Thu, Mar 21, 2024

8 AM – 9:30 AM CDT (GMT-5)

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Cryptocurrencies raise vexing normative questions across a number of topics including money creation, censorship, financial inclusion, governance, and privacy. These topics are not purely technical, and require an integrated approach that draws on computer science, philosophy, economics, and more. This talk is an extended examination of the last of these topics — privacy — through a case study of bitcoin, the oldest and most important cryptocurrency. Financial privacy is under threat from a range of private and public actors. Popular digital payment networks exacerbate the problem. This talk will show how bitcoin can be used to enhance privacy along four dimensions, despite its transparent and publicly accessible ledger. These results raise questions about the value of privacy and how to best pursue it. A novel taxonomy of "cypherpunk" theories will illuminate these questions and show how bitcoin's curious approach relates to some familiar political categories. We'll conclude with an ethical framework for weighing financial privacy against other values – especially the public’s interest in curbing criminal activity. Bitcoin’s similarities with physical cash guide the way forward and suggest this irenic parity thesis: if cash makes the world better off, then so does bitcoin.

Dr. Bailey is Associate Professor of Humanities (Philosophy) at Yale-NUS College. He has a new book (w/ Bradley Rettler and Craig Warmke), Resistance Money: A Philosophical Case for Bitcoin, recently published by Routledge.

This event is sponsored by the Center for Applied Ethics and the Menard Center for the Study of Institutions and Innovations.

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