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We MUST be told: How many Bitcoins do I need to kill a melon-head?

Money, money, money – must be funny

Internet Security Threat Report 2014

Something for the Weekend, Sir? Banks. Bastards, all of ’em, yah boo sucks.

Of course, not everything to do with banks is hateful. The big metal safe in a bank’s basement isn’t a bastard. Nor are those intrepid customer-facing men and women who are employed at the high street branches to fulfil the thrilling role of holding a clipboard and saying “hello” when you walk in.

Nor are their equally indispensable colleagues whose job description concerns roaming the lobby and apologising to every customer in turn for the fact that the automated paying-in machines don’t work.

So at the least the traditional idea of a bank – thick walls, long queues, the thumping of rubber stamps – isn’t necessarily a bastard. Just because it kept getting robbed in cowboy films doesn’t make it untrustworthy. High street bank branches may be unreliable but you can trust them.

Captain Mainwaring

“As a bank manager, let me tell you, banks are the cornerstone of British society, you stupid boy”
Source: BBC

The part of banking that involves investments, futures, moving digits around the world, conjuring profits from nowhere, buggering up economies, paying big bonuses to those performing the worst – now that’s the bastard. Unreliable and untrustworthy.

Well, you’re fooling yourself if you believe that. My brother-in-law works in futures and he’s a top bloke. Contrary to public opinion, bonuses are earned by very few. His office is not lined with babies on pitchforks or illuminated by burning kittens.

Wake up. Money is just a self-induced con-trick for reasons of convenient exchange of goods. We have all bought into this idea, quite literally. It’s a flimsy house of cards built purely on bluff – not great for something so untrustworthy, but there it is. The current economic woes are largely the result on that bluff being called: your classic bursting of a bubble.

So is Bitcoin ready to burst yet?

The BBC quotes Garrick Hileman, a prof at the London School of Economics, asserting that there is a correlation between the rise in Bitcoin exchange rate value and the number of Bitcoin stories appearing in the media.

I wish someone would pay me to say stuff like that. “When something gets publicised, more people become interested in it.” I could be a media guru, me.

Further, the quality and utility of the thing being publicised may bear no relationship with its value or popularity. Take X Factor: on the surface, it’s a series of TV programmes in which unsightly people sing shit songs badly for hours on end. But it’s always on the telly, in the papers, on billboards, on social networking. It is so difficult to ignore that even die-hard haters of X Factor – snobs, intellectuals, people who aren’t completely fucking tone deaf, etc – will end up watching bits of it at some point.

It stands to reason that if something big sits directly in front of you, always getting in the way, always in your face, you eventually find that you can’t see anything else.

My case in point: the tall dark-haired bloke sitting in front of me at the Tenacious D gig on Monday night. Hey, if this was you at Shepherd’s Bush Empire on Level 2, third row, slightly on the right and are reading this, I hope you die, you stupid, lanky, melon-headed cunt.

Surely the notable aspect about Bitcoin coverage in the media – outside the haven of sense that is The Register, of course – is that it is almost entirely concerned with its exchange rate value with traditional currencies.

Kerr-ching

Bitcoin wasn’t developed as an investment opportunity but as a means of cross-national digital exchange free of political interference. Its intrinsic instability is intended to deter hoarding and gambling alike. You’re supposed to use it for spending – whoa, radical idea – and to this end, its transaction fees are designed to be tiny.

Now, if ever there was a bastard in banking, it’s transaction fees. I fully support the principle of compensating people for their work, but transaction fees are largely unearned and barely justifiable. Banks gamble with our cash all around the world 24 hours a day and cream off the profits but they don’t charge themselves for all these secret transactions, do they?

A granddad I met at the school playground during school runs a few years ago told me that his first job back in the 1950s was at a bank, programming punched cards for handling electronic bank transactions. Within a week, he was hauled before the boss for a bollocking because he’d allowed money transfers from customer accounts to other banks – later standardised as the BACS system – to complete instantaneously rather than take the customary four working days.

As he explained, it’s just numbers. You didn’t even need computers: even in the 1950s you could agree on the transfer over a phone call and the money would be at the other bank immediately. Instead, he was told that his punched cards should ensure that cash would be deducted from the customer account immediately but only credited to the destination account four days later.

The four-day delay was invented so that the bank could steal your money for that period and do what they liked with it, then – and this is the best bit – charge you for the privilege.

Recent years have seen banks shamed into pretending to develop systems that allow faster transfers and cheaper international transactions. The next step is to shame debit and credit card companies and the likes of PayPal into introducing a measure of reality in their calculation of transaction charges.

Bitcoins

Miser’s hoard
Source: Zach Copley

And if they won’t budge, sod ’em. That’s what Bitcoin is really about: inexpensive movement of money, not all that tabloid-friendly blah about shady investments, drug deals, bubbles and tulip bulbs. This Mail Online story about Bitcoin is a particularly sniggerworthy mass of clichés and layman cock-ups – eg. Satoshi Nakamoto “created a code”, Bitcoins are inherently unstable because “you cannot stash them under a mattress”, etc. – but is typical of all coverage.

My only concern is that the nature of Bitcoin emphasises curation. Unlike conventional currencies – which are just tokens of exchange represented by empty promises on statements, bits of coloured paper and roundels of metal – Bitcoin wallets need to be constantly checked, protected and cherished, like a miser stroking his money chest. I can’t just back it up and restore it, but have to invest time and tech to keep it intact, in one location, unique and irreplaceable.

It’ll make Norbert Colons of us all. ®

Alistair DabbsAlistair Dabbs is a freelance technology tart, juggling IT journalism, editorial training and digital publishing. He regrets the termination of the Silk Road. He was prepared to spend his entire Bitcoin wallet – some 0.00002232 BTC, he’ll have you know – on hiring a hitman to ‘take out’ anyone in the Shepherd’s Bush area with a melon-sized head.

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