Fresh air npr Bitcoin is decentralized. Another big mistake that even experienced users make is by keeping the wallet in an exchange. Most of the exchanges like CEX, Binance, Fresh air npr Bitcoin and numerous others offer associate degree in-built Bitcoin wallet and lets you store Bitcoins IN their wallet. Npr Bitcoin fresh air is a decentralized appendage currency without a central bank or single administrator that can be sent from user to somebody on the peer-to-peer bitcoin system without the need for intermediaries. Transactions are verified by scheme nodes finished cryptography and live in letter public distributed ledger called a blockchain. Fresh Air from WHYY, the Peabody Award-winning weekday magazine of contemporary arts and issues, is one of public radio's most popular programs. Hosted by Terry Gross, the show features intimate.
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With bitcoin, you could send that money and nobody would know where the money came from, and that sort of gave rise to this whole new online market. GROSS: And it's the same phenomenon with ransomware, when somebody's computer is basically being held hostage by malware, and the only way to get access to your computer back is to pay the designated amount of ransom money in bitcoin. But, of course, experts warn that even if you pay it, you might not necessarily get access to your computer again.
But - so that's something that's caught on. GROSS: And I should say that applies not just to individual computers, but also to, like, whole networks and to hospitals and, you know, around the globe. I mean, it's created enormous problems for companies, for governments. You've seen, yeah, hospitals that have had to just go back to analog recordkeeping for weeks. I think it was the San Francisco Chronicle, or maybe it was a radio station here that basically had to stop using computers because their computers were all frozen by a ransomware attack.
And ransomware was really something that existed before bitcoin. But, you know, in tech speak, it didn't scale without bitcoin. Before, somebody would have to go get a money order and send it around the world physically.
That's not an easy thing to do. And, you know, that is possible because of this new way that bitcoin works, which, you know, the first sort of real-world uses of that have not been altogether positive ones for the world, I think. GROSS: In terms of the dark web and the illegal, you know, the markets for illegal goods on the dark web that you have to pay for with bitcoin, some of those sites have been shut down, including Silk Road, the one that you mentioned, and more legit uses of bitcoin are emerging now.
So what are some examples of that? POPPER: Well, the idealism that fueled bitcoin at the beginning, the place where you've seen that playing out is in countries where people have their money trapped or are losing money because the local currency is, you know, is experiencing hyper inflation and so people are losing all of their savings and looking somewhere outside of the government's control to put money.
And so you've seen that in countries like Venezuela and Argentina. You even hear about it in Zimbabwe. You know, in those places, people have always clamored to exchange their local currency for dollars because dollars were so much more reliable, but there was, you know, a real shortage of dollars.
And when you got the dollars, you frequently had to sort of put them under your mattress, which wasn't terribly secure. You know, the vision with bitcoin is that in those sorts of places, you can now trade your local currency for bitcoin and have a somewhat more stable place to keep your money then, you know, the bolivar or the Argentine peso. So that's sort of, I think, one place where people like to talk about - talk up, bitcoin aficionados like to talk up. I mean, it's also very easy to sort of move money around the globe so, you know, it takes a long time right now to make a sort of pretty basic bank transfer to India, to China.
You know, that can take weeks and, you know, require sort of fees at every step along the way. The idea with bitcoin is, you know, you can send it right now and it's there in essentially 10 minutes. And the person can log in and they don't have to get approval from anybody.
You know, that's particularly attractive in countries where it's hard for people to get bank accounts and where, you know, places like India, again, or Africa, where people are sort of locked out of the online economy because they can't get a credit card, they can't get a debit card.
You know, they can't sign up for Netflix. Now you can sign up for Netflix very easily in India or Africa, even if you don't have a credit card, thanks to bitcoin. If you're just joining us, my guest is Nathaniel Popper, and we're talking about bitcoin. He's been writing about digital currency for several years. He's a tech reporter at The New York Times, and a couple of years ago, he wrote a book about bitcoin called "Digital Gold. And my guest, Nathaniel Popper, has been writing about bitcoin for several years.
Except we don't know because It's a pseudonym. He never really revealed who he was. Even you, who have been covering this for years, don't know who he is. So people frequently say he, she, they or it in case it is a sort of autonomous, you know, being that created this of some sort.
