‘NOVA’ explains Cryptocurrency and explores its possibilities

NOVA: Crypto Decryption It premieres Wednesday, November 9 at 9:00 PM on WTTW available for streaming.

Bitcoin, Ethereum, NFTs, blockchain—it can be easy to dismiss this crypto-currency jargon as just the short-term obsessions of an eclectic community of tech bros, libertarians, utopian idealists, and eager investors. What if they’re not fashionable? What if they change the global financial system, how we interact with governments, the concept of property, and more? Shouldn’t we try to understand them?

“Crypto is something that almost everyone has heard of – if you’ve watched the Super Bowl, you’ve seen these crypto commercials,” said new producer Peter Yost NOVA documentary Crypto Decoded. “And yet, essentially no one understands it. This is a gap NOVA I wanted to explore where cryptocurrency came from, how it works, where it’s going, and ultimately—perhaps somewhat unusually in the media landscape—examine it as a technology, not as a financial speculative tool. Is this new technology? And if so, is it a significant and sustainable technology?’

Cryptocurrency is very complex, so the underlying technology is hard to explain – there are as many metaphors to describe it as there are cryptocurrencies. As such, Yost focused on the basics, believing that recounting the origins of cryptocurrency and the goals of early developers helps clarify his work. “It came out of cryptography, that’s why it’s called cryptocurrency,” he says. “Interestingly, it grew out of the work of a number of cryptographers and early computer scientists who were trying to find ways to keep Big Brother at bay… With the advent of the Internet, they had concerns about privacy and confidentiality. the new computer age.”

Digital and cryptographic currencies eventually built on these earlier achievements. The beginning of the cryptocurrency era came at the same time as the financial crisis of 2008, when the pseudonymous Satoshi Nakamoto released a document outlining the principles of bitcoin. As befits a creator of technology that aims to protect privacy, we still don’t know Satoshi’s identity.

Much of the earlier idealism of mainstream technologies has been overtaken by the initial libertarian impulse toward decentralization. “I think he’s not separate from the broader political waves that are sweeping this country, anti-expert, anti-establishment, anti-establishment,” Yost says. “And I think it’s easier to tear things down than to build them up.”

“Personally, I think it’s problematic, naive and reactionary,” he says.

Crypto has also been subject to widespread speculation and profiteering, with many critics calling it a bubble or a scam. “The challenges that unregulated cryptocurrency brings are enormous and often not discussed by those out there,” says Yost. “That’s not to say there isn’t significant potential and it won’t make a difference in different ways, but in the real world the pendulum is swinging back a little bit.”

“I think people who blindly believe that technology is going to cure things or solve everything—I think the recent history of technology has shown us otherwise,” he says. “I think the question will be how to regulate it [play out] and how it integrates with the real world to actually help people as opposed to just letting things run wild.

But cryptocurrency is not the only manifestation or use of blockchain technology, even if it is the most visible. Estonia launched e-Estonia, which mobilizes almost all aspects of interaction with the government or online banking; everything is protected by blockchain. Such a system means that citizens only need to enter information once; your address, credit score or income, any other time you fill out a form. It also allows foreigners to become digital “residents” and use some Estonian services.

Finn Brunton, professor and author, suggests Crypto Decoded we have yet to think of some of the most transformative and sustainable blockchain applications. “If I had to guess, over time, the most intellectually interesting and perhaps the most impactful developments in cryptocurrency will not be directly in the realm of currency,” says Yost.

Crypto Decoded follows an attempt to use cryptocurrency to remove barriers to real estate sales; cryptocurrency can provide a more democratic, grassroots approach to financing. The documentary explores non-fungible tokens (NFTs), which allow an individual to establish ownership of a digital business, regardless of how much it proliferates on the Internet. (NFTs emerged after the realization that a digital artist can’t actually own any of the work they do online.) Yost also mentions the metaverse as an area where cryptocurrency could be important, if the metaverse moves.

However, cryptocurrency and blockchain have already made an impact that will not spread beyond a single country (El Salvador) that accepts bitcoin as legal tender. “On the one hand, this technology has been around for a while,” says Yost. “A skeptic might say, ‘Where are all the use cases?’ Fourteen years have passed [since bitcoin was introduced].’ In a certain way, it’s suspiciously useless.

“Others would say, ‘No, this is such a fundamental revolution that it will take time for these use cases to emerge, for adoption to occur and for it to find its way.’ I think the jury is out.”

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