Bitcoin Design Principles – IDEO Lab presentation by Andreas M. Antonopoulos

[Applause] Good morning, everyone.
Can you hear me? Is the microphone working? Wow, what a difficult task you have. [Laughter]
At a very basic level, you need to understand… what Bitcoin is. I can answer the question “What is Bitcoin?”
in [less than] five words. It is digital money. But that doesn’t really capture it.
It is more like the internet of money. It is a decentralized consensus network based
on blockchain technology and proof-of-work… [where] a digital token acts as a reward system
for a game theoretical competition between miners, who validate- Oh my god! [The definition] immediately goes off the cliff, right? I have answered the question “What is Bitcoin?”
in a 300-page book [titled ‘Mastering Bitcoin.’] When you read that book, you will start down the
path of answering the question, “What is Bitcoin?” After a couple of years, you will [realize] that
you are still trying to understand what Bitcoin is. The reason is because Bitcoin
is a new, disruptive technology, but it also is an abstraction on
a really old, muddled technology. Money is a tool and technology. It shares
commonalities with linguistic structures. We use it like a language to communicate
value amongst ourselves in a society. Who here can tell me how old money is? Any idea?
[AUDIENCE] 5,000 years. [ANDREAS] Good guess. A bit older. Try again. The problem with understanding
the history of money is that money is older than history. We could look at [old] writing [samples]
about money, but money is older than writing. That may confuse you a bit. “Money is older than
writing? That can’t be.” But the first forms of writing… that we find are spreadsheets, accounting ledgers. The first things scratched onto
tablets were accounting ledgers, [such as] how much oil was given to the Pharaoh. If you go even further back [in time], we find the
ancient forms of money in the ruins of civilization: beads, feathers, shells, and giant stones. Money has taken many forms, but it has existed almost
as long as language. This is truly ancient technology. It is not 5,000 years [old]. It is probably closer to
500,000 years old. In fact, we have seen money… emerge within other highly intelligent species
like primates, certain types of birds like crows, and even marine mammals like dolphins. They will use tokens to express value to each other, and
they can very quickly learn the mechanics of money. You can teach primates about money.
“If you turn in this pebble, you get a banana.” Then watch. Within a very short period of time,
that will become part of the primate culture. It will even be passed down to the next generation.
They start inventing economic activities. Not [always] nice economic activity. They invent strong-
arm robbery, beat up other monkeys and take pebbles… [in order to] get [more] bananas. They trade sexual favors for pebbles to get more
bananas. Some of the earliest economic activities. Money is an absolutely ancient technology.
None of us really understand it. When you start trying to explain what Bitcoin is,
you realize that most people don’t understand money, even though it is something you start
learning about at a very young age. But even adults don’t understand it. If you
want a demonstration of that fact, sit down, and try to explain money to a four-year-old. You will find out very quickly that the four-year-old
has some very good questions that you can’t answer. You [should] watch parents
go through this, it is hilarious. “Mummy, where does money come from?”
“The banks make it.” “How do they make it?” “They print it.” “Why can’t we print more, then?” “… Go clean your room.” [Laughter] You are about four questions away from
“go clean your room” in any conversation about money. Adults don’t really understand money. Very few adults
understand how our money works, even though it is… a cultural artifact which has existed in our
species for hundreds of thousands of years. We don’t understand how it works. We have gone through several iterations
with money, starting from very basic forms. These basic forms had certain characteristics which
made them good as money. What makes good money? Something that is rare: shells, feathers, etc. You can use shells as money,
unless you live on a beach. You [should be able to] transport the value easily.
It must be portable, with a few exceptions. Most forms of money are portable. If the amount of money you need to buy a cow is
heavier than the cow, that is not very good money. We don’t often see gold used for large transactions
[anymore], because it is too damn heavy. There are other characteristics of money.
It must be difficult to forge, to create more of it. At a glance, or relatively easily,
you should be able to detect that it is real. Money should be fungible. If I am using shells,
this or that shell should be [worth the same value]. If I give you a dollar, it doesn’t matter which dollar.
