Thumbnail image via Wikicommons
Bitcoin is a cipher—literally and figuratively. The crypto-currency conjures a William Gibson–esque panorama of dark web Tor servers, masked figures cavorting in Eastern European shipping containers, multibillion dollar South American cartel-laundering operations, gaunt college sophomores picking up Silk Road designer drugs at liberal arts–school mailboxes, and so forth. It’s also an indicator of libertarian Silicon Valley utopianism where everyone pins their identity to the blockchain, eschewing the globalist banking Nanny State and spending the rest of their lives blissfully playing video games on a seasteader colony in international waters.
All this geopolitical intrigue and philosophical gesticulation omits the fact that, in 2016, Bitcoin is a real currency used by normal people. Following last night’s episode of Black Market: Dispatches looking at Bitcoin-driven commerce on the dark web, we’ve interviewed six of those users, most of whom have asked for their identities be kept anonymous. They use bitcoin for buying drugs, selling sex, evading genome-investigation regulations, exploiting supermarket-account hacks, gambling in Las Vegas, and more. Here are some examples of the type of things people use Bitcoin to pay for.
Drugs (and Tesco vouchers)
I’ve been buying Bitcoin for four years and have used it on a