“As the adage of the entire internet once went: I just replaced your entire industry with 100 lines of Python code, and that’s exactly what we’re doing with Bitcoin.”- Andreas M. Antonopoulos, The Internet of Money
The cryptocurrencies are one of the highest trending topics of 2018. The catchphrases “Bitcoin price” and “How to buy bitcoin” are both at the 5th place of the most searched phrases on Google in 2017. But how can this be? If Bitcoin is not a company or an organization of some sorts, who pays for all the marketing? Is there any advertisement at all?
How did Bitcoin get to be one of the most trending subjects in the world if there’s no one behind it? If we justify the skyrocketing rise in the price of Bitcoin by the “massive adoption,” and in turn, explain the massive adoption by the skyrocketing price — then we’re just creating a spiral leading us nowhere. It’s clear that we’re missing something, but what is it?
Well, first off, it’s not exactly true that there’s no one behind it. The cryptocurrency community is packed with entrepreneurs, developers, investors, influencers, and other astonishing individuals that are spending most of their time building the cryptocurrency and DLT industry into something that will change the way we look at finance forever.
There are many notable people in the blockchain space responsible for its massive rise in popularity over the years, but one person, in particular, stands out the most. His name is Andreas Antonopoulos.
Let’s have a look at who is Andreas Antonopoulos.
Who is Andreas Antonopoulos?
If you’ve never heard about Andreas Antonopoulos, you’re missing out on one of the most influential voices in the crypto space. Andreas is considered to be one of the most trusted and unbiased sources of knowledge in an industry filled with shilling, fake news and all sorts of overhyped and misleading information.
When it comes to spreading awareness and providing truly educational content, Andreas alone has done more for Bitcoin (and decentralized cryptocurrencies in general) than anyone else out there. Yes, that’s surely a bold statement, but a true one nonetheless.
Andreas has written and published more than 200 articles on everything ranging from cryptography, security, distributed networks, cloud computing and Bitcoin, all the way to the ethics and politics of distributed systems. He has countless of hours of recorded lectures and interviews on Youtube, providing you with technical as well as theoretical education on the subject of Bitcoin you will find nowhere else.
Early life and education
The half-Greek and half-British crypto titan was born in 1972 in Athens, Greece under the Regime of the Colonels. Although Greece managed to reestablish democracy after the collapse of the Junta in 1994, the country was facing a very rough political and economic period in the years to come.
The GDP dropped from 7.6% to 4.6% in 1991-1980 and then to 1.4% in 1901-1990. This massive drop in GDP was coupled with inflation rates up to 30% at one point in time, which resulted in very scarce living conditions. Being born and raised in a country entrenched in poverty, high inflation rates and all sorts of financial troubles left a memorable scar on young Andreas that will follow him for the rest of his life.
Andreas developed a passion for technology at a very early age. Introduced to the computer at the age of 10, he started to experiment with this new piece of machinery and got completely obsessed with it. At the age of 14, he got his first modem and met with “the Internet” for the very first time in his life.
However, being a geeky kid in a corrupt society leaves very little space for personal growth. At a very early stage in his life, he had made up his mind; he was going to do something with his life, and no one was going to stop him. After starting a couple of businesses by the time he was 17, he faced the first (and the harshest) “reality check” up to that point in life, or as he puts it in his own words “I saw how business was being done in Greece, so I left.”
Unwilling to deal with the collective mentality of post-fascist Greece, he moved to England, where he attended University College London (UCL) where he earned his Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science and Masters Degree in Data Communications Network and Distributed Systems.
After he equipped himself with a formal education in one of the world’s top 10 universities, he moved to the USA and began his career as co-founder and manager of a successful technology research company.
As someone who grew up watching the Internet evolve from the very beginning, during his stay in the USA he got involved with the growing Cypherpunk movement of the 1990’s. The Cypherpunks were an Internet community that was, at the time, waging a cyber “war” with the US Government to protect the right of privacy on the Internet, and to ensure the casual user’s right to access robust cryptography.
All of the aforementioned experiences led him to the discovery of digital currencies.
Discovering Bitcoin. Twice.
“Bitcoin isn’t money. The blockchain isn’t a system of currency. It is a platform of trust. It’s not a company; it’s not a product, it’s not a service you sign up for. It’s not a currency. Currency is just the first application. It is the concept of decentralization applied to the human communication of value.”- Andreas Antonopoulos
Andreas loves telling the story of how he discovered Bitcoin, and crypto enthusiasts love this anecdote because almost everyone who encountered Bitcoin for the first time in their lives, had the same reaction as he did:
“I first stumbled upon bitcoin in mid-2011. My immediate reaction was more or less ‘Pfft! Nerd money!’ and I ignored it for another six months, failing to grasp its importance. This is a reaction that I have seen repeated among many of the smartest people I know, which gives me some consolation.”
