Split­ting opin­ion

Friday - - Society Living Leisure -

The jury is still very much out on whether Bit­coin is a fea­si­ble real-world cur­rency. Sup­port­ers say it will end bank­ing greed, while op­po­nents claim it is too open to hack­ing at­tacks to be a se­cure form of ten­der.

Lon­don-based founder of Bit­coin ex­change In­ter­sango Amir Taaki has noth­ing but praise. “They are used for pre­serv­ing your freedom of fi­nan­cial speech,” he in­sists. “It is the first time we have a cur­rency not con­trolled by any cen­tral bank or cen­tral party. We are at the fore­front of huge tech­no­log­i­cal change.

“We can cre­ate schools and hos­pi­tals with Bitcoins. This is not some the­o­ret­i­cal con­cept. It is a bil­lion-dol­lar econ­omy. It is here now and it’s work­ing.

“In Lon­don alone there are over 60 traders,” he con­tin­ues. “Any­one can go on the in­ter­net and start with Bit­coin now, ac­cept pay­ments from any­where in the world and do busi­ness with any­one. It’s just go­ing to grow – it’s grow­ing each day.”

But Pavan Duggal, a cy­ber­law spe­cial­ist in New Delhi, is scep­ti­cal. “It has a huge num­ber of le­gal, pol­icy and reg­u­la­tory is­sues,” he says. “Is Bit­coin le­gal? Can it be en­forced in any ju­ris­dic­tion be­cause no law in the world has been en­acted which di­rectly im­pacts Bit­coin?

“More sig­nif­i­cantly, in which ju­ris­dic­tion will a dis­pute arise should there be a dis­pute per­tain­ing to pay­ments made by Bit­coin? It brings huge chal­lenges.”

Max Keiser, co-founder of the Hol­ly­wood Stock Ex­change, which al­lowed peo­ple to trade in vir­tual cur­ren­cies such as Movie­stocks, Star­bonds and Hol­ly­wood Dollars, is a big be­liever in Bit­coin, and with good rea­son – he is a Bit­coin mil­lion­aire. The on­line whiz who was in­stru­men­tal in launch­ing in­ter­net trad­ing in the mid Nineties is also in the frame as a Satoshi sus­pect – a claim he de­nies.

Ear­lier this year Max told a ra­dio show, “I did not in­vent Bit­coin. I think the rea­son peo­ple say that is be­cause I did in­vent the vir­tual cur­ren­cies and vir­tual trad­ing back in 1996.

“I have four US patents cov­er­ing vir­tual cur­ren­cies and vir­tual trad­ing. So peo­ple say, ‘Oh, Max Keiser must be in­volved in the cre­ation of Bit­coin.’ That’s not the case. I am very ex­cited and very happy that a hacker, or a group of hack­ers, did launch Bit­coin in 2009. It is tak­ing the globe by storm.”

And of the mys­te­ri­ous Satoshi he said, “He po­ten­tially is so much of a game-changer, it’s such a quan­tum leap away from the fed­eral re­serve sys­tem that it is killing economies around the world. We are go­ing to have a rev­e­la­tion that fi­nally we are go­ing to es­cape the night­mare that is the cen­tral bank sys­tem.”

So what do we know about Satoshi Nakamoto? There is no record of his ex­is­tence be­fore Bit­coin was cre­ated. He first sur­faced in Novem­ber 2008 when he pub­lished a pa­per on the mail­ing list of an ob­scure cryp­tog­ra­phy web­site in which he de­scribed the cur­rency and claimed to have been work­ing on it since 2007. No­body us­ing the list had heard of him and he gave lit­tle away as to his iden­tity.

In an on­line pro­file, he said he was male, 37 years old and lived in Ja­pan. His email ad­dress was from a free Ger­man ser­vice.

The nine-page pa­per de­scribed how Bit­coin would work and how coins would be mined

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