UCLA’s John Villasenor takes you inside the world of cryptocurrencies (think bitcoin)

bitcoinworld09 July 2014 / LA Times – You can donate to a PAC, buy a Tesla or order a Domino’s pizza using bitcoin. California just repealed a ban on such cryptocurrencies, so the question is not only “Now what?” but “What?,” period. Any currency that’s not tied to something like gold is essentially faith-based, but faith may be harder to come by for something like bitcoin, which took a PR hit in the Mt. Gox failure in February and has no physical existence anyway. You may want to try it out just because it’s neat, says John Villasenor, a UCLA professor of electrical engineering and public policy and a Brookings Institution fellow, but it’s the “decentralized trust” that underpins bitcoin transactions that is the real innovation.

Bitcoin is the biggest of the cryptocurrencies. What makes cryptocurrency different?

When you buy something with a credit card, you provide all the information to defraud you. That doesn’t make a lot of sense. If I hand you $10 cash, unless you’re going to whack me over the head, you can’t get me to give you any more. With a credit card, I authorize you to charge $10 and you could charge $50 and, in the immediate term, there’s no way for me to stop it. Every few weeks we find out millions of credit cards have been compromised. What we have is not really fine.

Enter bitcoin. On the security side, in a bitcoin transaction, you are never providing any other party with information that could be used to defraud you. When you send bitcoin to somebody, even if they’re not trustworthy, they cannot use the information you provided to extract more money than you want to give….. Read more


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