TL;DR: New York University professor Finn Brunton‘s new book published by Princeton University Press, Digital Cash: The Unknown History of the Anarchists, Utopians, and Technologists Who Created Cryptocurrency, is a rollicking intellectual history of where the world Satoshi Nakamoto created came from. Brunton is also a pretty wonderful interview. This episode is available embedded in the article below, and on YouTube, iTunes, Spotify, Google Podcasts, Stitcher, Radio Public, Breaker, PocketCasts, PodBean, and Overcast.
Digital Cash: The Unknown History of the Anarchists, Utopians, and Technologists Who Created Cryptocurrency
In a lot of ways, Brunton’s personal story mirrors that of relatively recent cryptocurrency history. He was around during the early debates about bringing micro-transactions to the internet, through the net. It lit a fire inside him, and years later he was able to notice when the real deal finally emerged in the form of the Bitcoin White Paper.
When we did a short pre-interview, I was warmed to learn Brunton understood zines such as 2600 and early conventions like HOPE. He’s generous enough to suggest hackers of this variety were key in both the development of later-stage cryptocurrency and his understanding. These were people he could speak to, talk with.
His book’s blurb reads, “Bitcoin may appear to be a revolutionary form of digital cash without precedent or prehistory. In fact, it is only the best-known recent experiment in a long line of similar efforts going back to the 1970s. But the story behind cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin and its blockchain technology has largely been untold―until now. In Digital Cash, Finn Brunton reveals how technological utopians and political radicals created experimental money to bring about their visions of the future: protecting privacy or bringing down governments, preparing for apocalypse or launching a civilization of innovation and abundance that would make its creators immortal.”
An easier book to write would’ve been to focus on the usual loud cryptocurrency personalities and cults surrounding them. Instead, though he does have interesting characters, Brunton highlights the ideas and their thread through intellectual fathers and mothers. After his exhaustive historical survey, and all he’s learned and then conveyed in print, I asked about his view on a current debate as to whether Bitcoin’s purpose was to be a store of value or medium of exchange. You’re going to find his answer compelling.
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