But, you know, what we do know is that the person who first introduced this back in and then released the first software a few months later went by the name of Satoshi Nakamoto and communicated essentially only by email, would get on sort of chats and sort of social media forums, but always under that Satoshi Nakamoto pseudonym. And a few years into bitcoin's existence, right as it was beginning to take off, Satoshi essentially signed off and disappeared, you know, sent the last email, gave control of the system over to the people who had been drawn to it and were, you know, working on the software at that point.
And since then there's been a sort of manhunt for, you know, to discover the true identity of Satoshi Nakamoto. And a bunch of names have been floated over time. I wrote a story when my book came out about the person who - one of the people who was widely viewed as the most likely candidate. But all of the people who have been, you know, fingered as potential Satoshi Nakamotos have denied essentially that they are, except for, I should say, one person who claimed to be Satoshi Nakamoto and won over a certain number of people.
This got a lot of news, I think, maybe a year or two back, this guy named Craig Wright from Australia who claimed that he was Satoshi. But as people looked into it and looked into the sort of electronic records - it was quite a chase - I think most people concluded that this was not in fact Satoshi Nakamoto. GROSS: So when Satoshi Nakamoto, whoever that is, started bitcoin, he or she issued something between, like, guidelines and a manifesto.
Like, a nine-page document. Can you sum up, for those of us who don't really understand this laughter , the principles that were laid out in those nine pages? Yeah, so this was the original. It's called Satoshi's White Paper. You know, it has this sort of iconic status, this nine-page PDF that was released in early - in late And it sort of described how this system was going to work. And it said it would be a sort of electronic cache, and there were going to be certain rules that would govern this electronic cache.
There would only ever be 21 million bitcoins created. That rule was sort of stated there at the beginning. And that was created so that it would have a sort of scarcity like gold and - which might lead people to think there was going to be a value in it. If there wasn't going to be an unlimited number of them, that might confer a certain value on bitcoin, which it has ended up doing.
So that was one rule. The other rules were about how Bitcoin would be distributed. It's not - there wasn't going to be a bank of bitcoin that would distribute them to everybody. They were going to be sort of slowly dripped out over time to people who joined the network. And I think that's the most important thing about the rules around bitcoin was that it was going to be a network of computers, sort of like the Internet, that anybody could join and anybody could support this.
And that would allow for bitcoin to exist independent of any sort of central source of authority. There wasn't going to be a government here. There wasn't going to be a company. There was going to be this network of computers that was supporting it, and that means that anybody can join that network and send money to anybody else. And so those were sort of the basic rules that were laid down. And I should say that in the first months after this was proposed, this was not a rousing success.
There were, you know, a handful of people, you know, maybe eight people who responded to this idea. Most of whom thought that there was no way that it could work. When you're talking about, say, dollars, it's backed up by the U.
And if you have money in a bank, a certain amount of it is backed up by the FDIC. You know, if you invest in the stock market, it's going to fluctuate, but you have shares in something whereas with bitcoin it just seems like an act of faith in bitcoin. I should note I think that, you know, all of those instances you just mentioned - the U. I mean, if you kind of dig a little deeper, you know, what you're expressing faith in when you express faith in the dollar is essentially the U.
You're believing that those are going to be around. And obviously, that's not maybe a hard thing to believe in, but there's some chance that it won't happen. And certainly there are countries where the government has issued currency and then the government has fallen and the currency has turned out to be worthless. So to a degree, money is always about faith. It's about believing that the thing you're holding in your hand is going to be worth something tomorrow, next week, in a month and that somebody will take it and give you something in exchange.
The same is true with bitcoin. And certainly, there are not the institutions backing it up that you have for the U. But what is backing it up is this network. And so you in essence are sort of expressing your faith in that network and the power of the network and the power of the rules behind bitcoin to draw people to this currency and to make people think that the network, you know, may outlive the U.
I wouldn't argue that myself. I don't know the odds. I would say probably the odds of the U. But I think that a lot of people have - had assumed that bitcoin - that the bitcoin network wouldn't survive to, you know, through the first year, much less the first eight years, which it's done.
