Much has been written over the past year about the new digital currency Bitcoin – especially after its price skyrocketed 15x in just a few months, followed by a blow-off correction of over 50%.
But what exactly is it? How does it work? How secure is it? What are its advantages (and disadvantages) to sovereign fiat currencies? To precious metals?
In this week's podcast, Chris talks with Gavin Andresen, chief scientist of the Bitcoin Foundation and lead developer for its digital currency project.
On Bitcoin's Founding Concept
Bitcoin really is a new kind of money. It is a new concept in how you can 'do' money, in that it is a virtual or digital currency that isn't issued by a central bank. It isn't created by some central corporation. Instead, everyone who is participating in the Bitcoin network – so everybody who is running the Bitcoin software on their computer in communicating over the network with other people who are running the Bitcoin software – all of those people together collectively perform the functions that a central bank would typically perform. Those people all create the currency. Those people all make sure that the transactions that happen are valid and that invalid transactions are rejected. So collectively, together, everybody who is running the Bitcoin software makes the system work. And that makes it very resilient, really. It is resistant to central control. It is resistant to manipulating the money supply. It is resistant to censorship. It is resistant to a lot of other bad things that have happened with our traditional fiat currencies.
On Bitcoin's Security
Bitcoin is also like cash. If you own some Bitcoins and you are holding some Bitcoins in your digital wallet then that is like holding physical cash in your physical wallet. If somebody steals that wallet, then they have got your Bitcoins.
You asked, will I lose all of my money if a server crashes? That is not an issue. All of the tens of thousands of Bitcoin miners looking for Bitcoin actually hold a record of all the transactions that have happened on the Bitcoin network. There is no one single server that can crash and take all of your Bitcoins away. It is very distributed and reliable in that way. But again, you are responsible for holding what I call your ‘private keys’ that let you spend your Bitcoins. And if you lose your private keys, either to a hacker attacker, or if your computer crashes and you didn't have a backup of your keys, then you can lose your Bitcoins.
On Bitcoin's Future
I think Bitcoin will be an answer. I still tell people, only invest time and money into Bitcoin that you can afford to lose. It is in early adopter stage. I would still consider it a high-risk investment, if you want to think of it as an investment. It could be really huge. I think there is no theoretical reason why Bitcoin couldn't grow as large as some of the major national currencies. There is really no technical reason why it couldn't and no theoretical reason why it couldn't. There is a huge network effect with money. The more people using a means of exchange, the more valuable it becomes to use that thing as a means of exchange. That is why gold is king, and not platinum or silver. There has been a huge network of people finding gold to be a great stored value, and in certain situations, a means of exchange. Bitcoin has a huge head start on any other alternative.
We are still really at the early adopter phase. We have been since Bitcoin started. Adoption is actually happening pretty quickly. Right now, all of the Bitcoins in the world are worth somewhere over a billion dollars. That gives you a sense of scale on how big the Bitcoin economy is. Last year I was doing some research and I was looking at how big is Bitcoin relative to some of the smaller, national fiat currencies. They assumed that Bitcoin was probably smaller than any other national currency. And to my surprise, I actually found out that there are some small nations where the national currency is worth less than Bitcoin
Click the play button below to listen to Chris' interview with Gavin Andresen (35m:41s):
Chris Martenson: Welcome to another Peak Prosperity podcast. I am your host, Chris Martenson, and today we are fortunate to have Gavin Andresen with us as our guest. Gavin is the chief scientist of the Bitcoin Foundation, where he serves as the lead developer for its digital currency project.
Today we are going to talk about the rationale for alternative currencies – the benefits of a digital currency system, of course. But then I want to really dig into the advantages and challenges offered by Bitcoin.
All right, Gavin. The rise of Bitcoin has generated a lot of interest amongst the Peak Prosperity audience. So we are really pleased that you have agreed to join us today and help us better understand how this new digital currency works.
Gavin Andresen: Oh, great. Happy to be here.
