Technology is often better understood by people who make a living out of it. The KredX tech department codes hard and internets harder. So, when the bitcoin craze first came to town screaming at the top of its lungs about the virtues of decentralisation, our resident developers sat up and took notice. They were at ground level, when good old Laszlo Hanyecz made the ill fated decision to buy 2 boxes of pizza with 10,000 BTCs only to later realise that the pizza in question would come to be valued over 20 million dollars. Witnesses speculate that our tech team’s eyes literally transformed into revolving dollar signs at the sight of this news and the very next thought that collectively went through their heads was, “KYC documents”. But then again, speculations are at the very core of the bitcoin problem as well. So, a pinch of salt might not be amiss with these allegations. What we did, however, was collect a few of our engineers, a fluffy little bundle of stack overflow saved files and quite crippling boolean satisfiability problems, and pick their brains a little about what they thought of bitcoin investments.
Prashant Kumar, Senior Software Engineer, leans casually on his chair and says with nonchalant ease, “I did not do too much market research into it, honestly. I invested mostly because of the hype going around.” Yugal Bagul and Smriti Gambhir, Software Engineers the both of them, sitting well within earshot, did not even bother to look up from their computers. The sentence hung in the air like a solitary Rajinikanth fan who was attending a Satyajit Ray film festival. We realised that the hardest part of this interview was going to be making the Tech Team actually interested in the topic at hand. With this righteous ambition enveloping our minds, we uttered the magic word that makes any coder’s heart skip a beat these days; blockchains. And lo behold! Words tumbled forth from the Tech Team’s mouths in graphic urgency that resembles the cascading water currents of the Niagara Falls. “How safe blockchains actually were as a paradigm interested me from the very beginning.” Smriti supplies in quite charitable tones. “Everybody in the computer science community was quite fascinated by the technology and that’s pretty much why a lot of us (coders) got around to bitcoins in the first place.” She finishes with a flourish and Yugal is eager to continue where she left off. “The only people I discuss bitcoins, most of them are techies. And techies, their investment strategies usually won’t include mutual funds because there is a lot of stuff around that which we won’t understand. Here, that is not required, just go, do your KYC and you’re good to go.” This information fascinated us, framing investment strategies based on emerging technologies sounded quite outlandish to our primitive ears and we expressed our curiosity as such. Prashant grins in careless amusement and offers, “If I have money to throw away and not worry about that money, then it’s fine. That’s what people are doing, right? The amount of money they are not concerned with, they invest in bitcoins.”
Prashant’s astute analysis of the way people are utilising bitcoins promptly brought us to some questions about the recent fluctuations in bitcoin prices. Smriti has very earnest views on the matter, “I have invested a little more than the amount that I am comfortable with and now that things are crashing, it does bother me. I don’t think bitcoin prices should be affected by very stupid things. Like random people’s twitter feeds for instance. Putting regulations around it will go a long way in making it much more stable.” The idea that a virtual currency’s value was capable of changing because of something as trivial as someone’s Twitter feed sounded absurd to us. Yugal smirks as he tries to alleviate our obvious confusion on the matter, “You look at bitcoins, you also look at twitter, Reddit channels and see who is promoting the coins. The people who deal in bitcoins, the ones with a lot of followers constantly create narratives like, this is going to dip, this is going to rise and they basically end up creating artificial crisis inside the market exclusively through the use of tweets.” We were impressed. Bitcoin was like that impressionable kid who constantly hung out with juvenile delinquents and could potentially only grow up to be the kind of person his girlfriend’s parents would eventually look at with absolute disdain. Just as we about to fashion some tinfoil hats, sharpen a few pitchforks and chant balefully for the early demise of this obviously flawed piece of technology, Prashant surprisingly came out with a spirited defense for it. He said, “The decentralisation of everything is very good. With bitcoins, the data is out in the open. With old technologies what happens is that you have to believe that the banks will show you the correct representation of your transactions. But what if your data gets manipulated by private companies? With decentralisation, accuracy is guaranteed because of the inherent algorithm of blockchains.”
THE FUTURE OF THE TECHNOLOGY
The obvious question now becomes where they saw this chaotic bit of technological revolution heading. Yugal is remarkably deadpan as he says, “So, bitcoin is a currency to buy something but its not considered as a currency, just as a stock which you can buy and sell at a particular price. You’re not really buying anything with it. It’s just like, you want to make money out of trading. Nothing more, nothing less.” Prashant is impassive for a second before he attempts at an answer, “I don’t think the current valuation of bitcoin is reasonable because most of it is created because of the hype. And a majority of people are not into it because of how wonderful the technology is, they are into it because of the money. I think market correction actually happened with the recent crash that made it lose 2000 dollars. I don’t think bitcoin has a future, it’s famous, granted, but the high transaction charges are a bit of a downer. It is not a very practical currency model.” Smriti, however, does not have to contemplate too much about her answer to this particular question, “What I would like is that there should be more regulations around it so we can predict a few things. Certain things, like the constant fluctuations becoming slightly more predictable will be a welcome change.” We got the impression that as software engineers, the Tech Team had immense respect for the technology that powers bitcoins. The respect just failed to translate into an overarching love for bitcoins themselves. When asked why bitcoins in the first place, Yugal slowly slides his chair over to his desk, arches his back and murmurs almost as if to himself, “We didn’t want to miss out on making money, who wants to miss out on making money?”
The collective verdict from the technologically literate seems to be that bitcoins are a very good way to make money on your spare time, granted North Korea forgets to update its Twitter feed or Satoshi Nakamoto doesn’t post “boo!” on some Reddit forum. For a technologically constructed instrument that is easily swayed by a plethora of things happening inside the internet ecosystem, it is indeed fascinating that bitcoin has come so far. The direction it is heading, however, seems to be anybody’s guess. We welcome your views in the comments section.
Disclaimer: The opinion published in the article are individual views and do not reflect the views of KredX