What is Bitcoin and why are we here today? I would like to start with the genesis story
and take you back to when this started. In October of 2008, a paper was published called
"Bitcoin: A Peer-to-Peer Electronic Cash System." That paper explained how this system [would] work.
It was published under a name, Satoshi Nakamoto. We now know that this is not a real name.
We don't know who Satoshi Nakamoto is. Somebody out there on the internet came up
with an idea [for] how to build a digital currency. The published the paper in October 2008. They had also written a prototype software program,
the [first version of the] Bitcoin [Core] software; they launched [the program and mined the genesis
block] on January 3rd 2009, just a few months later. That was the beginning of the Bitcoin system.
It was the beginning of the Bitcoin network. It was the beginning of the bitcoin currency. It was also the introduction of this new concept, which
became a word that gets said every single day on TV… on the financial news channels: blockchain,
one of the technologies behind Bitcoin. This sounds like a weird story, right? Some person(s)
we don't know shows up on the internet, posts a paper, [releases] some software [and] launches [a network;
some other people [decide to] run this software as well.
This thing starts running and embedded within the first
block created on the Bitcoin blockchain was a message. This message was embedded in there for a reason. The message is a headline from that day,
in a British newspaper, 'The Times' of London. It says '03/Jan/2009 Chancellor on
brink of second bailout for banks.' The headline [story] for the day Bitcoin was launched
[said] the British Chancellor of the Exchequer… (like the head of the Treasury here)
would start a second bailout for the banks.
This may have been a coincidence. I don't think it was.
I think it tells us about the motivation behind Bitcoin. Part of the motivation behind Bitcoin
was [frustration] at the financial system, which has existed and [not] really evolved
in the last twenty years, isn't serving us. It is serving someone very well, just not us. [Though] when I say "us," I am looking out on a bunch
of people who represent 5% of the human population… [with] the most privileged, [accessible],
and advanced banking in the world. [You] have access to multiple foreign currencies,
the ability to send and receive money with their bank. How many of you here don't have a bank account
because you can't get one? One [person], great. The average percentage in the United States is 18%. That means about 60 million people
don't have bank accounts in this country. [Do you] want to guess who those people are?
[AUDIENCE] The poor.
[ANDREAS] Great answer. Poverty is one of the main reasons why people
don't have access financial services, but also a lack of documentation. Maybe [they lack] documentation because they
don't have [enough or any] legal documentation; of course, illegal immigrants are one of
the big groups that don't have banking. But they [can lack] documentation for other reasons. [Many] perfectly legal residents don't have a driver's
license, or the necessary literacy and numeracy. And 18% is the lowest percentage
in the world for the unbanked. [Most countries have] more unbanked people; some countries having more than 80% of the population
[with] no access to banking whatsoever. But if you talk to people in this country, you realise
that the banking system here doesn't serve us either. It doesn't. [It has] the same [type of] people who are
quite happy to sell a variable-rate subprime mortgage — to you, your parents, your brother, or your children — then
walk away from that pile of debt and still get bailed out.
None of them went to jail, but more than a million
homeowners lost their home in the United States. At the same time, while they were doing foreclosures,
they were using a technique called robo-signing. They were [automatically] signing the foreclosure
documents on deeds they didn't even [review]. No one went to jail. They were packaging toxic securities as collateralized
debt obligations (CDOs) that they knew were fraudulent. They were talking amongst themselves and saying, "These are fraudulent, so don't buy any,
but we will sell them to the customers." No one went to jail. So who are they serving?
Themselves, yes, but also not just themselves. Ironically, [many] people who work at banks, part of the
middle class, are not being served by the banks either. They serve the weapon dealers.
They serve the warmongers. They serve money launderers, international drug cartels,
multi-national corporations, but they don't serve us.
If they don't serve us here, in this country,
imagine how much worse it is everywhere else. If you can't imagine, I can tell you. Much worse. Here we are, after twenty-five years of the internet.
The world is more connected than it has ever been. The ability to communicate information
instantaneously, anywhere in the world, now exists for a large part of the human population. More people have access to the internet and
cellphones than have access to clean drinking water. Yet, in the last twenty-five years, banking
has not [become] better [or] more inclusive. If anything, we are backtracking. Over the past fifteen years, international finance
has become a weaponized tool of geopolitics, used by powerful countries to attack [other] countries
in the form of sanctions, currency controls, embargoes, and other [mechanisms] of economic pressure. Banking isn't serving more people,
it is serving fewer people. More and more countries are finding themselves in
situations where, [through] no fault of their citizens, they are under embargo or facing currency controls,
and can't transact with people [from] other countries. [The citizens] face calamitous economic conditions;
they watch their life savings disappear overnight. This happened to my family
in Greece, in the 1980s.