— Andreas writes in the preface of his book Mastering Bitcoin.
And indeed, even the very creator of Bitcoin, Satoshi Nakamoto, didn’t believe his invention will reach this order of magnitude. And now that it did, everyone’s acting like it was all evident from the beginning. In fact, if we zoom out for a second, it seems like there’s a recurring pattern in the history of world-changing ideas.
Before the invention, everyone asserts that the problem is unsolvable; after the invention, everyone thinks the solution was obvious all along. This pattern of human behavior is as old as history.
“The second time I came across Bitcoin, in a mailing list discussion, I decided to read the white paper written by Satoshi Nakamoto, to study the authoritative source and see what it was all about. I still remember the moment I finished reading those nine pages when I realized that Bitcoin was not simply a digital currency, but a network of trust that could also provide the basis for so much more than just currencies. The realization that ‘this isn’t money, it’s a decentralized trust network,’ started me on a four-month journey to devour every scrap of information about Bitcoin I could find. I became obsessed and enthralled, spending 12 or more hours each day glued to a screen, reading, writing, coding, and learning as much as I could. I emerged from this state of fugue, more than 20 pounds lighter from lack of consistent meals, determined to dedicate myself to working on Bitcoin.”
After he discovered Bitcoin for the second time, Andreas immediately stopped everything else and dedicated himself to understanding this new phenomenon and working full time in the crypto space. For the first two years, he was struggling to find ways to make money doing this because the “industry” was still at the very beginning stage of development and nobody wanted to pay for the work he was providing. In actuality, it’s foolish to think that one could make a career out of Bitcoin back in 2012.
At the time, the cryptocurrency was predominantly used as an “anonymous” way of purchasing illicit goods on the Dark Web by a small number of people on the Internet. Only six years later, there’s hardly anyone that hasn’t heard about Bitcoin, and there are thousands of people working full time in the industry. Andreas, with his impeccable eloquence and his unique gift for distilling complicated technical jargon into language anyone can digest, played a massive role in Bitcoin’s success.
His background in computer science, distributed systems, and cryptography, combined with the experiences from his childhood in post-fascist Greece, made him one of the first persons to fully grasp the magnitude of Bitcoin and DLT, both from the technical as well as from the philosophical, economic and social perspective.
Today, Andreas is one of the most well respected public educators, influencers, and advisors in the cryptocurrency world. In 2014, he became a teaching fellow at the University of Nicosia, the first university in the world to offer Masters Degree in Digital Currency.
In October in the same year, he appeared as an expert witness in hearings of the Canadian Senate’s Commerce, Banking and Finance Committee and on the Australian Senate’s Banking Committee. His testimonies on these hearings helped to shape cryptocurrency legislation in Canada and around the world.
He also served as Chief Security Officer of Blockchain.info and later became an advisor to the board. Andreas is a widely published and respected author in the cryptocurrency sphere and a regular speaker at Bitcoin conferences and meetups around the world.
The community gives back!
You would think that as someone who got into crypto back in 2012 and soon became one of the most respected faces in the community, would be a multimillionaire by now. Sadly, this is not the case with Andreas — or at least, not up until recently.
Despite the fact that Andreas was one of the first guys to recognize Bitcoin’s potential, he was not really in the financial position to hold onto his crypto investments. Andreas dropped everything he was doing before he discovered Bitcoin and dedicated his whole life to it. Whilst he was getting paid in bitcoins, he had to cash out to pay rent and take care of his family.
I'm not a bitcoin millionnaire. I was working for free, instead of investing, for the first 2 years. Only recently got out of debt.
My supporters on Patreon, many at $5/month, make it possible for me to work with independence.
— Andreas M. Antonopoulos (@aantonop) November 30, 2017
On November 30th, 2017, just one tweet will change Andreas’s life forever!
As soon as the community became aware that he was having financial troubles, and that the $5 Patreon donations were one of his main incomes in life, the donations started pouring in! In a matter of days, the community sent more than 100 BTC valued at $1.7 million to his Bitcoin address!
