Bitcoin is more than a currency and more than a protocol. It’s an idea. In order to spread, ideas need a communicator. They need a representative. In short, they need a face.
Bitcoin has found that face in Bitcoin Girl, the always-effervescent Naomi Brockwell. Born and raised in Australia, Brockwell leverages her intrigue and charm to craft educational, informative videos about all things crypto-currency. Degrees in acting, classical music, and musical theatre, combined with a lifelong passion for economics, have prepared her to take on the role as an unofficial spokesperson for a revolutionary technology.
In addition to Bitcoin Girl, Brockwell is a policy associate at the New York Bitcoin Center, a member of the advisory council of the Mannkal Economic Education Foundation, a program officer at the Moving Picture Institute, and CEO & founder of Rainsworth Productions. Her feature film Subconscious is currently in post-production.
Naomi and I recently had a delightful conversation about bitcoin, art, and freedom.
Joseph S. Diedrich: When and why did you come to the United States?
Naomi Brockwell: I came to the United States about 3½ years ago to study opera just for a couple of months. But as soon as I realized what there was for me in New York, it became very clear that I couldn’t go back without making the most of all the opportunities. Since then, my focus has shifted to film, simply because of the opportunities that have presented themselves.
JSD: How would you compare Australians’ perspective on bitcoin with that of Americans?
NB: I go back to Australia twice a year. As far as I can see, bitcoin nodes are a good reflection of how well bitcoin is or isn’t integrated into society. In the entirety of western Australia, there’s one node. That’s in stark contrast to New York. I can basically live within the bitcoin world here. I can buy my groceries with bitcoin. I can buy dresses with bitcoin. I can pay my lawyer with bitcoin.
I definitely see a big future for bitcoin in Australia. Australians have a very individualistic mindset. We’re always looking for avenues that are outside of the government sphere and outside of corporate interests. I think the difference in adoption right now is an educational issue.
JSD: Do you recall how you first became aware of bitcoin?
NB: Yes. I was at an economics conference about two years ago. A friend of mine had a Casascius coin, which is a physical bitcoin. I had heard the buzzword before simply because of the circles I was involved in, but I had never had taken the time to really understand it. My friend explained to me what bitcoin was in detail.
It was and is exciting for me to see this new potential open up before my eyes. We’ve had a government monopoly on currency for a really long time. Suddenly, we have a competitive currency. We have a digital currency that’s keeping up with the digital age and a global currency that’s keeping up with our global economy. Our currency finally seems to be in line with where we’re at technologically.
It worries me that there are attempts to integrate bitcoin into the existing financial system. If it were up to me, I’d say we should allow bitcoin to reinvent the framework. I’d like to see what blossoms if we were to just let it be.
JSD: What do you think the most important event in the history of bitcoin has been so far?
NB: The bitcoin world moves so incredibly fast. I just got back from the Toronto Bitcoin Conference. One of the founders ofethereum was talking about some aspects that they weren’t unrolling for a really long time…you know, six months. To them, that’s a really long time. This technology evolves so quickly. It’s exciting to think about what the bitcoin landscape, the economic landscape, will look like in ten or twenty years from now.
JSD: Over those next ten or twenty years, what do think the biggest challenge facing bitcoin is?
NB: Like with anything new, you’re going to have a lot of people trying to guard the past. New things are scary to people, and when you don’t understand something, that’s especially frightening. I think the biggest challenge is going to be overcoming the demonization of bitcoin, which the mainstream media and government have been perpetuating. We need to teach people what bitcoin actually is. It could be a vehicle for peace. It could be a vehicle for elevating people out of poverty. It could address many social problems. If people realize this, then we’re going to see widespread adoption.
JSD: How can bitcoin empower artists?
NB: Bitcoin can change an artist’s process of monetizing what they do. Microtransactions play a huge part in that. iTunes recognized a market and said let’s allow people to download music and pay per song. People want to buy in smaller quantities, so let’s enable them with a really secure method. That’s when you saw music piracy really go down. At the moment, you also have digital subscriptions to newspapers. You might only read the newspaper once a week, but you’re still paying for the entire subscription. I think what we’re going to start seeing more and more of is the ability to pay per article, especially in bitcoin. We’ll also see donations for free content as a way of showing appreciation for the work of writers, authors, musicians, and filmmakers. We’re going to see more of that now because we finally have an affordable method of transferring value.
The Moving Picture Institute is very interested in bitcoin. They see its potential for lifting people out of poverty and as being a tool for freedom of speech. They’re also interested in the technology and its ability to regulate itself. Working for MPI combines two of my loves—film and monetary policy.
JSD: How long have monetary policy and economics been on your mind?
NB: I’ve always been very interested in individual rights and freedom, and I actually started out studying economics. The passion was really sparked, however, when I moved to New York—the financial capital of the world. I became surrounded by brilliant minds who opened my eyes. Economics is the foundation of society and the fabric of civilization.
JSD: What made you decide to become Bitcoin Girl?
NB: I was heavily involved in bitcoin. I became Policy Associate at the Bitcoin Center when it first opened. I had been trading in the futures market for a while. There were huge changes happening. They were really starting to look into the holes in the Mt. Gox system. There were a lot of things going on that people weren’t talking about except on written forums.
I recognized that educating people about bitcoin is so important, but the avenues that were used to discuss bitcoin were all very esoteric. Reddit isn’t accessible to a lot of people. We needed a voice for bitcoin that was accessible to more people. Using video for educating people was and is necessary to combat the vilification and demonization of crypto-currency. Bitcoin needs physical voices and faces. That’s why I’m so excited about some of the bitcoin-related projects I’m working on with the Moving Picture Institute. They really recognise the power of film in educating people about important issues (thempi.org).
JSD: What do you hope to accomplish as Bitcoin Girl?
NB: Film is an incredible medium for communicating with people. I can use it to help people understand something I think is really important. That’s what I hope to achieve.
JSD: One last question. What can the average person do in their everyday life to further the cause of liberty and freedom?
NB: I think that having strong principles, a lot of integrity, and fighting for what you believe in is the most important thing that you can do. Stand by your convictions. Be open-minded enough to hear other people’s side of things. Don’t be a fence-sitter. Become educated about things. Realize that if you don’t fight for people who don’t have a voice, then it’s the same as persecuting them yourself.