I gave a talk on Bitcoin for Vermont Code Camp‘s 9th annual conference. Here is a PDF of the slides. It was a great turn out, and the Q&A went for a full 15 minutes.

Many thanks to Rob Hale, the other speakers, and volunteers for putting in all the hard work to make the event a success.

Proposed Abstract

Bitcoin as a human story has it all: mystery, genius, fortune, folly, and ongoing drama. Bitcoin as a technology exists at a fascinating intersection of computer science, cryptography, and economics. This talk will delve deeply into the technology of Bitcoin and only lightly into its human story.

Bitcoin proffers itself as digital cash, as an asset one can exchange with others but not duplicate or counterfeit without any central point of authority; this was thought to be impossible and known as the Byzantine Generals Problem. How does Bitcoin do it? This talk endeavors to answer that question and clear up some misunderstandings. The Bitcoin community speaks of wallets, mining, deflation, BTC, mBTC, bits, fiat currencies, and cryptocurrencies. What are they talking about?

Much of this terminology as it relates to how Bitcoin operates is misleading. “Mining” conjures images of searching for Bitcoins in some digital mine. But really mining is best thought of as a lottery that runs every 10 minutes. Likewise when people say “wallets” they’re better thought of as “keys” because when people steal your wallet you’re liable to notice; when people copy your “keys” to steal money out of your bank’s lockbox, that’s harder to detect.

Bitcoin has brought something new onto the face of the earth: a kind of co-operative mint, which used to be exclusive province of nation states, but now the creation of currencies is a power we all may possess.


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