Where there’s bits there’s brass

My Observer review of Nathaniel Popper’s book about Bitcoin, Digital Gold.

Two things stand out from Mr Popper’s narrative. The first is confirmation of how long and tortuous is the road from a technological breakthrough to real-world acceptance. Anybody who thinks that bringing a technology to market is easy has never done it. The other is the colossal damage done to the prospects of bitcoin (and indeed of cryptocurrencies generally) by the Silk Road online black market, a platform known for selling illegal drugs that used bitcoins as its means of exchange, which was eventually shut down by the US authorities. Given that a currency – analogue or digital – is only as good as the trust that people place in it, the Silk Road fiasco gave governments and the media the spin that they needed – that cryptocurrencies are really only for bad people. Which is a shame, because it may be that they are just what a networked world needs.

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