Can Bitcoin Be Used for Good?
Friday, April 8, 2016
Something strange is happening to Bitcoin. Once viewed as a way to do business in the darkest corners of the web, the digital currency has rather suddenly become a favorite talking point among humanitarians and international development enthusiasts.
Bitcoin isn’t just for illicit transactions or Internet hobbyists anymore, but for helping the poor, the downtrodden, and the unbanked.
Perhaps Bitcoin can save them! Perhaps Bitcoin can save the world!
Regardless of whether this attitude is realistic—and more on that in a minute—the people focused on demonstrating the social benefits of Bitcoin are challenging existing narratives about the cryptocurrency. While early commentary focused on how Bitcoin might be used to buy drugs online, or for sending money without a paper trail; the social-good argument suggests that these uses were simply the first use-cases in which Bitcoin’s utility became apparent. But there are billions of other potential use. There are, for example, people who face significant obstacles in operating within the formal banking system—and these folks look very different from the shadowy hackers that tend to be seen as the prototypical Bitcoin user. They could be low-wage migrant workers sending money back home to their families, for example, or activists receiving money from abroad during tumultuous times.