Bitten by the Bitcoin Bug

HIKe Camera

By Manisha Jha

“Most people think bitcoin is about money but it is actually about technology,” says 31­-year-­old software programmer and self­-taught bitcoin evangelist Angus Geuze.

His own first brush with the now famous ‘virtual currency’ happened in January last year when he bought bitcoins worth 200 pounds and used them for his first purchase online ­a book named ‘Cryptonomicon‘ by Neal Stephenson.

The book set in the 90s was about the creation of a new digital currency and led him down the proverbial burrow hole in Alice in Wonderland only to discover the fascinating world of bitcoins once he dug deeper.

Confident after his first bitcoin purchase, he was hooked and went on to buy more books, software, hardware and more recently even an ipad for his cousin. All with bitcoins.

So what makes him so passionate about bitcoins really?

“With bitcoins someone has found a way to do transactions without any trusted third party which I find fascinating.”

All virtual currencies prior to bitcoin managed this intermediary problem by having a centralised database of transactions, identical to electronic database ledgers of traditional banks.

“But bitcoins have simply changed this system.”

He should know having quit his cushy job as software engineer on OnApp.com in London to plunge headlong into learning more about bitcoin code programming.

“I quit my job two months back to take six months off just to study an experimental technology called ‘Theorem’ which is a subset of the bitcoin technology and is all about extending the use of the bitcoin tech software by inserting code in it.”

This code can then be used for purposes beyond online purchases such as for storing information, domain names and even possibly futures trade contracts akin to those on the stock markets, explains Gueze.

Born in Oxford in UK and brought up in Australia, Gueze returned to London two years back after a brief work stint in Japan to look for more job opportunities in the software technology space.

But interestingly before becoming a “techie” he was busy garnering a bachelor’s degree in pharmaceutical sciences and trying his hand in pharma marketing and clinical drug trials industry. But things didn’t turn out the way he had planned.

“I came to realise that pharma marketing and clinical drug trial industry was not an honest industry and worked around flawed regulations. So I quit knowing I had better things to do in my life than that.”

It was then that he thought of turning to the web, a move he has not looked back since.

“A decade ago internet was the cheapest and lowest entry point to create something new and pragmatic. So rather than work at a restaurant between jobs I began working at tech firm’s part­ time and soon full time.”

Though having seen the internet boom and the dotcom bubble of the 90s he was aware of the internet’s risks and pitfalls as well.

“I knew that good ideas don’t always win and often get buried because of no market penetration and poor quality technology. But I was still fascinated with the idea of virtual currencies such as frequent flier miles, vouchers and the engineering solutions underlying them.”

It helped that he had previously dabbled in virtual currencies as a 15­-year­-old by being part of the online trading scheme called LETSin UK along with his father.

Risks and Challenges Remain

But interestingly despite being a bitcoin enthusiast, Gueze suprises you when cautioning against investing in the currency just yet.

“I wouldn’t advise you to invest in bitcoins yet. What I am investing in it is not money but time. My time to learn the advanced software so that if and when the currency really picks up, specialized technicians like me would be in demand in the job market.”

Talking about the challenges bitcoin could face in the future especially given the vast amounts of money people have lost due to failed bitcoin transactions, Gueze states that unlike the visa system, bitcoin cannot handle big transactions so if it gets ‘too populated too soon’ it might topple over.

“Despite the system of trust built into the model, the risks are high and it bounces around like a top.”

As a parting shot when asked whether the fact that the mysterious creator of bitcoin remains unknown and has since gone underground unnerves him to trust the system, pat comes the reply.

“It is the bitcoin technology and the mathematical code behind it that we trust in, not the people who create it.”

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