Living On Bitcoin Day 2: Being “Unbanked” Has Been Easy … But Also Hard

Living On Bitcoin Day 2: Being “Unbanked” Has Been Easy … But Also Hard

This is the second instalment of reporter Colin Harper’s “Living on Bitcoin” experience in San Francisco. Find out what happened to him on Day 1 here.

I woke up on Christian’s couch stiff-necked and cotton-mouthed. A bit more fitting for the “living on internet money” survival vibe, yeah?

A friend of a friend of Christian’s roommates (who are starting a business and moving to LA today) was out cold on an air mattress next to a stripped Christmas tree, snoring into the streams of soon-after-sunrise light filtering through the window. Another blow-up mattress adjacent to the couch was vacant. Its former occupant, Julian Martinez, a copywriter at Quantstamp and Christian’s friend, had left early in the morning, politely folding his sheets before he left.

I trundled into the kitchen in search of coffee. Christian and his housemates grind their coffee and use a french press, which seemed rightly authentic for San Francisco. The Philz whole coffee beans were stashed in a cupboard along with some almond flour (also on point), spices and other ostensibly hipster culinary staples.

Christian came in and we prepped the press. Sitting down for a cup in the dining area, the view from his apartment window seat offered up a gorgeous morning landscape of the residential area with the bay at its back.

As he and his girlfriend left to pick up breakfast, I was confronted with the task of condensing the whole of yesterday’s events. In the flurry the day had become, I recorded the experience in scatterings between my phone, laptop and journal, typing or jotting whenever I had the time or inspiration struck. The words were distributed. It was just a matter of pulling them together and making them fit.

So most of Saturday was spent reconciling how to pare down the experience (2,900 words later, I didn’t do a very good job). Christian and his girlfriend brought me back a croque madame from a local bakery and the San Franciscan sourdough lived up to its reputation. I wouldn’t wrap up the first draft until probably 6:00 p.m. that night.

Of course, there were interruptions (like eating) that involved my careful attention and purchase planning. I still hadn’t done a point-of-sale (PoS) with bitcoin, and I thought I would have the opportunity at lunch with Curry Up Now.

The once-foodtruck, now-local chain has become a sensation with its uncanny Indian-Mex and world food fusion fare. Chicken tikka masala burritos, deconstructed samosas and aloo gobi tacos coexist with Indian street food, pub food with a curried twist and even fried ravioli with masala dip.

At one point in time, they accepted bitcoin, and most resources (like indicated as much. But when I called to confirm, a hurried employee shot down my hopes.

“No, I’m sorry we don’t,” she said, a bit short and stressed, with the commotion of a popular restaurant audible in the background.

Hanging up, I hoped it wasn’t an omen for the other restaurants I was planning to call.

Bummed as I was not to get to buy direct, the menu left me salivating so I ordered a tikka masala burrito with Uber Eats using my Bitrefill-bought Uber credit.

Amazingly, when it arrived, I managed to lock myself out of Christian’s apartment while he, his girlfriend and a future roommate went to lunch. At least I had food and rooftop access.

I took the mishap as an excuse to take a break from writing and go enjoy the view on the roof. Up top, I tore into my burrito (which is a divinely inspired culinary design, I’m convinced) and surveyed the vibrant view of a lazy Saturday.

I wasn’t too concerned by the lockening, mainly because I knew Christian and friends would be home shortly. Plus my phone had a healthy charge so I could get somewhere if I needed to, though my BRD wallet had been a glitchy cause for concern. But I wasn’t going to starve while they were gone, so locking myself out was more of a dunce-cap moment than a shot in the foot.

They got home when I was halfway through with my burrito. Great when life works out like that (sucks when it doesn’t though). Like the way transportation was panning out — and not just for me.

Running around in Ubers all week is going to beat up my wallet pretty good and already has. Christian offered to mitigate the problem by renting me his bike, so when he got back he took me to the house’s garage to dig it out.

When he opened the door, there was a pile of bikes chained together, none of which belonged to Christian’s house. They belonged to his neighbors, but their bikes were gone. Earlier, Christian had been griping about his roommate Matt leaving the cover off the rooftop grill — looks like he might have forgotten to lock up the bikes (and the garage), too. I wasn’t the only one with bike woes.

Sucks when it doesn’t though.

If I can buy a bike with bitcoin while I’m here, I intend to donate it to Christian’s house — a gesture of good faith for letting me shack up.

Maybe that will be my first IRL transaction in this tech city.

I stayed in the rest of the day, in part to write but also because there wasn’t much of a reason to go anywhere. If I needed food, I could order through Uber Eats. In fact I would have to, because day 2 was the day that I realized that most all of the places that used to accept bitcoin in 2013-14 no longer did. Almost all of the places I researched were either gone or had stopped taking crypto a while ago.

