Join Active Minds for an overview of the development of Cryptocurrency, a virtual medium of exchange that is a digital representation of value only available in electronic form. It is stored and transacted through designated software, mobile, or computer applications. We will review the evolution of this field as well as current and future applications and issues.

Key Lecture Points

  • Since human beings coalesced into societies, they have sought ways to engage in trade.  Over time, forms of trade using various forms of currency have evolved. From animal pelts and salt to metal coins and paper money, human commerce has been made more efficient.
  • In 2008, responding to a global recession and the perception of inefficiency and unfairness in nation-state and bank supported global currencies, an individual calling himself Satoshi Nakamoto created and introduced a software program called Bitcoin, the first cryptocurrency based on a cryptography technology called blockchain.
  • Blockchain is an open source internet ledger containing timestamped digital records. Initially developed by researchers in 1991, this technique’s intent was to timestamp digital records so that no one could backdate or tamper with them. As a distributed ledger where saved digital records are spread across all those participating in the network, a blockchain is immensely difficult to hack.  As such, blockchain technology creates the sense that what it documents is valid.
  • After its modest introduction in 2009, Bitcoin grew in value and size rapidly, but volatilely.  In 2011, the price of one bitcoin grew 18 fold from $0.30 to $5.27.  In November 2021, it reached its peak price (to date): $67,582.  It has since fallen precipitously, but still (as of September 2022) is worth around $20,000 per bitcoin.
  • Since the introduction of Bitcoin, more than 20,000 other blockchain-based cryptocurrencies have been introduced.
  • While crypto is an innovative medium of exchange, it is not so far outside the natural evolution of money. Its digital element allows it to be used to participate in the global financial system in a relatively efficient way that may one day challenge national or banking institutions’ control of monetary systems in a positive or negative way.

Exploration Questions

  • What are the future implications of cryptocurrency expansion? Could it one day replace the role of national governments in regulating their currencies? Should it?
  • How should global watchdogs attempt to enforce crypto users to switch to the proof of stake from the proof of work mining method to conserve the global energy supply? Would this move change the democratic nature of crypto, which now enables those who can quickly solve math problems enhance their stake as evenly as those with more assets to invest?

Reflective Questions

  • Does cryptocurrency appeal to you? Are you more intrigued by its potential benefits or concerned by the risks?
  • Should cryptocurrency be more highly regulated by individual nations or the IMF or would this interfere with its intentionally independent and distributed nature?

More to Explore

  • Satoshi Nakamoto's original 2009 paper on cryptocurrency development Click here
  • TED talk on how blockchain can transform the economy (2016) Click here

Books For Further Reading

  • Smith, Mark, Cryptocurrency: 3 Manuscripts in 1 - Blockchain, Bitcoin, Ethereum, 2019.  200 pages. An overview of blockchain and its application not just in cryptocurrency, but other areas as well.
    Click here to order
  • Snyder, Jared, Cryptocurrency: Massively Simplified for New Investors, Kazravan Enterprises LLC, 2019.  64 pages.  A brief overview of cryptocurrency for those less tech savvy, but interested in investing.
    Click here to order
  • Elder, Andrew, Cryptocurrency: Trading in Crypto, Crypto Exchange and Brokers, Crypto Mining, Trend Analysis. Self-published, 2022.  A brief overview of cryptocurrencies and advocacy for individuals to invest in them.
    Click here to order