Video - Embrace the Good, Reject the Fear

In this talk, Andreas looks at the symbiotic relationship between opportunities that Bitcoin offers for improving India's general welfare, and the talent and potential India can contribute in return to help it thrive. He argues that, like the early internet, Bitcoin began as a weird and difficult place for the average consumer; if we embrace the good and reject the fear of this global phenomenon, we can make the financial world as accessible and intuitive as a swipe on an iPad


I’ve been interested in the development of Bitcoin in India for many years now because I think it’s tremendous opportunity, a tremendous opportunity for Bitcoin, a tremendous opportunity for India. So, let me start with a quick little familiarization question.

How many of you here currently own Bitcoin? Wow, not bad. Excellent. And how many of you have done a transaction at some point? More? Yes, excellent. Great! And how many of you do not own Bitcoin or have never done a Bitcoin transaction? Great! Fantastic! Okay. And how many here would volunteer to give the people who do not own Bitcoin a small amount to demonstrate a transaction? I will. Okay, look around, look at the people who are raising their hands, meet them after this event. I am serious. I will be happy to give you one or two millitbits, not full Bitcoins sorry, the price has gone up. Because I think it’s important to demonstrate this technology in order to experience how it works to get a glimpse of what it means to look at the money of the twenty-first century for the first time to see what it means, what this technology can do. Your first experience you’ll look at it you’ll probably say “Oh, that was easier than I thought.” Or your first experience you’ll “Oh, this is weird I don’t understand any of this. You must really be a computer geek to understand this.” It’s okay. Many of you probably remember your first experience on the internet and you didn’t understand half the words the people were using. Modem, TCP/IP, http colon slash, slash, who created this? I mean this is ridiculous how can anyone remember these things.

I remember trying to explain the internet to my mom and it was an almost impossible task. She couldn’t understand where the browser started, which parts of the Window were part of the internet and which parts were part of her own computer. She didn’t understand any of these http colon slash, slash business. She didn’t understand the difference between a website and an e-mail. And in fact her first e-mail was almost twenty years after my first e-mail because it first had to get much easier.

In was on the internet in 1989 I was 17 years old and I was a geek like – not just like a geek like in the movies, like bad haircuts, unmatched clothes, like a geek like UNIX programming, right. And that’s what it took to do internet e-mail at the time. Now, my mom was never going to use that. No chance. There is no way she could experience that internet. I saw that in 1989 and I thought this is going to change the world like this idea of connecting computers with each other and being able to talk to people in other countries. This is mind-blowing. And so I immediately told everybody I knew including my parents. Like this internet thing is going to change the world, you’ve no idea it’s the most amazing thing, right? And what did they say? Did they say “You’re absolutely right, Andreas. This is the most amazing thing. We should probably get involved in the internet.” No. They said “Go to your room. Do you homework. Clean up your room.” They didn’t believe me. They didn’t understand.

Twenty years later my mom sent her first e-mail. In order to do that first we had to invent Wi-Fi, websites and iPads so that she could go whoosh and send an e-mail. Now she understood it.

Bitcoin today is where the internet was in the late ‘80s or early ‘90s. Bitcoin today is weird, it’s geeky, it’s difficult to understand and it is going to change the world just like the internet, possibly bigger. This represents a complete revolution in how much is done. The possibility of people anywhere in the world being able to download and app and immediately access a secure multinational neutral form of money that can be transmitted anywhere in the world to anyone else who chooses to download this app without any intermediaries, without any interference, without any borders, without any delays, without Monday to Friday, without nine to five and we’re closed on Sunday, none of that. Just as easily as you send an e-mail sending money to anyone in the world that is now true. It is possible. It is possible not just with Bitcoin, it’s possible with more than a thousand alternative currencies based on the same recipe. It is possible because Bitcoin introduce a system of money that is a protocol, that is an internet communication mechanism and it completely redefines how we do money. But first it had to completely redefine trust.

You see, one of the really interesting things that’s happened with money is that over time we’ve gradually shifted the system of trust in money. If I give you rupees in cash do you need to know who I am? No. If I tip my taxi driver, right? They don’t need to know if credit worthy. They don’t need to know my identity. They don’t need to know my balance, the cash itself is so verified. It represents the transfer value that is immediate, that is tangible. It doesn’t carry a transaction fee. It doesn’t require registration and that is the system of money we’ve had for hundreds of years. Banking has changed that. If I want to send you money to your bank account well, you have to have a bank account. To open the bank account you have to have ID. I need to know your bank account to send you the money and when you receive it your bank is probably going to hold it for a few days just to make sure that I actually have the money that I supposedly sent you. That’s not how Bitcoin works. Bitcoin works like cash. You don’t need to trust that the other person has the value because the Bitcoin itself, the transaction itself can be verified by anyone just like you can look at a piece of cash and know this is real. So you don’t need intermediaries, you don’t need banks. Now this may sound weird like this is strange way to do money. What happens to banks? Competition is what happens to banks and competition can be scary. Competition can be disconcerting at first but it’s a good thing.

