NASHUA, N.H. -- Zach Harvey has an ambitious plan to accelerate adoption of the Internet's favorite alternative currency: installing in thousands of bars, restaurants, and grocery stores ATMs that will let you buy Bitcoins anonymously.
It's the opposite of a traditional automated teller that dispenses currency. Instead, these Bitcoin ATMs will accept dollar bills -- using the same validation mechanism as vending machines -- and instantly convert the amount to Bitcoins and deposit the result in your account.
"It's even easier than just using a regular ATM," says Harvey, 33, who demonstrated the device to CNET this weekend at the Free State Project's annual Liberty Forum. "You could probably do it in about five seconds. The thing that would take the longest would be the bill validator taking in the dollar."
The idea is good, but it's the converse that's even better.
Imagine you're walking down the street and there it is, a large kiosk structure which advertises its offering in bright neon lights : Free Cash Machine.
And indeed, people walk up to it, type in a code and receive wads of cash. Twenty, two hundred, nine thousand... as much as they wish for, provided they have the proper code. Obviously the only way to actually get the proper code is by buying it, in Bitcoin, but that's nothing you know about. All you know about is that the machine of dreams has finally been made : type a word, get a wad of cash. Sort of like the bottled genie, except you have to know how to rub.
Isn't it frustrating that you personally have no idea how to rub it ?
This is the sort of thing Bitcoin does : it splits human society into two halves : the haves and the have nots. Like anything else in the past.
The state would obviously hate this more than anything in the world, for the simple reason that it makes Bitcoin people completely invisible to any law enforcement. You can now evade any civil judgement, from child support and alimony to remarkable crap like this. Along with that a large section of the state's bullying power vanishes, as there will be no more of the current "we'll freeze all your money and then expect you to somehow get counsel to defend you in court".
The field would be once more even, and quite frankly the system is so completely broken by now that even a coupla pips' movement in the direction of even would completely ruin it, leave alone the twenty or thirty percents we're talking about here.
The poison in the pill is that there's perfectly nothing that can be done about it legally, as things stand. It's not nor can it become illegal to give money away. If you wish to make a company that gives money away that's your privilege, that's what having money means in the first place.
The first company to do it will gain a significant market advantage. All you need is twenty thousand locations spread over the East and West Coast of the US, the coupla Canadian population centers and Europe. Maybe dribble a little into Asia too, if you can afford it and know how. The end.
What's this cost, a billion or two in the absolute worst case scenario where the dispenser is really a middle class detached house ? So be it. You'll make it back in five to ten years, and more importantly the brand of this venture alone will be worth two billion in Bitcoins by the time you're done. Of course that won't mean much more than a few thousand Bitcoins, but then again that's A Good Thing.
So who's first ?