CWA Panel: The End of Money as We Know It?

CWA ‘The End of Money as We Know It’ panelists: Bill Clifford, Will O’Brien, Larry Greenwood, not pi ctured: Andy Ihnatko and moderator, Mike Malloy

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.’

photo courtesy © Bitcoin Project 2009-2015 Released under the MIT license

photo courtesy © Bitcoin Project 2009-2015 Released under the MIT license

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.

With Apple Pay, “there’s almost nothing but upside to it…when you can pay for everything with your phone,” says panelist Andy Ihnatko, technology columnist for Chicago Sun-Times.Apple Pay on iPhone 6 Plus

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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photo courtesy © Bitcoin Project 2009-2015 Released under the MIT license

photo courtesy © Bitcoin Project 2009-2015 Released under the MIT license

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.”

courtesy photo

courtesy photo

Digital Money

“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?”

courtesy photo

courtesy photo

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.

So Go

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.

See the schedule here.

Learn More

Seventeen Things You Can Buy with Bitcoin

Bitcoin Club at CU-Boulder Seeks to Clear Up Myths about Digital Currency


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