Berlin-based Aaron Koenig has done a lot in the German and English-speaking communities to evangelize Bitcoin.
It was by pure coincidence that his production company, Bitfilm, shares the same prefix as Bitcoin, but their paths converged anyway. many of his company’s clients are Bitcoin startups.
More recently, he founded the Bitcoin Exchange Berlin (in Germany) and assumed the role of secretary general of the Global Bitcoin Alliance.
We had a chance to speak with Koenig just before he took off for Bitcoin Expo 2014 in Toronto.
Cointelegraph: Tell us about your work as the general secretary of the Global Bitcoin Alliance.
Aaron Koenig: The Global Bitcoin Alliance is a loose network of non-profit organizations that promote Bitcoin, usually on a local, regional or national level. That’s where most of the activities will take place.
We want to keep the GBA as decentralized as possible. It has no central office and charges no member fees. Everything is based on voluntary donations and volunteer work. Our main purpose is to help Bitcoin activists worldwide to connect and to learn from each other.
For instance, we will have a “Best Practice” track at the Bitcoin Expo in Toronto, with talks by experts and a round table where you can meet people who have a lot of experience in setting up Bitcoinorganisations and running meetups. If this works well, we will do it again at other conferences. We will follow the good old motto “act locally, think globally,” and we want to keep a low-key profile. So instead of a board, we have a Decentral Committee, and my job title is a silly General Secretary — as if we were a Communist Party. Well, we are quite the opposite, and we are not even incorporated under any national law.
CT: What efforts to make Bitcoin accessible and user-friendly are you particularly excited about right now?
AK: I am especially excited about initiatives that will bring Bitcoin to the billions of people on this planet who have no bank account and no Internet access. Many of them do have mobile phones, though — not smartphones but the old-fashioned brick phones. There are several projects I know of that will enable those people to take part in the global economy by connecting their phones via SMS to the Bitcoin network. So they will be able to trade and to receive money from everywhere in the world without the need of a bank or money transmitter. This can lead to more economic freedom and thus generate more prosperity for the poorest people on the planet.
CT: How can decentralized finance enable a free and fair economy and society?
AK: The current monetary system makes the powerful richer and the poor and the middle class poorer. It is an evil system that needs to be abolished. The monopoly on money creation benefits only people close to the source — politicians and bankers — but harms everyone else, as our incomes and savings slowly lose their value.
In a decentralized financial system, no one would have the privilege to create money out of thin air, and no one would be forced to use a certain kind of money, so only sound money would be accepted by the people. Monopolies are always bad, and centralized planning never works, as we have seen in the Soviet Union, in East Germany and now in the EU. No bureaucrat can know what is best for the people; this would be a “pretense of knowledge,” to quote Hayek. No one knows better than the individual what's good for him or her, so the more decision power the individual has, the better it is for society as a whole.
CT: You have been cited as having said India could provide a fertile ground for Bitcoin to develop. Why? In what other countries or communities might we see Bitcoin thrive in the future?
AK: In India, there are many talented people who can write software, create graphics and animation, or work in customer service, as they are well educated and speak good English. The biggest problem so far was payment. It's very slow and expensive through the old banking system, and India's financial system is very inefficient and over-regulated. When we work together with Indians, we always pay them in Bitcoin because it is simply the cheapest and fastest way, and I think many will follow this example. We also see a lot of interest in countries like Argentina, where people have suffered from frozen bank accounts, inflation and shocking devaluations of their savings a lot. So nobody trusts the government, and nobody trusts the banks anymore, which is an attitude we Europeans should adopt as soon as possible. In Argentina, you don't have to explain why money without banks and governments is better — they immediately want to know how it works.
CT: Your production company, Bitfilm, does a good job of explaining difficult concepts in ways that are really easy for anyone to understand. Can you talk about this in a sort of big-picture perspective as it relates to Bitcoin?
AK: Despite the name, our company Bitfilm is not a Bitcoin-related company. We have been using that name since 1999; it simply stands for digital film. But it's true: More than half of our current clients are Bitcoin startups. Our clients know that they don't have to explain Bitcoin to us, only their specific product or service. But there is no “bigger picture” — we just do this for a living and because it's fun.