Bitcoin’s road to democratization lies in decentralization

Conrad Barski on the bitcoin and blockchain landscape and how the technology will evolve over the next 10 years.


Conrad Barski, a medical doctor, a cartoonist, programmer, and author of Land of Lisp, has been experimenting with bitcoin since 2011. In a recent interview, Barski talked about the bitcoin and blockchain landscape and noted the potential of decentralization:

“We’re heading into a world where things are becoming more decentralized. Most people already appreciate that because we all know about things like Airbnb and Uber. Of course, there’s kind of a paradox there because we think of Airbnb and Uber as being decentralized, but of course they’re these very centralized companies that run things…I think 10 years from now we’re going to see that these types of semi-decentralized companies are going to be replaced by fully decentralized companies, where the company itself just runs in an automated way on some kind of cryptocurrency. No one knows what cryptocurrency that will be, but there are folks from Ripple, from Counterparty, from Ethereum all trying to build an infrastructure that essentially let’s you run a company that isn’t controlled by any individual person. I think that’s really in the long term the most exciting part about bitcoin.”

What about bitcoin as a currency? In the short term, it’s an open question, said Barski, but he predicted an expansion similar to what we’ve seen with BitTorrent:

“One of the problems right now with bitcoin…is that no one’s really found out how to make money on it yet. There’s just a lot of speculation. In the shorter term, it’s still an open question. What’s going to make bitcoin take off and will it take off? People are looking at things like remittances. There’s a recent movement into tipping as being a potential area — so, say somebody writes a blog post; you can tip them. There are people working on really great systems right now to do that.

“Then, of course, the elephant in the room is this whole episode with Silk Road. Everyone’s familiar with BitTorrent. It used to be this very seedy system that people were using to steal copyright goods, but nowadays, BitTorrent has become a very legitimate technology. If I want to download the latest version of Ubuntu, the first thing I want to know is what is the torrent for it, because it’s very convenient for moving around large files. I think what we’re going to see in the next couple of years is open markets that are similar to eBay, but then also have some similarities to things like Silk Road; I think there will be an overlap between legitimate and illegitimate uses.”

Together with Chris Wilmer, Barski will host a free webcast, Bitcoin for the Befuddled, December 3. The duo are hoping to provide an entertaining, informative narrative so the audience can get a sense of the flavor of bitcoin to see why it’s so interesting. Barski also noted they’ll provide an illuminating demo:

“We’re going to set up a brand new Android device with a bitcoin wallet and put some money into it. For most people, until they actually see how it works, they really don’t appreciate the elegance of the system, so we’re going to send a small amount of money between us as we’re doing our talk.”

You can register for the free webcast here, and you can listen to our entire interview in the SoundCloud player below.

You might also be interested in our upcoming event, Bitcoin & the Blockchain: An O’Reilly Radar Summit, being held in San Francisco on January 27, 2015. Register for the conference here — and, of course, bitcoin can be used to pay for registration.

Cropped image on article and category pages by Sue Nichols on Flickr, used under a Creative Commons license.

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