Call it what you will - science fiction, nerd cash or, perhaps, the utopian future of money - cryptocurrency is fast becoming something we all need to explore.
Gradually, the likes of bitcoin, ethereum and litecoin are seeping into our collective consciousness. However, many of us still have a rather hazy understanding of what cryptocurrency is and how it could, potentially, change our lives.
Enter Torsten Hoffmann who, in 2015, made the documentary Bitcoin: The End of Money as We Know It. This film examined the history of money and looked at patterns of technological innovation to explain how Bitcoin actually works.
Hoffmann returns to this topic in his latest film Cryptopia: Bitcoin, Blockchains and the Future of the Internet. Five years have passed and he wants to put some of the claims about cryptocurrency to the test.
The claims are pretty bold. At the beginning of Cryptopia, we are told that developments in cryptocurrency and blockchain technology could challenge our financial systems and take down huge corporations such as Facebook, YouTube and Amazon. This, we are told, is ground zero in the battle for the future of the internet.
Years of experience in the field of cryptocurrency has taught Hoffmann not to run with this subject before we can walk. Structuring his film in chapters, he starts by explaining Bitcoin - what is it, who developed it, how can we use it and - perhaps most importantly - is it safe?
Each aspect of Bitcoin is addressed in a simple, accessible manner - computer generated animation sequences take us through the process. This very basic introduction to Bitcoin is, on balance, welcome. It stands us in good stead for what is to come as the film introduces us to its cast of crypto-characters.
Hoffmann is extremely well connected in the field of cryptocurrency and we hear from many of the industry’s key players - from the controversial Roger Ver, chief executive of Bitcoin.com, to entertaining tech entrepreneur and author, Andreas M Antonopolous. While, most are pro Bitcoin, some raise unsettling concerns.
Nonetheless, I found myself wondering if cryptocurrency is the future of payments - a decentralized currency system that removes costly (and, at times, corrupt) ‘middle men’. Could Bitcoin and blockchain technology be the path to a better world - a place where we can reclaim our privacy, organise unhackable elections and escape the chains of our current financial system?
The answer, as explored in Hoffmann’s film, is yes. This is all theoretically possible from a technology point of view. However, the tech is being developed and run by humans and some humans are gonna do what humans often do - manipulate and exploit a good idea for their own ends.
This, for me, was where Cryptopia came to life - in the exploration of technology and human behaviour. After selling us on the potential of cryptocurrency and introducing us to its main players, Hoffmann examines the conflicts and struggles within the industry and reveals a crypto-community battling a divisive civil war.
While I am unsure if I am ready to invest in Bitcoin, I am certainly looking forward to the next chapter in this fascinating story.