Digital Cash: The Unknown History Of The Anarchists, Utopians, And Technologists Who Created Cryptocurrency

Princeton University Press

Narrated by Christopher Ragland

7 hr 9 min

The fascinating untold story of digital cash and its creators—from experiments in the 1970s to the mania over Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies

Bitcoin may appear to be a revolutionary form of digital cash without precedent or prehistory. In fact, it is only the best-known recent experiment in a long line of similar efforts going back to the 1970s. But the story behind cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin and its blockchain technology has largely been untold—until now. In Digital Cash, Finn Brunton reveals how technological utopians and political radicals created experimental money to bring about their visions of the future: protecting privacy or bringing down governments, preparing for apocalypse or launching a civilization of innovation and abundance that would make its creators immortal.

The incredible story of the pioneers of cryptocurrency takes us from autonomous zones on the high seas to the world’s most valuable dump, from bank runs to idea coupons, from time travelers in a San Francisco bar to the pattern securing every twenty-dollar bill, and from marketplaces for dangerous secrets to a tank of frozen heads awaiting revival in the far future. Along the way, Digital Cash explores the hard questions and challenges that these innovators faced: How do we learn to trust and use different kinds of money? What makes digital objects valuable? How does currency prove itself as real to us? What would it take to make a digital equivalent to cash, something that could be created but not forged, exchanged but not copied, and which reveals nothing about its users?

Filled with marvelous characters, stories, and ideas, Digital Cash is an engaging and accessible account of the strange origins and remarkable technologies behind today’s cryptocurrency explosion.

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Additional Information

Publisher
Princeton University Press
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Published on
Jun 25, 2019
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Duration
7h 9m 42s
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ISBN
9780691193502
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Language
English
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Genres
Business & Economics / Money & Monetary Policy
History / Social History
Social Science / Media Studies
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Eligible for Family Library

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With Obfuscation, Finn Brunton and Helen Nissenbaum mean to start a revolution. They are calling us not to the barricades but to our computers, offering us ways to fight today's pervasive digital surveillance -- the collection of our data by governments, corporations, advertisers, and hackers. To the toolkit of privacy protecting techniques and projects, they propose adding obfuscation: the deliberate use of ambiguous, confusing, or misleading information to interfere with surveillance and data collection projects. Brunton and Nissenbaum provide tools and a rationale for evasion, noncompliance, refusal, even sabotage -- especially for average users, those of us not in a position to opt out or exert control over data about ourselves. Obfuscation will teach users to push back, software developers to keep their user data safe, and policy makers to gather data without misusing it. Brunton and Nissenbaum present a guide to the forms and formats that obfuscation has taken and explain how to craft its implementation to suit the goal and the adversary. They describe a series of historical and contemporary examples, including radar chaff deployed by World War II pilots, Twitter bots that hobbled the social media strategy of popular protest movements, and software that can camouflage users' search queries and stymie online advertising. They go on to consider obfuscation in more general terms, discussing why obfuscation is necessary, whether it is justified, how it works, and how it can be integrated with other privacy practices and technologies.
With Obfuscation, Finn Brunton and Helen Nissenbaum mean to start a revolution. They are calling us not to the barricades but to our computers, offering us ways to fight today's pervasive digital surveillance -- the collection of our data by governments, corporations, advertisers, and hackers. To the toolkit of privacy protecting techniques and projects, they propose adding obfuscation: the deliberate use of ambiguous, confusing, or misleading information to interfere with surveillance and data collection projects. Brunton and Nissenbaum provide tools and a rationale for evasion, noncompliance, refusal, even sabotage -- especially for average users, those of us not in a position to opt out or exert control over data about ourselves. Obfuscation will teach users to push back, software developers to keep their user data safe, and policy makers to gather data without misusing it. Brunton and Nissenbaum present a guide to the forms and formats that obfuscation has taken and explain how to craft its implementation to suit the goal and the adversary. They describe a series of historical and contemporary examples, including radar chaff deployed by World War II pilots, Twitter bots that hobbled the social media strategy of popular protest movements, and software that can camouflage users' search queries and stymie online advertising. They go on to consider obfuscation in more general terms, discussing why obfuscation is necessary, whether it is justified, how it works, and how it can be integrated with other privacy practices and technologies.
In 1971, President Nixon imposed national price controls and took the United States off the gold standard, an extreme measure intended to end an ongoing currency war that had destroyed faith in the U.S. dollar. Today we are engaged in a new currency war, and this time the consequences will be far worse than those that confronted Nixon. Currency wars are one of the most destructive and feared outcomes in international economics. At best, they offer the sorry spectacle of countries' stealing growth from their trading partners. At worst, they degenerate into sequential bouts of inflation, recession, retaliation, and sometimes actual violence. Left unchecked, the next currency war could lead to a crisis worse than the panic of 2008. Currency wars have happened before-twice in the last century alone-and they always end badly. Time and again, paper currencies have collapsed, assets have been frozen, gold has been confiscated, and capital controls have been imposed. And the next crash is overdue. Recent headlines about the debasement of the dollar, bailouts in Greece and Ireland, and Chinese currency manipulation are all indicators of the growing conflict. As James Rickards argues in Currency Wars, this is more than just a concern for economists and investors. The United States is facing serious threats to its national security, from clandestine gold purchases by China to the hidden agendas of sovereign wealth funds. Greater than any single threat is the very real danger of the collapse of the dollar itself. Baffling to many observers is the rank failure of economists to foresee or prevent the economic catastrophes of recent years. Not only have their theories failed to prevent calamity, they are making the currency wars worse. The U. S. Federal Reserve has engaged in the greatest gamble in the history of finance, a sustained effort to stimulate the economy by printing money on a trillion-dollar scale. Its solutions present hidden new dangers while resolving none of the current dilemmas. While the outcome of the new currency war is not yet certain, some version of the worst-case scenario is almost inevitable if U.S. and world economic leaders fail to learn from the mistakes of their predecessors.
“The next financial collapse will resemble nothing in history. . . . Deciding upon the best course to follow will require comprehending a minefield of risks, while poised at a crossroads, pondering the death of the dollar.” The international monetary system has collapsed three times in the past hundred years, in 1914, 1939, and 1971. Each collapse was followed by a period of tumult: war, civil unrest, or significant damage to the stability of the global economy. Now James Rickards, the acclaimed author of Currency Wars, shows why another collapse is rapidly approaching-and why this time, nothing less than the institution of money itself is at risk. The American dollar has been the global reserve currency since the end of the Second World War. If the dollar fails, the entire international monetary system will fail with it. No other currency has the deep, liquid pools of assets needed to do the job. Optimists have always said, in essence, that there's nothing to worry about-that confidence in the dollar will never truly be shaken, no matter how high our national debt or how dysfunctional our government. But in the last few years, the risks have become too big to ignore. While Washington is gridlocked and unable to make progress on our long-term problems, our biggest economic competitors-China, Russia, and the oilproducing nations of the Middle East-are doing everything possible to end U.S. monetary hegemony. The potential results: Financial warfare. Deflation. Hyperinflation. Market collapse. Chaos. Rickards offers a bracing analysis of these and other threats to the dollar. The fundamental problem is that money and wealth have become more and more detached. Money is transitory and ephemeral, and it may soon be worthless if central bankers and politicians continue on their current path. But true wealth is permanent and tangible, and it has real value worldwide. The author shows how everyday citizens who save and invest have become guinea pigs in the central bankers' laboratory. The world's major financial players-national governments, big banks, multilateral institutions-will always muddle through by patching together new rules of the game. The real victims of the next crisis will be small investors who assumed that what worked for decades will keep working. Fortunately, it's not too late to prepare for the coming death of money. Rickards explains the power of converting unreliable money into real wealth: gold, land, fine art, and other long-term stores of value. As he writes: “The coming collapse of the dollar and the international monetary system is entirely foreseeable. . . . Only nations and individuals who make provision today will survive the maelstrom to come.”
The bestselling author of The Death of Money and Currency Wars reveals the global elites' dark effort to hide a coming catastrophe from investors in The Road to Ruin, now a National Bestseller.
 
