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The entire system, at least from a tech perspective, was admirably efficient.
Yet the site soon morphed from Ulbricht’s original, if naïve, plan.
There were even discussions of selling body parts, such as livers and kidneys. Within 18 months of the operation, the Silk Road was processing 0,000 per week in sales and Ulbricht was sitting on millions in cash.
If the Silk Road were valued by traditional venture capitalists, it would have been among the most successful early start-ups in Silicon Valley history.
The real problem with the drug business, he surmised, was that it was violent and opaque.
So he came up with the germ of an idea: what if there were a Web site, like Yelp, that rated buyers and sellers, so that exchanges would be fair and more transparent? But Ulbricht wasn’t simply a precocious and edgy libertarian.
But as the Web site became a billion-dollar enterprise, its creator, Ross Ulbricht, went from idealistic to dangerous.
An adaptation from Nick Bilton’s new book shows how the empire collapsed.
In Silicon Valley, indeed, pushing the letter of legality is not only admired but also financially rewarded as the very essence of “disruption.” By the time Ulbricht arrived in San Francisco, Uber and Airbnb had already staked their entire multi-billion-dollar business models on defying existing regulations, from what constituted a hotel room to who could offer a taxi ride.
The same was true with alcohol and cigarettes, which have killed millions.
So why, Ulbricht provoked, were recreational drugs illegal?
The technology business has long purported to change the world and make it a better place.
But, in reality, there is a decidedly more cynical underside to all this euphoria.
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