Bitcoin is giving banks a run for their money. Now the same technology threatens to eradicate social networks, stock markets, even national governments. Are we heading towards an anarchic future where centralised power of any kind will dissolve?
The rise and rise of Bitcoin has grabbed the world's attention, yet its devastating potential still isn't widely understood. Yes, we all know it's a digital currency. But the developers who worked on Bitcoin believe that it represents a technological breakthrough that could sweep into obsolescence everything from social networks to stock markets... and even governments.
In short, Bitcoin could be the gateway to a coming digital anarchy – "a catalyst for change that creates a new and different world," to quote Jeff Garzik, one of Bitcoin's most prolific developers.
It's already beginning. We used to need banks to keep track of who owned what. Not any more. Bitcoin and its rivals have proved that banks can be replaced with software and clever mathematics.
And now programmers of a libertarian bent are starting to ask what else we don't need.