Video - Money as Free Speech - Zurich 2016

This talk took place on October 26th 2016 at the Blockchain Meetup in Zürich, Switzerland. He talks about how to become free on financial aspects in relation to freedom of speech.


ANDREAS ANOTONOPOULOS: All right, let’s get to the main topic today. How many people like freedom of speech? Okay, that’s an easy one, right? Everybody raised their hand by the way for the audience watching our video. How about unrestricted speech, completely unrestricted? Everything goes, you can say anything. Nothing can be restrained by government’s (0:00:30). Who wants to go for that one? That’s what, (0:00:35) slightly smaller group’ slightly smaller group but still majority of the people in this room. All right. How many people here believe that the sanction applied to money – financial transactions? Slightly smaller group yet but still a substantial proportion of the people in this room. If I ask this question in most places of the world people draw a very hard distinction between their appreciation of freedom of speech and applying that same idea to money, to commerce, to transactions.

For some reason when you bring out this concept they see a significant distinction between money and speech. People are reluctant to consider overall in which we can transact as freely as we speak; certainly not a world in which everyone can transact with absolute freedom, without any interference, without any censorship. This is a really interesting philosophical debate. To me there is no distinction. In fact, to me the essence of privacy in your financial transactions and your ability to transact with freedom underpins just like speech (0:02:05) freedoms. If you have freedom of expression and freedom of association but you don’t have freedom of finance, if you don’t have the freedom to protect your property how quickly would your freedom of association and freedom of expression go away. How can you have the ability to participate in the political process if your bank account can been seized because you participate in the wrong political process or went to the wrong protest or donated to the wrong organization? Political speech and financial speech and speech really are not that different. If I say that in most places I’m a radical, right? It’s a radical idea the idea that we should have afford for the exact same freedoms to speech and to money; the idea that the ability to transact with anyone on the planet is an inherent part of human rights. It is nobody’s business who I transact with. There is no crime of transacting. You can create crimes after transacting but transacting itself is not a crime. The transacting itself is a means of expression. It’s my ability to exert self-determination through the fruits of my labor. A radical idea. 

This philosophical debate has been going on for many, many years all around the world and in fact now-a-days we see this is coming to a significant amount of tension. If you ask the average person “Is it okay if the intelligence agencies monitor your phone logs, monitor your e-mails, watch you through your webcam,” most people would say “No, that’s not okay. That’s not an acceptable state of society.”

How many people have noticed that every single credit card transaction you do (0:04:18) lying on your bank statement is now being monitored but is freely given to all intelligence agencies without words, without suspicion, without political cause, without due process. Are we outraged about this? Most people are. Most people are outraged that the NSA may monitor the metadata of their phone calls but they don’t give a damn that under the Patriot Act every financial transaction they ever do can be picked up by (0:04:53) in a tiny county to produce at their discretion without any form of legal process for everyone and anyone at all times. We make these artificial distinctions between these fundamental rights. To me, there is not distinction. The privacy of my finance is as important as the privacy of me. My ability to express myself in commerce in a society is equivalent to my ability to express my opinion. And if I don’t have freedom in my financial transactions I don’t have freedom at all or I have freedom that is subject to immediate withdrawal if I cross the line, a line I can’t see. That is a scary state of affairs most people accept it.

So, this is an interesting philosophical discussion. We can go one way, we can go the other way. We can talk about it – none of it matters, none of it matters. And the reason none of it matters is because that is a discussion we were having for the previous two decades that is a discussion society has had for a long time, that is not a discussion we’re going to have from now on. None of that matters because the statement money is speech is no longer a philosophical question for debate. It is a technological fact and that’s Bitcoin and that’s Ethereum and that’s open, public, borderless, transparent, transnational, neutral, censorship resistant Blockchains. They established in reality the technological fact, fact that money is speech. Why? Because money can now be communicated over the networks of speech. It can be transported with the protocols of speech. It can be encapsulated into the media of speech and expression. It is a system of expression. Money is the content type on the internet. Dot AVI, dot MP3, dot Bitcoin, it is a content type. A Bitcoin transaction requires no reference to an external authority. It requires nothing but the inherent signatures in the transaction, the proof of work that can be presented in a block to stand alone. It is self-verifiable. You can look a proof of work which is just a number. You can look it and say in order to create this number this much energy was concealed. That is a fact and I don’t need to ask anyone to make that calculation I can evaluate the truth of that statement independently without reference to any external authority. Bitcoin transactions money (0:08:19) covers now stands on its own as an expression of value. I said that in many of my talks money is a language. Money is the language by which we expressed value to each other. Maybe you thought that was a fanciful statement of philosophy what I’m telling you is that it is a statement of technological fact. And what that does is it immediately creates a completely inverse relationship with authority.

