Andreas Antonopoulos: ‘50 Currencies Today Have a Value Less Than Goat S**t’ (Op-Ed)

It’s hard for me to be objective about Andreas M. Antonopoulos. We follow each other on Twitter, I’ve interviewed him for over an hour on Skype, and he taught me more than half of what I know about Bitcoin. He is my Obi-Wan Kenobi when it comes to Bitcoin. Whenever I see a link for one of his globe-trotting seminars or speeches, I make sure to watch it on YouTube. So having caught his seminar at Rotterdam’s Reinvent.Money Conference last week, I’ll go over the content from that presentation.

Andreas on Bitcoin as Money

Every market niche has a great orator. Joel Osteen within religion, Alex Jones for geopolitics, and Bitcoin has Andreas Antonopoulos. He can adjust the level of difficulty of each seminar, on the fly, depending upon the constitution of his audience that day. He can go technical for the computer scientists, or use more metaphors and analogies for the laymen, looking to get started.

This one was more Please-Excuse-My-Dear-Aunt-Sally-level arithmetic than collegiate calculus. His presentations can go from twenty minutes to an hour, with a Q&A thereafter, where he dropped the headline you read above. This one was of the twenty-minute variety. I provided the full video below for you to reference.

Antonopoulos shows a breadth of knowledge in many disciplines to draw analogies for his audience’s Bitcoin comprehension. Current-day global economic turmoil, the history of the Internet, and the days of the first automobile are popular modules for him to draw upon.

On this day, he started with the history of money, where he posits that writing, wheels, and hieroglyphics are all predated by the technology of money. Money is a form of technology, communication, and value that has taken many forms, from bartering food and livestock, to Europe’s “tally Sticks” method. From beads and feathers of centuries gone by, to digital currencies of today, be it fiat, or cryptographic in nature.

Antonopoulos then goes over the history and transformation of money over the last several centuries. Precious metals used to be the dominant mode of value transmission between two parties, but it was difficult to carry in bulk, and who knew the purity of it per piece. The advent of banking led to the concept of paper money, given a third party could hold the gold or silver safely, and give you a note of ownership for these holdings, thus representing value in itself. These receipts could then be exchanged as methods of value. This took centuries to become a globalized standard. This method has evolved, or devolved, into nationalistic, centralized monetary banknotes.

Antonopolous asked the audience if they could imagine the leap in perception it must have taken for the populace to accept a piece of paper for payment instead of physical gold. That didn’t happen overnight. This was the de facto standard until Diners Club introduced the credit card in the 1950’s. I’m sure more than one business owner said, “What am I gonna do with that?” when offered a plastic card to make a payment. Merchant account systems and supporting industries must be made.

Now, the next leap in payment technology is upon us with smartphones and Bitcoins. This will also take time to take root within the global marketplace, as it still seems a few years ahead of its time. Hopefully, I’m not going anywhere for the next 30-40 years, and the world can step forward relatively quickly in global finance, as we did with the Internet’s revolution in global communication.

Bitcoin has one problem, however, which Antonopoulos doesn’t go over in his speech that the other forms of monetary technology did not have to overcome. It cannot be held in your hand in any physical form. It is totally abstract in its perception of value. That might be its biggest flaw in reaching mainstream adoption of any grand scale. People like holding valuable things in their hand. That’s part of what makes us human; the desire to interact with valuable things, be it people or objects.

He goes on to point out that the advent of the Internet has changed the rules for hierarchical, centralized, closed systems of power. With the Internet, “network-centric” protocols like Bitcoin can be created and can flourish, globally. All Bitcoin nodes are the same, not a hierarchy, and it becomes peer-to-peer, not a “master and slave” relationship. Here he provides a deeper understanding of the monetary systems of today, and where you really stand, versus where you want to be standing.

As a former banker myself, it is not commonly understood how banking works. You loan your money to a bank, and if all goes well, they can loan that money out to other banking clients through fractional reserve lending, and you can get your money back upon demand. Yet, if you have been following the news, what happens after the point of you loaning the bank your money is very much