Dr. Mark Stephany | [Digital Money Series] Alleviating Poverty and Improving the Environment With Bitcoin: Making the Progressive Case
Smart Business Revolution

Dr. Mark Stephany is the Host of The Progressive Bitcoiner Podcast, which he created to give a voice to individuals and communities who have used Bitcoin to foster positive changes for personal, social, and environmental issues. He is also an entrepreneur and doctor.

In this episode of the Smart Business Revolution Podcast, John Corcoran is joined by Dr. Mark Stephany, the Host of The Progressive Bitcoiner Podcast, to talk about the use of Bitcoin to foster positive change. Dr. Stephany explains how it can be used to end poverty, enable better energy transmission, and discusses the volatile nature of Bitcoin.

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Here’s a Glimpse of What You’ll Hear:

  • How Dr. Mark Stephany learned about Bitcoin
  • What is the difference between Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies?
  • Dr. Stephany explains why he decided to study money
  • How Bitcoin is used in countries with unstable currencies and how it can help end poverty
  • Dr. Stephany discusses the volatile nature of Bitcoin and ideologies around it 
  • Is Bitcoin bad for the environment?
  • Can Bitcoin technology enable faster transmission of electricity compared to traditional energy systems? 
  • Dr. Stephany’s thoughts on the importance of Bitcoin

Resources Mentioned In This Episode

Sponsor: Rise25

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Episode Transcript

Intro 0:14

Welcome to the revolution, the Smart Business Revolution Podcast where we ask today’s most successful entrepreneurs to share the tools and strategies they use to build relationships and connections to grow their revenue. Now, your host for the revolution, John Corcoran.

John Corcoran 0:40

All right, welcome, everyone. John Corcoran here. I’m the host of this show. For those of you who are new to this particular podcast, go check out some of our past interviews in the archives. We’ve interviewed lots of interesting CEOs, founders, entrepreneurs, and authors of companies and organizations ranging from Netflix to Kinkos’, YPO, EO, Activision Blizzard, LendingTree, and many more. I’m also the Co-founder of Rise25 where we help connect b2b business owners or their ideal prospects. And this is a little bit different, this episode, because this is part of our crypto series, where we’ve been interviewing experts who have expertise in the new world of decentralized finance. And my guest here today, I’m really excited to have him, his name is Dr. Mark Stephany. He is the Host of The Progressive Bitcoiner Podcast, which was he created in order to give a voice to individuals and communities who have used Bitcoin to foster positive changes for personal, social, and environmental issues. 

Now, if you are wondering, wow, this seems like a different subject for John to cover on this particular podcast. That’s true. However, my background, I worked as you know, if you’ve listened to the show before, I worked in politics, I worked in the Clinton White House as a speechwriter for a governor of California, always been interested in progressive politics and social service and government work. And then also, in recent years have taken an interest in Bitcoin and some of the ways in which a decentralized currency can help to support some of those values. And so that’s why I decided to do this interview. And that’s why I reached out to Mark on Twitter because I saw what he was doing. I checked out his podcast, and I thought it was really interesting. So I think it’d be an interesting conversation. And Mark, so it’s such a pleasure to have you here. Thanks for coming here today. And I wanted to start with how you stumbled upon bitcoin and how you kind of went down the rabbit hole a lot of people talk about, you know, they kind of get a Kernel of Wisdom, they learn something, if it interests them, then they go down a rabbit hole and learn something more. And, you know, for me, it came in a couple of stages, but I’ve invested now hundreds of hours studying it, and I feel like you really need to invest hundreds of hours to really understand it. So tell me about your introduction to Bitcoin and blockchain.

Dr. Mark Stephany 3:01

Absolutely. Thank you for having me on Pardesh. John, I really appreciate it. My introduction to blockchain was January 1 2017, I was New Year’s Day and I was reading an article in the Harvard Business Review that was on blockchain. And the technology itself immediately struck me as important and at the time, thought revolutionary, and the article itself discussed some applications to healthcare, which immediately became relevant to me. And so having grown up through the rise of the internet, it struck me as something similar, and that I should pay attention to this. And so I just went headlong into learning about it. And I didn’t realize, you know, that first month, really, that there was a taller element of risk taking to say the least with regard to the ICOs and the tokens and their financial or, excuse me, their, their monetary value, that they’re being traded as such, but I got swept into that. So what became curiosity became greed. And I got sucked up into the ICO craze of 2017 and spit out the other end in 2018 it was really just an all encompassing experience and like many people probably have, have had, you know, nobody else if you weren’t learning about it, or interested in it, you looked like a crazy person tried to talk about it. So I had to step away for several months and he doesn’t 18 But realizing that Bitcoin hadn’t died yet again, I came back around and I thought, Okay, I need to spend some more time again, learning about this and specifically about Bitcoin because it seemed to have leveled off had the most staying power and what was initially the narrative of its dead technology was clearly not panning out. Yeah, but

John Corcoran 5:00

So can you talk about the distinction between Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies? Because for those who are not familiar, you know, a lot of times people haven’t studied it kind of group them all together.

