How do YOU measure Decentralization?

The disagreements between the ‘big blockers’ and the ‘small blockers’ in Bitcoin are heating up.  Bitcoin Classic is poised to release its first client to compete with Bitcoin Core, and Bitcoin Unlimited has had its first vote on its new feature set.  It is a time of peril in the galaxy…

Now as the credits fade into the star field background picture a big wedge shaped Star Destroyer with the banner reading “Decentralization” filling the screen.  This word is really the Battle Cry of most crypto-currencies, and as I have written in the past, it is so poorly understood.

decentralisation

Everyone wants it, but few know what it is

It is a repurposed term, that simply describes a quality of network topology, transformed into a rallying call of rebellion.  The problem is that almost everyone that I read or encounter in the industry uses this term as a panacea for all the problems that they see in the world today, without actually knowing what it truly means. They believe it because of faith from authority, and through basic reasoning, that it is good and thus must be fought for without actually knowing why.  This is dangerous, as this is how cults start.  The Cult of Decentralization.

Continue reading

Part 2 – Mining and The Valuation of Bitcoin

DISCLAIMER: this is an OpEd piece. Opinions expressed are my own. Do not take it as or use it as advice on investments.

In part 1 of this article, I discussed how decentralization is really a measure of security in the network and having a more secure network means having one that costs more to corrupt it than to work within its rules.  This in turn results in a system that is trust-minimized, which means you need to trust 3rd parties less to ensure everyone plays by the rules.  This is the basis of why Bitcoin can actually work as a currency, but you have been reading my blog, so you already knew that, right?

In this segment, I would like to breakdown and explain the components that comprise the Bitcoin price, in terms of economic drivers.  I will apply some high level fundamental analysis on Bitcoin, to see if we can tease out what factors affect it’s price, and whether or not that price is stable.

The current market Bitcoin price is composed of 4 components:

  1. Hoarders Value
  2. Mining economics Value
  3. Speculative Value
  4. Medium of Exchange Value

The first people valued it for ideological reasons, from libertarian anarchists to those from the Austrian school of economic thought.  These are the hoarders and will be the last to sell.

Continue reading

The Mining Centralization Myth – Part 1

hqdefaultIn this 2-part article, I have decided to address some of the very commonly spread myths in Bitcoin space, namely that of mining centralization, and its effects on the BTC price valuation.  At the end of reading this I hope that you will have a better understanding of the complicated topic of decentralization in terms of economic factors, and also how everything is perfectly reflected in the BTC price.  Also, I hope that you would have a new found appreciation that BTC price is going to continue to fluctuate wildly and even may go to zero, under certain certain scenarios.

But first, to the often repeated, and universally unsubstantiated claim:  That Bitcoin is suffering from miner centralization.  First off, I want to stave off all the thoughts that the proponents of this opinion are thinking now: “You must not have heard of this thing called the Great Firewall of China!”, “You must not understand what the propagation delays are and its affect on orphan rate!”, “You must not know about the mining relay network!”, or my favourite, “Maybe you haven’t heard, but they have this corrupt oppressive government over in China!”.   Rest assured, I know, I have heard all the arguments, and I have well connected business associates in China.

Continue reading

The Future of Bitcoin Governance is Unlimited*

 

Inverted-Gravity-Vlad-Tenu-02-795x524

Nature is full of self-organizing, self-optimizing structures

There has been a lot of chatter recently on coat-tails of Bitcoin core’s 2016 Roadmap which was disappointing for a lot of people in the industry who were expecting to see a more immediate capacity increase via a non-contentious hard fork.  This has brought the debate back to the issue of Bitcoin governance and our current lack of consensus on how Bitcoin should be governed.  I had previously written a proposal about creating a meta-protocol above the technical protocols of Bitcoin itself, which would be a basis for competing ideas, goals and principles to be proposed and agreed upon, much in the same way the BIP is a process by which competing enhancements or features are proposed for the protocol itself.  In the prevailing months, I have come to realize that a free market solution has manifested which makes such a rule system unnecessary: one of Emergent Consensus. (a sort of self-organizing property)

