Bitcoin expert and activist Dug Campbell, founder of the Edinburgh Bitcoin Meetup and the inaugural Scottish Bitcoin Conference, gave a talk on “Bitcoin: More Than Just Money” at the University of Edinburgh TEDx 2014 Conference. TEDx events are local, independently produced TED branded events.
“It was an amazing opportunity to give a talk to a room full of intelligent and engaged individuals about what I’m certain will turn out to be one of the most significant developments in recent times,” says Campbell on his website.
“I believe strongly that the technology that underpins Bitcoin will act as a foundation for a fundamental restructuring of the society that we know today. We’re moving into a world that will be dominated by decentralized networks and the coming disruption will be felt in many areas – including finance.”
The talk starts with an important problem: migrant workers send a lot of money back to their families in developing countries ($414 billion in 2013, according to the World Bank), and often they must pay exorbitant bank charges, which can be as high as 25%. Bitcoin gives them, and all of us, the possibility to transfer value instantaneously with negligible cost, for the first time.
“The stories that the press tend to publish about Bitcoin are often not the full picture. So sure, yes, they talk about it being a new form of digital money, kind of like email and cash combined, a way that you can transfer value immediately from one point to another, directly instantaneously across the web. And, sure, they might mention that in some cases the government and the banks have no control over this new form of currency. But that’s where they tend to leave it. And that’s a pity because, in actual fact, it’s far more than that.”
The traditional economy, based on local face to face contact and cash exchange based on personal trust, changed dramatically and irreversibly with the internet, because “personal trust could not scale” to a global networked economy. The situation changed after the seminal 2008 paper by Satoshi Nakamoto. Suddenly we could adopt a new currency, based on breakthroughs in computer science and a powerful, scalable network whose power increases with every additional computer that is added. It grows more and more powerful with the addition of new nodes, and each node has the complete record of every Bitcoin transaction ever made. The fact that every Bitcoin transaction is permanently recorded in the distributed Bitcoin blockchain creates scale-able personal trust.
Bitcoin is Like the Internet
The Bitcoin economy shows a mirror of what is happening in the rest of society, where the advent of the Internet representsa fundamental shift, from centralized bureaucratic organizations and hierarchies to technology-driven distributed networks of individuals.
“We have discovered a financial system which is incredibly resilient because it has no centralized organization which can be vulnerable to attack, or influence,” says Campbell in the video.
“We have a technology that is incredibly powerful, and now we have to work out what we are going to do with it. Because it’s so powerful, it’s fundamentally changing the way we can approach the development of value.”
The Internet of Things brings digital identities to connected devices, and Bitcoin can add economic identities. We are approaching the age of autonomous agents – computers that own themselves and can buy and sell services. Self-driving taxis connected to the Internet, powered by Bitcoin, could be among the first autonomous agents.
Only one billion of the world’s seven billion + people have access to banking; the other 6 billion have no access. Bitcoin could bring the unbanked into play, which is truly revolutionary. In Africa, most people have mobile phones (7 out of 10 in Kenya). M-Pesa, a mobile-phone based money transfer and microfinancing service very popular in Kenya and other developing countries, includes a Bitcoin wallet.
In conclusion, the advantages of Bitcoin are far too powerful to ignore. Andreas Antonopoulos said, “Bitcoin is not money for the internet, Bitcoin is the internet of money.” Campbell adds that Bitcoin is much more than money, because “it provides mankind with the ability to reach agreement on a massive scale, never possible before.”
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