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The Age of Cryptocurrency: How Bitcoin and Digital Money Are Challenging the Global Economic Order

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Bitcoin became a buzzword overnight. A cyber-enigma with an enthusiastic following, it pops up in headlines and fuels endless media debate. You can apparently use it to buy anything from coffee to cars, yet few people seem to truly understand what it is. This raises the question: Why should anyone care about bitcoin? In The Age of Cryptocurrency, Wall Street journalists Pau Bitcoin became a buzzword overnight. A cyber-enigma with an enthusiastic following, it pops up in headlines and fuels endless media debate. You can apparently use it to buy anything from coffee to cars, yet few people seem to truly understand what it is. This raises the question: Why should anyone care about bitcoin? In The Age of Cryptocurrency, Wall Street journalists Paul Vigna and Michael J. Casey deliver the definitive answer to this question. Cybermoney is poised to launch a revolution, one that could reinvent traditional financial and social structures while bringing the world's billions of "unbanked" individuals into a new global economy. Cryptocurrency holds the promise of a financial system without a middleman, one owned by the people who use it and one safeguarded from the devastation of a 2008-type crash. But bitcoin, the most famous of the cybermonies, carries a reputation for instability, wild fluctuation, and illicit business; some fear it has the power to eliminate jobs and to upend the concept of a nation state. It implies, above all, monumental and wide-reaching change-for better and for worse. But it is here to stay, and you ignore it at your peril. Vigna and Casey demystify cryptocurrency-its origins, its function, and what you need to know to navigate a cyber-economy. The digital currency world will look very different from the paper currency world; The Age of Cryptocurrency will teach you how to be ready.


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Bitcoin became a buzzword overnight. A cyber-enigma with an enthusiastic following, it pops up in headlines and fuels endless media debate. You can apparently use it to buy anything from coffee to cars, yet few people seem to truly understand what it is. This raises the question: Why should anyone care about bitcoin? In The Age of Cryptocurrency, Wall Street journalists Pau Bitcoin became a buzzword overnight. A cyber-enigma with an enthusiastic following, it pops up in headlines and fuels endless media debate. You can apparently use it to buy anything from coffee to cars, yet few people seem to truly understand what it is. This raises the question: Why should anyone care about bitcoin? In The Age of Cryptocurrency, Wall Street journalists Paul Vigna and Michael J. Casey deliver the definitive answer to this question. Cybermoney is poised to launch a revolution, one that could reinvent traditional financial and social structures while bringing the world's billions of "unbanked" individuals into a new global economy. Cryptocurrency holds the promise of a financial system without a middleman, one owned by the people who use it and one safeguarded from the devastation of a 2008-type crash. But bitcoin, the most famous of the cybermonies, carries a reputation for instability, wild fluctuation, and illicit business; some fear it has the power to eliminate jobs and to upend the concept of a nation state. It implies, above all, monumental and wide-reaching change-for better and for worse. But it is here to stay, and you ignore it at your peril. Vigna and Casey demystify cryptocurrency-its origins, its function, and what you need to know to navigate a cyber-economy. The digital currency world will look very different from the paper currency world; The Age of Cryptocurrency will teach you how to be ready.

30 review for The Age of Cryptocurrency: How Bitcoin and Digital Money Are Challenging the Global Economic Order

  1. 5 out of 5

    BlackOxford

    Competing For Trust Just as light is considered as both a particle and a wave in modern physics, the new forms of exchange that have been developed using the technology of the Internet are both currencies and commodities. This is another way of saying that neither in physics nor economics do we have an adequate description of either light or money, although we might temporise and muddle on regardless. Surprisingly perhaps, we may be further ahead in developing a unified theory of money thanks to Competing For Trust Just as light is considered as both a particle and a wave in modern physics, the new forms of exchange that have been developed using the technology of the Internet are both currencies and commodities. This is another way of saying that neither in physics nor economics do we have an adequate description of either light or money, although we might temporise and muddle on regardless. Surprisingly perhaps, we may be further ahead in developing a unified theory of money thanks to the 'experiments' that have been undertaken over the last two decades that involve so called cryptocurrencies - DigiCash, bit-gold, b-money, hashcash and Bitcoin among many others. What this experience shows is that money isn't really either a 'medium of exchange', that is a special kind of thing which neutrally denominates the value of other sorts of things. Nor is it really a 'store of value' that is a commodity like gold which can from time to time be converted into or even used as currency. Rather money is in reality 'merely' an entirely symbolic entry in a ledger, that is a system of rights and obligations, that is accepted as accurate and trustworthy in a community. It is the perceived integrity of the ledger that is the essential condition for money to exist. Whether it exists as a currency or a commodity is a secondary consideration at best. If nothing else, this is the manifest lesson of both the successes and failures of bitcoin technology in its most general applications.* That is the story of this book. And like the best of post-modernist fiction, it is a story without a definitive denouement. No one can predict the ledgers that will be created and trusted. There are good reasons to trust the (still evolving) system of regulated money that is based in banking and governmental control (it works most of the time for most people in the developed world). And there are equally good reasons to mistrust it as well (most of the world is in fact excluded and governments have a natural tendency to abuse their power). And the same can be said of the new cryptocurrencies (the logical unassailability of distributed blockchain technology doesn't guarantee the integrity of the software which puts this logic into commercial practice nor does it ensure the integrity of the necessary connections - dealers, exchanges, storage facilities etc. - between any cryptocurrency and the rest of the world). So whatever the outcome, the future of money is going to involve both a system of regulation and a less than free-for-all proliferation of ledgers. Minimally, the competition for trust will be interesting. Let's hope it isn't disastrous as well. To the extent that Goldman Sachs is involved, my hope diminishes. *Ensuring the integrity of the ledger requires just about every philosophical strategy available in the epistemological playbook. See here for some details: https://www.goodreads.com/review/show...

