Bitcoin has arguably one of the innovations that has led to the highest amount of skepticism in a while. The systems, technology, and rules the bitcoin system has have never been unified in such a way ever before, and possibly have never been possible, or at least as feasible, as ever before in history due to limitations in memory, computation, cryptological effectiveness and internet speed. It is important to remember there are two parts to bitcoin the underlying protocol and what is applicable to said protocol. The underlying protocol, which can be understood to be a decentralized consensus network that uses cryptology to authroize transactions, make it unfeasible to compromise the system and allow one with the cryptologic code to have de facto ownship/authority over what is allocated to that key. To summarize what people aren't understanding is that: The bitcoin protocol makes it possible for people to exchange ownership and also have de facto ownership without conceding anything in between. Furthermore, bitcoin is objective or neutral, in that the bitcoin protocol can't cherry pick which transactions to let through and which ones not to, Everything gets processed the same. No one can sieze your funds, counterfiet you funds, forge ownership, or control your funds. This all assuming you are using bitcoins how they are meant to be used and protecting your private keys accordingly, which is another debate, but the fact that such an arrangement is even feasible is something that immediately makes bitcoin groundbreaking. other things to keep in mind
1. He who has the private keys, has the funds. No questions asked. You can't forge funds or delete funds, you can only lose access too funds. All the private keys thrown away aren't exactly deleted, its just noone has access to them. If you were to miraculously guess the private key to the wallets that have been discarded, you would have control over those funds. Unlike cash which can be counterfeited or destroyed.
2. Net neutrality as mentioned above. No single transaction is cherry picked or stopped, all transactions flow as normal whether they be thousands of bitcoins or a handful of satoshis.
3. You and conclusively verify an addresses fund without have access to the funds. this is groundbreaking. You don't have to trust in a third party to audit, or the trustworthiness of the person. It is literally impossible to game or scam the system, and if you manage to (i.e. break the cryptology) ether the funds become worthless, or the network agrees on a new cryptology to use.
essentially bitcoin makes it possible for people to exchange ownership of funds ( or anything once new things get built on top of the bitcoin network) in a conclusive manner without needing anyone else to clear the funds. A huge amount of society's efforts on the economic front have come from deciding who is credit worthy and who isn't, who is trustworthy, protecting assets and liabilties against fraud and cooking the books, and of course accounting for the risks, costs, and labor associated with moving, reconciling and clearing transactions. on top of all that, the consumer as of late has been the one to pay the price. as having gold or massive amounts of dollars is cumbersome, risky, and a cost in an of itself which can require massive amounts of correction, proviing ownership and such, bitcoins quite frankly just work. they cut the middle man and give power no to the people, as some revolutionaries say, but to no one and everybody at the same time. It is like a market-version of democracy, instead of a representative version. no one concedes their decision making, but rather in aggregate decide which paths to take, and since everyone benefits by having nobody have complete control, everyone decides that nobody should have control.
I think this is whats so hard to truly understand for most people, and even for myself. How viable is a system where the aggregate are continually evaluating and reaching consensus? what are the consequences of changes in the short term? long term? how quickly can the aggregate reach consensus? can't the aggregate be tricked? (say by having a particularly ferverent person guide people to screw up the system?). The answers to this are still developing, for the mean time everything seems to be working somewhat well, and in my opinion exceptionally well considering this was made by, allegedly, some anonymous programmer. regardless, one thing to keep in mind is that the real underlying component to bitcoin is cryptology, and as long as some cryptology exists that is not crackable, bitcoin techonlogy is feasible. Thus even if bitcoin, or any single coin based on bitcoin fails because the community/consesnus guiding decisions falls dark, a new coin could arise to fix those issues, just like come countries fail when tyrants or fraudsters take advantage.
It is not question that overtime, over the real long hual, the coin or protocol that is most democratic, that is to say the coin where the consensus is most accurately reflected in the decision making processes, will be the coin that succeeds. Whether bitcoin will be that coin remains to be seem, as well as whether such a system will be capable of adapting fast enough. Bitcoin has had a few problems in the past, and one very serious one, and they were fixed quickly and with no long lasting damage. I am confident that will be the case in future circumstances, but if not No doubt another coin, based on the protocol will arise that be reflect said community's wants and desires better.