The notion of completing trans-continental monetary transactions in a matter of minutes is still one we categorise as nonsensical and Hollywood-esque but may very soon become the prevailing norm.
With the gradual advent of cryptocurrency, instant and anonymous money transfer may not belong only in action movies. However, there’s still quite a way to go and before we discuss the path ahead, let’s take a quick look back.
Why is Cryptocurrency surging?
As the name suggests, cryptocurrency is digital money that is secured by cryptography. They are essentially decentralised systems based on blockchain technology.
Part of the appeal of cryptocurrency is the relative anonymity it provides. ‘Digital signatures’ distinguish the users from one another without revealing any identifying information.
Another defining feature of cryptocurrency is that it eliminates the middlemen such as banks, governments, and other central authorities. As a result, not only is the system autonomous, but it also does not adhere to the working hours and costs associated with banks.
Moreover, as data is decentralised and stored across a computer network, it becomes increasingly challenging to tamper with data.
How does the Crypto market work?
As mentioned earlier, cryptocurrency relies heavily on blockchain technology for its functioning. Blocks are stacks of information regarding your monetary transactions. For example, they record details like the date, time, value of cash transferred, and the parties involved.
One block can store information about thousands of transactions.
Details of a transaction are stored in a block with a unique code called ‘hash’ once verified by other computers on the same network. This is how data is decentralised and stored at multiple locations.
After several failed attempts to digitize currency in the late ’90s, Bitcoin emerged in 2008 with a revolutionary form of money transfer. It was the pioneer of the contemporary decentralized system of cryptocurrency.
Anyone can view the details of a block, but it is mainly resistant to hacking and data tampering.
Can Cryptocurrency replace fiat currency?
Fiat money, in essence, is a currency that has buying and selling power because the government declared it to be as such but has no value of its own.
This means that a ten-dollar note allows the holder to purchase goods, but the note itself is only a piece of paper. Hence, it is fiat currency.
In contrast, gold coins would not be fiat currency because gold, unlike paper, has value all by itself.
Cryptocurrency is not fiat money as it is not legal tender and is not backed by a government.
Whether or not cryptocurrency can eventually replace all forms of fiat money is still up for debate, though most believe it can.
Futurists such as Thomas Frey and Tim Draper believe that cryptocurrency will replace around 25% of national fiat currencies by 2030.
It is not hard to imagine why one might prefer cryptocurrency. As data is harder to manipulate, cryptocurrency is free of the manipulation experienced by current money. It would effectively be a global currency, independent of interest and exchange rates.
Theoretically, cryptocurrency can replace fiat money entirely, but it won’t be easy. Some of the challenges that the world would face if and when this shift occurs are listed below.
- Need for brand-new infrastructure: New protocols and systems would have to be developed and implemented after accepting cryptocurrency as a standard but before the existing system becomes incompatible. It is unclear whether established organisations can change tracks in such a short period.
- Administrative crises: Governments will no longer have the same amount of control over the nation’s currency. Consequently, they cannot simply print new money due to financial turmoil, as they have done in the past.
- Unstable nature of cryptocurrency: Fiat money has become a well-established, well-understood system over the past 3000 years. Cryptocurrency, however, is still in its infancy and hasn’t yet set trustworthy trends.
UBS, a Swiss investment bank, says that Bitcoin can replace mainstream money supply in the US only when its value hits nearly $213,000. As of March 4, 2019, the value of one Bitcoin is approximately USD 3710.
Why does Cryptocurrency’s value fluctuate?
The international value of fiat money depends upon many variables such as inflation, interest rates, government debt, and terms of trade, but cryptocurrency is independent of those factors.
Regardless, it is not a law unto itself and is still influenced by specific changes in the status quo, a few of which have been explained below.
Though cryptocurrency predominantly works outside governmental jurisdiction, it can still be hit pretty hard by laws and regulations passed by established bodies.
For example, when Japan legalised Bitcoin in April 2017, the price hit $1130, rising nearly three times.
In contrast, when China repeatedly cracked down on cryptocurrency in early 2018, a market crash followed every announcement. As a result, the value of Bitcoin fell to an unprecedented low of $775.
Supply and Demand
Though it is a brand-new financial institution, cryptocurrency is still subject to the basic principles of economics.
Due to most governments’ reticence regarding cryptocurrency and bad media coverage, average citizens do not trust it yet. As a result, a large portion of the public is sheltered, and demand for cryptocurrency tends to remain well below its potential.
As the demand doesn’t meet the supply consistently, the value of cryptocurrency tends to rise and fall.
Unconducive to large holders of currency
Here, large currency holders can be thought of as investors holding $10 million or more in cryptocurrency. These traders are colloquially known as ‘whales.’
They have limited options to liquidate their holdings into fiat money, should the need arise. Liquidating such large sums of cash can severely move the market.
In addition, speculative traders may buy and sell quickly, hoping to earn profits. As they deal with large amounts of money, such trades can cause sporadic dips and spikes in the value of cryptocurrency.
Also read: Top 7 secure cryptocurrency wallets
Akshaya is a voracious reader, and a bit of a know-it-all. She is usually found with a book in hand and considers herself a connoisseur of all things nerdy.