“Bitcoin is still a teenager”

“Bitcoin is not yet 15 years old. It’s normal for it to have its youthful illnesses”, writes Gilles Quoistiaux in a new book. Bitcoin briefly slipped below $30,000 on Tuesday.

Gilles Quoistiaux, economic journalist at L’Echo, after having written for Trends-Tendances, is a specialist in cryptocurrencies. In 2021, he won a Belfius press prize for “One Coin, Le Réseau”, an investigative podcast on a vast crypto scam. He is also the author of “Bitcoin & cryptocurrencies: The practical guide for the beginner investor” (Editions Mardaga in 2019).
This time, he publishes “Say, what are cryptocurrencies?” in the “Dis, c’est quoi” collection at the Renaissance du Livre. The objective is to explain a concept to teenagers. What Gilles Quoistiaux is doing here with his 15-year-old daughter.

The teenager’s first obvious question: could his pocket money be paid in bitcoins? This is where the journey into the world of cryptos, blockchain and mining begins. All in a very accessible language.

So yes, if the pocket money were to be paid in bitcoins, the teenager may have a few surprises. “Because bitcoin is very, very, very unstable” writes the author. The “very, very, very” is obviously very important. On January 1, 2021, you had to pay $29,000 to buy a single bitcoin! Three and a half months later, its value had more than doubled: on April 14, 2021, one bitcoin was exchanged for 63,000 dollars! After this intense surge, it had a huge crash to crash in mid-summer around $30,000. No more bitcoin? Not at all. After this episode, he put the turbo back to reach, in November, 68,000 dollars. Before faltering again and even briefly falling below 30,000 dollars on Tuesday morning in the wake of the fall in the stock markets. We are far from a bitcoin which would constitute a safe haven. “The main thing, writes Gilles Quoistiaux, is to understand that this virtual currency does not hold in place. It is totally unpredictable”.

“I’m still thinking of this pizza maker who was paid in bitcoins. I hope for him that he didn’t misplace the 10,000 bitcoins from Pizza Day.”

Gilles Quoistiaux

Author of the book “Say, what are cryptocurrencies?”

The author recalls that on the bitcoin blockchain, we find the trace of the very first known purchase with a cryptocurrency. It was May 22, 2010, a day that has become famous, later known as the Pizza Day. Someone ordered two large pizzas that day for 10,000 bitcoins, the equivalent of around $40 at the time! A single pizza would be worth some 150 million dollars today… “I still think of this pizza maker who was paid in bitcoins. I hope for him that he did not misplace the 10,000 bitcoins from Pizza Day”.

Gilles Quoistiaux emphasizes that the story of bitcoin, its protesting, non-conformist side, attracts especially the younger generations. A bank does not make young people dream too much. “In contrast, a revolutionary digital currency shared by a global community of connected users is a pretty sexy project. Communication-wise, bitcoin and its proponents have been strong.”

“The behavior of the cryptocurrency holder today is that of an investor, not a consumer.”

Philippe Ledent

Senior Economist at ING Belgium

In the preface to the book, Philippe Ledent, senior economist at ING Belgium, qualifies the statement. “Let’s remain objective with regard to cryptocurrencies. They are not necessarily a revolution. On the contrary, their development finds a certain logic with regard to monetary history: cryptocurrencies are simply in phase with their time. Is this enough for them to have a future? The answer is not simple,” replies the economist. He also points out that the behavior of the holder of cryptocurrencies today is that of an investor, and not of a consumer.

So can you make easy money with bitcoin? Gilles Quoistiaux is categorical: easy money is a mirage. “You always have to be wary of what shines a little too bright.” But that’s no reason to dismiss the cryptocurrency phenomenon outright. After all, the first traces of bitcoin only date back to 2009. “Unlike you, bitcoin has not yet celebrated its fifteenth birthday!” said the author to his daughter. “Bitcoin is a teenager. It is normal for it to suffer from youthful illnesses. In the meantime, it is estimated today that more than 200 million people in the world hold cryptocurrencies. ‘Be anecdotal! The promise of a new virtual currency of exchange operating outside the traditional financial system is coming to fruition.’

So, of course, there are risks. Of course, there are scams. Of course, there are still many downsides to holding cryptocurrencies today, emphasizes the author. “But technology can improve. And regulation can be strengthened, to better protect consumers and cryptocurrency users. It will take time.” It remains to be seen whether one day children will be able to receive their pocket money in bitcoin. The bets are open.

“Say, what are crypto-currencies?” By Gilles Quoistiaux. Preface by Philippe Ledent. Book Renaissance, 92 pages, 12.90 euros. Release May 19.

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