Reality though is usually more mundane. Even for AI.
In his speech Kuroda implicitly argues the challenge with these new technologies is not always the big questions, it is often the myriad small ones. With AI he draws attention to market distortion, information security, data privacy - those essential process and governance considerations with which any transformative technology has to grapple if it is to obtain and hold a social licence to operate.
So the right movie to serve as a model for how the interaction of technology and finance might evolve is probably more like Andy Warhol’s Empire than Blade Runner.
Take digital wallets like Apple Pay or Android Pay and others. This idea is more than two decades old, back when they were known as “electronic purses”. They didn’t reside on phones as the only things which resided on phones were rotary dials and handsets.
Yet the idea was there: something portable which not only replaced cash but provided other value, whether it was loyalty programs or multiple functions such as train tickets. Australian pilots of these programs by Visa and MasterCard were very successful and went nowhere. So too in Japan, Singapore and many countries in Europe.
The reasons for the slow acceptance were many, varied and relatively minor: some people didn’t see the need to replace cash, many merchants were waiting for the technology to gain wider acceptance, terminal providers struggled with contactless capacity, stakeholders raised privacy and security objections.
Now, more than 20 years later, in Australia at least, mobile wallets are gaining genuine traction. This bank, ANZ, has just passed a year since launching Apple Pay and also offers Android Pay and a proprietary ANZ Mobile Pay wallet.
ANZ says it has about 600,000 cards available in digital wallets (the lion’s share being Apple Pay) with nearly 18 million mobile payment transactions made over the past year. The bank says Apple Pay users are highly engaged and transact 2.5 times more than before they added Apple Pay to their phones.
There’s a generational attraction: Apple Pay appeals most to 18 – 36 year olds while grocery, fast food and fuel are the most popular categories. Meanwhile chief executive Shayne Elliott has said the technology has also attracted tens of thousands of new customers to the bank.
But for all the success of mobile wallets in Australia and some regional markets, whether the technology takes off on a global scale depends primarily on global markets – and that means the United States, China and the European Union.
That’s why it is so difficult to predict how even technologies with proven utility will fare.
Payment analysts note determining markets actually fall into development not geographic categories - developed economies or emerging markets. They are totally different due to the percentage of the population unbanked, the penetration of smart phones and the size of the banking sector compared with substitute payment entities like telcos.
Take China. According iResearch, China is the largest mobile payments market in the world with transactions tripling to 38 trillion yuan. But the two companies battling for control are not banks, device manufacturers or telcos, they are the internet conglomerates Alibaba and Tencent.
Alibaba’s Alipay is the market leader via its e-commerce sites Taobao and T-Mall with Tencent's WeChat Pay growing due to the near 800 million daily active users on its messaging and social media app.
While originally online, these technologies are migrating to the physical world. The Chinese are already huge mobile wallet users – but the technology most commonly is a phone app scanning a QR code linking the merchant with the internet company.
Using low cost point-of-sale technologies and phone-based systems such as QR codes is lower cost and easier to roll out. These strategies are being used not just in China but also the Philippines, Kenya, Mexico and South Africa.
According to a report in The Australian Financial Review, WeChat Pay accounted for 24 per cent of all transactions by value during the week ending March 31, having been added as a payments options just six months earlier. Alipay accounted for 72 per cent of transactions with the state-backed UnionPay, which holds a monopoly on credit card payments in China, making up the remainder over the same period.
Meanwhile, in Australia the runaway success of contactless payments via so-called “tap’n’go” is a double edged sword: mobile wallets utilise the same contactless technology but the success of cards in this realm means it is harder to have consumers switch.
Some recent research by an industry consultant found 11 per cent of Australian consumers were familiar with Apple Pay and Samsung Pay but 40 per cent were still not aware of mobile payments at all. However 85 per cent had used a contactless card.
Obviously mobile wallets are still relatively new so greater awareness would be expected to aid take-up but the question is to what extent.