Two sides to Bitcoin

May 14, 2015

Cultural Mapping: Money


With speculation of an impending crash worse than the last, a struggling Australian dollar, turmoil in Europe, Russia and the potential for China to slow down, people are struggling to comprehend the path forward economically. And what we don’t understand we often look to circumvent. Which is why we believe that the new wave of technological advances in peer-to-peer economies is on the rise.

The digital age has clearly brought an economic power shift. Coders, known as ‘miners’, have created digital currencies that empower the consumer. The most ubiquitous example is Bitcoin. Bitcoin is “the first decentralised digital currency. It is a transfer directly from person to person, without paying a bank. This means that the fees are much lower. There are no prerequisites or arbitrary limits.” The reason behind Bitcoins success and growth is the ability to bypass the middleman and the ease with which transactions can be made. Bitcoin is notable, but not the only example: AirBnb, Uber, and GoGet are also driving forward the peer-to-peer momentum.


A GREAT TECH DIVIDE?

The new wave of peer-to-peer currency is a win for equalisation in that it removes the middleman, putting power back to the consumer, but it fundamentally hinges on access to technology, as well as an ability to use and adopt it. In that sense, it creates a new equalisation issue: the haves and have-nots of technology. This is a problem that has been on the agenda recently, Obama’s rhetoric around Americas shrinking middle class, and the world’s wealthiest 1% who are earmarked to own more than the other 99% in 2016.

So what happens when the best way to save a buck requires the devices, skill and capability to engage with new technology? What about those that are unwilling or unable to either acquire the skills or the devices to participate? I can see a growing technological divide between those that are able to thrive on digital currency and technologies, and the rest who are bound by their capabilities are scraping together the shrapnel in their coin purses.

But there are brands helping to tackle this issue head on. Facebook, for example, has launched Internet.org – a project that attempts to connect billions of people currently not tech-enabled, to keep everyone up to speed with this digital revolution. But there are opportunities beyond in first world countries too, such as education of the older demographic that is not reaping these benefits. The challenge, in either case, is to democratise technology to help everyone. 

Ultimately , there are two sides to Bitcoin and other peer-to-peer economies: it opens possibilities for the tech-enabled, as well as closing it down for the laggards. Meaning that access and education of digital technologies is rapidly becoming the new definition of the haves and have-nots. 


Mik