What are the barriers to bitcoin adoption?

Published: 2019-01-09


Q: Thinking about the adoption of Bitcoin or other cryptocurrencies, what are the barriers to adoption within the five to ten years, with convincing people to use them? Obviously, complexity is a big one that you just talked about. Hopefully, in the future, it will be easier.

A: Again, it depends on what you mean by "convince people to use them." One of the fundamental problems we have is, in hindsight, we see how a technology developed... and how people chose to use it, including in ways which weren't originally factored into the design people had.

I would challenge you to go back and look at science fiction from the '60s and '70s, at what they envisioned future computers to be. They were giant mechanical brains that lived in enormous cabinets, and primarily solved problems of logic. Star Trek and some of the most advanced sci-fi programs out there had this idea of computers... with a "bloop bloop" communicator and maybe video conferencing. Do you know what they missed? They missed the idea of a 14-year old being a world-acclaimed blogger.

They missed the shift from authority and centralized sources to the democratization of publishing, where a person -- at the right time, with the right device -- can become part of history just by being there.

They missed the idea of viral memes and a lot of things that rolled out of the internet.

The reason they missed them was because nobody knew they needed them at the time. There is a apocryphal story that Henry Ford said, "If you asked people what they wanted, they would have said 'faster horses'." Laughter If you ask people what they want Bitcoin to do for them, they will say, "I want to buy a cup of coffee with it." That is what money does for them today. They don't imagine themselves with a device that does arbitrage between different currency markets.

They don't imagine using micro-satoshi payments in a self-driving autonomous vehicle... that is negotiating lane access with the car next to it.

They don't imagine building solar panel systems on their house that are off-grid, while selling micro bursts of electricity to passing smartphone users through wireless charging stations.

They don't imagine any of these things because none of these things are currently possible. So when you ask, 'what will it be like to use these technologies,' we must realize this: Disruptive technologies take previously existing categories, smash them together, and build things at the joint which didn't exist before. We couldn't imagine most of the things that happened on the internet because they couldn't exist at the time. Bitcoin will change our very conception of what a payment is.

Today, we imagine money primarily as a batch function; you pay in chunks at a determined period in time. I have talked about the concept of streaming money, which is about breaking down that time barrier. You could do micropayments in milliseconds, to the point where the time dimension of money... switches into a wave, a flow. Now you can start thinking about earning your salary by the second. As you work through the day, with every second that passes, a tiny trickle of money flows into your wallet.

Simultaneously, you will be buying other services. If you get into an Uber, you can buy sixteen minutes of insurance for that ride, streaming almost a million milliseconds worth of money for the precise duration you were in the car. When you start considering breaking down the concepts of time, you realize that we haven't even imagined all the possible applications.

One of the key things to understand about Bitcoin: what we use it for today, what Venezuelans use it for, what Americans might use it for in ten years, are completely different things, even ten completely different things. We can't fathom what Bitcoin and its use cases will be like. I was at a conference recently and they showed me one of the old clocks in the center of town. It had been financed by private money. I was thinking about the nature of clocks.

Most people don't realize that the Industrial Revolution didn't just change our ability to tell time; it changed our understanding of what time was. Until then, if you wanted to meet someone, you would say, "Meet at midday in the square." That meant plus or minus an hour, not because you couldn't measure the concept of minutes, it was just something you couldn't fathom; it didn't exist as a concept in common usage. Industrialization moved our thinking into minutes and seconds. What happens when we do that to money? What happens when we change payments into micropayments, then nanopayments... on a scale of nanoseconds? We don't know these applications. We may never know what they are. What does it mean to become mainstream? Creating applications that were previously impossible to do, for people who didn't know they needed them, until they discovered that they could do something new.


Filed Under: Andreas Antonopoulos