If I wanted to transact commercially when the question of money as speech was a philosophical debate I had to assert the truth of that and fight for that right. Now, the technological fact that money is speech allows me to use the medium of speech and all of its privacy enhancements – Tor, Anonymizers, remixers, encryption to speak freely through money on the internet and then yet the only way to change that is to censor speech because you can’t differentiate my commercial speech, my money speech from my political speech, from my cat videos, from my gossip. It’s all completely the same on the internet. It uses the same technology infrastructure, it uses the same protocols, it uses the same privacy protections and it mixes with everything else that’s out there to form one giant roar of human expression. And in that roar my money is speech, it has been established as a technological fact that I need no one persuade or debate. I can simply speak commercially, I can transact. I have established my freedom of expression in the domain of commerce, my sovereignty of speech now that this is a technological fact. Thank you.

So, I hope you enjoyed that talk. It’s the first time I’ve talked on that specific topic. As always with this event I would like to invite you all for a Q&A and hopefully we can have a nice conversation about this or any other topic you want to talk about. Let’s get a microphone to you and I’ll take your questions.

MAN #1: First of all thank you very much. Please it’s me – I am Paul. I think if you look at –

ANDREAS ANTONOPOULOS: Hold it a bit closer. Yes.

MAN #1: So, if you we look at what you’ve said I think freedom of transaction is hierarchically higher than the longest speech and just because you have in transaction if you send money transactions on one-to-one relationship, if you speak you can have reached many people –


MAN #1: – so however you have more responsibility so I would go further and say that it had – the freedom of money transaction must come first because you can have good reasons who censor certain type of speech but then you couldn’t censor economic transaction because it’s really concerning you and the other party who want to transact.

ANDREAS ANTONOPOULOS: That’s a really good point. I don’t know if you’ve heard that yeah, you know, that in speech when you’re speaking to many you have a higher maybe burden of responsibility in a transaction between you and another person it is entirely between two private individuals one is really with no authority of anyone to intervene in that transaction. Yes, I can agree with you there. I don’t really see any situations over which you would restrict speech anyway but that’s exaggerating.

MAN #2: (0:12:44)

ANDREAS ANTONOPOULOS: Get closer to your –

MAN #2: All right. To me it appear (0:12:47) the fact that Bitcoin possessions are (0:12:51) in order to construct the area that certain money of Bitcoin (0:13:00)

ANDREAS ANTONOPOULOS: We can apply what?

MAN #2: Independent inspection.


MAN #2: And basically, you know, basically separate (0:13:11)

ANDREAS ANTONOPOULOS: Now, it doesn’t work that well. I mean we’ve seen people try to apply the (0:13:16) inspection to a number of scenarios but with the ability to do encryption, the ability to do audio routing, the ability to do many other privacy protecting things I can take all of those privacy protecting things and now apply them to my commercial transactions just as much as I apply them to my speech. You can’t easily differentiate and if you can’t that’s an attack on the network and will make it harder.

MAN #3: I mean from a legal standpoint the fact that you carry your profession (0:13:46)

ANDREAS ANTONOPOULOS: I don’t care about the legal perspective I care about de facto outcomes. Technology is about creating de facto truth that the law has to catch up to and that’s one of the beauties of Bitcoin.

MAN #4: I have a question for you Andreas (0:14:06).


MAN #4: Some governments are studying the possibility to issue national cryptocurrencies.


MAN #4: And so, how – what we will (0:14:17) is what you said and (0:14:20) question when we think about the national information on a Blockchain government will say it should be in the territory, it should be on a national Blockchain and a national Blockchain is in total contradiction with distributed ledger principles so where do we go now?

ANDREAS ANTONOPOULOS: So, one of the magical things about freedom of speech is that freedom of speech is not freedom to force anyone to listen and when you speak sometimes what you say is boring or idiotic and then nobody listens. You don’t get the guarantee of an audience you only get the right to say something. If national governments want to create their own national Blockchains they are engaging in boring speech. That form of system that ignores the reality is a borderless, open alternative that exist is by definition crippled. It is limited in its abilities. If you take this technology and you try to wrap it in restrictions and control it you have something that is not open, not borderless, not open access, not open innovation, not neutral, not censorship resistant what is it? It’s business as usual or (0:15:44). Yeah, we already have digital money like that in fact 92% of all money in circulation is money in somebody else’s database. The fact database is built for the government it doesn’t change the fundamental fact. So I would consider that free speech but boring. You can’t impose (0:16:03) for restrictions on these things or if you do you are a criminal and so it is an oxymoron, I would guess.

MAN #5: Yeah, unfortunately there is an abundance of free speech, of boring free speech –


MAN #5: But isn’t an abundance of Bitcoin in distribution so (0:16:23) I want to get back to the privacy having (0:16:24)


MAN #5: When you get the privacy if it’s really difficult to get Bitcoins or other cryptocurrencies without money.

ANDREAS ANTONOPOULOS: Wow! So, I don’t get Bitcoins with money. I work for them. I get Bitcoins through the (0:16:41) my labor. I don’t buy, I earn Bitcoins. There’s a fundamental philosophical difference when you start earning Bitcoin or any currency in the new digital domain comparing to when you buy it. When you buy it is an investment, when you earn it it’s the fruit of your labor. When I buy Bitcoin I am simply adding my economic activity to Bitcoin. When I take my labor and I start selling my labor for Bitcoin I’m doing two things. I’m not only adding my productivity to Bitcoin I’m also removing it from the US dollar. I am removing it from the traditional sphere of economics that is a very powerful act. And I will encourage you all don’t buy Bitcoin, earn it. Whatever you do, do it for Bitcoin. You cut hair, cut hair for Bitcoin. You drive a taxi, drive a taxi for Bitcoin. Nobody can buy your services. Nobody bought my services for two years. That’s okay, eventually someone will and then you’re part of this new vibrant economy. Give it time these things have momentum. Momentum is increasing and at some point you’ll be the one who make smart decision five years ahead of everybody else.

