Singapore, SINGAPORE – In literary magazine McSweeney’s latest The End of Trust issue, an interview with Edward Snowden went down a path discussing blockchain and cryptocurrencies. The issue features more than thirty writers and artists investigating surveillance in the digital age.
And Snowden gave his two-cents on the subject matter by first attempting to explain Blockchain to his lawyer before meandering on a precarious tangent that started as a math lesson and an Idiot’s Guide to cryptographic hash function was wonkier than his Oliver Stone-directed biopic.
“Blockchains are an effort to create a history that can’t be manipulated. In its oldest and best-known conception, we’re talking about Bitcoin, a new form of money. But in the last few months, we’ve seen efforts to put together all kind of records in these histories. Anything that needs to be memorialized and immutable.” – Edward Snowden
“When you think about it at its most basic technological level, a blockchain is just a fancy way of time-stamping things in a manner that you can prove to posterity hasn’t been tampered with after the fact. It was a cypherpunk take on the old practice of taking a selfie with the day’s newspaper, to prove this new bitcoin blockchain hadn’t secretly been created months or years earlier.”
He has a point even as the bulk of OTC volumes remain private and delivery real-world solutions have been few and far between during this prolonged crypto winter. More importantly, he addressed the elephant in the room by explaining that “cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin have very limited fundamental value” and that “one day capital-B Bitcoin will be gone, but as long as there are people out there who want to be able to move money without banks, cryptocurrencies are likely to be valued.”
The aftermath of asymmetrical bets on ICOs last year is just beginning and weak hands and butterfingers are letting go. And yet, the biggest takeaway is one based on profound common sense even as he let slip that privacy coins are a godsend in his current predicament. “As with all new technologies, there will be disruption and there will be abuse,” he explains. “The question is whether, on balance, the impact is positive or negative. You’ve learned the only thing about blockchains that matters: they’re boring, inefficient, and wasteful, but, if well designed, they’re practically impossible to tamper with. And in a world full of shifty bullshit, being able to prove something is true is a radical development.”