I recently had a student from a local university meet me and ask if I could provide some contributions to their project which asked the question (paraphrased) - "Can Cryptocurrency be the future of Global Currency, and does it encourage illegal online activity?"

Of course, I've removed their name and anythign specific to work. However, I've put my thoughts down below in case they are of interest to someone.

Hi Bob,

You’re most welcome, and I’m certainly happy to add my thoughts to this.

I feel that an answer to the first part of your question lies in the second part. You surely know the technical ins-and-outs of how the technology works, but as for international currency, well you’ve got a few problems to deal with:

Stigma

Currently the expression of BitCoin/Blockchain/Cryptocurrency has a connotation with the illegal underground world of hitmen and drug smuggling. Most of the world doesn’t even know these technologies exist, but those who do have seen the terminology predominantly alongside the world of illegality. At this point in time I believe that if any move towards utilising BitCoin as a currency was made, this is the first thing the ‘we-don’t-like-change’ people would use to support their cause.

The Elder Generation

Most ‘normal’ folks and even most of the cyber-elite struggle with getting on-board with what Cryptocurrency is and why it is of benefit. If someone doesn’t understand how something works it is -very unlikely you’ll be able to get them to invest in it (quite literally). The elder generation is renowned for this when it comes to technology. Of course, we can’t have a currency that favours the young over the old.

Trading instead of Tender?

Something which may be worth discussing in your project would be the prospect of using Cryptocurrency for international/regional trading, but not as a day-to-day commodity when you’re buying a pint of milk. To me it has always seemed to be far more feasible to use crypto-currency across the world this way rather than aiming for some form of universal currency or a new age ‘cash’. Of course, BitCoin was designed to de-centralise finances by taking them out of a central control, so that could be something to discuss.

To explicitly address the second point of the question, I’d answer that no - not really. BitCoin is a relatively new invention and criminal activity has taken place online easily for decades. Does it allow for faster and easier payments? In principle, yes. However, each criminal paying off another criminal has to open a wallet and get bitcoins which is a barrier to using the service in the first place. With the huge fluctuations in price at the moment, BitCoin probably isn’t all that attractive of a solution for hoarding large sums of money anyway. Instead it’s better used for quick transactions where ‘real-world’ currency becomes bitcoin, gets traded, and is then cashed out again in a matter of hours. Take a look at the last three months over at https://www.coindesk.com/price/