  2. 4 out of 5

    Athan Tolis

    This is a tremendous introduction to Bitcoin. If you are not technically minded, it's as good as you could possibly hope for. On the other hand, if you are a bit of a technophile, perhaps you may want to look for the fine detail somewhere else. First comes all the necessary background. You get a thorough introduction on what money is, or rather what it is that that turns something into money, you get an introduction to the biosphere out of which Bitcoin sprung, including a long list of its predece This is a tremendous introduction to Bitcoin. If you are not technically minded, it's as good as you could possibly hope for. On the other hand, if you are a bit of a technophile, perhaps you may want to look for the fine detail somewhere else. First comes all the necessary background. You get a thorough introduction on what money is, or rather what it is that that turns something into money, you get an introduction to the biosphere out of which Bitcoin sprung, including a long list of its predecessors, and that part of the book is rounded up by a brief history of the "genesis" of Bitcoin itself. Next comes an explanation of the Blockchain. Problem #1 with digital money is "how do I know this money is good money" and problem #2 is "how do I know that you are not presenting this good money twice at the same time to make two purchases." The Blockchain is a technology that puts together four pre-existing technologies in an inventive way, to incentivise independent agents to solve these two problems: 1. Public-key encryption 2. The hash 3. The peer-to-peer network of "nodes" 4. Proof of work Feel free to skip if you know / to set me right if I've understood it wrong -it's not all there in the book and I've had to fill in the blanks myself by spending time on the Internet -------------------------------- First, public-key encryption: This is a fantastic new way to write coded messages. The simplest one, RSA, works out as follows: 1. Take two prime numbers and multiply them with one another 3 x 23 = 69 2. Subtract one from each and multiply them again with one another 2 x 22 = 44 3. Add one to the second number 44 + 1 = 45 4. Find two numbers that don't have any common factors and multiply to this third number 9 x 5 = 45 5. You're done. The public key is (9, 69) and the private key is (5, 69). To encrypt do mod(x^9,69) and it turns out that (mod(mod(x^9,69))^5,69) = x So, for example, suppose I want number 20 to be my message 20^9= 512000000000 and mod(512000000000,69) = 5. So the coded way to say "20" is "5" But 5^5 = 3125 and mod (3125,69) = 20, so, lo and behold, "5" is decoded as "20" The beauty of this code is that if I pick two very large prime numbers a and b, NOBODY has the computing power to factorize a x b. And if they are very big, then (a -1) x (b - 1) can have a very wide choice of co-prime numbers c and d such that c x d = (a - 1) x (b - 1) + 1. Ergo, if I give away (d, a x b) nobody has the computing power to figure out what c is. So I can put out there (d, a x b) as a code for anybody in the world to send me a message. They can post it on the Internet. And only I can break the code. Even better, even if somebody out there rats me out and says: "here's how to encode messages for Athan to read" that still does not help the CIA read my messages. More prosaically, you can send me Bitcoin and you can sign it with my public key. Everybody can verify that it is my Bitcoin, because my Bitcoin addresss is (or is derivable from) my public key. But only I can turn around and assign the Bitcoin to somebody else, because only I have the private key that is necessary to do so. Neat, huh? It all kind of breaks down if somebody one day writes a computer that can calculate hyper-fast and goes through all the numbers in the world, but the fastest computers on earth would currently take longer to break a good-enough code than mankind has existed! (It helps that raising to a power is not cake) N.B. The above is merely an example; Bitcoin does not use RSA, it uses elliptic curves-based encryption, which (among other advantages) obviates the need to change private key every time you've changed your public key. Second, the hash: The hash is a 26 to 34-character string that is the output of a function that generates a fixed-length alphanumeric representation of the data it received. To build it I need input (example 1: the sentence "to be or not to be"; example 2: the complete works of William Shakespeare) and I need a "hashing" algorithm. The big deal here is that "hashing" always brings the same input to the same short string of characters. My wallet is the place where I keep my Bitcoin. At all points in time my wallet has a public key and a private key. The rest of the planet knows my wallet by the 26 to 34 character hash (you guessed it) that is a (hash of) my public key (it's not the public key itself, chiefly for error-correction purposes, one of the few times Bitcoin looks after you). After every time I deal my wallet changes its public key, so nobody can keep track of what I'm doing except for me. The first input in the life of a Bitcoin is something along the lines of "WalletAthan was legitimately awarded 1 Bitcoin at 4:59pm on Sunday the 12th of April 2015". That's subsequently "hashed" into gobbledygook that looks like 12yxzhUNfQSPWeDrmwKrWKCxQW2Cz36v3B. Suppose I want to use the 1 Bitcoin to buy something from my brother George. The real-world message then is "WalletAthan was legitimately awarded 1 Bitcoin at 4:59pm on Sunday the 12th of April 2015. WalletAthan gave 1 Bitcoin to WalletGeorge at 5pm on Sunday the 12th of April 2015." But we already know that the first part of the message is represented by the hash 12yxzhUNfQSPWeDrmwKrWKCxQW2Cz36v3B. So I apply my brother George’s public key to a string that looks something like "12yxzhUNfQSPWeDrmwKrWKCxQW2Cz36v3B WalletAthan gave 1 Bitcoin to WalletGeorge at 5pm on Sunday the 12th of April 2015" and the money is now irrevocably his. This transaction information gets scrambled into a 64 character hash. Something like 975bT0e06f6395403fd37c2bb8003ef1T94b8a9Ucc9e150c2d99klKEB6EHEf. The 26 to 34 character hash that was my 1 Bitcoin gets re-hashed together with my brother's public key into a new 26 to 34 character hash. Something like GGe3523tn65ybn9a9441hmaR90AFGWR So we started with 1 Bitcoin (which is a hash), we did a transaction (which is a longer hash) and we ended up with another 1 Bitcoin (which is a hash) Because the new 1 Bitcoin has my brother George’s public key somewhere in the hash, he alone knows what the private key is that can prove he is the rightful owner of the 1 Bitcoin. Whenever he feels like transferring the money to somebody else (say a bookstore), he must first unlock the 1 Bitcoin with his private key and then apply the bookstore’s public key to the 1 Bitcoin. This in turn generates 2 new hashes: 1. a 1 Bitcoin hash that has in it somewhere the bookstore’s public key 2. a transaction hash that has in it both George’s unlocking of his public key and the bookstore’s public key (and this solves the mystery of why the transaction hash is longer) And so on. The big idea behind the hash is that IT TRAVELS LIGHT. Regardless of the input, the Bitcoin hash is always <= 34 characters. So the hash is evidence of the entire history of a particular Bitcoin without getting longer and longer. Every dollar turns 7 times per annum in America and some surely turn a lot more often than that. A hundred years down the line the full history of what happened to every Bitcoin would be impossibly long, the Bitcoin would be pages long, but the hash keeps it all at a max of 34 characters at all times. You most obviously cannot travel from 34 characters back in time to every transaction, but the transactions themselves (64 characters apiece) are so compact that every "full node" (see below) can verify every transaction ever done via Bitcoin. The little miracle that is the hash means Bitcoin is money good that travels light. Third, comes the peer-to-peer network: This technology first became popular with the various pirate schemes to share music without storing it in one central place where it could get confiscated. Instead, if you opened an account with one of the various peer-to-peer music sharing networks your computer became a "node" in a web of connected computers. All music stored on your computer was available to all other computers on the network and vice versa. The algorithms are complex and they need to deal with the fact that computers are not connected to the network the whole time, but this technology makes is possible for Bitcoin wallets to become "nodes" in a network, with the explicit purpose of validating each other's transactions using the public key. The fourth relevant piece of technology is "Proof of Work," a lottery that involves hashing in pairs all 64-character transaction hashes of the past ten minutes and then hashing pairs of the resulting hashes until there's only one hash left (called the Merkle root) and then repeatedly hashing the Merkle root with a specified length hash (the "nonce") until a small enough hash can be generated. How small that hash is (think of it as rolling six dice until they add up to less than ten, for example) is the "difficulty" and the difficulty of the problem is continuously reset to keep the whole "proof of work" down to roughly ten minutes. The four technologies were combined by the legendary Satoshi Nakamoto (the book dedicates several pages to the sundry theories of who he might be -his true identity is heavily disputed and quite possibly unknown) into the idea of the Blockchain: Every ten minutes all nodes on the network ask their neighboring nodes and then the ones beyond (a bit like you'd go searching for a song on Gnutella) for as many time-stamped transactions (64 bit hashes) as they can get their hands on. Each node tries to piece together the full information on which wallet sent what Bitcoin to whom. Once you've checked (and endorsed) enough transactions you build them into a "block," and can then start racing everybody to obtain "proof of work," which involves heavy use of your CPU. The first node to review a block of enough transactions and finish the requisite "proof of work" gets 25 Bitcoin (this it does by inserting an extra "coinbase" transaction whereby it is awarded 25 Bitcoin), publishes its results to the network for verification (incl. that it only awarded itself 25 Bitcoin) and the financial incentives are very strong to stop wasting time on unfinished blocks and try to build on top of the latest winner. Any transactions that weren't included can hope to be included in the next block, but if they are not endorsed soon they get left out, presumably because they amount to double spending. (In the future, and to avoid inflation, the compensation in Bitcoin for calculating the next block will be halved to 25 and will keep being halved every 4 years). This block is attached to the previous block and all previous ten-minute blocks to form the "blockchain." All history is encapsulated in the header hash of the most recent block in the blockchain. ---------------------------- The beauty of the system is manifold: 1. All the hashes that correspond to transactions are made public. So if two guys say "we made this transaction" and have kept the keys to prove it, everybody on earth can calculate if they are telling the truth. 