Hill tried to warn me, saying many of the places she visited were now out of business. The Cups & Cakes Bakery that garnered international media attention for being one of the first businesses to accept bitcoin, the sushi joint where she took the San Francisco bitcoin community out to dinner — both were gone. I’ve searched for the Buyer’s Best Friend grocery store, whose owner was inspired to take bitcoin after reading Hill’s series, but, as far as I know, its physical locations have vanished. Google suggests that there’s a delivery service that you can use, but the company’s website just redirects me to a 404 page.

I assured Hill that I had found other alternatives, some of which might have sprung up after her experiment. One by one, a series of disappointing phone calls discredited all of my research. All of the places that used to accept bitcoin no longer do. Some that I found on the resources I used ( and weren’t even in business anymore.

My fear after calling Curry Up Now was being confirmed. Apparently, the restaurant’s rejection of the cryptocurrency had been the unfortunate portent of a trend of restaurants that formerly accepted bitcoin but don’t anymore.

My expectations had been completely thwarted. There are fewer storefronts and restaurants that accept bitcoin now than there were in 2013-14. So far, Uber credit has been keeping me afloat. I had yet to actually completely an in-person transaction for anything (except for when I paid Christian for dinner but that doesn’t really count). The thought of it made me realize that I didn’t even need to be in San Francisco to do the experiment. I could have been back home — I could have been anywhere.

That frustrated and fascinated me. So long as I had internet, I could buy gift cards from Bitrefill and Paxful and credit to eat/travel/sleep. I could buy just about anything a traveler would need: flights, hotel rooms, and gift cards for food and groceries. If I really needed to, I could even subsist on the cheapest, most ubiquitous fast food, like buying McDonald’s gift cards to eat in the farthest corners of the world. There’s Subway, too, and other chains you’d find just about anywhere.

These services work even if you’re unbanked, something that was touched on in a podcast episode I had with Christian that night for POV Crypto. Speaking to the experience so far, I mentioned the trend of restaurants either no longer accepting bitcoin or going out of business after accepting it (whatever that represents).

“Sounds like you’re having to use a lot of infrastructure to survive,” he said in reference to how Bitrefill and Paxful have helped me out. “Which is still cool because even if you’re unbanked, you can use bitcoin to live.”

And he’s right about that. Even if I haven’t (and maybe can’t) pay merchants directly, bitcoin is still fulfilling its use case as a decentralized payment method. At once, it makes it difficult to survive on it in the physical world, but simultaneously, it makes it easy to survive online.

It’s either too easy or too impossible.

The rest of the night was filled with dinner, paid for by one of our coworkers, John Riggins. When I asked Riggins for his wallet address, he didn’t respond.

After grub, we (Christian, his girlfriend Michelle, Riggins and I) all sat down for a game of Catan. A trading game involving resource cards that represent imaginary wheat, lumber, ore and cattle really gives you perspective when you try to live on internet money.

It made me think that, even in the worst case, maybe I could barter my way along. Or that, just like the shifting economics of the game, when certain resource cards would become more valuable depending on situation or player, it made me think: Someone will eventually come along who will take my bitcoin for food or a service or anything, right?

I’m going to get out and about to really see for sure the next day.

This article originally appeared on Bitcoin Magazine.

Living on Bitcoin Day 1: “That’s Not Going to Work”


“The point is to get people to think about bitcoin, not spend it. I don’t think it’s good for that. It’s not meant to be used like cash,” Jeremy Gardner, founder of Ausum Ventures, advised me.

“Satoshi created a decentralized store of value,” probably encapsulates his thesis that bitcoin is best unspent — better to hoard it like gold. To Gardner, using it as a currency is not only impractical. It is counterintuitive.

Well, I’m trying it anyway.

After all, journalist Kashmir Hill experimented with living on bitcoin as early as 2013, so it should be easier now, right? Well, it is and it isn’t. Nearly six years later, I’m discovering that, while bitcoin’s payment infrastructure has advanced, its use as a method of payment, at least in San Francisco, has seemingly regressed.

Before reporting to the conference I’m attending here in San Francisco, I had something important to do: I had to pay my respects to the pioneer.

Before leaving my home in Nashville to start my experiment, I reached out to Kashmir Hill, a former Forbes-gone-Gizmodo journalist who did this in 2013 (and again in 2014). She graciously took me up on my request to meet up so I could pick her brain and seek advice.

Getting to her was my first unbanked transaction. Transportation was a problem in her own experience until she got a bike, and even then, San Francisco’s hilly landscape is unforgiving, so it still wasn’t easy. It’s a way to get around, though, and I like the idea of being bike reliant for transport.

All of my attempts to buy or rent one on Craigslist haven’t come to anything yet, so that’ll have to wait.

I do have Paxful to buy Uber gift cards. Opting for this, I signed up for the exchange (where I had to give a phone number for authentication but no name) and transferred $25 worth of bitcoin from my BRD wallet. After executing a quick trade with one “Marxsmith,” I found myself with 25 bucks worth of Uber credit on my account.

Hill arrived at La Boulangerie shortly after my Uber dropped me off, immediately recognizable, thanks to the turquoise highlights that accentuated the tips of her hair.

