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The Citizen

Bitcoin Or Bubblecon?

DSC_0001By Simon R. Bone

Bitcoin is the one of the fastest growing hi-tech crazes and the “cryptocurrency “ has governments running scared. Harvard is in the thick of the action has and is holding Bitcoin events up and down Cambridge. MIT has even recently announced it will give $100 in bitcoin to all its students. The Citizen spoke to Will Young who recently ran a BitCoin conference at HBS.


How well do you think tech. hubs like Harvard/Cambridge are placed to deal with a fast moving phenomenon like bitcoin?

Harvard & MIT represent a great cluster of engineering talent and there is a lot of interest in cryptocurrencies here. So we are well positioned. But like many open source projects, contributors are spread out across the world and it’s just as likely that the next big innovation comes out of Eastern Europe or Asia as it is that it comes out of Cambridge or Silicon Valley.


Does bitcoin have the ability to become a world reserve currency (like the $ or once upon a time £)

The technology is there, but we are a long way off from it becoming a practical currency at all (much less a reserve currency). There are legitimate sociopolitical barriers to adoption (like sovereign gov’ts desire to retain control of monetary policy) and economic barriers (like the question of how the bitcoin money supply is managed over time). At this point I prefer to think of it like a speculative commodity like gold.


Do you think the press hypes alternative currencies too much or too little? Are there in-built biases in the media?

The media is biased to sell papers – or at least to drive impressions to their sites’ display ads. So they are going to take advantage of every news story to hyperbolize the rise or fall of the currency. I think the media is right to have as many articles as they do on bitcoin – it’s very important – but the quality of the discussion is pretty poor. I prefer to check the daily exchange rate of bitcoin as a gut check on public sentiment.


What are your thoughts regarding the “unmasking” of Dorian/Satoshi Nakamoto by Newsweek?

The whole Newsweek thing is a kind of sideshow. It doesn’t really matter who created bitcoin. The code is open source; anybody can look at it. The mystery of its creation is empty. The really exciting stuff is the innovation happening around the technology, but that’s a harder article to write well.


There are many types of assets that investors hoard or speculate on – however it’s rare that there is no physical backing behind them – will this ultimately harm bitcoin in the long run?

It’s harming bitcoin in the short run because it’s an odd idea, but I think in the long run people will get used to it. “Digital goods” as a concept is increasingly familiar to people, and consumers are increasingly comfortable with the idea that financial assets are stored and manipulated in the cloud. Why shouldn’t there be a commodity like bitcoin that is optimized for that environment?


What are you views on other crypto currencies e.g. litecoin, dogecoin(!)

There are big network effects with currencies, so bitcoin has an advantage today, but this is early days. Any one of these currencies (or none of them) could end up being the biggest. They are fundamentally very similar.