Why The Light Saber of Damocles? Well, this is a word game and a reference in the same title. The light saber is a reference to the Jedi on Star Wars and The Sword of Damocles is an old Greek legend about an envious and flatterer that did not have the knowledge to be on a position of privilege and power. For me, crypto currencies are a very powerful tool that demands responsibility from their users; however, Colombian society has proved itself short on both responsibility and control, and it could end up with an imminent danger hovering over its head if t does not learn to give crypto currencies a proper use. It could end up with a light saber because we are talking about the most advanced and revolutionary technologies of the XXI century.
I currently am a student of History on the University of Cauca, Colombia, and as a part of my final assignment for a subject on the media I had to report on a topic of my choosing. I choose to investigate this complicated relationship that is barely starting to grow on our country, crypto currencies within Colombian society. However on these times of modernity, speed and globalization, this relationship is not limited only to Colombia, instead it extends to all of Latin-America with great strength and also in the rest of the world; countries are not the same islands imbedded on their own problems anymore, today with the speed of communications, any event can have an impact within seconds on the other side of the planet, we are hyper connected and covered under the same sheet of the internet. I believe it is of outmost importance as a historian to start studying these vents, being in the vanguard of what I can visualize to be a game changer and more so when that change will take place on the world economy. To me, the job of a historian in the XXI century is to envision, to point out those changes to come so we are able to properly warn or correct as it is necessary for the benefit of our society.
Last year a famous website on the deepweb called Silk Road was closed. On this site you could buy from an ounce of marijuana to pay for a hired killer through the net. Most of these deals were paid for in bitcoin, causing an increase on the value of the crypto currency. This currency does not circulate exclusively on the web anymore; today you can normally use it on the streets of New York or Berlin to buy simple things like a coffee or a beer. I would love to be able to do these simple transactions in my hometown or in any city of Colombia. But here is where the doubt arises. What would be the risk in the case that Colombians could use this currency so freely on the streets? Keeping in mind the nature of Colombian society, its idiosyncrasy and the wide landscape of illegality we live in, this currency would be perfect for transactions on: extortions, hired killers, child pornography, police corruption, cons, etc and on many other of the evils suffered by Colombian society. Since transactions are anonymous, for the authorities it would be impossible to exercise any kind of control or capturing the responsible. Perhaps the Bank of the Republic on Colombia also thought about this when it issued its ambiguous press report on bitcoin trying to persuade people not to use this crypto currency?
To solve this doubt, I had to look for experts on both fields, from the academy of economy and from engineering and programming. This is how I decided to interview the professor of economy PhD. Luis Guillermo Velez, who is currently a member of the University EAFIT in Medellin and, the engineer on industrial automation Pedro Rivera Wilches, who works for the improvement of the system of crypto currencies as with projects that involve their use on daily life. Both professor Velez and the Engineer Pedro Rivera are familiar with the topic; the first one wrote an article earlier this year and the second is an expert from both the theoretical side as from the practical side of crypto currencies. These two interviewees would give me a well rounded idea about the economy of crypto currencies, from both theory and practice.
I found that both of my guests were enthusiastic and supporters of these currencies, they were optimistic on the growth and good use that they go be given in the case of Colombia; the engineer Rivera explained to me several examples of how Colombians would benefit from bitcoin, in fact there are several projects that are currently helping communities of our country. I found no trace of pessimism or the same fears that led me to do this research. Although they also cleared up for me that it is too early to talk about possible repercussions of the bitcoin in our country, it seems to me that, for now , people that trades with bitcoin in Colombia are being responsible. So that my fears materialize, its use should expand more into our society, and we are at least one or two decades away for it to happen. Right now in Europe the bitcoin is expanding fast, same thing in Asia and the United States; we cannot doubt that Latin-America will enter this trend sooner or later. I thought the analogy that the engineer Rivera gave me comparing crypto currencies and the internet was very accurate. He said back in the 80s people doubted the internet was going to make any change or that it would become popular among the general population; the most doubtful were scholars; and let’s see now, that we almost cannot live without our phones, laptops, social networks… it would be stupid not to admit that the internet has changed the world. This talk has reinforced my position that Universities need to study these events, virtual or not, current nonetheless. We must move forward or at least go along with times; of these phenomena will depend a lot on our comprehension of the society we live in; but Colombian scholars seem not to even be aware of the situation, especially economy scholar. During my investigation I was only able to find two economy professors that are currently familiarized with the topic in this country. Even worse is the scene for other professions on humanities degrees; I found no anthropologists, no sociologists, historians, philosophers or geographers in Colombia that have spoken about crypto currencies or that are at least aware of them. Paradoxically, I did find several Colombian professionals, on sciences applied to development (engineers) that know and work with crypto currencies, but that also have extensive knowledge on humanities, and obligatory knowledge to the development of their work along with being aware of the effect it has on their societies. I found that these engineers were complete professionals of the XXI century, that they are aware of academic theory and that they know how to bring that to practice on the real world.
Now I see with more optimism that some crypto currencies and their alternative economies, fairer to the user, arrive in Colombia. The benefits are many and we still have more to invent; there are many more benefits for small retailers and for micro economies in Colombia. For now, I can only help to expand the knowledge and to encourage people to try these sorts of currencies
Source Article: Ricardo Antonio G. UNICAUCA . June 2015