When I thanked Hill for agreeing to meet with me, she replied she was naturally sympathetic to anyone who made the decision to live solely on bitcoin for a week. So sympathetic, she offered to pay my meal forward (the bakery doesn’t accept bitcoin). I insisted on repaying her for the cheese danish and latte, but she said that she’d need to see if she remembered her Coinbase login to give me her public address.

“I wrote the articles and pretty much forgot about bitcoin,” she joked.

It was during the first major media cycle that came along with the 2013 bubble that Hill experimented with living on bitcoin. Not many people knew what bitcoin was yet. A few mainstream journalists were starting to pump out articles about what was, to many, a novel experience in itself: buying bitcoin.

Hill’s editor wanted to take the novelty farther: “Don’t just buy bitcoin. Live on it for a week.” So she did.

“It was really on the fly — I got pretty lucky,” she laughed, calling the planning and execution “lackadaisical.”

If her approach was lax, the execution was anything but. She attended one of San Francisco’s famous “Bitcoin at $100” meetups (along with Ross Ulbricht of Silk Road fame), she shacked up in the crack-house-turned-hacker-hostel/cypher community, 20Mission, and she even toured Coinbase when it was “three guys in an apartment,” she put it.

As she mentioned this, a waiter brought our lattes. They were absurdly served in literal bowls about as big as my face.

At the end of it, she remarked that she had very much been assimilated into this community. Using the bitcoin that the community had tipped her throughout the week, she took about 50 or so of them out to a sushi dinner, an 8-something BTC meal that, in a few years, would have been worth an Ivy League education.

When I lived on Bitcoin in 2013, I treated a bunch of strangers to a sushi dinner that cost 10 bitcoin. At current valuation, that was a $99,000 sushi dinner!

— Kashmir Hill (@kashhill) November 28, 2017

The crypto community in 2013 was devout but scant, and so were the places Hill could spend bitcoin. Her entire experience was punctuated by a sense of getting by. This is best encapsulated by the final line of her 2013 series: “I survived.”

I compared notes with her about what I foresaw as being my biggest obstacles for the week, making mental notes to see if I could do more than “survive” and if 2013 might have actually been an easier year for the experiment.

As our conversation came to a close, Hill left me with a nugget of advice that I’d adopted as a mantra for my own iteration of the experiment.

“Don’t make the focus about yourself. Make it about other people, who the experiment allows you to access.”

Leaving La Boulangerie, I took an Uber back to the conference venue, where I made arrangements with Jeremy Gardner to visit a new project he’s working on and, of course, tour the infamous Crypto Castle.

We had a tight time frame; he was leaving for Park City, Utah, that night to go snowboarding.

“You can come by the castle tonight. Or later in the week, someone will let you in, show you around — I don’t care.”

We eventually settle on a 4:00 p.m. meeting outside of Monarch, a popular club wedged between San Francisco’s Mid Market and Tenderloin districts that accepts bitcoin by-the-bottle. It’s within walking distance of the conference which is good because my Uber credit was running low and the conference didn’t have any Wi-Fi for me to get on Paxful/Bitrefill to top it off.

The rest of the early afternoon was spent prepping for and moderating a panel, after which I scrambled around, looking for a USB-C charger to juice my phone and keep my financial lifeline alive (I had lost my charger that morning, of course). The conference tech staff was nice enough to lend me a charger, one of many acts of good will that seems to continually grace my experience.

When the time rolls around, Jeremy meets me with one of his business partners, Micah, who owns Monarch and another bitcoin accepting club in San Francisco, Great Northern. We hop one building over to their new project: a pawn shop that serves as the front for a speakeasy, both of which will accept bitcoin.

The shop had been a pawn for a while, Gardner said, buying, trading, selling and even offering loans and collateral for years before it shut down.

“All the snakey stuff,” he intimated.

Jeremy latched onto the speakeasy idea without much hesitation. He was disappointed that San Francisco only has two to its name and thought that the city ought to share with the rest of America in an emerging cultural trend (even Nashville has four or five).

“It’s more intimate and comfortable. It’s not the constant in-and-out traffic like at bars, so people stay longer.”

The pawn shop, with its display cases of cheap jewelry, tarnished silver and surprisingly intact china, is just a front, of course, but it adds an authentic element of secrecy to the bar. Jeremy wants to give the front its own distinguishing appeal. He wants it to only accept bitcoin.

“I’m imploring people to do that,” he said, breaking into a smile.

Micah scurried around, jotting notes and measurements before coming over to me and Jeremy and pouring us a glass of white wine (I’m not refined enough to know which type).

“Sorry, it’s just white,” he said.

“It’s alcohol, and that’s all that matters,” Jeremy replied.

Micah ran off to keep working, leaving Jeremy and me to a conversation on my experiment.

“Yeah, it’s an interesting one. People have done it before,” he said. “But I don’t think it’s good for that. It’s not meant to be used like cash but as a store of value. People don’t like volatility. They want certainty in their currency.”