And it's sort of continued to kind of engender this faith among the people who believe in it, who follow it. We're talking about bitcoin, the digital currency that was created in Although its roots were in idealism and libertarianism, it first became widely used for purchases on the dark web, the sites on the Internet black market selling drugs and sex. But this digital currency is now being used for more mainstream purchases.
Big banks are starting to find uses for some of the innovative structure of the bitcoin system. A couple of years ago, he wrote a book about bitcoin called "Digital Gold.
So when bitcoin was first released into the world, it was determined by the person who released it, who goes by the name Satoshi Nakamoto, he or she determined how much bitcoin there would be in this world. There's a finite amount of bitcoin that will ever be released to make sure that, like gold, it retains its value. So it's a kind of complicated process how bitcoin is created or mined.
Mined is the word that's used. New bitcoin is mined. So would you just tell us a little bit, like, in a comprehensive way about how new bitcoin is mined? POPPER: It's a dangerous question, and it's a hard one to answer simply, but, you know, the answer to how bitcoin are created does sort of give you some glimpse into the inner workings of how this thing functions and why it has survived as long as it has. I mean, essentially, bitcoin released onto the network every 10 minutes.
A new block of bitcoin is released onto the network every 10 minutes. And this started on the very first day. On the very first day, there was zero bitcoin in the world. And after 10 minutes - after about 10 minutes, 50 bitcoin were released to one of the computers that was hooked into the network, which at that point was Satoshi Nakamoto's computers. They were almost the only computers that were hooked in at that point. But the rules of bitcoin - the software determine how those bitcoins, those new bitcoins being released, are going to be distributed to people.
And the first thing that this does is that it encourages people to join the network. You can essentially - at least early on, you could essentially get free bitcoin if you joined the network. And so it incentivized people to join the network. The other thing it did was that it got those computers to start keeping the records for the network. So if you want to win those bitcoins, essentially you have to start working as an accountant for the network and registering all the new transactions that come in.
And if you are doing that - the more computers you add to help, you know, serve as accountant for the network, the better chance you have of winning bitcoins. And so that is how sort of the records are kept, and that's how you get people to volunteer to keep the records.
You give them new bitcoins. You offer these new bitcoins. So over time, that incentive system has generated this enormous network. Right now, there's something like 13, nodes or computers hooked into the network that are helping to keep these records. And a lot of those are mining, trying to win these new bitcoins.
And so this complicated economic system was set up with lots of incentives in there to get people to participate and to sort of create the foundation for this decentralized network to keep all the records. It's a kind of interesting process. You're basically competing with other people who also want to create new bitcoin. So what do you have? Do you have, like, a lot of computers competing with each other? And what's the competition? Like, what are the POPPER: Let's make sure not to go too deep data because it's based on cryptography and encryption, which is sort of the leading edge of math, you know, basically really hard math problems you have to solve.
But at the most basic, computers are trying to process all the transactions coming into the bitcoin network as quickly as possible. And the faster you do it, the more efficiently you do it, the better chance you have of winning bitcoin. There's an element of luck in it. It's somewhat like a lottery, but essentially the person with the most computing power has the best chance of winning the lottery.
And so what's that - what that's created today is a world in which you have literally server farms in outer - inner Mongolia, in Tibet, in Iceland. Anywhere where you can get cheap electricity to run computers very fast, people have set up basically server farms, big, you know, buildings just filled with computers trying to sort of unlock these new bitcoins but also sort of serving as the backbone of this network.
And, you know, the more computers you have joined in, the more secure the network is, the harder it is to attack. And it's this crazy world in which - I mean, literally in China, which has become one of the most, you know, one of the places where you have the most bitcoin mining, you know, spread all around China, you have next to - you know, next to hydroelectric dams and next to a coal plants, people have set up these server farms that are dedicated to doing nothing but mining bitcoin.
They have gotten a lot bigger and more sophisticated since then. I mean, there are literally sort of towns that are built around this in China where you have people just living in the bitcoin mining facility, you know, Chinese people who really - you know, the people who are working there are sort of the custodians. They - most of them have no idea really what's going on or how the system works.
But it's - you know, it's created this whole economy. It's being used for investing, in speculation. How is that playing out here? Even small changes, like switching up the hand you hold your fork with, can help optimize brain health.
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