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Is Bitcoin the most dangerous open source project ever? (launch.is)
66 points by jasonmcalacanis on May 15, 2011 | hide | past | web | favorite | 31 comments



Oh fuck, Calicanis is on the bitcoin-promotion train now.

Now here's a note to the other bitcoin article-spammers. Watch Calcianis and learn. He's done everything right for memetically engineering the kind of article that gets upvoted.

1. He's asked a provocative question, the kind which makes people want to argue with it ("Why no, I'd say that such-and-such is the most dangerous open source project ever").

2. He's used attention-grabbing words like "dangerous" and geek-friendly terms like "open source".

3. And almost the entire article is made up of point-form lists. Everybody loves point-form lists.


1. Why so angry? 2. Calacanis is how my name is spelled. 3. It's just one person's opinion--but a well informed one.

Why not spend your time reading the piece and pushing the discussion forward based on merit?

best j


To respond to your points in reverse order (ignoring "3" which isn't actually a point):

Firstly, there's really no need to sign things with your name. Your name is at the top, it doesn't need to be at the bottom too.

2. Sorry. Many letters. Small font. Light grey text. Calacanis. Got it now.

But (1) is a good question. I'm not angry, but this "bitcoin" meme does annoy me. Why? Because it's one of those viruses that can be really dangerous to social news ecosystem. Much like those parasites that burrow into the brain and take over the host's motor functions to spread itself more easily, everybody who gets bitten by the meme (ie winds up with a few bitcoins of their own) suddenly has an incentive to start spreading the bitcoin meme as far and as wide as possible to drive up the value in the (imho extremely forlorn) hope that someday it will become truly widespread. Since it only takes a few well-timed votes to push something to the front page of HN, this makes HN fertile ground for being manipulated by this kind of thing.

So I approach bitcoin advocates the same way I approach folks selling Amway or religious missionaries.


Bitcoin "can be really dangerous to social news ecosystem"

So you agree with the article, but you don't want people to talk too much about it on HN? I think it is a very weird position to hold. Imagine there was a very dangerous disease, should it be discussed openly in physician congresses? Yes? Same here (HN is the hackers congress, right?), so let us discuss the topic freely.

Why is Bitcoin so dangerous:

- Could break the current economy.

Ok, and so? Is the current economy that perfect a thing that we do not want any replacement? Just have a look in countries where all the wealth created is sucked by a very few corrupted nababs lying down in sofas, and meanwhile people starve silently in the streets. I don't say Bitcoin will fix this, I just say that changing the current economically rules is still a possibility, and Bitcoin-like currency could be a part of the picture. The current economy applied to the world is in fact a very specific and recent invention. In Imperial China (only 200 years ago), the inflation was artificially set to a very high level, so the price of money would go down very fast, and nobody would think of "keeping money aside", so everyone was just spending. That's another model, it did work not so bad for a big part of humanity for some centuries. I am no technotarians, I respect the law, but I think it is quite possible that our economical model is not the best possible.

- Bitcoin could ease the work for wrong-doers (drug traffic, etc.)

This argument is very weak. The same has been said for cell phones, Internet, etc. If this powerful tool is kept secret and hidden in a kind of black market, it will help mostly people in these places. If we discuss it openly, and make it accessible, it may help more "normal" people.

- Tax

Tax is the biggest issue, but let's not be in fear: Governments are very imaginative when it comes to getting money from their administrates. For example, they could easily ask for Bitcoins in exchange of the right to use information vectors (cables, wireless).

Every great innovation have been seen as extremely dangerous by the people in place. Do you take the plane? Yes. Did you heard about this guy a 100 years ago who tried to fly like a bird: he held tight a set of man-made "wings", jumped from the top of the Eiffel tower, and flatly crashed on the floor. One of my good friend's father did refuse to take a plane to see his newborn grand'son.


> Bitcoin "can be really dangerous to social news ecosystem" So you agree with the article, but you don't want people to talk too much about it on HN?

No, he doesn't (necessarily) agree with the article - what he's saying here is that bitcoin early-adopters have an incentive to spread the gospel of bitcoin by whatever means possible, which means that social news could get subjected to a tide of bitcoin-related spam. Different form of danger altogether.


I approach advocates of the central banking system the same way I approach psychotic prison inmates.


I think it's a great article.