He didn’t understand why I would spend my bitcoin and not hold on to it, and I told him I don’t see it as spending bitcoin but spending money I would otherwise have to on basic necessities. Jeremy said he’d be interested in a wallet that rebought spent bitcoin, but otherwise, he clings to the maxim that it’s better to hold than spend.

“The point,” he believes, “is to make people think about bitcoin — not spend it.”

We carried the conversation into an Uber on the way to the castle.

I asked Jeremy whether he considered himself a Bitcoin minimalist (he had made the somewhat common comparison between Bitcoin and Friendster earlier in our talk).

“Nah, I’d say I’m more of a shitcoin minimalist.”

Finally, we arrived at the castle. It lived up to its reputation. The outside was as unassuming as any of the nicer, multi-story boarding houses in the city’s Potrero Hill neighborhood, but the inside belied the true spirit of the castle: an eclectic, anything-goes hub of itinerant millennials who live free-of-charge thanks to a benevolent but prodigal 27-year-old member of the crypto riche.

“We had a self driving AI car startup here.” Jeremy gestures to the basement when we enter. “They got a couple mill in funding and moved out,” he added casually.

Up the staircase, the second floor hallways curled away from the stairwell with innumerable ownerless rooms.

“Vitalik has slept in this room a bunch of times,” Jeremy told me as he’s no doubt told countless before me.

“Bu this is where the magic happens,” he said as he came to the third floor. Up top, a lounging area with felt couches, a gas fireplace and a kitchen with a sticker-covered refrigerator that intrigued Business Insider and the New York Times when they profiled the place during the 2017 bullrun. The walls were hung with various print pieces, including a few of Banksy’s. I nearly asked, as a joke, if they were originals but held my tongue.

Jeremy had left to pack his things when Liz, a young realtor boarding at the house, joined me and Rachel, another border. Neither of them were particularly involved in crypto.

“Some of us don’t do anything with it, but others do,” she tells me. “It’s a healthy mix.”

We get on the topic of the experiment, and I bring up Jeremy’s latest venture. Rachel, who is seemingly Jeremy’s romantic interest, apparently had no idea and congratulated him when he returned to say goodbye.

“Oh yeah, it’s pretty cool,” he enthuses. He leans in to give Rachel a peck on the cheek.

“When will you be back?” she asks.

“I don’t know,” he admits. “Probably one to two months.”

Later, I asked Rachel if Jeremy meant what he said as he rushed off to catch an Uber to the airport.

“Absolutely. He means everything he says.”

Liz, aka the Queen of the Castle, has given me permission to stay a few days, and I think I’ll take her up on it later in the week. For the remainder of my initial visit, though, I charged my phone (still struggling here) and used Bitrefill to get more Uber credit. This was much quicker and easier than Paxful. The most KYC they ask is an email, and you can send the bitcoin from any wallet to retrieve the gift card code (Paxful requires you to deposit bitcoin into your account’s wallet to trade).

I spent the remainder of the night with my buddy and coworker Christian, who bought me dinner at the Irish Bank, a pub which I erroneously thought accepted bitcoin (I did pay him back in bitcoin). The goodwill of friends and fellow crypto geeks has been essential and I anticipate it will continue to be so throughout the week.

The rest of the night was a blur of exhaustion as we finished dinner and headed back to Christian’s apartment. I had been up since 6:00 a.m. From coffee with Hill to the conference to Jeremy’s speakeasy and Crypto Castle to pub to apartment, I had covered a lot of ground and met a great many people — some interactions and people I haven’t had time to cover in this sprawling account, including a few Crypto Castle residents who were building a rig to mine grin.

I got around, but I spent little bitcoin — unfortunately, none of it directly with any merchants. Hill covered my breakfast, though if she gives me a wallet address, I intend to reimburse her. The conference covered lunch. Bitcoin did buy me dinner, even if indirectly through Christian, and it did buy me Uber credit for transport — another indirect use, but as Christian pointed out to me, I was still supporting a use case and infrastructure.

I crashed on the couch around 12:30 a.m. and was content to know that I would have access to coffee in the morning.

This article originally appeared on Bitcoin Magazine.

Bitcoiner 2029: Another Ten Years On

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The following is an imaginative, fictitious account of what the world could look like in 2029 and how Bitcoin might evolve to revolutionize economic, monetary and free-market systems. Unfortunately, time machines haven’t been invented in this speculative future so we couldn’t verify the accuracy of the narrator’s experienceplease take the following story with a healthy grain of idealistic salt.

As I walked out on the tarmac, the West Coast winter climate, brisk and sharp, broke over me. The sun set over the west bay in a splendor of sherbert radiance. Some 20 miles away, I envisioned the sepia luster of the Golden Gate stretching across the bay, that bastion of 20th century industry blending with the gradually darkening backdrop of the day’s paling light.

Immediately I was taken back to my first crypto conference in the Bay Area some 11 years earlier — right on the brink of the crypto craze of 2017. A fledgling industry, we found ourselves positioned in an ecosystem that was challenging the economic norm with feverish and diehard persistence. Bitcoin was a revolution, and we were accelerating a movement that would disrupt the monetary realm as we knew it. It was a thrilling time; we were building the future.

