Provided the lay consumer is ‘educated’ in Bitcoin, its uptake will be infinitely smoother and broader, say many news outlets and spokespersons.
However, at the Milken Institute’s Bitcoin Bourse on Wednesday, Gavin Andreson of the Bitcoin Foundation may well have provided the most succinct understanding of what Bitcoin ‘is’.
While the Internet is awash with tutorials great and small detailing its various aspects, few consumers, even if they have heard of cryptocurrency, would say that they have a sound knowledge of its characteristics, even less so than the characteristics of fiat or credit card payments.
The answer to this, however, may not lie in technical explanations of any sort, but rather a new approach, of which Andreson’s words on the event’s panel may well serve as a paradigm.
“The short answer to the question, ‘What is Bitcoin?’ is ‘Bitcoin is cash for the Internet,’” he begins, “But what is really is under the covers if you dig a little bit is a globally distributed ledger”.
He continues to “unpack” the term using an analogy which is uniquely simple yet pertinent. “It records transactions just like your bank account records transactions. Every Bitcoin transaction is published across this global net work – that’s where the global distributed comes in – and all of the computers on this network are recording these transactions, making sure they’re correct.”
Andresen then uses the analogy to explain the functionality of the block chain without the need for technical analysis of any form. “It’s really important to know the order of transactions. You know if you’ve ever overdrawn your bank account how important it is that you get the order of transactions right,” he says, “Because otherwise, you’ll find that your paycheck didn’t actually happen before that credit card bill got paid.”
Add to this some preliminary information about Bitcoin production and practical instructions on spending and there appears a scenario very similar to that of today’s consumer network. “Real” knowledge of the Bitcoin system is not part of the customer experience, yet this does not limit functionality.
Reddit users also reacted positively to Andresen’s approach, user u/pdtmeiwn commenting “He was the best at explaining Bitcoin in layman's terms.”
While it is not to say that there are “best” ways of educating the public on Bitcoin, there will no doubt come a time when efficiency of education will be at the forefront of the community’s aims. While everyone agrees that this is important, a concrete method or rubric has so far not emerged.