This is a completely new idea, and not one that we are accustomed to understanding, given that all organizations and political systems in present times rely on a notion of democracy where the general public (lacking sufficient time, knowledge, or rigor) delegate their rights to a representative, whom they vote into power, who in turn should make decisions on their behalf for a designated period of time.  They do this for no visible reward, and the cost of failing at their task is losing the vote the next time around.  In such a system, we are basically basing the entire security of the system on the premise that we will be able to find enough of these altruistic ‘saints’ who will consistently put the good of the many above their own desires.  Of course, as we all know, supply of these saintly people are in hard supply, and thus corruption is born, inherent to the system itself.  (Remember politicians are not supposed to be rewarded proportionally for the services that they perform)  Bribing politicians is how the free market reacts to this inequality.  This talks to the root of the problem with Proof-of-Stake systems, which serve to enrich the rich (those with more stake) proportionately more than the poor.  This is also the base of consensus systems which rely on weak subjectivity* instead of objective consensus**, all of which are still theoretical and have not been shown to work in practice at scale.  Our current democratic system of politicians and government is a weak subjectivity system.   We must trust that there is a critical majority of politicians that are not corrupt, as well as trusting one specific honest politician to tell us what is in our best interest, in order for the system to work for us.  I will leave you to ponder on whether or not it is an inherently stable system in the long run.

Continue reading

Why only Bitcoin Matters — (and why everything else matters less)

The industry is abuzz with the new poster child of ‘disruptive’ innovation, Permissioned Ledgers.  I spent quite a bit of time earlier in the year consulting for big name firms on bitcoin blockchain and permissioned ledgers.  At the time I didn’t really view one preferably over the other, I considered each on its merits and useful applications.  Of course when you are paid to technically consult for a company, they don’t want your biases, they want your technical expertise.   Without fail, those of them who were interested in B2B models were interested more in a permissioned ledger, and those who were doing B2C models were interested in using Bitcoin to monetize their online business models.  Most that were interested in B2B solutions had very bank-like businesses dealing with near-money like value systems.  Decentralized ledgers are great as payment systems.  Bitcoin is digital money,  that runs on a decentralized ledger.  Notice the difference? The ledger part is just a small part of Bitcoin’s innovation which is the money aspect.  Because it is a money it is natural that banks or bank-like entities would want to steer clear of Bitcoin.  There are very strict laws surrounding the control of who gets to print money, what is legal tender, currency control laws, and Bitcoin turns all of that on it’s head.

When I used to compare the two for my clients I would tell them that Bitcoin was harder to create a business model on top of due to the yet unclear legal issues while with permissioned ledgers I saw a clear potential for profit in developing cost saving systems. I was quite impartial to this difference until only 6 months ago, seeing both as equally beneficial as a technology.  However, something happened in the interim that changed my views — Greece.  With the Greek crisis, the world witnessed how the will of the common people matters little against the will of the privileged few.   Many would like to blame the Germans but that would be unfair.  The german economy suffers with continued bailouts as well; “throwing in good money after the bad” those of us in the industry call it.  The central banking system is to blame, as whether deliberately or by greed or by chance, the world economy is starting to collectively crumble under the weight of our bad habits of spending, lending and investing with debt.  And we witnessed first hand that when the chips are down, it will be everyman for themselves. Bail-in clauses have been put in place in all major countries of the world, so that the banks have a right to take your money to save themselves before you.  They justify this as necessary to save the system as a whole.  But is it really?

Continue reading

Is Money the Same as Currency? — The True Nature of Money

It’s a simple question.

But it is one that 95% of people will answer wrong. Don’t feel bad. I would have as well if you were to have asked me 10 years ago.

Ans: They are not the same thing.

Those in power would like you to think of them as the same thing. In fact, we have been taught since we were children that they were the same. That is, if you were lucky enough that they taught you anything at all about money in school (more than just recognizing coins and dead presidents faces that is).

