Have you ever felt like you needed a cash register wherever you go? Me neither. But now that everybody's running their own business and collecting fees from a gig here and a gig there, it might come in handy to have a portable, digital, tiny cash register that lets you collect money from anybody owing you. All they need is a debit card, and all you need is a smart phone.
My 20-something coworker told me about it, and I said, "Are you serious?", and of course she was. A week later, she had gotten this gitzmo, called the Square, and proceeded to demonstrate on her iPhone, which has apps for every conceivable information-getting activity, but was sorely lacking one for cash-getting activities.
I won't be getting a Square any time soon. Nonetheless, I was just thinking this past weekend, while taking the "L" in Chicago, that the world is becoming increasingly modular. Everything one needs to do, every trajectory one needs to cover, has been broken down into pieces, and those pieces have been broken down into more pieces, and you connect as many or as few as you need to reach your goal. It's like every activity we undertake has undergone engineering scrutiny and creativity, from cooking a meal to traveling in space.
The Square seems like a new module, a tiny one, connecting you to the banking system. It's still you and the big banking system, you navigating through that big system, but you've got a new direct route that begins on the palm of your hand.
Modulizing things isn't new. What seems new to me is the ever increasing number of modules for an increasing number of connections to larger systems. We all become like a Me-Central of information and communication, with a gadget here and a device there. We have the option to rely on the communal system and be part of larger modules -- like just standing in line at the bank and depositing your friend's check -- or to create an individualized one, as in: "Here, zap your debit card through my Square."