Bitcoin Documentary Brings Cryptocurrency Back to Political Roots

By Kyle Torpey Jun 30, 2015 1:00 PM EST

Ulterior States Bitcoin

Although many entrepreneurs and investors would like to see Bitcoin become a mainstream phenomenon, the roots of this technology can be found in the fringes of libertarian and anarcho-capitalist political thought. While plenty of Bitcoin companies are attempting to bring fast, digital payments to the world through the use of cryptocurrency, the main point of this invention is still to allow for open, censorship-resistant transactions.

This simple point about why Bitcoin is useful is often overlooked in the cryptocurrency community these days, but it has been brought back into the spotlight in a new documentary. The documentary, Ulterior States, comes from Tomer Kantor, and it’s a compilation of interviews and footage from Bitcoin’s early history (2012-2015).

Decentralization is the Point

As soon as Ulterior States starts, it’s clear that the political implications of Bitcoin are going to be the main focus of the documentary. To many of the individuals featured in the film, the point of Bitcoin is that it removes the need for centralized authorities in one of the main aspects of everybody’s lives — money. These points of centralization have caused serious problems throughout history, as Third Key Solutions CTO Andreas Antonopoulos explains in the first few minutes:

“I think there’s certainly a disparity of justice going on, which is a theme that’s been occurring really for centuries. But when it starts affecting the middle class, people notice that there are multi-tier justice systems. And some people have always been getting away with the worst crimes, and some others never get away with anything. It’s becoming quite noticeable in the States and most Western-developed nations now — how there are multi-tiered justice systems. But it’s no different from the past. It’s just that the middle class used to not be part of the lower justice tier. The lower justice tier has expanded to include them.”

It’s odd that more people aren’t still focusing on the key points of decentralization and censorship resistance with Bitcoin. After all, it still appears that the closest thing to a killer app for this technology — at least up to this point — has been Silk Road.

Creating an Alternative to the Current System

For many, Bitcoin is viewed as a tool for avoiding those injustices from the past. Having said that, Bitcoin should not be viewed as a tool that will be used by everyone and lead to some form of ultra-enlightenment. As Dark Wallet’s Amir Taaki noted in the documentary:

“The goal is not to save the world because some people don’t want to be saved. What we have to start to do is to start to think how we can carve out a safe operating space for the future, where we as freedom-loving people can survive, thrive, and grow.”

In other words, Bitcoin is not a tool for tearing down the current system — it’s a tool for avoiding the current system completely. For the crypto-anarchists who are involved with Bitcoin, the technology can potentially be a cornerstone of creating entirely new systems of government rather than attempting to convince democratic populations of the errors in their past judgments.

Why Focus on the Politics of Bitcoin?

Ulterior States takes a different approach than most other Bitcoin documentaries, as it doesn’t try to track the history of the Mt. Gox fiasco or even explain how Bitcoin works on a technical level. Instead, this documentary is about the fundamental point of decentralization and disintermediation. When asked about the film’s focus on the political roots of Bitcoin, Ulterior States Director Tomer Kantor provided the following statement to Inside Bitcoins via email:

“The film is looking at the community and the reasons that made Bitcoin popular from the perspective of me as the filmmaker. Decentralization . . . and being uncensorable are the backbone of the network. These are the reasons that made Bitcoin popular. The financial instruments and disruptive VC money came after the rise in popularity, as a means of making mostly centralised profits. It might help [bring] Bitcoin to the mainstream, but it didn’t [add] to [its] rise [in] popularity.”

You can watch the entire documentary below:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yQGQXy0RIIo

You can follow @kyletorpey on Twitter.

Facebook Comments


  • Milly Bitcoin

    The initial use is to complete a transaction without a third party. The term “censorship resistance” isn’t even clearly defined, it is part of your political agenda, and I can’t find a single instance of Satoshi using the term. The purpose for Bitcoin is described in the abstract of the initial paper. You like to fabricate reasons behind Bitcoin because you want to make it appear Satoshi agrees with you (as if that matters).

    It is funny how a small group of underemployed young people who have never accomplished anything always have all the answers and win every argument.

  • The point of solving that computer science problem is censorship resistance. All other use cases are only made possible by that initial use case. Silk Road, Wikileaks, backpage, and cryptolocker, are examples of this (on top of Satoshi’s own writings). If you have anything to back up your claims, please share with the rest of the class. Otherwise, I’ll go back to ignoring your comments.

  • Milly Bitcoin

    Bitcoin roots is that it is a partial solution to a computer science problem to provide transactions without trusting a third party. Calling that “censorship-resistant” is the usual bias that pervades all of your writings. Also, the theories of the people over at the wackymoto foundation about why Satoshi said things is biased in the same way.

  • Bitcoin’s roots are in censorship-resistant payments. One only needs to look at Satoshi’s words and how it has mainly been used to understand that point. That doesn’t mean people can’t use it for other things (such as “gold 2.0). But these other use cases only exist because Bitcoin is decentralized and payments are censorship resistant.

    Also, no one is saying people who use Bitcoin all follow the same political beliefs.

  • Milly Bitcoin

    That is what I said. Some agenda pushers want to say if you use Bitcoin you agree with them but I am saying people use Bitcoin for all sorts of reasons that have nothing to do with some agenda. It is like saying people who use the US dollar automatically agree with US political policies.

  • Anon Wibble

    I think there’s all sorts of reasons why people like bitcoin. Some are rights based, some are fighting against stupid war on drugs, and some are just angry at banks. Some just see it as the future.

    I am sorry but i disagree, some people use bitcoin for idealistic reasons. It’s disingenuous to say everyone uses it for the same reason.

  • Milly Bitcoin

    Bitcoin’s roots are in computer science. The agenda-pushers want to say the roots are aligned with their agenda and they want to imply people who use Bitcoin agree with their whole view of the world. If they just said this is our agenda and Bitcoin is a tool we use that would be fine but they have to try to spin a story to get attention.

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