Thoughts about what bitcoin is

Here are some not very organized thoughts about Bitcoin that won’t fit in tweets, but that I think are food for thought still worth publishing.

What is Bitcoin? It is the world’s most secure and fair way for storing and exchanging value.

Think about the money you make and any wealth you accumulate. Is it safe from bank fees, restrictions of various kinds, safe from being taken away from you unfairly by the government (not counting income taxes and sales taxes and other everyday government policies we typically participate in), being stolen by thieves, lost by bank errors, accidents, taken by unfair court order, seized, etc?

Bitcoin is like “the Internet of money”. It cannot be stopped, it is worldwide, it has real value, and it is not controlled by one or more governments and manipulated by banks, the nobility, politicians, intelligence agencies, organized crime, etc. It is a breakthrough in mathematics and computer science, and builds upon other amazing breakthroughs like public-key cryptography and peer-to-peer networking protocols.

Think of bitcoin as a new possession/wealth recognition system. There are 4 such systems I can think of today not including bitcoin:

  1. Fiat currency, which means money that is issued by government and also legal tender, which means legally it must be accepted by the citizens of the country for exchanging goods/services. This is what you get paid with by your employer, this is what you have in your wallet, bank account, etc. Every country uses one or more. The Euro, US$, Yen, Rupiahs, etc.
  2. Deeds to properties/land. You have one of these, it is recognized by your country and citizens, and this way everyone knows you own something. Of course, if your country is invaded, the invaders can ignore this.
  3. Legal agreements, promise documents, verbal promises to pay back, etc. between people.
  4. Precious metals.

Much of the above can fall apart when everything isn’t smoothly running.

Bitcoin is a new, 5th possession/wealth recognition system, not based on trust, but rather, mathematics and encryption (under the covers, you don’t need to know how it works) to assign value to you (in “bitcoins”). That value assigned to you cannot be taken from you by anyone. Governments, intelligence agencies, thieves, etc. When you send bitcoin to someone, the operation cannot be reversed. There are no banks involved, no fees necessary to make transactions, and your bitcoins exist worldwide as long as the internet exists. If you keep your private key in your mind, then only torture can extract it. Torture, blackmail, or a compromised device (such as a compromised Android phone you enter your private keys into).

With bitcoin, your wealth is not hanging by a thread which can be easily cut by the whim of courts, governments, thieves, banks, etc. It is international, it doesn’t depend on the value of the $US dollar, or the stability of a few countries. Solid stuff.

You can think of bitcoin as “digital gold”. Its value is based on supply/demand (purely, because supply cannot be manipulated artificially, like a country “printing more money” as needed). Gold, but with all the advantages of being digital… speed, micro-transactions, security, etc.