Wed, Nov. 9 at 8pm – NOVA: Crypto Decoded
NOVA: Crypto Decoded explores the past, present, and future of cryptocurrency. The one-hour film follows crypto scholars, early adopters, believers, skeptics, and entrepreneurs to better understand both the history and the potential of the emerging technology.
Tune in on the WSIU stations: WSIU 8.1, WUSI 16.1, WSEC 14.1, WQEC 27.1 and WMEC 22.2 or access the WSIU local broadcast livestream online at pbs.org or via the PBS Video app. The program will also be available for streaming online at pbs.org/nova, on NOVA’s YouTube channel, and via the PBS Video app. Get extended access to more episodes of your favorite PBS programs with WSIU Passport.
About the Program
From Bitcoin to NFTs, cryptocurrencies are making headlines and claiming a slice of global financial activity. But what exactly are they, and how do they work? CRYPTO DECODED examines how and why cryptocurrency came to be, featuring a wide range of experts that go beyond the hype and the skepticism to unravel the social and technological underpinnings of “crypto,” and explores the possibility that this new technology may change much more than just money.
In order to fully understand the revolution that some say crypto promises, CRYPTO DECODED seeks to answer a deceptively simple question—what is money, anyway? Currency has existed in one form or another for longer than written history, and the film looks to experts like Ellen Feingold, curator of the National Numismatic Collection at the Smithsonian National Museum of American History—home to the world’s largest historical collection of money—to unpack this complex past. Feingold explains that anything can be used as money as long as a community agrees on its value. All money is a necessary fiction—built on shared trust.
Many liken the state of crypto today to the state of the early internet—stark parallels are seen as the film takes us through crypto’s invention and transformation over the last few years. New coins, blockchains and decentralized apps launch with staggering frequency. But in this sparsely regulated and wildly volatile environment, it’s hard to know which projects will crash and burn and which will go, in crypto parlance, “to the moon.”
The film looks at the invention of public key encryption—one of the fundamental components of cryptocurrency—and its promotion.
NOVA on WSIU TV is made possible by local program sponsors Thad Ellet Plumbing, Marion Subaru & SIU College of Engineering
Envisioning that this new form of communication could give governments unprecedented power, computer scientists and mathematicians raced to create a way to keep online communications private and secure. What they created is something that had eluded cryptographers for millennia: an almost unbreakable code. Today, public key encryption is central to digital communication and especially, the electronic transfer of money. It’s what makes it possible for us to shop online with relative confidence that our credit card information won’t be stolen with every transaction.
On Halloween 2008 the game changed yet again, when a paper authored under the name Satoshi Nakamoto appeared on the internet. Satoshi introduced Bitcoin, “a peer-to-peer electronic cash system” that revolutionized the cryptocurrency industry. To this day, no one knows who Satoshi Nakamoto is—one of the most significant technologies in recent human history was created by someone who is still wholly anonymous.
The first of many now-popularized cryptocurrencies, Bitcoin removed the “go-betweens,” replacing them with a technology known as “blockchain,” an immutable record of transactions, distributed among all users and secured by public key algorithms. The film highlights factors that lead to Bitcoin’s success, such as incentivizing its users to maintain the blockchain. Those who contribute computing power to the system are rewarded in newly minted bitcoin, making it the first truly self-contained system, run entirely by users with no central authority.
Inspired by this innovation, one early Bitcoin user saw a different kind of potential. What if crypto could decentralize not just money, but everything?