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Bitcoin as an educational lens: Diagnosis and medicine in one pill

Written by Ed | 27th Apr, 2015


Thank you for taking the time to read my first blog post.

One has to look no further than one of the most widely used words in the English language to appreciate how technology can influence key aspects of culture. Hello, only came into popular use when Eddison suggested it as a greeting for answering the newly invented telephone.

It’s no secret that we are in the process of transitioning away from a highly centralised global economy to an increasingly peer-to-peer world. This is allready heralded by; the rapid growth of multinational companies like Uber and AirBnB operating as mediators within the sharing economy, the meteoric rise of crowdfunding as an alternative source of capital, and the increasing investment flowing into bitcoin and other cryptocurrency projects. Not forgetting the sometimes radical, often open source innovation flowing out of these projects.

The potential social, political and economic effects that the Bitcoin technology could have on society, continues to snowball individuals excitement as they began to see both the underlying Bitcoin technology & or bitcoin (the currency) slotting into the big picture of global progress and development. I’m not alone in believing the evolution of these effects will be remarkably profound, many of them have been blogged about before, some have yet to been imagined.

For now, I’d like to put this exciting future to onside and focus on one specific influence Bitcoin is having right now, education.

There's a beautiful thing happening around Bitcoin at the moment, which I predict and hope will accelerate with adoption. People, previously ignorant or uninterested in the outdated mechanisms, economics and resulting inefficiencies of the traditional financial framework, are now interested and engaged. They are learning about this system, its history and how technology can be improve or replace almost every aspect. A large part of this revelation precipitates when comparing the legacy monetary system and its evolution, with the rapid evolution of the bitcoin ecosystem and the vast possibilities it continues to conjure up. This journey regularly prompts reflection on the numerous thoughts of the many wise men and women who came BB (before bitcoin). Buckminster Fullers famous quote is an example that often springs to mind as one tries to envisage the consequences that bitcoin technology will have on the traditional financial sector. “In order to change an existing paradigm you do not struggle to try and change the problematic model. You create a new model and make the old one obsolete.”

So rather fantastically, for an increasing number of people, the realisation that finance, and society in general could operate more efficiently with a contemporary foundation for value transfer, that doesn’t require a centralised authority, actually emerges at the same time Bitcoin appears as a solution, a solution everyone can be part of.

In ‘The Age of CryptoCurrency: How Bitcoin and Digital Money are Challenging the Global Economic Order’ Paul Vinga and Michael Casey slot Bitcoin into the worlds financial evolution, in the glorious format of print. Originally brought to the masses by the paradigm shifting innovation that was the invention of the printing press in 1440 by the now famous goldsmith, Guttenberg. In the first chapter they bring to the fore the intriguing similarities in the economic and political climates that motivated the creation of both the traditional banking system in Renaissance Italy and Bitcoin in 2008. Both the moneyed classes of Europe and Satoshi Nakomoto were looking for a way to reduce trade barriers in a rapidly globalising world, and avoid the effects of ‘cry down’ or todays equivalent quantitative easing, on earnings and savings.

Bitcoin is not only helping people diagnose the inefficiencies of our society and simultaneously offering the foundations for a radical solution, but it is a technology that everyone can help build. Etherum one such example, is a foundation which amongst other things is constructing a framework for decentralised applications by harnessing open source Bitcoin technology. Dapps, as they are called are already being developed. ProvenaceHQ, a recent recipient of an EU grant, is just one example. They are building a system to enable truly transparent supply chains by harnessing a number of aspects of blockchain technology. Such innovation may not have had enough incentive to rise in a closed and guarded system.

As I began to write this I was immediately reminded of an interview with Steve Jobs in which he discussed his take on life. I re-watched the interview, it included the now famous quote ‘everything around you that you call life was made up by people that were no smarter than you. And you can change it, you can influence it…Once you learn that, you’ll never be the same again’ Bitcoin is opening eyes to this possibility every day, and this is an invaluable service as our civilisation continues to advance and build on the back of progress that came, years, decades and even centuries before our time.

Bitcoin has been hailed as many things, amongst them a fundamental missing internet protocol for transferring value. Could it also be the key to a neglected part of our education? Western societies in general are very proud of the capitalist system we live in and its place in halting the spread of the communist model, but how much does the average person know about the fuel that makes this system run, the capital we use to transfer value, money?

Patrick Byrne, CEO of Overstock and cryptocurrency advocate raised the issue when giving the annual Hayeak memorial lecture and gave a fantastic example pointing out that although we laughed at a soviet system trying to run a society without property rights, a subsidiary of one company set up in 1973, DTCC owns all the stock in America and anyone who thinks they own stock in IBM simply holds a type of contractual IOU. Does this not raise fundamental questions about ‘ownership’?

My opinion is this, for us to embrace the capitalist system that we live in we need to understand some basic information about the fuel of this system. It is important for us to understand our society’s history, the philosophy behind the various forms money has taken over time and its place in the future. I believe the invention and evolution of Bitcoin is the perfect lens through which to inform the global youth about the ledger that keeps our society running, money. For this reason, If they haven’t already I think discussions around Bitcoin should be started in homes, classrooms and university all over the world, irrespective of bitcoin’s long term prognosis because Pandoras box is open, blockchain technology is out there for anyone to use and as the american politician Hubert Humphrey noted ‘Freedom is the most contagious virus known to man’


Ed Thurlow

Twitter @bitofpotential

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