2. But you can't travel backwards! To catch a drug dealer, basically, you need to lure him into a sting and then the whole world can see you transferred money to him, but if I and my brother George can keep stumm, to find out what we did you need to keep track of the series of George's (forever changing) public keys I used to make the transactions and link them to my series of (forever changing) public keys that people used to give the Bitcoin to me. Good luck to you, basically. 3. Also, good luck establishing if "Wallet Athan" really is mine. It's not called WalletAthan, it's the hash that is equivalent to my public key. Provided I never cash my Bitcoin into dollars (i.e. provided Bitcoin is money good and all I ever wanted to do is make a donation to the Finnish Sea Scouts, which will never be traceable to me) I can keep my identity totally safe. 4. Even cooler than all of the above, and key to the fact that Bitcoin does not need to be "curated" by anybody is that PEOPLE GET PAID TO TURN THE CRANK. It costs time and money (the electricity to run a large farm of computers) to do all the proof of work. Well, for those willing to do the work, there's Bitcoin to be earned! So the world at large has an incentive to verify if I had the Bitcoin in the first place to give to my brother George. Between these four inventions we have a system that is a very good means of exchange (fraud is impossible) and is also self-perpetuating thanks to the financial incentive to keep updating the blockchain also known as "mining" for bitcoin. Obviously, 0.5 to the twentieth power is also known as one in a million, which at an original 50 Bitcoins per ten minutes in 2009 corresponds to 2.5 fresh Bitcoins per annum after year 100, so Bitcoin needs to appreciate like mad for it to be worth mining for, but that's a story for later. And with a prevailing wind it can also be a unit of account and a store of value as well. The authors discuss all of that very extensively. Also very significantly (and this is me talking, not the authors), Bitcoin is a lot like gold: (i) unlike all bank-generated money, it's nobody's liability (ii) it does not perish (iii) while we know it's finite (0.5^n converges to zero) it's still being profitably mined for. The authors next go into full Michael Lewis mode: a whirlwind tour of everything Bitcoin. They actually admit in the Acknowledgments that he was their role model, but if you ask me they do a much better job than he's done in all his books, except perhaps for his recent masterpiece, "FlashBoys." Among other things, the tour includes: * a very good history of the actual Bitcoin protagonists such as Mt Gox * interviews with the founders of perhaps twenty startups that are doing work along the lines of Bitcoin around the world * a glimpse of the dinosaurs that are ripe for slaughter when the world has completed its move to cybercurrency (for example the seven companies that handle the money as it moves from my account to yours when I use my Visa card in your store) * a vista of the massive opportunity to provide transactional services to the world's unbanked, including field trips to the third world to see the work in action Much like Michael Lewis does with Lewie Ranieri or Jim Clark or Brad Katsuyama, the authors tell the story from the angle of a "Sherpa." Their views are very much informed by the opinions of the current unofficial CTO of Bitcoin, Gavin Andresen. This makes "Cryptocurrency" the official book for Bitcoin, if there could possibly be such a thing for a distributed cryptocurrency. This does not stop them from dedicating a full chapter to the various weaknesses of Bitcoin. They explain very well that until the day people can buy everything they need using Bitcoin and also receive their salary in Bitcoin, users of Bitcoin will find themselves in the unenviable situation of an expat who gets paid in Euros but does his spending in Dollars, i.e. hostages to the exchange rate of Bitcoin to the currency in which they get their salary. Similarly for businesses whose employees and suppliers get paid in dollars, to accept payment in Bitcoin would entail a highly volatile pricelist. Moreover, they detail how the New York Department of Financial Services takes this issue to its natural conclusion and treats Bitcoin like a commodity, recommending that holders of Bitcoin be taxed on their capital gains when they liquidate their Bitcoin to make a purchase in dollars. This is entirely consistent with how they'd handle a taxpayer who keeps his cash in Euros or Sterling, so it's not unfair, but it is a massive impediment to Bitcoin being a good means of exchange, because in essence you'd have to think twice about using Bitcoin ahead of every transaction: "am I about to realise a capital gain here?" They also worry a lot about the fact that much as Bitcoin might be distributed rather than centrally-controlled, with all the benefits this brings in terms of minimizing risk to the failure of a single central counterparty, when you and I convert our hard-earned dollars into Bitcoin (and vice versa) we have to go through one of a handful of rather primitive exchanges, like the now defunct Mt Gox. So the vulnerability might not be there once you're in Bitcoin, but it's not inconsiderable at the point where you are moving in and out. Oh, and God help you if you misplace your private key. You lose everything. They also don't shy away from the problem that Bitcoin is in essence a "deflationary currency" in the sense that a central bank cannot manipulate Bitcoin to loosen monetary policy during a recession like the one that occurred in 2008-09 because the increase in Bitcoin is predetermined by formula. In the eyes of many people (they call themselves the "Austrian School") this is a blessing and the Fed should not have prosperity in its mandate, but the authors take the more mainstream view that incompatibility with traditional monetary policy is a minus. A list of technical problems with Bitcoin, finally, includes that 1. there simply isn't enough Bitcoin to handle all the world's transactions. Bitcoins get exchanged once every ten minutes and the proof of work has to be hard enough to prevent people from mining tons of Bitcoin. Long story short, Bitcoin is good for 6k transactions per 10 minutes and there's a large multiple of that going on worldwide. 2. the electricity people need to use to "mine" the next Bitcoin is not only very expensive but also an environmental issue / threat. 3. if somebody does collect enough computer power he can use it to overwhelm the network and endorse his own version of Blockchain and spend all his Bitcoins twice or more 4. there's already been a case of a documented bug in the Bitcoin code, which allowed Bitcoin to be stolen Regardless, the authors are convinced that the technology is valid and at some point will evolve to the point that the benefits from adopting it (cutting out the 3% tax on all transactions that middlemen earn, full auditing of transactions for those who wish to submit to it, the benefits to the 100 million unbanked Americans and billions of unbanked people in the third world etc. etc.) will be far too compelling for us not to find a solution. In my opinion, there are two massive issues that must be dealt with first and a third one that is less tractable: 1. Bitcoin is high-powered money, also known as "outside money." It is not "inside money" of the kind that arises when a bank opens a bank account for you to receive your loan in. In other words, it's M0, rather than M1, M2, M3 etc. So Bitcoin is a means of exchange and a unit of account but it's not fit for purpose when it comes to lending and credit. 2. I left out "store of value" above, because Bitcoin is neither scarce like gold (we can start millions of strands of Bitcoin, but we are limited to the amount of gold there is on planet earth) nor a way to pay tax. The much-maligned paper dollar is money good because Uncle Sam (like Roman emperors 2,000 years before him did in their coin) rakes in 4.5 trillion of dollars per annum in tax and he does not accept payment in pesos. Sadly, neither does he take Bitcoin. 3. Governments do tons of things covertly. Things we want them to do but don't want to know about. Blockchain means audit trail. What are the chances our governments would want to usher in a regime of 100% accountability? So my bet is the Blockchain technology survives, but a lot of innovation still needs to take place before it is integrated into mainstream banking and lending in particular. And Bitcoin as we currently know it should remain for some time still the preserve of petty criminals, anarchists and techies.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Andrea Carr

