I enjoy thinking about how the next Bitcoin bull market could play out. I do mean a Bitcoin bull market, not a crypto bull market. Moving on from the 2017 ICO craze I think the next bull market will be driven primarily by Bitcoin.

Why think about a bull market now, don’t you know we’re stuck in the doldrums?  

I think that it’s really important to consider how a Bitcoin bull market could play out so that we can prepare to sell into it. If you’re like me and you’ve just held on through two years of demoralizing bullshit, you probably never want to do that again. I’m preparing now so that once prices achieve orbit I can remain cool headed and follow the plan even as the market goes parabolic.

What I think the next bull market might look like 

Mostly this: Bitcoin’s role as digital gold / store of value / hard money / deflationary asset is going to dominate. Especially as we see more QE (Unlimited QE!!!) bailouts, fiscal stimulus, spending, etc. I think that an increasing percentage of the world’s population is going to look to Bitcoin as a hedge against inflation (especially those who don’t have easy access to dollars).

Now… This demand for Bitcoin as an inflation hedge might not actually be so great in the United States. Already we’re seeing a strong dollar and a number of very smart people have said that the dollar is likely to remain strong for the foreseeable future. If you’re interested in why, this is what they say.

  • The United States is printing tons, the rest of the world is too. Widespread printing means that the dollar stays strong because it’s the least shitty turd in the pot.
  • There is massive dollar denominated debt outside of the USA. Corporations and governments need dollars to service that debt = demand for dollars.
  • There isn’t a good alternative to the dollar. The closest competitor would be the Euro but there’s a non-zero chance the Euro won’t even be around in a few years. If not the Euro then what? Japanese Yen, anyone? Can I interest you in some Pesos?

A strong dollar would apparently diminish the narrative of Bitcoin as a hedge, and that’s probably true to some extent for Americans and other citizens of this fine planet who have easy access to dollars. However, while first world countries might have lots of speculators, they’re not where I would look for people who need Bitcoin, DeFi, etc. As an American or European, you already have access to pretty good, reliable banking infrastructure. What about the Russians, Thai, Mexicans, Turkish, Indians, etc. I think citizens of these countries are the ones who will begin buying Bitcoin as their fiat currencies break down and they find it hard to source dollars.

It won’t take much buying pressure. Bitcoin is a small asset and it responds to small demand (relative to the stock market or gold) so that $20,000 is well within reason if millions of people are buying at the same time. Once we move past the old ATH the speculators will return. Retail will come in, Bitcoin will be on the nightly news, institutions will join the party and as we’ve seen with previous right translated bull markets, the cycle will build on itself and before you know it we’re at a Bitcoin price that previously seemed silly (admittedly in inflated dollars).

How the bull market might accelerate 

What I just laid out is my general idea of how the bull market will reach $20,000. This is what I think the later stages may look like.

  • Traditional fiat currencies are failing, entire countries are insolvent, central banks have exhausted their reserves and are powerless to wipe their own asses. Abandon ship! As millions of people sign up for exchanges a narrative will form that Bitcoin is going to become the world’s new reserve currency. Buy it now and quick!
  • Several central banks will admit to owning Bitcoin / looking for ways to peg their currency to Bitcoin. I expect these to be the central banks of countries that Americans can’t poke their fatty sausage fingers at on a map. Ecuador, Ukraine, Bolivia, etc. I have no idea which ones, it doesn’t matter. What matters is that even just the suggestion that a central bank is playing with Bitcoin, any central bank, will bring legitimacy and new investors (speculators?) to the market.
  • Inflation in first world countries. Not hyper inflation, but not 2% inflation either. Enough inflation that people will notice it and they begin to question the “wisdom” of the Fed’s monetary policy. Possibly, maybe just maybe, the denizens of the first world might ponder whether a mathematically-guaranteed borderless immutable digital currency might have some advantage over a dollar governed by a cabal of self-serving old white dudes.

Why I will be selling into this madness, just as everyone and their grandma is signing up for Coinbase 

I will be selling because it is my firm belief that no matter how dark things may look, the dollar is not going to fail (or hyperinflate) and Bitcoin is not ready to be the world’s reserve currency yet.