Chris Martenson: Fantastic. Gavin, in your opinion, why is there a need for alternative forms of currency to exist in fiat money systems? I mean you have made this your life. You are pouring a lot of your effort into it. What draws you to this?
Gavin Andresen: I was first attracted to the Bitcoin project partly because I'm a computer geek. I write software for a living, and it is very interesting software, partly because I'm interested in economics. And the economic model behind Bitcoin really appealed to me. And then, also, just because I've been interested in peer-to-peer decentralized technology, so technologies where there is no one person, company, government in control. Bitcoin combines all of those things together into a system that is really exciting.
Chris Martenson: Let's talk about this system. For a lot of people, Bitcoin is a word, but it's not yet a developed concept. Explain to us, if you could, how the Bitcoin model works and what makes it unique over any other form of digital currency that might exist.
Gavin Andresen: Sure. Bitcoin is really a new kind of money. It is a new concept in how you can do money, in that it is a virtual or digital currency that isn't issued by a central bank. It isn't created by some central corporation. Instead, everyone who is participating in the Bitcoin network – so everybody who is running the Bitcoin software on their computer in communicating over the network with other people who are running the Bitcoin software – all of those people together collectively perform the functions that a central bank would typically perform. Those people all create the currency. Those people all make sure that the transactions that happen are valid and that invalid transactions are rejected. So collectively, together, everybody who is running the Bitcoin software makes the system work. And that makes it very resilient, really. It is resistant to central control. It is resistant to manipulating the money supply. It is resistant to censorship. It is resistant to a lot of other bad things that have happened with our traditional fiat currencies.
Chris Martenson: I'm really fascinated by this. Tell me how Bitcoin comes into being. You are talking about a self-regulating environment, and I'm interested in – actually, how does it work?
Gavin Andresen: Sure. I could talk technically for hours, but I will try to keep it not so technical and geeky. Basically, there are people who are running what is called Bitcoin mining software – actually, these days, there is Bitcoin mining hardware, where these people are connected to the Bitcoin network, seeing all of the transactions that are flying by. They gather up these transactions into what are called “blocks.” So, blocks of dollar transactions. Then they run an algorithm that is designed to be very difficult to solve, but very easy to check to make sure your solution is correct. So all of these Bitcoin miners are busy running these checks to make sure all of their transactions are valid. And then they are running this special algorithm that is basically busywork, a make-work algorithm that is designed so that it takes a while for somebody on the network to do what is called “solving a block.” To find that magic number that makes a block have certain mathematical properties. Then once somebody on the network finds a block, they announce it as this is a valid set of transactions and everybody else on the network checks it.
You might ask, well, why in the heck would somebody do all of this work of validating transactions and finding these blocks of transactions? The answer is very clever. The answer is, the very first transaction in one of these blocks of transactions is a special transaction that creates Bitcoins out of thin air. All of these Bitcoin miners are trying to find blocks because they will own that first transaction. They will own the Bitcoins that come out of that very first transaction that just creates Bitcoins.
Right now on the Bitcoin network, we are creating 25 new Bitcoins every 10 minutes. When I say “we,” I mean the Bitcoin miners, who are doing this work who are all competing against each other to try to be the first person on the network that solves a block and announces it to the world and is therefore rewarded with 25 brand-new Bitcoins. That is the only way that coins are created.
Chris Martenson: So they are created in this way. What limits the creation of them, if anything?
Gavin Andresen: The creation is strictly limited by rules written in the software. So if a Bitcoin miner decided to modify their software and say I want more than 25 Bitcoins; I am going to generate myself 100 Bitcoins every time I find a block. Or I'm going to find a block quicker than everybody else. Everybody on the network checks all of the transactions, and they would see that that transaction didn't follow the rules written into their software, and they would reject the block. So again, since everybody is running software that implements the same rules, you get these rules essentially set in stone. You would have to convince everybody to upgrade their software to have different rules to change that aspect of the system.
