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 up in the air in many places, worldwide.
The problem is what happens when the internationally-held Keynesian economic system starts to break down under a pile of ever-increasing unsustainable debt? Then you will realize that banks work for themselves, and you are at their mercy, upon their demand. This is the essence of “a master-slave relationship”.
“Today, if you go into an ATM and put in your card, the bank MAY decide to give you your money. And one day, ask the people of Cyprus, Greece, Argentina, Bolivia, Venezuela, Brazil […] one day you will go to the bank, and the bank does not want to give you your money because […] they don’t have to! That’s the essence of a master-slave relationship.”
The difference between banking and Bitcoin
Their ethics of the current banking system did not vibe with mine, so I am no longer a banker. So I found Bitcoin, which works more within my personal code of ethics. Your money is your money, Antonopoulos reports. It is not debt-based. No masters, no slaves. Possession is 10/10ths of the law. Control your keys and you control your bitcoin. Do not control your keys, and you are back at Mt. Gox, in that master-slave relationship once again.
Antonopoulos ends his speech with a veiled remark of the establishment’s views on Bitcoin, and how its prohibition and condemnation will stop criminal behavior. This is just a ruse to stop something else. You might see Russia’s recent banning of Bitcoin, in favor of protecting their shaky Russian ruble, within this quote:
“This represents a technological innovation that is terrifying to many people because it is such a fundamental transformation of money. And what ‘they’ will tell is that they are worried. They’re worried that criminals will use Bitcoin, but the truth is that they are far more terrified that all of the rest of us will.”
One issue I was looking for more information on is Antonopoulos’ views on the mainstream banking adoption of Blockchain technology. What does he think it means in the grand scheme of it all? He was asked directly in the Q&A. His view was admirably brilliant, within the context of the establishment using terms like “revolutionary” for their approach to integrating new technologies. Antonopoulos:
“It’s like the difference between Che Guevara and a hipster in New York wearing a Che Guevara t-shirt. [Banks] look at Bitcoin and say ‘Let’s see. We have a decentralized open-source, borderless, transparent, peer-to-peer currency. Fantastic! Can we have that without the open, decentralized, borderless, transparent, peer-to-peer, and instead add a nice dose of heavy control, and turn it into a master-slave model?’”
My problem with Andreas
In a perfect world, Antonopoulos would have a YouTube channel with 200 of these videos, designed for everyone from coders to coat check girls. But if I want to get Bitcoin wisdom from him, I have to stumble upon a link of Reddit or something. It would have one million subscribers, and I could reference all of his wisdom in one, convenient YouTube channel. That is at least until the highly centralized YouTube TOS takes them down, just because they can.
If you go to his YouTube channel you will see four discordant videos. He obviously does not have the time to properly manage a vast library of YouTube videos for mass consumption, as he travels the world, educating hundreds at a time, paid in bitcoin for his flights, hotels and services. He is a very busy man, as there are many, many people who need, and want, Bitcoin education.
People ask me all the time “What can I do to learn more about Bitcoin?” or “How can I help it grow?” I used to not exactly know what to say, as I learned from scouring the Internet in a piecemeal fashion, as most still do today to learn about Bitcoin. Now I do know what to tell people.
Download, rip, or copy as many of his videos as you can and put them into one massive YouTube Channel the world can scroll through, kind of like a digital Blockchain ledger. Gather these hundreds of educational mp4’s to one channel, for the masses to learn from. Watch, catalog, and learn. Then advertise it. Use you SEO or Ad Sense, or PPC to get this channel out to anyone in Bitcoin, investment, new technologies, or economics.
He shouldn’t mind since he’s not hosting these videos, but you might want to check with Antonopoulos on his Twitter, @aantonop. That’s what the world needs now. Let’s make the world, and YouTube, a more educated Bitcoin video platform.
Obi-Wan Kenobi went viral on Star Wars back in the day. Why can’t Bitcoin savant Andreas Antonopouols do the same on YouTube? Make it so.