Posts Tagged ‘Bitcoin’

By Richard Martin

Fortune favours the bold. Not the timid.

We do ourselves a disservice if we don’t at least try to experiment with new technologies and new approaches. I ordered my first book on the topic of Bitcoin on Amazon on 28 Feb 21 (The Bitcoin Standard, by Saifedean Ammous), ordered a hardware wallet on Amazon on 19 Mar 21, then acquired my first BTC on a Canadian exchange on 23 Mar 21. It was only about $200 but it was enough to get started and to learn what it was all about. It’s funny what happens when you have skin in the game.

This has made me realize that I’ve taken this approach all of my adult life. I find the best way to learn is to invest a bit of resources and take it from there. If it’s not for me, the cost was minimal and bounded in time and space. I can move on having acquired more knowledge. If I continue to find value or be intrigued, I go deeper down the rabbit hole until I’m satisfied I’ve learned enough or want to go even further.

It’s the same with machine learning models like GPT and DeepL. I subscribed to DeepL after experimenting with the free version a bit and now use it for all my translation tasks. It’s almost perfect for English to French, less so for the opposite. But it’s great productivity boost. I can generate a reasonably accurate translation and take it from there. Now DeepL also has a writing engine as a beta and I’ve started experimenting with that.

I was wondering about how I could raise my productivity for cognitive tasks when I heard about GPT-4. I hadn’t paid much attention to ChatGPT before that, but version 4 seemed compelling. I invested a whopping $20 for a month of access and started experimenting with it. Is it perfect? No. Can it tell jokes like Seinfeld? Who knows and who cares. The important point is that GPT presents another opportunity to boost my productivity, save time and effort, and focus on more high-value areas for me and my clients.

But to get those advantages, it’s not enough to sit there and wonder how a new approach, technology, or product could be of benefit. We have to try it, or at least experiment a bit to see what it’s all about. And stop asking “what about this and what about that” type questions. There are ways to achieve this without betting the farm. Learn about them and start applying them.

By Richard Martin

I started this Q&A chain this morning with GPT 4.0 just to see how it would do. The more I asked, and it answered, the more I went down the rabbit hole. All in all, I think GPT 4 did a pretty good job of answering my queries in a fair and comprehensive manner. My questions are highlighted in bold typeface.

WARNING! Do your own research.

NOTE: The knowledge cut-off date upon which the GPT-4.0 model is based occurred in September 2021. The model can’t answer questions about anything that happened after that point in time. Anything it reports concerning relative valuations and comparisons of advantages and disadvantages of different types of cryptocurrencies and actual tokens should be taken as out of date. I know for a fact that Solana, Cardano, and others have since crashed. Ethereum is also now operating under a Proof of Stake (PoS) protocol, which has massive implications which should be researched on their own.

None of this is meant as specific advice, much less financial advice, but it does show two things. 1) ChatGPT 4 is quite good as a means at least to start researching a topic by asking general questions and then more and more specific ones. But you still need to know something about the topic to ask relevant questions and validate the results. 2) It gives a good overview of various Bitcoin-related topics, including countering much of the misconceptions and FUD – Fear, Uncertainty, Doubt.

What are the 5 best reasons to own and use Bitcoin?

There are several reasons people may find Bitcoin attractive as an asset or for conducting transactions. Here are five of the most commonly cited reasons:

  • Decentralization: Bitcoin operates on a decentralized, peer-to-peer network, which means it is not controlled by any single entity or government. This independence from centralized authorities can offer users more control over their financial transactions and assets.
  • Limited supply and deflationary nature: Bitcoin has a fixed supply cap of 21 million coins, which can make it an attractive store of value. Its deflationary nature, in theory, protects it from inflation, making it potentially more valuable over time as traditional currencies lose purchasing power due to inflation.
  • Lower transaction costs: Bitcoin transactions can have lower fees compared to traditional banking and payment systems, especially for international transfers. This can be advantageous for both individuals and businesses, as it can reduce the cost of sending and receiving payments across borders.
  • Privacy and security: Bitcoin transactions are pseudonymous, meaning that while the transactions are recorded on a public ledger (the blockchain), the real-world identity of the users is not directly tied to their transactions. Additionally, Bitcoin’s underlying technology, blockchain, provides a secure and tamper-proof way to store transaction data, which can minimize the risk of fraud or hacking.
  • Investment and speculation: Many people see Bitcoin as an investment opportunity due to its historical price increases and the potential for future growth. As a result, they buy and hold Bitcoin in the hopes of profiting from its long-term appreciation.