Chris Martenson: But as long as the mining is happening and the blocks are being solved, Bitcoins are being created, right?
Gavin Andresen: Exactly, yes. Transactions get verified. That is really the number one reason for miners to do their work. You make sure that the transactions are verified. Somebody has to do the work of making sure that Bitcoins aren't spent twice. That all of the transactions are valid and they were created in valid blocks and so on and so forth.
Chris Martenson: All right. So talk about these transactions that happen that get collected in these blocks. What are these transactions?
Gavin Andresen: The transactions are basically one person paying another or one entity paying another. So if I send you some Bitcoins – let's say I sent you half a Bitcoin. I would generate a Bitcoin transaction that reassigns Bitcoins I own from me to you. That transaction is broadcast over the network, and then it is gathered up into a block by a miner, and that is when it becomes what we call ‘confirmed.’ Because until a Bitcoin is put into a block and confirmed, there is no guarantee. I might have sent you half a Bitcoin, but I could have at the same time tried to be sneaky and send somebody else that half a Bitcoin. Miners doing this important work of confirming that yes, the transaction is valid and this is going to be the history. And everybody is going to agree that I sent that half a Bitcoin to you and not to somebody else.
Chris Martenson: Okay. Got that. Mining is one way to obtain Bitcoins. What is the other way?
Gavin Andresen: Well, like any other money, you can trade them for products or services. Or, for example, my salary is paid in Bitcoin. Every month, instead of getting money deposited into my U.S. Dollar bank account, I get Bitcoins sent to one of my Bitcoin addresses, and that is how my salary is paid.
Chris Martenson: Interesting. How successful has Bitcoin adoption been so far? Where is it actively being traded in the world right now?
Gavin Andresen: We are still really at the early adopter phase. We have been since Bitcoin started. Adoption is actually happening pretty quickly. Right now, all of the Bitcoins in the world are worth somewhere over a billion dollars. That gives you a sense of scale on how big the Bitcoin economy is. Last year I was doing some research and I was looking at how big is Bitcoin relative to some of the smaller, national fiat currencies. They assumed that Bitcoin was probably smaller than any other national currency. And to my surprise, I actually found out that there are some small nations where the national currency is worth less than Bitcoin. So all of the Bitcoins in the world are worth more than – it is up to now something like a couple of dozen national currencies in smaller currencies around the world. Bitcoin is actually larger, has more value, and is a larger economy than those small nations. Adoption has exploded and is really taking off, which is fantastic.
Chris Martenson: And with this adoption, have you noticed any patterns in different cultures, regions of the world, countries that have really fallen for it compared to others?
Gavin Andresen: It has been interesting. There is a big – well, small – Bitcoin community in a town in Germany, which is interesting. I think we will probably see Bitcoin taking off in places where people remember their national currency being incredibly unstable. I think a lot of people in Germany still remember the hyper-inflation that happened after WWI. And so a system like Bitcoin that cannot be hyper-inflated away really appeals to them. We will see that in other places around the world where the national currency hasn't been particularly stable. I think here in the United States, there is a lot of interest and we are a really big country; there are a lot of Bitcoin users here in the United States. I don't think Bitcoin will go mainstream first here just because the dollar has been a relatively stable fiat currency compared to other national currencies.
Chris Martenson: Yeah. Well, I've certainly heard – gosh, where was it; Kenya? I was hearing somewhere in Africa, they just flashed across the news that Bitcoin is apparently very popular there as well.
Gavin Andresen: Interesting. Yeah, there are so many things happening in the Bitcoin world that even I have trouble keeping track of all of the great things that are happening all over the world.
Chris Martenson: Let's talk about what the challenges might be to this widespread adoption. We have heard maybe Germany is open to the idea, potentially, because of prior history with money systems. What are the blockages that you see that might exist for adoption in countries right now?