Every dollar can substitute every other dollar. Over time, we have created [more]
abstractions for the technology of money. Money itself is an abstraction. If it is not an
abstraction, then it is not money, but barter. If I give you bananas for your goats,
that is not money, because you can eat them. You don’t use them to do further exchanges.
Therefore, [exchanging bananas for goats] is barter. You are exchanging one commodity for another.
If it is an abstract [token[, if it doesn’t have practical use, then it represents some shared value. This leads to the inescapable conclusion
that money is a shared cultural delusion. We walk around and associate with other people
on the basis of germ-ridden pieces of cotton, printed with green ink. If you were to observe that as an alien anthropologist
who landed on Earth, you might think it was very weird. That by exchanging these pieces of cotton,
you could create societal relationships, transact in order to feed and shelter yourself, etc. It doesn’t make much sense,
but it is based on a shared hallucination. It is based on the assumption that, if you give me
a dollar today, someone else will accept that dollar… in exchange for something of value tomorrow. If I still believe that it has value, the value comes
from the assumption that I can use it again. Bitcoin is just the latest iteration of abstraction.
Every time [a new iteration emerges], society freaks out. “This new thing can’t possibly be real money!” [Read] back [through history] and look at what
happened with the introduction of stamped coins, and then eventually paper notes. When paper notes were first circulated,
no one believed they had any value. The shared delusion had not taken hold yet. It was very difficult to persuade people to exchange
gold or silver coins for pieces of paper which said, “You have gold in the vault.” Then, a step further: the gold disappears from
the vault and it turns out you just have this paper. When you talk to people about Bitcoin, one of
the first things I hear is, “Bitcoin is not real money.” “It is not backed by gold like the U.S. dollar.” I find that astonishing. The dollar hasn’t been
backed by gold since 1936, yet most people think… [there are gold ingots] somewhere in a vault,
possibly in Fort Knox or some other move location, and that those bars of gold correspond to
the pieces of paper you have in your pocket. They don’t. There is no such thing. Why is bitcoin money? Because other people think
it is money. You could write a dozen PhD dissertations… explaining exactly why bitcoin is not money. But I have lived on [bitcoin] for two years. Therefore,
it doesn’t matter to me what your dissertation says. To me, and to thousands of
other people, it is real money. You have been tasked with creating designs and
concepts around the oldest technology in the world, which very few people really understand. The latest abstraction [of money] is brand new,
completely disjointed from previous expressions, and extremely complex as a technology. That is a really difficult task. When faced with that task, you use metaphors, which
are extremely powerful tools that allow us to create… expectations. When you have a desktop computer, you assume
something will happen when you drag your mouse. That assumption will inform your expectations, right? You expect it to behave like the object it is
pretending to be. That is a design metaphor. Design metaphors are extremely powerful,
but also extremely dangerous when misapplied. In Bitcoin, every single term and design metaphor
[we use] is absolutely wrong and broken. Let’s go through the list. You have probably struggled
with them as you have engaged with the technology… and looked at the terminology. First of all, a wallet. What is a wallet? Anyone?
A wallet is something that stores money. Not in Bitcoin, it isn’t. The money isn’t in the wallet,
it is on the network. The wallet contains keys. So it is not a wallet, it is a keychain.
How can you tell it is not a wallet? Can you copy a [regular] wallet? No. You can copy
a key, though. “Keychain” is a far better metaphor. If I have a keychain, like a ring of keys a janitor [carries],
I can go to a shop and have all of those keys duplicated. Then I have a second keychain. Both of those keychains will work interchangeably in
all the same locks where the original keychain worked. If you understand how a keychain works, then
you will understand how a Bitcoin wallet works. You can make copies of the bitcoin keys too. If you give
someone a key copy, they can open the door / wallet. They don’t need your permission anymore.
A wallet is not a wallet. It is a keychain. [A “wallet”] is a terrible metaphor. You have expectations
for what wallets will do, like contain [physical] things. These contents will be discreet and enumerated.
None of that exists in Bitcoin. Let’s get down to [more] basics: “Bitcoin.”
“Coin,” what a terrible word [to use in the brand]. This is the most abstract form
of money we have ever created. It is based on a completely decentralized network
and has no “coins,” but it was named “Bitcoin.” Just to confuse everyone! Coins were two generations
of technology [ago], a tangible representation of money. You took the most abstract representation of money
and named it after the most tangible [form] of money? Only an engineer could come up with that brand.