After getting flooded with well-deserved endowments from all around the world, Andreas wrote a heartfelt blog post explaining what had happened and showed his gratitude:
“Yesterday, you fed my soul. You reminded me why it is so important to remain optimistic, focused and determined to overcome the cynicism. It’s been a long and hard road. Sometimes I get lost. But, every time I do, you step up and help me find my way, find my focus again. You show me that I do not walk alone on this path. You are all there with me. I am part of a wonderful community and you have my back.“
Master of the craft
“One of the ways to try to learn something is to try to teach it!” — A. Antonopoulos
Albeit Andreas has a massive body of work and merely presenting it will turn this article into a book, we have to give credit where credit is due. If you’re about to embark on the journey of learning about Bitcoin and the blockchain technology, Andreas’s book Mastering Bitcoin is the place to start. In fact, if we were to prescribe just one source out of the sea of knowledge on the Internet, Mastering Bitcoin would be the recommended read.
Christians have the Bible, crypto-enthusiasts have Mastering Bitcoin. Published in 2014, this groundbreaking book is widely considered to be the best technical guides ever written about the technology. The main reason Andreas decided to write a book on this topic is that he wanted to learn the technology in depth, and for him, the best way to do that was to try to explain it.
This book is mostly intended for coders, but Andreas did such a good job describing the technology in plain and simple terms that it can be read and understood by anyone, regardless of the educational or vocational background.
Mastering Bitcoin is an all-encompassing monster of a book, taking the reader on a journey starting from the broad introduction to Bitcoin to the explanation of the technical foundations of decentralized networks, P2P architectures, transaction lifecycle, mining, consensus algorithms, and everything one needs to know to understand Bitcoin fully.
“Bitcoin is the internet of money. Currency is only the first application. If you grasp that, you can look beyond the price, you can look beyond the volatility, you can look beyond the fad. At its core, bitcoin is a revolutionary technology that will change the world forever.”
– A. Antonopoulos – The Internet of Money
While his first book Mastering Bitcoin explained the broad concept of the inner workings of Bitcoin and the technology behind it, his second grand masterpiece, The Internet of Money, dwells deep into the why of Bitcoin.
Published on September 5, 2016, The Internet of Money is a collection of talks given by Andreas over the years, assembled in a profoundly illuminating and engaging way, going way beyond the pragmatic applications of cryptocurrency.
Extrapolating nuggets of wisdom from the history of money, he pinpoints the exact reasons why cryptocurrencies will play a crucial role in individual privacy and sovereignty. Digging deep into the philosophical and social implications of cryptocurrencies, he concludes that cryptocurrencies are in essence just code — and the code is, in turn, nothing but language.
The transfer of cryptocurrencies is, at heart, an expression of value akin to speech.
In his first book, he was looking at Bitcoin through a microscope, dissecting every component of Bitcoin to atoms. In his second book, he offers a birds-eye view of cryptocurrencies, giving the reader a plethora of learned arguments about the socio-economical implications of the decentralization of money.
Andreas’s two books are highly recommended reads for any and every one interested in learning about cryptocurrencies in a holistic manner.
Where to next?
No matter if you’re a reader or more of a visual/audio learner, we got you covered! Hopefully, this article got you hooked up on Andreas because you’re in for a treat, as there are countless of hours of material of him on the Internet! If you’re into reading longer pieces, we already suggested his two books, plus, you should be on the lookout as his third book Mastering Ethereum is scheduled to be released sometime in 2018.
If you’re into shorter pieces, we suggest you check his personal blog where you’ll find his intimate thoughts about anything related to crypto.
Although Andreas writes mainly about Bitcoin, he hates being called a “Bitcoin maximalist,” or as he puts it himself “I’m no Bitcoin maximalist, but I am maximally engaged in Bitcoin.” He adds:
“That’s where the most important innovations are happening. That’s the biggest, baddest, most stable platform for global trust and value… We’re building a tech revolution, not a get rich quick scheme. It’s not easy, it’s not without drama. But nothing worth doing is drama free.”
And he’s right, there are thousands of alt-coins on the crypto market, but none of them have the manpower or the community support that Bitcoin has standing behind them. For those of you that prefer watching videos over reading, we’re going to upgrade you with the best, must-watch lectures he gave over the years.
First off, we recommend this interview trilogy where Andreas shares his learned ideas on business, money, and politics.
We suggest you watch this interview trilogy in conjunction with the testimony he gave as an expert witness in the Canadian Senate’s hearing to get a holistic picture of the political implications of decentralized currencies. If you want to understand Bitcoin on a deep technical level, we suggest these two lectures about the Bitcoin architecture and Bitcoin wallet encryption.
Andreas was also a guest on the Joe Rogan podcast multiple times and we highly recommend watching these podcasts if you want to laugh your ass off and learn more about Andreas himself at the same time!
I hope this article has given you a fair idea of who is Andreas Antonopoulos.
At last, don’t forget to follow Andreas on Twitter, and make sure you share your thoughts in the comment section below!
Feature image by YouTube