  • The network effect of Bitcoin is not large enough. There aren’t enough people using Bitcoin and there just isn’t sufficient infrastructure to allow it (yet) to act as a reliable reserve currency. The crypto community need more time. Bitcoin is growing fast and I think it will get there, but I don’t think that we’ll get there before the peak of the next cycle.
  • I don’t think Bitcoin is secure enough to act as the world’s reserve currency. Mining is still too centralized in China and a few other locations. We need more decentralized mining, or at the very least we need to make damn sure that if the Chinese government goes rogue they can’t force mining operators to perform a 51% attack. Mining is already decentralizing at an increasing pace and I would expect that within the next 3 to 5 years we can confidently say that no one country overwhelmingly controls Bitcoin.
  • Bitcoin is too damn volatile. I know the Morpheus meme about not needing to sell sats, but until you can actually spend this stuff at any grocery store, or at the very least buy a car with it, I can’t imagine people hodling Bitcoin indefinitely. I like Bitcoin, I like eating breakfast more. Also, this last crypto bear market forced capitulation upon (supposedly) committed crypto believers. What will happen to the bull market maniacs after Bitcoin retraces 80% from its new ATH? What happens when it retraces 50% in a fucking day! Until the volatility evens out I find it very, very hard to believe Bitcoin will be able to act as a reserve currency.

So it is my opinion that we’ll see massive overvaluations in Bitcoin and then, like any other parabolic bull market, it will collapse. In the aftermath what we’ll find is this.

  • Many fiat currencies have failed, things are fucked but generally the dollar is OK (the implication being that selling Bitcoin for dollars near the peak is not going to lead to you losing all your money as the dollar blows up).
  • Dollar inflation will be higher than normal however, it won’t be quite so dire as it may have looked during the peak mania phase of the Bitcoin bull market. Americans will not be taking their wheelbarrows of cash to Trader Joe’s. The Fed will conjure its black magic, the POTUS will do this or that, steps will be taken to keep the dollar relatively safe.
  • In regard to the central banks who have announced that they’re working with Bitcoin, I think what we’ll find is that their idea of “working with” isn’t what we all had in mind. An analogy could be drawn to the long ago announcement that Amex was working with Ripple. To the moon! A few years later what has come of that? Who was expecting $0.12 XRP again?

So there will be a peak in the bull market, driven by these narratives, then comes the crash. Hopes will be dashed, dreams destroyed and Bitcoin will (probably) do its thing and retrace 80% just like in previous bear markets. But none of this will concern me, and hopefully you either, as we will have sold into the rising bull market and taken our profits. Hoorah!

All things come to an end, like this article 

There it is, my theory of how the next bull market will play out. I think about bull markets a lot because I recognize that selling into them, taking profits, will in the madness of the moment be very, very difficult to do. It will feel like insanity to sell the world’s next reserve currency in order to get some fiat which is either going to collapse or inflate out of existence. But I do believe, quite strongly believe, that selling is the right thing to do. Could Bitcoin become a reserve currency for the world? Sure. But I think that’s far less likely than another protracted bear market, something I would prefer to have nothing to do with.

Epilogue

A few other narratives that may play a secondary role in accelerating the bull market.

  • Bitcoin, or digital currencies in general, as more conducive to social distancing, not contaminated like cash.
  • Digital currencies as a way for governments to provide faster relief to citizens and businesses. Lower and middle class Americans get a $1,200 check but whoops, if you don’t have your bank account on file with the IRS (which most people don’t) you won’t get your check for (potentially) a month or two. It’s absolutely pathetic that we can film the movie Gangs of New York, find the Titanic, land a rocket on a little yellow square, build New York City, but it takes two fucking months to get someone money. We may see some demand from citizens for a digital currency which would raise awareness around Bitcoin. If UBI is instituted I would speculate it’s much, much more likely we’ll see serious talks of some CBDC.
  • Crypto as a way to get around currency controls. I think that this would require some fairly “major” country to enact currency controls for this narrative to have any weight. For example, if Nigeria puts in place currency controls (do they already have them?) nobody cares. But let’s say a country like Ireland or Israel or even Canada started restricting their citizens ability to go into the dollar or gold. That would be front page news and would easily drive the narrative to Bitcoin as it’s 10x easier to acquire than most other currencies/commodities.
  • Bitcoin as an asset unhindered by global disruptions. Bitcoin works whether the international order is humming or whether it’s anarchy. Compare that to gold where we saw major disruptions, broken contracts and all sorts of other shenanigans when brokers were unable to deliver physical gold because supply chain were breaking downs. Those in the know have said that this was a very, very big deal. Bitcoin doesn’t care, as long as the internet works it’s business as usual.
  • Bitcoin being used for the settlement of international trade. Take 15 minutes to learn about the Eurodollar mess we’re in now and then think about how much simpler the system would be if Bitcoin was used (even partially) instead of dollars.