Continue reading

Bitcoin the Global Reserve Currency, and our Multi-coined Future

So long as we are careful, we can learn from our past mistakes

So long as we are careful, we can learn from our past mistakes

Last time, I was detailing the reasons why Bitcoin requires a constitution, or a corpus of its own, in order to avoid any such existential debates about its vision in the future.  If we can avoid excessive hard forks, then we can surely safely lower the ‘jump to default’ risk of the Bitcoin network.  Any other type of risk would surely happen slowly and gradually, whether it be a slowing of adoption, or an increase in transactions.  This is not to say that we should be ignorant of those risks, but just that if we are all cognizant of them, we won’t be boiled like all of the other frogs in the kettle.

This is not a radical new view, many in the core dev group feel the same way, as you can see in Jeff Garzik’s prelude to his BIP100 proposal.  He clearly defined the dangers of both action and inaction within the context of block size limits.  He also quite succinctly commented on the lack of a clear definition of what Bitcoin is.  I agree with this opinion, and it drove me to appeal to the core devs on revisiting the dialog about creating a manifesto or a constitution for Bitcoin.  Having such a guide for all future protocol changes would only serve to make such discussions easier, for everyone can agree on what Bitcoin’s priorities should be.

Continue reading

Greece Crisis (again) -How can you help?

Given the turmoil that Greece has been in the last little while and in light of the July 5th referendum, I felt it necessary to explain a couple of things as it turns out that many international onlookers may not understand the situation fully.  What’s clear is that a large part of the population in the country which invented democracy is ready to take it back, by force, if necessary.

Tsipras made a brilliant strategic move of calling for a referendum to see if Greeks want to give in to the ECB and EU demands. Or to choose NO and leave the monetary union.  In this way he has, as Pontius Pilate did, washed his hands of the responsibilty, and allayed any suspicions that he (unlike his predecessors) may be under the influence of the international bankers.  He is no longer in the picture. He has removed himself from the equation.  He is no longer a target for bribes. He has truly given the power to the people and for that he was brave.

Still, many misconceptions float around the international community about the situation. Some see Greece as freeloading homeless people begging for handouts.  Others see them as unfortunate victims of international banks and the Statists.  I think it best to format this as a FAQ info session. So here it goes.

How did we get here?

Answers will vary depending who you ask but generally a lot of false promises were made and some numbers massaged so that Greece could make it into the Eurozone back in 2001.  My former employer ran the deal and was paid handsomely for it. I’m sure the Greek officials at the time took home their share of the finish-line prize as well. There were champagne parties, and libations.  Everyone celebrated the triumph of capitalism and European Statism. Those parties and politicians have long since gone and perhaps most of the money along with it.

The potential productivity of the Greek economy was exaggerated.  Now they are a net liability to the rest of Europe (mostly Germany).  And the Greek people are worse off as they are now working harder and for less just to pay back the loans that were given the country but “disappeared” through the cracks of bureaucracy and corruption.

Who does Greece owe?

Greece ended up borrowing a lot of money. The creditors are other euro countries (notably Germany, Italy, Spain, UK, Portugal) and international banks, and the IMF. A total of about 352 billion Euros to various parties.  Their debt to GDP ratio is 180%.

What do the Greek people want?

To stop the endless cycle of paying off present debts with more future loans and more austerity measures.  The average Greek has a yearly salary of only 7000 euros.  A pool boy it Canada makes more than that.  The tax burden on the poor has risen 337% and their incomes cut by over 87%.  Incomes on the rich has only been cut by 9%. Of course it’s tough to tax the rich too much as they have the means to just leave the country. But this is the result of the austerity measures.  The rich run away with the loan cash and the poor are stuck with the bill because they can’t afford to run away.

Young people want out of the EU.  They have nothing to lose and have lost most of their income and hope due to austerity.

Old people want to stay in. They depend on pensions and cannot afford to leave.  They are retirees mostly and probably feel that kicking the can down the road won’t matter too much to them because they won’t live enough to see the Keynesian “long run eventuality” anyhow.

What are the demographics?

