I first began to pay close attention to Bitcoin about a year and a half ago during a backpacking trip to Colombia. I had been hanging out with a digital drug dealer who had given me a proper rundown of the online black market and how it worked. He was vacationing on the Caribbean coast to try kick a heroin habit he’d developed while working with the dark markets which gave him unprecedented access to high quality product. Unfortunately, the abundance of cheap cocaine was hindering his attempt at sobriety. It did however make for a lively and detailed lesson on Bitcoin and Silk Road. After returning to Vancouver, I continued to look into Bitcoin which resulted in the purchase of my first coin at the price of $35.
Come spring, I’d left the city to perform my yearly duty as a treeplanter. After several months of living in a tent in northern British Columbia, I had all but forgotten about the world of crypto-currency. My interest was sparked again in late October 2013 when the Vancouver-based company Bitcoiniacs installed the world’s very first Bitcoin ATM. I can remember wandering downtown in the rain, late at night, and gazing at the revolutionary machine through the glass windows of the coffeeshop where it was housed.
At the time, I was suffering through the inhuman demands of a science program at UBC. When I saw through my Facebook feed that Bitcoiniacs was looking to hire help, I jumped at the chance. When it became clear that they were willing to take me on as a sort of customer service representative, I immediately dropped out of school in order to offer my complete focus. After all, to be one of the first employees of a start up company on the front lines of the most exciting technology since the Internet was not an opportunity that arose everyday.
It wasn’t long before I was spending most of my days stationed in front of the Bitcoin ATM, high on coffee, giving lesson after lesson of what a crypto-currency was, how it worked, and why it was so incredibly important. I became somewhat fluent in the vernacular of the technology. As I strove for eloquence and clarity in my explanations, I found my appreciation for the intricacies of the system to be steadily increasing. Bitcoin was like the game of chess in a way. The more I thought about and understood the various concepts involved, the more beautiful they became as a whole.
Determined to understand how such an invention could have purportedly born itself into existence by way of a pseudonymous internet entity, I began to study the history of the cryptography movement and internet culture in general. I quickly became enamoured to the world of Crypto-Anarchy, a fascinating techno-philosophical idea that maintains that individual liberation from coercive or tyrannical systems of government is the inevitable outcome of advances in cryptographic technology. The phenomena of Silk Road, Wikileaks, TOR, and Bitcoin—as well as all their imitators—were all a direct result of this process. Accurate predictions of each of these systems were being made as early as the late eighties, such as in Timothy C. May’s “The Crypto Anarchist Manifesto”, a brief classic that is widely available online.
The most complete and engaging overview of this movement that I found was Andy Greenberg’s book, “This Machine Kills Secrets”. Greenberg tours the globe engaging in face to face interviews with the often revolutionary and eccentric personalities that—due to their direct influence on the state of technology and the according political impact—will one day be deemed legendary. Indeed, in certain circles, they already are. It was within these circles that I found myself during the rainy season of Vancouver.
In the month of November as the price topped a thousand dollars per coin, the crowds that gathered around the ATM became ecstatic. The number of restaurants and cafés that accepted Bitcoin as a legitimate form of payment began to grow. Some days I would cruise around the city on my bicycle relying solely on Bitcoin to pay for my food and drink, feeling like a true emissary from the future. My colleague at the time went so far as to help found a community organization aimed at celebrating and disseminating the concepts of crypto-currency, and decentralization in general. This project, entitled bangtown.decentral, is the brainchild of local visionaries Cameron Gray and Freddie Heartline. It continues to grow to this day and hosts multiple weekly events ranging from live interviews with Bitcoin luminaries to community yoga sessions.
We were riding the wave of a global financial revolution. I gave my mind free reign to speculate on where it would all take us. Not only would traditional banking institutions become obsolete, the entire concept of the nation state was at risk of erosion. Any given country’s ultimate weapon of control is it’s monetary system. Our illusion of freedom becomes threatened as soon as we go abroad and we realize that we are not allowed to just live anywhere. We must eventually return to our designated area if we wish to provide for ourselves—legally, anyways.
I came to believe that decentralization of all systems is the antidote for the seemingly impervious conundrum of modern society. I like to think of the Copernican revolution as one of the first crowning achievements of this. Today we have the decentralization of information and finance as our generation’s contribution. The logical endgame for all this is the eventual decentralization of our very selves. We will recede further and further into our collective consciousness until we are one with God.
Of course, this return to source is not necessarily going to be a smooth ride. Bitcoin has had to deal with countless setbacks over the past year after it gained mainstream notoriety. As with any groundbreaking idea, it is being opposed and stifled with significant ferocity by a number of institutions. Confident enthusiasts argue that this is totally natural and, in the end, will only serve to strengthen Bitcoin and it’s growing infrastructure.
As spring rolled around, the initial boom of interest in crypto-currency began to level out. I grew weary of spending all my time in a concrete jungle. Also, the generic sterility of the particular coffeeshop where I was stationed was quite draining. With mixed emotions, I respectfully parted ways with Bitcoiniacs and prepared for a return to the bush. The stark contrast of another season of treeplanting served to reacquaint me, however brutally, with the natural world. My soul was steadily replenished as I pounded in tree after tree into the sprawling cut blocks of British Columbia.
Since I had failed all of my classes the year before, I did not have the option to return to school if I’d wanted to. Instead, I used some of the money I’d earned planting to buy a plane ticket to South America where I would spend the month of September at an Ayahuasca retreat centre set in the Peruvian jungle. There, I would decentralize my consciousness into the Godhead. I have just recently accomplished this mission.
Upon my return to civilization, I spent a day or two catching up on Bitcoin. I watched the new documentary entitled, The Rise and Rise of Bitcoin, which is an excellent overview of how Bitcoin has evolved since it’s inception in 2008. For those who are looking for an engaging and informative piece of media to properly explain the wonderful world of Bitcoin to friends and family, this is it. It also serves as an entertaining window into the lives of many of the pioneers of this industry.
Another less publicized yet probably more meaningful video was published online around the same time. That would be Andreas Antonopoulos’ address to the Canadian Senate during a meeting on digital currencies. Antonopoulos is widely considered to be one of the most informed and eloquent speakers on Bitcoin. He completely upheld his reputation by schooling the members of the Senate like kids in a classroom. They were very obviously impressed and many expressed agreement with his recommendations. I find it probable that Bitcoin is now entering it’s inevitable phase of being taken as a serious and ever-present reality by the influential politico who have thus far given it not much more than confused ridicule.
As for my own participation in this ongoing saga, I will continue to use Bitcoin as often as I possibly can. I have also been considering the invention of a new crypto-currency with a built-in transaction fee that would automatically deposit into the accounts of a number of democratically elected NGOs dedicated to restoring the earth’s fledgling ecosystems. Sufficient publicity could pressure socially conscious corporations to begin accepting the currency—possibly called TreeCoin—as a form of charity. Although there are many details left to consider, that is the vague idea. If there are any programmers out there that would like to contribute to this project or are already working on something similar, please get in touch.
photo found via google images @ http://bitcoinchangeclub.org/blog/egifter-champions-bitcoin-pizza-day/