Getting people into crypto is difficult… Start a conversation and you’ll hear that Bitcoin isn’t real money, it’s only good for tax evaders or my favorite: my friend’s brother’s cousin told me it’s a scam. It’s fascinating, the expanse of excuses people have for not embracing a paradigm changing technology. But forget them, what about the millions who are interested in crypto but are unwilling to submit to the indignities of registering on an exchange and verifying their identity? How do we turn this cohort of the casually interested into crypto coinnoisseurs? In the last week I’ve heard about these two fascinating solutions that are attempting to solve this problem.

1. Meta-Transactions

A description of a meta-transaction, straight from the source.

When a user creates a new transaction in their wallet, they sign a message which is sent directly to the Ethereum network. When a user creates a meta-transaction, a user signs a similar message (but one which is not a valid Ethereum transaction), and sends it to a 3rd party, who then submits the message on their behalf, within a transaction of their own.

Let’s break that paragraph down. A user completes a task and earns a bounty. The payout is in crypto but how to get that crypto if a new user has no gas to sign a transaction? Simple, the bounty app sends a message to an Ethereum smart contract. The smart contract interprets this message (instructions) and then uses its own reserve of gas to verify the transaction. In this way the completed task is written to the blockchain and the user receives their crypto reward. Brilliant! I imagine there are plenty of people who would be willing to complete some bounties if they can earn $10 or $20 worth of crypto. Once they have the coin they’ll be incentivized to set up a wallet, find a place to spend it or figure out how to hodl it safely.

The critics might argue that this isn’t really crypto adoption, since the messages users are sending aren’t “valid” ETH transactions. They’ll say things like not your keys not your crypto and centralized scam and whatnot. But I think they’ll be missing the forest for the trees. This type of bounty reward program is a low stakes way to get millions of people involved in crypto, especially if people in developing countries can complete bounties where $10 might be as much as several days’ wages! What’s not to love?

2. Wyre Onboarding

How cool is this; Wyre is going to make it possible to buy crypto without KYC! They’ll achieve this monumental feat by integrating with Google and Apple pay. I don’t use these apps myself but presumably when you create an account you have to enter some basic KYC information. Well Wyre has figured out that they port that information to their own crypto onboarding app so users don’t have to enter their personal information twice. Check out a demo here.

So simple and painless. The limits are small, $250 per day and $1,500 lifetime, but who cares! This was never designed to be a replacement for sending a $100,000 wire transfer to Coinbase. The Wyre solution is about making it ludicrously simple for someone to buy crypto for the first time. Assuming the app works well it could have a massive effect in the next bullrun. There are 380 million Apple pay and 50 million Google pay users, what if just one-quarter of them bought $100 worth of Bitcoin? Run the math on that and see how fast it adds up…

I’m incredibly excited for both of these new onboarding methods. Meta-transactions and the Wyre app address the onboarding hiccup from two different angles but the idea is the same: make it as simple as possible for people to get into crypto. With these solutions, and more to come, mass adoption doesn’t seem as improbable as it once did.

The water lily analogy has its stem in The Slight Edgean excellent book I would recommend to anyone. The premise is that even a doubling of progress leads to only marginal improvements in the beginning. The water lily doubles its covering of a pond for many days in a row, and for many days in a row the progress does not seem great. Then the lily reaches the breakout point and within a few days it goes from covering only a corner of the pond, to all of it. A comparison to Bitcoin, and more broadly the entire crypto ecosystem, is imminent. Forget about a price for a moment, when you focus on the fundamentals you can see the growth.

  • In Hong Kong, for instance, we just witnessed more trading on Local Bitcoins than at the height of the previous bull market.
  • Record levels of Bitcoin trading in countries like Argentina and Turkey.
  • The amount of money locked up in DeFi has doubled since the beginning of the year.
  • And so forth… Crypto is clearly growing, but how long might it take?

Doubling Our Way to Mass Adoption

Let’s say, generously, that there are a million active Bitcoin addresses. If you double that to two million it’s still 0.03% of the world’s population. Insignificant. Double it to four million and now it’s 0.06%. A bit better, sure, but still just the guts of a splattered fly on the economy’s windshield.

So Bitcoin doubles for years and the progress seems slight, few pay much attention. But what most don’t realize is that Bitcoin is a water lily, moving inexorably towards the breakout. Speaking practically, the way I see this happening is word of mouth. If one person in Argentina tells their friend about Bitcoin and that friend creates a wallet and acquires some, Bitcoin usage has doubled (in regards to our micro-example). Now imagine both those people convince a person to get some coin. We’ve gone from two to four. And then… You see where this is going. The doubling effect of people convincing other people, this is where the power of a movement makes itself seen. It will get easier over time.