It’s important to note that Bitcoin also has its share of risks and challenges, such as price volatility, regulatory uncertainty, and environmental concerns related to the energy consumption of Bitcoin mining. As with any financial decision, it is crucial to carefully weigh the potential benefits and risks before deciding to own or use Bitcoin.

What are the five best reasons not to own Bitcoin or use it?

There are also several reasons people may find Bitcoin unattractive or unsuitable for their needs. Here are five of the most commonly cited reasons:

  • Price volatility: Bitcoin’s price has experienced significant fluctuations since its inception, leading to substantial gains and losses for investors. This volatility can make it a risky investment for those who cannot tolerate large swings in value or who are seeking stable returns.
  • Regulatory uncertainty: Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies face an uncertain regulatory environment in many countries. Governments may impose restrictions, taxes, or even bans on cryptocurrency usage, which could impact the value and utility of Bitcoin and make it difficult to use or access your funds.
  • Limited mainstream adoption: Despite the growing interest in cryptocurrencies, Bitcoin is not yet widely accepted as a form of payment by most merchants and service providers. This limits its utility for everyday transactions and makes it less practical as a currency compared to traditional fiat currencies.
  • Environmental concerns: Bitcoin mining, the process of securing the network and creating new coins, is energy-intensive and relies largely on non-renewable energy sources. This has raised concerns about the environmental impact of Bitcoin mining, contributing to climate change and resource depletion.
  • Technical complexity and security risks: The management of private keys, wallets, and other aspects of Bitcoin can be complex and confusing for those without a strong technical background. Moreover, the irreversible nature of Bitcoin transactions can lead to loss of funds if the private keys are lost, stolen, or not properly secured. Additionally, the pseudonymous nature of Bitcoin transactions, while offering privacy benefits, can also facilitate illicit activities and make it difficult to recover funds in case of fraud or theft.

As with any financial decision, it is essential to carefully weigh the potential benefits and risks before deciding to own or use Bitcoin. Understanding your own financial goals, risk tolerance, and technical expertise will help you determine if Bitcoin is right for you.

What distinguishes Bitcoin from all other cryptocurrencies?

Bitcoin, as the first and most well-known cryptocurrency, has several unique characteristics that set it apart from other cryptocurrencies. Some of these distinguishing features include:

  • Pioneer status: Launched in 2009 by an individual or group of individuals under the pseudonym Satoshi Nakamoto, Bitcoin was the first successful implementation of a decentralized digital currency. It introduced the world to blockchain technology, which underpins most cryptocurrencies today. As the original cryptocurrency, Bitcoin has a strong historical significance and a proven track record.
  • Network effect and market dominance: Bitcoin has the largest market capitalization among all cryptocurrencies and enjoys a strong network effect. This means that as more people use Bitcoin, its value and utility increase. This network effect has helped Bitcoin maintain its position as the dominant cryptocurrency and has led to greater acceptance, visibility, and liquidity compared to other digital assets.
  • Robust security: Bitcoin’s network is the largest and most secure among all cryptocurrencies. It is secured by a vast amount of computing power contributed by miners worldwide, making it extremely difficult and expensive for any attacker to manipulate the blockchain. This high level of security has helped Bitcoin maintain trust among its users.
  • Decentralization and community governance: Bitcoin has a decentralized development community, with numerous contributors working on its open-source code. While there are other cryptocurrencies that also have decentralized development, the extent of decentralization and the number of developers contributing to the Bitcoin project remain unparalleled.
  • Limited supply: Bitcoin has a fixed maximum supply of 21 million coins, which will be gradually mined over time. This limited supply is intended to make Bitcoin a deflationary currency and potentially a store of value. While some other cryptocurrencies also have capped supplies, Bitcoin’s supply limit is one of the most well-known and widely recognized.

While Bitcoin has several distinguishing features, it’s important to note that other cryptocurrencies have also introduced innovations and improvements to address specific issues or cater to particular use cases. As the cryptocurrency market continues to evolve, it is crucial to assess the unique characteristics and value proposition of each digital asset before making any investment or usage decision.

How is Bitcoin being used in novel ways to better manage energy usage?

