I find it odd that even now, in late-2018, a lot of regular people you meet still think of bitcoin as some sort of vapourware or fad from the past. I guess being constantly surrounded by crypto information makes it hard for us bitcoiners to relate back to the average crowd.
In a bitcoiner’s mind there is no doubt that, after nearly 10 years, bitcoin is now a certain part of our global financial system and a certain part of everyday life.
But to the wider public, bitcoin is not.
How can we change this? How can we raise the awareness among the wider public and make people understand what bitcoin stands for and what are those important advantages that have allowed bitcoin to survive and flourish?
The truth is, it is hard.
Cypherpunks, libertarians, and sovereign individuals aside, for most people living in developed countries there is very little need or desire to learn about bitcoin, never mind to use it. In late 2017, speculation and greed played a major role in bringing about widespread awareness of bitcoin as a recognized part of our modern financial landscape. However, after the shitcoin bubble-led crash and ensuing bear market, that motivation has all but disappeared from the public. Without quick money to be made, most people simply went back to their day jobs and mortgages and stopped caring about why a trustless electronic hard money is changing the world.
In developed countries where everyone has a bank account, where payment by tapping your credit card or by scanning Alipay QR codes is so convenient, there is little incentive for people to care about bitcoin. Why use something that requires you to be responsible, cautious, and self-sufficient, when you can have other people manage everything for you? In a world where all basic human needs are met (food, water, shelter, pleasure), convenience and comfort are the biggest obstacles for disruption.
Until the next global financial crisis or bitcoin bull run, it is hard to see anyway out of the current state of no-fucks-given by the general public.
Outside of our comfortable living rooms and mainstream media brainwashing though, thousands of miles away, crazy things are happening everyday and average people are using bitcoin, more and more.
I’m talking about the geopolitically unstable regions of the world, where people live in crisis almost daily, and where their immediately reality makes them trust absolutely no one — no neighbour, no bank, and certainly no government official.
In these parts of the world, real bitcoin adoption is happening, out of necessity.
Venezuela has been mired in the worst ever socioeconomic crisis in the Americas for nearly a decade now. Things have gotten so bad in recent years that the national currency, the Bolivar, has lost thousands of percent in economic value. Citizens’ savings have been rendered absolutely worthless in the matter of weeks and months, and Bolivars are now more often weighed rather than counted. The middle and upper class educated Venezuelan people quickly started turning to bitcoin, since it is less trackable and censorable than US Dollars. Bitcoin quickly became a routine way for Venezuelans to preserve their wealth and to get US Dollars in the black market, and bitcoin mining became almost a household activity. But of course, government officials are trying to squeeze every last bit of wealth out of the people, and apparently, the military is now aggressively hunting down bitcoin miners and confiscating everything. God bless the people of Venezuela for what they are going through and for their resilience, but things just keep getting worse for them as now Nicolas Maduro is trying to force the total fiat-like garbage that is the Petro coin on them.
In India, Prime Minister Narendra Modi in 2016 spontaneously declared that 80% of circulating Indian Rupee cash notes are no longer valid tender. India was suddenly faced with national outrage and of course, massive queues and absolute chaos at banks, as citizens rushed to exchange their suddenly invalid 500 and 1,000 Rupee notes. The people of India now realized how untrustworthy politicians can be, and how drastically one person’s central decision-making can instantly affect the lives of millions. The cash crisis in India kicked off a wave of bitcoin adoption and gave birth to prominent early Indian crypto businesses like Unocoin. The Indian government quickly realized that bitcoin gives control from the government back to the common man, and were quick to take a tough stance on crypto businesses and activities in the country.
In Turkey, the Lira depreciated more than 100% over the past 3 years, triggering increased capital outflows as panicking citizens tried to move their savings out of the country, into Euros or US Dollars. Increasing attention for bitcoin quickly arrived following the country’s recent fiat crisis, with Turkish crypto exchanges and other bitcoin businesses proliferating.
In South Africa, the Rand depreciated more than 20% in merely a few months this year, again bringing about widespread attention for cryptocurrencies. In a recent survey, half of South Africans said they plan to buy some sort of cryptocurrency.
Recently, Binance opened up its crypto-fiat exchange in Uganda, marking a significant milestone in terms of major crypto businesses pushing into Africa and the large unbanked population on the continent. Over 40,000 users joined the platform in the first week of its launch.
More and more of these examples can be found all over the world. Zimbabwe was famous for its wild inflation and hundred-trillion-dollar bills a decade ago, perhaps just a little bit too early for bitcoin. But, history tells us that human greed and putting public trust in the hands of unelected politicians will only lead to repeat scenarios, over and over. Now, people have a means by which they can retain their economic power, and with more crises will come more adoption for bitcoin.
Sociopolitical factors aside, censorship has been another key example that displays bitcoin’s value. WikiLeaks accepted bitcoin donations in as early as 2010, since no centralized bank or company was willing to work with them, under pressure from the governments. To this day, WikiLeaks and many other truth-seeking whistleblowers continue to flourish thanks to the possibilities brought by a trustless and censorship-resistant form of money.
Of course, for those of us ordinary people living comfortable lives in developed countries, let’s hope that socioeconomic crises with the magnitude of Venezuela are never bestowed on us. In which case, we will need to rely on the lure of financial gain for mass adoption. The key going forward then, is to build highly user-friendly businesses and products that provide financial incentives in cryptocurrency for work, participation, or time spent by users. This, in my opinion, is the only way forward for bitcoin adoption in the absence of necessity.
Or we can wait for the next few bull markets.