Most of Greece is reduced to service industry and tourism, some exports in cheese and olive oil.  Most of these industries would benefit from a depreciation of currency that would come with the introduction of drachma.  They have a lot of state assets like ports and islands that almost got sold to China.  But violent public backlash against selling off its ‘mother Gaia’ to foreigners has made capitalizing on these assets difficult.

How can you show Global support?

Normally I end my posts with a request for donations. This time I’m asking you to donate to Greece instead. Show the geek people that the global community supports their stance against the banks and for the rights of the people to decide their own future.  Checkout the Indiegogo campaign started below:

Greece Bailout No strings attached!

It is an attempt to show solidarity with the Greek people. It is a chance to show Greeks that the world is behind them if they want to say “enough is enough” and take back their country for themselves.  You don’t pay if the target is not reached. If it is the money will be donated to the Greek government to do with it what it will, no strings attached.

Do I think that the target will be reached? Probably not, but it’s a social experiment on how many people really care about helping their fellow man, versus those who just want to talk a lot about it.  It also says something about how many people really want to do something about injustice, vs those who are happy to just their elected officials make all the big decisions for them.  We live in the internet age now, there really isn’t a need to delegate a lot of these traditional things to ‘smarter’ people in governments anymore.  Besides, most of the time, they aren’t much smarter than that pool boy in Canada anyhow.

Do I think that 1.6billion will make a difference in repaying their debts? NO.  Of course not!  But I think it would convince some Greeks to feel a bit better about voting NO to Euro and roughing it out on their own, they have a lot of pensions to pay, civil servants like garbage men and judges to payroll, and they have to back the new drachma with something, why not use that donation to buy 1.6 billion euro worth of gold ? (Or Bitcoin?)

Vote with your money. Vote to support Greece in their fight for independence from the international bankers.  The people of Germany don’t want them here,  Greek people don’t want to be here, you have to ask yourself, who really needs Greece in Euro anyway?

Your support may just help more Greeks believe in themselves enough to vote a resounding NO this July 6th.  And that will be a vote that will be heard around the world. One that Leonidas and the Spartans at Thermopylae would be proud of.

[edit: corrected the total debt numbers, 180 was the debt to GDP ratio, not the total outstanding debt which is a lot more]

PoW and the evolution of commodity currency

The last couple of posts were devoted to the complications arising from Proof of Stake coins which I argued serve little purpose other than as a digital equity and move corporate and governmental powers to developers from the bankers and industrial magnates of the real world.  I have since been asked to give more details of Proof of Work and why it and it alone is different and can result in the creation of a commodity money.  Fair enough, so here it goes…

Commodity Money

Commodity money, as I have detailed in the past, is commodity that is naturally adopted by society to serve as a common medium of exchange, i.e. money.  The ability of a  commodity to serve as a money depends mostly on its intrinsic characteristics of divisibility, immutability, fungibility, and scarcity.  But, what makes a commodity, say, different from a credit note, or a bill?  Simply stated, a commodity is an asset or a thing (physical or virtual) that:

1) Required work to produce it

2) Had some initial intrinsic value

Let’s look at each of these in turn.  First, it must have taken some work or energy to produce or to prepare it for use.  That work or energy was consumed in a physical (or computational) process and the process cannot be reversed, or whose energy cannot be otherwise reclaimed.  We innately understand this, as every commodity we produce in the real world is a product of human labour and work, requires energy, and results in an asset produced.  Symbolically:

Work + time * efficiency ==> asset

Expend energy in producing useful work, put in some time, subtract waste losses, and out pops an asset, whether it be a gold bar, plutonium ore, or bitcoins.

