Bitcoin And Democracy Tech – Bitcoin USD (Cryptocurrency: BTC-USD)



I think it's very easy to get caught up in the hysteria surrounding Bitcoin (BTC-USD) (COIN) (OTCQX: GBTC). With massive volatility, complicated computer jargon, scammer and visionaries left and right, Bitcoin is a revolution or rat poison depending on who you speak. But we must remember that before "crypto" was slang for cryptocurrencies, it referred to cryptography. And cryptography is one of the cornerstones of the information age.

Without encryption, every digitally sent message would be readable by anyone interested in listening. Credit card numbers, direct message content, purchase history, password, name. Without strong cryptography, e-commerce would be completely impractical. This is a big deal since e-commerce sales have surpassed nearly $ 450 billion in 2017 and seems to be doing nothing but growing year after year.

But beyond that, encryption does not just protect our sensitive information and allows online transactions, but it can be a lifeline for people in need. Recently, I had the chance to talk with Alex Gladstein of the Human Rights Foundation. You may have seen his recent article in Time, "Why Bitcoin Matters for Freedom." If you have not read this article, go and take a look – it's powerful stuff.

Alex and I talked about the role that investors can play in helping to preserve the human rights and fundamental freedoms that many take for granted. You may have heard of "Impact Investing" or even the UN Sustainable Development Goals. But, so far, institutional investors have paid little or no attention to the billions of people living under authoritarian regimes. It has been estimated that more than half of the world's population lives under the authoritarian domination. Let's talk briefly about some of these areas and the types of abuse that are suffered right now.

A world in danger

In Venezuela, refugees are fleeing an authoritarian regime that has inflated Bolivar and caused extreme shortages of food and medicine. Currency controls have put people in a position where they face long delays and extraordinary commissions to receive money from abroad. The refugee crisis is now compared to Syria as millions of people flee in disastrous circumstances.

In Zimbabwe, the monetary crisis continues amid growing poverty. After seeing a new wave of hyperinflation, banks are now moving people away saying they have no money. Elections are rigged and voters are repeatedly threatened or intimidated.

In China, the limits of the presidential terms have been abolished, the Internet is heavily censored, journalists are jailed for what they choose to retweet and a technological state of police has become the norm.

In Russia, the parliament has been without opposition for more than ten years. Political opponents are incarcerated, television is censored and journalists and activists have been poisoned and murdered.

In Syria, open source software developers like Bassel Khartabil have been imprisoned and finally executed. In the meantime, the Internet has been interrupted and people have been attacked with poisonous gas without any way to communicate with the outside world.

In Nicaragua, state-owned television was turned off while students were killed on the streets. The elections are riddled with fraud, the parties in power control the media and journalism is strangled.

I wrote in "The Challenge":

"We believe that being involved in Bitcoin, blockchain technology or criptoassets in general is one of the few ways we can drive innovation, control the power of authoritarian leaders and lead to a complete economic revolution as we move into a more digital society For these reasons we believe in Bitcoin and the potential for transforming cryptocurrencies and blockchain technology as a force for good. "

I believe Alex and I agree on this point. However, many challenges still need to be addressed, from the further development of censorship-resistant networks, making strong cryptographic systems more accessible to the average person and raising awareness. That said, let's get into my interview with Alex Gladstein.

A conversation with Alex Gladstein

Hans Hauge: How do you define the technology of democracy?

Alex Gladstein: Democracy tech or "DemTech" would be an impact that invests in companies whose products or services directly or indirectly support democratic values ​​such as civil liberties, privacy, freedom of the press, free and fair elections and freedom of expression.

HH: What's the problem with SOCAP? What is SOCAP?

AG: I think the organizers of SOCAP have a huge opportunity. Basically, right now, in the impact-impact investor community, there's a wonderful and thought-out job on topics like education (EdTech), environmental protection (CleanTech or GreenTech), health care (HealthTech), food and agriculture (AgriTech), and others. But investments with almost no impact are made with regard to the promotion of civil liberties and individual freedoms. So when looking for the most recent SOCAP program from 2018, the words "human rights" are mentioned only once and words like "democracy", "journalism", "privacy" and "civil liberties" are not mentioned at all. There is no "DemTech", and this is largely due to the fact that events such as SOCAP and the impactor impact community in general are inspired by the US Sustainable Development Goals. The SDG U.N. they were created and now they are overseen by different dictatorships including China, Iran and Saudi Arabia that do not want to focus on issues like human rights and democracy. So you have 17 goals that all seem wonderful, but on closer inspection we do not focus at all on issues like civil liberties, elections, journalism, etc. But clearly, these problems and values ​​are so important to anything else in our world. If you do not have the right to protest or speak, you can not effectively protect the environment or expose corruption or fight poverty or push for business regulations. Regardless of where you are politically, you should not want governments and companies to own all of our data, for example – I think there is an opportunity for investors, business leaders and platforms like SOCAP to come together and focus on privacy and freedom and help grow DemTech.