When you just have one crackpot friend telling you to buy magic internet money it’s easy to ignore them. When half the people you know are buying Bitcoin the temptation to jump in will be much stronger. That tipping point, the accelerating network effect the world over, is how Bitcoin could make its mark on the world.

Tl;dr – Focus on the fundamentals. Things (like Bitcoin) can double in usage/adoption/price/public perception for a long, long time without making much impact. However, once the tipping point is reached just a few more doubling events can lead to massive, disproportionate progress.

Credit where it’s due, the phrase “mercenaries vs. missionaries” comes from the formidable Ryan Selkis. Maybe he borrowed it from someone else, I can’t say. In any case, it’s a great way to express an idea that occurred to me a month or two ago. Let’s have a look.

The Problem with Ripple

Ripple (the company) is hiring a bunch of mercenaries to work on their project. A mercenary is a homo sapien whose allegiance is to the dollar not the project. Not that I’m friends with many mercenaries, but I speculate they rarely feel much love for the cause. Let a check bounce and see how long they stick around.

So we see Ripple dishing out $100 million to get XRP integrated into video games, on the smaller side we see a $1.5 million investment into Coinme, more recently, and this is the one that really made me think, they’ve bought Logos Network and tasked them with creating a DeFi ecosystem based on XRP. How artificial!

The real DeFi movement, the one happening on Ethereum, is driven by passion. Sure, loads of projects are taking in funding but there are also thousands of talented developers volunteering their time to build out the space. Also, the companies getting funded, they’re getting that cash because they have an innovative idea that could make DeFi better. That’s the opposite of this XRP DeFi deal where Logos Network was working on something else, then Ripple bought their souls, and now they have to work on what will benefit XRP.

That’s not to say none of this works out for Ripple. When you throw $500 million (that’s half a billion) at a problem you generally tend to get a few solutions. And, ironically, I actually have a stake in XRP and will materially benefit if it takes off. Yet… To me it feels like it’s all wrong: people should work on a project because they’re passionate about it, not because their paycheck demands it.

The Holy Writ of Bitcoin and Ethereum

More than anywhere else in crypto we see a fantastic community of missionaries contributing to these two projects. Thousands of passionate people who believe so deeply in the ultimate success and benevolence of these currencies that they’ll give up their weekends in order to debug code. Or whatever programmers do, I’m not one myself. There is money of course, but nobody is handing out $100 million grants the likes of Ripple’s offerings.

So now, the final point. What has become clear in the last year or so is that the best technology does not guarantee success. Bitcoin, by a huge margin, is the largest crypto even though fees are high and transaction are slow. In terms of developer activity and Dapps being built, Ethereum decimates the competition even though it can’t clear 20 TPS. There are a dozen viable competitors for the top spots, all with ostensibly better technology, but where are they now?

What Bitcoin and Ethereum have are huge communities and this, I believe, is perhaps the best predictor of a project’s eventual success. Imagine you have to move to a new town and you have two choices.

  1. The town with a thriving community and abundant social resources, but the internet is slow and the power goes out sometimes.
  2. The high-tech town with fiber optic and reliable infrastructure, but only a few people live there and they don’t talk to each other.

Which one would you choose? In deciding which projects I’d like to be affiliated with, it’s pretty clear to me what matters most. I’m with the missionaries.

Trading is flashy as hell but when you look at the numbers, the wealthiest financier on the planet is a value investor. Warren Buffets buys assets he believes to be under priced and he holds them for years or decades. This is how he grew Berkshire Hathaway into the powerhouse it now is.

Interestingly, unlike trading, I generally believed there was only one approach to blockchain finance investing. You’re holding onto stuff for years, what is there to know? But it turns out there are actually two different ways to look to approach your investing. Each strategy has its own strengths and weaknesses. Let’s have a look.

Trend Investing

Trend investing is a strategy whereby an investor places his capital into a market that is clearly uptrending. Then, on the other side, he waits to sell until the market is clearly downtrending. A few thoughts on this. The first is that this investor purposefully misses both the bottom and the top of the market. He’s leaving money on the table! Well, yes, but not really. Not really because he’s only deploying his capital into a market that he expects to reward him quickly. When you think about a value investor buying the bottom, he may catch it perfectly, the asset may be ludicrously undervalued, but the market might go sideways for years! Those are years when he could have put his money to work in some other market.

People love to call bottoms and tops but in reality, nobody knows a damn thing. So with trend investing, since you’re not trying to sell the top, you will stay in and the market might go a hell of a lot higher than what anybody expected. And you will benefit whereas the value investor might have already sold because he believed the top was in.