Twice. It has happened again and again
throughout South America and Africa. It is currently happening in Venezuela,
it is on the cusp of happening in Turkey. It is happening in Greece again; beginning to [happen]
in Argentina, Brazil, and a bunch of other countries. The [architecture of the] economic system
we have is not serving the people. The internet has not brought us a financial
system that connects everyone together. Modern banking is a deputized system
of law enforcement domestically, and a militarized system of control internationally. Our banking is part of the domestic police system.
It is part of the international military system. Just like the banking in [many] other countries.
It doesn't serve commerce, it serves politics. Back in the early days of Bitcoin,
something interesting happened. An organization called WikiLeaks was publishing secrets
that the U.S. State Department didn't want published.
Secrets about war crimes committed by U.S. forces. As a result, they wanted to shut down WikiLeaks. One of the ways they [tried] was to prohibit people
from sending money to support that organization. The State Department first appealed to the court system
to get the necessary convictions to stop WikiLeaks… from breaking the law. Of course, they didn't [get those convictions,
because] WikiLeaks wasn't breaking the law.
Therefore they couldn't take them to court,
they didn't have the basis in law to take them to court. Instead, they pressured Visa, MasterCard,
American Express, PayPal, and all American banks… to cut WikiLeaks off without any legal process. At the same time, you could use your Visa card
to send money to racist groups in Alabama, to all kinds of atrocious political groups
around the world, but not to WikiLeaks. As this was happening, Bitcoin was just emerging.
Buried in the first block was that little message. That little message said to me, and to many others, 'This is why we are doing this.
This is why Bitcoin needs to exist.' [Without it], we are twenty-five years
into the internet revolution in this world, we are no closer to having a globally connected
[financial system] than we were twenty-five years ago.
We are further [away] and the financial system is not
better at serving people, it is worse at serving people. With control over money comes corruption. We all know that. Power corrupts,
absolute power corrupts absolutely. There is no more absolute power
than the power over money. You have freedom of expression? Great. But if I can control where you spend your money,
you don't [really] have freedom of expression. You have the [ability] freedom to vote? [Great]. But if I can control who can send money to political
parties, which political parties, you don't have [that]. Watch what is happening in Russia or Turkey.
That is straight out of the playbook of Putin. Starve [opposition parties] of funds [till there is]
no opposition; [hold an] election with one candidate. "I win! Democracy!" [Laughter] Bitcoin didn't appear in a vacuum, but
for many people it seems miraculous, how Bitcoin emerged suddenly in
2009 and nobody noticed at first.
It was just the purview of weird geeks
in a few weird online mailing lists. But after a while, people started noticing.
Now it has become this world-wide phenomenon. You might be skeptical. 'Some person we don't know invented something
we don't understand, launched it onto the world, and now my younger cousins think I should
invest all my money into this [bitcoin] thing.' 'My aunt thinks it is a pyramid scheme
and I can't tell who is right.' [Laughter] If you think about [bitcoin] as an investment,
you may be missing the most important point.
This isn't an opportunity to get rich, isn't
an opportunity to invest in [the next big thing]. It is an opportunity to change how finance, money,
and banking work in the 21st century, worldwide. If you don't think you need to
change [the system] for yourself, think about the billions of people who have no access
to banking, no hope of ever accessing banking. Then think about what happens if [they are all]
able to run a bank on a $25 Android phone. [Think about] what that does to our world. [Yes], some bad people [will] be able to
do transactions [too], and that is okay. [Most of those] billions of people are good,
and they will be able to do transactions. That is how it works. On that simple
[re-balancing], we can change the world. My interest in Bitcoin stems from two sides:
on one hand, I'm a geek and I love technology.
It is so cool, I get so excited by it that I can't
sleep, and I want to read everything about it. Then I discover something else, [become] even more
excited, stay up longer, have more coffee, read more… and [become] even more excited again. [Laughter] Some of you share that with me,
but you don't have to. It is okay. Some of you know exactly what I'm talking about. That is a [great] reason to be interested in this
technology, the kind [you are excited to] learn about; the kind that can lead to a computer science degree,
a specialisation within another field of study. Something you could learn [about] as an accountant,
as someone who works in insurance and finance. It would be really useful and
interesting as part of your career.
Just like learning how to use databases
or build a website [for your business]. On the other hand, I look at this technology
and I'm interested in it because of politics. Not the politics of parties,
the politics of principles. The politics [from] growing up in Greece and
seeing what happens when money stops working. This is an experience I don't wish on anyone. It is an experience that is alien to [most]
Americans, at least in the modern era. I hope it remains alien, but I'm not that sure it will. Money is this magical technology that, as long
as it works, we don't need to know how it works. We don't concern ourselves with it and
we don't need to worry about it too much.
