Life in the digital age has been full of surprises. Thanks to the rapid advancement of technology and the advent of the internet in particular, modern humans get to take advantage of a variety of quality of life improvements. Cryptocurrency is an interesting example of this, for many reasons, but it’s also important to view crypto through the lens of the technological and cultural landscape in which it was created. Upon closer inspection, cryptocurrency is almost inevitable. Here’s what you need to know.
One of the oft-touted advantages of crypto is that it is decentralized. What this means is that it’s a currency that transcends national borders that often dictate the type of currency available and, more importantly, the value of said legal tender. While it’s easy to assume that crypto would be no less susceptible to centralization, albeit to a company instead of a nation, this isn’t the case.
Cryptocurrency is characterized primarily by the blockchain. This is a type of ledger that is used to keep track of monetary transactions. While that alone is standard fare, blockchains are unique in that it is designed to be automated and permanent. Simply put, the blocks in question each comprise a series of monetary transactions that, once recorded, are permanently part of that block. Once a block is complete, it will likewise become a part of the broader “chain” forever more.
Decentralization is not unique to cryptocurrency. Businesses, for example, can take advantage of a decentralized structure to create a more optimized and secure business model. Likewise, decentralization has been a trend in modern communications technology overall. For example, a virtual phone number can be used by a business to allow the company’s phone number to connect to any smart phone, rather than having communications locked into on-site devices. This trend can even be seen on a cultural level. Because of automated translation services baked into web browsers and apps, users from around the world can communicate and collaborate easily and effectively with minimal additional effort.
Another interesting facet of cryptocurrency is that it provides a sort of anonymity. This has presented some concerns about the potential for crypto to facilitate black market transactions. However, there is a compelling argument to be made that, since illegal commerce is longstanding, the advantage of anonymity is less important to criminals than it is to the average, law-abiding citizen. Simply put, hackers will take any avenue available to them to steal sensitive information, up to and including financial information. This means that simply participating in e-commerce exposes consumers to the risk of identity theft, albeit to a fairly small extent in most cases.
For much the same reason, anonymity is a concern for internet users at large. While the primary risk to the average user comes in the form of e-commerce, by voluntarily surrendering credit card information, the true shape of the risk of cyberattacks is a web, not unlike the internet itself. There are various ways that hackers can obtain sensitive data from businesses and private citizens alike. For example, an unsecure website leaves users vulnerable to their data being intercepted by hackers without encryption protocols. There are just as many ways to protect yourself from hackers as there are methods for bad actors to intercept your information, however. If anything, there are simply too many to keep track of.
On the bright side, anonymity goes a long way in this department, too. Simply put, the concept of anonymity is not only present in the fabric of encryption, but also a more comprehensive possibility. Thanks to VPNs (Virtual Private Networks), internet users can effectively hide their IP addresses from whoever might be trying to track that address. IP addresses are an important part of distinguishing users and devices online, so they’re a necessary evil, but VPNs offer users the ability to essentially change that address, as well as their location data, to protect their secrets from hackers.
Cryptocurrency may seem strange, at first. However, taking a closer look at the broader landscape of the online world offers perspective. Despite whatever gut reaction you might have, crypto makes perfect sense in the age of the internet and big data alike.