MAN #6: Hi! Question concerning speech and currency. You cannot acquire anything speech (0:18:10) but you can so your comparison is not 100% same.

ANDREAS ANTONOPOULOS: Sorry, I can’t acquire anything through speech alone?

MAN #6: No, you cannot.

ANDREAS ANTONOPOULOS: Oh, (0:18:21) standing on the stage right now I acquired most of my requirements out of life out of doing exactly what I’m doing now which is speech by – so, I don’t see how that’s not – okay, how many people are buying your dreams tonight? I just acquire. Who bought your dreams?

MAN #6: Yeah, but it’s still not the same.

ANDREAS ANTONOPOULOS: It’s not the same, yes. It’s a philosophical idea.

MAN #6: Yeah, sure.

ANDREAS ANTONOPOULOS: But the point is –

MAN #6: (0:18:48) if you to put an equivalent –


MAN #6: – you just have to look the consequences. We just need (0:18:55) to say it’s not exactly the same.

ANDREAS ANTONOPOULOS: Yes, I think the consequences of spreading ideas are much, much more powerful than the consequences of spreading money and I think for far too long we’ve undermined one in favor of the other. I don’t believe in controlling the spending of money because then you give the power to those who are controlling it to spend the money in the way they want and you only restrict it for everybody else and that is in a society that is very, very balanced. We see that already. You hear of banking license and you conduct money laundering nothing happens to you, right? Nothing at all. We see that happening again and again in society so I don’t buy that. I’m sorry. I think speech is more powerful than expressions through money and yet money is the one that’s restricted. You have a microphone? Yes, there you go.

MAN #7: More or less it was the same question that I (0:19:51) transaction possibly can easy – more easily (0:19:56) to do something.


MAN #7: Online it is more easy to do that than speech but (0:20:04)

ANDREAS ANTONOPOULOS: Yeah, honestly money is a minor religion and honestly forms of speech that promotes major religions Capitalism, Catholicism, collaborative banks, you know, those are follower of power than the minor religion of money. It’s a cultural construct. Money isn’t real. It’s only real if you believe in it and it’s no different from any other cultural construct. We made these artificial separations between these but now we’re seeing for technological fact that they are the same. Everybody else have mic?

MAN #8: Yeah.


MAN #8: Andreas, can you imagine how and why Bitcoin fails to succeed? Because (0:20:55) how and why Bitcoin fails to succeed.

ANDREAS ANTONOPOULOS: Oh yeah, I’m sure I can imagine of a whole bunch of scenario, scenario that can result in failure for Bitcoin as it is today. Now the question is what happens when it fails and how it fails. Does it fail catastrophically? Does it fail temporarily? If it fails temporarily we fix that and let it get stronger. If it fails catastrophically – who here who has been involved in Bitcoin now believes that decentralized mobile currency is impossibility in this world? And who’s buying the new Bitcoin the week it comes out to be an early adopter, right? So, if Bitcoin collapses catastrophically we will learn what killed Bitcoin and we will build another decentralized currency if they are already dozens of others waiting the wings or if the problem affects all of them. The point is to separate the current instance of Bitcoin from the broader implementation of Bitcoin across many years from the even broader idea of a global, open, borderless, decentralized system of trade and trust and that last one wins. There’s no question about that. The question is what will we call it or what will it look like and that I don’t know. Question back there?

MAN #9: Yeah. Hello!


MAN #9: It’s an honor to see – to finally see you.

ANDREAS ANTONOPOULOS: Thanks for coming.

MAN #9: Quick question. Can you give us your thoughts on Zcash which (0:22:33) tomorrow?

ANDREAS ANTONOPOULOS: So, I have to say I’m not an expert. I have downloaded and ran the tested version of Zcash and I did some test transactions just to see how it works and (0:22:51) and I’ve read the implementation of Zcash starts I understood probably about 30% of it (0:23:02) that’s generous right, yeah, only it didn’t last and I find it fascinating. I do also understand that from a scaling perspective it has challenges that are significantly bigger than the scaling challenges of say Bitcoin or Ethereum of other systems. But I also understand that it works very well collaboratively with many other chains so I would love to see Zcash as (0:23:31), I would love to see it just part of the ecosystem. One of the interesting things that’s happening now is that you have an ecosystem of Blockchains that open you could borrow features from each of them or you can use their features temporarily and you take your money move into Zcash. Yes, a degree of anonymity and privacy that is very high and then move it out to something else and rather smart contract in Ethereum and then move it to Bitcoin and put it in cold storage for long-term value. Yeah, it’s all part of the ecosystem but we all (0:24:02) from these inventions. So, I’m excited to see how it goes. I hope it goes well. Over here, yes?