If we did, if we actually read about how money works,
we would be horrified. 'Surely that can't be true.' 'They just make it out of thin air, distribute it to banks,
and even then lend out money that doesn't exist?' 'Then they charge us interest so they can get richer
and richer? No, come on. That [would be] a scam.' 'That is a pyramid scheme. The dollar works
on a pyramid scheme? Tell me it isn't so.' If we understood how modern central banking
[works], most of us would be horrified. [But as long as] it is convenient, as long as it works
[for us], we don't need to really pay attention. Well, let me tell you something. In 2008,
it broke, and we didn't fix what broke it.
In 2008, our economy broke, the world-wide
economy broke, and central banking broke hard. It has not been fixed in the mean time. Since then, [they have] issued almost
$100 trillion in debt by some measure, all of which is money borrowed from your retirement
plans, education plans, and healthcare plans. That money [won't] be paid back.
There is a very simple reason for that: [Most people are] broke. [Laughter] JPMorgan
Chase is bankrupt, Citibank is bankrupt, Bank of American is bankrupt,
Goldman Sachs is bankrupt. The United States government is bankrupt.
Europe is bankrupt. Deutsche Bank is bankrupt. Japan is bankrupt, China is bankrupt. They are all bankrupt. They can play around with the
books, hide some debts, make bilateral agreements, shuffle shit around, pretend to bail out Greece, send money and then backdoor it
straight back to Deutsche Bank. [They can] find some patsies and make it appear
like nothing is happening, but they are all bankrupt.
At some point, there will be a reckoning.
We never fixed anything that happened in 2008. [Instead,] we destroyed [our] currency in order to
preserve the illusion of [a functional] economy. That will come back and bite us.
Now, you don't [need] to believe me. You don't [need] to think this [will] be important
in your life. I really do hope it [won't be]. But one of the reasons bitcoin was created, one of
the reasons it is important, is because it is neutral. It is independent. No one can control it. No one can
change its issuance or create it out of thin air. When you see criticism of bitcoin by mainstream
economists, they say it is not backed by anything. [Laughter] The question you should ask
at that point is, [what backs the dollar]? But you really don't want to hear that story;
[you don't want to hear] what it is backed by.
You [must] learn some history about Kissinger,
the Saudis, and a little deal made in 1971. Then some towers fell, some nasty things happened,
and now we have been at war for eighteen years. Anyway, the dollar is backed by
something: war, to protect oil. Bitcoin is backed by an international community of
geeks, the same geeks who brought you the internet. [Laughter] [Applause] Again, hopefully you never [need]
to make that choice in your life. [Hopefully you will] always have the freedom
to choose one currency versus another. But you might be forced to choose between the
bankers who brought you the Great Depression, and the geeks who brought you the internet.
[Laughter] I hope you make the right choice.
If you hear some of the people in the whole
Bitcoin, blockchain, and cryptocurrency space talk, you might think the goal of all this is… to eradicate government money, as the first step
towards eradicating government altogether… and replacing all currencies with bitcoin. One coin to rule them all, world domination. I am not of that opinion. I think the idea of only one world currency [would be]
a throwback to our current currency system. We have grown up with a system where all currencies
are backed by nation-states. They represent flags. [Their value is] wrapped up with a bit of nationalism,
patriotism, and a flag-waving person. In each country, it is a different flag
and a [different] little chant. By the way, if you go to other countries, when they wave their flag, they also chant, "we're number one!" [Laughter] It is [similar to] when you ask people,
"Are you a good driver?" They say, "Definitely." Then 80% of people say they are above-average drivers.
How does the math on that work? [Laughter] We have become accustomed to a world
in which currencies represent nations; therefore, they are part of this [geopolitical] battle, like
the world is a big chessboard and currencies are pawns.
The dollar "wins" if the ruble fails.
It is country versus country. In that environment, it is natural to think that currency
is a system of winner-takes-all, or a zero-sum game, where the only way that one currency wins
is [through] another currency losing. A world in which you cut off your nose to spite your face,
which is a good summary of our current foreign policy, [as well as] the foreign policies of the
European Union, China, and Russia. We are currently engaged in currency wars,
in [which] we are expected to assume that… "our" currency — representing "our" flag —
is the one we should be backing. But if you stop and think about that for a second,
you suddenly realize it is not money anymore. That token is no longer representing value
in a commercial transaction or use in business. It is representing something else, some
kind of nationalistic flag waving thing… where you are trying to beat the other side. If that environment is what you know, if that is what you
grew up with, when something like Bitcoin comes along, your natural inclination is to think, 'Oh, this one could
win the zero-sum game and dominate all the others.' But what if that is not how it plays out? What if,
all along, money was simply a form of language? What if we understood that money is a way
for us to communicate value to each other? As languages there [may] never be one
that "wins." There will always be variety.
