Kidneys for Sale

Our discussion of cryptocurrency sparked my interest in the new fad. Blockchain technology and cryptocurrency seem so revolutionary to me, and I see a lot of potential in their futures. Due to the growing accessibility and integration of the Internet, everything we do has become so globalized. We are beginning to see the formation of a monopoly on electronic devices. As more and more companies come together to form business deals, such as Spotify and Hulu, I wonder if we are ever making real choices for ourselves or simply choosing between two parts of the same thing. Are we losing our individuality in our naïve attempt to have the best products?

Nevertheless, that is why I am drawn to anything that moves in the direction of decentralization or in the spirit of punk/DIY. Blockchain technology puts the power in everyone’s hands rather than a handful of exclusive individuals. Naturally, by storing all the same information across multiple computers, it is less prone to failure and loss of important documents. According to this extremely helpful article by BlockGeeks:

“Bitcoin was invented in 2008. Since that time, the Bitcoin blockchain has operated without significant disruption. (To date, any of problems associated with Bitcoin have been due to hacking or mismanagement. In other words, these problems come from bad intention and human error, not flaws in the underlying concepts.)”

In terms of cryptocurrency, this means there are no need for banks or central authority. Banks are sketchy because some are only required to withhold a certain amount of your money. The rest they are able to invest and spend without telling you. Generally, this system works well –but if a recession were to occur and everyone took their money out at the same time, then we would have problem. This happened during the Great Depression, and people were not sure if they could trust their bank accounts to secure their money anymore. Now, we have the FDIC, but they only have enough to cover 1% of all the deposits they claim to insure. That’s where cryptocurrency comes into play. It is secure, reliable, and most of all, it is actually yours. Although you cannot go to any store and purchase things with Bitcoin, I think we will begin to see a growing online economy in years to come.

However, what I am most curious about is the dark web. I still have a ton of research to do, but I wonder how encryption allows people to make furtive transactions through the web. It feels like broke college kid culture has made it common knowledge that kidneys sell for a couple hundred thousand dollars on the black market. I mean, you technically only need one kidney… Everyone talks about the black market, but not many actually know how it works. Most college kids purchase fake I.D.s online as well. I wonder, how do you not get caught? Even as I search these sites and terms, I worry that Harvard will monitor me and place my name on some sort of watchlist. If it is easy enough for kids to access these sites, then it must be cake for the FBI to crack down on them. Is no one monitoring all of these illegal transactions? I remember seeing Bodies: The Exhibition in Las Vegas, and my Biology teacher informed me that most of the bodies were purchased through the Chinese black market. All in the name of making a profit. Who’s getting paid anyways?

I brought up my desire to learn about the underground dark web to my friend to which he recommended The Onion Router, or Tor. I’m still skeptical to download the software onto my laptop, but I see a lot of potential in the ability to put all the power and control of privacy back in the hands of the users. The underground secret nature of the dark web lends itself to illegal products, but the stigma surrounding it overshadows what it could be. Maybe, I’m too optimistic and place too much faith in mankind to use such a powerful tool, but there’s simply so much left in this field to explore. I have a lot to learn, but I can tell I’m not going to forget about cryptocurrency or the dark web anytime soon.

2 thoughts on “Kidneys for Sale

  1. Great thoughts! Several of your classmates are also interested in blockchain and cryptocurrencies. Maybe you and they could discuss with them whether that might be something to cover in the last class that you all run.

    I was struck by the quote you included in a way different than your point. On the Internet today, if you aren’t thinking about the way your new technology defends against adversaries, you’re not really doing what you need to do for our current world. And a cryptocurrency more than any other type of technology should consider hacking attacks!

    Please be careful on the dark web. Harvard certainly doesn’t track your web browsing, but many in the dark web do. I have a book at home that I’ll try to find and bring back for you. And we have a reading a bit later in class on Tor (if I recall correctly). The technology has good uses in addition to the criminal uses.

  2. I will admit that I’ve been skeptical of blockchain solutions for some time. It seems to be another example of the crypto community coming up with the solution to everything, which has happened in the past but the solutions haven’t worked out (because of scale, or inefficiency, or…). But I’m beginning to be worn down to the point of wanting to look further into the technology…maybe later in the semester will be a chance to do this.

    The notion of how money gets its value is an interesting one. In some sense, all money now is just bits, exchanged between banks. There are some economists who say that the value is all in something that backs the currency (like gold), but others say that it is just the trust that people have in the currency. Bitcoin seems to be an example of the second view. Those who hold the first view find this puzzling. It is interesting to watch…

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