October 31st will mark ten years since the inception of Bitcoin. It was born after the 2008 financial crisis which reminded people how vulnerable the established financial system was. According to its anonymous founder, the goal was to give the people control over their finances, now, ten years on the question is has Bitcoin achieved its goal?
The 2008 financial crisis was started by the Lehman Brothers, a Wall Street investment bank that loaded up on mortgage debt which went south. With no bank or government in sight to bail them out the institution filed for bankruptcy on September 15, 2008.
The resulting fallout in the following days would threaten to erode the entire financial system requiring the government to bail out a number of banks and other major institutions. The global financial system had not been so vulnerable since 1929.
A few months after the Lehman Brothers bankruptcy, a new technology would debut almost unnoticed. It would offer an alternative to this catastrophe prone financial system.
In October of 2008, Satoshi Nakamoto published the Bitcoin white paper which described:
“a purely peer-to-peer version of electronic cash that would allow online payments to be sent directly from one party to another without going through a financial institution.”
Emin Gun Sirer, a blockchain researcher and computer science professor at Cornell says there is a chance that Nakamoto was affected by the events that led to the 2008 financial meltdown.
As mass awareness on Bitcoin grew, different people saw different things but too many it represented an alternative to fiat currency which is issued by central banks. It also promised to bypass the financial organizations that the crisis had cast doubt on.
Early adopters of the tech like Laszlo Hanyecz “the pizza guy” believed it would replace banks and other middlemen involved in financial transactions.
But, ten years on, Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies have begun to interact with traditional finance in ways almost no one would have predicted in the earlier years.
Born as a necessity to eliminate financial institutions and give people power over their money, now, we are seeing Wall Street veterans leaving their offices to work for crypto firms. There is also growing interested from traditional financial institutions towards blockchain the tech that Bitcoin runs on.
As one early adopter tells CoinDesk at the beginning there was a lot of talk surrounding anarcho-capitalist and libertarian ideas that Bitcoin promised to make possible. Many involved with the project at the time chose to be anonymous as they felt the established order would see it as a threat.
But, years on Wall Street banks have not only survived but grown bigger. Fiat currencies and the institutions behind them show no signs of going anywhere and as Sirer puts it:
“that undoing the Fed and replacing money as we know it is actually a tall order, and it has to happen in stages if it’s going to happen at all.”
Now coming back to the initial question; has Bitcoin achieved its goal? Zooko Wilcox, old-school cyberpunk and CEO of Zcash seems to have the best answer to this:
“Success will mean billions of people finding cryptocurrency to be convenient and reliable without ever understanding either the scientific or the political revolutions behind it.”
10 years on, has Bitcoin achieved its goal? Share your thoughts in the comment section below.