The downside of course is that sometimes markets don’t under or over perform. Sometimes they do what people believe they will and in this case, by not buying near the bottom and selling near the top, the value investor leaves a good chunk of change on the table.

Pros 

  • Less risk, since you’re buying into a market that is clearly trending up
  • If a market over performs you gain exposure to it
  • In a bear market if an asset under performs and goes lower than anybody expected, you’re not bought into it

Cons 

  • Potentially leaving money on the table as you’re only capturing the middle part of the price movement, not the top and bottom

Value Investing

The other approach is value investing. That is, buying an asset which is clearly undervalued. In this situation the investor does not care so much whether it trends lower, he is simply placing his money into something which he believes, rationally, must go up in the future. He may try to time bottoms and tops or he may hold his assets for the long term, through multiple market cycles. Although I am unfamiliar with the stock market, I know that PE ratios are used along with a host of other tools to determine what assets are undervalued. In crypto there is no standard valuation model so it’s more difficult. Value investing is what most hodlers do, whether they realize it or not. It’s a fine strategy and it created the world’s wealthiest man, for a while.

Pros 

  • More potential upside as bottoms can be bought and tops sold. Or, at least, an investor can try to time those correctly
  • Dead simple. No debating about exactly what an uptrending market is, when the reversal has happened, etc.

Cons 

  • Riskier. You can buy an undervalued asset and find out that it can still go quite a bit lower and the market can go on for quite a bit longer

Fin

Anyways, that’s just a brief overview of the types of investing. Obviously there’s not much info here but hopefully it at least gives you an idea of what’s out there in terms of strategy. Check out Blockfer for detailed blockchain finance related product and service reviews, comparisons, and education. Now you can go learn more about it from more experienced people than myself. Good luck!

It’s been around for more than a hundred years, it’s the 80/20 rule. I’ll assume you’re familiar with it. If you’re not you don’t read enough. So how can we apply it to crypto? It’s simple, just do these two things and there’s an overwhelming chance you’ll never lose any of your coins. Even if you don’t use 2FA, your email gets hacked, your SIM card gets ported, whatever. It won’t matter if you just…

Never Leave Your Coins on an Exchange

Don’t be this guy. Ouch! Here’s a man who supposedly knows his way around crypto, he’s a fucking engineering manager at a custodianship company, yet he loses a tenth of a million because he kept it on an exchange. For what possible reason? If you are investing and holding onto your coins for years at a time, keeping them on an exchange is like going to a cigar convention with kerosene soaked clothes. Even if it doesn’t get hacked, check this out. Just a few days ago a guy lost $1,000 on Bittrex because they blocked withdrawals for all New York residents. He had to write it off as a loss. What about Quadriga? or Binance? The list could go on for an hour…

Use a Hardware Wallet

Seriously, so simple. A Nano Ledger S costs $70 after shipping. If you have more than $70 worth of crypto it’s worth buying one. They’re dead simple to set up and they make your life easy. Since they can hold dozens, hundreds, of currencies, you only have to remember a single seed phrase for backup purposes. That’s so much easier than trying to keep track of seed phrases and private keys for a dozen different wallets. Plus, these things are unhackable. Send your crypto there and forget it. One note though, NEVER store your seed phrase on a computer. People have lost their stacks when they uploaded pictures of their seed phrase to their Google Drive and a hacker gained access. Write the seed phrase down on paper and keep it somewhere safe. That’s really it.

If you just do these two super simple things your odds of losing your coins must be less than 1%, if that high. Yet people are people and as long as they ignore this stuff, funds will not be safu. That’s unfortunate for them but it doesn’t have to be you.

You can think of Bitcoin as a currency, a way to pay for things, which it definitely is. But it’s more than that too. Bitcoin is the first digital creation that cannot be copied. Let that sink in. Until Bitcoin was invented even the best copyright protection software could be cracked. You can go, you could go, on Pirate Bay and download anything. Bitcoin was the first time when we saw a digital asset that had the same properties as a bar of gold a car or your Xbox controller, it couldn’t be duplicated. Pretty cool right?

Another way of looking at Bitcoin, and perhaps even more so Ethereum, is as a decentralized consensus mechanism. A protocol that will make a decision in a consistent known and fair way, each and every time, and is incapable of being influenced by a malicious actor. That’s big! Traditionally decisions are made by humans but what if you have an idea that would require twenty six decisions a minute, every minute, twenty four hours a day. That’s a problem for a program, not a person.

