A currency system so advanced that it's not currency

By Balakumar K Published on Nov 02, 2017 02:42 PM IST

All questions you did not want to ask on Bitcoin answered

Chennai, Nov 2: You'd have doubtless heard about Bitcoin. At any rate, you just did.

Well, it is a virtual currency that has stirred a lot of controversy, and it is also pretty confusing, which sounds like a lot like demonetisation but believe us, it is not all that pointless.

Here at Crank's News we have a great tradition of taking up complex subjects and thinking up -- we have trained journalism majors for this -- stupid answers for thoughtful questions on the subject. We may be the inspiration for the RTI apparatus of the government.

Here goes our Q and A on Bitcoin:

Q: First up, what are Bitcoins?

Ans: Bitcoins are 'cryptocurrency', which are basically economic instruments that were thought up by technological and economy wizards after nights of binge-tripping on cocaine.

That might sound facetious, but when you try to understand the workings of cryptocurrencies you will surely get the feeling that they could not have been conceived by a mind that was sober.

Exhibit A: Ethereum, a cryptocurrency. These are the opening lines from its Wikipedia page:"Ethereum is an open-source, public, blockchain-based distributed computing platform featuring smart contract (scripting) functionality. It provides a decentralized Turing-complete virtual machine, the Ethereum Virtual Machine (EVM), which can execute scripts using an international network of public nodes".

Only RBI's press release post-demonetisation could have seen any denser prose. But never mind!

Q: Boss, we asked you about Bitcoin, and you have answered something about Ethereum which we 1) didn't have any clue about before you explained 2) don't have any clue about after you explained, too?

Ans:  This is the beauty of cryptocurrencies, no one, we certainly include those in the thick of them also, seem to know what they are all about. They seem to be making things on the fly. Again, the similarity to post-demonetisation RBI is uncanny.

Q: You mean the RBI could be behind these cryptocurrencies...?

Ans: Tempting as it is to feel so, there are also certain ground rules and regulations that these cryptocurrencies actually adhere to. This clearly rules out any hand of the RBI.

Q: Talking of RBI, who is the central banker for these cryptocurrencies?

Ans: When you look around world's economy you will realise one common factor across countries: More problems have been created by people who are in charge of economy than by any outside market force. Understanding this reality, most cryptocurrencies, especially Bitcoin, have chosen the path of avoiding human intervention. Which means, you are right, we will be now screwed by computers.

Q: Boss, one last try: Any chance of you answering what is Bitcoin?

Ans: Bitcoin is basically a digital token, a virtual economic tender, the beauty of which is there is no physical backing to it. You can't lose them to pickpockets or muggers, because high-powered computers run them. But you can lose them to people who are not even in the same continent as you are, because high-powered computers run them (cryptocurrencies).

Q: How does a Bitcoin look like? What are its distinguishing features?

Ans: You would have seen some illustrations in newspapers and online publications and one look at them will clearly tell you that they are illustrations only. This of course is most welcome because it takes out from the equation one of the most boring set of people known to humanity: Numismatists.

Bitcoin is of course the currency, and the enabling technological network that is used to transfer them is called -- a perfect 10 for the creative genius behind this idea -- bitcoin.

Q: Huh! Seriously?

Ans: Yes. Bitcoin has a capital 'B', while the other one has lower-case 'b'. In the future, they will introduce, we don't know, Bitcoins in italics too.

Q: Still, we aren't any clearer to understanding what a Bitcoin is. Never mind, who came up with the idea of Bitcoin?

Ans: Satoshi Nakamoto, the name itself will make it clear that it is exactly the kind of  Japanese name that some non-Japanese will assume to himself. The point is Bitcoin is credited to have been 'invented' by Nakamoto, who for the record nobody has seen. Now he is also said to be no longer part of Bitcoin.

So the actual details we have right now is: Satoshi Nakomoto, which may or may not have been a person's real name, who may or may not have been the brain behind Bitcoin, which doesn't have any presence in real world. And no company or institution actually is in charge of it.

Your modern-day highly educated VCs are gung-ho about the whole thing and and are investing in millions in companies dealing with Bitcoin. And we all wonder what is ailing world economy.

Q: Who are the major users of Bitcoin?

Ans: Many techno savvy individuals, tech companies seem highly interested in Bitcoin. But the guys who actually use them are, we are not making this up, drug dealers. Which is why we strongly suspected right at the start that drugs were behind their invention!