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Cryptic Currency: Inside the World of Cryptocurrency

By: Sagar Amrania

Cryptocurrency. It is the latest topic of conversation because most hear it mentioned in the news. In my experience, most cannot actually tell me what cryptocurrency is. An intensive journey through a quick Google search can yield many complex answers, but the simple answer is this: it is digital money. Of course, there are further qualifications that have to be made to that definition, but for all intents and purposes, digital money is the essence of what cryptocurrency is. The popularity of cryptocurrency in news cycles is only matched by the controversy surrounding the medium, the root of which is hard to pin down precisely.

Cryptocurrency is money free from the restrictions of governments, meaning anyone can use it, anywhere and anytime (provided you have and internet connection of course) due to the decentralized nature of the medium. Cryptocurrency is extremely secure, as transactions are irreversible, and can be anonymous, since you never have to give your actual name or location. Of course, with any new form of technology there are going to be pioneers venturing out to mine their fortune, in the case, literally.

Cryptocurrency mining is perhaps the most contentious aspect of the medium, since the practice has far reaching implications. Boiled down, the concept of cryptocurrency mining revolves around using a computer to crunch the numbers on public cryptocurrency transactions, also known as calculating “hashes.” This nets the person doing the mining fractions of a given currency which they can then turn around and sell. This process is how new units of cryptocurrency are created; anyone with an adequate GPU (graphics processing unit) can be take part in creating cryptocurrency.

As the process developed so did the technology for doing so. Now there are application-specific integrated circuit chips (ASIC) created solely for the purpose of cryptocurrency mining. However, regular old GPU’s can still be used to mine which has resulted in prices for these graphics cards to spike in recent months. In fact, many retailers are depleting their entire stock to meet the demand created by miners. Of course, there are those who are attempting to “counterfeit,” cryptocurrencies by emulating false transactions and then using their mining rigs to reap the rewards of these transactions as if they were limited. But, I would classify this phenomenon simply as a symptom of the growing pains that come with any new industry.

So, there is some good some bad and some ugly with the growth of cryptocurrency. Personally, I do see cryptocurrency going away anytime soon; in a way, it is the currency of the internet. The global nature of the medium means that people can make transactions around the world without having to worry about exchange rates or customs agencies. But mining does present its own set of issues that have to be dealt with: in 2018, it is almost impossible to get into the mining game without a multi-thousand dollar investment, since GPU prices have skyrocket. At the end of the day, there are inevitable speedbumps with cryptocurrency, as there are with any new technology. My hope is that they get worked out before I cannot afford to build a new computer.