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Did you know that the sentence “May you live in interesting times” is actually an old Chinese curse?
These are times of danger and uncertainty; but they are also the most creative of any time in the history of mankind. The sentence was used by french writer Albert Camus in 1957 and later by Robert F. Kennedy in 1966.
Judging by the current state of global politics, we see multiple “battle royales”
between the globalists and the populists,
the authoritarians and the libertarians,
and capitalism versus socialism,
with no clear winner on either side. Yet.
In most cases, it always seems like “the little guy”, your basic average human, has very little freedom and power, watching these forces battle it out.
However, we do have access to technology which has the power to give us back this freedom.
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A lot of very interesting things happened in 2008
The US elected its first black president, we had a global financial meltdown of epic proportions, the smartphone as we know it today launched, and an anonymous developer going by the name of Satoshi Nakamoto invented both Bitcoin, the world’s first cryptocurrency, and blockchain, the disruptive distributed ledger technology. While all of these can be considered momentous, the last three truly have the capability to empower humans beyond the need for governments and financial institutions.
Even though alternative currencies have been around since the concept of money was invented (ever heard of the cheimgauer?) this was something totally new, totally different and eventually totally disruptive to normal (or “fiat”) currencies like the US dollar or the Euro: it created a totally transparent and completely private payment network, where currency can be exchanged in a completely open and transparent way.
By the way, a funny thing about the term fiat
While it describes what most people consider “regular” currencies, “fiat” itself means that it only has value because a specific country simply declares that it has value. In some ways, all currency is a shared hallucination, we all agree that it has value, so it does.
As I often like to say: in life it is all about perceptions.
While currencies used to be backed by real assets (see Wikipedia “the gold standard” for more info) most currencies of today are similar to fiat: they are whatever value we declare them to be.
Is it a coincidence that an unknown programmer creates the most financially empowering object for humans the same year that global financial markets take a huge hit? Some might say “When a door closes, a window opens.”
Citizens are the first to suffer when governments fail
Governments around the world, most of which suffer from financial mismanagement and in some cases, outright corruption, have, in some cases, caused hyperinflation and subsequent suffering for their citizens, many of whom are simply trying to continue to live their lives. In these countries, the value of the fiat currency drops so quickly that by the time the worker takes their pay and attempts to use it to purchase goods, it’s has devalued to worthlessness.
Cryptocurrencies provide a real solution
Citizens can empower themselves by moving to more stable currencies, like Bitcoin or other cryptocurrencies (some of you may snicker, but compared to the steep drop in the value of something like Venezuelan currency, Bitcoins fluctuations are nothing) like “stablecoins” (a cryptocurrency pegged to real assets — like gold — or another fiat). Even those in the developed world can gain by moving to cryptocurrencies for transactions.
It’s especially easy for the unbanked to do this, as cryptocurrency wallets can be created using a phone, with no more functionality than SMS. You don’t need a telecom operator or any bank to be able to market and make useful a cryptocurrency on any mobile phone. (See our LOVE coins demo above.)
The decentralized ledger enables to build a trusted system that can be audited at any moment in time by its users, and you get the benefits of direct human-to-human transactions without snooping or multiple fee charging intermediaries.
Cryptocurrencies provide many benefits over fiat currencies, it’s easy to see them as the currency of the future
Fraud: Cryptocurrencies are digital and non fungible. They cannot be counterfeited or reversed arbitrarily by the sender, as with credit card charge-backs. Distributed ledger technologies eliminate this.
Identity Theft: Giving your credit card to a merchant, gives them access to your full credit line, even if the transaction is for a small amount. Unlike credit cards, which operate on a “pull” basis, (store initiates the payment and pulls the designated amount from your account). Cryptocurrencies push the exact amount.
Immediate Settlement and Lower Fees: Did you know that a payment is not really a payment? No, a payment today (outside of crypto) is in reality made up of multiple steps with multiple parties, each taking “a cut” of the transaction. Crypto contracts can be designed and enforced to eliminate all of this, reducing both the time to settle (otherwise known as funds being available) and additional fee payments.
Pay or Request Money from Everyone: no nosy intermediaries (banks or governments) required: There are approximately 2.2 billion individuals with access to the Internet or mobile phones who don’t currently have access to traditional exchange systems, primed for the cryptocurrency market. This is just the tip of the iceberg, according to Statista, the number of mobile phone users in the world is expected to pass the 5 billion mark by 2019.
As governments get more unstable and cash poor (spending is up), corporates get more nosy (in search of personal data-driven business models to supplement lost ad revenues, data collection trends are way up), what better way to protect your hard earned money against all of these interesting times than to leverage these currencies from the future?
It truly is a return to the essence of what “trade” is all about
When the internet was first envisioned, it had the potential to become a medium which truly connected any human on the planet to any other human on the planet, without intermediaries. This technology can finally drive the internet to return to those roots. With cryptocurrencies, humans are free to transact with each other, in a cash-like way, without cash.
And, “cryptocurrencies just may save the world at the same time.”
How Cryptocurrency Saves The World was originally published in Hacker Noon on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.