[Laughter] Here is a little secret: there are no coins. When miners mine, they don’t “create” coins. They
create ledger entries, which do not enumerate coins. There are transaction outputs,
chunks of value that are divisible. Coins don’t do that. You can’t track a coin
in Bitcoin, because there are no coins. So you have a wallet that doesn’t contain coins,
the coins are in the network, and they are not coins. The “coins” are outputs and you have a keychain.
Transactions are not from a “sender” to a “recipient.” Bitcoin addresses don’t have a balance.
There is no such thing as an address balance. An address controls outputs. If you [look through]
the blockchain and ad up all of the outputs, you can [calculate] some notional balance. But whether that is actually spendable
or not, is quite difficult to determine. There is no balance. You have no account.
All of these terms are broken and wrong. From a design perspective, instead of the metaphors
informing our expectations, we are misinformed. It is creating the grounds for
massive misunderstanding. We think it will [behave] in a certain way, and it could do
something completely different, something unexpected. Kind of like the Windows operating system.
I don’t know if you have ever compared… a Mac to a Windows desktop,
but Windows has no consistency. The metaphors are completely broken. You can expect
it to do one thing, but it does something different. The essence of good design is picking the
metaphor that informs expectations best. Here is the next thing problem with metaphors in design.
There is a concept called skeuomorphic design. Who has heard of skeuomorphic design?
Great. Who thinks that I pronounced it correctly? Not bad. It is a Greek word. I pronounced it in Greek.
I don’t know how to pronounce it in English. The word “skeuomorphic” means
‘the shadow of the former self.’ It means that when you create design elements, they
should have references or hints of some previous form. A classic example is the first iteration of iPads.
The iOS software had a lot of skeuomorphic design. If you opened the ‘Contacts’ list, it [looked
like] it was bound in leather, with stitching. That stitching didn’t do anything, it was just
design elements which had no functional purpose. The intent was to put you into a familiar set of mind. When you playing a card game on your computer, it has
fake felt under the cards to draw out [the associations].. with a casino. Skeuomorphic design is extremely powerful.
It is also dangerous, if you don’t use it correctly. It could create different expectations.
In Bitcoin, we have a lot of skeuomorphic design. My favorite and most hated [example] is the picture
you will see [in the header of] every single article: a pile of gold coins with the letter ‘B’ on them. [Laughter]
Usually the Casascius coin, designed by Mike Caldwell, but possibly some other rendering of that. This takes the worst design metaphor from
Bitcoin, the word “coin,” and then instantiating it… in a beautiful rendering that makes it [seem] even
more physical, which completely misleads everyone. People are actually going on Ebay
and buying gold-plated physical coins… that have nothing to do with the blockchain,
except for the letter ‘B’ stamped on them. Then they say, “Look! I have joined
the revolution of digital money!” With a perfectly tangible replica that has
no value in bitcoin. This is the result. [Laughter] When [journalists] write these articles and people see
the pictures, they think that is what bitcoin looks like. That is not what a bitcoin looks like. If you remember
how I previously mentioned there are no “coins,” This is the danger. It is a difficult task to design good
metaphors for Bitcoin, because there is no parallel. We have never done this before
and we will fall into these traps. The extrapolations of our previous experience
will fall short with disruptive technologies. With some technology, if you take what you currently
understand and then add a milligram of vision to… extend it just a tiny bit, you will
understand the new technology. It is only a slight extension of the past.
But Bitcoin is a radical break from the past. Understanding traditional money
doesn’t help you to understand Bitcoin. If anything, it hinders your understanding. The people who understand Bitcoin
the least are monetary economists. They cannot wrap their heads around it, and will
write long theses on how bitcoin is not money, despite the fact that I have
been living on it for two years. Understanding disruptive technologies is even harder
than understanding incremental technologies. The most interesting things they do will have
no previous parallel. Think about it this way. Who here is a fan of Star Trek?
Am I the only geek in the room? All right. Look back to Star Trek in the 1970s.
