Hey Reddit, throwaway account. I'm currently doing some research for an article I hope to have published later this month. I have a very, very rough draft at the moment and your feedback would be lovely. The Elephant in the Room
Bitcoin is an enigma. It has renowned economists like Paul Krugman entirely perplexed whilst Silicon Valley CEO's are falling over one another to get a piece of the action. The headlines change on a daily basis: “It's A Ponzi Scheme!”, “It's Gold 2.0!” , “It's A Bubble!”, “It's The New Internet!”.
As a result of these, often conflicting articles, it's value shoots up and down like a yo-yo, swinging wildly to the slightest bit of news, good or bad.
Of course, these swings wouldn't be so exaggerated if there was a simple way to address the elephant in the room...is bitcoin legal?
Government officials have been oddly quiet in addressing this question. Aside from some rudimentary FINCEN guidelines and a vague ECB report, there's been no statement one way or another about its legal status.
Whilst I can't provide any definitive proof as to what decisions have and are being made behind closed government doors, I do think it's just possible we already have enough circumstantial evidence to suggest that the US government has already given Bitcoin the thumbs up. Satoshi's Lament
Back in December 2010 Satoshi was involved in a heated discussion amongst Bitcoin developers on BitcoinTalk as to whether they should support Julian Assange by offering Bitcoin as a means to bypass the notorious banking blockade that had rendered Wikileaks' cash reserves impotent. Bitcoin's creator, Satoshi Nakamoto, was extremely wary that any association with Julian and Wikileaks would 'bring too much heat' to the project.
“No, don't 'bring it on'” he pleaded with his fellow developers. “The project needs to grow gradually so the software can be strengthened along the way.” He went on to clarify. “I make this appeal to WikiLeaks not to try to use Bitcoin. Bitcoin is a small beta community in its infancy. You would not stand to get more than pocket change, and the heat you would bring would likely destroy us at this stage.”
By 'destroy us', he was likely talking about a government or corporation pulling the trigger on this nascent project. Amongst other things, Satoshi was fearful that if a nefarious entity such as a commercial bank got wind of the project, at that point in time they could have easily compromised the project by purchasing enough computing power to overrun the network (known as a 51% attack).
Despite Satoshi's protestations, Wikileaks went along and adopted Bitcoin and, it seemed Satoshi's worst fears were confirmed when, just 4 months later in April 2011, Gavin Andresen (now lead developer at the Bitcoin Foundation) announced that the C.I.A. had contacted him.
“I'm going to give a presentation
about Bitcoin at the C.I.A headquarters in June at an emerging technologies conference...I accepted the invitation to speak because the fact that I was invited means Bitcoin is already on their radar, and I think it might be a good chance to talk about why I think Bitcoin will make the world a better place. I think the goals of this project are to create a better currency...I don't think any of those goals are incompatible with the goals of government.”
Satoshi disappeared shortly after.
Gavin recently spoke to the New Yorker about the event. "...I think people realized once I got invited to speak at the C.I.A. that there was no kind of hiding. They, whoever “they” are, already knew about this project." [Source: http://www.newyorker.com/online/blogs/elements/2013/04/the-future-of-Bitcoin.html
] The Silk Road Goes Live
2011 also saw the release of the notorious 'Ebay for Drugs' website, Silk Road. It received much press attention, first breaking in June via Gawker where a developer described his experience of buying LSD through the site as "Kind of like being in the future". It was clear that the Silk Road was where Bitcoin would find its first major real-world trading niche and it's not a coincidence that the BTC price, client downloads and trading volume began to skyrocket after its inception. [Source: http://gizmodo.com/5805928/the-underground-website-where-you-can-buy-any-drug-imaginable
A week after the Gawker article, Senator Chuck Schumer called a press conference where he went on record demanding that the Silk Road be shut down “Something must be done about Silk Road...Literally, it allows buyers and users to sell illegal drugs online, including heroin, cocaine, and meth, and users sell by hiding their identities through a program that makes them virtually untraceable...[it's] the most brazen attempt to peddle drugs online that we have ever seen. It's more brazen than anything else by lightyears." he told the assembled press.
As an aside, it is worth noting that the program that “hides user identities” is TOR, developed by the US Naval Research laboratory and endorsed by Senator Hilary Clinton (Schuman's former co-Senator from the state of New York) as “an important tool for freedom of expression around the world”. Indeed, the TOR Project claims that over 80% of its funding in 2012 came directly from the U.S Government [Source: Tor Project Annual Report 2012] The Radar Screen Lights Up
Suddenly, thanks to the Silk Road and Wikileaks, Bitcoin was now on the radar of those in public office. The question on everyones lips must have been “How do we kill Bitcoin (and by extension Wikileaks and Silkroad)?”
The C.I.A, thanks to Gavin, were now fully aware of the threat Bitcoin posed to the the current monetary system, and the illegal activities it was funding via Silk Road and other places would have done nothing but confound their concerns (or so you would think). They must have also known (just as Satoshi did) that if there was ever an opportunity to kill Bitcoin (either with regulation, criminal proceedings and/or a 51% attack) then it was back then, in 2011, with the network still in its infancy, that they should strike.
We should have expected the kind of domain seizures that we saw with the likes of Megaupload; Bitcointalk, Bitcoin.org and the Bitcoin Foundation should have been wiped off the map. They could have also moved with the banks to shutdown any accounts seen to be associated with Bitcoin trading (as we saw happen with Online Gambling websites during the Bush Regime). They could have then disrupted what remained of the Bitcoin network by performing a relatively cheap and simple 51% attack.
