The Bitcoin Virus
San Francisco, California.
- a decentralised digital currency created in 2009.
- a client for the above currency.
- a contagious viral infection of the brain causing radical libertarian thoughts, currency speculation, and insomnia.
You find yourself eating lunch at a picnic table with a friend on a cloudless Northern California day.
Your friend starts talking about BitCoins. You’ve seen the word “BitCoin” before but you can’t really place it. You know the word never meant anything to you. Maybe you saw the word “BitCoin” once on Reddit or in The Economist but it was just in passing and it never caught your mind.
Your friend talks and talks. You nod and smile and say “yes” and “oh that’s interesting” and “only 11 million coins?” in a feeble attempt to look like you’re paying attention. You feel a little guilty for not giving your lunch partner undivided attention – but you’re also surprised that he doesn’t seem to notice.
At least 19 in 20 people are completely immune to BitCoin. The unlucky ones are the libertarians, the mathematicians, the computer science students and anyone who’s read books by Neal Stephenson. If you studied some combination of Economics, Computer Science, and Math in school you’re going to have a bad time.
Later that night – even though you weren’t really paying much attention at lunch – key phrases keep popping up in your mind. “100% growth in 2 weeks”, “no inflation”, “crytographically secure” and “untraceable”. You think about that piece of paper your friend pulled out of his wallet with numbers all over it and you wonder: How could it be that a number can store money?
You type “BitCoin” into Google. You type “Who is Satoshi Nakamoto?” into Google.
It comes on slowly, then all at once.
After limited online research, browsing the /r/bitcoin subreddit, and running a few quick equations through Google Docs – you decide maybe buying one of these coins would be a fun experiment.
You type “How to buy BitCoin” into Google.
You head over to Mt. Gox to open an account. A few minutes later dread fills you. Paying $30 to wire money to Japan? Just to buy one coin?
Thirty minutes later you’ve got accounts on Mt. Gox, BitStamp, CoinBase, and Dwolla. You’ve figured out that CoinBase is a waste of time, BitStamp is in Slovenia, and Dwolla is going to take 5 days to confirm your bank account details. You’re resigned to waiting, and reading. And reading.
That week feels like forever. You watch the charts grow and grow and grow. Initially you wanted to buy one coin – but now maybe 5? How about 10?
Two weeks later you wake up on a Sunday morning feeling exhausted. You’re not really sure where your mind has been. Checking about://history confirms you were up until 3 am moving money around the world, trading bit-penny stocks, rolling Satoshi dice, and making bets on future political events.
You’re out of coffee, the gas tank on your SodaStream is running empty, and you haven’t had a good night’s sleep in a while.
You log into Mt. Gox one more time, see that BTC/USD is a perfect $100, and sell down to the sleeping point.
You take a walk, it’s a beautiful sunny and windy San Francisco day. You feel like you’re back on earth. And that’s great.