What did they get right [about technology]? They have portable communicators and video telephony.
That was predictable with the technology of the 1970s. They couldn’t possibly [predict] the internet
or the idea of networked information stores. They had fantastical computers that could talk
to you, but they didn’t have access to any data. They couldn’t possibly predict things like social media. Most importantly, if you pay attention, you will notice
something very strange: Star Trek doesn’t have money. At all. There is no money in the
Star Trek universe. Why is that? Their furthest vision for society is without money,
a society without a language for transmitting value. This is probably the most
radical departure from reality. When we try to predict the future, there are
certain areas that are completely dark to us, areas that have never been seen before,
and applications that we cannot imagine. In order for them to come into being,
many things need to fall into place [first]. For the Web to happen, we needed
a standardized transmission protocol. For the Web to give birth to social media, we needed
massive penetration of email and TCP/IP connections. We needed penetration of those
connections for an always-on state, and mobile devices with high density
computing in the palm of your hand. All of those things must come to fruition
before social media was even possible. If you had looked at the internet in 1992, you might
have thought that it will replace the phone [networks], because that was the only
experience you had at the time. The internet was a “fancy phone,” perhaps
a multi-functional printer and fax phone. The phone companies looked at [the internet] and said,
“It is a fancy phone. We can do this.” They were wrong. Fortunately wrong. Otherwise, every time
I make a Skype call, there would be a little slot… in the side of my computer where
I would deposit quarters. [Laughter] Fortunately, the phone companies weren’t
able to write the rules [of the internet]. They couldn’t possibly predict the
outcomes we saw on the internet, because most of them weren’t incremental
improvements or extensions of things from before. They were radical departure from the past. They created
the conditions for things that were not possible before. Go back to Bitcoin and think about this for a second.
Look at the wall around you, what we talked about. “Financial transactions,” “banking,” “payments,”
“it is a fancy credit card,” “basically global PayPal.” But it is not. It is something radically different,
but we can’t even see where it will go [from here]. The interesting applications that will be built
on Bitcoin can only happen when we have… sufficient adoption and penetration of this technology,
like the ability to do cross-border transactions, on the level that has never been done
in the history of humanity before. Today, there are three billion people
with no banking facilities whatsoever. Three billion more people with very
limited under-banking, as we call it, without access to international credit or finance. You or I can go to a brokerage website right now.
Within twenty-four hours, we can have… a U.S. dollar denominated account that
can trade on the Tokyo Stock Exchange. That is privilege afforded to less than a billion
people in the world, one out of seven people. The other six billion barely have basic checking, if that.
A lot of them live in cash or barter based societies. The question you should ask is, what happens
when a farmer in Kenya with a Nokia 1000 phone… can suddenly be a Bloomberg terminal,
a loan or [international] remittance terminal? When it is a bank, but a bank on the phone?
A phone that is affordable for the other six billion? Bitcoin is unstoppable because there
is a great need for this technology. The banks in the developing world cannot
extend their services to these populations. I once talked with a Brazilian banker who told me that
half their population is one hundred miles or more… from the nearest bank branch,
and that is upstream on a canoe. [They] can’t serve them, but even the most remote
village in the Amazonian Basin has a cellphone tower. Someone in that village has a solar panel and a Nokia
1000 phone. There are more Nokia feature phones… in the world than any other kind of electronic device. It is the most mass-produced device.
Three to five billion people have access to cellphones. Almost three billion people do not have
access to safe, clean drinking water. Think about that. Cell phones are more
widespread than clean water on our planet. What happens when each of
those people can become a banker? For me, the vision of Bitcoin is not to bank
the other six billion. It is to unbanked all of us. We can do it. Banking is an app,
but that is just the beginning. The interesting applications in Bitcoin are what
I call interstitial innovation, innovation in the gaps, the places where today’s systems cannot go. There is an interesting effect where a technology
can suddenly change our basic assumptions. Some of the most powerful things on the internet
happen not just because of mass connectivity, but because the marginal cost of transmitting
information over long distances [decreased]. Before the internet, moving information
from point A to point B cost a lot of money. The internet drove that cost almost to zero.