One of the reasons that I think that Bitcoin is special in India is because Bitcoin is software applied to finance and Indian knows software. India has a deep pull of highly educated often English-speaking, highly qualified engineers who work for some of the biggest and best companies in the world both domestic and international producing world class software. But India isn’t an international center of finance right, like London or Singapore or New York. Bitcoin is an international center of software. India is an international center of software and because of this technology India can use software to become an international center of finance. That is an incredibly exciting opportunity. Because using this technology India can use its youth, its creativity, its entrepreneurial spirits to create jobs, to create technological innovation and to compete on a global stage with the biggest financial centers of the world. They don’t have a chance. The internet had an enormous impact on India and the reason it had an enormous impact on India is because it connected this incredible potential, these talents with the whole world of opportunity and created millions of jobs and growth and innovation and opportunity for Indians. It allowed the world to tap into the potential of India youth and creativity. The internet of money, Bitcoin, will give the same opportunity to India to export that talent and use it both domestically to bank an enormous rural population that doesn’t have access to financial services, to bring financial services to every corner of India not through the banking system, through the internet and to deliver these services and this creativity to the world. That’s why I am here today. That’s why I think this is not just an opportunity for Bitcoin, it’s an opportunity for India.

But, of course, change is difficult. Whenever something new appears it’s scary. I’m sure many in government and regulatory agencies when they first heard of the internet were rather concerned. The idea that anybody could read anything, that anybody could say anything, that anybody could access anything without a license, without registration, without controls, without censorship what will happen in the world. Of course now we know what happens in the world. What happens when you give a billion people the power of communication? What did they do with it? They post videos of cats, millions of videos of cats and photos of birthday cakes and family. When normal people use technology they use technology to do the normal things that people do, right? – to communicate, their connections with family and friends. And so what happens when you put money on the internet and everyone has access to it without a license, without censorship, without control? What will people do when they have unlimited access to global finance? They will use it to lift themselves out of poverty. They will use it to do the things that we do as people – food, shelter, healthcare, education for our children, for our family. That’s what people do with money. If you put money on the internet that’s what people will do. Also they will finance the production of more cat videos and more birthday cakes and more Indian weddings.

It’s not scary once you understand that good people do good things and bad people do bad things and technology only amplifies what we already have. If you have a fundamental faith in humanity you realize that when we use technology to amplify the human spirit that amplified human spirit will mostly do good with it. And what you need to do is embrace that opportunity. Find those opportunities, give people the tools they need to raise themselves out of poverty to create opportunities for their children education and money is a very powerful technology. And when you put money in the internet together you create an even more powerful technology, when you bring that into a country like India with so much human potential you can do amazing things. But first you have to overcome the fear.

Now a lot of companies are now engaging in this Bitcoin space because they understand the potential of technology in this space and, of course, the regulators are concerned. One of the things that’s important to realize is that the companies that are operating in this space are not Bitcoin. They are simply bringing Bitcoin to all of those people who want to use it in a legitimate way for savings, for investment, for import-export for trade. But if these companies went away would Bitcoin go away? No. Still here, still everywhere. Bitcoin is a network protocol it’s absolutely unstoppable. It exist on a global basis. And so if the companies are not here Bitcoin is still here. The good people can’t use it anymore, criminals still can and that doesn’t change. All you’ve done is removed the opportunity to actually use it for good. You’ve removed the opportunity to amplify what’s good in humanity and left it only to those who are willing to break the law. If you make the use of technology illegal only criminals can use technology. It doesn’t stop them, it just stops everybody else from using it.

I’d like to think of it this way. Bitcoin is a global phenomenon. It’s a global phenomenon that exist on the internet and as long as communication on the internet continues to exist and it does it’s unstoppable. So is Bitcoin. Bitcoin is unstoppable as are all of the digital currencies. They will continue to exist somewhere in the world. They will continue to proliferate, they will continue to grow in strength and to be use by everyone like the force of nature.

If you turn on the evening news and the meteorologist comes on the TV and says “Tomorrow there will be torrential rain” and you say “Oh no, I have an outdoor birthday party for my daughter tomorrow. I’m going to call the minister and I’m going to fire that newsperson, that weatherperson. They are not allowed to have torrential rain tomorrow I have a birthday party. Fire the meteorologist and we will no longer have bad weather.” I mean if you’re five maybe you believe that. Weather doesn’t stop just because there’s no meteorologist to tell you that it’s going to rain, it’s still going to rain, right?

If you try to regulate the Bitcoin companies it’s like firing the meteorologist, it doesn’t change the weather. It just removes your ability to see it. It removes the potential to use it for good, to understand. Because if you know rain is coming you can’t stop it but at least you can take an umbrella and that’s something, right? It’s better than getting wet.

Bitcoin is a global phenomenon that will happen and the remaining question is –– is India ready? Is India brave enough to confront this reality and use it to create the incredibly potential for uplifting a population? To use this incredible technology to take tech advantage that India already has and the youth advantage that India already has and turn it into an international financial powerhouse.

When the internet started competing with music, media, television, movies, news what happened? The internet won in every one of those cases. And yes, media companies have difficulties, news companies have difficulties, TV companies have difficulties but we all have better news, better TV, better movies, better music because of it. The internet is coming for traditional banking in the form of these digital currencies and banks are going to struggle a bit. They’re going to face competition. They’re going have to be forced to adapt to adjust their profit outlook, to compete harder and it won’t be easy but we will get better finance out of it because competition is good for everyone. All we need to do is help this technology thrive. Embrace the good, reject the fear. Thank you.

Written by Andreas M. Antonopoulos on May 20, 2017.