When computer scientist Andreas Antonopoulos first heard about bitcoin in 2011 he dismissed it as “nerd money.” Six months later he happened on bitcoin creator Satoshi Nakamoto’s now-legendary white paper written in November 2008. This nine-page, dryly-written document unrolled a blueprint for a system that would replace large swaths of the financial services industry with a globally-distributed encryption-based transaction network that wasn’t owned by anyone. After reading the white paper, Antonopoulos’ mind was blown. “This isn’t money,” he realized, “it’s a decentralized trust network,” with applications extending far beyond digital currency. Antonopoulos says he became “obsessed and enthralled” with bitcoin, “spending 12 or more hours each day glued to a screen, reading, writing, coding, and learning” as much as he could. He said, “I emerged from the state of fugue, more than 20 pounds lighter from a lack of consistent meals, determined to dedicate myself to working on bitcoin.”
Five years later, Antonopoulos’ work has paid off. The 43-year-old entrepreneur is one of the most respected experts in bitcoin and blockchain technology, and he regularly shares his expertise with businesses and organizations around the world. His 2014 book, Mastering Bitcoin, was called the “best technical reference available on bitcoin today,” by Balaji Srinivasan, the CEO of 21.co, and has received high praise from Gavin Andresen, Chief Scientist of the Bitcoin Foundation.
My name is Mark Frauenfelder. I’m a research affiliate at Institute for the Future, a nonprofit thinktank that helps organizations and the public think systematically about the future in order to make better decisions in the present. In January 2016, IFTF launched the the Blockchain Futures Lab, a research initiative and a community for “identifying the opportunities and limits of blockchain technologies and their social, economic, and political impacts on individuals, organizations, and communities over the coming decades.”
I spoke to Antonopoulos to get his thoughts on the current state of blockchain technology and where it’s headed. What he had to say to be surprising and enlightening.
To learn more about Institute for the Future and the Blockchain Futures Lab, visit IFTF.org