In recent years, there have been several novel ways in which Bitcoin and its underlying technology have been utilized to better manage energy usage and promote sustainability. Some of these innovative approaches include

  • Energy arbitrage: Some Bitcoin mining operations take advantage of periods of low energy demand and excess supply, such as during off-peak hours or when renewable energy production is high. By mining Bitcoin during these times, miners can utilize the otherwise wasted energy and potentially stabilize grid demand.
  • Renewable energy integration: Many Bitcoin mining companies have started to invest in renewable energy sources, such as solar, wind, or hydropower, to power their operations. This not only helps to reduce the carbon footprint of Bitcoin mining but also promotes the adoption of clean energy technologies.
  • Waste energy utilization: Some mining operations are situated near sources of waste energy, such as natural gas flaring sites or industrial plants, to capture and use the otherwise wasted energy for Bitcoin mining. This process can help reduce the overall environmental impact of energy production.
  • Demand response programs: Bitcoin mining operations can participate in demand response programs by adjusting their energy consumption in response to grid conditions and pricing signals. This can help balance the electricity grid, reduce strain on the infrastructure, and contribute to overall energy efficiency.
  • Heat recovery: Mining Bitcoin generates a significant amount of heat as a byproduct. Some mining facilities have developed innovative ways to capture and utilize this waste heat, such as heating nearby buildings or greenhouses, which can help increase overall energy efficiency.

While these initiatives are promising, it’s important to note that the overall environmental impact of Bitcoin mining remains a concern. As the industry continues to grow and evolve, it will be crucial for stakeholders to prioritize sustainable practices and invest in energy-efficient technologies to minimize the environmental footprint of Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies.

You should consider Bitcoin’s energy impact in comparison with other ways to produce money and conduct international finance.

When assessing the energy impact of Bitcoin, it’s important to consider its energy consumption in the context of other methods of producing money and conducting international finance. Here are some points of comparison:

  • Traditional banking and payment systems: Traditional banking and financial institutions also consume significant amounts of energy for maintaining data centers, branches, and ATMs, as well as processing transactions. While Bitcoin’s energy consumption per transaction can be higher than that of traditional payment systems, the overall energy consumption of the global banking system is much larger.
  • Central bank currency production: The process of minting coins and printing banknotes consumes energy and resources. While it’s difficult to make a direct comparison between the energy consumption of Bitcoin mining and physical currency production, it’s worth considering that cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin do not require the same level of physical resources.
  • Gold mining and storage: Gold, often considered a traditional store of value, has a considerable environmental impact due to the energy-intensive nature of mining and refining. Comparing the environmental footprint of Bitcoin to that of gold can provide another perspective on the sustainability of various stores of value.
  • Cross-border transactions: Conducting international transactions using traditional banking systems can be slow and expensive due to multiple intermediaries and currency conversions. Bitcoin, on the other hand, enables fast and relatively cheap international transactions, potentially offsetting some of its energy consumption by providing a more efficient alternative for certain use cases.
  • Energy consumption trends: As awareness of Bitcoin’s energy impact grows, the industry is increasingly focusing on adopting renewable energy sources and improving the energy efficiency of mining hardware. These trends could help mitigate the environmental impact of Bitcoin over time.

It’s important to consider the energy consumption of Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies in the broader context of the global financial system. While Bitcoin does have an environmental impact, it’s essential to weigh its benefits, such as decentralization, borderless transactions, and financial inclusion, against the energy costs associated with traditional financial systems. Balancing these factors can help in forming a more comprehensive understanding of the overall impact of Bitcoin and cryptocurrencies on the environment and global finance.

What are the proven failings, if any, of Bitcoin?

While Bitcoin has been a ground-breaking innovation, it is not without its challenges and limitations. Some of the proven failings of Bitcoin include:

  • Scalability: Bitcoin’s transaction throughput is limited by its block size and block time, which can lead to slow transaction processing and higher fees during periods of network congestion. This limitation makes it difficult for Bitcoin to compete with traditional payment systems like Visa or Mastercard in terms of transaction volume and speed.
  • Energy consumption: As discussed earlier, Bitcoin mining consumes a significant amount of energy, raising concerns about its environmental impact. The Proof-of-Work consensus algorithm used by Bitcoin requires miners to perform energy-intensive computations, which contributes to its high energy consumption.
  • Price volatility: Bitcoin has experienced extreme price fluctuations throughout its history, making it a highly volatile asset. This volatility can be a barrier to its widespread adoption as a stable store of value or medium of exchange.
  • Usability and user experience: For many users, Bitcoin can be difficult to understand and use, especially when it comes to securely managing private keys and wallets. This complexity can be a barrier to entry for non-technical users and limit its mainstream adoption.
  • Regulatory challenges: Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies face an uncertain regulatory landscape in many jurisdictions. Governments may impose restrictions or taxes on cryptocurrency usage, which could affect the value and utility of Bitcoin.
  • Illicit activities: The pseudonymous nature of Bitcoin transactions has been exploited for illicit activities, such as money laundering, ransomware attacks, and dark web transactions. This association with criminal activities can tarnish Bitcoin’s reputation and hinder its mainstream acceptance.
  • Centralization risk: Although Bitcoin was designed to be decentralized, mining has become increasingly centralized over time, with a small number of large mining pools controlling a significant portion of the network’s hashing power. This centralization can potentially compromise the security and decentralization principles of the network.

