Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Bitcoin and the Rise of a Digital Counterculture

I went to a bitcoin conference in the city at the end of July, and this was part of my dispatch (you can read the whole post over at MoneyBeat). Becoming very interested in bitcoin, not as an investment, but as a story.

It was quite the experience, and I expect I'll be writing a lot more about it. If it takes off the way its proponents say it's going to, everybody will be writing a lot more about it.

Here's the post:
You say you want a revolution? 
Several hundred entrepreneurs, dreamers, technophiles, and the simply curious gathered Tuesday in midtown Manhattan for “Inside Bitcoins,” a one-day conference promoting and exploring the mushrooming world of digital currencies. 
There was a lot of talk about regulatory hurdles, and freedom of speech, replacing an archaic financial system, and of course fiat currencies, which are almost treated like a dirty word among the faithful. What emerged from the conference, to our eyes at least, is something more singular: The rise of a digital counterculture that in its anti-authoritarian, Utopian idealism resembles the counterculture of the 1960s. 
It wasn’t just that the people at the conference – about 350 attended, according to Mediabistro, which sponsored it – were mostly male and overwhelmingly young, that sneakers and t-shirts outnumbered loafers and suit jackets, that the enthusiastic kids acted like they were at a Coachella festival as much as at an investing conference. 
Ever since the rise of the Microsoft Millionaires, the idea of whiz-kids in jeans striking it rich has been part of the American culture. What is unusual is the sense that these kids are present at the birth of something big, eyewitness to a sea change in society. To a one, the people we talked with all spoke of bitcoin in terms that echoed earlier Utopian movements. 
“This is really a revolution,” said. Patrick Griffin, an executive at the startup Ripple and a panelist on one of the sessions.

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