The Short Version: Bitcoin

The Short Version: Bitcoin

The point of it all is to break down the headlines, determine why an issue is important, and reveal the best arguments on each side of the story.

Recently Cleo turned her attention to the nation’s most recent horror, the school shooting which caused the premature death of 17 young people. She asked the really Big Question many have thought about, but few have stated out loud: Should we repeal the Second Amendment? This week, her subject is Bitcoin. I know, what? Read on….

Note: If you have missed any of Cleo’s blogs, just go to our Home Page, type “The Short Version” into Search (magnifying glass icon) and poof, like magic, all her blogs will appear.

Cleo Constantine Abrams of the “Short Form,” offering densely packed spins on issues of national and global importance.

What’s happening?

You might have heard someone—on tv, on Twitter, in a bar—talking about Bitcoin.

As the market price of Bitcoin soared (and dipped, and rose, and dipped again, and rose again), general interest in cryptocurrency has done the same. General understanding of what Bitcoin is and how it works hasn’t quite kept up.

Wow, if I had invested $1,000 in Bitcoin last week, today I would have… still no idea how Bitcoin works.

Bitcoin (BTC) is a digital currency that can be used to exchange or store value—just like you can with U.S. dollars (USD). But to keep track of what each person owns or exchanges, there’s no need for a central bank or administrator. Bitcoin uses a blockchain.

Why is it important?

The nitty gritty of blockchain technology is complicated. But conceptually, it’s more simple than most people think. I spoke with Muneeb Ali, an expert with a PhD in distributed systems and a co-founder of Blockstack, for a definition.

“If somebody asks, “Hey, what’s a blockchain?” I would say… it is a tamper-resistant log that helps you get consensus on data in a distributed way.”

Here’s what each piece of Muneeb’s definition means, at a conceptual level:

A tamper-resistant log… “: It’s a list of transactions. The list can record any exchange of anything of value— your money, property, work product, votes. Each bit of information is a “block.” But it’s a list, not a central database, so you can’t go back and change blocks. You can only add the next one. That’s part of what makes it “tamper-resistant.”

… that helps you get consensus on data…“: There isn’t just one blockchain, there are many. But they all share the goal of recording information and making sure everyone agrees that it’s accurate.

… in a distributed way“: In most traditional systems, a list of transactions of value would be held in a central server. Using our personal computers, we’d all check back with that server to make sure the information was accurate and up to date. There are a couple of serious problems with this. What happens if the central server collapses? What about when they take a cut of each transaction? What if the server is controlled by someone who’s just not operating in our interest?

So a blockchain does something very different. If you remember nothing else about blockchains, remember this: On a blockchain, there’s no central server at all. Instead, the list is copied and stored over and over again across a network of personal computers. Each computer becomes a node of the blockchain network and has a copy of the log. That makes a huge difference. It can solve some of the major questions we had about incentives and security in the traditional system.

So it’s that feature of blockchain technology—the idea that it is a decentralized system—that earns most criticism and causes the most heated debate.

Debate it!

Is bitcoin truly decentralized?

Follow the debate here.

Why The Short Version on TIO?

About 10 ago, Telluride Inside…and Out began as a lifestyle webzine. Today, in the full knowledge that Telluride is a window on the world, we continue to bring the “zazz” (short for “pizzazz) of the region to a local, national, and global audience by covering everything from Telluride’s robust cultural economy – major events and festivals – to health and fitness and outdoor adventure. When Telluride travels, we write about places to go, people to meet too. (That’s part of the “Out” part of our handle, the other, obviously, Outdoors.)

And now, this weekly column, “The Short Version,” which offers simple summaries of issues of national and global importance.

“The Short Version” is written by Cleo Constantine Abram, the daughter of Telluride locals Eleni Constantine and Jonathan Abram (and therefore an honorary local and regular visitor) and a digital strategist.

Why “The Short Version”? Because, though we live in Shangri-La, our bubble is not impermeable and the rest of the world is only a click away. Because there is no inconsequential action; only consequential inaction. And because information is power in a moment so many of us are feeling powerless.

More about Cleo Constantine Abram:

Cleo Abram 2

Cleo grew up in Washington D.C., lives in New York City, and loves to visit her parents in Telluride. She authors “The Short Version,” a newsletter that explains each week’s most important issue and both sides of the debate around it.

Cleo is a digital strategist now working at Vox, a general interest news site for the 21st century. Its mission is simple: Explain the news. Politics, public policy, world affairs, pop culture, science, business, and more.

Cleo’s work focuses on ways to share, educate, and inform using online platforms. While in college at Columbia University, she guided the school’s entrance into online education through her role as the youngest elected representative to the Columbia Senate, which makes university-wide policy.

She continued her work on online education at TED-Ed, the educational branch of the nonprofit, building new programs and online tools to support high school teachers worldwide.

Continuing her work with TED, Cleo founded and led an early TEDx conference, the organization’s community-specific series.

Cleo has also studied video storytelling at Columbia Journalism School.

Most importantly, Cleo loves to ski.


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