Can learning an industry’s vocabulary help beginners gain a greater understanding of the industry itself?
According to author Cahill Camden, “Decoding Digital: What is Cryptocurrency” was inspired by a conversation with his parents at the height of the crypto bubble in early 2018, which was along the lines of “Ok, we don’t have that much money, but we’ve heard about Bitcoin. Is cryptocurrency something we should invest in?”
After searching for, and not finding, a book which would explain the things that they needed to know in order to make an informed decision, Camden decided to write one. This is a very common thread in the field of books’ origin stories, but is no less valid for its ubiquity.
We start with an explanation of Camden’s approach. Knowledge of a subject, he believes, depends upon an understanding of the words and concepts that define it.
“Words form concepts. Concepts form ideas. Ideas form theories. And theories inspire action.”
By understanding the words which are used to describe a topic therefore, we gain a greater understanding of the topic. The book is structured with this in mind. It is split into several chapters, each of which contains an entry for each related term or concept.
Each entry is further broken down with sections giving an essential overview of the term, followed by a deeper dive, some background details to impress your friends, an example sentence using the term, and the personal insights of the author.
As such, it can be used as much as a dip-in reference manual as a book, although the chapters are structured with a logical arc, so reading the book cover-to-cover (as I did) is also a good option.
As the book is primarily aimed at cryptocurrency novices, the first chapter-real gives us the obligatory introduction to fiat money, crypto and blockchain. As a nice addition however, we also get an insight into technology, perhaps not as many of us would think of it, but simply as a thing, system or invention which helps to solve a particular problem more efficiently.
The next chapter goes deeper into some of the technologies and ideas which back cryptocurrency, like decentralization, encryption, consensus and smart contracts. We move on to chapters on how to value cryptocurrencies, how to buy and sell them, and how to store them and the difference between public and private keys.
The format of this book is a real winner in my view. It is eminently accessible and easy to read, providing a good overview of the terms and the subject. In many ways I have to agree with Camden in his assertion that understanding a topic’s terms is (one) way to gain a deeper understanding of the subject.
It is a little simplistic in places, and it focuses purely on Bitcoin and Ethereum, with barely a mention of anything outside of that. At the time it was conceived then this was probably a very wise thing for those interested in investing in cryptocurrency for the first time, although in the current climate there are a great many altcoins which are also worthy of a first timer’s attention.
To be fair, the book doesn’t discount these, but it does, again very wisely, suggest that one needs to do one’s own research.
The only issue that I really had while reading this book was the section on smart contracts. There was no mention of the fact that the Bitcoin blockchain doesn’t support smart contracts, and in fact the chapter instead went into some of the consensus mechanisms for upgrading the Bitcoin network.
This was only a minor point, but I felt detracted from some of the groundwork done by the rest of the book in explaining things in a clear and concise manner.
In conclusion, this book does fulfil its purpose of advising novice investors as to how to get started in the cryptocurrency space, although it could perhaps already benefit from a slight update.
One might argue that such is the nature of cryptocurrency.
The views, thoughts and opinions expressed here are the author’s alone and do not necessarily reflect or represent the views and opinions of Cointelegraph.