The dark web, privacy and security and Reddit piqued Melbourne man Regan Gallagher’s curiosity about cryptocurrency.
At the time he was a PhD student in psychology and neuroscience and he had discovered the cryptocurrency dogecoin, but there was no way to buy it in Australia.
Dogecoin was started as a parody of bitcoin and was based on a meme of a dog, yet people have been prepared to pour their money into it regardless.
In 2014, Dr Gallagher set up an exchange on Reddit where he could sell the cryptocurrency directly to people and estimates that it could now be worth “hundreds of million of dollars”.
“I was flooded basically and I set my own price, with hundreds of people buying it,” he told news.com.au.
While he said there was “element of taking a leap of faith” by buying the cryptocurrency from him on Reddit, he in fact took the risk as he sold it over a year or two.
“As the holder of the cryptocurrency, if I send it I can’t get it back and inherent in that asymmetry is safety for the person receiving the cryptocurrency. Once they receive it, they have it and no one else can take it from them,” he explained.
“Whereas I was taking a risk that someone could do a chargeback or go back and claim it was fraudulent. I was taking risk that I was sending it to someone and they could not pay for it but because these communities were so interested in it, I was happy to be a part of it.
“I certainly lost a fair bit of money at times as people tried to scam me but money was secondary and it’s the technology that was important.”
One of the posts from the Reddit forum back in 2014 includes this one: “5 transactions & over AUD10K later … I am one happy doge-illionaire,” a prediction that surprisingly has come true.
But years later, Dr Gallagher is receiving messages from people who purchased dogecoin asking how they can retrieve or track down their coins. He estimates two thirds have lost their crypto forever.
On some occasions he has been able to find people’s digital wallets containing their dogecoin, but the majority of people are missing out on millions as they have lost the files and there is no way to recover them.
One man Dr Gallagher knew, who had bought dogecoin which was now worth a quarter of a million dollars, was lucky enough to uncover his digital wallet in a folder titled ‘Delete’.
While his own investment in dogecoin has given him “enough to do want he wants” without the need for a boss and freedom to not keep his money in the bank, this is not what it’s about for him, he said.
“These things are volatile, so its easy come and easy go, but the impression I could sail around on yachts and never have to lift a finger again is absurd.”
He said his aim was to make lives better for those who want to look at “finances and participation in society in a different way”.
The 32-year-old has set up his own cryptocurrency consultancy and is also the director of a permaculture farm in the hinterland of Byron Bay.
“I feel that our financial system as we have it currently is creating a huge amount of dependence, so people are dependant on things like government stimulus, and dependant in a lot of ways on a system that is set up as being increasingly authoritarian and opposed to humans flourishing and freedom,” he explained.
“So having multiple ways to get outside of that system or to participate within that system on their own terms is what I teach people to do. That involves the way they think about work, money, growing food, storage of energy and all kinds of things.”
While it could mean going off the grid, like distancing themselves from banking and economic systems, it could also just mean understanding how food is grown and where it comes from, and thinking about doing valuable work that helps society, he added.
Dr Gallagher isn’t worried about the current cryptocurrency price spikes and volatility either.
“It would have to fall a lot further for it to be an economic problem, but volatility is a part of it anyway – that is the fun of it,” he said.
“A lot of people came into it, myself included, with a history of gaming where volatility and these spikes are fun. You’ve got to be a bit disciplined and not take it too seriously and if you can, see through the hype and fear that comes through volatility.”
But he’s actually concerned with people banging on about the price of cryptocurrency.
“I think people focus way too much on the price and are really concerned about trying to treat crypto like a stock and if they treat it like that and behave that way, it will also cause a lot of pain,” he said.
Instead it’s the blockchain technology that everyone should be obsessing over, he added, as he predicts it will become the digital DNA of our economic system.
He describes blockchain technology as offering digital gold, the invention of the internet and even like a shared excel sheet that can only be changed through others’ agreement.
However, this new system may not necessarily rule out the imbalance of power, he noted.
“Individuals can take advantage of a whole new technology and financial landscape but ultimately fools will lose their money and people who are savvy and think things through properly will end up with majority of influence and capital,” he said.
Yet he encourages everyone to understand the technology behind cryptocurrency.
Meanwhile, Dr Gallagher said he can’t predict the future of dogecoin, with memes currently driving the cryptocurrency, but he noted that all memes die out eventually.