Travis Jank: Bitcoin and the 21st Century Gold Rush

By Eric Howald, August 28, 2014

Head ShotTravis Jank’s interest in cryptocurrency, exchanging money through encrypted transactions, is an evolution of his earlier interests.

“I’ve been into overclocking computers for a while, which is taking the fastest, newest technology and pushing it to its outer limits by cooling it with liquid nitrogen,” Jank said. “The computers need for cryptocurrency, like bitcoin, are extremely fast and powerful so I started learning about it in 2009 and it kind of took off from there.”

Jank will be sharing his interest in bitcoin and what he sees in its potential at his TEDxSalem talk Saturday, Sept. 13.

To understand the rise of bitcoin, Jank suggest taking a look back into the era of the California gold rush.

“They didn’t just allow one company to buy up all the land and start mining. They said, ‘It’s here, come and stake your claim,’” Jank said. “Bitcoin started in sort of the same way, it was created with the idea that anyone with money and access to a computer would be able to exchange money for goods and services without the barriers of the established financial systems.”

The principles behind cryptocurrency writ large are the same decentralized ones behind the larger internet of putting people on an equal footing, but applying it to money.

That said, Bitcoin does have its detractors and has experienced some disconcerting growing pains. Because the currency is unregulated and a relatively small percentage of overall wealth is invested in it, it’s possible for major players to have outsized impacts.

“When China jumped into bitcoin, we saw the value go from $100 to $1,300. When the government scaled back its investment it dropped to $400, and now is hovering around $700,” Jank said. “Some people made a lot of money, some people lost a lot of money, but it was the same way during the gold rush.”

Reigning in that volatility is a matter of spreading the bitcoin to a larger number of businesses and consumers, he said.

“Right now, you can’t always get what you want in exchange for bitcoin ,so it can add an extra step, but I can see it becoming something like a checking account. The new people who use and accept bitcoin are also bringing in new ideas about lowering the barriers,” Jank said.

In the long-run, Jank sees cryptocurrency as a potential cure for some of our financial woes (think deficits and defaulting), and a equality-driven world,. If you want to hear how, you’ll need a ticket for TEDxSalem 2014. Buy one now.