Now, the same flutters of excitement I experienced in 2017 morphed into the euphoria of triumph. The future we imagined — we had built it.

An act of happenstance, the consequence of this triumph greeted me as I stepped from the tarmac into the warm, aseptic fluorescence of the SFO airport. Greeting me at the door like a stalwart guardian of old, its paint peeling and brittle from lack of care, a defunct currency exchange booth sat like the gutted relic of a different time.

The sight conjured memories of my childhood, when my father would vent about the fees charged for currency conversion at these booths.

“12 percent?” he’d say in disbelief. “It’s straight theft! Should have done it beforehand at the bank — of course, their rates are about as bad though,” he always conceded.

I laid my hand on the jaundiced linoleum countertop.

“You put up a good fight, old boy,” I muttered, giving the booth a sympathy pat.

A janitor within earshot looked up from the tile floor he was tending and flashed me a dubious look, complete with cocked eyebrow.

“Sorry, just reminiscing,” I replied awkwardly.

Gathering my composure, I headed to the baggage claim, collected my luggage and proceeded to the rideshare section of the terminal. I opened my Decentralift app and requested a car.

Standing in wait for my ride, I surveyed the news for the day on my BitLive app.

The New York Times: January 3, 2029: “In the New Year, POTUS, Congress Wrestle With New Economy”

The Wall Street Journal: January 3, 2029: “Investment Banks Faces Bankruptcy as Wall Street Debt Crisis Worsens”

Bitcoin Magazine: January 3, 2029: “China and Russia’s Mining War With the West Is About to Get More Entrenched”

Millennial Daily: January 3, 2029: “EU Parliament Convenes Emergency Session in Shadow of Global Economic Downturn”

The Times: “Pressure On: Parliament on Brink of Passing Crypto Tender Bill in Wake of EU’s Adoption”

I paid 1,000 sats for the NYT’s headliner, and I even shelled out for The Times article too, mainly for sentimental reasons.

Standing in waiting for my ride, I opened the NYT article and started reading.

Newly re-elected President Ables and the Democratic-controlled Congress continue to look down the barrel of a currency crisis as long-standing Wall Street Institutions like Goldman Sachs and J.P. Morgan continue to fold under the pressures of bankruptcy.

These closures are the climax of a financial paradigm shift that began when Congress passed the “Cryptocurrency Tender Recognition Act” of 2027, legislation that categorizes cryptocurrencies such as bitcoin as legal tender under U.S. law. The law was prompted by the surging demand for bitcoin and other private currencies by U.S. employees and a wave of adoption as major brands, such as Apple, Amazon, Walmart, Nike and others began accepting bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies as a sole method of payment.

Congress is meeting with the President and the Federal Reserve, as well as CEOs from the nation’s largest private banks, on Thursday to discuss the crisis and break ground on a relief plan.

“The COIN Act was a safety-net plan of sorts. It outfitted the United States with the most powerful mining operation on the planet, and we’ve been actively liquidating portions of our precious metal reserves in favor of bitcoin and other cryptos,” House Banking Committee Chair Vicente González told the New York Times.

“Still, the Thursday meeting is critically important. We also recognize the need to aid these financial institutions for the betterment of our economy and constituents as we confront a paradigm shift in monetary policy.”

Representatives from Goldman Sachs, J.P. Morgan and the Federal Reserve declined the New York Times’ request for comment.

“Long time coming,” I muttered to myself.

European change was underway too, with the EU Parliament just recently voting to recognize bitcoin as legal tender. The legalization was, in part, encouraged by the actions of member states like Germany, France, Norway and Spain passing individual legislation to give cryptocurrencies status as legal tender as the euro’s popularity continues to peter out.

The rest of the EU will have some catch-up to play, though, I mused. Scandinavian countries (taking a bit of a cue from Canada) began establishing gargantuan mining farms in the early ’20s, making good use of the abundance of renewable energy these countries have produced with hydroelectric dams. No doubt that’ll cut into what González called “the most powerful mining operation on the planet.”

Not to mention that the resources Russia and China have been pouring into mining industries and the escalation of what’s shaping up to become a multinational, multi-decade mining war. Now that crypto is becoming the monetary standard for international trade, this ain’t your granddaddy’s trade war. What’s to come will make the Trump-era embargoes look like a training exercise.

I was about halfway through the article when my Decentralift pulled up. “Mike. B.’s Black 2027 Tesla Model S has arrived,” my phone chimed.

Using my Watchlet smart watch, I scanned a QR code on the outside of the backseat door handle, the RSK smart contract immediately unlocked the door, and I hopped in.

“Welcome to Mike B.’s self-driving car, Colin Harper!” the car grated, my name itself distinguished by that strange, too-mechanical accent when the AI jumps from its library of set phrases to something variable like a new passenger’s name.

