I do not remember when I heard of bitcoin for the first time. Blockchain (see the wikipedia page on the subject), the technology that has allowed the bitcoin “currency”, is something I did not know in 2015. I just remember discussions a few months ago with a colleague from INRIA who had explained the main lines of this innovation. As I wanted to know more I bought recently three books about this, including two that I just finished.
Bitcoin et Blockchain. Vers un nouveau paradigme de la confiance numérique ? (Bitcoin and Blockchain. Towards a new paradigm in digital trust?)
This short book (in French) of 126 pages is an excellent introduction to the subject (a little expensive though). I especially noticed the functions of money, namely: a medium of exchange, a store of value and a measure of value. And everyone knows that “a currency is characterized by the confidence of its users in its enduring value and its ability to serve as means of exchange” (wikipedia). But beyond the bitcoin, the Blockchain is a pretty exciting technology that has the potential to revolutionize the way we achieve a large number of transactions. The main idea is that a trusted third party can be replaced by the Blockchain for all types of contracts such as deeds, land registry, copyright management or simple rentals with Airbnb.Now, when I look at the volatility of bitcoin, I am not sure it is a currency yet…
Digital Gold – The Untold Story of Bitcoin
The book by Nathaniel Popper is a real thriller. It is your choice about how to approach this new thing! I would advise the curious reader a dual approach. A serious book to understand the issues and a more entertaining book for the history. Certainly I’m sure Wikipedia provides everything you need but Popper has a real writing talent. A real page-turner.
Here are some photographs of characters behind this story (because I have the impression that the story is just beginning).
A few pioneers, from left to right: Hal Finney, Gavin Andresen, Martti Malmi, no picture of the mysterious Satoshi Nakamoto, some have suspected that it was Craig Wright and others Nick Szabo.
A few entrepreneurs: Jed McCaleb, Mark Karpelès, Erik Voorhees, Charlie Shrem,
Ross Ulbricht, Wences Casares.
A few investors: Roger Ver, Tyler & Cameron Winklevoss, David Marcus, Reid Hoffman, Marc Andreessen.
At the trivia question of who invented Bitcoin, the author quotes Erik Voorhees: Erik’s pet theory was that Satoshi was actually a small circle of programmers at some major tech firm, who had been assigned by their company to come up with a new form of online money. When the project had come back and was deemed too dangerous by the higher-ups the creators decided to put it out anonymously – they “felt really strongly that this was something important they discovered and went rogue with it,” Erik explained, even while noting, with a laugh, that he had no actual evidence to back up his hypothesis.
What is more amazing with the short history of bitcoin is the rather incongruous combination of personalities gathered here. Some will end their lives in prison, others were stars of Silicon Valley long before the emergence of this technology. I think no one today can say whether bitcoin will end up in the dustbin of history or whether it will have the same impact as the Internet. And I’ll bet neither to one nor the other …
The 3rd book I bought is The Age of Crytocurrency. But this might be for another post.