own life.
I understand Marcus Wohlsen’s (of wired.com) point, http://www.wired.com/business/2013/08/why-do-we-need-banks/ and I agree that change to automated, consumer-driven transactions and on-demand financial services is what the market demands. However I disagree with his conclusion that local financial stores will all vanish.
The financial firm at which I do most of my business is not located at a special, isolated, banking building, mind you, but at the Three Rivers Federal Credit Union branch that is located in my local grocery store. This branch allows me to give instructions to personnel who can perform the task that I want done, usually immediately, whether it be initiating some new process (such as opening another account for some specific purpose), reporting and stopping an identity thief, a correction of an errant automated transaction on one of my accounts, or a deposit of receipts in old-fashioned checks and cash.
The downside to on-line automation is exception handling, which requires human interaction. This kind of human interaction needs to be attentive and helpful also, not some uncaring foreigner on a telephone in some other country who doesn’t even speak clear English, without the will or authority to actually resolve the issue.
I feel that Marcus is correct about for-profit banks because I feel that the cost of supporting totally free-standing separate buildings just for a for-profit bank are likely ended, but partnership arrangements to make banking personnel available in a high traffic location, such as at a grocery store, are far less expensive. The grocery store also benefits from the presence of the TRFCU branch that I patronize because after I drop off my deposit, at a teller during business hours or in the night deposit box after hours, I then pick up whatever supplies my company and my not-for-profit corporation require, making those purchases at that grocery store. This suits me because it is more convenient to me than shopping where the milk or sugar are slightly cheaper because I was already there to do my banking.
Marcus Wohlsen’s concept is solid: that changes in the financial industry will be driven by consumer preference and convenience. What I feel he has missed is that there will always be a need for a human being to efficiently fix mistakes in the system, and that is why I feel that local branches will never go away, although they will become much more financially efficient.