Crypto: Virtual Gold

Concebidas en los círculos más radicales de la teoría económica, las criptomonedas se postulaban como la revolución del sistema monetario a través de la tecnología. Pero ¿representan realmente una alternativa o son apenas una sofisticada forma de especulación y estafa?

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Molly Malcolm

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The first decentralised cryptocurrency was invented in 2009 by a programmer using the pseudonym Satoshi Nakamoto. Bitcoin, and the technology that made it possible, stunned the world with its claim to revolutionise the entire economic system, making it more democratic, more transparent and more stable. Today, there are countless cryptocurrencies available, with Bitcoin still the most popular. However, despite the purportedly high ideals behind its launch, cryptocurrency is now regarded as notoriously volatile, rarely used outside of speculation or money laundering, and does little to shake up the economic status quo. 

the ideal

The original aim of cryptocurrencies was to serve as an alternative to the established monetary system, dominated by central banks that dictate monetary policies and by financial institutions that profit from acting as intermediaries between individuals.

Cryptocurrency’s creators argued that with a functioning digital currency system, transactions could be made without the oversight of third parties, and government and central banks would not have control over the creation of money or the setting of interest rates, so problems like inflation (which devalues savings) would be averted.

EVOLUTION

In the decade that followed its launch, the idea of an alternative payment system became increasingly attractive to developers. Built on open source software, Bitcoin prompted the creation of thousands of other cryptocurrencies, including Ethereum, Tether and BNB (Binance Coin). In the past few years, the value of cryptocurrencies in real — or fiat — money has rocketed and they have become increasingly attractive assets for investors. As such, far from laying the foundations of an alternative monetary system, cryptocurrencies are mainly used for speculative purposes.

AESTHETICS

Critics say that cryptocurrencies have become an online casino, attracting investors but also many young people who hope that it will make them rich. Embedded in online communities, so-called ‘crypto’ lures in potential users with its videogame aesthetics and the alleged infinite possibilities of the blockchain technology, which appears to promise an economic revolution.

HOW THE BLOCKCHAIN TECHNOLOGY WORKS

Cryptocurrency is a payment system that uses advanced cryptography and digital signatures to secure the system and transactions in a decentralised way, which means that there isn’t a single central controller in charge of the money or tracking where the money is. One of the main innovations of Bitcoin was the design of the blockchain technology: a decentralised ledger that stores encrypted blocks of data and chains them together. The blockchain technology allows the money to move from one account into another using private keys to validate the transaction. It is put into a ledger that is encrypted and that records the transaction as permanent, stopping the user from spending that same digital money twice. This allows digital assets to be distributed among many computers instead of being copied in a central database, thus creating an immutable record of each transaction that cannot be altered by any single party.

Crypto: The Future of Money or a Scam?

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Este artículo pertenece al número de Febrero 2023 de la revista Speak Up.

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