For folks who have intentionally avoided the technological shifts that have disrupted and fundamentally changed society in the past twenty years, the next decade of the 21st century may require them to either play catch-up unless they embrace a hermit’s life in the mountains. The truth is, we are much closer to becoming the singularity than you might think – even though we haven’t figured out how to transfer our consciousness to robots, we still use technology as though it were an extension of ourselves. Smartphones, for example, have changed the way our brains work and also give us powers that would seem like witchcraft to someone living in the 1980s.
Amongst the many bold technologies that have changed the way we think about and interact with the world are bitcoin and the blockchain network that it functions on. Most people – especially your parents – run for the hills when anyone starts talking about the blockchain. However, even though cryptocurrency (the umbrella term invented for bitcoin and subsequent digital coins that have followed) is extremely sophisticated, of all the paradigm shifting tech that’s become mainstream, crypto is maybe the simplest to grasp conceptually.
The reason it’s easy to grasp is the fact that it’s really just a digital alternative to one of the oldest social constructs in human history: money. Although everyone in the developed world is completely familiar and at ease with the concept of trading cash for goods and services, humanity’s only really internalized this process with the rise of globalization and free market economies. Historically, there’s been a lot more bartering and trading, or else currency has been grounded in a finite valuable commodity, such as silver or gold.
So really, while understanding the blockchain and all of its nuances may be daunting, understanding crypto as a digital currency anchored by an electronic ledger and peer governance – rather than banks and governments – shouldn’t hurt the brain too much.
So don’t run off to your hermit cabin in the woods just yet, let us explain a couple basic points about the big bad blockchain that will help you adjust to our brave new world:
- Bitcoin Mining
Like gold or silver, there actually is a finite amount of bitcoin within the blockchain ecosystem. People can mine the coin using powerful computers to solve math equations that yield the precious coin. These math equations constitute the cryptography of crypto, in solving these problems, the computers or nodes update the ledger and feed power into the blockchain. Thus, the whole system is self-sustaining and self-governed with a permanent record of every transaction (without any private information changing hands, of course).
- Gateways & Digital Wallets
Many people might ask, where do I get bitcoin? How do I turn it into real money? Here’s your answer: as crypto becomes more popular, services are popping up to facilitate the transfer of bitcoin into fiat currency (USD, Euros). You can visit Bitbuy.ca for an example of a site that operates ethically and transparently so that curious folks can turn a bit (or a lot) of cash into digital coins like Litecoin, Bitcoin Cash, or Ether. You can spend it, save it for a rainy day or simply stare at the screen pondering the increasingly strange, futuristic world we live in!