The Bitcoin era was predicted over 17 years ago
The digital currency era was predicted 17 years ago by Milton Friedman, an American economist who received the 1976 Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences for his research on consumption analysis, monetary history and theory, and the complexity of stabilisation policy.
“I think the internet will be one of the major forces for reducing the role of government. The one thing that’s missing, but that will soon be developed, it’s a reliable e-cash. A method where by on the Internet you can transfer funds from A to B, without A knowing B or B knowing A. The way in which I can take a 20 dollar bill and hand it over to you and there’s no record of where it came from, and you may get that without knowing who I am. That kind of thing will develop on the Internet.”
This is an almost exact description of how crypto-currencies like Bitcoin work, all you need is the receiver’s public address and you send them Bitcoins without even knowing each other’s identity.
For example if I wanted to send Bitcoins to a friend on an online forum they can simply post their bitcoin address, which I would copy and deposit Bitcoins into using my Bitcoin wallet. Bitcoin addresses can be left anonymous or you can associate your name with your address like Wikipedia co-founder Jimmy Wales did.
“Of course it has its negative side, it means that the gangsters, the people who are engaged in illegal transactions will have an easier way to carry on their business”
Silk Road was an underground marketplace used for online drug sales and other illicit materials and services including hiring hitmen and the purchase of firearms. This was made possible through the use of the Tor web browser to access the Dark Web and Bitcoins to facilitate the transactions.
This ties back in to Friedman's concerns about criminals being able to profit from the use of discreet digital cash.
You can watch the full interview above, Friedman starts to speak about digital currency from the 14:32 mark.