    So I spent one night drunkenly debating Bitcoin and the Federal Reserve with my cousin in law. And the reason I say this (besides the obvious, which is I'm a self-absorbed person who just likes sharing) is the book provides a pretty good foundation for having these drunken debates. It was also fairly well written, and while I feel like a dick for saying this, it was perhaps too long.

  4. 5 out of 5

    George

    "The Age of Cryptocurrency" by Paul Vigna and Michael J. Casey is a solid, non-technical, introduction to Bitcoin and block chain technology. This book covers the time period from the 1990s up through 2014. I recommend this book to anyone interested in reading a non-technical introduction to Bitcoin and block chain up through 2014. Rating: 4 out of 5 stars Notes: Audiobook: Narrated by: Sean Pratt Length: 14 hours and 17 minutes  Unabridged Audiobook Release Date: 2015-01-29 Publisher: Gildan "The Age of Cryptocurrency" by Paul Vigna and Michael J. Casey is a solid, non-technical, introduction to Bitcoin and block chain technology. This book covers the time period from the 1990s up through 2014. I recommend this book to anyone interested in reading a non-technical introduction to Bitcoin and block chain up through 2014. Rating: 4 out of 5 stars Notes: Audiobook: Narrated by: Sean Pratt Length: 14 hours and 17 minutes  Unabridged Audiobook Release Date: 2015-01-29 Publisher: Gildan Media, LLC

  5. 5 out of 5

    Tuncer Şengöz

    Debate is still hot whether bitcoin (and cryptocurrencies in general) is a money, currency, commodity? Does it have a storage value? Is it a ponzi scheme, bubble, fraud or what? This book is a good start from the "genesis" to the efforts to attach them to conventional economy, for those who have no idea about what cryptocurrencies are. It is printed way before the crazy bull market lifting bitcoin prices as high as $20.000 and then the collapse of all cryptocurrency prices plummeting to the loss Debate is still hot whether bitcoin (and cryptocurrencies in general) is a money, currency, commodity? Does it have a storage value? Is it a ponzi scheme, bubble, fraud or what? This book is a good start from the "genesis" to the efforts to attach them to conventional economy, for those who have no idea about what cryptocurrencies are. It is printed way before the crazy bull market lifting bitcoin prices as high as $20.000 and then the collapse of all cryptocurrency prices plummeting to the losses as much as 95%. Are cryptocurrencies the paving stones leading us to an anarcho-libertarian society, or just another investing frenzy, read this book and you decide.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Paul

    Money supposedly makes the world go round. It doesn’t; that’s physics; but it is the lifeblood of business and the system that controls it, governments, banks, brokers and the other middlemen have made and lost fortunes with it and with that control comes power. Cryptocurrencies might be something that you have heard of, but like most people you are probably unaware how this new form of money is aiming to revolutionise the concept of money. Bitcoin is probably the best known of these new cryptocu Money supposedly makes the world go round. It doesn’t; that’s physics; but it is the lifeblood of business and the system that controls it, governments, banks, brokers and the other middlemen have made and lost fortunes with it and with that control comes power. Cryptocurrencies might be something that you have heard of, but like most people you are probably unaware how this new form of money is aiming to revolutionise the concept of money. Bitcoin is probably the best known of these new cryptocurrencies. They are beginning to offer a genuine alternative to regular currencies, allowing people without access to credit and banks a way into global finance. This new money is a peer-to-peer type verified by technologies such as the blockchain and encryption allowing the bypassing of regular money channels. It is not subject to regular laws either, it was extensively used on the Silk Road website for illegal transactions and has gained some notoriety, however it is democratic and anyone can mine the coins to spend how they choose. It is an interesting book about a new form of cash and whilst the authors do their best to explain it in simple and straightforward terms, it is at time very technical and complex. It is worth reading though, especially if you have an interest in technology or finance; but be prepared to be baffled at times.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Conrad Zero

    At 2 years old, this is already feeling dated, but it gives a detailed look at the start of the blockchain 'revolution' in progress. The authors' backgrounds in finance/economy give them a particular slant but it doesn't keep them from diving into the cultural and technological effects of blockchain technology. As expected, there are some interesting guesstimates as to where the new tech might take us, but given what blockchain can already do out of the box, so to speak, is pretty impressive. Re At 2 years old, this is already feeling dated, but it gives a detailed look at the start of the blockchain 'revolution' in progress. The authors' backgrounds in finance/economy give them a particular slant but it doesn't keep them from diving into the cultural and technological effects of blockchain technology. As expected, there are some interesting guesstimates as to where the new tech might take us, but given what blockchain can already do out of the box, so to speak, is pretty impressive. Required reading for a baseline in blockchain, but you'll want to add some newer sources to your reading stack, probably including some blogs/news feeds to keep up. This tech is so new the changes are coming quick and heavy.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Ryan

