Conversations about cryptocurrencies often revolve around one thing: making money. What gets obscured is why technologies like bitcoin were developed in the first place. In this episode of Radio Motherboard, I try and untangle what drives people to build decentralized, digital forms of payment in the first place.
I spoke first to David Golumbia, an an Associate Professor in the English Department at Virginia Commonwealth University and the author of The Politics of Bitcoin: Software as Right-Wing Extremism. In his view, supporters of bitcoin and related technologies often subscribe to a form of cyberlibertarianism that relies on far-right conspiracy theories.
I also talked to Giulio Prisco, an Italian writer, futurist, and one of the earliest adopters of bitcoin. He completely disagrees with Golumbia, and wrote a review of his book for Bitcoin Magazine. In his view, you can't describe what bitcoin supporters believe in right and left-wing terms.
Whether Prisco or Golumbia are right, cryptocurrencies are more popular than ever. As they fluctuate wildly in price, investors and companies are making serious profits extremely quickly. It's worth thinking about for a moment not just how much money cryptocurrency supporters have, but also what kind of world they intend to build with it.