比特币神秘的前世今生

比特币是一种引起计算机迷、金融投机家和毒贩注意的虚拟货币,你能用它在网上购买任何东西而不必给出信用卡号码或银行账户信息——根本不会留下任何蛛丝马迹。


A novel version of money is sprouting online, letting people shop in complete anonymity.


网上出现了一种新奇的货币,可以让人们以完全匿名的方式进行购物。


What if people could use the Internet to create a new kind of money, one thatdidn’t involve governments and central banks and could be used anonymously,like cash? That is the idea behind Bitcoin, a virtual currency that has caughtthe attention of computer geeks, financial speculators, and drug dealers. Forthe first time, you can buy anything online without giving your credit-cardnumber or bank-account information—leaving no trace at all.


要是人们能够利用因特网创造一种货币,一种没有政府和央行参与的,并能像现金一样匿名使用的货币又怎样呢?这正是比特币(Bitcoin)创立的初衷。比特币是一种引起计算机极客、金融投机家和毒贩注意的虚拟货币,你能用它在网上购买任何东西而不必给出信用卡号码或银行账户信息——根本不会留下任何蛛丝马迹,这可是头一回碰到的事情。


Hundreds of merchants accept Bitcoins for things like books, computers, andprofessional services. The currency trades on a handful of Bitcoin exchanges,where the price of a Bitcoin fluctuates based on demand. Not long ago a singleBitcoin sold for less than a dollar, but in recent months the price climbed to$8, then to $20, then above $30, before falling back to $18, the current level.


成百上千的商人接受比特币来购买书籍、计算机和专业服务。这种货币在少数几家比特币交易所进行交易,而它在交易所中的价格在需求的基础上上下波动。不久前,一比特币价格不到一美元,但在近几个月中,它的价格上升到8美元,然后到20美元,然后超过30美元,后来又回落到18美元这个当前价位。


What exactly are you buying? A Bitcoin is basically just a little bit ofencrypted code that can be zipped over the Internet and stored in a digitalwallet. The concept was proposed by a mysterious hacker named Satoshi Nakamoto(no one knows who he is, and the name is believed to be a pseudonym), whopublished a white paper describing a way in which computers connected over theInternet could be used to create an unregulated “cryptocurrency.”


你到底买了些什么呢?一比特币本质上就是能在互联网上快速传递和存储在电子钱包中的一小串加密代码。比特币的想法是由一个名叫Satoshi Nakamoto(没有人知道他是谁,这个名字被认为是一个假名)的神秘黑客提出的,在他发表的白皮书中,描述了一种利用联网计算机创造一种不受管理的“秘密货币”的方法。


New York Sen. Charles Schumer recently called Bitcoin “an online form of moneylaundering,” after learning about an online warehouse called Silk Road wheresellers advertise an astounding array of illegal wares—marijuana, hashish, LSD,ecstasy, cocaine, heroin—and where the only currency accepted is the Bitcoin. (Silk Road is currently shut down, though its anonymousmanager claims he intends to start back up soon.)


在得悉一家叫做“丝路(SilkRoad)”的在线商店的卖主们为了出售大量非法商品——大麻、印度大麻制剂、迷幻药、摇头丸、可卡因、海洛因而打出广告,并且只允许使用比特币进行交易之后,纽约参议员查尔斯·舒曼近来表示,比特币是“一种在线形式的洗钱”(丝路公司目前被关停,但是其匿名的经理声称,他打算马上再开一家)。

Right now there are about 6.5 million Bitcoinsin circulation. The money supply is controlled by software algorithms and thetotal supply will max out at 21 million coins. You can crank out Bitcoins on aPC, but it’s an incredibly computer-intensive task, and it will keep gettingharder as the number of Bitcoins in existence increases. Some people have pooledtogether hundreds of machines to “mine” Bitcoins. Most folks, however, just buythem on an exchange.


目前有大约650万比特币正在流通,这种货币的供应量由软件算法控制,总供应量最高值为2100万比特币。你可以在电脑上制造比特币,但这需要拥有极为强大的计算能力,而且随着现存比特币数量逐渐增多,制造比特币将变得愈加困难。一些人为“开采”比特币汇集了数百台计算机,而大多数人只是通过兑换的方式购买。

Some already are hoarding Bitcoins,expecting a Bitcoin bubble will drive the value up to hundreds, maybe eventhousands of dollars per coin. The biggest holder, whose identity is not known,is sitting on about 300,000 coins, currently worth about $6 million, saysDonald Norman, who runs the London-based Bitcoin Consultancy, which advisescompanies that want to get in on the action.


一些人已经在积聚比特币,期望比特币泡沫将每个比特币的价格推高到数百,甚至数千美元。唐纳德·诺曼在伦敦经营着一家名叫Bitcoin Consultancy公司,该公司负责为意欲涉足比特币业务的公司提供建议,诺曼表示,数额最大的持有人(其身份未知)大约坐拥300 000个比特币,换算成当前价大约是600万美元。


Norman says the power of Bitcoins is that they can free people from thetyranny of middlemen: banks; credit-card companies; and money shippers like Western Union, which charge exorbitant fees forperforming a rather simple task.

诺曼说,比特币的魅力就在于它能让人们免于中间人——银行、信用卡公司、货币托运人如西联汇款(Western Union)的盘剥,这些中间人的工作极为简单,却要收取过高的费用。


But for a lot of people the appeal lies inthe chance to get rich quick by getting in early on the next Internet craze.Still, investing in Bitcoins is extremely risky. You don’t know who’s runningthe exchanges, and you can’t be sure these guys won’t just take your money and run.


但是对于许多人来说,比特币之所以充满吸引力,是因为他们想在下一次互联网热潮早期跟进,从而一夜暴富。不过,投资比特币风险极高,你不知道谁在经营汇兑业务,你也不能确保这些人不会白拿了你的钱之后一走了之。


Adding to the risk, authorities might takeaction. But even if Bitcoin goes away, others like it will spring up. “Now thatwe have the technology to create decentralized currencies,” Norman says, “they are definitely here tostay.”


官方有可能采取的行动,也令风险进一步增加。但是即使比特币消失了,与它类似的其他货币也会迅速涌现。诺曼表示,“既然我们的技术允许我们创造去中心化货币(decentralized currency),那么这些货币肯定会永远存在下去”。

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