Every place has its traditions, its special needs. We have languages like those of the
Inuit, which have eight words for "snow." They don't need those in the Kalahari Desert. They will
have a different language with twenty words for sand, which they don't need Alaska. The bottom line is, languages [are
adapted] to the local environments. They will keep proliferating.
There isn't one that "wins." If you speak three or four languages, you
are better off than if you just speak one. Having variety [can] give you greater value.
What if money works that way? What if we are going
from a world with [about 180 currencies] to a world… with a thousand, ten thousand, a hundred thousand
currencies, and you can use as many as you want? You can choose [them] at any moment in time. When you hear that, you probably think,
'That sounds very fucking confusing!' [Laughter] 'I don't want a thousand currencies.' 'I can barely keep track of how many euros are in a
dollar when I go on vacation to Disneyland in Paris.' Well, the good news is that we are not
talking about traditional paper money. We are talking about purely electronic money.
All the world's currencies [will be] electronic money.
The difficulty of trying to figure out which currency
you have, which currency the shop will take, what the exchange rate is, and how to convert them, is something that disappears into [the background
of] your smartphone, iPad, smart watch [app], or whatever device [will be] holding your money. Then the fact that you have ten or
more currencies really isn't an issue. You [may not] even know that
you have ten different currencies. What if we go into a world where fully connected,
near instantaneous commerce is possible… — by anyone, anywhere — and they don't even
need to commit to a specific currency? No currency "wins." Instead, we all "win" by
having choice. That is what it boils down to. Until now, you use the currency of the country in
which you were born. You do not have a choice. If you are American, you have [some] choice to use other
currencies, but in many countries in the world, you don't. Just one, and you have to use that one to
pay for government services and your taxes. You still have to play the games of geopolitics. Your retirement, education fund, healthcare, income,
all of your expenses are denominated in a currency…
That they are using as a weapon. Not that you wanted to be playing in
those games, but you [are forced] to. What does [the end result of] that look like? Waking up in the morning and
going to the supermarket early, because you know they will
change prices at noon every day, and eggs could be 30% more
expensive by the afternoon. That is what it looks like.
I have seen that in Greece. [People are] experiencing that
in Venezuela and Turkey today. When you [consider] that bitcoin happened
in 2009, you might think, 'Why? Who needs it?' 'What [will] we do with this? Is it just about beating
the dollar, having a new thing that wins everything?' It is not. It is about having a choice. For most of the people in this country,
that choice isn't very important [yet]; for the rest of the world, that choice
is absolutely critical [now].
Most people live under horrible governments that do
not [respect their] freedom to transact with anybody. They also don't give them the freedom… to escape from whatever crazy trade
or currency war playing at the moment. Most people live in countries where it is impossible
to distinguish between organized crime and banking. Although, to tell you the truth, the customer
service from the "black market criminal"… who [might have] changed my money in Argentina,
was a hell of a lot better than the Bank of Argentina… where I tried to change it earlier. So maybe there is a way to tell the difference
between organized crime and banking: both are criminals, but some of them
give better customer service. [Laughter] If you live in a country like that, and suddenly
something like bitcoin comes into the world… Not quite yet. It is difficult to use. Not many
people have the tools and skills to use it. But one day soon, for many people and already
some people, you suddenly have a choice. You can say, "You can go play your
[geopolitical] games, Mr.
Erdoğan." "Do you want to try and play Russia against America
in a currency and trade war, over F-35s and S-400s?" If you know what I'm talking about, great! While you make the lira trash, I [will] take
my bit of wealth and move it into bitcoin. No one can stop me, because this is an internet
currency which doesn't pay attention to borders. If you live in Venezuela and your
government is in a death spiral, you can say, "I [will] take my
money and convert it to bitcoin, or have someone send me bitcoin from another country,
[so that I will] be able to provide food for my children." "I [will] be called a terrorist by my own government,
[but I will] break the law and my children will be fed." We know of people who actually bought food
on Amazon Prime, had it shipped to Colombia, and smuggled into Venezuela, [paid with] bitcoin.
Food! This technology gives people choice. We already have more than a thousand
currencies trying to find ways of using… that same basic technology to do different things. [This is] a very exciting technical space
which has erupted over the past ten years. It has created this enormous, diverse environment
with a lot of exciting developments. At the same time, it is a giant speculative bubble
with a lot of greedy people running around in circles, screaming [at each other and] trying to get rich. But it is also an enormously powerful international
movement for [financial] freedom and choice… that can change the lives of billions. Thank you! [Applause].