A drumbeat is sounding among the global elites. The signs of a worldwide financial meltdown are unmistakable. This time, the elites have an audacious plan to protect themselves from the fallout: hoarding cash now and locking down the global financial system when a crisis hits.
 
Since 2014, international monetary agencies have been issuing warnings to a small group of finance ministers, banks, and private equity funds: the U.S. government’s cowardly choices not to prosecute J.P. Morgan and its ilk, and to bloat the economy with a $4 trillion injection of easy credit, are driving us headlong toward a cliff.
 
As Rickards shows in this frightening, meticulously researched book, governments around the world have no compunction about conspiring against their citizens. They will have stockpiled hard assets when stock exchanges are closed, ATMs shut down, money market funds frozen, asset managers instructed not to sell securities, negative interest rates imposed, and cash withdrawals denied.
 
If you want to plan for the risks ahead, you will need Rickards’s cutting-edge synthesis of behavioral economics, history, and complexity theory. It’s a guidebook to thinking smarter, acting faster, and living with the comfort­ing knowledge that your wealth is secure.
 
The global elites don’t want this book to exist. Their plan to herd us like sheep to the slaughter when a global crisis erupts—and, of course, to maintain their wealth—works only if we remain complacent and unaware. Thanks to The Road to Ruin, we don’t need to be.

"If you are curious about what the financial Götterdämmerung might look like you’ve certainly come to the right place... Rickards believes -- and provides tantalizing snippets of private conversations with those who dwell in the very eye-in-the-pyramid -- that the current world monetary and financial system is on the verge of insolvency and that the world financial elites already have a successor system for which they are laying the groundwork."
--Ralph Benko, Forbes
THE ULTIMATE GUIDE TO BUILDING AN APP-BASED BUSINESS 'A must read for anyone who wants to start a mobile app business' Riccardo Zacconi, founder and CEO King Digital (maker of Candy Crush Saga) 'A fascinating deep dive into the world of billion-dollar apps. Essential reading for anyone trying to build the next must-have app' Michael Acton Smith, Founder and CEO, Mind Candy Apps have changed the way we communicate, shop, play, interact and travel and their phenomenal popularity has presented possibly the biggest business opportunity in history. In How to Build a Billion Dollar App, serial tech entrepreneur George Berkowski gives you exclusive access to the secrets behind the success of the select group of apps that have achieved billion-dollar success. Berkowski draws exclusively on the inside stories of the billion-dollar app club members, including Instagram, Whatsapp, Snapchat, Candy Crush and Uber to provide all the information you need to create your own spectacularly successful mobile business. He guides you through each step, from an idea scribbled on the back of an envelope, through to finding a cofounder, building a team, attracting (and keeping) millions of users, all the way through to juggling the pressures of being CEO of a billion-dollar company (and still staying ahead of the competition). If you've ever dreamed of quitting your nine to five job to launch your own company, you're a gifted developer, seasoned entrepreneur or just intrigued by mobile technology, How to Build a Billion Dollar App will show you what it really takes to create your own billion-dollar, mobile business.
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