Bitcoin: Fringe Meets Mainstream
Purists with esoteric tastes often pine for the time before their fringe interest went mainstream. Today’s punk rockers cringe at appropriated, heavily engineered guitar riffs in popular music while they dream they were around — at the very beginning — wildly bopping to the beat as the New York Dolls really rocked. Surrealist poets scribbling away at their writing desks today wish they had been by Andre Breton’s side as he wrote The Surrealist Manifesto, urging him to conceive an alternative vision of reality. Many surfers ride at night now for some wave space because they cannot transport back to the fifties before surfing really took off in popularity. Yet punk’s frenetic energy and rage against blind conformity and injustice still critiques pop. Surreal writing continues to subvert realistic aesthetics. Despite increased interest, surfing will always have health and creative benefits because its positive essence remains. Similar to punk, surrealism, and surfing, enthusiasm for bitcoin — the burgeoning digital currency — began on the fringes.
Bitcoin is not backed by a central authority like a bank or government, which allows for the free exchange of value between users without the usual fees or third party interference. Also, like gold, bitcoin is a fixed resource and so it is immune from inflation. The digital ledger where these exchanges take place is called the blockchain. According to Marc Andressen, founder of Netscape, bitcoin is an equally important innovation as the Internet itself.
Bitcoin first gained favor among a relatively small group of academics, engineers, and the tech-savvy. Over time bitcoin has become more mainstream, yet it has not lost its transformative appeal. In fact, bitcoin is more revolutionary than ever. In tribute to punk rock, bitcoin challenges the hierarchy of the banks and the limitations of government currency. Like surrealism reimagines reality, bitcoin helps us to look at money with a new perspective. Like surfing, bitcoin’s constructive essence remains even though it has gained popularity. Fringe movements arise in reaction to mainstream concepts. Bitcoin was developed during the economic crisis in response to the failings of traditional financial institutions. Bitcoin offered a new way of conceptualizing value — a peer-to-peer technology that created a stable, secure, and borderless Internet currency. Comparable to many fringe movements with a constructive critique, bitcoin has been adopted into the mainstream precisely because it is a great idea.
Welcome to the Mainstream
Bitcoin is now a part of the fabric of mainstream culture. It is even being referenced in popular television shows. Thought leaders like Al Gore and Bill Gates have sung bitcoin’s praises. Television name-drops and endorsements may not seem very punk rock, but bitcoin’s representation in pop culture is a reflection of its strength as a currency. The amount of daily bitcoin transactions is growing steadily. Bitcoins are easy to obtain on cryptocurrency marketplaces like xCoins.io by paying with credit cards, and one can even buy bitcoin with PayPal. Many countries are seeing the value of bitcoin to promote economic growth, and are creating regulatory environments for bitcoin to flourish. Popular companies such as Overstock.com, Subway, and Microsoft now accept Bitcoin. Bitcoin can be used to buy everything from Las Vegas trips to goats.
Lots of merchants prefer bitcoin payments, so they can avoid prohibitive credit card fees and chargebacks. Consumers can get significant discounts when paying with the digital currency at major retailers, including Amazon. Increased demand for bitcoin-driven commerce has led to the development of decentralized marketplaces like Particl — the next Ebays and Etsys of the world — where users can purchase vintage items, crafts, and other homemade goods directly from the seller without intervention from a third party.
Selling Out Versus Influencing
Some punk rockers refuse to listen to popular punk acts. Some surrealist poetry fans may feel that niche journals are the only ones worth reading and turn their noses at surreal influences in mainstream films. And some surfers fiercely guard their territory from outsiders. Likewise, some bitcoin evangelists are suspicious of new users. But there are benefits to bitcoin becoming more mainstream. The more bitcoin users there are, the easier it will be to conduct trade across international borders, provide services to the financially underserved, and challenge the hierarchy of the big banks. When cutting edge interests become mainstream, there are often greater benefits for everyone as more people acquire access to great ideas.
Punk rock’s foundation is music that moves people. Surrealism is the power of language to see the world differently. Surfing’s strength is the activity itself. The underlying technology of bitcoin — the blockchain — defies being completely co-opted by the mainstream culture in the same way that the Internet itself — despite a variety of individual, corporate, and governmental interests, remains a fundamentally radical technology. Bitcoin evangelists and new users alike can be assured that bitcoin will retain its intrinsic value as a critique of the traditional financial system as it further enters the mainstream.