    Great summary of cryptocurrencies (Bitcoin, etc.), including background (cypherpunks), current players, drivers of success/failure, and future scenarios. Non-technical, but well informed. Personally not terribly sold on Bitcoin itself, but some kind of cryptocurrency (ideally, an anonymous one, like Zcash or blinded tokens) should succeed, at least for verticals. (Audible audiobook)

  9. 4 out of 5

    Jon Tyler

    Not a technical book at all, this is an excellent review of the social and political ramifications of this new technology.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Warren Mcpherson

    Perhaps the best general introduction to bitcoin there is at the moment. It looks at salient aspects of the financial system along with the social and business aspects of the bitcoin economy. There is a remarkably diverse set of interests involved in bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies. This book does a great job of running through the formative ideas that have driven the interest and development of Bitcoin. It starts with a discussion of money and the shared belief that is required to give a curre Perhaps the best general introduction to bitcoin there is at the moment. It looks at salient aspects of the financial system along with the social and business aspects of the bitcoin economy. There is a remarkably diverse set of interests involved in bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies. This book does a great job of running through the formative ideas that have driven the interest and development of Bitcoin. It starts with a discussion of money and the shared belief that is required to give a currency value. Then describes the bootstrapping of the bitcoin network, with Satoshi Nakamoto publishing a white-paper and releasing the program required to activate the network. Early contributions of Hal Finnley and Gavin Anderson were highlighted. While the technical issues were being ironed out there was also a social development of a community to support the currency, building the trust demanded by the nature of the domain. The Bitcoin Faucet was developed to give away bitcoins for free. The first purchase of a pizza for bitcoin was an important development getting the ball rolling for a new economy trading real tangible things. One of the first large enterprises was SilkRoad a secretive marketplace where the main products were illegal drugs. This drove substantial transaction volume at the time and gave the currency a bad reputation. The first exchanges where people could buy Bitcoin started without sufficient organizational structure. Many of their early customers were buying drugs, a situation that was difficult for nascent exchanges. Disorganization in financial organizations tends to lead to losses. This formative period certainly makes for a colourful story. At the same time the dominant payment industry carries substantial security weaknesses. Many security breaches have compromised customer data that would not be vulnerable with bitcoin transactions. The gatekeepers to the financial industry also add substantial costs to many transactions, particularly small ones. Across the world, as more people find out about Bitcoin, the community grows despite the challenges. The discussion of mining, focuses not on the technical aspects but the business and it's implications. Many business are starting now, often with the support of venture capitalists and business incubators, particularly in the silicon valley. The culture and energy of the many entrepreneurs there are likely to drive many future innovations. These innovations in turn build the community and technology that will push Bitcoin forward in the next phase of the growth. From the very opening of the book the authors show great interest in the unbanked. People who are not served by the financial system as they are considered too poor to substantially drive the profitability of major financial institutions. Some people are also isolated by their culture or government. Since many poor countries around the world have largely adopted cell phones, there is a great opportunity for digital currencies to support development of financial services for people who previously had no access to them. The example from Afghanistan is quite inspiring. Satoshi Dice is described as a second generation bitcoin application that makes a novel use to the blockchain to create a gambling system that is provably fair. The gambler is less at the mercy of the casino. It may not be as inspiring, but it is a great technical example of an application where a clearly superior service is enabled by digital currency. For a technical introduction I would recommend "Mastering Bitcoin" by Antonopoulos. For everything else this is a great book. Clearly many more creative applications are coming. It is impossible to predict what they will be. But this discussion with concrete examples give a good foundation for understanding what is becoming possible.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Nilesh

    A balanced and thoughtful book. The author, to start with, is not a crypto-fanatic. He does not cover the topic chronologically, another positive. Rather, he looks at various themes surrounding the concept and analyze the developments. The book starts with a quick, even if highly simplified, summary of the roles of money. This allows him to nicely highlight the fundamental positives of bitcoin including its decentralized nature, the authorities' inability to debase the value over time whimsically, A balanced and thoughtful book. The author, to start with, is not a crypto-fanatic. He does not cover the topic chronologically, another positive. Rather, he looks at various themes surrounding the concept and analyze the developments. The book starts with a quick, even if highly simplified, summary of the roles of money. This allows him to nicely highlight the fundamental positives of bitcoin including its decentralized nature, the authorities' inability to debase the value over time whimsically, the anonymity and security offered by its transactions and also the untold (or very sparsely discussed) non-fractional-reserve-nature of (no multiplier) this currency. The author finds good ways to traverse through the coin's highly interesting evolution including the mysterious nature of the inventor, the abuse by the nefarious elements in need of privacy and also scandals caused by the intermediaries that were nowhere as precise or technologically pure in their products as the bitcoin itself. The questions they raise substantially undermine the positives offered. Real-life people misplace wallets. Many still recover them due to the deeds of good samaritans or with the help of the authorities. God save one if one loses the bitcoin password. If one dies without revealing the password to the inheritant, it is far worse than burying one's gold in the Sahara unmarked. Excessive privacy, like excessive security, has its own problems. You are swindled in a transaction and there is no way to reverse the payment or identify the counterparty. As examples described in the book highlight, excessive privacies and security are largely sought by people with something to hide rather than just those ideologically inclined. It helps that the book is much more than about the bitcoin. Cryptocurrencies are prone to abuses by their creators too fortified behind the unbreakable technology. And, none of this protects one when the middlemen like exchanges or wallet providers - absolutely essential for most of us - mess up (or are messed up) - after all, we live in a world where companies with massive technology budgets are regularly hacked. As the sections on blockchain show, none of the above should imply that this is not a revolutionary development. The author rightly concludes that the eventual cryptocurrencies and transactions could take completely different form compared to those dreamt by Satoshi or expected by the current supporters. These innovations have the power to change the world completely and one needs to keep up with them, but while retaining ones sanity about the benefits they provide and without being blinded by the dislike one may have for the existing systems.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Gumble's Yard

