Review of “Age of Cryptocurrency”

A good book always begins well. We don’t have to wait for the good parts to come by. The age of Crypto Currency by Paul Vigna (who kindly acknowledged my tweet) and Michael Casey, begins with a great quote from Mandela who said : Money won’t create success, the freedom to make it will.”  This is specially true for more than half of the world’s population in many parts of Asia, Africa, Middle East, South America, Eastern Europe, and even several areas of the developed world.  For all these people, the greatest excitement that cryptocurrency will hold is the elimination of middlemen from the value exchange equation. All they need is an internet connection (even a spotty one at that) and off they go—free at last. This is demonstrated with great examples from various regions of the world by Vigna and Casey. Afghan women, who previously could not even open bank accounts are now able to confidently earn money for the work they did in the form of bitcoins. Enterprising artists from Barbados are starting to using the bitcoin as a medium to be able to compete with artists from around the globe. The examples are endless and inspiring. I can imagine the euphoric feeling of these young entrepreneurs finally unshackled from the fiat currency regimes and this is captured well by the authors.

The authors use an example of buying a cup of coffee from a local vendor to illustrate the number of entities that are involved in making this seemingly innocuous transaction a success: 1) front-end processors, 2) accounting banks, 3) card associations, 4) card issuing banks, 5) payment processors, and so on. I think of myself as a relatively smart guy, but I never once thought of what goes on as I pay for my coffee each day. Around the world, such transactions fees are pegged at ~$250 Billion a year. Almost all of these fees to the middlemen / entities can be avoided using the bitcoin and the underlying technology. Isn’t that reason enough for us all to get behind some form of cryptocurrency? Bitcoin or Altcoin or whatever else that is perfected in a few years

The authors ease readers into some of the more technical stuff such as the mining process (including some cool flowcharts–for those visual learners), the 51% attacks, ASIC mining, Hashrates, and distributed networks, etc. [For those really interested in getting into the nitty-gritty, I recommend another good book “Mastering the Bitcoin” by Andreas Antonopoulos]. Vigna and Casey, however, keep the conversation focused on getting readers excited enough to read other books on the subject, but not turn them off with the gory details of the underlying code and mathematics. The authors rightfully note the transformational and truly disruptive nature of this technology. Ignorance about the technology may not be bliss. A great read—I highly recommend it. 4.5/5.0

 

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