Bitcoin will revolutionize the world, says Andreas Antonopoulos a leading voice in crypto-currency technology. Interview with Andreas Antonopoulos.
Bitcoin has become a hot topic in liberty circles. Some believe it can free humanity from the clutches of a parasitical financial system, while some suspect that it may be a trap for a one-world digital currency. We decided to ask an expert to weigh in.
There are very few people on the planet who fully understand Bitcoin’s technology and its potential to impact the world. Andreas Antonopoulos is one such fellow. Last year he gave what some call the must-see “TED Talk” about Bitcoin even though it was presented at the Disrupt Conference in Greece (watch below).
Antonopoulos is a California-based programmer and entrepreneur primarily focused on Bitcoin in the developing world. He says Bitcoin’s technology to transmit value using a distributed consensus is truly revolutionary. He calls it the “Internet of Money” with many applications.
Besides his technical acumen, Antonopoulos has emerged as the leading voice for how Bitcoin will be a force for good. How a few lines of code could unseat entire industries, even those as powerful as banking. How billions of unbanked people now have access to global financial markets without a middleman. And how it offers decentralized solutions beyond currency.
Here’s our email interview with Andreas Antonopoulos about some of the more controversial subjects concerning Bitcoin:
Q: When and why were you first attracted to Bitcoin? Did you have an “aha moment”?
The first time I heard of bitcoin, I ignored it. The second time, in 2011, I read the Satoshi paper because I wanted to understand the technology for myself. That moment, I realized bitcoin was much more than a currency, it is a network, a distributed asset ledger and a platform for transmitting value.
Q: Bitcoin has the potential to disrupt many legacy systems. What do you think will be Bitcoin’s greatest impact on society?
Most financial networks depend on exclusivity to achieve security: they keep the bad people out by limiting the number of people who can access them and carefully vetting them. Bitcoin security is based on computation and this allows it to be an open network. As a result, anyone can join the bitcoin network, or rather *everyone* can join the bitcoin network. Crypto-currencies can bring financial services to people around the world who are excluded from banking and international finance because of politics.
Q: There are many who philosophically believe in the core elements of Bitcoin, such as that it’s open source, limited in supply, decentralized and pseudonymous, but they’re suspicious that it can be corrupted or used as a tool for control in the future. How concerned are you about Bitcoin becoming more “centralized”?
Centralization is certainly a concern. Ironically, this means that in the worst case scenario, bitcoin behaves more like a dollar or euro, revealing the weakness of centrally managed and manipulated currencies. While there are some reasons to worry about excessive centralization, there is a tendency to decentralize built into the bitcoin network as it allows innovation to occur at the edges of the network, much like the Internet. Also, the bitcoin community and developers are actively resisting centralization, while the best innovation and solutions built on it are those that take advantage of the de-centralized nature of the system to disrupt and re-invent existing financial systems. Overall, I think bitcoin will result in massive de-centralization and disintermediation of financial services.
Q: Thanks to Edward Snowden, we now have proof that Google and Facebook are essentially hubs to collect our data. Yet they also serve as powerful communication tools to do good in society. Is it fair to say that Bitcoin, even if it’s a data trap, is still a powerful tool to disrupt or is anonymity essential for it to reach its full potential?
Even if the NSA itself had invented bitcoin, a silly conspiracy theory that is often mentioned in this context, bitcoin would still deliver massive positive effects to the centralized and ossified financial systems of the world. Beyond bitcoin the currency, there is bitcoin the invention, which can be re-shaped in thousands of alternative forms of currency, some more or less anonymous than others. There will be many choices among crypto-currencies for people, across the whole range of privacy and anonymity levels.
Q: In a recent discussion you said there’s a danger to Bitcoin going mainstream too fast. Please explain…
Bitcoin wallets and applications are still quite complex and difficult to use, much like the Internet of the early ’90s when it took Unix command-line skills to send an email. It is also not easy to secure purely-digital money like bitcoin. The danger of going mainstream too fast is that these “rough edges” will cause people to lose faith, or worse lose some money. In the end, bitcoin will go mainstream and that is out of anyone’s control. I am hopeful that the accelerated innovation on UI/UX design and bitcoin applications will allow us to bring a much easier user experience for the early adopters of bitcoin.
Q: The stewards of Bitcoin have the ability to ensure anonymity at the protocol level or engineer better tracking to placate authorities. Are application layer solutions for anonymity like Dark Wallet or Zerocoin enough to protect users’ privacy?
The real issue is not so much “anonymity”, but “fungibility” in the transaction layer. Application layer solutions are vulnerable to analysis at the layer below and are difficult to implement on top of a transparent transaction layer. I would prefer to see stronger anonymity and complete currency fungibility built into the transaction layer so that all layers above can benefit from it. Secure and private transactions without traceability should be a feature available to all users of bitcoin, not just those running “special” applications.
Q: You often say currency is the first “app” of Bitcoin, that it is the “Internet of Money”. What are likely to be the second and third apps?
Other currencies are likely to appear on top of the bitcoin network, alongside the bitcoin currency. Beyond currencies, other applications include stock certificates or other forms of asset tokens that allow corporate stock offerings, commodities, bonds etc. to be traded on top of bitcoin. Bitcoin will make it possible for companies to raise funds from a global audience, in bitcoin, by offering fully transferable stock certificates encoded in the blockchain.