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Bitcoin is one of those things that don't come along every lifetime. I hope it outlives me. While that wouldn't be an accomplishment of any sort, it'd make me feel better.
1. First off, tell me a bit about yourselves, everybody.Theymos I am a 21-year-old computer science student from Wisconsin. I am the most senior moderator of /Bitcoin and the head administrator of bitcointalk.org. I created the first Bitcoin Block Explorer, blockexplorer.com, though I don't run it anymore.
Jon Matonis I am an e-Money researcher and crypto economist covering the Bitcoin economy for Forbes Magazine and American Banker.
Evoorhees My name is Erik, but I'm known as evoorhees in the Bitcoin world. I work for several Bitcoin projects - namely BitInstant and Coinapult are my "day jobs" and I'm also involved with the notorious SatoshiDice.com, which is the most popular Bitcoin game in the world. My academic background is in monetary economics (which I learned entirely after my "formal" college education) and by trade I'm a writing, marketing, and brand development guy. Most people in the Bitcoin community probably first hear about me from the paper I wrote last year: Bitcoin - The Libertarian Introduction. I'm an American but have recently left the country because it is far too socialist for my liking.
2. How did you first discover bitcoin?Theymos I first heard about Bitcoin in February of 2010 via a post on 4chan. I've always had a great interest in distributed systems, so reading bitcoin.org and Satoshi's paper really got me interested, and I started following Bitcoin very closely.
Jon Matonis I first discovered Bitcoin through my research into digital cash and virtual currencies. Satoshi had contacted me directly because of my economics blog and asked me to take a studied look at the cryptocurrency.
Evoorhees In May 2011 I saw a Facebook post from a friend, which said something like, "This digital currency gained 20,000% in the last six months". I clicked the link and upon reading about it, immediately though, "wow this is the stupidest thing ever... made up internet money... obviously a scam or bubble or some other nonsense." However, my curiosity pulled me further, and after about an hour of reading various articles about Bitcoin, I had a very clear epiphany that this was the most important thing I had ever come across, that it would change the world and that I needed to help it do so. I spent the next few days with little sleep, eating Cheerios, ignoring my girlfriend, and basically absorbing every word that had been written about Bitcoin. I was hooked. I had fallen down the rabbit hole, and am still way down here.
3. In your own words, how would you describe bitcoin to someone who has never heard of it before?Theymos Bitcoin is a currency like dollars, but instead of relying on the US government to print dollars appropriately and protect against counterfeiting, it uses strong cryptography and a peer-to-peer network to accomplish these same tasks. There is no organization or government with control over Bitcoin. Bitcoin is designed so that you have exclusive control over your money, not politicians, developers, or even the majority of users. Bitcoin is also a payment processing system which allows you to cheaply and quickly send bitcoins to other people. Using Bitcoin, I could securely send $100,000 in bitcoins from the US to China in ~10 minutes while paying less than $0.10 in transaction fees, and this transaction would be more non-reversible than even a wire transfer.
Jon Matonis To the uninitiated, I would describe bitcoin as digital gold except that it depends on mathematical properties rather than chemical properties.
Evoorhees Bitcoin is one of mankind's greatest inventions. It is a form of money superior to all others. It is a grand experiment, and if it succeeds will remove the monopoly power of money away from governments and put it in the hands of individuals. Bitcoin is the privatization of money, not through "popular vote" or political courtesy, but wrested from the State through the beneficence of technology. If Bitcoin is successful, it will change not only how money works, but society itself - freeing people, empowering them, and providing a means of individual protection. Bitcoin is the antidote to a century of misguided central planning in the realm of money.
4. Where do you see the future of bitcoin in 5 years? 10? 20?Theymos Satoshi Nakamoto, the founder of Bitcoin, said, "I'm sure that in 20 years there will either be very large transaction volume or no volume." Bitcoin is an extremely powerful technology with the potential to change the world. I think that Bitcoin is likely to grow substantially in 5-10 years, though there are a number of potential challenges that could slow Bitcoin's growth. For example, governments could severely regulate companies that let you buy bitcoins. In 20 years, Bitcoin could be bigger than many government-issued currencies, but I also wouldn't be all that surprised if Bitcoin is replaced by something that is better than Bitcoin in all ways (maybe using quantum cryptography). Bitcoin is the first system of its kind, so anything could happen.
Jon Matonis In 5 years, I see bitcoin as pervasive as Skype but still only prevalent in certain pockets of society as Skype is today. I don't predict bitcoin exchange rates.
In 10 years, bitcoin will begin to have so many apps and services built around it that a few killer apps will make it a necessity for many people and it will become an acceptable asset class for investors.
In 20 years, small to medium size countries will be incorporating bitcoin reserves into their reserve portfolios and countries will be experimenting with currency issuance that depends on full and/or partial bitcoin backing. Countries will also be competing as to which one provides the best competitive jurisdictional environment for cryptocurrencies.
Evoorhees Well in 20 years, Bitcoin (or something very similar to it) will either have become the dominant formear of money and payment or it will have failed and gone away. The latter is highly unlikely though, because the only thing which will cause Bitcoin to really fail at this stage is if something superior comes along, in which case all the benefits of Bitcoin are still realized.
In five years, I expect the market cap of Bitcoin will have grown from its current $500m USD to the realm of $20-100b USD. At this stage, use will be widespread but not yet ubiquitous. Governments will be struggling to "manage" the growth of the technology and its vast implications. In five years, Bitcoin will be almost as old as the euro is today, and I'd bet considerable money that its record of performance will be superior.
5. Thanks everybody. Anything else you'd like to say to the world?Theymos Read the sidebar of /Bitcoin for instructions on how to get started and more info about Bitcoin. I will answer questions about Bitcoin in this comment section.
Jon Matonis I would like to add that many people are familiar with BitTorrents and how they have caused disruptive problems in the copyright world today with very little method of recourse from the authorities. Well, those same types of disruptive problems will be seen in the world of legal tender due to bearer digital cash such as bitcoin. This has profound implications for the advancement of liberty.
Evoorhees If you care about the future of humanity, Bitcoin is the most important social project currently in existence. Where governments and organizations around the world are busy naively fighting the symptoms of a rotten and decrepit financial system, Bitcoin makes such efforts redundant and futile - for it solves the core problems itself. It will disrupt everything, and even if you don't care to get involved in using or developing it further, you owe it to yourself to learn about it.
Bitcoin is absolutely fascinating and the most exciting thing I've ever come across, and thus I've dedicated my life to advancing it.
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