Reflections on Bitcoin — Irving Wladawsky-Berger

MIT Sloan Visiting Lecturer Irving Wladawsky-Berger

MIT Sloan Visiting Lecturer Irving Wladawsky-Berger

From Irving Wladawsky-Berger’s Blog

Ever since I joined Citigroup as a strategic advisor in March of 2008, I’ve been spending a lot of time thinking about the ongoing transition toward a global digital money ecosystem.  For over 2,500 years, money has played a central role in the rise of civilizations and in human affairs of all kinds.  As a result, the historical transition to digital money is among the most exciting and important societal challenges in the coming decades.  Its impact might well be up there with that of other major technology-based societal transformations, including electricity, radio and TV, and the Internet and World Wide Web.

The evolution to a digital money ecosystem involves a lot more than the transformation of money – cash, checks, credit and debit cards, etc, – from physical to digital objects that we will carry in our smart mobile devices.  It encompasses the whole money ecosystem, including the global payment infrastructures, the management of personal identities and financial data, the global financial flows among institutions and between institutions and individuals, the government regulatory regimes, security and privacy issues, and so on.

Just about every aspect of the world’s economy is involved.  Over time, mobile devices will truly become our personal windows into an increasingly global, digital economy.  And, because continuing technology advances are now enabling us to bring the empowerment benefits of the digital revolution to just about everyone in the planet, digital money is a truly inclusive innovation with no apparent digital divide.  Mobile phones and Internet access have gone from a luxury to a necessity that most everyone in the planet will soon be able to afford.

This evolution will take decades to fully play out, – historical transitions take their time.  But, it’s most definitely underway, with an increasing number of market pilots and research studies taking place around the world.

When discussing digital money, I often get asked my opinion of Bitcoin.  My answers have not been all that good because I honestly don’t know what to think of Bitcoin.  I usually tell people that the development of digital money ecosystems is such a complex undertaking that it’s best, at least for now, to stick to traditional currencies, e.g., $, £, €, ¥,₩, that all the parties involved understand.  Introducing new cryptocurrencies into the mix at this time adds all kinds of additional complications which we might be better able to deal with once the evolution is well underway.

Read the full post at Irving Wladawsky-Berger’s Blog.

Irving Wladawsky-Berger is a Visiting Lecturer in Information Technology at the MIT Sloan School of Management.

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