MAN #10: Hi!

ANDREAS ANTONOPOULOS: One second. Sorry, back there. I’ll come back to you in a second. Oh, microphone not working?

WOMAN #1: Hello. Does this work?

ANDREAS ANTONOPOULOS: Yeah, there we go. Hello!

WOMAN #1: (0:24:26) Hi! Thank you for expressing your ideas on freedom of speech. I just had a question regarding zero-knowledge proofs and what do you think that means for Bitcoin scalability? Thank you.

ANDREAS ANTONOPOULOS: Oh, zero-knowledge proofs for Bitcoin scalability. Scalability and privacy generally tend to be a design trade-off. So, from what I’ve seen so far and I’m certainly not an expert in cryptography, all right. Do you think there are quite a few in the room? From what I understand things like zero-knowledge proofs are actually (0:25:05) in terms of the amount of data they need to transmit to achieve zero-knowledge proof and so generally speaking a lot of solutions we see in anonymity and privacy require much more data to be (0:25:18) and that has a negative impact on scalability. So optimizing simultaneously on both scalability and anonymity is difficult. That’s all I have. Does it help?

WOMAN #1: Thank you.

ANDREAS ANTONOPOULOS: All right. Over there.

MAN #11: So, I’d like chipping on this for a second.


MAN #11: So, ever since (0:25:42) and Mimblewimble –


MAN #11: – I mean those two cases (0:25:46) you know it’s kind of a result of privacy that you have that has been built to (0:25:52) to remove data from the chain that everyone can see.

ANDREAS ANTONOPOULOS: That is, that is true actually. Mimblewimble actually delivers privacy and anonymity at a much better scale than Bitcoin. It does so at a cost of computational complexity and flexibility. So, if you think Bitcoin is here and Ethereum is much more flexible over (0:26:13) Mimblewinble is in the opposite direction. All you can do is elliptic curve points, you can’t do the basic Bitcoin scripting. So, here’s the trade-off. It’s just a trade-off from a different asset. I think the same applies to all of it but I’m not sure. I’d like to see. Thank you for that. Yes?

MAN #12: (0:26:33) and my question Andreas, what is – what are your thoughts on (0:26:40) because in one side you said we have decentralized currency, cryptocurrency but on the other hand if we have say, (0:26:48) to control wallets moves then it’s not decentralized at all. It’s actually much more centralized than some of the currencies (0:26:56) what are your thoughts on that (0:26:59)?

ANDREAS ANTONOPOULOS: Well, let me start backwards from the decentralization question. I think it’s important to understand that decentralization is not a bullion, it’s not a true/false value, it’s a range and in fact it’s an isometric metric range. Which means that centralized systems has to have false complete control end-to-end in order to be effective at centralizing. If you get a bit of decentralization it already undermines that quite significantly. So it’s an isometric scale which means even a bit of decentralization changes the behavior of a system quite dramatically, a bit of centralization does (0:27:39), a bit of decentralization does (0:27:42). So, saying it’s not decentralized, it is decentralized. It’s not as decentralized as it could be. And again, I think it’s important to give these systems the benefit of the doubt and I think it’s fair to give Ethereum (0:28:03) like Bitcoin has until 2012. We had no governance problems, no salability problems everybody love everybody in the community, zero thieves, smooth sailing, right? Thus after three years of relatively low drama and then things got complicated. I think it’s important to accept that things will be complicated and right now for Ethereum you got a situation where in order for the protocol to mature it has to go through stress testing, right? And because it’s a system that offers more flexibility that means it requires more complexity which means more stress testing and so we see more hard forks.

MAN #12: Do you approve hard forks.

ANDREAS ANTONOPOULOS: I don’t know. I am not pro-hard fork. It depends on the motivations, it depends on the context, it depends on the risks that are taken in order to do that. There’s a big difference in trying to do for example, a contentious hard fork on a ten billion dollar currency for a temporary solution to scalability. First is doing a hard fork to address the series and balance and guess in a very early stage that it doesn’t yet have very heavy production use and therefore passes flexibility to adjust. That’s a completely different context and so I wouldn’t give (0:29:32) a clean (0:29:35) answer because none of these questions involved part of my answers. They’re all about nuance and context.

MAN #13: (0:29:42)

ANDREAS ANTONOPOULOS: Briefly. Okay, so right after the hard fork for the Dow which I said would create a terrible precedent it was maybe the worst solution or maybe the least worst solution and I couldn’t tell which. For the first two weeks after the fork I went “Oh, look they succeeded very well from a technical perspective, it pulled off great” and then after which I revised my opinion and I said “Okay, great! They succeeded technologically but politically it ended up damaging the ecosystem.” And I think one of the problems with having multiple forks is that it creates confusion and fragmentation for developers. One of the advantages is that it allows you to experiment with different approaches to governments, different approaches to scaling etc. etc. So again, different recipes for different solutions.

MAN #13: (0:30:37)

ANDREAS ANTONOPOULOS: That was not a straight answer.

