Riddle this: Four men walk into a UMC Ballroom for the 67th Conference on World Affairs panel, “The End of Money as We Know It.”
One says ‘Internet Gold.’ The others say ‘Not So Fast.’
What they are discussing?
If you answered Bitcoin — the cryptocurrency hot topic — you win.
But, more on that later. Apple Pay is far easier to ‘grok’ and gained ready consensus from the panel.
Now You CAN Leave Home Without It.
For panelist and economist Larry Greenwood, “Apple Pay isn’t beyond money because it doesn’t issue money…it’s really beyond plastic.”
While not a game changer in America, Greenwood says Apple Pay opens the door for commerce in third world countries, because “hundreds of millions of people are not banked.”
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Bitcoin is more controversial.
The difficulty stems in part from the fact that bitcoin is far different than U.S. currency, which is stable and governed by the country’s monetary policy.
Bitcoin seems to be the flip side. It is the first ‘trustless’ system, according to panelist and seasoned technology entrepreneur Will O’Brien, CEO and cofounder of BitGo—the leading bitcoin security company.
“It is decentralized, peer-to-peer, and there is no way that a government or any company can influence the transactions, so once a transaction is confirmed on the network, it’s permanently recorded on the ledger. The benefits of that is you have no fraud and no chargebacks,” says O’Brien.
But, much of the world’s currency is not as stable as that of the U.S. Thus, O’Brien says, “In the third world, people are investing in bitcoin as stored wealth, as digital gold…It represents financial freedom for much of the world.”
“It’s the digital age, so why not digital money?” asks panelist Bill Clifford, president and CEO of the World Affairs Councils of America.
A self-declared advocate for innovation and risk taking, Clifford is “skeptical of bitcoins future. I think there are applications that will turn out to be useful, but not revolutionary.” Reasons for Clifford’s caution include its wide fluctuations in value and few people using it.
Greenwood questioned the impact on monetary policy if bitcoin becomes a major player in the global economy. “The question becomes, if we lose that ability to expand or contract the money supply, are we losing our ability to adjust to economic shocks?”
So What Can You Buy with a Bitcoin?
For now, bitcoin is far from widely accepted. Based on our search, companies accepting bitcoin include:
According to Clifford, the number of merchants willing to accept bitcoin quadrupled over the past year.
Where else can you hear the attorney who argued Roe v. Wade, learn about the impact of social media in Rio de Janeiro, and hear how bitcoins are disrupting money — all in the span of a few hours?
The Conference on World Affairs at CU-Boulder runs through April 10. All events are free and open to the public.