Book Review: The Internet of Money, Andreas Antonopoulos

Book Review: The Internet of Money, Andreas Antonopoulos

When Antonopoulos first published Mastering Bitcoin, he set out his stall as possibly the world’s most important pedagogical figure in the cryptocurrency space.

That work has gone down as likely the clearest technical explanation yet of how Bitcoin works; even if it was specifically intended as a book for computer scientists and programmers, no-one else has been able to render the subject more accessible for anyone who wants to get a feel for how it all works under the bonnet.

Philosophical and Political Implications of the Blockchain

With The Internet of Money, Antonopoulos has broadened his material to the more general, non-technical question of the Blockchain’s societal impact. We also get a glimpse into his own political leanings which might be vaguely categorised as something of a non-ideological, pragmatic libertarian.

If we are comparing the emergence of blockchain technology – of which Bitcoin was, of course, the first example – to the emergence of the early internet, we are probably sitting somewhere between 1994 and 1996.

 

Andreas Antonopoulos image
Andreas Antonopoulos

That was the period when the internet broke out of its original academic and military confines and (some) people from more general walks of life were then twigging onto what the technology was and the opportunities it was opening up.

The Internet of Money is, then, a guess at what the Blockchain’s own post-1997 period will look like – and it begins by dipping into the past and having a look at the disruptive effects of the motor car and electricity, amongst other things. 

Infrastructure Inversion

When motor cars first came along, they were seen as a public nuisance, a danger, inefficient and even pointless. Horses could do anything a motor car could claim to do except better. The outlook for mass adoption didn’t look particularly promising. It certainly didn’t help that infrastructure back then was adapted specifically for the horse.

Eventually, however, infrastructure began to adapt to the car  – and, as a result, there was a kind of infrastructure inversion, as Antonopoulos calls it; horses were now using roads designed for cars and enjoying the benefit. Then came motorcycles and heavy goods vehicles and so on. 

The same thing happened with telecommunications. Telephone companies saw their lines being taken over by conversations between modems in the early days of the internet. Phone lines were not at all designed for this kind of thing.

In the end, new digital networks emerged which were better able to accommodate the more efficient transfers of data packets that the internet needed – and got. It is now telephone networks which are piggy-backing the internet. 

Other Implications 

These kinds of analogies lay the foundations for the future painted – in necessarily vague terms – by Antonopoulos. But he doesn’t just discuss the future. There are other philosophical musings in this book that make you realise just how profound the impact of blockchain technologies are and will be. 

The Internet of Money is not a book, per se, but a redacted collection of some of Antonopoulos’ best speeches on various topics: how Bitcoin – the Blockchain’s first ever app – has re-defined our understanding of money, how it helps us re-gain control of our personal privacy from intrusive state actors, how it will utterly redefine banking (not least for the world’s unbanked and, no less, for children), all of which has been edited into an utterly absorbing piece of work that you will struggle to put down.  

Check out the chapter on dumb networks  as well – which, aside from being an eye-opening subject, it will leave you walking away from the book with a sense of optimistic yet nervous anticipation for the world that lies ahead of us. And, right now, no-one seems to explore those possibilities and present them better than Antonopoulos.