October 31 2008 marked the birth of bitcoin. Ten years on, the world's first cryptocurrency is at the forefront of a complex financial system viewed warily by markets and investors. From its first evocation amid a global financial crisis, in a white paper written by Satoshi Nakamoto, an unknown pseudonym, bitcoin conveyed a political vision. The "abstract" set out in the paper for bitcoin, currently worth about $6,400 per unit from a starting point of virtually zero, was for "a purely peer-to-peer version of electronic cash [that] would allow online payments to be sent directly from one party to another without going through a financial institution". A decade on, this continues to be carried out via a decentralised registry system known as a blockchain. Such ambition for a cryptocurrency was fuelled by the bankruptcy of US investment bank Lehman Brothers in September 2008, an event that discredited the traditional system of "a small elite of bankers ... [that] establishes monetary r...

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