Bitcoin: What Doesn’t Kill it Makes it Stronger
Mt. Gox is dead, but bitcoin is not. Decentralized currency is here to stay and it will continue to grow, giving people the power to exit the current banking system.
As Jeff Tucker wrote here, “The beautiful thing about bitcoin is that it is designed to persist and thrive even in the face of powerful interests that oppose it. It lives on a distributed network that is controlled by no one in particular so that there is no single point of failure. It can outlast any attempt to control or suppress it.”
Bitcoin is first and foremost a technology. The decentralized nature of the block chain and the advances in cryptography that make it possible are the real strength of bitcoin. For the first time, two individuals can have secure transactions directly with each other and cut out the middleman. Each individual transaction is almost impossible to crack without hundreds of millions of dollars of high tech equipment, a team of top computer scientists, and a lot of time.
Over the past year, bitcoin has gone from about $20 each and known to few, to a peak of about $1250 each and thousands of businesses being built around it. But its use as a currency is just a tip of the iceberg in terms of what bitcoin enables. This technology dramatically improves the security and speed as well as lowers the transactions costs of sending digital assets over the Internet. This includes stocks and bonds, car titles, home ownership, passwords, digital keys and digital signatures.
By using a system like Ethereum is building, one would be able to run programs on top of the block chain, which would make even more things possible. A few examples:
-New ways to formalize the digital relationships which are far more functional than their inanimate paper-based ancestors. Smart contracts reduce mental and computational transaction costs, imposed by either principals, third parties, or their tools.
-Companies can be incorporated and ran entirely on the block chain.
-Computers can have their own bank accounts, which make entirely autonomous corporations possible.
-Flattened society: Deposit, escrow, dispute mediation, insurance, trading and micro-transactions are all possible with this technology and the costs are negligible. Property can be both registered and transferred through the blockchain.
-Decentralized storage, i.e. one server crashing doesn’t mean you can’t access your email or documents.
-A totally new form of taxation, and thus government. Fiat is easy to collect, cryptocurrencies aren’t. Likely made up of primarily privatized services.
-High leverage speculation and volatility hedging.
-Smart, self-executing law. Scalable in a way that makes hierarchy redundant.
As with any new technology, getting from here to there requires a messy process of adoption in real time. These markets are full of experimentation, success and failure, and price discovery. There will be ups and downs. Without this process, technology would remain forever in the lab. The demise of Mt. Gox is no exception, but it’s also not a reason to bail on the idea. We are at the genesis of a new era in which the Mt. Gox episode is but a blip.