I first heard of Bitcoin on a Sunday afternoon while walking along Kitsilano Beach (Vancouver, BC, Canada) with my friend Sebastian. He asked “Ever heard of something called “Bitcoin? I hadn’t, so Seb proceeded to sketch out the basic tenants of the bizarre sounding idea. At first I was bewildered but the more I heard the more I became fascinated and intrigued by the concept. His understanding of it was elementary but it was enough to spike my curiosity to do more digging.
The following day I asked a few of my friends if they had ever heard of a digital currency called Bitcoin, no one had, but my friend Tammy mentioned she knew someone in her network who told her years ago he was mining Bitcoin – his name was Frankie. It turned out Frankie was an old acquaintance I’d met several years back during my early DJing years in Vancouver, and was someone who had even fixed my computer once. I quickly hunted him down online and sent a message saying I wanted to learn more about this mysterious and baffling thing called Bitcoin. He responded immediately and the next day I was at his downtown office.
What Frankie then proceeded to explain to me blew my mind. At first I was confounded. It didn’t make sense how it could be possible for this idea not to be a scam of some sort or if not then to even be accepted by the “powers that be” – the people who own and control most of the financial systems of the world.
The idea was too beautiful to survive in a world designed from the top down to be unfair. But nevertheless, as Frankie explained more about Bitcoin, I started to catch a glimpse of it’s potential and power. Being a firm believer that the world is long overdue for a major upgrade of many of it’s old antiquated systems, I became hopeful, excited and left the meeting with 4 Bitcoins, with a determination to continue studying the crypto currency phenomenon.
The idea that the people not financial institutions could determine exactly how their money was spent, who their money went to, how payments were made, all done within minutes and costing mere pennies was stunning. Bitcoin was essentially cutting out the parasitic middleman such as PayPal, Visa, MasterCard, Western Union from the equation and turning the existing money exchange paradigm on its head by shifting the power balance more into the hands of individuals. But what were even more exciting for me was the ramifications this new paradigm would have on the rest of the world outside of North America and Europe.
The people of the developing world have forever been cut out of the world of money and fair access to the wealth of the developed world.
Family members in the west attempting to send money back home to relatives are faced with fees and charges from the institutions in place that are unjustifiably high. By the time the money gets to where it’s going, it’s significantly less than what was originally sent. Most people in the developing world have no bank account so reliance on these systems for money from the west is absolute. But until now they had no choice.
PayPal charges 1% on every transaction between two individuals, Western Union charges 3% to send money, and the credit card companies place limits, and restrictions on who can even get a card, while charging outrageous rates, and bank fees eat away at people’s hard earned money. Bitcoin is practically free and takes minutes to complete transactions across the globe.
The mass majority of people in 3rd world countries have no bank account or even the means to set one up. Bitcoin requires no bank account, no credit checks, no social status; it’s a truly non-prejudicial platform that places financial power in the hands of the people on a global scale instead of only a privileged few.
This must be terrifying to some people who would prefer the world of inequality to stay just the way it is, with one percent feeding off the backs of 99 percent. Western Union, Paypal and the credit card companies must feel extremely threatened by Bitcoin but clearly these companies aren’t going to shut down shop and walk off into the sunset. They have tried to make Bitcoin go away but failed so they must realize that the world of money exchange has radically evolving and they have to grow with it.
BitPay’s Manager Moe Levin says “If you didn’t have a strategy for the Internet in 1995 it’s the same as not having a strategy for crypto-currencies now.”
This is the age of the Internet and it makes complete sense that our money become more digitally based. Humans are flawed and corruptible, mathematics is not.
Crypto currencies are a logical step forward in world that uses less resources. Jeremey Alaire from Circle: a consumer finance company says, “Bitcoin is the economic singularity. It’s like the invention of the printing press or railroads or the Internet, except this is happening on a really compressed scale”.
Individuals choosing to adopt Bitcoin may find it confusing and overly technical at first, but when you actually make the first step you quickly realize as I did that it’s not that overwhelming at all. It’s actually far simpler than opening a bank account.
Everyday an increasing number of systems are being put in place to enhance security and create ease of use for regular people who aren’t tech savvy. Already a healthy and vibrant ecosystem exists around Bitcoin and is growing fast. At this point the big companies and banks have to find a way to work with it or be left on the sidelines! The Bitcoin protocol is beautiful. It evens out the playing field for everyone and makes the world a bit fairer by allowing wealth to be accessed by anyone with an Internet connection and a smart phone. With the release of Firefox’s new $25 smartphone, even more people in the developing world can now access Bitcoin. As Eric Hoffer the American author and social philosopher states, “In times of change the learners inherit the earth, while the learned find themselves beautifully equipped to deal with a world that no longer exists”.
Change is inevitable, it’s long overdue for our global financial system and Bitcoin is a long awaited and much needed medicine.