The online currency 'bitcoin' is a glimpse into the economic future

October 11, 2011

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(AP/Evan Vucci)
"Bitcoin" bills itself as “the first decentralized digital currency,” independent from Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke.

Today, we look at a new and mysterious online currency called "bitcoin." Since its launch in 2009, it’s prompted many to imagine an alternative reality. In it, the economic establishment no longer controls the flow of money around the world. The currency is the brainchild of "Satoshi Nakamoto," who claims to be a 36-year-old Japanese computer programmer. Satoshi's real name and identity, however, remain unknown. Individuals can use the currency to buy a surprisingly wide range of products online -- from beef jerky to hotel rooms to illicit drugs. And in a little over two and a half years, its founder has managed to create nearly thirty-five million dollars of value.

In this week’s issue of the New Yorker, contributor Joshua Davis investigated bitcoin in “The Crypto-Currency.” He tells us about his search for the elusive genius behind this phenomenon, and what this currency says about our age of economic struggle.