I’m sure there are even more ways of looking at these protocols besides the two properties I just mentioned. If you want to leave a comment below about some ideas I’ve missed I’d love that. But the main point is, don’t make the mistake of thinking that cryptocurrency is money and nothing else. There are a whole host of unique features that are going to shape the world for decades to come.

Cryptocurrency is going to change the world. Just kidding, cryptocurrency is a shitshow with more obstacles to overcome than a Navy SEAL on his first day of training.  

I thought I’d write this up because of something I just read. A piece mentioned Charlie Munger and Charlie Munger mentioned that in order to have an opinion you ought to be able to state the opposing side’s view as well as your own. Well I think Charlie is a smart guy so let’s give it a go. 

My opinion, crypto is going to change the world. 

Opposing opinion, it’s not.

1 – Crypto is insanely unstable 

If you bought some Bitcoin at the all time high in 2017 then your investment is worth just 20% of what it once was. We can go even more extreme, say you’re the poor fool who bought into Zcash at the top. If you bought $1 of it, you now have $0.02 and prices could go even lower. Who could blame someone for not parking their money in crypto? 

2 – Crypto is insanely unstable Pt. 2 

The flipside is the hodlers who believe that crypto is going to be worth more in the future. That’s great, except it means they’re not actually using the currency. People tend to not spend things which they believe will be worth more later. So we have a bunch of people hoarding this stuff and not using it. Where is the value in that? 

3 – Crypto is hard to use 

On a scale of opening a pickle jar to wrestling a polar bear, figuring out how to use crypto without losing it is somewhere around programming a VCR, if they still existed. Can you name someone who you would never trust to program a VCR? I can. A couple even. As crypto exists now it’s cumbersome, tough to understand and very easy to lose if you don’t know what you’re doing. And once it’s lost it stays lost. And once a person loses some they’re probably going to also lose a lot of enthusiasm for ever getting more. 

4 – Transactions can be taxed 

Some countries are better than others but as it stands now crypto transactions are taxed in a lot of places. So if you actually want to use Bitcoin to, you know, buy something… Then you have to pay a tax on that transaction which is obviously completely fucking absurd and a heavy discouragement on its use. Of course plenty of people ignore the taxes and figure the IRS won’t come after them for a $50 purchase and they’re probably right. But there are still a lot of people who will never begin to use something if they have to break a law, no matter how minor. 

5 – It’s illegal / grey area in a lot of places 

Bitcoin is, at the moment, illegal in India and Egypt and other countries that I don’t know about. In other places there is no clear legislation on it. Thankfully it seems to be fairly well accepted in most Western countries but is that always going to be the case? What about coins like Monero? It seems incredibly unlikely that something that allows completely anonymous transactions, and is possibly a viable tax haven, is going to be allowed to exist. Who would want to buy an asset which may be declared illegal in a year or two? 

6 – It doesn’t work very well 

If a person has only heard of one cryptocurrency then they’ve heard of Bitcoin. What’s so unfortunate about that is that technologically Bitcoin is a freaking Model T. It’s slow it’s expensive and when a lot of people use it the system breaks down. We have crypto projects which are Lamborghinis and Mercedes but people have not heard of them and even if they have they might not understand them. Or, let’s say you have heard of something great like Nano and you’ve figured out how to use the wallet, which is very intuitive and a great example of how to do crypto right. That’s fantastic but you can’t actually spend it anywhere! Oh yeah, and if you bought it at the top it’s lost 97% of its value as of today. 

7 – It doesn’t solve enough hair on fire problems 

You could argue this all day, and I’d love to. But I’m writing it so I get to say whatever I want and my opinion is that the largest hair on fire problem that crypto is solving / will solve on an infinitely larger scale in the future, is cross border remittance. What takes days or weeks now and costs an exorbitant amount of money can be done with crypto instantly and for free. That’s fantastic and in the not so distant future it’s going to completely disrupt a multi-billion dollar industry. 

However, apart from that, I find it hard to see where there is a massive pressing demand for something that crypto currently offers. Smart contracts are good but are they good enough to change the world, at present? It doesn’t look like it. Decentralized exchanges will be huge but they’re not huge yet. Security Token Offering may very well be the largest lasting legacy of crypto but again, they are in their infancy. In terms of things that exist right here and right now, it can be tough to find a working project with massive demand especially for the average citizen of a country like the USA or Germany or the UK. 