I am a great writer, yes. :-)

Seriously, let's break this down:

a) I hear about a trend

b) I read everything I can find about it

c) I have two full-time analysts read everything on it and talk to 10 people.

d) I have 30+ producers of my show do research

e) I host a podcast with the lead developers

f) I read a ton of comments and listen to the feedback on the show

g) I write a piece two weeks later after taking it all in.

Yep, I just did 100+ hours of research on the top and put out a link-baiting piece. :-)


The article was pretty good, but the title was definitely sensationalist. We don't take kindly to that around here. I almost didn't read it because of the title alone.


I'm sure you've put time into reading about BitCoin but it's difficult to take a "piece" seriously when the grammatical and mechanical errors in your writing are abundant. Additionally, beginning a "piece" with a vapid 6 point list.

Also not to mention the comment stacking with "bradpineau". Whatevs, I guess I'm just feeding the shark. Please flag this submission to anyone who get here - it's obvious social media spam.


If that's the result of a) to g) PLUS 100 hours of your own research, I'm quite disappointed because there's various misconceptions and hand-waving.


Outside of members of the bitcoin project, Jason is probably the most qualified to write a bitcoin article. As he states above, he definetly did the research.


To paraphrase reddit: "Nice try: one of the 'c) I have two full-time analysts'..."


Completely unrelated to this site, but did anyone else panic and think their monitor was covered in smudges while reading this site? Worst background ever: http://launch.is/storage/launch_bg.jpg


My monitor is covered in smudges, so I didn't notice at all.


a.k.a. best background ever


"Completely unrelated". Yep, it sure is.


I'm not sure it's 'dangerous,' unless you're seeing through the eyes of a government, credit card company, or financial middle-man. Bitcoin empowers people, and removes companies or governments out of simple value transfers.

It's as though someone has created another Napster, except everyone's a 'node' and music isn't transmitted, 'wealth' is. Bitcoin is only as revolutionary or 'dangerous' as you want it to be.

HN folks may be interested in some of the discussions going on in Quora: http://www.quora.com/Bitcoin


If you're left wanting a high-level technical explanation, the Wikipedia page seems to be a decent one http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bitcoin#Technology

(Answered some fairly obvious questions I was left with after reading like "how do they aim to stop someone from spending the same coin everywhere and then disappearing before anyone else notices?")


Share with the class so I don't have to click the link, would you?


Why is it that any time the subject of private voluntary human interaction comes up, so many people immediately think of the risk of mass death, horror, and self-destruction? What a dismal state of mind. I look on the bright side, because I know that human life depends on private voluntary human interaction, and is ultimately impossible without it.


why would this lead to prosecution by world governments? well, ok, maybe it will for a while, but if the tech really were to take off, it would just end up being taxed in the end anyway. Taxing it isn't harder than taxing cash transfers.

this is all very cryptonomicon to me.


Government can't survive anonymous money not only due to impossibility to tax it, but also due to assassination prediction market: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Assassination_market

If bitcoin will succeed, we will see a political singularity in several years.


I think there's a fair chance that Assassination Markets are a libertarian construction that underestimates humanity's inherent valuing of life.

As a thought experiment it is interesting, and I'd encourage anyone to read the actual essay (http://jya.com/ap.htm) but, and feel free to call me optimistic, pessimistic, closed minded, soft, or whatever your world view leads you to think of my opinion, the idea reeks of an academic exercise that would just not be accepted universally enough to work.


My only gripe is it's quite difficult to find a way to transfer real-currency to BTC easily, and fast. I have to pay $25 - $50 for a bank transfer if I only want to get 10 BTC?

It was easy and useful to use PayPal, until everyone started getting banned.


Dwolla! $0.25 per transaction.


So I have a couple of questions. First, the claim is that it cannot be taxed. Has the IRS said that exchange of Bitcoins for, say, labor, cannot be taxed?

Further, does anyone remember the Liberty Dollar? I remember a famous hacker exhorting "Don't mess with the Eagle".

Just askin.


> the claim is that it cannot be taxed.

The tax laws may be difficult and expensive to enforce ... with an anonymous digital currency.


I don't think (m)any of Jason's projections will come to fruition. We've seen this movie a number of times before (Digicash, et al) and I don't see why today's environment is any different. They all had the exact same early momentum as we are seeing with Bitcoin and all, of course flamed out hard with zero government action (while PayPal thrived spectacularly). The fact of the matter is that digital money is appealing only to a teensy, tiny group of people.


Bitcoins breach the divide between the physical and digital worlds, and it seems that when that happens the old guard throws a fit (cf. digital music/games).


To answer your question: yes.




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