And yet, none of that happened... Bitcoin.org and the Bitcoin Foundation have been left to prosper and go from strength to strength. VC's, Wall Street traders and the average Joe were all left free to pump money into this burgeoning experiment without any government intervention whatsoever. Eric, Julian and the Bilderberg Group
Back in 2010 Google dipped their toes into the world of virtual currencies, acquiring a little known company called Jambool for $70m. For awhile they ran a platform called Social Gold which was later usurped in 2011 by Facebook Credits (Facebook's attempt at a virtual currency). This was phased out in mid-2012. Techcrunch cites that this was likely due to the problems Facebook had encountered in educating the public about using another form of currency, and goes on to speculate that by offering a centralised means of exchange, Facebook may have also faced increasing legal and regulatory scrutiny.
In June 2011, Julian Assange met Eric Schmidt online in a secret 5 hour chat in which they discussed - amongst other things - Bitcoin. The full transcript - which was leaked last month - is available here: http://wikileaks.org/Transcript-Meeting-Assange-Schmidt
Also in attendance at the meeting was Jared Cohen, a former Secretary of State advisor to Hillary Clinton, Scott Malcomson, Director of Speechwriting for Ambassador Susan Rice at the US State Department and current Communications Director of the International Crisis Group, and Lisa Shields, Vice President of the Council on Foreign Relations.
Here's an excerpt: JA:
...there’s also a very nice little paper that I’ve seen in relation to Bitcoin, that… you know about Bitcoin? ES:
Okay, Bitcoin is something that evolved out of the cypherpunks a couple of years ago, and it is an alternative… it is a stateless currency.
And very important, actually. It has a few problems. But its innovations exceed its problems. Now there has been innovations along these lines in many different paths of digital currencies, anonymous, untraceable etc. People have been experimenting with over the past 20 years. The Bitcoin actually has the balance and incentives right, and that is why it is starting to take off. The different combination of these things. No central nodes. It is all point to point. One does not need to trust any central mint….
That's very interesting
So, now we know Bitcoin was on the radar of the C.I.A, various politicians and, thanks to Julian, the CEO of Google was now beginning to get an inkling as to its disruptive potential.
Just 13 days prior to the Assange meet, Eric had attended the annual meeting of the notoriously secretive Bilderberg Group in St. Moritz, Switzerland and went on to attend the meet again in June 2012.
Topics of discussion included:
- Emerging Economies: Roles and Responsibilities
- Economic and National Security in a Digital Age
- Technological Innovation in Western Economies: Stagnation or Promise?
- Imbalances, Austerity and Growth
Some of the 2011/12 attendees included:
- Josef Ackermann (Chairman of Deutsche Bank),
- Jean-Claude Trichet (President of the European Central Bank),
- Chris Hughes (Co-Founder of Facebook),
- Reid Hoffman (CEO of Linkedin),
- Jeff Bezos (CEO of Amazon)
- Keith Alexander (Commander, US Cyber Command; Director, NSA).
Heads of Barclays Bank, AXXA, HSBC and the President of The World Bank Group were also in attendance.
To see so many tech luminaries in attendance at Bilderberg is indicative of the kind of power and respect that geeks and hackers now command in shaping the world stage. Just how many high-level decisions are being influenced by this new technorati is hard to say, but in a rapidly changing world where technology is moving faster than the old rules remain relevant, we are seeing that people, united through technology on a global scale – not governments – are dictating the speed of change. Joining The Dots
None of this means that bitcoins ride is going to be friction-free - just because Eric Schmidt is open to the idea of bitcoin displacing traditional currencies (as he and Jared Cohen alluded to in a recent CNBC interview), does not mean that Douglas Flint (Group Chairman, HSBC) is going to be equally enthused.
However, I do think that if we join up all the dots the general conclusion that we can draw looks overwhelmingly positive for the future of bitcoin. That so many powerful actors within the intelligence community, technology industry and government have let bitcoin survive this long is almost an endorsement itself.
It suggests to me that any nefarious corporations that attempt to shutdown bitcoin because of a perceived threat to their business model, will be met by those same powerful actors coming together to ensure they will have a very tough fight on their hands.
Indeed, in the years to come, we may well see Hilary Clinton coming out to trumpet bitcoin as “an important tool for freedom of expression around the world” in much the same way she praised the TOR project.
And perhaps, ultimately, we will discover that bitcoin, like TOR, was also developed by the US Naval Research Laboratory.
Though I prefer to think it was just some lone genius sitting in his attic who accidentally changed the world.
Whatever may be the case, it seems that - for now at least - our governments have handed their people a rare gift – the freedom to shape their own future.
It's up to us to try not to screw that up.
Back in March, Newsweek alleged that Dorian Nakamoto was the creator of Bitcoin. Now, though, Nakamoto is raising funds in the cryptocurrency to file a lawsuit against the publication, which ... Attempts to unmask the creator of Bitcoin in the past have proven unsuccessful. The New York Times , Fast Company , and the New Yorker all tried and failed before last December. In the e-mail to Gizmodo, the anonymous tip claimed Craig Wright is the creator of Bitcoin. Additionally, in 2016, Craig Wright claimed he was our Satoshi Nakamoto. However, the Australian Authority reacted by raiding his home. After which, Craig withdrew his statement. The evidence of proof he claimed he had he recanted. Other Possible Candidates. One thing Nakamoto has managed to do so well ... A monthlong Gizmodo investigation has uncovered compelling and perplexing new evidence in the search for Satoshi Nakamoto, the pseudonymous creator of Bitcoin. According to a cache of documents ... The Australian businessman Craig Wright has published a blog post in which he claims to be Bitcoin creator Satoshi Nakamoto. Late last year, Gizmodo was provided with a cache of documents linking ...
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