In 2021, the price of a single bitcoin, the leading cryptocurrency broke 60 000 [, Music ] and the market value of all cryptocurrencies reached a staggering 2.5 trillion dollars. Bitcoin’S promise to create a new decentralized financial system beyond the control of governments and banks has captured the imagination of the world. It’S become a bit of a social phenomenon. Mark zuckerberg, the boss of facebook, has pet goats and he’s named them max and bitcoin, but so far the bitcoin dream has not been realized.
[ Music ], rather than becoming a new form of money, bitcoin, has become a highly volatile investment asset. Creating big winners. Investors have said its price skyrocketing during the pandemic and big losers. The crypto valuation lost a third of a trillion dollars just overnight for the believers, bitcoin is still a digital stepping stone towards a utopian future for the skeptics. The crypto market is nothing more than a digital casino, too volatile to be trusted.
So what will become of the bitcoin dream? [, Music ]. It all started in 2009, somewhere in the world, a shadowy figure hiding behind the name of satoshi nakamoto created the very first bitcoin. It was the start of a digital revolution. Bitcoin and the thousands of cryptocurrencies that have followed are nothing like actual coins.
They are code recorded on a digital ledger that gets longer and longer as more people use them and embedded in nakamoto’s code for the first batch or block of bitcoins was a newspaper headline. Bitcoin’S creator put that headline in the first block because he wanted to send a signal. He wanted to show that people were looking for alternatives after the financial crash and the question that people were asking is: can we trust financial institutions with our money and bitcoin? Was the response? Trust is at the heart of the current financial system, banks and other financial institutions control how money flows around the economy.
Faith that their ledgers are accurate is vital. This is because money is simply a social convention. It exists and has value, because we agree that it does. This agreement only works because we put trust in financial institutions such as banks. Bitcoin does not require trusted.
Institutions nakamoto wanted to create a secure system that did not rely on any trust at all. To achieve this, the coins are registered on a revolutionary technology called a blockchain, which is a ledger of transactions that is not held by a centralized institution. Instead, transactions are verified and logged by a network of computers all over the world. In a process known as mining. We’Re combining this for two purposes: one is to put new bitcoin in circulation and the second one, which is also essential, is to verify transactions on the network [ Music ].
But it’s a complex process. If someone wants to make a transaction, everyone on the network is alerted, the transactions are verified by so-called miners. First, they check the transactions are legitimate. Once a miner has checked a few thousand transactions, they group them together in a block. That’S the easy part.
The miners then race for the right to add this block to a string of those previously made known as the blockchain. To do this, they compete to solve a complex numerical problem. The miner that solves it first sees their block added to the chain and they are rewarded in bitcoin. This whole process is incredibly energy intensive and is contributing to the climate crisis. As of may 2021, bitcoin mining used more electricity annually than the whole of the netherlands.
To keep bitcoin scarce and to help maintain its value, the number of bitcoins that can be mined is capped at 21 million. To date, almost 19 million bitcoins have been mined, but it cannot yet be classified as money for something to be considered money. It has to work in three ways as a medium of exchange as a store of value and as a unit of account for all the main functions of money that you can think of. Actually so far, bitcoin is not superior to the solutions that we already have, which are shared money and other ways of paying, and that’s you know the main reason why it you can’t really call it the currency now, here’s why fundamentally, bitcoin is a string of code With limited use like a gold bar, it doesn’t produce any revenue, but compared with the price of gold, the value of a single bitcoin is hugely volatile, and a single tweet can change people’s faith in it as a future currency. As a result, its price moves wildly up and down as people buy and sell it, and, unlike the dollar, there’s no central bank or government to defend its value.
This volatility also makes bitcoin very hard to use as a medium of exchange. So a seller on amazon is unlikely to accept bitcoin for their goods as the following day. The price could vary dramatically, as happened on may 19. 2021. The price dropped almost 8 000 in less than an hour, but that’s not stopping el salvador.
The central american country has become the first to adopt bitcoin as legal tender. It’S a major gamble. Bitcoin doesn’t really work as a means of payment because it’s very inefficient it can process only 10 transactions per. Second. When you know visa, the credit card company can do as much as 24 000 per second, so if bitcoin doesn’t work as a way of paying for things, what gives it value like shares and bonds, it’s also traded as an investment.
This has led to a speculative mania where teenagers have become millionaires. It’S not just a maybe a get-rich-quick scheme as a lot of people put it, but i see it as the future of currency and others have lost it all. Literally in 2013, one unlucky man in wales even scoured a rubbish dump for a hard drive containing 7500 accidentally discarded bitcoins. Without that file, there is no way of getting the money back, because there is no central um central server that records a log of it today that hard drive would be worth 218 million dollars, if only he could find it, but investing in cryptocurrency is no longer For early adopters and armchair investors, it’s attracting attention from some of the world’s biggest banks, including morgan stanley, which now offers investors access to bitcoin funds, but even cautious buy-in from some financiers brings greater scrutiny. Banks are taking tentative steps to get into bitcoin.
Regulators are watching this closely and so far they’ve only allowed a limited set of things that banks can do. They can provide access to the market to clients, but they can’t bet on the market themselves, for example using their own capital, and regulators are also wary, because bitcoin has a dark side: [, Music, ], so bitcoin has been used to fund criminality or to launder money. Uh, if you venture on the dark web for example, which i did for an article recently you’ll find that everything from stolen credit card details to to drugs is priced in bitcoin. There’S has also been a lot of theft from crypto exchanges and a lot of fraud, and it’s not just criminality that is ringing alarm bells. Leading economists have warned that bitcoin is a dangerous bubble destined to burst and join the graveyard of historically hyped-up investments like the tulip mania of the 1630s, where the price of tulip bulbs rose sharply before spectacularly crashing or the dot-com boom in the late 1990s in 2018.
There was reason to believe the skeptics might be right: the sharp surge and later drop in the price of bitcoin mimicked, these historic bubbles, a pattern which continued into the first half of 2021. The price soared to over 60 thousand dollars only to fall again. The bitcoin market is very fragile in 2020 and 2021 we’ve seen these students, you know sharp drops in in price on the basis of very little and then they partially recover, for you know other bits of news that that are completely unpredictable supporters, see cryptocurrency as a Burgeoning asset class with real value more like gold than tulips, but the jury is still out on whether the comparison is accurate, bitcoin or another cryptocurrency might become. You know relatively stable or trusted asset class like gold, but it’s too early to tell because you can see today as soon as people think it’s no longer a good investment, then dumb and plummets and value with it. Perhaps the biggest winner from its climb is bitcoin’s.
Mysterious inventor satoshi nakamoto, assuming of course that nakamoto is a real person who is still alive, they’re thought to own more than 1 million bitcoin, currently worth around 37 billion dollars. Bitcoin may yet become a stable asset like gold or prove to be a bubble that bursts spectacularly. But one thing is for certain: the utopian dream of bitcoin becoming a new form of money beyond the control of governments and central banks is still as elusive as the technologies creator. [ Music ], i’m matthew, favaz finance correspondent at the economist to read more for coverage on bitcoin. Please click on the link.
Thank you for watching.