Despite these challenges, the Bitcoin ecosystem continues to evolve, with ongoing development efforts aimed at addressing its limitations and improving its utility. The future of Bitcoin will depend on the ability of its community and developers to overcome these challenges and adapt to changing regulatory, technological, and market conditions.

What is being done to improve its usability and user experience?

Improvements in Bitcoin’s usability and user experience are crucial for its mainstream adoption. Several ongoing efforts and developments are addressing these challenges:

  • User-friendly wallets and applications: Many wallet providers and developers are focusing on creating intuitive, user-friendly interfaces for managing Bitcoin transactions. These wallets often include features such as simplified backup and recovery processes, clear fee structures, and seamless integration with popular applications and services.
  • Layer-2 solutions: Technologies such as the Lightning Network are being developed to address Bitcoin’s scalability issues and improve transaction speeds and costs. The Lightning Network allows for the creation of payment channels between users, enabling faster and cheaper transactions off the main blockchain. This can improve the user experience for small, everyday transactions.
  • Educational resources: Numerous educational resources, such as articles, videos, and online courses, are being created to help people understand and use Bitcoin more easily. These resources aim to demystify the technology and provide guidance on best practices for securely managing Bitcoin wallets and transactions.
  • Streamlining onboarding: Many cryptocurrency exchanges and services are working to simplify the process of buying and selling Bitcoin, making it more accessible to non-technical users. This includes improving the user interface and reducing the complexity of the onboarding process.
  • Integration with existing financial services: Some banks and financial institutions are exploring ways to integrate Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies into their existing services, such as offering cryptocurrency trading, custody solutions, or integrating Bitcoin payments into their existing payment infrastructure.
  • Merchant adoption: As more merchants and service providers accept Bitcoin as a payment method, users will find it easier to use Bitcoin for everyday transactions. This can be facilitated by payment processors and point-of-sale systems that streamline the process of accepting Bitcoin payments for merchants.
  • Open-source development: The Bitcoin development community is continuously working on improvements to the core protocol, addressing security and performance concerns, and proposing enhancements that can make the technology more accessible and user-friendly.

These ongoing efforts aim to make Bitcoin more usable and accessible to a broader audience. As the technology matures and its ecosystem evolves, it is expected that the user experience will continue to improve, potentially driving further adoption of Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies.

How are Bitcoin’s supposed scalability issues being addressed?

Bitcoin’s scalability issues are a concern for its long-term viability and mainstream adoption. Several approaches are being pursued to address these challenges:

  • Segregated Witness (SegWit): Implemented in 2017, SegWit is a protocol upgrade that helps increase the number of transactions that can fit into a block by separating the transaction signatures from the transaction data. This allows more transactions to be processed per block, thus increasing the overall throughput of the network.
  • Schnorr Signatures: This cryptographic signature scheme can help reduce the size of transaction signatures, allowing more transactions to fit into a block. By decreasing the amount of data required for each transaction, Schnorr signatures can contribute to improved scalability and reduced fees.
  • Layer-2 solutions: These are off-chain protocols built on top of the main Bitcoin blockchain, aiming to provide faster and cheaper transactions. The most prominent layer-2 solution is the Lightning Network, which enables the creation of payment channels between users, allowing them to transact off the main blockchain. When the channel is closed, the net result of the transactions is settled on the main Bitcoin blockchain. This approach significantly improves transaction speeds and reduces fees, making Bitcoin more suitable for microtransactions and everyday use.
  • Block size and protocol optimizations: Some proposals aim to increase the block size to accommodate more transactions per block, while others focus on optimizing the Bitcoin protocol to improve its efficiency. However, increasing the block size remains a controversial topic in the Bitcoin community, as it may lead to further centralization of mining power and increase the resource requirements for running a full node.
  • Sidechains: Sidechains are separate blockchains that are interoperable with the main Bitcoin blockchain. They allow users to move their bitcoins between the main chain and the sidechain, enabling faster and cheaper transactions on the sidechain while still benefiting from the security of the main chain. Examples of sidechain projects include Liquid Network and Rootstock (RSK).
  • Future protocol upgrades: Bitcoin’s development community is actively researching and proposing additional protocol upgrades and improvements that could further enhance its scalability. These improvements may include changes to the consensus algorithm, network structure, or other aspects of the technology.

It’s important to note that addressing Bitcoin’s scalability issues is a complex and ongoing process. As the technology and ecosystem evolve, the community will continue to explore and implement solutions that can improve Bitcoin’s capacity to handle more transactions and cater to a broader range of use cases.

