‘Mr. Robot’ Drags Bitcoin Into Its Dystopian Nightmare

Warning: This post contains spoilers about ‘Mr. Robot’ season 2.
For most of its two seasons, ‘Mr. Robot’ has revolved around a plot to hack and destroy the global conglomerate E Corp. In last night’s episode, though, the plot flipped into a fight over currencies and power and a battle between bitcoin and a government-controlled alternative.
The scheme was dreamed up by Phillip Price (Michael Cristofer), the malignant E Corp. CEO, to turn his company’s digital currency, eCoin, into the equivalent of the U. S. dollar, as a way to fight bitcoin. What’s absolutely great about this is that it plays on not one, but two dystopian fears: the fears among corporatists and government officials that bitcoin is going to take over the world, and the fear among bitcoiners that their beloved cryptocurrency will be perverted into a tool of the very institutions they sought to disintermediate in the first place.
Okay, very quickly, if you’re not familiar with bitcoin: it is a digital currency, maintained by a software program that is run on a decentralized network of computers by the so-called ‘miners’ (for a variety of reasons, the largest miners today are all located in China). No one person or entity controls the currency. Every transaction is recorded in a publicly viewable ledger, although user accounts are encrypted. It was conceived as a digital equivalent of cash, and an alternative to the existing currency/banking system.

This post was published at Wall Street Journal on Sep 15, 2016.

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