It’s difficult to admit, but I was late to the Mr. Robot party. When we published our Mr. Robot and fintech article a few weeks ago, I still hadn’t watched a single episode. Zack Miller kept telling me I would love the show, and we came to an agreement: I’ll start Mr. Robot if he watches The Wire.
Zack finished The Wire in a month and I caught up with Mr. Robot in 2 weeks. I love the show…I’m now talking about it all the time and constantly checking the r/MrRobot subreddit. I even walked two avenues and 10 blocks from my hotel to the NBC store in NYC to buy our office some Mr. Robot gear (they had nothing in the store, only online…appropriate?).
But underneath the writing and camerawork are fintech themes that form the foundation of the characters strategies. From cryptocurrencies to bailouts, the characters utilize finance tools to reach their goals.
Here are our five favorite fintech themes that came up during Season two of Mr. Robot.
E-Coin vs. Bitcoin
The show leaves us at the end of Season Two pitting two cryptocurrenceis against each other. E-Corp CEO Phillip Price is trying to get the U.S government to adopt an E-Corp issued cryptocurrency called E-Coin. He argues U.S. officials that it’s better to have a regulated crypotcurrency than the unregulated Bitcoin, which also happens to be controlled by the Chinese.
Dark Army leader Whiterose/Chinese Minister of State Security Zhang is trying to position Bitcoin as the currency of choice, setting up a fight between U.S./E-Corp-controlled E-Coin and Chinese/Dark Army-backed Bitcoin. Most intriguing is the China vs. U.S. battle for global economic supremacy — something we’re all too familiar with in the real world.
I guess paper is important. Some digital banks and online lenders have eliminated paperwork and gone fully digital. But it’s these paper files that E-Corp is using to try to rebuild and recreate the world economy before the 5/9 hack.
The idea that a bank could reconstruct an economy from paper files may be one of the reasons that incumbent banks are hesitant to move fully digital. The files are still not safe from the creativity/insanity of Stage 2, but paper backups are still a financial institution’s security blanket in case the world goes to hell.
Elliot gets into a world of pain when he looks where he’s not supposed to. After fixing the security of Warden Ray Heyworth’s bitcoin wallets, Elliot finds a Dark Net marketplace filled with all sorts of goodies like drugs, guns, and human trafficking.
The unfortunate truth is that cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin are frequently used for illegal activities. Cryptocurrencies are unregulated and are now the currency of choice for many a criminal. In the past five months alone, about $12 million of Bitcoin has been seized from criminal activity.
Reissue debt in cryptocurrency
In the same scene that Price asks the government to support his E-Coin, he asks them to allow E-Corp to reissue existing consumer debt in cryptocurrencies. This isn’t an easy task. Just think about it: every stock purchase, loan, and bank account needs to be converted from dollars into cryptocurrencies. The official named Jack (Lew?) exclaims, “You can’t create a currency, that’s the federal government’s job!”
Jack’s sentiment gives a view on how far things have to go in order for cryptocurrencies to become officially accepted as currency. Something like a 5/9 level hack would have to occur for governments to drop their respective currencies.
Price’s negotiation with the Chinese over a $2 trillion bailout is a big part of E-Coin vs. Bitcoin battle. He pitches three U.S financial leaders in Washington about the bailout, aptly named Jack (Lew), Mary (Jo White) and Janet (Yellen). Price hopes to use the $2 trillion against the Chinese by turning E-Coin into the new foundation of the global economy.
This emulates the financial concept that when you loan someone so much money, the borrower is actually in control. The government is forced to allow the bailout because E-Corp is too big to fail, and now Price gets to fight Whiterose/Zhang for control of the world economy.