Bitcoin Dreams

Whoever wrote “Bitcoin: A Peer-to-Peer Electronic Cash System” believed that a bedrock institution of any society — its money — could be insulated from human foibles. All it took was some clever applications of computer science and game theory

By now you’re probably aware of Bitcoin as the progenitor of speculative investment in cryptocurrencies and the broader blockchain phenomenon. But there is far more to the story. Who would be so daft as to suggest that an innovation as important as Bitcoin is all about the money?

We can now reflect on Satoshi Nakamoto’s invention with the benefit of a decade of hindsight. (Those seeking a more in situ account of the early days of Bitcoin should read New York Times journalist Nathaniel Popper’s excellent 2015 account, Digital Gold.) Three new books, in very different ways, tell the tale of what Bitcoin wrought. Each documents the significance of a functioning system of decentralized digital value exchange. Below the surface, though, they all highlight the greater challenges in realizing that potential. Echoing Franklin, we now have a blockchain, if we can keep it.

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