Gavin Andresen: There are some technical issues, just in terms of how easy it is to use Bitcoin software. How easy it is to keep your Bitcoins safe. I still tell people that Bitcoin is like a high-tech Internet stock. It is a risky investment, and unless you are technically savvy, it is somewhat risky to hold Bitcoins. A lot of people have had Bitcoins stolen because their computers were insecure. Things like that. I'm really optimistic that will get fixed fairly shortly; in the next year or two, I think it will be much easier to hold Bitcoins securely. It will be much easier to trade them, and it will really be much easier for mainstream, non-geek people to use the system. That is happening.
There is one big caveat to that. That is the other big challenge that I see, and that is how governments will react to Bitcoin and will governments decide to try to either regulate Bitcoin or prevent people from using Bitcoin. That is a big open question. Here in the United States, it looks like the regulators are open to Bitcoin. I'm the Chief Scientist of the Bitcoin Foundation, and one of the missions of the foundation is to help protect Bitcoin. Part of that is interacting with regulators and trying to educate them on what is Bitcoin, how could it be regulated, how should it be regulated, those kind of issues. I'm cautiously optimistic about all of that, although there are a lot of onerous laws and regulations around handling money. And so I think it remains to be seen kind of how things evolve, certainly here in the United States and around the world. There won't be one answer, because each country has its own laws and regulations regarding what citizens can do with money.
Chris Martenson: Sure. It is actually one of the more potent areas is to find regulation and lots of oversight. Certainly, I have been reading about what appears to be early salvos at containing Bitcoin or otherwise getting regulatory arms around it within the U.S., other places, other countries looking, too. Define it as something that really needs to be looked at. It seems to me from this vantage point that Bitcoin has gotten the attention of various authorities in various countries and that they are – I don't know that they are necessarily unified against it or for it yet, but they are certainly starting to wrestle with what it means. What is your sense of where you are in that part of the story now?
Gavin Andresen: Again, I still think we are at the early adopter phase. Even in terms of regulation and regulators and how will regulators deal with it, which pigeonhole will they put it in. And then, of course, it is interesting because you have regulators who are tasked with the unenviable task of trying to figure out how new things fit into existing laws. These laws were written before the Internet, before there was even a concept of peer-to-peer technologies, let alone peer-to-peer money. It is a big challenge for regulators. I empathize with the difficulty of their task, because Bitcoin is something brand-new and really, there aren't any laws that exactly match it.
Part of it will be regulators trying to figure out how does it fit into the existing framework, and then, of course, lawmakers will probably at some point get involved and start to write some new laws or modify existing laws to take into account this new technology. You see exactly the same thing on the Internet with arguments about copyright. Are there any rights involved in linking to content and deep linking? Whenever there is a new technology, the legal system has to catch up.
We will see. It is still playing out. It is still early. Again, I don't think there will be one answer. I think there will be different answers in different countries around the world. I think some countries will probably be much more open to letting people transact with each other freely using whatever currency they want to. And others will be much more strict and want to control how their citizens spend their money.
Chris Martenson: How about the taxing authorities so far? I assume they would be one of the more if not most interested parties in any of these discussions you are talking about.
Gavin Andresen: It has been interesting. The IRS has not made any rulings on Bitcoin yet. Although, I believe it was the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network, which is another arm of the U.S. Government, I think they had a memo saying that the IRS should come out with some guidance on how to treat Bitcoins. I think everybody I've heard from thinks that it is pretty clear and that Bitcoin transactions will be treated just like barter transactions. If you sell something for a Bitcoin, then you owe sales tax just as if you had traded something for a barter credit. There is existing regulations and laws around barter transactions that apply if you are trading anything for anything else of value. I think that will actually be pretty straight-forward, at least here in the United States. Other countries might be different, again.
Chris Martenson: All right. Let's go back to something that you touched on briefly. I want to ask the question: How secure is Bitcoin? And to frame that, what is your answer to this question: Could I lose all my money at the click of a button or if a server crashed?
