Bitcoin Validated by Quest to Track Down the Crypto-Currency Creator


Bitcoin was in the spotlight of the October 10 issue of The New Yorker, as "The Crypto-Currency" was featured amongst other stories about money, even if it was the only article to consider digital alternatives to the system.

Some peripheral attention has been paid to Bitcoin in the context of Occupy Wall Street. The movement has accepted donations in BTC — which has given its proponents hope that the concept will now be seen as more than a short-lived summertime novelty.

And while it's a long way from the current fringe status of Bitcoin to any sort of mainstream acceptance, the issues surrounding its development and distribution might be more pertinent than ever, at least among those spurred by the sit-in to wonder how the financial system can ever be adequately disrupted. Can the end of cash help popularize a decentralized system that isn't based on borders?

For now, Bitcoins are still the stuff of outsider art, as writer Joshua Davis explored how far he could get with the crypto-currency in America.

Davis used it to pay for a room at a Howard Johnson hotel near Disneyland, visited a BTC miner in rural Kentucky seeking to crack as many cryptographic hashes as possible, and went in search of Bitcoin's alleged 36-year-old Japanese inventor Satoshi Nakamoto.

The invention was specifically inspired by watching how fiat currencies were debased by central banks, as reflected in the experience of the 2008 credit crunch. Being able to monitor the movement of money would theoretically prevent such a meltdown.

Creators of experimental currency have to be be elusive, though, because charges have been laid in the past over such transactions — and it didn't help that bitcoins were being exchanged for illegal drugs.

Tipped off to the fact that many of those in the cryptography community would be attending a conference at the University of California in Santa Barbara, the culprit was fingered as an Irish graduate student named Michael Clear, who denied it when approached for the article. Subsequently, the 23-year-old explained he doesn't care enough about economics in the first place.

Since then, Adam J. Peneberg of Fast Company started his own hunt, which proved inconclusive — even though the denials raised suspicions of their own.

For those who subscribe to a belief in Bitcoin, of course, caring about who created it is antithetical to the concept. A new monetary system won't be worth anything if it's tied to one particular ego.

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