The strange future of electronic money was in Toronto over the weekend at Canada’s first-ever Bitcoin expo. A handful of companies from across North America were showing off products they hope will take the fledgling currency mainstream. It’s somehow fitting, however, that the show happened two stories underground, in the cavernous depths of the Metro Toronto Convention Centre.
Under Bremner Boulevard, almost all of the roughly 300 delegates at the expo were male and between the ages of 20 and 40. Some wore crisp suits while others sported impressively unkempt beards and flip-flops. The company reps on the little expo floor had the slick, confident manner of Apple Store geniuses. They talked about their products using a dizzying array of jargon. In the background, the music jumped between thumping techno and eerie ambient pieces.
For those who don’t know about it already, Bitcoin can be thought of as the currency equivalent of email. Think about the bureaucracy email helps users circumvent: instead of buying a stamp from a corner store and using the Canada Post distribution network, an email account lets a user send an electronic letter directly to its intended recipient for free, cutting out the middle man. It’s a crude example, but essentially that’s what Bitcoin does for its users. It’s an electronic way of handing someone cash.