Gavin Andresen: I'll give you a two-part answer. The core Bitcoin system is incredibly secure. There is a company called Bitpay that provides merchant services to officers of companies that are selling products for Bitcoin. Bitpay has never had a fraudulent transaction. Unlike paying for things online with credit cards, where there are all sorts of credit card fraud and other things like that happening, the core Bitcoin system is incredibly secure. You don't have to worry about somebody spending your Bitcoins out from under you because they somehow hacked the Bitcoin system. Bitcoin has been looked at by security experts, and everybody is convinced that the underlying system is technically secure.
Now, that said, Bitcoin is also like cash. If you own some Bitcoins and you are holding some Bitcoins in your digital wallet then that is like holding physical cash in your physical wallet. If somebody steals that wallet, then they have got your Bitcoins. There have been a lot of Bitcoin thefts because a lot of people either lost their wallet and their wallet was not protected by a password, or they lost their wallet and they were using a weak password to protect their wallet. Or maybe some virus or malware got into their computer and installed what is called a keylogger and managed to get both their wallet and their password because there was bad software running on the computer watching them type their password as they typed it. That is why I say Bitcoin security is not a solved problem yet. We really need to make it much easier for people to have a really secure Bitcoin wallet so it is much harder to lose your Bitcoins to hackers.
You said, will I lose all of my money if a server crashes? That is not an issue. All of the tens of thousands of Bitcoin miners looking for Bitcoin actually hold a record of all the transactions that have happened on the Bitcoin network. There is no one single server that can crash and take all of your Bitcoins away. It is very distributed and reliable in that way. But again, you are responsible for holding what I call your ‘private keys’ that let you spend your Bitcoins. And if you lose your private keys, either to a hacker attacker, or if your computer crashes and you didn't have a backup of your keys, then you can lose your Bitcoins.
Chris Martenson: And what would be some of the potential answers to getting people a more secure wallet but that is also not onerously difficult to operate?
Gavin Andresen: We can look at the traditional banking system for some potential solutions. And the Corporate coin network has lots of tricks up its sleeve. There are some features built into a core protocol that we haven't evolved the software to expose to users yet. The technical work that I have been working really hard on involves transactions where more than one key is needed to spend those Bitcoins. You have Bitcoins protected by two keys. And then one key is kept on your computer and one key is kept somewhere else. Whenever you spend Bitcoins, the transaction will have to be authorized on your computer and then at that other place, also, which could be your mobile phone, it might be some service that provides some verification and checking. I could imagine a service where they automatically authorize transactions under a certain amount per day. If you have $100,000 worth of Bitcoins, maybe you set up a wallet where you are only able to spend up to $1,000 per day, and anything larger than that requires some kind of manual call to verify who you are to make the transaction go through. All of that kind of thing can be built and will be built. It is going to take some time.
I should also mention there are also people working on hardware Bitcoin wallets. These are physical pieces of hardware that can store your Bitcoins and perform Bitcoin transactions. I think for a lot of people that might be a much more secure way of holding Bitcoins and performing Bitcoin transactions. If you have a dedicated piece of hardware that does nothing but Bitcoin, it can be made much more secure than a general piece of hardware like a computer or cell phone, where if you are running other software there is the potential for attackers to get in it and put malware on your system that tries to steal your Bitcoins.
Chris Martenson: Well, if we ever lost our Bitcoins, the NSA would be able to tell us where they were, wouldn't they?
Gavin Andresen: The funny thing is, every Bitcoin transaction that sends you Bitcoins is public record. All of the miners are watching them. We know where they are. Everybody knows where they are. It is just that you can't get them out unless you have that private key that only you know. Even the NSA - you can arrange things to be very sure that even the NSA doesn't know that private key. You can even generate Bitcoin private key pairs completely offline from any computer. So there are paranoid people who they create what is called a ‘paper wallet,’ where they take a computer, a brand new computer that has never been used for anything else. They generate some Bitcoin addresses, Bitcoin key pairs. They print out the private keys on pieces of paper and put them someplace safe. They store the computer so there is no possibility those private keys will ever be anywhere other than those pieces of paper. And then you can send Bitcoins to the public keys associated with those private keys and have basically Bitcoins stores on paper which you can then put in your safe deposit vault or some other place safe. That is an example of someone being ultra-paranoid, but maybe in this era of NSA surveillance, maybe it is not too paranoid to make sure that nobody knows your private keys and no one but you can spend your Bitcoins.
