The Future of Finance at the Museum of American Finance

On Wednesday night, Feb. 11, we were part of a special night at the Museum of American Finance on Wall Street, a discussion on digital currency and the future of finance featuring former Treasury Secretary Lawrence Summers that took a look at the ways in which bitcoin and cryptocurrencies are going to effect, and be absorbed and adapted by, the financial system.

Nearly 300 people (the event sold out very quickly) filled the museum’s main exhibition hall to hear Summers, us, and a panel of experts talk about the future of finance, and digital currency’s place in that future.

The museum occupies the old Bank of New York headquarters, a grand old Greek revival building on the corner of Wall and Williams street, a block away from Federal Hall and the New York Stock Exchange. That location and history made for a dramatic backdrop to what was decidedly a 21st century night of questions and discussions.

The media coverage ranged from the mainstream New York Times, which took a very straightforward angle with this write-up of Summers’ comments, to this decidedly cynical take from Animal New York. “On Wednesday night, the Establishment wasn’t afraid,” Peter Yeh wrote. “It was excited. Its members swarmed the CEOs after the panel ended to exchange business cards. Nothing is more traditional finance than that.”

There was something to that take. This was one of the first times, if not the first, that the upstart cryptocurrency world met the staid traditional finance world on its own turf, and engaged it on its own terms. The night was less about disruption and more about evolution, and it seemed to us at least that at some point soon, there’s going to be something in the museum to represent bitcoin, something that extends the line of history just one step further.

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Bitcoin and the Digital-Currency Revolution

Publication Day!

Jan. 27 has arrived, and with it, the publication of “The Age of Cryptocurrency” (and a massive blizzard that’s about to dump two feet of snow on the east coast, but that’s another story). We are extremely excited to have finally made it to this day. The reception so far has been really quite positive, and we’re anxious to see how the book does now that it’s on bookshelves.

Our weekend essay in the Wall Street Journal is a good primer on the promise of bitcoin and cryptocurrencies, if you haven’t read the book yet. It will give you a taste of the direction we’re going in.

Also over the weekend, the Washington Post gave the book a very strong review. “To their ample credit, Paul Vigna and Michael J. Casey, veteran Wall Street Journal reporters, resist the common temptation to hype their trendy subject,” the finance writer Daniel Gross said. “They’ve written a reported explainer that patiently documents bitcoin’s rise, acknowledges its flaws and highlights its promise. Smart and conscientious, ‘The Age of Cryptocurrency’ is the most thorough and readable account of the short life of this controversial currency.”

Here’s an excerpt from our Journal essay:

No digital currency will soon dislodge the dollar, but bitcoin is much more than a currency. It is a radically new, decentralized system for managing the way societies exchange value. It is, quite simply, one of the most powerful innovations in finance in 500 years.

If applied widely to the inner workings of our global economy, this model could slash trillions in financial fees; computerize much of the work done by payment processors, government property-title offices, lawyers and accountants; and create opportunities for billions of people who don’t currently have bank accounts. Great value will be created, but many jobs also will be rendered obsolete.

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The Trailer is Here

The book doesn’t arrive for another two weeks, but today we published our trailer on YouTube. For this, we performed a relatively simple experiment: we went out into Times Square, and asked people, what is bitcoin? You can see for yourself what they said.

Yes, that is Mike Casey making an ever so brief cameo toward the end.

A Serious Book Worth Reading; a Review in ‘The Economist’

age of crypto cover 11-14The Economist this week came out with its review of “The Age of Cryptocurrency,” saying, essentially, that it’s a serious book worth reading, one that digs deep into the reasons that bitcoin is significant as a topic, beyond all the manic stuff you read in the media.

Here’s a clip, though we’d recommend reading the whole thing:

For any book on bitcoin to be worth reading, though, it has to delve further: into the crypto-currency’s ideological and technical roots, for instance, or what it adds to the narrative of money, or even what its economic and political impact may be. The currency’s dollar price may be three-quarters down on its peak, but the underlying technology also provides plenty of intellectual fodder—and is unlikely to go away. So there is plenty to write about if you are serious.

Paul Vigna and Michael Casey, two journalists at the Wall Street Journal, are certainly serious.

The tone is somewhat dismissive of bitcoin (“The rise and fall of the crypto-currency is good news for authors at least”), and it treats some of the other bitcoin books out there harshly. But it does highlight many of the big-picture issues we explore: the debate about the nature of money, and where cryptocurrencies lie within that; the potential to bootstrap the unbanked into the modern world, a slow-rolling revolution in finance. All in all, it’s a very positive review and we’re really pleased to get our first notice from such an august name.

