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    I have kind-of similar problems with my iPhone: I can’t buy anything from Apple because it won’t let me. The story is a bit long, the short version is:

    • I bought my phone when living in New Zealand.
    • My bank account is British (Revolut), as I lived in the UK prior.
    • I visited the Netherlands for a few weeks after leaving NZ.
    • I currently live in Ireland.

    I need to switch regions to do certain stuff (like install RyanAir app, buy certain stuff), but I can only add my UK card if I set the region to UK. There are also conflicting messages where it tells me to “switch to Dutch region to continue”, so I do, and then tells me “Switch to New Zealand region to continue” :-/

    In short, the entire thing is a clusterfuck and needlessly frustrating. Some details on my HN comment.


    I don’t really like computers replacing humans. That might sound strange considering where I’m saying it, but in almost every case where I see a human process get replaced by a computerised one, a bit of humanity and sanity is lost. Perhaps my favourite example are the buses in the Netherlands: back in the day you could take your bicycle on them if you paid a bit extra, but then the public transport card got introduced and it no longer has the option to pay extra for my bike, so I can’t bring it. If you think this is a minor issue then try cycling 15km to work every day and get a flat tire somewhere halfway at 21:00 after doing overtime, meaning you’ll have to spend an hour walking home in the rain and miss the supermarket closing time.

    Life is complex; the world is complex. It needs humans exercising judgment.

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      This seems like a pretty big fucking oversight in The Netherlands…!

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        I’m Dutch and I don’t recall bringing a bicicle on a bus was ever an option, there wouldn’t be space for it. On the metro or train there was and still is. The new transport card system definitely has its faults though, that I attribute to the requirements apparently just being too complex. I would love to see an honest retrospective of someone high up in the organisation of a project like that.

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          If the bus isn’t full there’s plenty of space. Back in the day they extra charged me for bringing the bike (with strippenkaart); I don’t know if that was employee discretion or if it varied by bus company (this was in Eindhoven).

          In Dunedin buses have bike racks on front, which is pretty neat. I’ve also seen them in Christchurch and other parts. One reason it’s more useful than in the Netherlands is that some parts are a wee bit more hilly.

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            Employee discretion is actually a very good argument against computers replacing humans. Modeling all exceptions to rules that can reasonably be made in a computer system is impossible.

            bikeAllowed = numPeople < BUSY_THRESHOLD && numPeople + averageNewPassengersAtFutureStops < BUSY_THRESHOLD && itIsRaining && noOtherBikeInBus && guySeemsFriendly

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              Modelling employee discretion as a first-class part of computer systems is like a secret superpower. You end up with software that works for customers and support staff that appreciate you.

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                Counter-take - an automated system could predict future rate of occupancy (taking previous traffic flows into account, real-time view of following stops etc) and thus deny a bike passage because it would not allow X passengers onboard on a later stop. In the absence of such over-engineering just forbidding bikes is a reasonable compromise.

                FWIW no bikes are allowed on public transport here in Stockholm, apart from commuter trains on off-peak hours, and on boats.

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                  Bikes are not allowed on buses in Copenhagen either, but you can take them on the Metro and S-Trains, the former costs money and the latter for free. The ticket costs as much as the trip for a single person which actually dis-incentivizes taking the bike at all. I am somewhat annoyed that buses in SF of all places actually have bike racks.

                  The electronic system is only half-smart too, since if you don’t check in your bike and start with S-Train, but then change to Metro you have no way to add it to my knowledge and checking out and in again (which usually is linked), counts it as two separate journeys. Computers are hard and don’t let Accenture design your traffic system.

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              Taking bicycles on buses was definitely an option, like the OP said it was dependent on the driver being reasonable.

              The Dutch transport card system is an awful system that from the beginning was optimized for company profits and analytics. Passengers have always come last in its design if they were even a consideration.

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          So the only alternatives to cash are a no-privacy, government-controlled totalitarian system, or cryptocurrencies? It’s a totally reductionist point of view. There is a huge solution space in between.

          In New Zealand, for example, we hardly use cash, but guess what: it’s not a dystopian nightmare! We simply make payments using our bank debit cards, or credit cards, or even Apple Pay. Seems to work fine.

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            Bank debit cards, credit cards, and Apple pay are absolutely vulnerable to being cut off because “you said something someone with power doesn’t like”. Or just by virtue of overzealous (maybe selectively overzealous?) fraud detection measures, which have actually prevented me from making purchases with my own debit and credit cards.

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              Given a sufficiently dystopian regime, neither cash nor cryptocurrencies would help you, because in the secret-police torture dungeon you won’t have access to them and there won’t be anything you’d want to buy anyway.

              It’s also weird to me that people only ever raise this in the context of Wikileaks, when it’s been happening to say, adult content for years and years. I know someone who did tech stuff for a comic artist who does a fair bit of NSFW stuff, for example; lots of trouble there finding hosting services, payment processors (for merchandise), etc. – just for drawing comics that sometimes have naked people and sex jokes in them. And that’s without getting into how LGBT resources, abortion resources, and other similar things often get classified as “adult content” and hit with the same broad banhammer as porn does.