HH: What is Impact Investing?

AG: Impact investment is an investment strategy in which you are willing to get a return on the lowest investment as long as you are making the world a better place. You can think of halfway between traditional investments (without moral compass) and pure donations or charitable gifts.

HH: What are some companies or projects that you think are making a difference now in the areas of privacy, civil liberties, property rights, resistance to censorship, mesh networks, voting, etc.?

AG: I am interested in some key areas of technology that I believe are very important for preventing mass surveillance. Some are advanced by companies, others by open-source communities. Things that could fall into the DemTech category include:

  • Encrypted Messaging – Signal
  • Censorship-resistant memory – IPFS
  • Private web browsing – Tor
  • Cigar-resistant money – Bitcoin
  • Decentralized Internet access – goTenna
  • Zero knowledge encryption – Zcash (ZEC-USD)
  • Payments distributed – Lightning network

HH: Do you have examples of how investments in technology for positive change have worked in the past?

AG: The previous list of technologies can be described as anti-authoritarian. They are more suitable for individuals against governments or societies – as opposed to things like artificial intelligence and big data, which have the opposite, centralizing effect. The interesting thing about these authoritarian projects or "DemTech" is that they are, in general, open source. But that does not mean that there are not huge amounts of money at stake. Bitcoin's market capitalization is tens of billions of dollars. The Signal project recently attracted $ 50 million after Google (NASDAQ: GOOG) (GOOGL), Facebook (FB) and Skype has adopted some of its encryption technologies. Andreessen Horowitz launched a $ 300 million encryption fund last year and other global investors such as Union Square Ventures and Sequoia have launched encrypted funds. It's not just a morally good thing to do to protect our information, data, money and communications, but it will also make smart people a lot of money over the next decade and beyond.

HH: How do you see the blockchain playing a role here?

AG: I think Bitcoin plays a central role in this. It is the world's first censorship-resistant currency network and engineers are committed to developing a really interesting technology on top of the Bitcoin base layer. In the coming years you will see important functionalities related to what you can do with Bitcoin, ranging from privacy technology to micropayments, to the improvement of portfolios and exchanges. Unfortunately, I think that "blockchain" has generally been overwritten, and very few other "blockchain" projects beyond Bitcoin will hardly succeed in doing something serious for this world, as well as enriching their creators. Especially when it comes to democracy and human rights. Some cryptocurrencies with privacy intent like Monero (XMR-USD) or ZCash are important exceptions, providing a useful service for people who want anonymous money.

HH: What's at stake if we do not act? What is the scale of the problems we are facing?

AG: If the community of investors with a trillion dollar impact jumps out of human rights and civil liberties, it would be a terrible thing. We need the business community to have a leading role here. As Yuval Noah Harari says, "if you do not like the idea of ​​living in a digital dictatorship or a similarly degraded form of society, then the most important contribution you can make is to find ways to avoid too much data being concentrated in too many hands and also finding ways to keep distributed data processing more efficient than centralized data processing. These will not be easy tasks, but achieving them can be the best safeguard of democracy. "

HH: What did you see in your work that the average American would have been shocked by?

AG: What do you think about the fact that 4 billion people live under some sort of authoritarian government, where there are no real independent media, independent magistrates or a way to hire a lawyer to protect you against the state? Billions of people live without institutions that we take for granted here in the United States like the New York Times, ACLU, EFF or the tens of thousands of other non-profit and media organizations that are active here in this country. It's a different environment in closed societies and these people need our help. Yes, we must help them in traditional ways with efforts to promote civil society and democracy, but we must also help them develop technologies that enable them to preserve privacy and keep themselves and their families safe.


There is much more in the Bitcoin revolution than Lambos and illicit activities. Bitcoin was invented to give people a life raft from which they could escape any kind of oppression. Whether this oppression results from censorship, hyperinflation or uncontrollable records controlled by a central and corrupt authority. Bitcoin and the technology that has emerged in its wake have the potential to remove intermediaries from positions where they can and will inevitably abuse their power. By transferring our trust in a system of rules determined by the crowd and applied by software, we have for the first time in our understanding a way to rethink the world of the future.

Organizations such as Unicef ​​have taken steps to invest in startups that can make a difference with blockchain technology and are not the only ones. In "Event Horizon" I wrote blockchain projects that work for the common good in Israel, Estonia, Dubai, South Africa, the Philippines and Chile. This is such an exciting time to be alive, but I think it's also a critical moment for Act.

This article was first published in Crypto Blue Chips.

Revelation: We are / are long BTC-USD, ZEC-USD. I wrote this article alone, and expresses my opinions. I'm not getting any compensation for this (other than Seeking Alpha). I have no business relationship with any company whose actions are mentioned in this article.

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