The result was millions of applications that… could not work on the previous cost
basis, even if we had imagined them. They suddenly became possible. Why on Earth would you string music instead of buying it
at the local store? Because it costs [almost] nothing. Once it costs nothing and you can stream music,
then you realize that CD ownership is overrated. If an entire generation realize that, then
intellectual property [structures] are overrated. Bye, recording industry! These effects happen because technology changes
the cost of doing things. Think about what happens… when Bitcoin changes the cost
of transacting across distances. Recording information in an immutable way. For the first time ever, there will be a system that
can evaluate the rules without human intervention, [or requiring] trust in any single human.
In Bitcoin, we call this the removal of counterparty risk. If I create a transaction, everyone on the Bitcoin
network can validate that transaction independently. They don’t need to ask anyone. They can [look]
through the blockchain on their own machine, which they know is correct because they have
been [validating] the proof-of-work [themselves]. They can validate that 350-byte transaction without
asking anybody else. It is a self-verifying system. It is a system of rules based on this
network of independent human actors. What does that mean for commerce?
We understand what it does to banking. We can understand that Western Union will fall
down hard within this decade. Yeah! [Laughter] If you charge the poorest people 30% on
their transactions, you deserve to go down. Last year, the CEO of Western Union said, “In the
medium term, we are not worried about bitcoin.” I want that [quote] framed on my wall. It will be
one of those phrases [that is embarrassing later]. Like what Kodak said when Nokia
[beat them at their own business]. Kodak was the largest camera company in the world,
until a company that wasn’t in the camera business… shipped one billion cameras in one year, [changed]
their industry, and they never saw it coming. Nokia is now the world’s largest
manufacturer of cameras, by far. That will happen to Western Union. But this is the easy stuff. What happens when
you can validate the rules without a third party? It changes several fundamental societal institutions.
It will change what is called the “coast coefficient,” the overhead in an organization. If we want to do something as a team,
two people can do more than one person. Three people can achieve even more.
But there is a limit [to that growth]. Once you become too big, the communication
overhead between participants in the group… is greater than the marginal increase in efficiency. Adding more people makes it worse.
The group is growing bigger too fast. Do you understand what I am saying? Bitcoin changes that. It reduces the coefficient of
organizing on a transactional and commercial basis, [and on a rule] validation basis,
at an extremely large scale. We can [coordinate] about one million people, or five
thousand machines, to agree on the state of a ledger… every ten minutes, at a lower cost
than has every [been possible] before. Bitcoin opens the door for things we cannot imagine
now, and is radically discontinuous with the past. Let’s take one simple example: personhood.
Personhood is required for financial ownership. In order to own and control money, have a bank account,
receive a bill, or pay someone, you must be a person. Everywhere in the world, in every financial
network that exists, people own the money. They may own it through corporations,
but that is just people grouping together. They may use proxies or agents,
but that is also just people working together. Bitcoin does not require personhood.
A software agent can own money. Software can autonomously control
money without any human intervention. This is completely unheard of.
We have never seen what happens next. Here is a little thought experiment. Let’s consider three
radically disruptive technologies and [combine] them. All right, who has heard of these?
Bitcoin, Uber, and self-driving cars. What happens when you [combine] them together?
I give you: the self-owning car… [Laughter] a [taxi] car that pays for its own Toyota lease,
insurance, and gas by offering people rides. A car that is not owned by a corporation, a car that
is a corporation, a shareholder [in its own business]. A car that exists as an autonomous financial entity with
no human ownership. This has never happened before. That is just the beginning. I can guarantee you that
one of the first distributed autonomous corporations… will be an artificial intelligence based ransomware
virus that will go around robbing people online, and use that money to evolve itself, to pay
for hosting and for better programming. That is one vision of the future. Another vision
of the future is a digital autonomous charity. Imagine a system that [collects] donations
and monitors social media for natural disasters, like the typhoon in the Philippines. Then it will marshal those donations
and automatically fund aid in the area, without a board of directors or shareholders. All of the donations will go directly to charitable causes.
Anyone can see the rules by which the charity operates. We are beginning to approach things
that we have never seen before. This is not just a currency. Let’s look at how the Bitcoin community is addressing
this incredible potential in their design choices. Oh boy, it is a mess. [Laughter] A simple example:
how many of you have experience with bitcoin ATMs? Okay, how was that experience?