    Good if nor brilliant book on the history, present developments and possible future paths of both Bitcoin the currency and what the authors distinguish as Bitcoin the technology (i.e. Blockchain). The book starts with a brief discussion of the history of money including the debate between those who argue for a commodity backed currency (metallists and most commonly gold enthusiasts) and those who see it more as a token (and politically tend towards Kenyesian views). It then traces the genesis of Good if nor brilliant book on the history, present developments and possible future paths of both Bitcoin the currency and what the authors distinguish as Bitcoin the technology (i.e. Blockchain). The book starts with a brief discussion of the history of money including the debate between those who argue for a commodity backed currency (metallists and most commonly gold enthusiasts) and those who see it more as a token (and politically tend towards Kenyesian views). It then traces the genesis of Bitcoin and its launch among the cypberpunk community including some discussion of the potential identity of Satoshi Nakomato and some interesting detail on the first transactions and issues. The book then considers the Bitcoin community that quickly grew up and their overarching dogmatic belief in decentralisation and freedom from government oversight (shading at times to anarchism and crime such as Silk Road) before continuing with the early and often volatile history of Bitcoin. The book then gives a good explanation of blockchain technology as well as the fundamental to Bitcoin concept of mining - with a detailed chapter on the computational arms race that this has lead to. The next overly detailed chapters consider different areas of application, in turn: various businesses built around Bitcoin; Bitcoin as a way to reach the unbanked; the wider applications of Blockchain technology. The next section goes to the heart of the debate around Bitcoin and blockchain - does it continue to follow the decentralised model central to its original conception and dear to the heart of its most evangelical proponents or can the technology be harnessed in a more regulated way and/or by existing institutions (financial or governmental). Various alternate crypto currencies are discussed - including Ripple (effectively a currency run by financial institutions) and Ethereum (which more focuses on the recording of documents and contracts). The book then concludes with a discussion of possible futures - the authors are clearly of the view that the move to decentralisation of financial transactions/banking away from the current rent extracting quasi-oligopolistic banking intermediaries is both inevitable and fundamentally desirable. They are however open about some of Bitcoin's susceptibilities (the poor brand reputation it still has among all but enthusiasts, the lack of bandwidth, the challenges caused by the mining concept and even the irrelevance of the monetary transactions and creations of new coins to many of the uses which really only need the centralised ledger of blockchain).

  13. 4 out of 5

    Edward

    The "Age of Cryptocurrency" provides a great introduction of bitcoin, tracing from its ideological and technical roots and discussing its impact to the financial world and the future of money. The authors provide an interesting narrative of bitcoin, from how it started (which happens during the banking crisis in 2008 when the trust in the banking system was low) as a proof-of-concept of a decentralized, irrefutable digital currency in a trustless environment, and gained momentum in the few years The "Age of Cryptocurrency" provides a great introduction of bitcoin, tracing from its ideological and technical roots and discussing its impact to the financial world and the future of money. The authors provide an interesting narrative of bitcoin, from how it started (which happens during the banking crisis in 2008 when the trust in the banking system was low) as a proof-of-concept of a decentralized, irrefutable digital currency in a trustless environment, and gained momentum in the few years since then. The authors are reporters from WSJ and the book ponders about the potential impact bitcoin will have on the world's financial system and the economy, and how the different states and regulators will deal with this new digital technology. This is a non-technical book that provides the reader a fundamental knowledge on bitcoin, which is the foundation of many cryptocurrencies and blockchain projects that sprung up. Even though the first edition of this book was published in early 2015 and a revision in 2016 (and there were many important developments in bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies since then, not including the dramatic and wild rise of bitcoin price), it provides great context for anyone want to keep up with the latest news and development of bitcoin, its peers and all things related to blockchain. I particularly enjoy the colorful story of how bitcoin first started, the project initiated by Satoshi Nakamoto and the handful of developers in the Bitcoin Core working with the community of developers in improving the software. Don't expect to learn everything about bitcoin and blockchain from this book. However, since it provides the necessary context of this new technology and phenomenon, the book is a good reading for anyone interested in learning and keeping up all about bitcoin and blockchain and be able to participate in the debates in cryptocurrency versus fiat currency controlled by central banks.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Douglas Summers-Stay

    My brother is working for a cryptocurrency startup, but I felt like I didn't really understand what a cryptocurrency was or why it was useful. I realized something I had been missing about bitcoin: no one thinks that bitcoins are, in and of themselves, valuable. It is simply that they trust the whole bitcoin system will hold the value they put into it long enough to take it out again later with about the same or maybe more value. Demand for limited supply and speculation push the price up, but i My brother is working for a cryptocurrency startup, but I felt like I didn't really understand what a cryptocurrency was or why it was useful. I realized something I had been missing about bitcoin: no one thinks that bitcoins are, in and of themselves, valuable. It is simply that they trust the whole bitcoin system will hold the value they put into it long enough to take it out again later with about the same or maybe more value. Demand for limited supply and speculation push the price up, but in the long term (if not replaced by something better) it will just be a way of allowing trust between people who otherwise couldn't trust each other. It's just like how the banking system allows me to earn interest by loaning money to people who want to borrow it, without knowing them personally, and creating value by allowing that exchange to take place. The amount of wealth in the world actually increases because of the existence of bitcoin because it allows people who otherwise wouldn't be able to exchange goods and services to do so. Also, that the key innovation is the removal of the need for a central authority to support the currency and keep track of who owes who what. The chapters in the middle about the personalities involved and the dramas of their involvement and the ups and downs of the price of the currency were boring and I skipped them. The ideas at the end about the possible changes to the future financial system and uses of cryptocurrencies during a financial crisis were much more interesting.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Josh

    This was a solid book on bitcoin and the blockchain, mostly a non-technical view on how the technology came about, what the current and potential uses are, and some potential future outcomes in terms of penetration will be. This went slightly deeper than Digital Gold on the actual financial implications and overall capabilities of the blockchain, as it was less of a novel. However, of course there were some redundancies due to the same characters from early on in bitcoin's history appearing in b This was a solid book on bitcoin and the blockchain, mostly a non-technical view on how the technology came about, what the current and potential uses are, and some potential future outcomes in terms of penetration will be. This went slightly deeper than Digital Gold on the actual financial implications and overall capabilities of the blockchain, as it was less of a novel. However, of course there were some redundancies due to the same characters from early on in bitcoin's history appearing in both. Overall, a solid read and a good foundational book for those trying to understand cryptocurrency and its implications. --------------------------- From another review: At 2 years old, this is already feeling dated, but it gives a detailed look at the start of the blockchain 'revolution' in progress. The authors' backgrounds in finance/economy give them a particular slant but it doesn't keep them from diving into the cultural and technological effects of blockchain technology. As expected, there are some interesting guesstimates as to where the new tech might take us, but given what blockchain can already do out of the box, so to speak, is pretty impressive. Required reading for a baseline in blockchain, but you'll want to add some newer sources to your reading stack, probably including some blogs/news feeds to keep up. This tech is so new the changes are coming quick and heavy

  16. 4 out of 5

    Ben Felts

    I thought it was a decent overview of what cryptocurrency is and what the potential is for blockchain technology. It seems like a lot of the discussion at this point is just speculation though about what is theoretically possible with blockchain. I think the technology still needs to improve in order to actually work long-term too (like, how will they incentivize "miners" in the long-run and will it end up using a prohibitive amount of energy to run all of the computers doing the "work"? How do I thought it was a decent overview of what cryptocurrency is and what the potential is for blockchain technology. It seems like a lot of the discussion at this point is just speculation though about what is theoretically possible with blockchain. I think the technology still needs to improve in order to actually work long-term too (like, how will they incentivize "miners" in the long-run and will it end up using a prohibitive amount of energy to run all of the computers doing the "work"? How do we know for sure that there aren't still huge security holes? Etc.) In terms of Bitcoin or other cryptocurrencies as an "investment", it didn't really change my mind at all about them being extremely speculative. I still don't really buy the argument that it's like "digital gold" or anything like that. But I guess I would say this definitely confirmed for me that it's probably not a great idea to invest a lot in any banks or payments companies either, because there will probably be a lot of disruption there over the next 10+ years...haha. I think blockchain technology is probably here to stay, but I don't think anybody really knows what exactly it's role will be longer term. And there's no guarantee that Bitcoin in particular, as huge as it is right now, will end up winning out as like THE cryptocurrency (think Netscape with internet browsers or Blackberry with smartphones, etc.).