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                Sounds like that comic artist was creating art that people with power don’t like (or a least art that was close enough that the financial system’s bureaucracy can’t distinguish it). It would be good if there was a way to for people to pay that artist without using channels that can be blocked because a bureaucracy decided not to allow it! ,

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                  You seem to be stuck on this narrative that it’s very specific “people with power” who are responsible for this. It’s not. It’s a reflection of a society-wide willingness to marginalize certain topics and groups. It happens when conservatives are in power, it happens when liberals are in power, it happens in democracies, it happens in dictatorships.

                  In general, the things that are truly fundamentally wrong in modern society are not due to decisions made in smoky back rooms by a sinister cabal of “people with power” twirling their mustaches and cackling. They’re due to decisions made every day by ordinary people. I’d suggest that if you want real, lasting change, a necessary first step is recognizing and accepting this.

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                    Uhm, no, not quiet. In most cases, it’s unwillingness to get yourself in trouble. The soviet union used lethal force against people peacefully protesting against food prices increase. Even in the 80’s, saying a wrong thing publicly could get you fired and forever locked out of any non-minimum wage jobs. A number of soviet rock musicians worked as janitors etc. for this reason, not because they lacked skills or education. They often had decent jobs until they lost them when their involvement in the underground music scene was discovered. Most ordinary people also thought the ban was ridiculous and their music was wildly popular. The ordinary people, however, had no power to do anything with the sinister people in the back rooms though.

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                      The Soviet Union only lasted as long as it did because of the complicity of vast numbers of people. Even people who would – if offered the opportunity – have told you that they hated the system and wished it would end. But every day, they still did things and made choices which propped up and reinforced that system.

                      This isn’t necessarily saying that ordinary Soviet citizens were wrong to make the choices they did. One of the perverse things about these situations is that something which seems like, or even is, the best and most rationally self-interested choice at the level of a specific individual can be a terrible, irrational, society-wrecking choice in aggregate.

                      But it absolutely is the case that the “oh, you did something the people in power don’t like” style of narrative I was replying to is not useful. The things I was bringing up are not going to be fixed by replacing a handful of “people in power”. As Terry Pratchett pointed out a few times in his books, one problem with returning power to “The People” is you find out unpleasant truths about The People.

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                          I keep telling you the all-whites-are-privileged narrative is BS. That plenty exist in oppressive environments. In service sector (esp retail), many are even effectively slaves. The people they serve are in all kinds of groups. Most write-ups on it are rants by people deep in the shit with little potential for positive benefit. That’s one of the best articles I’ve seen on the subject. His background and writing skills made it much more interesting.

                          Thanks for the article! I’m definitely going to put it to good use. I know some folks in service positions that might find some inspiration in it to get better jobs.

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                  The first scenario seems far-fetched. The second is possible, but you usually have recourse, like calling the bank and getting them to unfreeze the account, or I think my bank now allows me to do it via the mobile app. Besides, cash has its own failure modes! It’s vulnerable to being lost or stolen. I still see a large solution space with different tradeoffs for different solutions.

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                    The first scenario seems far-fetched.

                    You should look up how Wikileaks went down. It wasn’t a FBI, CIA, or SOCOM operation that many thought might be coming. They just pissed off powerful people who, on the banking side, decided to shut off their donations before they leaked on a powerful bank (BofA suspected). Those blocking donations were Visa, Mastercard, and Paypal that I recall. Then, Wikileaks withered and died.

                    No speculation required. It already happened. Under the Patriot Act, it could’ve happened repeatedly without you knowing why since the order would be classified with NDA. The U.S. is a quasi-police state. Suspect the worst until federal and secret government powers are reigned in via laws with teeth. Hell, GAO said Congress oversight didn’t even read their reports on NSA abuse. Congress also made some violators immune to what they did with later legislation. Assume the worst since there’s plenty reason to at this point.

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                      …it could’ve happened repeatedly without you knowing why since the order would be classified with NDA.

                      You probably mean NSL? National Security Letter?

                      Much, much worse than any NDA.

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                        Well, any government sealing of what’s going on. It could be NDA, NSL, court order (esp FISA), etc.

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                        I knew this was going to come up :) But WikiLeaks is an exceptional example, and anyway the proximate cause of its issues was excess corporate power, so it’s tangential to what I was commenting on.

                        Regardless, there is a multitude of solutions that would prevent this scenario, and jumping straight to cryptocurrencies is not required.

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                          That last part is true. The others are a maybe. For instance, people periodically run into Paypal freezes. For normal banks, I think people’s money is probably safer in them due to both muggers and civil forfeiture. Folks irreversibly lose cash more often than digital cash with higher damages. Unless we’re talking ACH but basic security mitigates that.

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                          Pretty scary that a handful of companies control commerce. If Mastercard, AMEX, Paypal and Visa decides to not work with you, your effectively cut off from a large portion of the market.