Chris Martenson: It is not just the NSA. It might be we are concerned about Cyprus or any other parts of the system. It sounds like a way to take your wealth and have it – it is floating around in the virtual world, right? But you have a physical manifestation of it that is out of the system. It is kind of a hybrid. It is in the system, but the access to it is completely out of the system. It is an interesting hybrid.
Gavin Andresen: There is another interesting variation that is kind of mind blowing. That is the notion of a ‘brain wallet,’ where if you can think up some long passphrase that you can remember but nobody else would be able to guess, essentially you can send Bitcoins to that passphrase. It doesn't even need to be written down anywhere. It can just be in your brain. Then you are essentially carrying around those Bitcoins in your brain. Only you know the key to unlock them. All the old-fashioned notions of, for example, governments trying to control the flow of currency across their borders – with Bitcoin, where all of the Bitcoins basically live in this cloud all over the world and where the keys to unlock the Bitcoins can be on pieces of paper or can even be just entirely in your brain, it opens a lot of really interesting possibilities and certainly gives you a lot more freedom in control over your wealth.
Chris Martenson: That is fascinating. I have a question from a reader at the Peak Prosperity site. He wrote in March that the Bitcoin network experienced a minor catastrophe when the block chain broke off into two divergent versions due to unanticipated glitch and a new version of the mining software that someone was running. I found it confidence-inspiring to see a community quickly come together and back out of the update. But it begs the question: Have any actions been taken to provide more thorough QA on subsequent updates such that we can expect less chance of future confidence shaking events like this? I see that it has two parts. First off, can you explain what he is talking about when he says a block chain broke off into divergent versions, and then around the QA question?
Gavin Andresen: Sure. That was a stressful night.
Chris Martenson: I'm sure.
Gavin Andresen: So we have all of these miners all over the world validating transactions and validating these blocks of transactions that happen. On that day in March, it just so happens that we had rolled out a new version of the software. The old version of the software had a bug in it that we weren't aware of but the new version fixed. And the problem was, we had about half of the miners running the old version and half of the miners were running the new version. And they disagreed about whether a block was valid. So half of them rejected that block in a transaction, and another half accepted it and continued going. Now, it turns out that the miners had upgraded their software more quickly than most of the merchants and people accepting Bitcoins, so most of the merchants and people who accept Bitcoins were accepting the old version of history, the old transaction chain. We realized this, and some of the big miners decided to basically give up their blocks and switch to the other version of transaction history. And so that resolved the issue and – 26 blocks, a block every 10 minutes, after five or six hours everything was good again and everybody agreed about what the valid transactions were. That conflict got resolved.
The question asks about what can we do to make sure that doesn't happen again in the future. And actually, the other core developers and I wrote up a document. There is more in the document on what happened and what we can do to make sure it doesn't happen again, because it theoretically could happen again. If it does happen, how can we react quickly? How can we make sure it doesn't have large consequences for everybody? We do have a plan for mitigating that risk.
One of the things that will really help make sure that kind of things doesn't happen in the future is to get more diversity of software running on the Bitcoin network. We have this original software that was written that basically everybody has been using, but people have been re-implementing Bitcoin in different program languages with different – for whatever reason; maybe they don't like the style of the code that was written – there are new implementations of Bitcoin that follow exactly the same rules but are just written differently. One of the nice things about that is, once those come online, we won't get in a situation where half of the network has a bug and the other half doesn't have a bug. It will be maybe 10% of the network has a bug that rejects some block, while 90% of the network will agree. As long as you don't get close to the 50/50 situation, that won't happen. I think as Bitcoin evolves and grows and we get more diversity in terms of Bitcoin software running on the network, that situation becomes less likely to happen, which is a very good thing.
