As part of the Digital Currency Council’s Continuing Education partnership with Inside Bitcoins, the DCC’s Director of Curriculum, Dan McArdle, had the opportunity to interview the thought leaders that will be speaking at the Inside Bitcoins Conference in New York City on April 27-29, 2015. Today, we share an interview with Paul Vigna of The Wall Street Journal and co-author of The Age of Cryptocurrency.
Dan: Can you tell us a little about how you first discovered Bitcoin, and what your initial reaction to it was?
Paul: I don’t remember the exact first time I heard the word “bitcoin,” but by the early 2013 I was pretty aware of it. But I will still very skeptical. Like most people, I thought it was a scam. By the summer, my skepticism had softened enough that I went to the Inside Bitcoins conference in midtown. That was the first time I’d ever been around a big group of bitcoiners, and their enthusiasm and energy made a big impression on me. What I saw was this entire counterculture movement, focused around a currency. I was intrigued.
Dan: You recently co-authored a widely acclaimed book, The Age of Cryptocurrency, on Bitcoin and the digital currency ecosystem more broadly. Two years ago did you have any idea you’d end up writing a 357-page book on a stateless digital currency?
Paul: After that conference, I went back to the newsroom, and was telling another reporter about the scene. “Sounds like something Michael Lewis’d write a book about,” he said. That’s when the light bulb went off in my head. So, yeah, it was exactly two years ago, but a bit less than two years ago, I did start planning the book. Getting Michael on board was key, though. I was just a few months ahead of him in terms of getting interested in the topic. Once he got hooked, the two of us started planning it together.
Dan: Bitcoin has been a wild-ride to say the least. What do you think the next few years will look like? Is Bitcoin maturing out of its adolescent years, or is it barely a toddler?
Paul: I’ve heard bitcoin’s early days described as the Wild West, a pets.com phase, an unruly teenager, probably some others I can’t recall. There’s something to all that, too. I think the biggest challenge for bitcoin, and more importantly for the people who want to use this technology to do some good in the world, will be to figure out how you take that initial burst of energy and enthusiasm, that Spirit of ’09 if you will, and do the hard, sometimes boring work of building out the infrastructure, building out the ecosystem, finding the problems where bitcoin presents a solution. I think they’ll get there, but it won’t be easy.
Dan: Inside Bitcoins has brought together many of the best minds in the industry. What do you hope to learn, discuss, or accomplish at Inside Bitcoins New York this year?
Paul: To be honest, I just kind of wanted to pay my respects. For me, this conference is where it all started to get serious.
Dan: What do you see as the greatest challenge for the digital currency industry as a whole?
Paul: Avoiding the petty arguments and personality clashes that have doomed so many other good ideas and movements. You’ll need some sober realists in the room along with the wild-eyed Utopians, and they’ll have to work together.
Dan: Do you have any advice for those of us working in the digital currency ecosystem about how to grow adoption? How can we best convey the benefits of Bitcoin and digital currencies to the public more broadly?
Paul: Be patient. There was this feeling early on that bitcoin was going to take over the world in a matter of months. That didn’t happen. Again, the trick will be to do the hard, boring legwork of spreading this thing slowly. Be patient. If it’s as valuable and useful as its backers think, that value will eventually make itself evident to the mainstream.
Dan: Thanks very much for your thoughts, Paul. Looking forward to a great conference.