How Science Fiction Predicted Bitcoin

All this talk about Bitcoin, the so-called "digital currency," has given me a sense of deja vu. It reminded me of a science fiction story I read years ago. I couldn't remember the title or the author, but I recalled that it appeared in the dearly missed publication Science Fiction Age.  Even though I have every issue, I didn't have the luxury of going to the garage and digging through all the magazines I have in storage to hunt it down. Luckily, I came across Jamie Todd Rubin's blog and an incredible chronicle of many of the issues of that masterful 'zine. I made my query, and in what seemed near the speed of light I received an answer from Jamie, who had reached out to the former editor himself Scott Edelman. The story was "Spondulix" and the writer was the excellent Paul Di Filippo.

Originally a novella in the pages of the September 1995 issue of Science Fiction Age, it was expanded into a novel. It was an exciting and mind-blowing tale of a guy who invents a new decentralized payment system on a whim that takes his little town of Hoboken by storm.

The word spondulix stems from the shells of ancient Greece that were used for barter. The speculative fiction story has some nice parallels to Bitcoin. Granted, it wasn't exactly like the open-source, peer-to-peer pseudo money we're seeing today, but the life cycle of the invented currency is all there, from its rapid rise to the drama caused by its popularity.

Bravo to Di Filippo for dreaming of the future of economics and writing about it! Who knew a fictional story could be so prophetic?


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