What is Big Think?  

We are Big Idea Hunters…

We live in a time of information abundance, which far too many of us see as information overload. With the sum total of human knowledge, past and present, at our fingertips, we’re faced with a crisis of attention: which ideas should we engage with, and why? Big Think is an evolving roadmap to the best thinking on the planet — the ideas that can help you think flexibly and act decisively in a multivariate world.

A word about Big Ideas and Themes — The architecture of Big Think

Big ideas are lenses for envisioning the future. Every article and video on bigthink.com and on our learning platforms is based on an emerging “big idea” that is significant, widely relevant, and actionable. We’re sifting the noise for the questions and insights that have the power to change all of our lives, for decades to come. For example, reverse-engineering is a big idea in that the concept is increasingly useful across multiple disciplines, from education to nanotechnology.

Themes are the seven broad umbrellas under which we organize the hundreds of big ideas that populate Big Think. They include New World Order, Earth and Beyond, 21st Century Living, Going Mental, Extreme Biology, Power and Influence, and Inventing the Future.

Big Think Features:

12,000+ Expert Videos

1

Browse videos featuring experts across a wide range of disciplines, from personal health to business leadership to neuroscience.

Watch videos

World Renowned Bloggers

2

Big Think’s contributors offer expert analysis of the big ideas behind the news.

Go to blogs

Big Think Edge

3

Big Think’s Edge learning platform for career mentorship and professional development provides engaging and actionable courses delivered by the people who are shaping our future.

Find out more
Close

Bitcoin’s Big Problem

April 23, 2013, 4:22 PM
Shutterstock_82376821

There’s been a lot of discussion in the past couple of weeks about Bitcoin, the online virtual currency whose value has been extraordinarily volatile of late. A currency that’s electronic but as untraceable as cash surely has its uses for some people, but there’s one aspect of it that hasn’t been fully considered yet: its uniqueness may not last.

National currencies have one great advantage over currencies like Bitcoin: they usually don’t face much competition. It’s true that countries with weak currencies sometimes use dollars, euros, or even cigarettes as alternative or parallel mediums of exchange. Broadly speaking, however, a national currency is a useful focal point; the government requires that everyone accept it in transactions, and so everyone can agree to use it. That’s what makes it valuable.

Bitcoin is not so well-defined as a currency in comparison to a dollar or yuan, and thus its uniqueness is much less clear. The currency based on a mysterious algorithm whose originator is anonymous. No one really knows whether the algorithm can be trusted to generate Bitcoins as promised, or who would be accountable for errors or frauds; there is no definitive monetary authority.

Were any problems to occur, a new electronic currency, perhaps one vouchsafed in a more transparent way, might arise. If the people who found Bitcoin useful for its anonymity, virtuality, and globality were to switch to this new currency, the value of Bitcoins would tumble. The reason is simple: Bitcoin’s exchange rates with other currencies depend on supply and demand; if no one wants Bitcoins, they’re worthless. And Bitcoin need not run into trouble for a new currency to appear. The new currency’s originators just need to invent an architecture that people prefer.

Of course, people won’t switch away from a popular currency for the sake of small improvements. But Bitcoin is just the first virtual currency to make it big – and you can bet it won’t be the last.

 

 

Bitcoin’s Big Problem

Newsletter: Share: