Imagine a world where you could buy and sell drugs without fear of being caught or prosecuted with full product descriptions, pictures and up to date user reviews. A world where you could exchange currency with total anonymity and have your illicit purchase delivered right to your doorstep. No hassle, no worries.
Well, you don’t have to imagine because this is the world we are living in today. Anyone who loves drugs or the internet will know of an underground anonymous market place called Silk Road. If you have access to the Internet you can hook up to this black-market that trades using a virtual and untraceable digital currency called Bitcoin. Anyone can trade common currency such as USD or Euros for Bitcoins online. You can then use Bitcoins to purchase every colour of the rainbow, if that’s what your heart/nose desires and have it delivered via the post. You know that lovely old postman who hands you your mail instead of putting it in your letterbox, says something like “Morning, hot out isn’t it?”, nods in your general direction and then scoots off? He is poised to become the biggest drug mule in town. The aim of this piece is not to encourage or discourage illegal drug consumption. There are already enough people yelling and screaming about how this is the worst thing since rap music. There is also a lot of talk of guns, bombs and even Eminem CDs being traded on this black market, which can be a very scary thought for those who still remember what a CD is. There is, however, something far scarier than pop/drug culture that could destroy us all.
Firstly, it’s not the drugs. The War on Drugs is almost over. The Drugs won. The Internet has made it possible to trade drugs without fear of being caught. We are living in the future or as a few of us like to call it, the present.
Secondly, guns are bad but it’s not what could destroy us. There are any number of terrible and destructive things to human life that have the potential to be traded on markets such as this, but we should look on the bright side. At least the U.S. the gun control laws will be much improved. There will be mandatory waiting periods of 3-5 working days.
It’s not the drugs, it’s not the guns, it could be the rap music, but it is far more likely it will be the success and popularity of an anonymous digital currency such as Bitcoin, together with a black-market like Silk Road that will ruin everything. It is not the trading of illicit products, but rather the trading of licit products that threaten our financial system and therefore way of life.
A currency like Bitcoin is untraceable. That not only means that the DEA won’t be able to find you but it also means that the tax department is going to have a very hard time trying to assess your taxable income. If a digital currency like Bitcoin became mainstream incomes would be untraceable. If a scenario like this occurred then our whole system of government would totally shut down. With no way to trace or track any transaction there would be no money coming into the government and no control of the economy. It could not regulate the economy with fiscal policy, nor could it pay for schools, roads or the salaries of public officials. The fundamental existence of our modern liberal government and indeed our democracy would collapse. We would descend into anarchy!
A lot of people will be thinking at this point, “Yeah, but I’m not going to use Butt-coins. I’m not a nerd. You’re a nerd. Fuck you, nerd.” or “Yeah, but I’m not going to use Bitcoins, except for like, drugs…man.”
You might think differently if this currency was accepted everywhere, easy to use and had a business where you could accept this currency with tiny fees and virtually no tax liability. Why wouldn’t you use it? This is one of the reasons Bitcoin has exploded with over 2 billion U.S. dollars worth of Bitcoin currently stored in virtual wallets all over the world. It is possible we are sitting on the verge of an economic revolution that could turn our whole world upside down.
Our situation is, of course, not as precarious as the scenario above depicts. There are limitations to Bitcoin that make a meltdown implausible. The way it has been set up makes it inviable on a world-wide scale and in the long-term. There are ways of restricting and limiting the use of Bitcoin and it is currently very unstable with the value fluctuating dramatically on a day-to-day basis. The constraints of Bitcoin means it probably won’t grow popular enough to threaten our existence. However, Bitcoin is not the only digital currency out there.
It is lucky that Bitcoin had limitations built into the design but what if it didn’t? What if it was flawless? What if it was so perfectly designed that we couldn’t stop it even if we wanted to? Is there already a digital currency out there that could threaten our existence? The answer is, we hope not.
Bitcoin may not take over the world and destroy us all but it might help raise awareness of the fact that our own technological advances could one day lead to our destruction. We need to start thinking about what the future holds and how we are going to adapt and use technology so we can live better lives without fear of our own brilliance destroying us all.
How can you help save us from an apocalypse and make the world a better place? Get involved. Watch this, Instagram your dinner or leave an abusive comment below.
The world is changing at a staggering rate because of innovation and technology. So, maybe we’ll figure out a way to make digital currencies a thing of the past, but what comes after that? A less cool version of The Terminator?
Lets just hope the future of humanity isn’t left in Arnold Schwarzenegger’s gigantic hands.