MAN #14: (0:30:53)


MAN #14 Yeah. My question is that (0:30:59) we trust in an entity in case of US dollar might be the federal reserve (0:31:09) what is underpinning the trust in Bitcoin (0:31:15).

ANDREAS ANTONOPOULOS: Okay, that’s a great question. It’s a question that comes up a lot and this at its core is the fundamental question of where does money get its value, right? And quite honestly I would challenge the idea that when you trust a currency what you’re trusting is an entity. I don’t think that most people who spends with francs do so because they trust the Swiss central bank is going to offer good stewardship and manages the currency within 2% to 2.5% inflation (0:31:53) then what was simultaneously managing unemployment in a grand strategy of monetary policy. Most people have no idea what the Swiss central bank is, they probably think there’s gold in the vaults. They had no idea how money works. What they trust is that they go to the store tomorrow someone will given them a dozen eggs for what is it – 40 francs (0:32:15) something like that. That is where the value comes from is (0:32:26) trust is the anticipation of future value expecting not only that you believe in the illusion that this is a plastic or paper have value but the next person tomorrow will still believe that illusion long enough to feed you. That’s where the value of the money comes from not some central entity. What the central entity does fundamentally is they provide a guarantee that the money hasn’t been forged which is especially important when the money was previous metal and (0:33:01) did you know that wasn’t 30% zinc but actual silver or actual gold and so the (0:33:08) to tell you this is guaranteed and in fact it was one of the highest price of treason was to forge, tampered with or slice off pieces of the money. The mark provided a guarantee of unforgeability, a guarantee of (0:33:26) purity when the value was intrinsic and the coin was somewhat intrinsic in the coin. What exactly does the central bank offer in terms of that is certainly isn’t the promise not to print more, right? It is again the promise of unforgibility and what it says is within this jurisdiction you will be able to use this, at least if nothing else, to the buyer of last resort which is you will be to pay the government’s (0:33:57) money you owe the government with this money. That is the only guarantee you get, the only base of trust you get. And I would say that’s relatively weak. So, why do people trust in Bitcoin? Why do people trust in any of the digital currencies that exist out there? Fundamentally because they believe that it will still have value tomorrow and they can use it to buy goods and services. That’s how I use it. I get paid in Bitcoin and then I use Bitcoin to (0:34:28) and I trust that I will still be able to use Bitcoin tomorrow to live and as long as that joint hallucination (0:34:37) we have value. So the value is really in the community, it’s in the economic activity of all of the participants in the understanding that we are all using this to trade. And the second part is that I trust it can’t be forged because I’ve heard the algorithm and I know it can’t be forged. It can’t be faked, right? And it can’t be diluted. So I have that level of trust. That’s all it is. I believe that other people will find it useful in the future and that’s the basis for (0:35:09). Now, behind that a great large amount of energy (0:35:14) computation for Bitcoin that ensures that it is also rare. Does that answer the question?

MAN #15: All right.


MAN #15: I have question about ponzis (0:35:30)

ANDREAS ANTONOPOULOS: A question about politics?

MAN #15 Yes.

ANDREAS ANTONOPOULOS: (0:35:34) do politics, I’m kind of well –

MAN #15: Where you come from you just spoke, for example, where it’s essentially free to speech


MAN #15: My aim is not to (0:35:46) but it has been (0:35:49)


MAN #15: My question is also we see with all this drama we’re talking about the false.


MAN #15: That we’re creating a new pattern of politics, right? Some people have more knowledge, some people have more access, some people have more control in the system and you still need to protect the real guys, the newbies (0:36:08) and I don’t see that moving forward as fast as (0:36:15).


MAN #15: How do you think exactly (0:36:21) we’re going to (0:36:22) money more than we have been ever and it shall be useful to some things like, you know, (0:36:30) something like that. We need that kind of government.


Man #15: Where does that come from and what you do you see emerging?

ANDREAS ANTONOPOULOS: Governance is a lot harder to do than the basics of transaction, trust verification that we do in Bitcoin. It’s a lot harder to do because human nature, emotions, and other things intervene. I actually kind of prefer this kind of politics where the people who are engaging in all of these had confiscated my money and I can’t actually do much at all. What we’ve seen in Bitcoin for the last year and a half is political impotence from all sides like nobody can say this is – the way debates usually work in the political whirlpool is that after an hour of debate someone stands up and says “Thank you all I appreciate hearing all these opinions. Now let me tell you this is what we’re going to do” but nobody in Bitcoin actually do that so as a result the meeting just goes on forever and what it demonstrated is that no one has the power to say “I’ve had enough of this you’re going to do it my way.” That doesn’t work in Bitcoin and that creates paralysis but what it also creates in my opinion is security. I am protected from (0:37:59) decisions by people I did not elect that can affect my money because what happens in Bitcoin when there is paralysis of decision is the status quo remains and that’s not favorable for governments at least for now so, I’m not too worried about that. I think the drama can be toxic to the community, I also think that not all of it is naturally occurring if you know what I mean. There are antis out there that are fertilizing this drama. It’s happened to every other community in every other field in the history of humanity it would be naïve to think that you don’t have some drama being fertilized in Bitcoin on purpose. Who’s an agent in here? You, you, you, no? Okay. Come tell me later. Oh, you are an agent. No? Oh no, you want to ask some question. Okay. So, the governance is something that we’re going to see develop. One other thing to realize is that governance involves complex, multilateral relationships and when we look at systems as they scale and develop the first things you get are things that work with one person then gradually as the system evolves you can start doing bilateral things which involve two parties. And then once you have enough people you start doing multilateral things that involve multiple parties. That’s why Facebook didn’t happen in 1992 when no one had fixed internet or barely any e-mail. First applications have to be simplistic, complexity emerges once you stabilize the basics and governance is complex. So, that’s to say I don’t think it’s impossible, I don’t think we can’t find ways to use this technology to approve governance. I think it’s we will but not yet. So, for now we have to ignore the drama and focus on the technology and build things. Yes, agent? Sorry, I’m just (0:40:07)