Chris Martenson: All right, final question. Is Bitcoin the answer, or do you see it as part of a larger portfolio of competing alternative currencies? You know, you’ve got gold and silver, airline miles, whatever those other things are that we attach value to. Where do you see Bitcoin fitting into this universe?
Gavin Andresen: I think Bitcoin will be an answer. I still tell people, only invest time and money into Bitcoin that you can afford to lose. It is in early adopter stage. I would still consider it a high-risk investment, if you want to think of it as an investment. It could be really huge. I think there is no theoretical reason why Bitcoin couldn't grow as large as some of the major national currencies. There is really no technical reason why it couldn't and no theoretical reason why it couldn't. There is a huge network effect with money. The more people using a means of exchange, the more valuable it becomes to use that thing as a means of exchange. That is why gold is king, and not platinum or silver. There has been a huge network of people finding gold to be a great stored value, and in certain situations, a means of exchange. Bitcoin has a huge head start on any other alternative.
For some other alternative or another crypto-currency to overtake Bitcoin at this point, I think it would have to be a whole lot better in some way. It’s hard fro me to imagine, how do you make it so much better that people want to use that other thing rather than Bitcoin? I can imagine a few things that might make it a whole lot better, like if some major government decided to issue a Bitcoin-like currency, that would certainly give that currency a lot of legitimacy. That could compete with Bitcoin. Although it is hard for me to imagine a government being forward-thinking enough to do that. We will see. It is going to be fun to watch. Bitcoin has certainly grown a whole lot faster than I expected it would. I'm cautiously optimistic that it will keep on growing.
Chris Martenson: So let's pretend I'm brand new. I want to buy a Bitcoin instead of mine one. How would I go about doing that?
Gavin Andresen: Right now the easiest way to mine Bitcoins is to probably to sign up for a Coin Base account. There is a company called CoinBase.com here in the United States. They let you basically attach your Bitcoin wallet to your bank account, and then you can very easily buy and sell Bitcoins directly via transfers to and from your bank account. So that is probably the easiest way. If you want to be more anonymous, if you don't have a bank account or you don't trust the banking system or you don't trust CoinBase, there is actually a useful website called localbitcoins.com, where you can find people buying or selling Bitcoins in a geographic area near you and you can physically meet somebody and hand over some cash and they will send the coins to your digital wallet. If you go to the Bitcoin.org homepage, it has been recently redesigned to try to be more new-person friendly. There is lots of information there about getting a Bitcoin wallet and getting Bitcoins in all sorts of different countries all over the world. Again, it really depends on where you are in the world, as to what the easiest way is to get the coins.
Chris Martenson: So last last question. You get paid in Bitcoins; how do you spend them?
Gavin Andresen: I will be perfectly honest. I can't pay my mortgage in Bitcoin yet. So some of them I convert into dollars and spend them that way. Then I'm always looking for products and services I can buy for Bitcoin. There is a big electronic store that will accept Bitcoins for when I need a new hard drive or when I need a new monitor or whatever. My most recent purchase, I bought some t-shirts for Bitcoin. There is a website where you can buy plane tickets for Bitcoin. I actually haven't used them yet. They are pretty new. There are more and more products and services available for Bitcoin all the time. I'm a computer geek, so a lot of the services I need, like web hosting or DNS services or other geek things, just about all of those types of things I can buy for Bitcoins, and it is slowly starting to move into more mainstream products for non-geeks.
Chris Martenson: TVs and T-shirts sounds pretty mainstream from here. That is wonderful. We have been talking with Gavin Andresen. Gavin, thank you so much for your time today.
I would remind people that if you want to find out more, go to Bitcoin.org as one of the sites mentioned. That sounds like a good place to get started if you want to find out more and learn how to get started with your own Bitcoin wallet.
Gavin, thanks a lot for your time today.
Gavin Andresen: No problem. Great talking to you, Chris.