My initiation to Bitcoin

September 16, 2014

I was invited to a Bitcoin 101-type meet up hosted by Ethan Buchman (who originally contacted me with the tipping idea) and Zach Ramsey. These gentlemen are Masters students at the University of Guelph, and business partners at their own “CryptoConsulting” company, Coin Culture.

 

Ethan studies “Machine Learning, Statistical Inference, Dynamical Systems Theory, Neuroscience”, and Zach tells me he when I meet him that he recently left his neuroscience program to pursue his interests in cryptoeconomics. So my summer student, who is studying to be an artist herself, and I are here at the Red Papaya - a dimly lit thai fusion restaurant with a mega mural of tropical foliage and birds - to meet these guys with the crazy tipping ideas, to see if we can’t make some sense of it.

 

I can tell you I learned a lot, though I can’t claim to fully understand  it. That being said I do not fully understand regular old economics, but I manage to pay my bills. I learned enough to feel somewhat comfortable with the idea of tipping artists with Bitcoin. I still wasn’t comfortable enough to  promote it as an arts council project, since I had no real data to go on. But I was intrigued enough to take on whatever risks there might be in this new venture and try it out on myself. I had a show coming up anyway, so the timing was good.

 

So what are the risks? Bitcoin is volatile, yes. That is the main complaint people seem to have towards regarding it as worthwhile. I suppose people could tip artists via Bitcoin and the value could diminish before the artist could turn it into cash or supplies. On the other hand, I suppose it could increase in value as well.

 

This being said brings up the questions “Who is my audience here?” The question that followed was “Then, do we need to get a bunch of people to buy Bitcoin first so they can tip artists?" That seems clumsy and kind of useless. But these questions brought up two interesting answers. One point came from the CoinCulture gents, which is that there are already a ton of people who have bitcoin and not a lot of places they can spend it. Their opinion was that there is a group of people who would actively tip artists with bitcoin if given the chance. The second point was raised by my work-neighbour, who is the executive director of the Guelph Community Foundation. I’m very glad he said (something to the effect of) “Yes, bitcoin is interesting, but what are you going to say to people like me? People who are in support of the tipping idea, but don’t have bitcoin (and probably won’t anytime soon), and so are not allowed to tip you!? Are you equipped to take credit card, cash or cheque, so us old-fashioned folk can take part?”

 

I very much appreciate this contribution because I admit I’d been caught up in the bitcoiners’ forward-thinking enthusiasm without taking into consideration that the general idea applies to everyone NOW, regardless of whether they take part in the frontier of payment systems.

 

We can’t forget or underestimate the supportive intentions of patrons and potential patrons in our community, so why not open up avenues for a wide variety of support levels?

 

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