CRYPTOCURRENCY: UNDERSTANDING A NEW GENERATION
Senior United States senator Thomas Carper once said, “Virtual currencies, perhaps most notably Bitcoin, have captured the imagination of some, struck fear among others, and confused the heck out of the rest of us.” And true enough, even though a large chunk of the population is still pretty clueless about what Bitcoins (that have almost emerged as the face of cryptocurrencies) really are, one cannot escape the magnitude of the ‘movement’ as it can be safely called. Today, one can hardly find a bank, a firm or a company relating to software or finance that hasn’t researched on the topic, published a paper or simply toyed with the idea of being a part. Many are still apprehensive to the extent of being hostile, but the majority, which includes stalwarts in the field view it as a revolutionary finding – something that shall dominate the planet in the years to come. To use the word ‘dominate’ here would be an oxymoron in itself as the inherent trait that sets cryptocurrency apart from all other forms of digital money is of it being a decentralized system – there is no central authority, no government, no single body that can single-handedly operate or control the entire mechanism. The fact that the identity of the person doing the transaction can be completely hidden and can be traced in no way is also an attraction that gives these cryptocurrencies an edge over the general digital transaction processes that have become so common these days. However, this point in itself brings us to the topic of its practice in recent times, its general growth in the number of users. The concealing of the identity is a tremendous benefit for those involved in shady work. Even though the blockchain system keeps a record of all transactions which is public to the bitcoin users, tracing back any transaction to the user’s end is impossible because of the mechanism of cryptography that it uses. The recent increase in its usage is, as believed by many, owing to the criminals. Even then, cryptocurrencies are believed to be a pathway to a more democratic and independent society. Bitcoins, a type of cryptocurrency out of many, that could be bought for a few cents even three years back, has shot up to almost 8,000 USD, and might be changing drastically as I write. Just like anything else, the value of Bitcoins depends on the simple concept of supply and demand. Its value reached its peak in December 2017, when it became the most talked-about thing on the internet. Even after American business magnate Warren Buffet blasted Bitcoins, commenting "stay away from it. It's a mirage, basically," it saw more highs than lows. Most analysts predict that its value will witness huge rise in the future. In India, however, there has been much confusion about the legality of usage of Bitcoins. Experts say that there is a huge user base of cryptocurrencies in India, while many companies have had to shift their base to countries known to be more receptive to the usage of the same. In recent times, several like-minded people and organizations have come together to spread awareness regarding the potential of cryptocurrency in India and raise their voice against the ban on its usage in our country. Many argue that in a country where about half the population do not possess a bank account, cryptocurrency might turn out to be a viable alternative that doesn’t even require one. Digital coins became famous and attractive overnight when demonetization did away with 86% of the Indian currency, disrupting the economy and causing nationwide terror. In terms of proper research and fieldwork on the usage of cryptocurrency, India has a long way to go. Whether it will be a boon or a bane, is a question that might take quite some time to answer.