“Thank you for choosing Decentralift today. Thanks to your dedication to responsible ridesharing, you’ve saved 2.14 grams of CO2 emissions.”

As the self-driving car drove on, a decade of perspective became my rearview. The first go-around, my Lyft fare was roughly $35 from the airport to my lodging at The Red Victorian. This time, my Decentralift was 14,000 sats.

I reviewed Mike B.’s reputation ratings on the Decentralift app. Mostly good — a 4.2 rating. A common qualm: riders complained that Mike’s car had an uncanny odor to it, a miasmic mixture akin to chlorine and pine-scented air fresheners. Many found it overbearing. My guess was that Mike was somewhat of an OCD neatfreak, probably cleans his car obsessively to rid it of the invisible remnants of the unknown strangers that use his vehicle each day.

A copy of Time magazine sat for leisure reading in the back pouch of the driver’s seat, and the very humanizing gesture struck me as playfully ironic coming from an autonomous vehicle. “From Renegades to Revolutionaries: How Bitcoin’s Earliest Evangelists Built Crypto Empires in the Shadows of Suspicion,” the cover read.

A decade ago, some outsiders might have called our work groundbreaking, and some still might have called us revolutionaries. Most of those willing to give the industry a pat on the back and a gold star were those already working in it. Even those who thought that there was good work to be done were somewhat skeptical.

But to many, we were rebels — or worse: anarchists, outcasts, basement dwellers, drug dealers, fraudsters, dark-web peddlers, money launderers, degenerate gamblers, tax evaders. Our currency was baseless, our intentions were unscrupulous, our technology was overhyped and our vision was dangerously contrarian.

Back then, the New York Times was publishing articles like “Everyone Is Getting Hilarious Rich and You’re Not”; now on the front page are stories about how bitcoin and crypto have begun to topple a nearly century-old fiat economy. Then, Nobel Prize economist Robert Shiller was calling it “an interesting experiment, but … not a permanent feature of our lives”; in 2028, Satoshi Nakamoto was the first pseudonymous/anonymous person(s) to be awarded the Nobel Prize in Economics.

Out the right-hand window, a stretch of Bitcoin and crypto-related billboards advertised the very companies that those revolutionaries had built.

“No internet? No problem! Run a full Andromeda Node right from your mobile device to send and receive payments anytime, anywhere using Blockstream’s Bitcoin Satellite. To learn more, visit”

Another board branded with the tagline, “Your data. Your content. Your value. Reclaim your online independence with Bitlive.” On it, a knight clad in binary code chainmail wielding a Bitcoin shield, defending against a dragon, blasting the shield with breath that appeared to consist partly of Terms of Use legal language.

I chuckled a bit to myself, calling to mind the inexhaustible list of ICOs and token projects that tried to solve the content monetization problem. Didn’t need a utility token for that. The irony that the billboard, in part, is a stand-in for the industry that BitLive replaced also struck me as good fun.

The rest of the drive was filled with physical reminders of the space’s progression. They rolled on, exit to exit, in the forms of billboards and company names emblazoned on the tops of skyscrapers. At one point, Zug, Switzerland, had earned the moniker Crypto Valley for the density of crypto companies attracted to the region for its accommodating legislation. Silicon Valley had caught up, along with plenty of other crypto hubs: Toronto, Canada; Vaduz, Lichtenstein; Seoul, South Korea; and others.

Our “far-flung” visions were materializing.

Renegades to revolutionaries.

I reached the Intercontinental a little before 6:00 p.m.

“Thank you for choosing Decentralift today, Colin,” the AI droned. “Would you like assistance with your luggage?”

“No, thanks,” I replied and grabbed my carry-on bag.

Walking into the hotel, I checked my reservation details on my watch and made straight for my room on the 21st floor. Beside the elevator was a conference banner, one of many on display throughout the hotel.

Welcome to Bitcoin 2029: The Premier Bitcoin Conference” it read. Below was an impressive list of speakers, some highly respected, old standards, others exciting new voices.

Andreas Antonopoulos was coming out of a hard-earned sabbatical. This was the first conference he’d be keynoting since 2026. Samantha Styles, who had made her name during the Hard Fork Wars of 2025, would be speaking on “Crises in Consensus and the Importance of Decentralized Governance.” Elizabeth Stark, Colter Simpson, Gail Tenpenny, Adam Back, Preethi Kasireedy and Jun Li were all giving tech demonstrations. Even Roger Ver was speaking, having come back to the Bitcoin community following the Bitcoin Cash Chain Split of 2018 and a five-year journey of introspection.

Reaching the 21st floor, I found my room and unlocked its door with my Watchlet. The room featured an expansive view of the city. Surveying the sprawling cityscape, I noticed a massive crowd of protesters concentrated in the Yerba Buena Gardens. The throng was spilling over from the adjacent Moscone Convention Center, pouring onto Howard Street and clogging its throughway to the detriment of any potential traffic — and to the detriment of attendees of the World Banking Expo, which was taking place in the convention center.

“Maybe Caleb is among them,” I wondered.

