Hacker News new | past | comments | ask | show | jobs | submit login
Could Bitcoin Be More Disruptive than the Internet? (foxycart.com)
37 points by freework on Nov 12, 2013 | hide | past | favorite | 49 comments

Hey all. This is my first Hacker News comment and the first time one of my posts got shared. Thanks for that.

Sorry the title is lame, but I went with something which would get attention at BarCamp Nashville. Not all of them are tech savvy, so the title served its purpose and got the talk selected.

Moving on from the title, what do you think of the content?

There are a lot of Bitcoin haters out there, but also a growing group of supporters. From what I've seen, few informed people argue against the actual technology while some argue about the politics or economics. To my knowledge, we've never seen a deflationary currency (outside of some babysitter experiment). We've never seen a store of value with no third party risk which can be transferred anywhere in the world immediately. As for wasted energy concerns, my understanding is the system is more efficient than the overhead associated with ACH, Credit Card, PayPal or other networks for securing transactions.

Either way, curious what you all think about the content. As this is my first HN comment ever, please, be nice. :)

This is one of the more egregious Betteridge's Law violations I've seen today.

For the slightly less well-informed: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Betteridge's_law_of_headlines. Notably, 'Betteridge's law of headlines is an adage that states, "Any headline which ends in a question mark can be answered by the word no."'

Also, for the non-native speakers: http://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/egregious, 'reflecting the positive connotations of "standing out from the flock"'.

(edit: removed bitterness)

"As smart" isn't fair. "As smug" or "as familiar with a nominal rule-of-thumb" would work better.

Edit: It always gets nominated for hyperbolic headlines. I just happened to be the first on the scene.

Agree. Took all the bitterness out.

quarterto's law: Any headline which ends in a question mark will have a comment on it citing Betteridge's Law.


I would have phrased this as a corollary.

No. Normals are easily pwned. You remember all those botnets that steal normals' internets? They will now stead their bitcoin wallet instead. Normals will lose their bitcoin to theft and never trust it again. End of story.

The only thing you accomplish with bitcoin is wasting electricity and making global warming worse. Please stop destroying the planet.

"end of story" so so silly. this thing is 5 years old and tens of millions of dollars of wallets have been stolen. the story is currently peaking, not ending. the real way the story will play out is that solutions will come into existence so the 'normals' don't get pwned as much.

You mean like currency that is centrally controlled and physical and can be kept nice and safe in a bank? Oh wait, already have that, people call it "money".

Most people don't want to live in the wild west, that is a fact, and that's why the wild west went out of existence. There will always be some people who want to live dangerously / adventurously, but their experiences and preferences do not generalize to the entire population.

the problem with your counter argument is that it ignores the basic, undeniable fact: what you are referring to as "money", presumably government fiat: euro, dollar, yen, etc.. has certain flaws that bitcoin does not (not to say bitcoin doesn't have it own, different flaws), namely: government fiat, historically, has always been deflated; with the vast majority of fiat currencies eventually becoming worthless due to the government abusing the currency or losing their power; and, contemporary "money" is subject to restrictions, capital control laws, etc.. which some people find to be too cumbersome.

bitcoin has answer for these undeniable flaws; and besides.. no one is saying that "the entire population" needs to do anything. bitcoin can (and at this point, almost certainly will) exist right along side all these "real" monies you refer to; and people can choose, or not, to use bitcoin (and part of what is appealing to me, and likely others.. is that regardless of what any laws say, I can still "choose" to use bitcoin even if some jurisdiction delclares it illegal--unlike fiat.. where if the government decides i shouldn't have access to my money they can simply shut me down with zero recourse if the courts (or despots, depending on jurisdiction) don't see my side.

Value in government money gets inflated away. Sure, someday that will probably happen. Someday, our entire civilization will collapse (every civilization in history has done the same). Unless you think we're close to a total collapse of the global financial system, your money isn't going anywhere, especially if you put it into non-currency investments. If you do think we're about to fall off a cliff, then your Bitcoins will be basically worthless because we're about to enter a period of relative lawlessness with greatly reduced access to information and the Bitcoin network probably won't survive (or the Bitcoins will be plundered by rogue information-pirates or something weird like that).

If you want to mess around with Bitcoin, awesome, but please don't see it as more than it is: a toy for the privileged.

> "has always been deflated"

I think you meant inflated.

Whereas bitcoin is computational fiat money.

i'm not sure fiat means what you think it means

How did the "wild wild west" go out of existence? By becoming civilized. That's what will happen to Bitcoin, too.

Also, there is no distinction between "money" and "Bitcoin". Bitcoin is just another currency like USD, euros, yens, etc. It's people's choice all over the world in what currency to keep their money in a "bank".

If Bitcoin becomes "civilized" then why would anyone use it? The whole argument in favor of Bitcoin is that it is the "wild wild west" of currencies.

> Please stop destroying the planet.

That has to be the worst argument against Bitcoin I have ever seen. Why stop at the planet, you could have said "Please stop destroying the known universe", that would have made just as much sense.

> wasting electricity and making global warming worse

We do plenty of this already with conventional currencies (micro-trading algorithms for stocks and currency speculation, for instance). Doesn't make either okay, just want to maintain perspective.

I'm not going to claim that BTC is good or evil, but it's for damn sure both disruptive and interesting. I think we'll also have gold and petro-dollars for quite some time, though.

