Crosspost by SIMPOL Supporter and Member Robert Hickey. Originally on his blog at: http://rfhickey.wordpress.com/2014/04/20/how-can-cryptocurrency-not-work/
I guess that I never thought much about Bitcoin, and cryptocurrency in general, until I moved to a place where credit and debit card use was not as much of a thing in comparison to what I was used to – a place where nearly every transaction required counting out paper and/or coins and trying to get a sum together as close to the price of the thing as possible – and often hoping against hope that the person on the other side of the counter could give me back the difference, or as close as we both found mutually agreeable.
Being a creature of habit, it took me much time, and many awkward moments, for me to learn to carry enough cash and coins to cover whatever stuff I buy. I had always carried paper money; I just rarely seemed to need to use it. It was exponentially more inefficient in this new context to have to deal with all that money nearly all the time.
It also seemed downright strange, and somewhat representative of the times, to know that I could go from checking my online bank accounts on the other side of the planet, from my phone, to having a problem getting money into the person’s hands standing in front of me. That, if I did not have the proper cash, and they did not have the exact change, that I would have to walk a few blocks to find a machine (and hope that it was refilled recently), pay a bank 2-4 dollars to access my money, and again hope that we could do business.
It reminded me of a moment I had where the juxtaposition of writing an e-mail on a laptop, while sitting next to a wood-stove, came from the ether – how some things have come so far technologically and how others have painfully remained the same. Amazing innovation had come to so many elements of our daily lives – communication, work, travel – but so little seemed to come to the micro-transactions that we conduct so often.
So, in a moment of pseudo-prescience, I bought some Bitcoin (or rather a fraction of a Bitcoin) and traded some of that for some of the alternative cryptocurrencies (Vertcoin and Dogecoin) that I had read about. I have been playing around with them for a bit; seeing where I could use them, where I could store them, where I could trade them. Part of me is doing this just to keep up with the times (I just turned 30 and felt that I must now make an effort to keep up with “the kids these days”) – to not become the neo-luddite of the kind that I was when my friends first started getting their first cell phones and I was a year or two late to that 90’s party (I cringe when I think about myself asking “Why do I need one?”).
But while I, (like most of us – maybe all of us) have some ingrained illogical part of me that loves to hate change, I remembered the things that I felt before I got my first cell phone, and even my first smartphone – that once I got it, I realized how amazingly useful it was. That I should learn to suppress that illogical gut reaction that I have to change, which prevented me from thinking through all the benefits of progress, and downplaying the natural tendency to think that the sky is falling when something purports to make our lives better through technology.
This resistance did seem pretty easy to overcome though in the case of cryptocurrency – as the benefits of a digital currency, simply from an “ease-of-transaction” point of view, appeared so huge.
As the internet has made us confront the reality that, more than living within a framework of a nation-state system with increasingly permeable national borders, humanity has gone global. Cryptocurrency furthers that trend by allowing us to act like it.
There are many concrete benefits of cryptocurrency that have been beautifully articulated by experts on the subject (i.e. it is fast, it is cheap, governments cannot manipulate it or remove it, and that among other things, you own your own currency accounts). But going beyond these tangible benefits, I believe, is something seemingly opaque, yet equally, if not more important.
That the inevitability of use of this new mode of exchange (and store of value), coupled with the need to develop the global infrastructure and rules of conduct for it, will be a powerful lever that brings us one step closer to the global civilization that, I think, is indispensable to the long-term viability of the human race on Earth.