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One summer morning in a coffee shop on Atlantic Avenue in Brooklyn, I sit behind my MacBook Pro as tens of thousands of machines around the globe prepare to indelibly inscribe a record of my tinkering into their collective consciousness. I am in the midst of creating my own digital tokens - essentially online currency - on a sprawling, decentralized network known as Ethereum.
Mike Goldin, a software developer at ConsenSys, an Ethereum development studio based in Bushwick, walks me through the coding process. Goldin is my Sherpa today, graciously attending, with utmost patience, to my every query. (The 10-plus hours I spent downloading software the day prior was unnecessary, he tells me; we’re going to employ some work-arounds that will achieve my goal in a matter of minutes.)
After considering a variety of names for my token — “fortunecoin,” “hackettoken,” “neither” — I settle on a cheeky one that evokes a spectacular flameout of the great ’90s Internet bubble: “Petsdotcoin.” I click “create.”
Twenty-seven seconds and one block confirmation later, I am the proud owner of 500 newly minted “petsdotcoin” tokens. Their creation cost me $1.57 in Ether, the cryptocurrency that fuels the Ethereum network. Despite that expense, my tokens are valued at 0 Ether, or $0.00, as the program reminds me. They are worthless. But if I had tied those bits to some worthwhile business idea, petsdotcoin might have offered investors a radical new way to fund me, track their stake, and participate in a miniature, virtualized, in-app economy. In that respect, my funny-money vanity project is a tiny part of a movement of profound economic significance.
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