8 – It’s unregulated 

The crypto community largely considers this a plus, and it is cool to work in the wild west of technology. However, it’s not going to work for worldwide adoption. Businesses are not going to devote millions or billions of dollars to blockchain projects if there is some chance that they will be regulated in a weird way or even declared illegal in the future. For better or worse we need consistent regulation so that people/companies know what they’re working with, know what to expect and know that all their projects won’t be fucked up by some new crazy law in nine months. 

9 – It uses a bunch of electricity 

Honestly I just threw this in because a list with nine things sounds better than a list with eight things. But I suppose it is a valid point that Bitcoin mining uses more energy than the country of Denmark. However, I don’t think this is as insurmountable a problem as something like the price volatility. A lot of newer coins are Proof of Stake or like NEO they use some form of DBFT consensus algorithm which uses so little electricity it’s negligible. Nonetheless, the current energy demands are troublesome. 

Conclusion

So that’s that, nine reasons why crypto is a fantastic fuckup that no sane person would touch with a ten-thousand foot pole. Unless you really believed that this stuff is going to change the future and alter the way we live our lives.

Which is something I happen to believe.

Because even though it’s riddled with problems, there are also some incredibly exciting things happening. The more I learn the more I continue to be amazed and hopefully in ten years we’ll look back and laugh at the pessimism. 

If you’re in the crypto community then you’re probably so sick of the world decentralization you’d like to smack me for even saying it. I get that but I also have a question. Something that I think a lot of people struggle with but are not willing to admit. Why does decentralization matter? 

It’s an honest question, I want to know. Of course there is the obvious stuff. 

  • A government or other powerful actor cannot (or will find it very difficult to) shut down a decentralized entity like Bitcoin.
  • A decentralized entity is (in theory) not under the control of something like the Fed which sets interest rates. Bitcoin’s inflation is set and will always be set. 
  • Transactions cannot be censored. If you build a smart contract on Ethereum it’s going to execute as it’s programmed to do whether a government likes it or hates it. 
  • Etc, I’m sure I’m missing some obvious ones.

These aspects of decentralization are great but I feel like it’s only scratching the surface. I think that if you can dig deeper there are even more radical benefits that either we don’t fully understand yet, or, only a small group of people understand. 

I’d like to understand these benefits, I’d like to understand how decentralization can benefit a group of people even if they’re not worried about the government censoring their transactions or shutting down their blockchain. If you read this and you have insight it it, please, tell me. I’d like to hear it. 

Hey gents, a few people have asked me about cryptocurrency lately. As it’s something I’ve spent a couple of hundred hours studying I think I can offer some insights. I’m no Vitalik or Satoshi and I cannot read code but maybe that’s a good thing, it means I’ll keep things nice and simple. For this first article I’m going to lay the groundwork for understanding crypto. To that end I’ve chosen five words / ideas / whatevers that you will come across in the cryptosphere again and again. If you can wrap your head around these you’ll have a much better idea what the hell everyone is talking about.

1. Mining

If you’ve heard about Bitcoin you’ve heard about mining. Bitmain, the largest Bitcoin mining company in the world, just opened an office in Silicon Valley and they’re looking to go public at some insane evaluation that’s probably billions more than they’re worth… But what is mining?

In the simplest terms mining secures a cryptocurrency, it’s what prevents hackers from stealing funds or otherwise screwing up the network. The basic idea is that a bunch of different people (or, as it has worked out in practice, a small group of very powerful wealthy people) devote an obscene number of computer processors (ASICs) to doing complex math problems. These miners, ostensibly the “good guys”, secure the network. If a hacker wanted to steal some Bitcoin he would need to control more than half of the computer processors doing this math. Given that there are literally dozens of football sized warehouses filled from floor to ceiling with processors, that would be prohibitively expensive.

If you’ve heard about miners getting paid it’s because they do. Their reward for buying all these processors and paying for electricity is a steady stream of sweet, sweet coin. The largest miners make tens of millions of dollars a month. In the early days of Bitcoin the average guy with a computer could mine but that’s the case no longer.

2 – Proof of Work / Proof of Stake

Proof of Stake, POS, is a newer system that doesn’t require miners. Instead of doing a bunch of pointless math and burning rainforests to generate electricity, a person “stakes” their coin and earns a reward. If a bad actor attempts to make a fraudulent transaction, they lose the coins they’ve staked. Let’s simplify it with an example.

Five people are playing a game and each person puts in $1,000. As long as they play by the rules, they get $5 every hour they play. It’s not a bad deal and people are incentived to play. However, in our example player three decides to cheat. He wants to influence the game so that he gets $25 and everyone else gets nothing. Well, the other players are pretty smart and they catch player three and he gets kicked out of the game and doesn’t get his $1,000 back. Damn. So that’s proof of stake, everyone puts up some coin and if someone tries to cheat the network they lose their investment. It’s an environmentally friendly solution to Proof of Work (POW). Transactions are validated by coin in an escrow account, instead of by electricity and pointless math.

