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Phuket Tech Talk: The future of money

In the last decade we’ve seen the world change in many ways, with some of the biggest changes coming in the way we communicate.

By Byron Noel

Wednesday 14 May 2014, 09:48AM

Instant messaging and social networking have been game changers, to say the least, but frustratingly, change does not come so quickly to all.

The banking sector, an old enemy, is one of the biggest resisters to change. Governments generally aren’t too keen on change either, which creates its own set of problems for a global society.

Anyone who’s done a little travelling knows how problematic money can be. Credit cards are not always easy to get, exchanging cash is quite expensive, international bank transfers are costly, and debit cards can easily break or be lost.

Why does carrying money have to be such a pain? Well, it doesn’t: Bitcoin is changing all that.

Bitcoin is a universal digital currency. It differs from PayPal-type services in that it is its own currency (PayPal uses national currencies), and works on an open source system.

This may sound ludicrous, but the fact that it is open source means that the whole system is checked and guarded by thousands of developers, worldwide, as opposed to say a central bank.

So far it hasn’t gained full mainstream traction, but that is quickly changing.

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Early adopters have mostly come in the form of those looking to buy illegal drugs or weapons (through Silk Road-type sites), and more recently through money launderers. Getting those ill-gotten gains around the planet has never been easy, but Bitcoin is changing that too.

This has, predictably, caused a bit of a stir among banks and governments around the world. Mayer Rothschild (supposedly) once said something along the lines of “Give me control of a nation's money and I care not who makes its laws”, and boy was he on the money.

The banks are worried because Bitcoin could potentially displace their entire business, and governments are worried about losing control over economies. Bad news? That’s for you to decide.

Never the type to sit by and let people have more control over their wealth, the powers that be (in parts of the developed world) have been working hard to try and legislate the issue away. Luckily (depending on your perspective) there are people such as the unSystem team.

They’ve created a programme, Dark Wallet, which would make Bitcoin transactions virtually untraceable. Anyone could buy anything, anonymously. Liberating, or just plain scary?

Cody Wilson, co-creator of Dark Wallet, admits that “liberty is a dangerous thing”, and he is right. Just as dangerous though, is a government that controls and watches everything.

Bitcoin is on the fringes now, but not for long. It’s just too convenient. It may not be mainstream this year, but it will be very soon. That’s a prediction you can take all the way to the bank.

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