The ‘birth by work’ concept is important because the producers of the commodity are 1 level removed from the politics of the commodity’s use as a money.  The producers (or miners) of a commodity are simply interested in improving their ability to extract or mine the commodity and sell it into the market for use as money.  In this way, the creation of the commodity money is pure as it first enters the economy through the free market, regulated and controlled only by the natural forces of supply and demand and price.  Contrast this to fiat money which is regulated and controlled by ‘experts’ in an ivory tower, who believe that they have the magic formulas to make decisions for the economy, because they are smarter than the collective opinions of everyone else.  (To those of you who believe this fallacy, I implore you to watch this: Why Socialism doesn’t work ).  Astute readers will be thinking right now, “hmm… this sounds a lot like all the criticisms you wrote about previously with PoS systems!” and you would be exactly right. Essentially a PoW produced coin is a free market money, whose supply is controlled by the market, while PoS ecosystems are just digital forms of socialism.  Centralized control of a rule-based system, no matter how noble in conception, will inevitably fail, as history has shown us.

The second important aspect of a commodity money is that it must have originally had some intrinsic value to it.  As Ludwig v Mises describes in The Theory of Money and Credit, the value of a commodity money (or the price) derives from its previous value the day before, and the value it had the day before, on the value on the day before that, etc. If one could trace back until the origin of the first exchange of the commodity asset for something else, you will discover the value of commodity money comprised of only the value of it as a asset (consumable) alone.  This initial intrinsic value as a commodity is what initializes the objective exchange value of a commodity money and as it slowly gains acceptance, it acquires value as a money.  The relationship can be seen as:

commodity money value = value as a money + value as a commodity(intrinsic value)

Where the intrinsic value of a commodity money is more or less stable, its value as a money is what fluctuates greatly and rises as it is demanded for in its use as a money instead of as a commodity.

With bitcoin, and other virtual assets, we for the first time find ourselves lacking the language to properly describe the phenomenon of how a digital commodity money can come into being.  The notions of work being the means to convert some atoms from one state to another (more useful) state don’t apply as nicely.  But if we ignore the physical reality of the creation of a digital asset for a moment, and assume that it is done via some magical mining process akin to the mining of a physical metal, what then, is the initial intrinsic value of a bitcoin?  This is the key sticking point that has prevented the acceptance of bitcoin by many of the hard money advocates and Austrian economists around the world.  This is where I will likely draw a line between them and I, although we hold many of the same beliefs:  I believe that the intrinsic value of bitcoin is in the utility of the blockchain.  The initial value which bootstrapped the digital commodity of bitcoin into the mystical category of money was that it provided a measurable, quantifiable, utility.  Which was this: the ability for the first time to have a shared database owned by everyone and no one, and have it maintained by trust-less parties acting all according to their own interests alone.  The value of an immutable, incorruptible transparent record, is what that initial intrinsic value of a bitcoin represented.  To own one was to take part in an incorruptible public record system, which is something that could certainly have been used many times in human history to solve many disputes, even wars (the corrupt Byzantine Empire may have fallen sooner, to be sure).  The fact that the value of the token derives from the network in which it exists is the reason many detractors may call Bitcoin a ponzi scheme.  Indeed this same feature is present in all crypto-currencies, where the reward in participating in the network is paid for by in-system tokens.  The difference between them though, is that work is expended in their creation, and thus Bitcoin and other PoW tokens are commodities, and not equities.  That being said, the digital commodity we call bitcoin is the only digital commodity to date to have reached a ‘money’ level of valuation and use.

if you like this post, please donate:

Please donate!

Please donate!

18vgcjWm4SrEf1p9vMHYLgRtUZedYNMr2s

twitter: @digitsu

Tip me using ChangeTip!

Why you should be a Bitcoin Maximalist

I have been struggling for the last couple of months with trying to explain the phenomenon known as Bitcoin maximal-ism.  Essentially it is a movement that is focusing a lot of effort primarily into advocating the support of Bitcoin as the blockchain solution at the expense of all other crypto projects.  Being a pragmatist myself, I was at first very skeptical of the absolutist ideals that they seemed to advocate.  However, time has a way of cutting away the flash obscuring the truth behind wisdom, and I have come to appreciate the maximalist position more recently after much consideration.  This story starts and ends in exactly the same place, which is the theory and value of what we call money.

What is money?

