Bitcoin is arguably the single greatest invention of the new millennium. Its creation is so revolutionary that it almost defies logic. And like any inventive product, almost everyone I speak to has this automatic revulsion to the concept: "It can't be real!" they exclaim into my face. "It's for drug trafficking, contract killings, and money laundering," are the standard trifecta response of those who have heard about Bitcoin through the media. "It's unsafe, volatile, and risky," is the response from those who actually know a little more about it.
Yes, as with anything speculative, it is risky. However, blaming illegal transactions on Bitcoin, which much of the mainstream media seems to do (with notable exception of The New York Times and Forbes), is like blaming the heroin epidemic on "cash." If we didn't have cash then people would have to use a traceable form of payment. Then we would be able to track them down, and the use and abuse of illicit drugs would end. Unicorns and puppies would rain down in celebration, and Jesus would ride his white horse in exultation.
Bitcoin attracts the same kind of logic argument: If Bitcoin did not exist, we would not have drugs or other illicit activities being sold online. The unfortunate reality is that people will find a way to get whatever illegal activity they want done. They'll barter, sell, or trade anything to make it happen. Bitcoin just makes it easier to conduct an illegal transaction online, and yet, it is also one of the most transparent payment methods that exists. There is a false sense of security to people who are using Bitcoin for illegal purposes in cases like this.
You hear politicians railing against Bitcoin and calling for its ban, as if it was the problem, and not the illegal activity. Janet Yellen, our current monetary mystic has said, "The Federal Reserve has no authority to regulate Bitcoin." She understands, and is intelligent enough to realize, that as it is outside the banking system, it is inherently hard to regulate.
Bitcoin has the potential to completely transform every aspect of the internet, marketing, content distribution, and third-world empowerment as we know it. And in the future, you will thank its mythical ghost creator, Satoshi Nakamoto, that it exists. However, before that time arrives, we must start with a question: What is Bitcoin?