Globalization is in the headlines, but what does it mean for our economy? Marketplace's Scott Tong explains it to us. We answer your questions about globalism, nationalism and the companies that have to navigate between these rocky shoals. Plus, we picked our next Make Me Smart book! You've got about a month to read it. Finally, you have questions and answers about bitcoin and cryptocurrency.
We only had so much time on Make Me Smart this week to answer your questions about bitcoin. Molly can talk cryptocurrencies forever, and there was a lot more to say! So here's everything (else) you've wanted to know about bitcoin, but were too afraid to ask.
Who created bitcoin?
This one would have been too complicated and inconclusive to get into on the pod, because no one really knows. A person (or persons) with the alias Satoshi Nakamoto is credited with creating the digital currency, but his/her/their identity has never been revealed. Australian Craig Wright claimed to be Nakamoto a couple years ago, following several media reports, but that's still disputed.
"Whatever you think of bitcoin," tech writer Sam Biddle told us back in 2015, "it is an incredible piece of software. And whoever made it, or whichever people made it, would be heroes in the field. And so it's bizarre that they would remain completely anonymous. That's never happened before."
There's also the matter of who has the most bitcoin. No one really knows, and that's kind of the point. But Nakamoto, who's said to have over a million bitcoins squirreled away, is a likely candidate.
So Nakamoto's purported stash of bitcoin would be worth around $3.5 billion today. Not bad.
How secure is bitcoin?
If you use it right, very! As we laid out in the episode, the cryptocurrency's underlying blockchain technology makes it resistant to copying or fruad. But that doesn't mean bitcoins can never be stolen. Virtual "wallets" and bitcoin exchanges can be penetrated, and the currency's anonymity makes it hard to figure out who's responsible. A few years ago, one such exchange lost tens of millions in bitcoin to hackers:
Blockchain technology sounds useful. Is it just for money?
No. In fact, many have said blockchain could be more valuable than any amount of bitcoins. A wide range of companies have played around with new applications for blockchain. One promising field is medical records. Patient data is hard to share, in no small part because of security risks. Blockchain could give doctors one encrypted set of information that they can share without creating copies, with a ledger recording each move.
Do real, brick-and-mortar businesses use bitcoin?
It depends on where you go, but in general adoption has been slow. One cautionary tale is Cleveland Heights, Ohio. Nine businesses there banded together to form "Bitcoin Boulevard" in May 2014. You may have noticed in the chart above that the next year or so was not kind to the cryptocurrency, so the initiative didn't last long. But with bitcoin reaching new (if volatile) heights, now might be a better time for businesses to start accepting it.
Have an idea for a show topic? Get in touch and we just might cover it on a future episode:
MAKE ME SMART WITH KAI AND MOLLY
Because none of us is as smart as all of us. Make Me Smart with Kai and Molly is a podcast about the economy, technology and culture. Hosts Kai Ryssdal and Molly Wood use their expertise to connect the dots on the topics they know best, and get help from listeners and experts about the ones they want to know better.
Kai Ryssdal is the host and senior editor of Marketplace, the most widely heard program on business and the economy – radio or television, commercial or public broadcasting – in the country. Kai speaks regularly with CEOs of Fortune 500 companies, start-up entrepreneurs, small business owners, and everyday participants in the American and global economies. He first came to Marketplace in 2001 as the host of Marketplace Morning Report, where he covered the economic aftermath of the September 11th attacks, the collapse of Enron, and the slow buildup to the housing crash, the financial crisis, and the Great Recession. Before his career in broadcasting, Kai served in the United States Navy and the United States Foreign Service.
Molly Wood is a host and senior tech correspondent for Marketplace. Molly’s experience covering technology spans all media – print, online and broadcast. Before officially joining Marketplace in 2015, she was a tech columnist at The New York Times, and a frequent contributor to Marketplace Tech. Previously, she launched the CNET podcast Buzz Out Loud, which was one of the early successes in podcasting and which fans still celebrate today. In the web video space, she created and executive produced a broadcast-quality tech show: “Always On with Molly Wood.” The ambitious series ultimately shot episodes all over the world. Molly is based in the Bay Area so that she can contribute her passion and knowledge of all things tech for Marketplace.