If you're worried about the environmental impacts of Bitcoin mining, you may want to consider a priority re-evaluation.

Pretty much. Once you get past having kids, eating animals, driving cars, or even riding a bike 24/7 you're pretty much using more energy than some bitcoin miner.

Personally I expect if "normals" are to use bitcoins, it will probably be structured with financial institution(s) holding the BTC much like a bank holds USD. As we move further away from cash, ordinary folk could very easily just have a BTC debit card, and never worry about bitcoin wallets and bitcoin clients.

But why the fuck would they bother?

In an attempt to get free of the manipulation of the USD by the Fed, for example. (Whether that is wise is another debate)

There will be hardware devices that sign Bitcoin transactions securely. Your private keys will never leak or become compromised. See Trezor: http://www.bitcointrezor.com/

Ladies and gentlemen, Hacker News 2013. Standing by to shit on every provocative idea microseconds after posting!

Thanks for your comment. Kind of made my day when a team member mentioned you posted here. :)

I'd think its more than an idea its something that might already be happening in some places.

There are places that are over regulated when it comes to exchanging currency. Bitcoin offers a legal or at least gray way to buy/sell stuff.

I guess not everyone likes change

Enthusiastic promoters inevitably breed equally enthusiastic critics.

You could go beyond inevitably and say reflexively. Which is exactly the problem.

> Which is exactly the problem.

I don't follow you.

Today's xkcd is relevant: http://xkcd.com/1289/

Except Bitcoin could potentially remove a lot of war from the Earth. If it becomes the world currency, it'll kill "deficit spending" which is used to move billions of dollars for production of jets and bombs.

If anything, the web provides a strong medium for bitcoin and this helps with the buying/selling process. Bitcoin wouldn't survive without the major benefits the web provides it.

Reminds me of people who say the internet is more disruptive than personal computers, which in turn are more disruptive than microprocessors :P

Claim: The answer is no.

Proof: Bitcoin requires the Internet to function. Therefore, the things disrupted by Bitcoin are a subset of the things disrupted by the Internet. The Internet can be used for disruptive things other than Bitcoin, so the things disrupted by Bitcoin are a proper subset of the things disrupted by the Internet.

Since the total number of things in both categories is finite, this means fewer things are disrupted by Bitcoin than are disrupted by the Internet.


I originally thought this; but ultimately have to disagree.

Several problems:

1. "the internet" is a pretty nebulous term. bitcoin certainly requires computer networks, which generally require tcp/ip; but bitcoin could technically function on a darknet, which could arguably be "not the internet".

2. the internet relies on the power grid, which itself relies on copper wire; which essentially, and eventually, says, by your logic, that the internet is a subset of the things disrupted by copper mining.

now i actually agree that in the end the internet is a bigger disruptor; but i don't think your proof holds.

The Internet could have happened on a planet without copper. Could Bitcoin have happened on a planet without the internet?

It's certainly disrupting a lot of people's peaceful nights with all the stories that are showing up of exchanges disappearing or supposedly being hacked. But then again, I'd presume given the nature of its economy, you'd have to be a fool if you didn't consider these outcomes possible.

The correct heading would be: "Could Bitcoin be the most disruptive thing to arrive on the internet since the web?"

Rather than look at bitcoin, best to look at the websites that it brings about, and the ones it minimizes -- especially the ones that don't embrace bitcoins, such as banks. You could also measure it as a proportion of internet traffic vs web traffic. The key is that websites use bitcoins, and to take that into account.

I saw this earlier, I still don't get the logic of the conclusion. Can you really qualify technology B (Bitcoin) as being more disruptive then technology A (internet) when B requires A to operate?

Maybe if you look at the technologies in the vacuum in which they were created, but in reality you'd want to contextualize them as extensions of one another, otherwise you get a biased picture of their disruptivity.


You make a great point, which is probably true. By that logic the Internet is also less a revolution than transistors, which I guess it is. Unless we talk about "hidden" vs "obvious" revolutions. Because people don't really know about "transistors", but they do about the Internet, and "use it" every day knowing they do so. So in a way, you could use the argument that the Internet is a more obvious and practical revolution (closer to the end user). Bitcoin could be the same vs the Internet, although I don't think we really need to qualify them like that. They could both be very important.

I suppose this means that the question is whether you pay kudos to the immediate thing or to its necessary causes.

We can follow this line back to arguing that nothing is more disruptive than the Big Bang.

>We can follow this line back to arguing that nothing is more disruptive than the Big Bang.

Well yes, but the Big Bang was not a discovery/invention made by man. Discovery of how to start a fire would probably be a good candidate for the most disruptive tech.

Part of the difficulty is that many discoveries and inventions reach the threshold of being necessary causes of the modern world. Once you pass that threshold, how do you rank them? The removal of any of them (eg fire, the wheel, mathematics, steel, steam ...) renders the current world impossible.

Are there degrees of impossibility? I'm not sure. We may be looking at a partially-ordered set here.

Haha yes! Qualifying the importance of things against one another is usually a silly exercise.

Internet allowed the creation of things such as Bitcoin. Btc is only making the Internet impact larger, if such a thing is ever measured and matters at all.


More disruptive than the Internet? No. More disruptive than Facebook? Yes.

Guidelines | FAQ | Lists | API | Security | Legal | Apply to YC | Contact