Cousin Caleb stayed on my mind as I left the hotel for a grocery run. A crypto donation center directly outside the entrance to the Intercontinental made his situation all the more poignant. I made my way to the burnt-orange box, no bigger than the neglected ATMs (bitcoin or traditional) whose ubiquitous uselessness still littered cities around the globe.

These donation centers dated back to the early ’20s, the project of an anonymous-yet-steadfast group of crypto philanthropists, but it wasn’t until the recent debt/monetary crises that they began propagating in record numbers overnight.

They were built to redistribute crypto wealth to nocoiners and those without proper access to bitcoin, people like Caleb. Caleb did put money into the ecosystem — he just put it in the wrong places. Like many others, he accepted his wages and converted paper into stablecoins. But he didn’t buy anything like Dai or an algorithmic-backed coin — he put his money into fiat-collateralized coins.

Cue the rapid devaluation of the dollar and the international monetary crisis. Hyperbitcoinization has been great for those of us who saw it coming, but it’s been painful for others and there’s plenty of work to be done to iron out the economic disparities.

I expect we’ll see many more protests like the one obstructing the World Banking Expo in the next decade, I thought, scanning my Watchlet to donate 0.0025 BTC to the cause.

As I stepped into the Locavore supermarket near my hotel, it made me grateful that not every service was exclusively online yet. Some IRL experiences can’t be beat, I thought.

Gathering my groceries, I checked the tracking information for each item on the blockchain. Now, it was easy to tell if a store was misrepresenting a product’s origin and whether or not its attributes, organic or otherwise, were correct. Locavore rarely faltered in its mission to provide “transparent and locally sourced food,” but I checked anyway — it was always entertaining to map the network of farms the food came from.

Perusing the aisles, certain items shared a bitcoin and USD price tag; others had their USD price tags removed entirely. I was a bit shocked to see USD denominations at all, but rationalized that slowly tapering off the dollar was probably a responsible move on the store’s part.

I proceeded to the checkout.

“Welcome, valued customer.” The self-checkout’s chipper tone belied in its automated voice. After I finished scanning my items, it asked if I would like to round up my purchase to donate to Crypto Giver, the same organization behind the donation boxes. Acquiescing, I paid and headed back to my hotel.

I made my way to the bar to grab a beer and prep for a panel I was moderating: “Banking the Unbanked and Unbanking the Banked: What Two Decades Have Meant for Adoption.” In the late ’10s, Bitcoin’s utility was on display in countries like Venezuela, Iran and Turkey. But the sudden onslaught of the Second Great Depression would give the first world a taste for what a decentralized monetary system meant for an economy entrenched in rampant inflation and debt-riddled chaos.

Maybe you think I’m being hyperbolic, but it wasn’t until a global economic crisis on par with (or more extreme than) the Great Recession that bitcoin could be truly battle tested. Satoshi created it in response to ubiquitous market disaster, but it would take another disaster (in part, incited by the same problems as the first) for the currency to function holistically as Satoshi intended: a global, permissionless currency that, freed from the centralized control of a monolithic entity, could flourish for the people as a hedge against inflation and monetary instability.

I ordered a stout as these thoughts crossed my mind and made their way into my notebook. The bar used the Andromeda satellite network to let me pay from my tab without having to connect to the internet, something that still blows my mind as I think back to the early days of Lightning.

Finishing my stout, I thought about some of the changes the last 10 to 15 years had seen: from layer 1 to layer 2 solutions, from lightweight wallet clients to lightweight nodes on smartphones, from Lightning to Andromeda, from basic payments to everyday smart contracts. What was originally a case for digital cash and a deflationary economy had put down its roots in the free market and grown into an ubiquitous, decentralized economy.

During my first trip to San Francisco, bitcoin was known only through hype and still regarded as a fringe technology. Now, it was changing how we interacted with everything: donations, groceries, hotel reservations and rideshares. It had become bigger than those skeptics could fathom and even bigger than what its early proponents could dream.

Leaving the bar, I made my way to a 7:30 speakers’ dinner at Cheekwood, the first restaurant in the U.S. to begin accepting crypto only as a payment method.

Just like the space’s early adopters, Cheekwood was mocked by food critics and related media. It wouldn’t last the month, they sneered. “Probably the most idiotic decision in San Francisco dining history,” one critic wrote.

But it thrived, and it has become a watering hole for crypto enthusiasts ever since.

It was all too fitting, then, that we chose to break bread at Cheekwood the eve before the conference. Far from a last supper, the meal personified all that the industry had been through in its two decades of existence: ingenuity, mockery, persistence and victory.

The decentralized future had won out.

This article originally appeared on Bitcoin Magazine.

Bitcoin Wallet Forced to Drop Key Privacy Features From Google Play App


Privacy-focused bitcoin wallet Samourai is having its hand forced by Google.

According to a Samourai blog post, the wallet provider is disabling privacy features that are key to its design before its latest version, 0.99.4, hits the Google Play store tomorrow. The removed features include Samourai’s Stealth Mode, remote text message (SMS) commands, and SIM Switch Defense (a measure to protect against sim swaps).

