Premieres Wednesday, Nov. 9, 2022 at 9 p.m. on KPBS TV + Sunday, Nov. 13 at 9 p.m. on KPBS 2 / PBS Video App
NOVA “Crypto Decoded” dives deep into one of the crucial talked about applied sciences of the second — cryptocurrency and the blockchain expertise that makes it doable. From Bitcoin to NFTs, cryptocurrencies are making headlines and claiming a slice of world monetary exercise. However what precisely are they, and the way do they work?
NOVA examines how and why cryptocurrency got here to be, that includes a variety of consultants that transcend the hype and the skepticism to unravel the social and technological underpinnings of “crypto,” and explores the chance that this new expertise might change rather more than simply cash.
NOVA: Crypto Decoded: Preview
To be able to absolutely perceive the revolution that some say crypto guarantees, “Crypto Decoded” seeks to reply a deceptively easy query — what’s cash, anyway? Forex has existed in a single kind or one other for longer than written historical past, and the movie appears to be like to consultants like Ellen Feingold, curator of the National Numismatic Collection at the Smithsonian National Museum of American History — dwelling to the world’s largest historic assortment of cash — to unpack this advanced previous. Feingold explains that something can be utilized as cash so long as a neighborhood agrees on its worth. All cash is a crucial fiction — constructed on shared belief.
Whereas banks and bank card firms are largely trusted to trace the circulation of funds and preserve detailed, centralized data, some consider this offers these monetary brokers — and the governments who oversee them — an excessive amount of energy. This lack of belief spurred laptop programmers and mathematicians to seek for an alternate.
For Mark Miller, a pc science scholar within the late Nineteen Seventies, George Orwell’s basic dystopian novel “1984” appeared prophetic, as belief within the authorities was reducing within the wake of Watergate and the Vietnam Struggle. The movie appears to be like on the invention of public key encryption — one of many elementary parts of cryptocurrency — and its promotion by Mark Miller and others.
Envisioning that this new type of communication may give governments unprecedented energy, laptop scientists and mathematicians raced to create a technique to preserve on-line communications non-public and safe. What they created is one thing that had eluded cryptographers for millennia: an nearly unbreakable code.
As we speak, public key encryption is central to digital communication and particularly, the digital switch of cash. It’s what makes it doable for us to buy on-line with relative confidence that our bank card info gained’t be stolen with each transaction.
On Halloween 2008 the sport modified but once more, when a paper authored underneath the title Satoshi Nakamoto appeared on the web. Satoshi launched Bitcoin, “a peer-to-peer digital money system” that revolutionized the cryptocurrency trade. To at the present time, nobody is aware of who Satoshi Nakamoto is — one of the crucial important applied sciences in latest human historical past was created by somebody who continues to be wholly nameless.
The primary of many now-popularized cryptocurrencies, Bitcoin eliminated the “go-betweens,” changing them with a expertise often called “blockchain,” an immutable document of transactions, distributed amongst all customers and secured by public key algorithms.
NOVA: What Is Blockchain?
The movie highlights components that result in Bitcoin’s success, similar to incentivizing its customers to keep up the blockchain. Those that contribute computing energy to the system are rewarded in newly minted bitcoin, making it the primary actually self-contained system, run fully by customers with no central authority.
Impressed by this innovation, one early Bitcoin consumer noticed a distinct type of potential. What if crypto may decentralize not simply cash, however all the pieces? “Crypto Decoded” highlights the creation of Ethereum — now the most important blockchain on the earth, operating 10 instances extra transactions a day than Bitcoin.
Not like the Bitcoin blockchain, which solely maintains a ledger of possession of cash, Ethereum lets customers write “sensible contracts,” laptop packages that run on the blockchain. Ethereum permits anybody to mint and program cash with further performance — doing for the blockchain what the iPhone’s app retailer did for the cellular phone. One sort of sensible contract has taken the world by storm — NFTs (non-fungible tokens).
A more recent sensible contract we see in “Crypto Decoded” is EquityCoin. Vernon J, a real-estate investor from Brooklyn, and his associate, laptop programmer Akil Ash, hope to make use of crypto to rework a vacant lot into inexpensive housing in East New York. This largely lower-income neighborhood is without doubt one of the many the place banks have lengthy been reluctant to finance growth, so Vernon and Akil’s challenge — EquityCoin — goals to take away banks from the equation.
The aim is to interchange the financial institution with a neighborhood — for cryptocurrency to offer a bunch of individuals the power to create their very own programs. EquityCoin is rooted on this idea of “decentralization” — eradicating the highly effective establishments that dominate many areas of contemporary life, significantly pertaining to cash.
“Crypto Decoded goals to demystify this rising expertise — how and why it was created, and its potential affect on our society,” mentioned Pangloss Movies Producer Edna Alburquerque. “I hope viewers will come away with an understanding of why that is necessary to study — whether or not you’re actively participating with crypto or not, it has the potential to form your future to a point.”
“There’s plenty of dialogue in regards to the present state of the crypto trade and the market has modified drastically over the course of manufacturing of our movie,” mentioned Pangloss Films Director Peter Yost. “However the applied sciences that crypto is constructed round have the potential to affect excess of simply the monetary sector.”
As “Crypto Decoded” appears to be like at crypto’s technological underpinnings, utopian goals, sensible promise and potential perils, it makes an attempt to reply the query: Is crypto simply hype? Or may it usher in a revolution that goes far past cash?
Many liken the state of crypto right now to the state of the early web — stark parallels are seen because the movie takes us by crypto’s invention and transformation over the previous couple of years. New cash, blockchains and decentralized apps launch with staggering frequency. However on this sparsely regulated and wildly risky atmosphere, it’s laborious to know which tasks will crash and burn and which is able to go, in crypto parlance, “to the moon.”
Nevertheless, as crypto’s reputation will increase, so do its problems. As huge enterprise will get in on the motion and crypto transactions draw the eye of economic regulators, there’s a danger of crypto’s unique promise of independence being compromised. As our lives turn out to be more and more digital, many consider crypto is right here to remain. However enormous questions stay. “Crypto Decoded” unpacks the key questions: What’s the underlying expertise? What’s it good for? And what may the longer term for crypto be?
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A NOVA Manufacturing by Pangloss Movies for GBH. Written, Produced, and Directed by Peter Yost. Produced by Edna Alburquerque. Co-Produced by Alex Clark. Edited by Ralph Avellino. Government Producers for NOVA are Julia Cort and Chris Schmidt. NOVA is a manufacturing of GBH. Distributed internationally by PBS International.