MAN #16: Continued from the question about the confidence that we have in something like Bitcoin –


MAN #16: – (0:40:17) is currency (0:40:20). Do you think – and I guess I’m going to ask your prediction – when do you think governments will consider seriously cryptocurrencies as a potential (0:40:33) when this economic crisis (0:40:35) and I’m looking for a refuge, is it a refuge solution (0:40:39) What do you think will require the adoption of the efficiencies of (0:40:43)

ANDREAS ANTONOPOULOS: So, first of all I think it’s a very dangerous idea to have national governments adopt any form of digital currencies especially one that they don’t control or local digital currency and then owes that on the citizenry as their only choice and the fundamental model of having national currencies that are monopolistic system that is imposed on you like you don’t have a choice is part of the problem we have in the world so I am working to oppose national law. I don’t think Bitcoin should replace national currencies. I think you should have a choice to use anything and Bitcoin and anything else. However I do predict that some governments wouldn’t do that. I believe and forgive my chatter if I get this wrong, I believe that Montenegro uses euros even though they’re not part of the economic area, they’re not part of any of the European Union treaties and the reason they do that is because they realize that the cost of maintaining a central bank, printing facilities and printing currencies (0:41:52) expenses especially if you wanted that might not be forged. And so, Montenegro is not the only country that has decided to simply adopt by proxy another unit’s currency to save all the administrative cost of running their own, right? Outsourcing basically. I wouldn’t be surprised that you will see in nation states if they have a collapse of their national currency and they can’t afford to print money and yet these digital currencies are in broad circulation they are broadly available and part of mainstream use they just say “You know what, we don’t need a currency anymore” people can just use this and back out of the business occurrence. Now, that’s probably going to be a very small country, it’s going to be a country that can’t easily impose a sovereignty that it can’t afford to be (0:42:45) with this money and/or it may be failed state. I think those are the conditions under which you see it. I don’t think the United States is going to say “Hey, let’s all switch to Bitcoin.” We can’t even switch the metric and we tried it twice.

MAN #17: I just wanted to add a statement to your answer (0:43:11) regarding the value.


MAN #17: (0:43:15)

ANDREAS ANTONOPOULOS: Silver or gold, yes (0:43:33)

MAN #17: Okay


MAN #17: And so, I’m just going to add that to me it’s intriguing and also ironic that for me the intrinsic value Bitcoin lays in its (0:43:43)

ANDREAS ANTONOPOULOS: Rather than intrinsic value I like to use the term intrinsic utility because the truth is that systems of money that had intrinsic value make for and operate that money because the intrinsic value of the money dilutes the purpose. Money is meant to be an abstraction of value by which – (0:44:12) value, not value itself if you can eat the money. And so people who choose to eat the money causing a deflationary situation because there is a reduction in supply of money because people ate it, right? You know so if you chose bananas as your money that doesn’t make a very good system of money. Things that have intrinsic value their intrinsic value may change abruptly due to circumstances. If you use water as your money and you have monsoon your money supply went to shit. If you have drought suddenly your money supply is, you know, much more different than it was before. So, the best forms of money don’t have intrinsic value. Intrinsic value is an illusion that we created in order to better explain money at a level of five-year-old which is the same level we explained it to everyone in our society forever. And instead, I think intrinsic utility is a great concept that Bitcoin is useful and it has uses that can’t be done by other things and that intrinsic utility is (0:45:18), it’s practical. So, thank you (0:45:21). All right.

MAN #17: Two more questions.

ANDREAS ANTONOPOULOS: Two more, and then we’re done?

MAN #17: Is it okay? (0:45:28)

ANDREAS ANTONOPOULOS: I’m not going to (0:45:29) all right. Let’s see if people have to (0:45:31) a little bit longer. Who has a microphone? Sorry, I can’t see you. Yeah.

MAN #18: Thanks for the thought and –

ANDREAS ANTONOPOULOS: Closer to your mouth, please.

