Model UN Participants Reflect Public Image of Bitcoin

Hope
Jeremy and many others don’t trust Bitcoin.

I was at Hope College this week for their annual Model United Nations conference and I decided to make the best use of my time by investigating the minds of these youthful thinkers. I also got a surprise opportunity to ask former Representative of Michigan’s 2nd district, Pete Hoekstra, about Bitcoins at his dinner speech on Global Terrorism. People came from all over the state of Michigan and the answer is essentially the same; I don’t trust it!

So what will it take for Bitcoin to gain the trust of the general populous? Well, I interviewed a Hope College business student and he [Jeremy] sums up the general consensus;

“So far, I’ve heard it’s an online currency… and transacted online.”

It sounds a lot like Conan’s sketch. For most laymen, it seems like email-able Chuck-E-Cheese tokens, but I don’t blame them! It’s hard to explain the Bitcoin network and protocol to people who don’t care, aren’t interested, and don’t trust it. And that’s really the problem; they don’t trust it. Why not? My Hope College acquaintance continues:

“It fluctuates a lot, so I’m not really keen on it because if it fluctuates so rapidly, there’s no telling what could happen.”

He then asked me:

“So question: It’s not very regulated, is it? Would it be easy to make a scam off of it?”

This marks the first real issue for people newly introduced to Cryptocurrencies. They want to know if it’s a ponzi scheme or something of the sort, and they certainly have a right to be concerned. In this global financial meltdown, trust in both private and public institutions are at an all-time low and many are not feeling safe enough to take that risk. I did explain to him the decentralized and encrypted components of Bitcoin and cryptocurrencies that are the driving safeguard against things like double spending and other scams, but he was still weary.

In the middle of my interview, two of his dorm buddies walked in. One of them had no idea about cryptocurrencies, the other completely dismissed it. Really, this is all based on the comfort we have with putting something that is state-backed to be accepted into something that has a short history that has been wildly volatile.

“Okay, well if it went further, and it was a better currency… if it were tactile, I’d be a little more happy about it because… it’s there,” and then later, “If there was a little more regulation, it might be a little more effective. Then I would consider it a little more, you know, to be legitimized. Right now, it’s shady at best.”

Essentially, it’s a simple case of fearing what you don’t know. Putting yourself in the shoes of some bright high school student or college grad, you might not be thinking about cryptocurrencies when the world seems huge and overbearing. All they know about bitcoin is that it goes against the established order they’ve grown up with in their short lives.

This is all understandable, so the question I ask the CryptoCommunity is “How are we going to show the world just how revolutionary this technology can and will be? How can we appeal to people like Jeremy who just don’t believe it is legitimate?”

More questions from CCN here.

[divider]A Voice from the State[/divider]

It’s important to realize that people in the world and in our own nations not only believe in different means to similar goals, but may also have different ends in themselves. This throws a heavy wrench into political discourse, especially when lawmakers, those who actually make the laws for the rest of us, have different views than some of their constituents.

At the Model UN banquet, our guest speaker was former Congressman Pete Hoekstra. He’s most known for his work on the intelligence committee especially after 9/11. The topic of his speech and being there was ‘Global Terrorism.’ After his speech, he opened up for a Q&A session. I asked him about his perspective on Bitcoin and Cryptocurrencies on a world stage. This is his full quote:

Hope2“This issue has evolved since I left office, so my knowledge isn’t as clear, but I mean, a couple things that would happen with Bitcoin that, you know with the bankruptcy and that, who knows whether it has survived. Most likely someone will learn from what happened. With this first iteration of this financing alternative, someone else will come out with a better policy, more security, more financial security.

But what it does, that way that I would look at it, one of our most effective ways of combating terrorism is to cut off the flow of funds, follow the money and we can do that through the traditional financial structure.

Alternative structures like Bitcoin and those types of things, I believe, would make it much more difficult to track financing and it would be a great network for terrorist organizations to funnel money to the places that they need to enable their operations and move forward; it would be a good tool for terrorist networks. And not just terrorists, but also narco-efforts and those types of things.”

Picking his words apart, we find that he is concerned about how to control terrorism as well as drug trades. This is, of course, highly accepted for neo-conservatives and other political factions, so I wasn’t surprised, but it is something worth noting, especially in consideration of lawmakers who will be manipulating the future of Bitcoin.

He was asked later in the night if he considered regulating Bitcoin and surprisingly, he said no, stating that it was an issue of internet freedom. His exact stance is therefore a bit unclear at the moment. Former Congressman Hoekstra has not been in congress since 2011.

After the banquet, I was approached by a number of fellow Model UN participants interested in Bitcoin and Cryptocurrencies. It was refreshing to know that there is a small and growing group of enthusiasts of the CryptoCommunity in the physical world. Chris Beaucshene, a participant, summed up the evening, “Statists just don’t understand.”

[divider]What this means for the CryptoCommunity[/divider]

We are making huge leaps and bounds. It’s been only a year since Cyprus and now Overstock and Ebay are opening up to Bitcoin. The world is beginning to turn its eyes on this new technology, but we do, of course, have obstacles to overcome. For the financial world, how can Bitcoin truly become a stable, reliable component in the way we do business? For the political realm, how can/should Bitcoin be approached to provide the safest service it can be? For the rest of the world, how can it be understood and used for common, everyday life?

As the developments continue to be made every day, 2014 is sizing up to be the biggest year for Cryptocurrencies. I suggest you get ready and be ready.

Last modified (UTC): March 13, 2014 10:17 PM

About the author

Calvin Tran

Calvin Tran is a filmmaker attending NYU's Tisch School of the Arts. He is interested in economics as a way to see the world and inspires him to create media that illustrates the power of freedom and technology in improving all of our lives.