A Bit of Digital Gold (in hardcover)


For both early adopters and neophytes of digital currency, the book Digital Gold: Bitcoin and the Inside Story of the Misfits and Millionnaires Trying To Reinvent Money, reads like arduous journey filled with positive milestones as well as tragic mishaps. As you pour through it's pages, myriad adjectives pop out at you: radical, innovative, mysterious, groundbreaking, provocative, futuristic and disruptive. 

Digital Gold highlights the fascinating, often tumultuous ride of bitcoin and the disruptive influence this titan of the cryptocurrency world is exacting on the future of monetary exchange. It explores in great depth it's promise amid the ongoing struggle many face in getting their arms fully around it. Not since the Internet itself has such a transformative technology been this poised to impact the global economy. 

Written by New York Times Journalist Nathaniel Popper, this 365-page tome navigates the ebbs and flow of bitcoin, an often tumultuous path that has fueled a motherload of riches for some, and tragic endings for others. Being a voracious reader and budding bitcoin enthusiast myself, I am of the opinion that it's the most clearly told account of Bitcoin's history to date. 

The core idea behind the book is that Bitcoin's digital money and technology reflects a social movement that despite massive hiccups is undulating at an unmistakably upward trajectory, one that portends exciting new discoveries in the days ahead. Popper weaves a well researched, captivating story of Bitcoin's mysterious beginnings through a character by the name of Satoshi Nakamoto--the still anonymous creator(s) of Bitcoin. From this jumping off point, the book meanders off into a cornucopia of connected topics in the spirit of making a poignant point: thet bitcoin offers a legitimate and compelling test of the inner workings of money, it's benefits, and the future of currency transaction. 

I found myself particularly intrigued by the book's storied accounts of those early beta tests and their effect on the trajectory of Bitcoin's ascension. Here, Popper points to many of the early innovators who in their haste to accelerate bitcoin's trajectory were lax in erecting a robust enough infrastructure to withstand hacker and other nefarious attacks. Most notable here was the well publicized downfall of the bitcoin exchange Mt. Gox, which fell prey to bankruptcy after hackers walked off with millions from accounts. 

The book also exposes the inherent complexities associated with using bitcoin on a basic consumer level. In a round about way, it suggests that Bitcoin still has a ways to go in overcoming a major perception among the masses---that it's complex, challenging and unwieldy. The underlying message here is that many consumers and businesses will shy away from it's use until this concern is rectified. 

On a bit more positive note, two digital currency trends were discussed that will likely fuel growing interest among those looking for tranditional banking system alternatives. For starters, the book makes a good case for the booming money transfer market and its impact on places like Mexico, Latin America, Africa and other countries. It explores Bitcoin's built in advantange of being able to deliver money to untold locales around the world at warp speed and at little to no cost. 

The second trend: peer-to-peer micropayments that can be executed privately and without the myriad complexities associated with an unweildy banking system. Again, the author suggests that this catalyst will be a boon to the overall bitcoin ecosystems moving forward. 

The book's subtitle: "Bitcoin and the Inside Story of the Misfits and Millionaires Trying To Reinvent Money" is definitely an attention grabber. I found myself captivated by the riveting stories exquisitely curated on the activities of anarchistic revolutionaries, hackers, miners and drug dealers who are fueling the Bitcoin milieu. And I loved how the author likens Bitcoin to an vastly "underfunded experiement" that has attracted the likes of high profile money magnets like Cameron and Tyler Winkelvoss; Peter Briger, the co-chairman of the Fortress Investment Group; and former PayPal executive David Marcus. These are among just a handful of renegades who the book suggests are hell-bent on creating a seismic disruption to the prevailing banking and financial services model that we all know. 

Speaking of names, there was a great deal of buzz in the book about Argentine entrepreneur Wences Casares, who views bitcoin as a elixir to the monetary upheaval facing this Latin American nation. His repute can be directly tied to his role in convincing Bill Gates of value of Bitcoin relative to the Microsoft CEO's quest to boost financial connectivity in developing countries. 

Upon completing this book, I began to ponder the untold possibilities ensuing from Bitcoin, not simply as a currency but through it's foundational infrastructure, known as the blockchain. But will it survive? Popper seems to think it will in one form or another. 

As a side note, other grand experiments of cryptocurrency are surfacing left and right. The book however seems to suggest that Bitcoin's first-mover advantage will make it extraordinarily challenging for another digital currency to supplant it's dominance. 

Overall, this book offers a well-researched, fascinating view into the history of Bitcoin. And with ongoing prospects for monetary instablility and consumer unease worldwide, it is poised to make a legacy contribution to the future of money and how it is transacted. 

Michael Scott is a Content Publicity Strategist and Bitcoin Enthusiast located in Denver. He is most accessible on Twitter at @biz_michael