MAN #18: Thanks for your thought and from my perspective of (0:45:42) and decreasing freedom should you care about politics by (0:45:51) or political (0:45:52) on counter economics like (0:45:55) Bitcoin etc. What do you think (0:46:01)

ANDREAS ANTONOPOULOS: So, I think it’s – so the question was should we care about politics or should we focus on doing these things; to paraphrase on building things that is politics. What I’m doing here is politics. Politics is a conversation about how we best want to organize society. It’s not conversation that you can only have if you’re an elected official. It’s not a conversation you can only participate in once every four years. It’s not a conversation that you can only participate in by wearing a blue colored or red colored (0:46:36). That’s what they want us to think politics is. They want us to think politics as the dirty business of deciding between two terrible choices once every four years so they can mess up the life of our neighbor who we did not like anyway and supported the wrong candidates. That’s not politics that’s tribalism played out in governance. We don’t need that. Politics is us as a society having a conversation about governance we’re doing that like here we didn’t have any votes. I certainly wasn’t elected. The bottom line is that this is politics, we are engaging it every day and in fact local organizations creating community, creating things that are valuable to other people helping each other is the most powerful form of politics we have. Don’t vote, code. Okay, one more over there – oh, right over here.

MAN #19: Wait a second, it’s over there.

WOMAN #2: (0:47:43) I’m here.

ANDREAS ANTONOPOULOS: Over here, yes please. Sorry.

WOMAN #2: Thank you. I wanted to ask what are your thoughts and opinion of (0:47:50) perspective and also in general.

ANDREAS ANTONOPOULOS: Yes. From historical (0:47:57) in Prague three or four weeks ago and someone asked me “What do you think about (0:48:05)” and I heard what do you think about “Steve” and so I’m standing on stage and I’m running through my mind furiously who do I know in this space called “Steve” and what can I say about Steve that would be appropriate for an honest question. So, (0:48:28) thank you for pronouncing it better.

So, I haven’t participated and I’ve been asked by a lot of people to participate and most of the people who ask to participate have done so by saying that I can make a lot of money by posting something and to me that makes me much more skeptical the long-term value of something like this. I do believe in the enormous power of money to mediate social relationships. Why? Because money has been mediating social relationships for thousands of years and therefore why not also use it to mediate social relationships of the internet. However as I said earlier the complexity of the system match their – at the moment where we’re doing like the prokaryotes, the single-cell eukaryotes of Bitcoin, right? The level of complexity is (0:49:35), right? We’re not going to start making the complex animal kingdom of cryptocurrencies yet from a biological perspective we’re still in the (0:49:46) age. It’s important to realize that there are limits to what you can do when the vast majority people around you don’t use something at the moment the penetration of these technologies is extremely limited. So, one of the things that I think it’s important to look at is how social media (0:50:08) on the internet. It’s very interesting when Facebook launched they didn’t launched worldwide, they didn’t launched statewide, they didn’t launched districtwide, they launched buildingwide. They went to one building in Stanford Campus and they annoyed the hell out of every person in that building until they all signed up for the Facebook and that’s useful because at least you knew that everybody in your building had it and then they did the second building and then the third and after a year of this they got a campus and it spread from there. It’s very difficult to bootstrap bilateral markets, it’s much, much harder to bootstrap multi-party markets and even harder to bootstrap these kinds of immersive (0:51:01) experiences that involve (0:51:04) participation. So, I am revealing that these things won’t work for a few years. Maybe they will but I am skeptical, we’ll see. I will like to see that it work and one of the difficult things with any (0:51:15) technology is that the most important thing is not the team, it’s not the funding, it’s not the idea and it’s not the execution, it’s timing. You can have those brilliant idea and you’re just too early. Google was the 22nd search engine launched. Amazon was the 30th attempt doing home delivery over the internet and we don’t remember the other 29. So, we’ll see. I wish them luck.

MAN #20: (0:51:55)


MAN #20: Yes. So I – before (0:51:59)


MAN #20: So, you said that (0:52:08) do you think that money, that money transaction (0:52:20) For example, like when you engage in some (0:52:29) privacy system which is what you want in essence.


MAN #20: (0:52:41)

ANDREAS ANTONOPOULOS: So, money has externalities but so does any social interaction, speech has influence and money is just a form of influence and speech has power and money is a form of power. If you pay someone to do criminal activity what they’re going to do is they’re going to take your money and then they’re going to talk about it with their co-conspirators and use speech to organize the rest of their criminal activity. And they might even as they use that money to speak further to engage other people in engaging in criminal activity. We make distinctions between actions and words and to me money is a form of speech. It’s not a crime in itself. The crime happens maybe afterwards. If you enable systems of complete privacy, complete anonymity, complete independence then criminals will use them. If you don’t then criminals will use them too. The difference is the rest of us can’t. That’s the only difference. There exist today systems that will allow you to do all of these things with (0:54:01) anonymity and criminals are already using those systems. I don’t get to not allow criminals to use technology I only get to ask the question should we allow everybody else to also if you may (0:54:19) that says you can’t use something. Here’s a news flash criminals will break (0:54:27) because they’re criminals and they’re probably going to break a much bigger wall than that, right? What you’re doing is you’re ensuring that the innocents can’t use this technology that the criminals are already using and to me that’s the essence of also a freedom of speech. If you have someone who opens their mouth and screams profanities at a poor lady waiting at the bus stop who didn’t want to hear all of those words (0:55:04) but if you try to shut that person off two things will happen. One, the fellow still speak, right? They’ll be screaming profanities in their (0:55:16) at the very least which you’re going to stop everybody else from speaking just to protect yourself from that and I think that’s a bad idea. Now, it turns out I’m a radical. So, we’ll see. All right, one more question.