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                            True. I’ll add that online just Paypal will cause a big loss cuz folks trust its escrow. AMEX you can usually ditch since (a) many shops dont take it and (b) most AMEX users have MC/VISA backup for that reason. Whereas, losing MC or VISA is throwing your wallet out the window. Many people don’t even carry cash.

                            I still encourage everyone to keep cash on them in case cards go down at a store. Saved my butt and helped others many times.

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                            Suspect the worst until federal and secret government powers are reigned in via laws with teeth.

                            Given many recent political events, I’m becoming suspicious that any number or combination of laws can reign in the mess we have now. Almost seems like the Government is just to darn big to ever really get under control.

                            Though I’m also concerned that if we cut it back too hard, we may just give even more power to corporations, which aren’t that much better.

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                      Disclaimer: I’m born and raised in Shanghai

                      I think we have had a regulation since 1 or 2 years ago ordering that merchants cannot deny cash, because most elderly people don’t know how to use a smart phone, let along online payment. But yeah, you must identify yourself before most online services become available. For one, you literally cannot live a normal life in China without WeChat, which must be registered with a phone number, which is linked to your national ID.

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                        A few months ago I saw this WeChat article, would you consider it an accurate snapshot?

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                          I have read it too, and I think it’s accurate.

                          It’s not like someone around me or I have ever been locked out of WeChat, though. Most Chinese have learned to keep their mouth shut on “politically sensitive” topics because discussing them on social media is probably the best way to get yourself into some trouble. The offending post will get deleted, and sometimes your account will get banned too. Or worse, if the powers that be is really uncool with it, you’ll get arrested.

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                        I’ve had similar issues recently using Chinese services when I visit. It’s super frustrating to be totally locked out of a lot of these apps (after all, I’m not a resident! But I am more than willing to contribute money into the economy)

                        This is the sort of thing that I would hope Libra could smooth over, if it ever picked up

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                          what makes you think that facebook would be a better steward of your financial liberties than tencent?

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                            Because the entire pitch of Libra is for cross-border stuff.

                            I wouldn’t like it as a general purpose thing but I would like it as a way to avoid cash-related issues when going abroad

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                              Facebook is banned in China. Libra will be insta-banned in China if it ever picks up steam. Libra is taking away control from national governments. That’s anathema to most countries, let alone China.

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                              So far, they answer to themselves instead of the Chinese government with less nationalist censorship. They’re also battling with their own government semi-successfully. Once again, unlike Chinese operators who probably work closely with theirs given it’s even more of a police state.

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                            A bit overblown, to be fair; as everything, get a local friend to help you out with the technicalities.

                            Got helped with the phone number and the bank account, after that, all was (and still is) pretty smooth.

                            Their one rule still is: foreigners cannot send money outside China (or Chinese accounts), that’s all.

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                              I think enshrining in law the requirement to be able to process cash transactions is a good next step.

                              Convenience is nice, backwards compatibility in human mediated systems is nicer.

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                                Such a law exists in e.g. Germany. It used to exist in Denmark, but some places are now allowed to opt out, which I guess mainly affects German tourists.

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                                As a consumer, I love the convenience and benefits that cashless payments bring. As a merchant, I love the reduced payment friction and increased sales that cashless payments bring as they let me to do business with customers thousands of miles away. As supporter of individual sovereignty, cashless payments scare me.

                                (my emphasis)

                                It can be argued, on the strength of population alone, that a support for individual sovereignty is an extremist position. Without knowing that much about current Chinese political philosophy, I suspect it’s considered as such in the PRC.

                                I know the author is trying to make a bigger point here, but clothing it in the argument of the current state of WeChat Pay in today’s China, there’s too many variables at play to make that point.

                                A better question would be - is “individual sovereignty” at risk in a country like Sweden, which is almost functionally cash-less at the moment? To discuss that, I’d need a better definition of the term.

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                                  Individual sovereignty sounds also a bit weird if you demand to pay in cash, presumably in a currency that is not minted by you individually but rather a sovereign state over which you have only marginal control.

                                  I mean, unless he plans to pay for the tea in eggs that his hens have produced or ore that he has mined in this backyard (which amusingly, might also not be yours even if you find oil on your property).

                                  But maybe it is not about absolute individual sovereignty, but rather opting out of as much as possible. But where to draw the line?

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                                    From a dictators perspective, maintaining a secret police employing 20% of your workforce drains basically all the money you could have been lining your pockets with. It really only makes sense if you’re trying to stave off a lethal revolution.

                                    IMO, we are right to fear anything that makes that sort of surveillance cheap enough to do easily. Being able to pay for goods in hard-to-trace cash is one of the best ways to make surveillance expensive.

                                    That’s how I, personally, draw the line.

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                                  To be honest,WeChat just need you to complete real name verification. Maybe, your Wechat has been registered for a while, As we konw, new registered Wechat can’t receive red packets any more without binding to mainland bank cards.