Noted Bitcoin entrepreneur, thought leader, and activist Andreas Antonopoulos recently spoke at a Barcelona Bitcoin Community meetup. Addressing a variety of topics, Antonopoulos delivered his message with the clarity and foresight we have some to expect from one of Bitcoin’s most influential advocates.
Antonopoulos titled his speech “Thoughts on the Future of Money” and delivered on the lofty heading. He began by placing neutrality, decentralization, and privacy within the context of the Bitcoin community. He asked the audience to not think of Bitcoin as a currency but instead the “concept of completely decentralized, network-based, flat networks for providing trusted applications.
This is an important, extremely basic, understanding of the network that sometimes gets lost in the complex, larger narrative. The point, says Antonopoulos, is to utilize this concept to begin restructuring a variety of different institutions that have become bastions of hierarchy, ultimately leading to centralized control.
He also notes that he thinks the very reason institutions have embraced hierarchy is due to the fact that it in the past it was necessary in order to have mass intra-organizational communication be streamlined. This, he says, grew out of the industrial revolution. Antonopoulos advocates for a restructuring of these communication and control systems saying that the time has come as this system “has run its course.”
Antonopoulos continues and refers to himself as a “Disruptarian,” advocating that all systems, at some point, need to be disrupted so as they do not become too powerful. This is where he really takes a deep dive into the theory that forms the bulk of his philosophy.
Antonopoulos states that no matter the entity “the architecture of systems is what ultimately produces outcomes.” In this he is correct. Systems are typically engineered either through purposeful design or the evolutionary process to produce specific outcomes. The point, he says, is that
Bitcoin’s architecture gives us a new way of organizing the world.
This new way of visualizing the organization of the world as Antonopoulos states is flat, global, and accessible. He states that, in terms of communication, the internet basically put a printing press at everyone’s fingertips…Bitcoin (or the like) will do the same for banking. And that is the exciting part, Bitcoin is the first financial network that exhibits the characteristics of neutrality.
He states that governments, banks, and the ilk do not want this to succeed as it curbs control and traceability. Antonopoulos uses the example of Wikileaks to illustrate how with pressure on just a couple of credit card companies, governments were able to cut the group off financially. Now, he states, this type of pressure is being applied to entire countries. That was until 2009. He stated:
And just like that the dream of nation states to create a totalitarian financial system ended on January 3, 2009 with the invention of BTC and the mining of the genesis block.
Antonopoulos warned the crowd that no doubt big government will fight back with the most basic human emotion, fear. And no doubt they will use virtual attacks to try and undermine the system. However, the system will evolve, survive, and thrive. Because that’s how evolution works. In this new world of distributed trust systems, currency says Anonopoulos, is just the first app.
Antonopoulos then addressed one of the hottest topics in the BTC community within the Q & A portion of his talk. An audience member asked about Bitcoin within the context of banks. The question was centered on the idea of conflicting agendas of big banks versus the rest of the adopters of cryptos. Antonopoulos says that he sees a bifurcated system. One in which regional banks with a focus on extending services for more people will embrace the technology and commercial banks will continue to push back. He feels that this mirrors what happened within the telecom industry when the internet became a formidable force of connectivity.
Large telecoms fought it and smaller competitors embraced the technology in order to compete with the larger entities. Antonopoulos states that he thinks the big commercial banks are experiencing the “5 Stages of Grief.” First, they denied the efficacy of the technology, then they marginalized the conversation, now they are pursuing a bargaining tactic by acknowledging the uses for blockchain (specifically NOT Bitcoin as Antonopoulos says). They will then experience “depression” and ultimately acceptance, he says.
However, he points out that pursuing blockchain for the institutional uses these large groups are pursuing simply does not make sense. He states that there are much more efficient ways to executed the proposed usages. Antonopoulos sees the conversation regarding the adoption of this tech by large commercial banks as having a fundamental rift. Simply, these institutions have no economic incentive to adopt or even recognize the larger view of the technology. He states,
This system is a confrontational system…because we (BTC community) are creating opportunities that some do want to see.
Antonopoulos thinks in the end, nevertheless, that trustless, non-centralized ledgers will eclipse the reach of these institutions. He likens these big banks to dinosaurs and BTC advocates to small mammals. A meteor has already appeared in the sky, he says, and when the dust has settled the mammals will still be alive and thriving.
Andreas Antonopoulos continues to appear at forums, meetups, and rallies because he is not only a great speaker, but he is a true advocate. Whether you agree or not with his politics, presentations, or view on technology, one thing cannot be argued: Human beings have the right to exist and be heard. Providing the ability for billions to carry bank accounts in their pockets is as important as any of the necessities of life.
In this world how can you pursue life, liberty, and happiness without a method to connect and transact? The power of interconnectivity comes from the network. And that is what Antonopoulos advocates, uploading the ability for human beings to participate in the future.
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