Did you enjoy it? Nobody? Great… What is an ATM? ATMs have been around for
twenty-five years now. What purpose do they serve? What is its goal? It is a cash dispensary. When you interact with an ATM, normally you
have a pre-existing relationship with the bank, a pre-existing balance, and your
primary objective is to withdraw cash. Twenty seconds is too long.
Three clicks is too long. The innovation of ATMs in the last twenty-five years has
been fast cash. That is it. They haven’t changed much. You press a few buttons now and get cash. Wow.
Fifteen seconds, in and out. Why is this important? Because at one o’clock in the afternoon,
a hundred people may line up in front of… four or five ATMs in the center of town,
all trying to take out $20 in cash to buy lunch. You see this all around the world. What is the purpose of an ATM? For a bank,
the purpose of an ATM is reducing overhead. Reducing interaction to the shortest possible [amount
of] time, for someone with a pre-existing relationship. What does that have in common with
a Bitcoin ATM? Absolutely nothing! Now let’s look at the experience of a Bitcoin ATM.
The average user of a Bitcoin ATM is… someone who has never used bitcoin before,
a person who doesn’t understand what Bitcoin is. The ATM is their first introduction to cryptocurrency.
They don’t have a pre-existing relationship with… anyone in the Bitcoin space. They do not currently have a wallet [installed],
because they didn’t even know they needed one. They don’t know what a wallet is. It’s a keychain. They will walk up to this machine, which has been
designed by engineers to simulate the ATM experience, even though the experience shares
absolutely nothing with the use case. The ATM tries to give them bitcoin, in as few clicks
as possible, for the minimum amount of interaction. Is that how you build brand loyalty?
Is that how you build user experience? Is that how you introduce new users?
It just throws it at you, [without context]. They are not ready for that. “Please open your
phone and display the QR code.” What? [Laughter] What is a QR code? Does my phone do that?
Hang on, let me Google search for ‘QR code.’ There is an app that scans them. Maybe I
should use that? (No, you shouldn’t use it!) Maybe I should open a Bitcoin wallet.
There are twenty-six of them. Which one is best? I don’t know. I will use Circle. Oh, it requires
a pre-existing relationship with a bank. Oops! I will use Coinbase. Oh, it requires
a pre-existing relationship.. Oops! Finally, I have installed my wallet. I can display
the QR code and put some cash in the ATM. It sends me some bitcoin. Now I have bitcoin.
What can I do with it now? [Laughter] [They will] have all these questions. “Who takes
bitcoin?” “Where can I spend it?” “How can I spend it?” “How do I secure it?” “Will I lose the bitcoin
if I lose my phone?” [They] will have no clue. Why? This bloody machine didn’t tell them anything. It just threw the bitcoin at me. In fifteen
seconds, it is off to the next customer. If I was designing a Bitcoin ATM,
first of all, put them in bodega. Secondly, it wouldn’t have a bit of English.
[The default language] would be in Spanish. I will really push the remittance model. The first function on the ATM would be
‘Send money to Mexico city.’ That is it. I want people to use the bitcoin for something.
Third, I would put a big button on the front… that says ‘Talk to a human.’ This is an internet-connected device with a
forward-facing camera and a tablet screen. Why would I not use that for audio / video
customer service. Are you kidding me? Boom, [allow them to call] a person and
ask, “What is bitcoin? Where do I spend it?” “Oh, sir. I see you are in the bodega on 25th Avenue.
There are three stores that take bitcoin in your area.” “Let me show you a brief introductory
video. Gather the children in the store.” “We can all dance to the little Bitcoin song. Now let’s
watch another video [about how to open a wallet].” I don’t want there to be only
fifteen seconds of interaction. I want someone to interact for two hours, where
all of my friends can sit in front of the machine, watch the little videos with pretty colors,
learn about Bitcoin and where I can spend it. It should give me suggestions on wallets,
and then send them directly to my phone. This is about building brand loyalty and [good user]
experience, not fifteen seconds of minimal interaction. When you are placing this device, you have
the [opportunity] to make it the first experience… many people will have with Bitcoin. We have fucked it up [so far], but you can make
this [ATM] a meaningful, educational experience. Here is another little clue: [attract young people].
