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CNN’s Morgan Spurlock Spends Week “Living on Bitcoin”


Morgan Spurlock, Academy Award nominated director of “Super Size Me,” is CNN television’s “Inside Man.” In 2014, he spent a week living on bitcoin. The resulting “Inside Man” episode aired on February 19, 2015, affording a large television audience an in-depth Bitcoin experience that was no doubt a first for many viewers.

The episode begins with a brief explanation of Bitcoin founder Satoshi’s goals, as defined by the white paper, “Bitcoin: A Peer-to-Peer Electronic Cash System”.

“[Satoshi] wanted to create a global currency that existed outside of a central bank or government,” Spurlock explains.

Starting at the Bitcoin Center in New York City, Spurlock buys his first bitcoin from the live auctioneer at the site. He then proceeds to make his first bitcoin purchase, a slice of pizza and a bottle of water. He buys groceries and later, a massage.

Morgan interviews Dan Kaminsky, a white hat hacker (ethical hacker) and Chief Scientist of White Ops Inc, about the average consumer’s number-one concern: whether or not Bitcoin is safe. Dan explains how, when he first heard about Bitcoin, he was quoted as saying: “This is going to fall immediately.”

Dan continues to explain how, like many of us, he was wrong. That although some businesses plugged into the network may have failed, Bitcoin, the core, is solid.

What Spurlock does not mention here is the open source nature of the core. Bitcoin is available for any and all to view the source code, and exactly how it works– if you understand it.

Bitcoin’s open source nature is one of the key reasons why it is a trusted system. If it had been released as closed source software, with limited transparency, there would have been far more distrust in the system. Bitcoin’s open source nature has allowed for global reading, understanding and inclusion.

The open source nature not only allows anyone to read the code, but it also allows anyone, worldwide, to contribute (via GitHub) additional changes to the core. This contribution does go through a rigorous testing and approval phase, and it allows for continual strengthening of the system’s reliability.

After making his purchases, Morgan visits a Bitcoin mining facility.

Viewers here should be aware that although the blockchain discussion in this segment is excellent, the on screen is not the actual blockchain, but a third-party business that performs a variety of bitcoin-related services, one of which is watching the blockchain and reporting information for users of the site.

The blockchain can be viewed via a variety of other third party businesses, and is not limited to

Notably, the blockchain is not “stored on the Internet” as Spurlock reports. The blockchain is stored by people who provide bitcoin nodes. These are the individuals (or mining businesses) who hold full copies of the blockchain.

If the Internet went down tomorrow, the blockchain would still exist, and would simply be waiting to be used.

Spurlock goes on to try to pay his utility bills with bitcoin, make a purchase on the internet, and discuss the future stability of bitcoin compared with fiat currencies. He winds the broadcast up with a conversation with U.S. Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia, who called for a ban on bitcoin in early 2014. Manchin mistakenly states that Bitcoin “ … has been banned in two different countries – Thailand and China – and South Korea stated that it will not recognize bitcoin as a legitimate currency.”

Bitcoin is actually thriving very well in South Korea, and there are no signs that it will not continue to do so.

Realising that Bitcoin adoption depends on each individual’s ability to teach others the merits of digital currency, Spurlock ends his show by convincing a coffee shop to accept bitcoin, and walking the shop owner through the process.

Spurlock’s final interview, with tech entrepreneur Andreas Antonopoulos, lifts the curtain on the future of Bitcoin.

Antonopoulos explains how Bitcoin investment (at that time, summer 2014) has experienced more growth than the Internet had in its dotcom boom period. Antonopoulos goes so far as to label digital currency as the “third wave” of Internet growth (dotcom was the first, social media was the second).

“It takes time, and for more regular people to be seen using bitcoin for legitimate activities,” Antonopoulos comments.

Whether you have been involved in the sector for years, are new to the ecosystem, or want to explain the subject to someone you know, this video does a very good job and is highly recommended. But keep in mind that this documentary was made more than eight months ago, and that is a long time in the Bitcoin world.