Book Review: Bitcon – The Naked Truth About Bitcoin

Jeffrey Robinson, the author of the well known book “Laundrymen” that I’m now reading, has written an engaging story about The Satoshi Faithful (as he calls them) supporters of Bitcoin and where their Faith is leading them stray.

The book is called BitCon: The Naked Truth About Bitcoin and it doesn’t pull punches in deriding the would-be currency. If you don’t know anything about Bitcoins, it may skip over some of the introductions necessary to hold your own in conversation. This isn’t a primer on Bitcoins or crypto-currencies, but it also doesn’t spend chapters on involved technical details so you won’t be completely lost.

I described the book as “engaging”. For me, already very sceptical of the long-term chances of success for Bitcoin and specifically  critical of its suitability as real “currency”, it had me nodding in agreement with many sections. Frankly, I don’t know how persuasive it would be to a fervent supporter (not that much anything would be).

I did enjoy the insights into some of the personalities behind Bitcoin and the histories of different supporters and how this has changed over the short time Bitcoins have been around. I learnt more about the Dark Web than I knew before, gaining a new appreciation for how dark the underbelly of the web and Bitcoins are.

Robinson ignored what I think is a key limitation on Bitcoin. Supporters claim its value derives in large part from the limited supply, but without any intrinsic value, other crypto-currencies are near-perfect substitutes. I’ve blogged about this before and was looking forward to seeing another take on it.

I enjoyed the book, reading through it fairly quickly and without wanting to switch to something else, suggesting Robinson hit the target with length and balance of information vs entertainment.

Go grab a copy from Amazon – BitCon: The Naked Truth About Bitcoin.

Published by David Kirk

The opinions expressed on this site are those of the author and other commenters and are not necessarily those of his employer or any other organisation. David Kirk runs Milliman’s actuarial consulting practice in Africa. He is an actuary and is the creator of New Business Margin on Revenue. He specialises in risk and capital management, regulatory change and insurance strategy . He also has extensive experience in embedded value reporting, insurance-related IFRS and share option valuation.

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  1. When the “Satoshi Faithful” includes some of the smartest, most successful technology entrepreneurs and businessmen in the world, it’s probably wise to not write them off.

    If you thought about it a bit more carefully, perhaps you would understand that the dark underbelly that you reference is the dark underbelly of humanity not the web or bitcoin. That dark underbelly is far more prevalent in the cash monetary system of dollars, pounds, etc than it is in bitcoin.

    Most bitcoin enthusiasts understand it well enough to know perfectly well that other cryptocurrencies can copy bitcoin, that’s why we already have over 500 of them today, without in any way detracting from bitcoin being by far the strongest and most popular. Most of us also recognise that doesn’t mean it is 100% resistant to competition.

    Regarding intrinsic value, anyone who talks about any kind of intrinsic value when it comes to money, is wrong. It does not exist in any form of money, it is all about perception. Please point to one that you think that does and I will prove to you that it doesn’t.

    Of course bitcoin still has limitations as a currency right now because it is still in its embryonic stages, but over the coming years, it will become stronger, less volatile, easier to us, and completely universal.

    Final comment: it is not bitcoin per se that is the game changer, it is the technology that underpins it. You talk about bitcoin as a currency but that is only one App of the network & blockchain technology.

    If you really want to understand it, I suggest you listen to Andreas Antonopoulos educate the Canadian Senate about it. He’s probably the most knowledgeable and articulate person when it comes to bitcoin:

    1. You make a few points there – here are replies to a few. “Appeal to authority” is a well known logical fallacy. The more interesting part here is that your “authority” are tech entrepreneurs rather than economists or monetary policy experts. So it’s an irrelevant argument, made poorly.

      Your comment re intrinsic value doesn’t address my criticism. Without intrinsic value, other crypto currencies can be perfect substitutes (network effects aside). Fiat currency, issued by a central bank and made legal tender by law, doesn’t have that weakness.

      The book (and my comments in my review) are about Bitcoin the currency being a Bad Idea. If you’re arguing that the technology is useful so don’t worry about a single implementation called Bitcoin, then I’d agree – but that’s perpendicular to the rest of your arguments.

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