Dr. Mark Stephany 5:12

Absolutely. And I thank you for asking that. Because I think it’s a very important point. And those of us who who believe bitcoin is the technology behind blockchain, or that is the most important development on it. make that distinction we say Bitcoin, not crypto. Because the reason is, Bitcoin had this very, very unique birth, so to speak. It’s based on cryptographic technology and research. It’s been both in the public and private sector for building for decades. But it wasn’t until Oh, eight or nine when its founders, Satoshi Nakamoto, made certain technological breakthroughs that Bitcoin was born, but he released it into the world in a synonymous manner, and basically backed away after a couple of years. And the difference is, there was no what’s called pre mined, he did not take Bitcoin for him or herself or them, and keep it. All right. And in turn, it’s been what many people will argue a more fair distribution of Bitcoin over time. Yes, there’s concentration of it. But that concentration has been going down over time. And it was not due to those who have the most Bitcoin, we’re not VC funded, backing. So we compare that to other crypto projects, who were, we believe, to be essentially a replication of the current financial system that we take issue with, right? The same financial system that we’ve seen lead to inequalities, people get fun on various advantages, advantages from the outset, because they’ve got the money already. So they can give these projects money, they get tokens at a very, very cheap price ahead of time, and then they dump them on retail. Right, we see that story time and time and time and time again. And it’s not only that, but I just personally, in my opinion, I have not seen any compelling use case beyond what is again, and it seems to like be duplication of their current financialization.

John Corcoran 7:26

Yeah. And so for you, after you had kind of stepped away for a little bit, and then you found that, you know, Bitcoin had this kind of staying power. The joke about Bitcoin is that, you know, it’s been written off so many different times people think it’s dead. And then it, you know, continues to grow to new highs, as we record this in July of 2022. It’s interesting, because it’s been a rough couple months rough year for for for crypto broadly. And Bitcoin also, both of which have had been down. But you started to study and understand money, you felt like you had to have a deeper understanding of money. So talk about that. What what did that lead you to?

Dr. Mark Stephany 8:10

Absolutely. So I think I speak for most people, unless you’re in finance or econ major, you really have no concept of what money is, or the history of money, how it evolved over time. And certainly, I don’t consider myself an expert. But I knew I needed to better understand it, then what I had going into 2017. And that’s reflective of again, a desire to better understand the world that I live in, I think there was there was a time when I wanted to better understand race relations. So I jumped into that topic, because there was a time when I wanted to better understand religion. And so I jumped into that to better understand the topics that were pervasive in our society, and I felt money was one of those. And so, you know, reading books like The Ascent of Money by Niall Ferguson, Debt by David Graeber coined, there’s a whole host of books. And what that allows you to see is that not only is the history fascinating, but it allows you to understand that we’re kind of in this experiment. And the the past in our current financial system is not what has been, nor is any guarantee of what will be. There has been iterations over decades and centuries, millennia of what a better money better economic system can be. And so it’s foolhardy to believe that we have found an ideal system. And that is what Bitcoin is and what the entire ecosystem is attempting to do is to build a better system. That’s what we do as humans, we build better systems that have better large

John Corcoran 9:51

and then is interesting to you. You make the point that you studied money because I want to ask you about a lot of you describe it in different ways. They say it’s not money, it’s software, or they say it’s technology or they say it’s energy. Or they say it’s all of these things. What are your thoughts on that? For people who say that Bitcoin is multiple different things? And it’s not just money? Some people even say it’s not money, it’s something else?

Dr. Mark Stephany 10:18

And that’s such a fascinating question, right? Because to have so many different opinions on the matter clearly tells you that there’s no consensus on what money is there are certain characteristics that define what is an ideal money, you know, fungible, portable, divisible, durable, all of these things. And over time, various monies have been better or worse at those given qualities. And so each time there’s a new form, whether that’s beads or gold, or now, Bitcoin, I feel like you’re, you’re dialing up or dialing down some of those features to best suit the needs of where we are as a society as a world. And so it was it was an economist on the what Bitcoin did podcast the other day, a clear expert in the history of money in the Fed, and the Eurodollar system, he says, I don’t have a definition for money, because it touches on so many of these different elements in we can’t agree upon, what is the what is the best because what is the best? I think depends upon your seating life. Right? And I think that that in turn also is a big Asterix for why people have issues with Bitcoin is because what is what is it to you may not be what Bitcoin is to somebody, somebody in Ethiopia, somebody in South Africa, in that is clearly what we are seeing. And so there is this dynamic element to money. And Bitcoin is a part of that.