New Money Review podcast

New Money Review podcast

Six billion Davids

June 21, 2019


Our guest on the latest New Money Review podcast is Andreas Antonopoulos, a computer scientist, author and public speaker. He made a flying visit to London last week and New Money Review editor Paul Amery had the chance to sit down with him for half an hour during the Cryptocompare conference.

Andreas is not only one of the world’s leading experts on bitcoin and cryptocurrencies, he’s also a political thinker and philosopher.

We started by asking Andreas about his thoughts on bitcoin and cryptocurrencies as a technology. That led us in to a thought-provoking discussion of the internet, privacy, governance, democracy, the environment and the future of the planet.

You can listen to the full 30-minute interview here: below we publish some quotes from the discussion.

A unique blend of earlier technology

“Bitcoin is a combination of technologies that existed before: cryptographic primitives, peer-to-peer networking (which we’ve had since Napster), the mechanism of proof-of-work, various concepts in distributed systems, and hashes and Merkle trees.”

“It was the first digital currency to be decentralised enough to survive.”

A revolutionary idea

“What’s unique about bitcoin is the synthesis of all these technologies into a cohesive idea. It allows us to establish consensus across great distances without giving centralised control to anyone. You have rules without rulers, the ability to achieve common truth every ten minutes.”

“Bitcoin is just an extension of the internet itself. The internet has been abused by many different companies and governments in many different ways. But at the same time it’s also brought great opportunity and freedom to people. Cryptocurrencies are the next stage of this evolution.”

“This new technology is not just about finance. It’s also about systems of governance and trust—things like voting and how you make community decisions at different scales. It’s going to have a profound impact.”

“This is going to be a test—not for cryptocurrency, but for governments.”

The fight over privacy

“As soon as governments threaten these systems, they are going to become much stealthier and more anonymous. The bottom line is that financial privacy is a basic human right.”

“I’m convinced this is an asymmetric fight: there are far more people that need these freedoms and are prepared to fight for them, non-violently, than there are people who actually have control over these systems and the ability to suppress them. It’s six billion Davids versus a few million Goliaths.”

Getting used to new technology

“It’s a continuous process of improvement. We’ve seen that happen with every new technology. At the beginning it’s hard to use and difficult to understand. Gradually the tech gets easier and society adapts to new words and new concepts. After a generation no one remembers the time when it wasn’t so.”

Custodians are dead

“We don’t need 19th century ideas of fully trusted, fully risky custodians in order to solve the problems of individual security. We can use the decentralised systems themselves to solve the problems they introduce.”

Implications for political and legal systems

“We can really create some fascinating systems of control, which are flexible, secure and which do not depend on any single central authority.”

Bitcoin, energy usage and government war machines

“For the time being, the only consensus mechanism that operates at huge scale is the proof-of-work algorithm that underlies bitcoin. The energy use is significant, but it provides a very significant benefit. Bitcoin is the most secure system this planet has ever built.”

“Let’s not make snap judgements. The market gravitates towards good sources of energy. We should be taking the external cost of producing carbon and applying that to the cost of electricity, wherever it’s produced. We’re not doing that in many places.”

“Giant war machines, paid for by massive amounts of debt and driven by inflation, are the greatest polluters on the planet. We have to look at the big picture.”