- Internet & the Web
How Two People Are Revolutionizing The Digital Currency World
The Mom of Ross Ulbricht Responds At The Trial
As the mother of Ross Ulbricht steps up to the microphone hall, worlds collide. She looks exhausted, wears jeans and a fleece jacket and speaks in a low but firm voice. Her son is in custody because his illegal trading platform Silk Road is said to have operated illegally, were drugs and arms deals went down in. Payment was made within the peer-to-peer payment system called Bitcoin.
The other man on the stage is wearing a well-fitting jacket, neatly groomed and a totally different demeanor compared to the family of Ross Ulbricht. He is a graduate of the elite college Duke University, formerly with Goldman Sachs and the investment firm BlackRock. 2013 Time Magazine named him one of "30 people under 30 who will change the world." His name is Fred Ehrsam and is something like the respectable face of the Internet currency Bitcoin.
He is responsible for co-founding the company Coinbase, which offers accounts for Bitcoin transactions. He believes that the net currency will revolutionize international payments. Ulbricht's mother asks if Bitcoin will also make it easier to donate to good causes. One of his main arguments for Bitcoin is that the digital money transactions are simpler and cheaper to operate.
Coinbase co-founder Fred Ehrsam: on the verdict "Today we love the prosecutors"
However Ulbricht's mother is not happy because of his answer. She wants to garner support for her son because she knows it is not entirely his fault. After Ehrsams appearance she stands in front of the room handing out leaflets - she is asking for donations for a defense fund for her son, the risk of many years in prison.
The temporary success of the online drug transshipment hub Silk Road was mainly due to an alleged property of Bitcoin, which allowed people to pay with the Internet money completely anonymously.
Each Bitcoin transaction is recorded forever in the so-called block chain, "a massive public cash book," said Ehrsam. So let businesses track and identify the parties involved in doubt. Bitcoin that facilitates crime, is not true: "Today we love prosecutors because Bitcoin transactions are much easier to understand than when two people meet with cash in a dark alley.."
"Maybe I'm some kind of terrorist"
This is exactly what changed Cody Wilson. The 26-year-old from the state of Arkansas, who was the head of a group of libertarian friends Defense Distributed, the organisation that developed a functional gun called "Liberator", which can be produced with a 3-D printer.
Wilson also considered as a possible Bitcoin anarchist in a bout in which he sees himself and his peers. A struggle against state authority, against "corporate capitalism" against "an increasing similarity between democracy and absolutism."
With his clipped beard he's a bit like Justin Timberlake. With flaming glance and gesture of a revolutionary he speaks at South-by-Southwest festival in Austin, his home away from home. His lecture, he begins with a request for donations for the defense of Ross Ulbricht. He should at least get a "fair trial". For Wilson its possible that a victim of persecution by the state won't receive one, just as he was a victim to.
Wilson says he does not consider himself as part of a movement, but he still often used the word "we": "We want to create a world of our imagination. Admittedly, a world of extremes. A world in which states have no power over individuals". When asked how he sees himself, he hawed around a bit. Then he giggles and says: ". Maybe I'm some kind of terrorist"
New allies among European anarchists
For him, the episode was a confirmation with the weapon out of the 3D printer. Both for his skepticism about government authority than his belief in the subversive potential of the network. In May 2013 the US State Department banned the distribution of guns on the ground that it is contrary to a law against unregulated arms exports. But by then it was too late: The blueprints for the "Liberator" said weapons can be found online today in many places. Many of those who continue to spread his plans was "the topic weapons really matter," says Wilson, "which is about the levering state control". He has found new allies.
Last year, Wilson traveled through Europe and met with crypto anarchists, with squatters in London and hackers in Spain. Together with an anarchist group called unSystem - fully equipped with 52,000 dollars from a crowdfunding campaign , he now wants a software called DarkWalletdevelop. You should ensure that Bitcoin is what it is currently and is only apparent: an ability to perform money transfers anonymous and untraceable.
World of Cryptocurrency
"A simple method for money laundering"
"There are people who think Bitcoin for a perfect puzzle piece for the outdated banking system," says Wilson. But DarkWallet says Wilson, will transform "an easy way to launder money and digital currency ". It is necessary to impede the investigation methods of law enforcement"
DarkWallet is to be a streamlined browser extension. It should address transactions in disguise - to ensure everything that allures Bitcoin for libertarians, but also for drug and arms dealer over a long period of time. All this, for the people as Ehrsam and Coinbase prominent investor and Netscape founder Marc Andreessen would like it to belong in the past.
History of Bitcoin
Difficult times, bad problems, steady course
The past few months have been difficult for Bitcoin friends. Ross was arrested , Silk Road and another illegal platform called Utopia were closed. Drug and arms dealers around the world lost a lot of money, some even their freedom. There were technical problems, the trading platform Mt. Gox collapsed , investors lost hundreds of millions of euros. A former star of the Bitcoin scene, the 24-year-old Charlie Shrem , was arrested due to money laundering allegations, his company Bitinstant, a Coinbase competitor, has ceased operations.
Another platform called Flexcoin fell a while back as well. US senators and prosecutors call for stricter rules, Japanese authorities - Mt. Gox had his headquarters in Tokyo - consider more regulation as well.
The US financial organization Firna warns against the risks of Bitcoin and the New York Financial NYDFS calls for controlled trading venues. Several states have already banned the digital currency or consider doing so .
The Bitcoin price is currently residing around $250 and has been hovering around this price for a while now. Bitcoin enthusiasts are hopeful for the price to rise to more respectable levels that will help encourage new buyers and sellers.
In the end, the future of digital currency will also depend on what the ideas are of Bitcoin upper hands: Fred Ehrsams vision of a clean, efficient, secure payment system - or Cody Wilson of a subversive tool for anarchists.