Even if Bitcoin bites the dust, the genie’s out of the bottle

This morning’s Observer column

If I had a bitcoin for every person I’ve met in the past six months who told me that bitcoin is a scam then I’d be a rich man. Or a poor one, depending in which day of the week we’re talking about. Watching the exchange rate for bitcoins over the past month is like seeing the outline of a rollercoaster on the horizon. On 7 January, for example, a bitcoin was trading at $934; by 27 February it was down to $528; and on 5 March it was $678. So I guess that if you were “investing” (ie speculating) in the things, you’d feel as sick as any Alton Towers customer on a bad day.

But here’s the really strange thing: while “normal” people – and many mainstream journalists – seem to think that this bitcoin stuff must be some kind of racket, some of the computer scientists and hackers of my acquaintance think it’s the most interesting idea to have come along in ages. And in a way that discrepancy may be the key to understanding the phenomenon…

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