  17. 5 out of 5

    Jim Lavis

    Why is this not in the news? It’s life changing. I found this book to be very thorough and it addresses the history, the challenges, and possible future of cryptocurrencies and Blockchain technology. I was amazed to discover how many companies are currently accepting Bitcoins as payment in today’s market. This service has the potential of dramatically cutting costs and building efficiencies that society as a whole will benefit from, but it’s also going to be a disruptive change and will eliminat Why is this not in the news? It’s life changing. I found this book to be very thorough and it addresses the history, the challenges, and possible future of cryptocurrencies and Blockchain technology. I was amazed to discover how many companies are currently accepting Bitcoins as payment in today’s market. This service has the potential of dramatically cutting costs and building efficiencies that society as a whole will benefit from, but it’s also going to be a disruptive change and will eliminate millions of jobs. This technology is growing exponentially each and every day and will change the world as we know it. When I talk to my friends many are not aware of this technology or its implications, so I would encourage all of us to get a basic understanding of this shift and another good book you might consider is Rise of the Robots: Technology and the Threat of a Jobless Future

  18. 4 out of 5

    Zihad Azad

    This book can be a great starting point if you have a rudimentary understanding of money. However, one still can enjoy the latter chapters of this book where the ins and outs of the bitcoin ecosystem have been fleshed out for the everyday reader. But without an inkling of monetary theory, it would be tough for anyone to grasp how bitcoin, with its limited supply and mob-ascribed value, can upend the traditional nation-state issued fiat currencies. The thing is that Bitcoin is many things. It's a This book can be a great starting point if you have a rudimentary understanding of money. However, one still can enjoy the latter chapters of this book where the ins and outs of the bitcoin ecosystem have been fleshed out for the everyday reader. But without an inkling of monetary theory, it would be tough for anyone to grasp how bitcoin, with its limited supply and mob-ascribed value, can upend the traditional nation-state issued fiat currencies. The thing is that Bitcoin is many things. It's a currency. It's a ledger. It's a wallet and a payment processing system. But it's more than that. It's the promise of decentralization and democratization wrapped in strings of 0's and 1's. In a nutshell, it's the ultimate dream of an anarchist to burn the establishment down. But without fully understanding that dream, this book will come off as a collection of articles on novel Silicon Valley Startups. And that's the pitfall.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Phil

    A solid introduction to the history and benefits of cryptocurrency as well as the underlying blockchain technology. Best for those wanting to take their knowledge of these subjects up from “just a little” to “a little better” understanding. While some of the concepts provided were a bit challenging for this liberal arts major to wrap his head around, I couldn’t help but think back my initial inability in the 1990s to grasp the relevance and importance of “email” and the “world wide web” of thing A solid introduction to the history and benefits of cryptocurrency as well as the underlying blockchain technology. Best for those wanting to take their knowledge of these subjects up from “just a little” to “a little better” understanding. While some of the concepts provided were a bit challenging for this liberal arts major to wrap his head around, I couldn’t help but think back my initial inability in the 1990s to grasp the relevance and importance of “email” and the “world wide web” of things, two technologies that are now as much a part of my daily routine as food and water. With that in mind, I felt determined and somewhat obligated to plow through this rather dry book as part of an ongoing effort to stay on top of technology changes and try, at least, to be culturally conversant in these fast moving times. Worth a read or even a heavy skim. 3.5 stars.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Mike

    While I would dispute certain of the Vigna's individual ideas, and while no one can come close to knowing what impact Bitcoin, blockchain technology, etc., will have in the future, The Age of Cryptocurrency was surprisingly reasonable for a book on a topic that draws so much ridiculous commentary. Vigna has an optimistic but not zealously religious view of the subject. The book points out the possibilities, ranging from the most plausible to the most pie-in-the-sky, and the challenges that crypt While I would dispute certain of the Vigna's individual ideas, and while no one can come close to knowing what impact Bitcoin, blockchain technology, etc., will have in the future, The Age of Cryptocurrency was surprisingly reasonable for a book on a topic that draws so much ridiculous commentary. Vigna has an optimistic but not zealously religious view of the subject. The book points out the possibilities, ranging from the most plausible to the most pie-in-the-sky, and the challenges that cryptocurrencies and related technologies face. It would be pretty good reading for someone who's curious about cryptocurrencies who's not looking to comb through the corners of the internet reading through dense technical explanations or abstruse economic arguments.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Arthur Kosten

    Interesting book to learn about the history and background of bitcoin and blockchain technologies. I think there are two parts in the book. The first part on the origins of bitcoin & blockchain, adoption, struggles, innovation is very informative. Seeing how adoption, trust, hype and fear develop as a series of major events, some inside the bitcoin community (eg mtGox failure) or in the wider world (eg greek crises) helps to understand the current state of affairs. Somewhere in the second half o Interesting book to learn about the history and background of bitcoin and blockchain technologies. I think there are two parts in the book. The first part on the origins of bitcoin & blockchain, adoption, struggles, innovation is very informative. Seeing how adoption, trust, hype and fear develop as a series of major events, some inside the bitcoin community (eg mtGox failure) or in the wider world (eg greek crises) helps to understand the current state of affairs. Somewhere in the second half of the book, the action got thin and the pages long and boring. Personally, i think chapters 8-11 could have been written in a fraction of the pages it took. But the first half was worth it for me.

  22. 4 out of 5

    GONZA

    The book is well written, but some of the strictly economic and legal aspects have been particularly difficult for me to understand. However, the future of Bitcoin is still completely open and it will be interesting to see how it all turns out. Il libro é ben scritto, ma alcuni dei passaggi strettamente economici e giuridici sono stati per me particolarmente difficili da capire. Comunque il futuro del Bitcoin é ancora completamente aperto e sará interessante per tutti vedere come andrá a finire. T The book is well written, but some of the strictly economic and legal aspects have been particularly difficult for me to understand. However, the future of Bitcoin is still completely open and it will be interesting to see how it all turns out. Il libro é ben scritto, ma alcuni dei passaggi strettamente economici e giuridici sono stati per me particolarmente difficili da capire. Comunque il futuro del Bitcoin é ancora completamente aperto e sará interessante per tutti vedere come andrá a finire. THANKS TO NETGALLEY AND ST.MARTIN'S PRESS FOR THE PREVIEW!