‘Get them when they are young.’ [Laughter] On average, the earliest age at which you can
open a bank account is sixteen years old. By the time that sixteen year old goes to the bank,
they should have at least six years of active bitcoin use. Then when they face their first banker, they will think,
‘Oh my god… three to five business days?!’ ‘Business days? What the hell is a business day?’
[Laughter] “What do you mean you close at 5pm?” “I barely leave school at 5pm.” “What do you mean I need to
pay for you to store my money?” “This is grandpa crap. I am not touching it with
a ten-foot pole. I am never banking in my life.” “This is ridiculous. Have you people heard
of Bitcoin? That is the experience I want.” Guess what? Ten-year-olds are opening bitcoin wallets.
Why? Because they can just download the apps, and be in control of digital money for the first time. Parents will need to have the ‘birds and bees’ discussion,
as well as the private keys discussion. [Laughter] Otherwise, your ten-year-old will make a
whole mess trolling around the Silk Road. “Mommy, what is black tar heroin? I just ordered
some, because it looks like chocolate.” [Laughter] Ten-year-olds will have bitcoin wallets. For many
young people, this is a huge generational divide. For many young people, Bitcoin will be their
first economic experience [outside of cash]. By the time they visit a bank, they will be done
with banking in advance. That is a huge advantage. [Attract young people]. How do you appeal
to a new demographic? Don’t try to be a bank. Do not try anything related to traditional banking.
All that will do is pollute their minds. You want new users to have a [fresh]
experience with Bitcoin that is unlike banking. You don’t want it to look like a checking account.
God forbid you use the word “checking” [in your app]. Open any of the exchange [wallets] right now.
Circle or Coinbase, for example. Open them up. What is the name of your account on Coinbase?
A “checking account,” with a “balance.” It shows you a “financial statement.”
Who the hell did they hire to design this? What does the word “checking” mean?
It means an account on which you can write checks. Now, I know this is America, twenty-five
years behind on financial technology, but.. the rest of the world doesn’t use
checks [anymore], I can guarantee you. What is a check? [A special piece of paper] that
Grandma uses to make everyone in the supermarket… simultaneously groan [loudly]. [Laughter]
That is what a check is today. I still need to use them to pay my
rent every month. I don’t know why. I can’t use anything else. It is insane that I would sign
a piece of paper, send it through the postal system, so that my landlord can then walk it to the bank and
deposit [the money], which might clear five days later… after they have charged him $5 for
his own money, in 2015 for god’s sake! We don’t need a hard sell for
Bitcoin to win against the banks. All we need for Bitcoin to win against banks
is one person using bitcoin for a week. Then the bank will take care of the rest.
Freezing their account. Saying, “We’re closed.” Holding their money for three to five business days.
[Then they will be] sold [on the idea of] Bitcoin. The banks will sell it for you, every single time. I was invited to deliver a talk at the Bundesbank.
Have you heard of it? The German federal bank? They were paying me for this speaking engagement. They didn’t know how to use bitcoin, which
was a problem. I am usually paid in bitcoin. We agreed to a wire transfer.
It took sixteen days. First, they asked me for my account number.
I gave them my bank account number. The next day, they said they would need the
SWIFT number. By that time, my bank was closed. I couldn’t [find] the SWIFT number until morning.
I got the SWIFT number and sent it to them. By that time, their bank was closed.
The next morning, they used the SWIFT number. They discovered it was the wrong SWIFT number.
It was the SWIFT number for U.S. dollars, not euros. They sent me another email, [asking for another
SWIFT number], but my bank was already closed. The next day, I have the other SWIFT number and send it
to the Germans, but their bank was already closed. Finally, they send me the wire. Apparently,
my bank looked at this wire and thought, ‘Bundesbank? Never heard of them. Sounds dodgy!
Let’s freeze this transfer for fourteen days.’ [Laughter] ‘Just in case they bounce.’ I’m thinking,
‘This is the third largest central bank in the world.’ This is the German federal bank.
