I’m thinking about working with the pi digital currency, what do you think? The Pi currency is a digital currency that works as well as cash for ordinary transactions. It will work anywhere where normal high-denomination money does. And it’s not just for nerds: it can be used by anyone who wants to move their wealth from bank accounts or credit cards to a secure but anonymous way of storing it.
The Pi is not an attempt to make a better bank account, or a better credit card, or any other particular thing I’ve seen so far. It’s an attempt to create a new kind of currency, which isn’t designed for any specific purpose, and doesn’t have any particular advantages over existing currencies. But when I was in school I used to love playing with calculators. This gives me an excuse to go back to that world.
The idea is as follows. Everyone has a digital wallet on their phone, and that wallet has some public key and some secret key. By using the private key, you can sign messages that are cryptographically guaranteed to come from you, but only if they’re really you (i.e., they don’t come from anyone else). Signing such messages allows people to know that your digital wallet contains money without knowing
This essay is about the pi digital currency. I’m not working with it. But I’ve thought a lot about what makes a good digital currency, and I think my thinking is relevant to the pi one.
What I think makes a good digital currency depends on what you want out of a digital currency. If you want it to be convenient, so you can send money between people anywhere in the world without having to go through any banks or anyone else, then it should be built on top of something that is easy to use. A platform like bitcoin, which has been around for quite a while, is probably not the right answer.
If you want to make it high-value-low-volume, then you should build something that is stable, that never crashes or goes offline or does anything unexpected. The simplest way to do this is by making it uncrackable and anonymous. And that’s why some people are working on the “pi” digital currency: because they want it to be high-value-low-volume but also completely secure and uncrackable, so there’s no way for anyone to find out where it comes from or how much there is.
I’m interested in digital currencies for other reasons as well, though.
I have mixed feelings about the pi currency. The main problem is that its value will probably depend on the pi itself, not on any external factors. If you live in a civilization where everyone has to memorize pi, then it will be used as a unit of account and a medium of exchange. But if you live in a civilization where everyone already knows how to use computers, it won’t be necessary to pin down 50 decimal places.
I like the idea of a currency whose value depends on something other than people’s belief in it. In today’s world, a currency that is based on faith—whether it’s in God, the free market or the government—is like a gun pointed at its users’ heads. And people are pretty good at spotting guns.
The pi currency is still a long way from being ready to be adopted by anyone other than a handful of mathematicians. But it is better than any other digital currency I have seen. It is not just an idea or a fancy number or a symbol: it is a mathematical model, with rules and functions and properties, just like all the other currencies we use every day.
I’m not saying that’s what should be adopted. But I am saying that if you don’t know whether your currency will work or not, you’d better find out now while you can still get away with it—and while you have time to learn about it and decide whether you like it or not.
Yes, I can see the attraction. It’s certainly not a bad idea. Pi is an irrational number, which means that every digit is equally likely to be 0, 1, or 2.
To pay for something with pi you multiply your amount by the last digit of pi and then add up all those digits. So two units are worth 3.1415 and four are worth 34.15 and so on up to 99 and nine.
The last digit of pi always repeats after 19 places (1, 1, 1…). So if you have 100 units of pi currency, you can pay for anything from $0.00 to $1,000.000 with that one unit of money.
I’m not sure what I think. It’s hard to believe in something that doesn’t exist, and Pi is a currency that doesn’t exist yet.
But I do have to admit something: it’s not just a matter of believing. It’s also a matter of pragmatism. It’s very hard to build a business on top of an idea that hasn’t yet been built.
Maybe I’m wrong here, but it seems like the economy is already built on top of digital currencies. If you want to pay for stuff online, there are four ways you can go: credit cards, PayPal, digital currencies, or cash. You can’t use any of them as payment for physical goods in your local store—but they work fine as online payments, which is all most people use them for.
When I was a child, I loved building things. By the time I was in high school, I was well on my way to becoming an engineer.
I took an interest in electronics when I was about ten years old. At that time I didn’t realize that you are supposed to put resistors and capacitors in series and parallel, as opposed to just putting them in parallel, but it didn’t matter; the point was that there were puzzles to be solved and you could get a sense of satisfaction from doing it right.
I liked building things even more when I got older. It wasn’t any particular kind of thing—it could be anything from a miniature radio transmitter to a machine that would make hamburgers out of raw meat (it never worked). It could be something that works or doesn’t work, even if it is obvious right away that it doesn’t work. When it works, the satisfaction is just as great if the idea is original and new as if you had made a great improvement on someone else’s design.
About twelve years ago, I started making digital watches. There is nothing particularly interesting about digital watches; they are only electronic versions of mechanical watches with similar functions (telling time), which means they’re mechanical watches with electronic displays.