We sat down with Rick Falkvinge, the founder of the first ever Pirate Party in Sweden, and discussed decentralization, Bitcoin, privacy, and the Middle East’s need for alternative media channels.
“Oldmedia has basically let itself get reduced to mouthpieces for regimes in various stages of corruption; there is little to no independent reporting any longer.”
— Rick Falkvinge
Rick’s entrepreneurial spirit began when he started his first company at 16. Currently living in Sollentuna, a suburb close to the airport of Stockholm, Sweden, Rick is now running Falconwing news, an online media outlet that aims to “defend the Internet’s fundamental values.”
— Rick Falkvinge
Cointelegraph: When was the breaking point where you thought, "This world needs more privacy"? What made you want to start the Pirate Party?
Rick Falkvinge: Actually, I don't necessarily think the world needs more privacy. I'm concerned with maintaining the privacy levels we've had for generations in non-dictatorships — to maintain the levels of privacy that existed in the analog world into the digital world.
The right to hold a private conversation without being wiretapped, the right to go to a library and read a book without being tracked, the right to read a newspaper without a government checking which articles you read, for how long, and in what order.
This was inconceivable in the analog world, but is reality today. That's why I frequently talk about Analog Equivalent Rights to explain where I'm coming from.
CT: What is the current state of the Pirate Party in Sweden? What about the international Pirate Party?
RV: The party is trying to reinvent itself at present. We'll see how that succeeds — but in any case, the Swedish party was only needed as a spark plug for the international movement. My goal was to put people in parliament to demonstrate that it could be done, and I did that in 2009.
At present, the Icelandic party is by far the most successful, but there are others (Czech Republic, Germany) that are well worth watching.
“A replacement of the USD as a default trade currency, means that the U.S. stops getting money for free from the entire world, and that will collapse the USA under its own weight.”
CT: What do you think Bitcoin needs for mainstream usage?
RV: Usability, usability, and more usability. The technology is mostly there. But doing secure cold storage on your own is nowhere near easy enough.
Bitcoin is usable as a small-transaction currency now, using popular phone wallets, but if you want to step up the game, say with multisig, then much better tools are needed.
I can't see how it would be easily done, but then again, I was never a usability expert. I can merely tell it's not there yet.
CT: Where do you see Bitcoin in 10 years in the Western world?
RV: A project on this scale typically takes 10 years from inception until it hits the usability trigger. That means we should expect somebody to hit the magic recipe — the YouTube for streaming video, the Wordpress for blogging, the Napster for sharing — somewhere in the 2019 to 2020 timeframe.
An interesting consequence of that observation is that the service providing the breakthrough probably hasn't been founded yet.
Europe's economy is collapsing like a slow-motion trainwreck. So is the U.S. dollar.
In the words of Andreas Antonopoulos, “You've got to understand that sometimes it's not about Bitcoin succeeding. It's about Bitcoin surviving while the entire world economic system collapses, in ashes, around it!”
“Right now, the geopolitical game is about becoming the next default trade currency. [...] This will have huge implications for the Middle East, not just for the oil trade, but for a cessation of U.S. projected force onto the region.”
CT: Where do you see Bitcoin in 10 years in the Middle East? Do you think it will have any major political effects on the region?
RV: It will have profound and enormous political effects on the region, as well as globally.
Since the 1930s, there has been an increasingly-formalized agreement between the United States and Saudi Arabia to only trade oil in U.S. Dollars, thereby locking the most important trade to the USD currency.
This forces practically all countries to keep a lot of USD in their currency reserves. It also ensures that the USD is the default trade currency: If you want to buy something from China, you need to first buy freshly-printed USD from the USA, and can then exchange those USD for whatever you want from China.
A cessation of this mechanism, a replacement of the USD as a default trade currency, means that the U.S. stops getting money for free from the entire world, and that will collapse the USA under its own weight — it's been overstretched and living on borrowed money since at least August 15, 1971.
Right now, the geopolitical game is about becoming the next default trade currency. It may well be that bitcoin ascends to that position, but it won't be with the blessing of any government, which would much rather see their own currency there.
The only way you'll see a government support bitcoin for this is if it would prevent a rival government's currency of taking that position, and they have no chance of reaching that position for themselves. So in this way, it may actually be a political least common denominator.
In either case, this will have huge implications for the Middle East, not just for the oil trade, but for a cessation of U.S. projected force onto the region.
CT: Are there any pirate parties in the Middle East? Have there been any attempts at making one?
RV: The concept focused primarily on the political systems of Europe when it was founded, essentially using the world's largest economy (the EU) as a vehicle for change. While I've met with a lot of activists from the region, I have the impression that founding a political party in most countries of the Middle East has a much different set of challenges than founding one in Europe, in general, and Western Europe in particular.
CT: Can you tell us about Falconwing news? How does it differ from ‘oldmedia’?
RV: Oldmedia has basically let itself get reduced to mouthpieces for regimes in various stages of corruption; there is little to no independent reporting any longer. By swarming to thousands of eyes and ears, we can have a different model of sourcing what's important, rather than trusting what's being pushed onto us.
CT: Given how biased media is about news coverage in the Middle East, is Falconwing News considering accepting applicants from the region?
RV: We're starting out in Europe — it's tough enough to create a workflow with people from North and South Europe in the same group. Once we have learned to work together efficiently, bridging our respective cultures, and the operations are profitable, we will expand until we have global coverage. It remains to be seen exactly how, but I would personally love to expand to the Middle East and provide an alternative narrative to the very one-sided information coming out today.