By John Ostapkovich

By John Ostapkovich

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Seething beneath the surface of our economy is the rising of what are called “cryptocurrencies”, like BitCoin. It may seem scary, but it’s an idea that’s been around for a while.

People have forever been instilling things, like a coin or a beaver pelt, with value, says Edward Castronova, author of Wildcat Currency and professor of Media and Cognitive Science at Indiana University. He says paper money began as far back as the Mongol Empire. Today, we might take a wad to the bank.

“And then when we said ‘we can record this paper money in an electronic data base,’ there already we were making the shift from stuff that you hold in your hand to stuff that’s just recorded somewhere,” Castronova says. “All that BitCoin is saying is, let’s get rid of the physical form completely and do it all in database form.”

He likens the rollout of cryptocurrency to the early days of social media where there were competing platforms until one clicked with consumers.

“Just as easy as it is now for us to go onto Facebook or go to our email, we’ll go to our cryptocurrency wallet, our money wallet,” Castronova says. “We won’t even notice it’s not dollars. We won’t notice what it is and when that happens. These things will really take off.”

BitCoin and its competitors are private, not government, money, but Castronova says there are some people who would prefer to leave money management to computer code rather than politicians.

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