3 – Node

I have to be honest, trying to pin down a good definition of a node is difficult for me. Maybe I don’t understand it backwards and front but let’s have a shot anyways. A node is a computer which carries a full copy of the blockchain. Depending on the blockchain this could be smallish or largish. Bitcoin’s blockchain is 173 GB and Monero’s is 57 GB. Why would anyone want to “spin-up” a node? A couple of reasons. The first is that it helps to decentralize the network. Bitcoin is resilient because a copy of the ledger (the blockchain) is stored on thousands of (five-thousand something at present) computers all around the world. No country can shut it down just as it’s impossible to eradicate those pesky torrents.

Another advantage of running a node is that, depending on the coin, you may get some kind of voting rights (big caveat that running a node is often not enough to get voting rights, you also have to own a (significant) amount of coin). And finally, if you run a node you can self-validate a transaction. However, this isn’t a big deal for about 99% of people and by the time you understand the advantage of running a full node you won’t be reading this article. For now, you can think of a node as a water cooler in the office. It’s a place to take in and give out information, the social hub of a blockchain network.

4 – Permissioned / Permissionless Blockchain

There are two types of blockchains, one that anyone can participate in and another which is a closed environment. Ethereum, Monero and Bitcoin are permissionless blockchains (among many others). Anybody can run a full node and anybody can mine, they are as decentralized as a blockchain can be. On the other hand, you have cryptocurrencies like NEO and XRP. These are permissioned blockchains where only approved computers / servers can run a full node. Security, that’s why any of this matters and it comes in two forms.

  1. Security – State actor (government) shutting down a blockchain.
  2. Security – Bad actor (hacker / huckster / fraudulent dudes) trying to defraud others.

XRP and NEO* (and any other permissioned blockchain) can, theoretically, be shut down (point #1). They have a limited number of nodes and if you take those offline the blockchain dies (whereas Bitcoin, Ethereum and any other cryptocurrency with thousands of nodes across the world are virtually impossible to shut down). So why have a permissioned blockchain if it can be shut down?

A couple of advantages, the first is speed. If you select the nodes that can participate on the network then you don’t have to worry so much about security (point #2). If you don’t have to worry about security then you can speed everything up. The fewer nodes, the more trusted they are, the easier it is for them to vote to approve transactions. Thus you see XRP confirming transaction in a matter of seconds and NEO claiming 10,000 TPS (Transaction Per Second). Bitcoin can do 4 to 7 TPS and it takes 10 or 20 or 30 minutes to confirm a transaction. Permissioned blockchains are way, way faster and way, way more susceptible to being shut down.

*NEO and XRP are two cryptocurrencies which seek government approval and regulatory conformity. In other words, the opposite of Bitcoin. They are not worried about government intervention because they work with regulators.

5 – Confirmations

In the last section I mentioned confirmations, let’s have a look at that. A confirmation is proof that a transaction is valid. On the Bitcoin network a confirmation happens every ten minutes and most websites / exchanges / merchants require several confirmations before they credit funds to your account. In a nutshell, once you have a couple of confirmations everybody knows that you’re not a scammer, your funds are valid and you actually have the coin that you claim to. Figuring out how long it takes to confirm your funds is easy. Just look at the number of required transactions multiplied by the time to confirm a block. In the Bitcoin network a block is confirmed every 10 minutes and most websites require 2 to 4 confirmations. That means you’ll wait about 20 to 40 minutes before you can access your funds.

Some coins like Bitcoin Cash (more about them in another post) urge merchants to accept 0 confirmation transactions for small orders like coffee or dinner (not Lambos). If a merchant chooses to accepts 0 confirmations, a payment will settle within several seconds (although there is a small risk of fraud, again, discussed in a later post).

Still, no matter how you look at it, 0 confirmations with a risk of fraud or 2 to 4 transactions with waiting thirty minutes is not as good as a blockchain like XRP which fully settles with no chance of fraud within 3 to 10 seconds. So why the hell doesn’t everyone just use a permissioned blockchain? That’s a question for another post (we obviously have quite a few posts coming). Suffice to say for now, people claim permissioned blockchains are the devil’s minions and stand for everything that crypto hopes to defeat. Today though, we’ll stick with the basics. Hopefully you now have a better idea of some key terms in crypto. If you have any questions please feel free to leave a comment below, I’ll answer it!