The privacy restrictions only affect the version of the wallet available on Google Play. To bypass these restrictions, users can also download what Samourai calls the “non-nerfed version” of the wallet client’s latest version directly from the project’s Github. Down the road, the team also hopes to get the wallet, privacy features fully-enabled, listed on F-Droid and other alternative, open-source app stores, as well.

“In October, Google announced changes to their policies regarding SMS and Dialer permissions that apps are allowed to use. The way that our Stealth Mode, Remote SMS commands, and SIM Switch Defense work require use of these permissions,” a Samourai Wallet representative told Bitcoin Magazine in an email correspondence.

Samourai proceeded to file for an exemption, but they were notified of their exemption’s rejection just “a few days ago,” according to the representative.

“Unfortunately, they didn’t tell us anything specifically, we learned of everything through automated emails that could not be responded to,” they continued.

Samourai is only available for Android, in part because it can’t pin down iOS developers who “are willing to work for the passion of it over the profit,” the representative indicated. The project hasn’t “had much luck with iOS developers so far,” but it is “committed to bringing some version of Samourai to the iOS store eventually,” they claimed.

With these restrictions, Samourai lamented the changing landscape of Android over the past few versions. These changes have, in Samourai’s words, created a “walled garden,” something the wallet provider discusses in its blog post and reiterated in our correspondence.

“Very strict changes in background data a few versions ago meant that Samourai users would no longer receive alerts on incoming payments unless we routed all alerts through Google’s own servers. We obviously decided not to do that, but that was — in our view — the beginnings of the walled garden being built. The latest policy changes regarding SMS and Dialer permissions show a marked change of strategy for Google, bringing it closer in alignment with the Apple iOS Store than ever before.”

If users opt to download the wallet directly from Samourai’s Github, the team cautioned that they should “verify the integrity of the APK they download by comparing the SHA-256 hash of their APK with the SHA-256 hash published on Github.”

At time of publication, Google had not responded to Bitcoin Magazine’s request for comment.

This article originally appeared on Bitcoin Magazine.

Colorado and California Just Elected Pro-Bitcoin Governors

Polis Newsom

Following the 2018 midterm elections, the U.S. will see two new pro-Bitcoin governors sworn into office.

Jared Polis (D-CO) and Gavin Newsom (D-CA) both won out against their respective Republican contenders last night, November 6, 2018. While their campaign points and platforms were capitalized by a progressive agenda, their favorable attitudes toward cryptocurrencies and blockchain technology have caught the crypto community’s attention.

Congratulations to early Bitcoin advocate @jaredpolis on being elected Governor of Colorado!

“Polis said that he will use his powers in Congress to fight against any attempts by the government to enact policies that restrict the growth of bitcoin” – 2014

— Francis Pouliot (@francispouliot_) November 7, 2018

For Gavin Newsom, this support comes from a simple yet pioneering decision to accept bitcoin as a campaign donation in 2014 when running as an incumbent candidate for California’s Lieutenant Governor seat. One of the first politicians to do so at the time, Newsom signaled the donation option as an understated endorsement of the technology.

“I should promote the technology ever so subtly by saying I’ll accept bitcoin in the campaign. I’m ready for it. But how the hell do I explain it to anybody?”

Congratulations to early Bitcoin adopter @GavinNewsom on being elected Governor of California!

“I should promote the technology ever so subtly by saying I’ll accept bitcoin in the campaign”. “I’m ready for it”. “But how the hell do I explain it to anybody?” – 2014

— Francis Pouliot (@francispouliot_) November 7, 2018

An Industry Advocate

Polis, who claims to have been the first Congressman in America to accept bitcoin as a campaign donation in 2014, has embraced bitcoin and its underlying industry with a bit more gusto.

His website even has an entire page dedicated to blockchain policy. On this page, he explores blockchain technology’s potential to improve voter protection/cybersecurity, energy management and government transparency, while also proposing a Council for the Advancement of Blockchain Technology Use and a sandbox “to create a statewide safe harbor” for industry companies.

“My goal is to establish Colorado as a national hub for blockchain innovation in business and government. I believe strong leadership will put Colorado at the forefront of innovation in this sector — encouraging companies to flock to the state and establishing government applications that save taxpayers money and create value for Colorado residents,” the page concludes.

During his time in the House of Representatives, Polis had a long-standing track record as one of the industry’s most vocal defenders in Washington. In 2014, he sent a satirical letter to federal regulators that called for a ban on the USD, a parodical and caustic response to Senator Joe Manchin’s (D-WV) own letter to federal regulators that requested a ban on bitcoin.

In league with Representative David Schweikert (R-AZ), he also proposed the Cryptocurrency Tax Fairness Act in 2017. “Similar to foreign currency transactions,” a summary reads, “it allows consumers to make small purchases with cryptocurrency up to $600 without burdensome reporting requirements.”

This article originally appeared on Bitcoin Magazine.