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Let’s Cut Through the Bitcoin Hype: A Hacker-Entrepreneur’s Take

• Dan Kaminsky via

Bitcoin. Everybody’s talking about it. What’s true, and what’s hype? Perhaps the only thing that’s clear about Bitcoin is that it’s not going away anytime soon. Who am I to say? I’m not an economist; I’m a hacker, who has spent his career exploring and repairing large networks. And networks may very well be how the world works — financial, social, electronic, even physical.

I’m on neither “Team Bitcoin” nor “Team Global Financial System.” I’m on “Team Lets Fix This Thing.”

We do need another currency.
I’ll be blunt: Money’s gotten buggy. People who don’t realize this might be in high finance — indeed, we’ve gotten very good at moving the revenues of entire generations within a precise number of femtoseconds — but what if you’re just trying to buy a smoothie?
I walked into a Jamba Juice recently, and was informed in no uncertain terms that if I attempted to use anything larger than a $20 bill, or if my credit card was demagnetized, no smoothie for me. (I can’t even imagine the blank look I’d have gotten if I’d tried to pay with a personal check.)

We do have credit cards. But credit cards change money from something anyone can give anyone (peer to peer) to something with a consumer class (client) and a merchant class (server). There are innovative startups that attempt to reverse that, and every time one of these systems pops up — Square, Stripe, Venmo — billions of dollars starts flowing through them.

We wouldn’t get this sort of growth without pent-up demand. But even the new systems find themselves failing — I love Paypal, but is there anyone who hasn’t either had their account suspended, or knows someone who has? I’ve certainly never had a $20 in my pocket go dark for 48 hours.

Bitcoin’s got its issues. But it is not competing with perfection.


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