Follow the Money… Bitcoin and the New Wild West

September 21, 2016

Niko Poulakos

Bitcoin is secret electronic cash – a decentralized, unregulated, digital cryptocurrency that makes its users anonymous and its transactions untraceable. Since coming online around 2008, the market for bitcoins has ballooned to around 10 billion ($U.S.) today, and around 100,000 companies currently transact with bitcoins, including Paypal, Microsoft, and Overstock.

While the corporate legitimacy and economic viability of bitcoin is rather undeniable, one should also note that a primary purpose of bitcoin is to help one buy and sell within the hidden cache of black market websites, otherwise known as the “dark web.” Anonymous, untraceable transactions ease the purchasing of heroin and contracting of hitmen. Online transactions within the deep dark web are performed almost entirely with bitcoin.

I find myself asking my media classes about the extent to which an unregulated currency is “responsible” for an underground economy. I also endeavor to have them speculate with me about how far this link can go, how big a decentralized economy can be and how robust an alternative moral universe can become. In fascinating fashion, perhaps all these questions will continue to dovetail back into the legitimacy and viability of bitcoin itself, causing it to fluctuate in its worth. A loaded question that popular culture will be forced to ask itself moving forward is a simple one then – what is the “value” of bitcoin?

Niko Poulakos