Now, bear with me here, as I know I am bound to lose about half of you with boring economic terms reminiscent of the Econ 101 class that you took in university.  I promise that it is worth it.  One of the sources of confusion in crypto space which many people struggle with is that cryptocurrencies are a hybrid of the financial and economic discipline, with computer science and mathematics.  Surrounding this whole thing is the concept of money, and it doesn’t help that most economists can’t agree on the exact nature of money, specifically the objective exchange-value of money.  If you were to ask 10 people on the street the question “What is money?” you will inevitably get 10 different answers and 9 of them will be wrong.  The truth about money and why not many people understand what it is, is no accident.  Great lengths have been taken to ensure that this topic is never sufficiently taught in schools, and confusing or conflicting terminology is used in various different circles which compounds the problem.  So to begin to understand what money is we need to be very meticulous about the terminology that we employ so that we can begin to unravel the overlapping layers of meaning and obfuscation.  We shall start with the simple description of what money is; which is simply a medium of exchange, which can efficiently facilitate the indirect exchange of goods between parties.  If Bob is a Baker, and Will a wheat farmer, Bob can certainly exchange bread for wheat with Will.  But in the case where Will doesn’t want bread, and needs corn instead, and Charlie, the corn farmer doesn’t want wheat but wants bread, then Bob can exchange bread for corn with Charlie, which he can then exchange for wheat with Will.  In this simple example, the corn that Bob bought from Charlie was acting as the money, which is to say it had no value to Bob aside from its use as a facilitator of indirect exchange.  Indirect exchange in turn allows for efficient division of labour, so that people can specialize in baking, corn farming or shoe making, without having to learn all those skills for themselves in order to produce these products for their own consumption.  Money then, is simply a medium of exchange that facilitates the indirect exchange of goods.

Types of money

There are essentially 4 different types of money which have been used over the history of human civilization. Commodity money, credit money, fiat money, and money-substitutes.

Commodity money we are all familiar with.  It was the first money to be ‘invented’ by mankind.  It is simple a commodity that possessed certain qualities that made it amenable to be used as a medium for exchange, this involves properties like divisibility, immutability, easily verifiable, and impossible to forge.  Commodity money of antiquity, like gold and silver, were created spontaneously by the market.  It is in fact the only trust-free money that can be created by the market.  Nobody decreed that gold should be used.  It was used, and the task of governments in the past was to just verify and regulate its authenticity through the system of standardized minting and measurements.  Commodity money is created by expending work or labour in order to extract it from its natural state, and prepare it for use as a money.  This effort (and the entire industry that surrounds it) acts as a natural buffer to fluctuations in supply of the commodity, and thus a damper on the exchange-value of the commodity money.

Credit money is also created by the market, and it is essentially the use of an IOU as a money.  This money, however requires trust, in that every IOU comes with it a certain amount of counterparty risk.  In stable and strong markets, this risk is minimal, but in developing markets where corruption or insufficient legal systems exist to properly enforce contracts, this risk can be appreciable.  Credit money is characterized by the exchange of present goods for future money (or present money for future goods).  Credit money is used quite prolifically in American society in the last 50 years due to the success of credit networks such as VISA and Mastercard.  Credit money, being an IOU only has value so long as it is tethered to another type of money backing it.  In simple terms, IOUs are claims on an actual assets somewhere else, this can be future value in the case of interest bearing bonds, or simply warehouse warrants, or gold certificates.  It is important to note that before 1930s, the US dollar was a credit money, due to the nature of it being a claim to a certain amount of gold held by the national treasury, which was redeemable on demand.

Fiat money is the money that only has value because it has been decreed to have value by the governing state or body.  It has no intrinsic value, and in fact would in most cases be nothing but worthless paper if it were not for legal tender laws and the threat of imprisonment awaiting those who refuse it accept it as an instrument to extinguish any debts by other parties.

