Four years ago, Alberto’s career prospects were bleak. The 23-year-old Venezuelan had just graduated from college with a degree in computer science, but his nation’s economy was already shredded by 13 years of socialism.
“There were job opportunities, but they paid like $20 a month, and we were used to traveling and buying things from abroad so we couldn’t settle for that,” his friend Luis recalls. Alberto and Luis—whose names have been changed for their own safety—teamed up to start a clothing business, but the venture floundered.
Then Alberto discovered bitcoin mining.
He read about it on an Argentinian gaming forum. An item posted to the site described a process of getting paid in a new internet-based currency denominated in strings of numbers and letters, in exchange for running computations on a home computer. His parents said that the whole thing sounded like a Ponzi scheme. Alberto, however, sensed that his life was about to change.
Four years later, his country is embroiled in a humanitarian crisis. The supermarket shelves are bare. Children are fainting from hunger in their classrooms. A mob recently broke into the Caracas zoo to