Internet history: Bitcoin predicted in 1997

Back in 1997 the concept of digital currencies, microblogging and the near ubiquity of smart phones and high speed wireless data were dreams. Cell phones were for voice calls and were prohibitively expensive (not to mention unreliable).

However, in Munich at the "Internet and Politics" conference, Eli Noam presented a paper that outlined much of what would come to be and how governments might react. Not only did the paper mention the generally disruptive capabilities of the internet, which was one of the major features of it from the outset, but Noam pretty clearly foretells of what would become Bitcoin:

Technology will lead to new types of money — e-money, digital cash, cyber-dollars. This creates “open money,” stateless currencies that compete with each other, that may be accepted around the globe, but are responsible to no one.

Other ideas have not yet taken hold, though they were novel:

Take the example of intrusion into privacy by telemarketing calls. Both of the parties to a telephone solicitation call attribute a certain utility to their preference to call or to be left alone. Because privacy and access are of value to parties in a telemarketing transaction, exchange transactions will emerge if they become technically feasible. On a practical level, one could envision a Personal-900 Service, in which the calling party pays a fee to the called party. The caller would be automatically informed that the customer charges telemarketers for his time and attention.

The whole piece is full of interesting insights into just what people wanted to make of the internet and how they anticipated it would shape the world. In this paper, much of what Eli Noam predicted appears to have come to pass.