Money-substitutes are the last type of money.  Though it is probably more fair to call it a subclass.  It only exists when the conditions surround it such that they can be easily and readily redeemed for any of the other 3 types of money.  Bank deposits and token coinage is an example of a money-substitute.  Token coinage of course is used in most countries.  It is called ‘token’ and not the same as commodity money because it by itself is not intrinsically money.  For instance, if you were to take a quarter and melt it down to the elemental nickel/zinc, it would not have the value of 25 cents, nor would you be able to buy bubblegum with it. (the price of bubblegum being more than a quarter notwithstanding).  Another common money-substitute is poker chips at a casino, and food-stamps in the US.

So what is Bitcoin?

So where does Bitcoin sit in these definitions of money?  Well I know I would be in disagreement with many gold bugs and hard money advocates like Peter Schiff when I say this, but I believe Bitcoin is clearly a commodity money.  Sure, it is virtual.  It is by no sense ‘hard’ in the visceral or tangible sense, but it is clearly a commodity money in so far as the characteristics that economists such as Ludwig von Mises had set out to so meticulously define 80 years ago.  It requires work to produce, it costs money to produce, and the mining or production industry is not directly influenced by the politics and monetary policy of the day.  In fact, the only thing that should incentivize the producers is good old fashioned capitalist greed.  Greed is in fact one of the most pure and predictable of incentives.  It was very likely that in past centuries many environmentalists lamented at the fact that so many gold mining companies were wasting vast resources and energy in digging this yellow metal out of the ground.  They may have even lobbied their governments to put restrictions on the gold mining industry “for the collective good of mankind”.  “Look at all the wasted effort and energy that they expend just to ingratiate themselves”, they would have said.  I tell you definitively that these people did not understand the market and the mechanisms that work within it nor the forces that naturally control the flow of supply to meet demand. (The demand for money).   I digress, however, as I think you will agree that the point of Bitcoin having all the characteristics of a commodity money have been shown, and thus should therefore act exactly as one in the economy.

Altcoins

So why all the altcoins?  To date I believe the number is in the thousands if one were to count every type of digital currency created since the advent of Bitcoin.  But why do they exist?  Why do perfectly logical smart people devote so much time to creating them and promoting them?

Simply put:

1) People are greedy

2) People do not understand money

3) People do not grasp that blockchain and Bitcoin is an experiment in money, as much as, or perhaps more than it is an innovation in technology

People are greedy

The first requires little explanation.  People are motivated by greed.  Ponzi schemes are great for “redistributing wealth” from people who do not possess the same information or reasoning capabilities as you may have.  It is easy to mask a new altcoin in a thick blanket of rhetoric singing praises of “equality of opportunity”, “common good” or “freeing the people from oppression”; you know, socialistic sounding marketing phrases that any reasonable, even-tempered bipedal on the planet would agree to.  Start a coin, premine it, or create a fixed supply of money which only you control, and enjoy all the benefits of the central bank, which is to say you use the same mechanism of wealth distribution used for centuries, except with you at the top of the pyramid instead of the government.

People do not understand money

The second point deals with the fact that most people don’t understand what money is, and there for do not really understand what it takes to create a money.  I have previously explained what money is and the types of money that exist.  In order for a thing to be a money, it must clearly fit into one of these categories.  Anything less would be equivalent to Monopoly(TM) money.  It may be money-like, but it is not a money.  This point is where we lose a lot of smart minds wasting their time working on POS (Proof of Stake) systems which aims to either “solve” the distribution issue of Bitcoin or the mining energy expenditure issue.  The fact that I use the word “solve” in quotes belies my opinion on the matter.  They are not problems.  As I have explained in the previous example of gold, complaining that Bitcoin mining firms will ‘go berserk’ if left to its own devices and spend half the world’s energy supply in mining is ludicrous and only serves to illustrate to the astute reader that the speaker does not understand economics.  For even the most devote Keynesian would admit that the free market will find the correct price such that a given activity is profitable.  Miners who expend capital to increase the supply of Bitcoin when the demand for it stays the same or does not increase the same amount will soon find themselves losing money, and at some point they will stop their mining activity.  There is no need for a “government” to step in to regulate the market**.  Ever.  The market is self-regulating by the forces of greed vs fear alone.  As for the question of fair distribution, I ask what is “fair”?  Is a old panhandler who found gold in the rivers of California and subsequently made a fortune by fishing the nuggets out of a river doing anything unfair or unconstitutional?  Would we rather see a law passed that forced all gold miners who profited from the gold rush to relinquish a portion of their gains to the public? (Yes!, I suppose, if you are a communist)  The problem with trying to hand tailor a distribution of money is that you need to control a fixed supply.  A fixed supply virtual asset which is created from nothing and distributed to people, has no value, no more than monopoly money has value.  Sure there may be some token value created by a few people buying it on the promise of future gains, but in truth it is no more valuable than money printed by Parker Bros.  This is because any POS coin is in fact, a fiat money.  Or rather, a bad attempt at creating a fiat money.  Fiat money only works when you can force people to attribute value to it, and use it.  If you hold no such power, you may as well be handing out orange $200 bills as people pass “GO”.

