Sci-fi writers are supposed to be ahead of their time, but this is ridiculous! From Neal Stephenson's 1999 Cryptonomicon
"We are going to launch our own currency.” By saying this, Randy is divulging proprietary information to someone not authorized to hear it. But he does it anyway, because opening himself up to Amy in this way, making himself vulnerable to her, gives him a hard-on.
“How do you go about that? Don’t you have to be a government?”
“No. You have to be a bank. Why do you think they’re called banknotes? Randy is fully aware of the insanity of divulging secret business information to a woman solely for purposes of sexual self-titillation but it is in the nature of things, right now, that he doesn’t especially care.
“Okay but still, usually it’s done by government banks, right?”
Only because people tend to respect the government banks. But government banks in Southeast Asia have a huge image problem right now. That image problem translates directly into crashing exchange rates.”
“So how do you do it?”
Ger a big pile of gold. Issue certificates saying ‘this certificate can be redeemed for such-and-such an amount of gold.’ That’s all there is to it.”
“What’s wrong with dollars and yen and stuff?”
“the certificates—the banknotes—are printed on paper?. We’re going to issue electronic banknotes.”
“No paper at all?”
“No paper at all.”
“So you can spend it on the Net.”
“What if you want to buy a sack of bananas?”
“Find a banana merchant on the Net.”
“Seems like paper money’de be just as good.”
“Paper money is traceable and perishable and has other drawbacks. Electronic banknotes are fast and anonymous.”
“What’s an electronic banknot look like, Randy?”
“Like any other digital thing: a bunch of bits.”
“doesn’t that make it kind of easy to counterfeit?”
“Not if you have good crypto,” Randy says. “Which we do.”
“How did you get it?”
“By hanging out with maniacs.”
“What kind of maniacs?”
“Maniacs who think that having good crypto is of near-apocalyptic importance.”
“By reading about people like Yamamoto who died because they had bad crypto, and then projecting that kind of thing into the future.”
“Do you agree with them?” Amy asks. It might be one of those pivotal-moment-in-the-relationship questions.
“At two in the morning, when I’m lying awake in bed, I do,” Randy say. “In the light of day, it all seems like paranoia.”…
- from Cryptonomicon, by Neal Stephenson, published in 1999 by Avon books.
Below: March 2013 Guardian Report on the developers of Bitcoin, a virtual currency that is not controlled by a central institution.