  23. 4 out of 5

    Ali Tehrani

    I wish I read this when it came out. A good introduction to cryptocurrencies, their benefits and drawbacks, the history behind their formation, with a good sketch of future potential applications. I'd be lying if I said I fully understand blockchain technology just by reading this book, but this book helped give me at least some basis for understanding why cryptocurrencies matter and what blockchain technology could mean for both the present and the future.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Tim

    A reasonable overview of the history of cryptocurrency and its importance. Before reading this book, Bitcoin was just another buzzword in the tech industry that I didn't pay a lot of attention too. After finishing this book, I feel like I have a better grasp of what the movement is trying to achieve and how it works as a currency.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Conrad Mason

    Essentially the history of Bitcoin and the blockchain. A great explanation of the early days of the mysterious creator of bitcoin, Satoshi Nakamoto, and some guesses as to who it night be. The book goes on to talk about the scandal of the silk road, the rise and fall of mtgox and the various ways in which bitcoin and cryptocurrencies can we used in the real world.

  26. 4 out of 5

    deleted d

    basic explanation about bitcoin, not much more though. Very interesting technology, I think it'll be incredibly useful in the future, although I have a hard time how people will protect it from hackers and misuse.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Kelly

    3.5 - Good overview of the beginning of Bitcoin, I think this book provides a base to understand crptocurrencies, the philosophies behind them, and the changes seen in cryptocurrency-supportive communities. I was not crazy about the writing style after about 150 pages.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Lloyd Fassett

    1/24/14 read an excerpt in the Wall St. Journal. Blockchain technologies and what else they might do beyond currency are what interests me.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Monty Mitra

    2.5 stars Some of the content in the book is interesting but overall, I actually found it a bit boring. I was also surprised by the bias of the authors. I don't mean that as negatively as it sounds but my understanding is that this book is written by journalists so I was expecting something a bit more objective but the tone of the book is by authors who seem pretty all in on bitcoin and they sometimes criticize those who are still skeptical. In general, I found the book selective in breadth and o 2.5 stars Some of the content in the book is interesting but overall, I actually found it a bit boring. I was also surprised by the bias of the authors. I don't mean that as negatively as it sounds but my understanding is that this book is written by journalists so I was expecting something a bit more objective but the tone of the book is by authors who seem pretty all in on bitcoin and they sometimes criticize those who are still skeptical. In general, I found the book selective in breadth and offered little in depth. There are times when I wished it was more technical, times when I wished it was more philosophical, and times when I wished it was more sociological. I also found it to be a bit rambling and repeating at times. All that aside, I guess it's a decent primer. It will arm you with terminology and concepts so that you can Google what the authors don't fully go into. There are a couple of topics I felt the authors could have done more work on but, of course, that's their call. - Bitcoin/blockchain's central assumption is that decentralization is good. But the question is never asked or investigated if society wants that. The banking implosion of 2008 shows that people don't care for the big banks but this doesn't mean that people inherently distrust overall banking operations. They are potentially likely to lay blame on bad actors and seek additional regulations. Would people prefer to replace the entire infrastructure with a faceless system (blockchain)? Perhaps, but this isn't actually vetted. It seems impossible to guess the viability of the currency and tech without figuring this out. My hypothesis is that people would prefer to put their trust into a face/personality/brand then abdicate to an algorithm, even if provable that the latter is more effective. - I'd be interested in understanding examples of people trusting a system or process not owned by some central entity. Is there precedence for something like blockchain to be embraced? - Though the book addresses it, I am unconvinced that miners would not converge into a singular (or monopolistic) entity to control hashing. The system rewards self-interest and profit (or reward) maximization tends to coincide with market dominance. That it hasn't happened yet seems to be born more out of human inclination, which is specifically what blockchain, at scale, wants eliminated. - The authors describe what's needed for bitcoin to gain acceptance but they leave an important factor out: an underlying asset to accompany the new currency. The US dollar didn't just come out of nowhere. It became a global standard of currency because it became the underlying trading currency for oil (essentially America's global colonization). Prior currencies from England back to the Roman empire accompanied those country's/empire's military and colonial expansions. What would accompany bitcoin's growth? Expansion into the virtual world? Scaled use of existing currencies in the online world may have already kneecapped bitcoin.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Ryan Mcconville

    Thorough, if a bit over-long, history of the rise of crypto currency bitcoin, and the underlying block chain, from its early days in the cypher-punk movement to the global phenomenon it is today (as of 2014: 12M bitcoin wallet owners, 1000,000 bitcoin merchants and over $500M in VC investment). WSJ writers, Vigna and Casey trace the technology from its yet to be identified creator, Satoshi Nakamoto, to the rise of the Silk Road and the collapse of Mt. Gox (basically, a bitcoin exchange where lot Thorough, if a bit over-long, history of the rise of crypto currency bitcoin, and the underlying block chain, from its early days in the cypher-punk movement to the global phenomenon it is today (as of 2014: 12M bitcoin wallet owners, 1000,000 bitcoin merchants and over $500M in VC investment). WSJ writers, Vigna and Casey trace the technology from its yet to be identified creator, Satoshi Nakamoto, to the rise of the Silk Road and the collapse of Mt. Gox (basically, a bitcoin exchange where lots of people lost money) to it's most recent promise as interpreted by a myriad of bitcoin/blockchain entrepreneurs and app developers. At it's core bitcoin (but really blockchain) has the potential to be massively disruptive in the same way Uber and Airbnb have been for transport and tourism, respectively, namely by decentralizing money (and thus power) away from governments and banks. In that way "cryptocurrency can claim to be the latest in a long line of technological developments that have shifted power out of the hands of centralized elites and handed it over to the people." In so doing, however, it might also leave millions unemployed as the all powerful blockchain succeeds in replacing the need for lots of jobs - not only for bank tellers but also for bankers, including the fancy i-banker types... (oh and also lawyers, government employees and potentially even nation states themselves). So goes the fantasy of self-described "crypto-anarchists." The problem is getting there, because the day-to-day benefits of crytpo currencies to the average Joe are not so apparent (though merchants stand to save 2%-3% in bank charges). Crypto-currency is more interesting in its potential to help the poor and unbanked - close to 2.5B people who live without access to modern day financial services. Payments using bitcoin are already working in infrastructure-less places such as Afghanistan and certain other countries - Mexico is one - are looking to adopt crypto-currency as a way to stir growth by providing new financial services to the poor. Bitcoin could also prove a huge money-saver for recipients of remittances, which in some poor countries are worth more than exports as a total percentage of GDP (Western Union comes off looking pretty evil here). Overall the book is really informative, but perhaps too long and detailed unless you are really, really interested in the technology. If you are generally curious, a nice New Yorker article might likely do the trick.

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