Bitcoin is an innovation in money, more so than technology

This is the crux of it.  The issue is that most computer geeks think that Bitcoin is an innovation in technology.  Accordingly, they see iterative improvements on it as a positive thing, like how cell phone technology improved over time with different companies contributing innovations to the craft over the years.  I cannot remember how many times I have heard developers defend the idea that innovating with different blockchain implementations can only be a net good thing.  “Look at how Apple improved upon Microsoft” they would say, or “look how TCP/IP improved upon frame relay networks!” they would shout.  I say this: these people are categorically misunderstanding what the essence of Bitcoin is.  It is not so much a technology innovation as it is an innovation in money.  Let that fact brew in your mind for a couple of seconds. Bitcoin is an innovation in money.  Money has not seen any real innovation since that fateful day almost 100 years ago at Jekyll Island when the industrialists and bankers got together and designed the Federal Reserve system in order to “solve” what they saw as a problem with the elasticity of money.  Bitcoin created a new sub-category of commodity money: /money/commodity money/digital. Due to the nature of Bitcoin being a money innovation, and the fact that commodity money has a very particular way in which it can come to be accepted as a money (the mining or work process in extracting and preparing the commodity for use) this essentially means that a lot of technologists are wasting their efforts in trying to build better versions of it because they only see it for its technological implementation.  If they only realized what many of us with financial backgrounds have realized, which is that Bitcoin is a new money, then they would be more likely to better spend their efforts building technology on top of this new money network, instead of trying to build their own version of it.

The Cultural Divide

What the crypto space now is suffering from is a divide; a divide in mindset, background and thinking.  It is into this gulf that all altcoins find their existence.  On one side you will find the computer scientists, the mathematicians, the nerds.  On the other you will find the economists and the financiers.  Neither side respects the other enough to actually consider listening to what the other side is saying.  You have folks like Peter Schiff saying that Bitcoin is geek money and isn’t real money. You have Bitcoiners saying that economists and bankers are dinosaurs and this new digital technology will disrupt and break all the rules of the old regime. Both are wrong. Both are right. Both are too blinded by their own arrogance to realize this.

So geeks, computer scientists, developers everywhere. Please stop wasting your time on self-gratifying Ponzi schemes, POS currency systems and other lessor coins and help contribute to making Bitcoin better. It’s an open source code base. Use your brain power for good. Support the only internet money.  Trust me, I’ve sat on both sides of the fence being an engineer working at big bank trading floors for over 14 years, the race is over and Bitcoin has won.  Time to fight the real war, which is the separation of money from the state. Let’s all help make this experiment in new money work.

Next time, I will explore the reasons why there can only be one digital commodity money in world, and why that money is Bitcoin.
** The only time a market should/may be restricted is when it is a question of morality or human decency, and even then, some atheist, anarchists would disagree on that point.  The debate of which is beyond the scope of this topic.
Please donate!

Please donate!

18vgcjWm4SrEf1p9vMHYLgRtUZedYNMr2s

Twitter: @digitsu

Tip me using ChangeTip!

I hate ads, you probably hate them too, they may or may not be the cause for global warming! If you liked this post, please support, when I can pay for self hosting ads will go the way of the dodo!