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Bitcoin Documentary – “The Rise and Rise of Bitcoin”

A computer programmer becomes fascinated with the digital currency Bitcoin, and through his involvement in the Bitcoin community, we learn about the impending global impact of this amazing new technology.

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There’s now $45 million of Bitcoin activity per day, and it’s made some people rich. Wealth circulated around the conference in the form of casual Bitcoin bets, 100-dollar bills being fed into Bitcoin ATMs, and at least one couture-wrapped girlfriend.

“If I were you, I’d buy as many Bitcoins as possible before the end of the conference,” Cedric Dahl, one of the founders of the Bitcoin exchange Buttercoin, told me, hinting that the price would skyrocket again because of all the attention on the conference; CNN, Russia Today, Vice, and Thomson Reuters were among the media in attendance.

That hasn’t happened. As of Tuesday morning, the price of a Bitcoin was steady around $120. That’s still astonishingly high for a currency that relies on a stack of arcane code and a network of anonymous helpers in lieu of a central government.

Actually, it’s astonishing that Bitcoin is still around at all. The currency has had several near-death experiences in its short life and received a number of premature obituaries. It has survived massive cyberattacks, scams, technical panics, and extreme price fluctuations. In July 2010, a bug was discovered that allowed anyone to spend anyone else’s Bitcoins. It was fixed. In the summer of 2011, when the mainstream media first discovered Bitcoin, the currency spiked to $31.91; four months later, it crashed below $2. Then it started climbing again.

The mix of competence amid chaos reminded me of another humanist experiment: the early Occupy Wall Street occupation, which had an overlapping constituency. Like Bitcoin, Occupy Wall Street attracted many fringe elements, but its core organizers were clear-headed revolutionaries. For every complication that arose in the Wall Street tent city, a committee would form and handle it. When Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced the park had to be closed in order to be cleaned, the occupiers bought brooms and scrubs and cleaned the park themselves. They had the persistence of ants.

But one night, the New York City Police Department swept in just after 1:00AM and destroyed the camp. That was the end of the occupation. The movement survives in bits and pieces and in the history books, but it never quite recovered.

After all the strife, I expected something similar to happen in the Bitcoin community. One day, there would be a catastrophe too devastating to recover from; some people would pick up the pieces but most would lose interest. Instead, Bitcoin has rebounded from every setback stronger than before.

How is it that Bitcoin has managed to avoid annihilation by governments, hackers, and overhype? How has it evaded the “slow internal death,” as the economist Garrick Hileman put it, that destroyed the English barter system LETS? How does it continue to seduce new users, while keeping the base enthralled? Why won’t Bitcoin die?

I decided to walk around the conference and ask.

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