Dr. Virgil Griffith, a long-time hacker characterized as the “Internet Man of Mystery,” has been indicted and will stand trial for traveling to North Korea to teach cryptocurrency and blockchain. After his arrest on Thanksgiving Day in Los Angeles, he now faces a trial in the United States that highlights what will go down in history as an immense technological disruption of the 21st Century.
When Bitcoin was introduced to the world in 2008 through the white paper of Satoshi Nakamoto, a pseudonymous person or persons who demonstrated the ability to conduct commerce online with digital currency, it was clear blockchain technology as it is now called was a foundational and disruptive invention.
As the Internet displayed the ability for information to cross borders and create a worldwide platform of communications, countries reacted based on their values and ideals in different ways. The U.S. embraced the commercial potential of the Internet while China limited the information that came in as a way of maintaining totalitarian control over its population.
Now, the world’s economic leaders face a disruption that is a game-changer in the world economic stage – cryptocurrencies, or currencies that exist only in digital form and powered by a decentralized form of trust where transactions can be verified anywhere in the world and are no longer reliant on a central intermediary such as a bank. For countries such as U.S. and China, cryptocurrencies pose major threats to their current position as world superpowers. For North Korea, this technology presents an opportunity to advance its ambitions toward becoming a superpower.
As to the potential for cryptocurrency to be disruptive, 2019 definitely proved how serious policymakers in the U.S. view this threat. The uproar surrounding the Facebook Libra hearings in Congress with Mark Zuckerberg, the President’s tweets describing Bitcoin as coming “out of thin air,” and finally the Secretary of State Mnuchin characterization of cryptocurrency as a national security threat, indicated there was a high level of concern how cryptocurrency might be a danger to the United States.