My father is a retired high school economics teacher. He has previously sort of gently made fun of Bitcoin, but I have to admit in a reasonably sophisticated way. He said it would only work if people started exchanging "real money" for it at exchanges…
Well… here we are then.
So at last tonight we had a LONG chat about Bitcoin and how it actually functions as a system. No the economics, the technology. I managed to get him on board with the blockchain, with mining, with the halvening, with how there will only be 21 million (well, actually only not-quite-21-million), etc etc.
He is definitely the oldest person I know, at 71, who has not just gone "pffft what a load of crap." Reassured by external data – the current price – he now understands that it is real and it can work. He accepts that the design is self-consistent and that it has features that allow it to function as money.
Now all I had to do was explain the details.
I took him through Satoshi, the genesis block, the blockchain in general, addresses, how coins are generated, how inflation is kept under control, how miners are incentivised, why we need miners at all…
And then I explained wallets and private keys and at that point, he said: "Uh huh but… why would you want to send your bitcoin to someone else's wallet?"
This is not a failure in his intelligence. It is a failure in his ability to inuit what these metaphors – wallet, key, address, block, coin – mean in the context of Bitcoin. To him, when I talk about a shop and two bitcoin wallets, his mind paints a picture of TWO CUSTOMERS standing in front of a third person – the merchant. Because merchants don't use WALLETS, they use tills or registers. Except of course, when it comes to BTC, they use wallets.
I was able to explain to him that it's like I took $ 20 out of my wallet, passed it to him, and he put it in his wallet EXCEPT that Bitcoin instantly "teleports" the money from my wallet to his. But also everyone can see that happen. But also no one can see that it was me and him who did the transaction.
Hell… it hurts my brain even typing this.
As an economist who learned his trade in the 1960s, his mind-map of the very nature of money is just too different. The lack of a third party – the lack of a bank, or point of sale system – broke his understanding of how Bitcoin works at the point where wallets transmit keys to make coins change address….. bllaaarrg!
To someone who spent 40 years teaching kids the fundamentals of commerce and money, Bitcoin is deeply deeply weird. Not because it's baffling. Quite the opposite – because fundamentally it makes sense to him. It's the details that hurt.
To us, Bitcoin is easy. To the world out there, it's baffling. Never forget that.