MAN #21: Yes.

ANDREAS ANTONOPOULOS: Two more questions, looks like. Yes?

MAN #21: (0:55:37)


MAN #21: (0:55:39) you know my youngest brother he is (0:55:42) law. He teaches his students to read (0:55:46) the word law, right? The word law but just according to the spirit of the law.


MAN #21: Now when we look at this new technologies like this (0:55:54) Ethereum smart contracts etc. suddenly we’re saying that they might think when you hack this item who is actually (0:56:03) the spirit of the (0:56:04) code. So if you think that from perspective my question goes in the direction is (0:56:07) maybe national, may be regional, maybe global legal framework necessary for (0:56:19)

ANDREAS ANTONOPOULOS: As the system that overrides the consensus algorithm no. Not only is it not necessary it is odious. It is contrary to the very concept we’re trying to build. We already have plenty of institutions that allow you the flexibility to try to see if your problem will be adjudicated based on the spirit of law in front of an impartial judge or a jury you appear. We already have all of that. Everything we have is all of that and your friend’s students will leave law school believing in the spirit of law and he gradually (0:57:06) to the system of prosecution and courts until eventually they don’t believe in anything other than winning the case. That’s usually what happens. But the reason we have a consensus algorithm is because we’re trying to build an alternative system where the outcome is known based on the formulation of the contract and it is completely neutral and impartial. Will that always work? Hell no, it won’t (0:57:36) and we will have a dowsaster (0:57:42). What? And then the question is how can (0:57:46) The worst case you can have if you have a system where the smart contract has failed is that every participants in a smart contract find anyone they can specifically identify. Identify jurisdictionally, geographically, individually and sue them in whichever court they choose or find itself at the time and then you have to deal with (0:58:16). I am not suggesting that’s a good idea I am suggesting it’s an inevitable outcome that if you have disputes that arise in a system and you don’t have the means of resolving them other than consensus mechanism people will start filing lawsuits to each other. So, there is this really interesting framework called the New York Convention on Arbitration which is an international treaty that allows you in 156 countries to claim independent legal arbitration through a private system of law that you can pre-define. Pre-define the duration, the discovery, who the judges are going to be, how it’s going to be adjudicated. Perhaps we should be building systems that say if there’s failure in this consensus system our dispute will be we agree to waiver rights under the New York Convention to upper courts and instead subject ourselves to arbitration under a crown jury selected by smart contracts zero XABCDEF to provide the final solution. Maybe you do that. I don’t know if it’s a good solution, I know it’s better than trying to defend yourself in a hundred local courts.

MAN #21: But when you can stop, I mean (0:59:29) the use or rather abuse of the system like (0:59:37)

ANDREAS ANTONOPOULOS: So the trick is distinguishing between what is use and what is abuse of the system and in the system that has no spirit of law but only has rule of consensus there is no such thing as a distinction between use and abuse of the system. If you can use the system it is use of the system, it’s the consensus algorithm around it it is used. The distinction you’re putting which is (1:00:04) judgments of the spirit doesn’t apply. It simply does – so quite honestly I think the dollar is a great (1:00:16) the lesson wasn’t should we (1:00:18) the lesson is don’t put a hundred and fifty million fucking dollars in an untested contract (1:00:25). But that’s a lesson that is self-correcting, right? People (1:00:32) by that and they’re going (1:00:34) and we’re going to get better. We have to realize that what we’re building here, these systems their defining characteristic is caveat emptor. They are free market systems, they are free collaborative voluntary participation systems. Caveat emptor buyer beware that is not warning that is fact and so you take it as it is and if you don’t like it you can use the other systems we have plenty of them but we’re not going to change this one and make into other (1:01:07). In fact we’re going to fiercely resist that change. Does that help? All right.

MAN #22: Thank you Andreas. (1:01:29)

ANDREAS ANTONOPOULOS: I am hoping maybe (1:01:36)

MAN #22: (1:01:37)

ANDREAS ANTONOPOULOS: I’ve been invited to another conference so we’ll see. Well, I don’t know yet. I don’t know it’s hopefully (1:01:42)

MAN #22: So, maybe you’ve probably read about it this is Andreas’ newest book The Internet of Money

ANDREAS ANTONOPOULOS: The only one. That’s how (1:01:52)

MAN #22: It has all the talks, the best talks he gave, transcript of those so it’s really interesting and he will do a book signing relating to – yeah, we will go – afterwards we will go (1:02:07) it’s just right across the (1:02:09) and get some beer or (1:02:11). Yeah, thanks a lot to the team who helped me organizing this, special thanks to (1:02:19) standing here and thanks a lot, Andreas.


Written by Andreas M. Antonopoulos on November 26, 2016.