Cryptocurrency: From Basic Definitions to Expert Issues in One Interview

You'd have to be living in some kind of a news blackout not to have heard chatter about cryptocurrencies recently. The granddaddy of 'em all – BitCoin – has appreciated roughly 2000% over the past twelve months. This puts the total value of all BitCoin close $300B, making it more valuable than roughly 490 of the companies in the Fortune 500 – and far more valuable than any of the banks that were deemed too big to fail during the financial crisis.

So what in the world is going on here? As with all large markets, nobody fully knows. But my interviewee in today's podcast, Fred Ehrsam, knows this area better than almost anyone. In 2012, he co-founded Coinbase, which is by far the world's largest consumer-friendly service for storing and trading cryptocurrencies (though its users include many large nonconsumers as well).

Although our interview is a spontaneous conversation, Fred and I both put methodical thought into sequencing our topics, as well as the level of depth that we treat each with. The result is a robust introduction for who know nothing about cryptocurrencies, which can also truly fire the neurons of experts in this field. Will AI's start running on the block chain? Could a full-fledged Uber, Lyft, or AirBnB competitor exist as a cloud-based Smart Contract? And how might the emergence of Ethereum stand in certain a line of historic events that stretches back before the Bronze Age?

Those who don't yet know what a blockchain or a smart contract are should be able to follow the entire conversation, clear through to its complex and rather mindbending conclusions, just by listening carefully (although probably not on 2x speed!). In fact, even if you have only the vaguest conception of cryptocurrencies, parsing all of this could bring you close to a top-percentile understanding of them. You can hear it by searching "After On" in your favorite podcast app, or by clicking right here:

Because Fred is so generous and patient in his baseline explanations (for which I'm hugely grateful), stone-cold crypto experts may want to enter the interview around the half-hour mark. That said, I thought I fully grokked the stuff at the start of the episode myself – but talking it through with Fred brought up all kinds of intriguing nuances. So it may be worth a listen for anyone.

A quick point of disclosure: I hold a cryptocurrency position myself as an investor. I don't believe that influenced this interview in any way. But I should point this out anyway, because who really knows what lurks in the subconscious? Also, I can – strangely enough – guarantee that my holdings did not influence my decision to conduct this interview. Because when I first reached out to Fred last month, I was under the false impression that I had long since sold my cryptocurrency. The background research I did for this interview revealed that I'd actually failed to sell it (which is fine, as it turns out).