Gavin Andresen, Bitcoin Redeemer (Op-Ed)

In a November 6 interview in Dublin, Ireland, recorded at this year’s Web Summit, Gavin Andresen called Bitcoin “shady.”

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Gavin Andresen, Bitcoin Redeemer (Op-Ed)

In a November 6 interview in Dublin, Ireland, recorded at this year’s Web Summit, Gavin Andresen called Bitcoin “shady.”

He was speaking of Bitcoin in the past, and said, “We’re quickly evolving to something that is much more mainstream, much more accepted, much easier to use.” Speaking with the Wall Street Journal’s Lisa Fleisher, he talked about the future — of Bitcoin, mining, money, regulation and the world.

“The biggest misconception is still that Bitcoin is some deep, dark, mysterious thing for illicit markets. . . . We’ve evolved past that and we see huge companies like Dell Computer accepting Bitcoin for ordinary products.”

On the same day that he made these statements, the US Federal Bureau of Investigation took down Silk Road 2.0 and other dark markets. Probably still in the dark about the events as they occurred, Andresen and Fleisher talked about Andresen’s positive outlook.

On mining, he said, “The centralization of mining is going to go in waves. . . Once chips become commodities and they are really inexpensive, you’ll see it decentralize again.” In the future, he said, “maybe your cell phone, when it’s recharging, will generate a couple Bitcoins on the side.”

Gavin Andersen

On money, he remarked:

“I think we’ll go past physical cash. People becoming afraid of Ebola on their Euro notes might become a real thing...and all it would take would be one story of someone catching some terrible disease by handling cash, and you’ll see people rushing to the exits to find a more hygienic way of transacting money.”

On the future: In 20 years, the world will look “mostly like it looks today.” Most everyone will be “carrying around these wonderful little computers where you can pay anybody in the world, immediately, using something like Bitcoin, or some kind of future, accepted, worldwide global currency.”

“Right now, the most important issue for Bitcoin businesses is actually interfacing with the fiat money, with the banking systems around the world.” He continued:

“Getting regulatory clarity has been really important. Over the last year, year and a half, certainly in the US and Europe, we’ve seen more regulatory clarity. We’ve seen organizations like the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FINCEN) in the US come out with guidance on — if you were doing these certain things with Bitcoin — [they said,] ‘Here are the hoops you need to jump through. Here’s how we’re going to regulate you.’ And I think that’s been really positive for Bitcoin.”

Andresen has been heavily involved in Bitcoin since the early days. Only Satoshi Nakamoto has been more so. After discovering Bitcoin in 2010, Andresen worked to help Nakamoto make tweaks and improvements to the software code.

Why would a man once given Satoshi’s blessing to manage the Bitcoin project, who earned almost US$210,000 from his work with the Bitcoin Foundation in 2013, call the source of so much benefit to him since 2010 “shady”? The early days of the protocol were the time when he himself was most attracted to it.

He expressed more sympathy in the interview for the plight of government regulators than for that of Bitcoin:

“Regulators have a hard job. [They] have to react to this new technology and try to fit it into laws that were passed 40, 50, 100 years ago. It really is a struggle with them and you see that in all areas of technology. Since money and banking are probably one of the most heavily regulated sectors, it’s particularly challenging for Bitcoin.”

By the last sentence, he means that Bitcoin is more of challenge for regulators, rather than regulators being a challenge for Bitcoin. Never mind that regulators create the laws that make things challenging, and they choose to be a part of the system that enforces century-old laws. They could just as easily choose to “uncreate” old laws, and go find jobs that support innovation, rather than corralling the world under the guise of security and preventing it from moving forward.

People like Andresen might then be able to imagine a world that could look significantly different in two decades, rather than “basically the same as today.”

First he cleaned up the Bitcoin source code. Then he cleans up the “shadiness” of Bitcoin by supporting “incredibly positive” government regulation. Who masquerades as the Bitcoin redeemer, the government or Andresen?

For Bitcoin experts and supporters working in a spotlight, it’s a tough place to be. “Going forward,” he said, “the challenge will be to not get over-regulation that stifles innovation.”

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