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Author Topic: NEAL STEPHENSON in 1995: distributed digital currency -> hyperinflation of $  (Read 2378 times)
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March 23, 2011, 05:29:15 PM

Maybe some of you have read some of Neal Stephenson's cyberpunk post-apocalyptic novels.

A notable one in particular is Snow Crash. It's setting is post-apocalyptic America
- massive state debt resulted hyperinflation and disintegration of government, it was induced by introduction of cryptocurrency over which noone maintains control.

Turns out there is a prequel short story published in 1995 dedicated to cryptocurrency as a revolt to tax extortion. Some things bear striking resemblance to Bitcoin:

You can read the whole story here:,9171,982610-1,00.html

What do you think? Is satoshi fan of Neal's novels? Or is Stephenson among the ranks of great visionaries, like jules verne?

Notable spoilers if you're short on time or not that much of a sci-fi fan:

(simoleons are firm trying to hip masses into new currency....)

Quote from: page1
``Hauled down a mother of an account today,'' Joe explains. ``We hype cars. We hype computers. We hype athletic shoes. But as of three hours ago, we are hyping a currency.''

``What?'' says his wife Anne.

``Y'know, like dollars or yen. Except this is a new currency.''

``From which country?'' I ask. This is like offering lox to a dog: I've given Joe the chance to enlighten his feckless bro. He hammers back half a flute of Dom Perignon and shifts into full-on Pitch Mode.

Magical correlation: current slashdot hype and its effect on difficulty & mining

Quote from: page2

``Nowadays we can use it to go shopping in the Metaverse. But it's still in U.S. dollars. Smart people are looking for something better.''

That was for me. I graduated college with a thousand bucks in savings. With inflation at 10% and rising, that buys a lot fewer Leinenkugels than it did a year ago.

``The government's never going to get its act together on the budget,'' Joe says. ``It can't. Inflation will just get worse. People will put their money elsewhere.''

``Inflation would have to get pretty damn high before I'd put my money into some artificial currency,'' I say.

``Hell, they're all artificial,'' Joe says. ``If you think about it, we've been doing this forever. We put our money in stocks, bonds, shares of mutual funds. Those things represent real assets -- factories, ships, bananas, software, gold, whatever. Simoleons is just a new name for those assets. You carry around a smart card and spend it just like cash. Or else you go shopping in the Metaverse and spend the money online, and the goods show up on your doorstep the next morning.''

I say, ``Who's going to fall for that?''

``Everyone,'' he says. ``For our big promo, we're going to give Simoleons away to some average Joes at the Super Bowl. We'll check in with them one, three, six months later, and people will see that this is a safe and stable place to put their money.''

Magical correlation: why use heavily monitored legal tender when there's better (albeit privately owned) alternative?

Quote from: page5
By the time I've punched in the 256th digit ...

Ok, ok .. I do realize block hashes are 256bits, not hexa digits. But still.
But this is the best part....

Quote from: page6
``Simoleons? It's the same deal with Simoleons -- everything gets reported to the government.''

``Forget Simoleons. Think CryptoCredits.''

``CryptoCredits? What the hell is a CryptoCredit?'' He stands up and starts pacing back and forth. Now he's convinced I've traded the family cow for a handful of magic beans.

``It's what Simoleons ought to be: E-money that is totally private from the eyes of government.''

``How do you know? Isn't any code crackable?''

``Any kind of E-money consists of numbers moving around on wires,'' I say. ``If you know how to keep your numbers secret, your currency is safe. If you don't, it's not. Keeping numbers secret is a problem of cryptography -- a branch of mathematics. Well, Joe, the crypto-anarchists showed me their math. And it's good math. It's better than the math the government uses. Better than Simoleons' math too. No one can mess with CryptoCredits.''

Quote from: ending
``Does the First Distributed Republic have a flag?'' Mom asks, out of left field. I tell her these guys look like sewing enthusiasts. So, even before the second half starts, she's sketched out a flag on the back of her program. ``It'll be very colorful,'' she says. ``Like a jar of jelly beans.''
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March 23, 2011, 05:43:41 PM

I read the Diamond Age. They say that government collapses because cryptocurrencies are hyper secure and impossible to track.

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March 23, 2011, 07:00:39 PM

Ah yes, I read that a while back. Between Simoleon Caper, Cryptonomicon, and a few other things I can't remember right now, that's pretty much what got me into this.

The traceability of Bitcoin is perhaps the one thing that's bothered me most about it. It may be that such traceability is required for all the rest of the system to work properly, but it's still a problem when it comes to evil actors such as governments.

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