They do not bounce checks! [Laughter] Fourteen days later.. this is the great part.
They had, “Money held” vs. “Money released.” And they only released $80.00
of a total four-figure amount. Why $80.00? What the hell is that? What should
I do now? Are they holding the rest to tease me? [Laughter] This makes no sense!
This [insanity] is what we are addressing with Bitcoin. If you are introducing a new product in this market,
as a designer, what existing design metaphors… do you want to re-use in your product? According to the [currentl]
Bitcoin marketplace, all of them. [So far, we have been] persuading people that
this is just like your bank, without the good parts, like reversing transactions to get a refund. If you lose your private key, [you won’t have
that option]. It doesn’t have the bad parts of banks, but [most people won’t] pay attention to that. We have created expectations that are entirely
misleading. Bitcoin desperately needs designers. [So far], design has mostly been done by
engineers, and it is absolutely inscrutable. I have hope because we have done this before.
I was on the internet in 1989. At the time, it was illegal to conduct
commercial activity on the internet. It was [mostly] owned by the National Science
Foundation and only used by academics. Or, let’s say, fifteen-year-olds who found
the passwords to the academic systems. DNS was still in its infancy. Most systems didn’t have
DNS names assigned yet. It wasn’t well structured. You could only find the most interesting stuff
on the internet by IP address, so I walked around… with a list of IP addresses in
my wallet in order to access them. It required Unix command line skills; there was no
way that my mother would have used [the internet]. My mum called me to say that her stereo was broken,
and that it was displaying an error message. “It is blinking 0:00.” It took me a few minutes to figure
out it had been unplugged and the clock had reset. The clock was waiting to be set again.
I wanted her to use the internet, so we could talk. But that wouldn’t happen [any time soon]. It took
almost twenty years, from the day I sent my first email… to the day my mum sent her first email. In order to do so, a lot of [developments] needed
to happen first. Most importantly, the iPad. She [sent an email] with the swipe of a finger, the
[primary experience feature] that made it possible. There was no way that the internet [I grew
up with] could be used by the mainstream. There was this fantastic [segment], I think on
one of those CBS morning shows on CBS in 1995, where the journalists are [preparing] before a show,
an outtake of discussion for the upcoming story. They are trying to [make sure] their information is right. One journalist asks another journalist,
“Wait, the internet is the @ sign, right?” “No, that is email. The internet is the ‘www’ part,
the dots and slashes.” “I thought that was email?” “No, that is the internet.” “Isn’t that the Web?”
There is this circular discussion about… a system designed by engineers. Inscrutable. Two things happened. We made the technology
easier to understand and much more polished. [Also], society [learned]. Today, the average person
knows the difference between the @ sign and ‘www,’ even though it is a horrible design. Society learned the language of the internet.
It was valuable enough to learn the language. When we made the internet easier, society caught up
and understood the inscrutable parts of the internet. The same thing is happening with Bitcoin. I go to mainstream conferences where
they have never heard of Bitcoin before. I say, “Don’t worry. Someone in
your life can explain Bitcoin to you.” “When they are done cleaning their room,
ask them to teach you about Bitcoin.” [Laughter] “Your ten-year-old will understand it.
They are probably [already involved].” I have met kids (very hip, right)
who create their own altcoins. One of the interesting questions I am
asked often is, how many coins will there be? The answer to that is equivalent to, how many
bloggers will there be on the internet? All of us. Not hundreds of coins, but tens of thousands of coins. A six-year-old can create ‘JoeyCoin,’ and then
launch it in their school as a popularity contest. Whether that coin is global, unforgeable, or scalable
doesn’t matter to Joey, as long as his friends like it. Unfortunately a competitor, ‘MariaCoin,’ is launched
on the scene. An old fashioned currency war begins. This will happen. We know this is
because children create currency. In Kindergarten, children will invent currency
by themselves. Rubber bands, Pokemon cards… or little [toy] cubes. They will start hoarding and trading for favors.
Eventually, they will start a fight over their… imaginary currencies. This is a human experience. Well, we have just
invented the world’s most awesome currency. Your job is to create the right design metaphors,
to make [bitcoin] work for everybody else. Thank you. [Applause]

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