Spying on Everyone in the World: Bitcoin and the Orwellian Warning
In 2018, Alex Gladstein wrote an article for Time that analyzed how hyperinflation and authoritarian governments were pushing radical alternatives like Bitcoin to the forefront. Gladstein noted that Venezuela was not the only place where people could use Bitcoin as an escape valve. Zimbabwe had also experienced endless amounts of cash printing and hyperinflation, but its successors could not print more Bitcoin. In China, the government could track all transactions on Alipay and WePay, but it could not orchestrate mass surveillance on all Bitcoin payments. Similarly, Vladimir Putin could freeze a bank account, but he could not freeze a Bitcoin wallet.
Today, Gladstein argues that Bitcoin will always exist as a means to exchange value. Acting as a global safety net, it may one day catch another group of people on the run: those living in relatively stable countries who currently see no real need for Bitcoin or any decentralized currency that stretches beyond their government’s grasp.
For countries like China, Bitcoin remains the ultimate wrench in the wheel. China is creating the playbook on restriction and the modern, digital tools needed to control people around the world. Bitcoin is a digital currency that they cannot control, and it is beyond their micro-surveillance. It is likely to get more difficult to control, making it a huge problem for them.
Gladstein believes that Bitcoin will always exist and will always be an option, even with peer-to-peer trading. It will always be possible to access it. In the most Orwellian circumstances, people could still meet up and trade Bitcoin, and the government would not know about it. He argues that there will always be a way for us to have this sort of parallel economy.
Gladstein recently brought his message to the SlushHQ summit in Helsinki, Finland, where 25,000 people gathered to discuss how to build successful companies by harnessing new technologies for future economies. He explored the intentions behind China’s social credit system, which culls financial data from social media platforms and other public portals to draft a detailed profile of an individual to determine their financial options and freedoms. This system could determine what kind of loans one can get, what kind of internet one can get, and what kind of schools one’s children can go to. He warns that this system could spread around the world, and people need to be aware of it.
In conclusion, Bitcoin’s ability to exist as a means to exchange value beyond government control is becoming increasingly important in the face of authoritarian governments and restrictive financial systems. It may one day catch the attention of people living in stable countries who currently see no need for it. The threat of China’s social credit system is also a cause for concern, as it could spread around the world and severely limit people’s financial options and freedoms.