‘Cryptocurrency’ Arrives

UK CryptocurrencyMike and I both received our first copies of the U.K. version of our book in the mail today, from our publisher The Bodley Head.

Our editor at Bodley Head, Stuart Williams, cut the title down to simply “Cryptocurrency,” (you can see the Random House page here) but otherwise it’s the same book. And, yes, that is a bullet on the cover. They really went for a statement with the title and imagery, which we like.

We’ve seen a couple of the galleys of our U.S. edition, but this is the first actual copy I’ve had in my hands. We put in an awful lot of work between the day we signed the contract and today. It feels very good to have the book arrive, to see the culmination of all that work here sitting next to me.

Here is the book on Amazon’s U.K. site. One nice little touch on the dust jacket is that they priced it in pounds, and bitcoin.

“Cryptocurrency” is available in the U.K. beginning Jan. 29 (and Jan. 27 here in the U.S.)

bodley bitcoin

Publishers Weekly Reviews The Age of Cryptocurrency

Publishers Weekly gave The Age of Cryptocurrency a “starred” review; here’s what they had to say:

While many readers understandably have a hard time wrapping their heads around the concept of non-government-backed currency, journalists Casey (Che’s Afterlife) and Vigna, who blog about cryptocurrency at the Wall Street Journal’s MoneyBeat blog, here use their considerable expertise to make the Bitcoin phenomenon accessible.

They take a thorough, multidisciplinary approach to the topic, including a fascinating examination of the origin of money. The authors are appropriately cautious, warning that despite increased public awareness of Bitcoin, it remains a niche product, and the jury is still out on how far and how quickly it and other digital currency will spread.

However, newcomers will gain a better understanding of the revolutionary potential of digital currency, especially for the “roughly 2.5 billion people from Afghanistan to Africa to even America who have been shut out of the modern finance system.” And the explication of the non-currency applications of the concepts behind Bitcoin—such as tamper-proof records of verified information—will be valuable to any reader. Agent: Gillian McKenzie, Gillian McKenzie Agency. (Jan.)

Advance Praise for ‘The Age of Cryptocurrency’

age of crypto cover 11-14“Anyone who doubts that bitcoin and its imitators are at the early stage of altering fundamentally the global payments system—if not the nature of money itself—will find it difficult to resist Michael Casey and Paul Vigna’s admirably clear and judicious account. If the word ‘blockchain’ makes you want to call a plumber, or if you think Satoshi is some kind of raw fish, you need to read The Age of Cryptocurrency today. If you’re already a bit-convert, you’ll still learn a lot.”
—Niall Ferguson, author of The Ascent of Money

“Anyone who views bitcoin as a voodoo concept must read this totally comprehensible narrative outlining the history of money and how bitcoin might become a new and better currency. For those confused by bitcoin concepts, this clearheaded and readable book sets forth credible reasons why bitcoin might or might not be an evolving economic miracle.”
—Arthur Levitt, 25th Chairman of the United States Securities and Exchange Commission

“An invaluable book: a fascinating field guide to the phenomenon in which three of the most powerful forces shaping our world today—the reform of finance, technological innovation, and the rejection of traditional politics—meet.”
—Felix Martin, author of Money: The Unauthorized Biography

The Age of Cryptocurrency not only demystifies and explains bitcoin, but also shows where it fits into the cultural zeitgeist and where it’s pointed, and what that may mean for our financial system.”
—John Mauldin, New York Times bestselling author of Endgame

“The thought-provoking Age of Cryptocurrency was a pleasure to read. The authors have successfully demystified cryptocurrencies like bitcoin so that even a traditionalist like myself can understand them and embrace their potential. And the references to money were so spot-on, they even taught this old dog some new tricks.”
—Edmund C. Moy, 38th Director of the United States Mint, 2006-2011

“Vigna and Casey unlock the mysteries of cryptocurrencies and their implications for the future of financial transactions in an engaging, lucid, and thought-provoking account. The technological developments described in this book will someday affect every one of us and I can think of no better guide to what the future holds.”
—Eswar Prasad, author of The Dollar Trap

“Even to a bitcoin skeptic like myself, Vigna and Casey’s book is a fascinating journey into the cast of characters and oddballs behind the movement into the digital currency realm.”
—Barry Ritholtz, CIO, Ritholtz Wealth Management

“Thorough, multidisciplinary approach to the topic, including a fascinating examination of the origin of money… newcomers will gain a better understanding of the revolutionary potential of digital currency…And the explication of the non-currency applications of the concepts behind Bitcoin—such as tamper-proof records of verified information—will be valuable to any reader. ”
Publishers Weekly, starred review