How do side chains work?

Sidechains are separate, independent blockchains that run parallel to a primary blockchain, such as Bitcoin or Ethereum. They are designed to enable new features, improve scalability, and facilitate faster and cheaper transactions without affecting the security and stability of the primary chain. Sidechains work by allowing users to move assets, such as tokens or cryptocurrencies, between the primary chain and the sidechain. Here’s a basic overview of how sidechains work:

  • Two-way peg: A two-way peg mechanism is used to establish a fixed exchange rate between the primary chain and the sidechain. This allows users to lock their assets on the primary chain and receive an equivalent amount of assets on the sidechain.
  • Asset transfer: To transfer assets from the primary chain to the sidechain, a user first sends their assets to a special address or smart contract on the primary chain. This locks the assets and signals the sidechain to create a corresponding amount of sidechain tokens. The user can then use these tokens on the sidechain, taking advantage of its features and capabilities.
  • Sidechain consensus: Sidechains can use their own consensus algorithms, which may be different from the primary chain’s consensus mechanism. This allows sidechains to experiment with new algorithms and optimize their performance without affecting the primary chain’s security.
  • Sidechain security: Sidechains often rely on their own network of validators or miners to secure their transactions. However, some sidechains may use more advanced mechanisms, such as merge mining or federated security models, to leverage the security of the primary chain’s network.
  • Asset redemption: When a user wants to transfer their assets back to the primary chain, they first need to initiate a transaction on the sidechain, destroying the sidechain tokens. This signals the primary chain to unlock the corresponding amount of assets, which are then returned to the user’s primary chain address.

Sidechains can provide several benefits, such as enabling faster transactions, reducing fees, and allowing for the testing and implementation of new features without affecting the primary chain. However, they can also come with their own set of risks and challenges, such as potential security vulnerabilities or the possibility of reduced decentralization.

Could sidechains facilitate Bitcoin lending?

Yes, sidechains could potentially facilitate Bitcoin lending by creating a separate, parallel blockchain specifically designed for lending purposes. This sidechain could implement smart contracts and other features that are not native to the Bitcoin blockchain, making it possible to create more sophisticated and flexible lending platforms.

Here’s how a Bitcoin lending sidechain might work:

  • Asset transfer: A user locks their Bitcoin on the main chain and receives an equivalent amount of sidechain tokens, which represent the locked Bitcoin. This process is enabled by a two-way peg mechanism, ensuring that the value of the sidechain tokens is directly tied to the value of the locked Bitcoin.
  • Smart contracts: The sidechain can support smart contracts that define the terms and conditions of the lending process, such as interest rates, loan duration, and collateral requirements. These smart contracts can automatically enforce the agreed-upon terms, reducing the need for intermediaries and making the lending process more efficient and transparent.
  • Collateral management: Borrowers can lock their sidechain tokens as collateral in a smart contract, which can automatically liquidate the collateral if the borrower fails to repay the loan as agreed. This helps to protect lenders from the risk of borrower default.
  • Interest payments and loan repayment: The sidechain can facilitate interest payments and loan repayments through its native tokens or other supported assets. Smart contracts can automate these processes, ensuring that lenders receive their interest payments on time and that loans are repaid according to the agreed terms.
  • Asset redemption: After the loan is repaid, the sidechain tokens can be transferred back to the main Bitcoin blockchain, where they can be redeemed for the original locked Bitcoin.

Using sidechains for Bitcoin lending can help to overcome some of the limitations of the Bitcoin blockchain, such as its lack of native support for smart contracts. However, it’s essential to consider the potential risks and challenges associated with sidechain-based lending platforms, such as the security and decentralization of the sidechain, regulatory compliance, and counterparty risks.

Could such lending practices lead to a kind of fractional-reserve banking?

Fractional-reserve banking refers to a banking system where banks hold only a fraction of their customers’ deposits as reserves and lend out the remaining amount. In the context of Bitcoin lending and sidechains, a similar scenario could theoretically emerge if lending platforms or intermediaries engage in practices that resemble fractional-reserve banking.

For instance, a platform could lend out more Bitcoin than they have in their reserves, using the sidechain tokens as a representation of the locked Bitcoin. If borrowers default and the platform doesn’t have enough reserves to cover the loss, this could lead to a solvency crisis similar to what can happen in traditional fractional-reserve banking systems.

However, there are several factors that could mitigate the risk of fractional-reserve banking practices in the context of Bitcoin lending:

  • Transparency: Blockchain technology allows for greater transparency in lending practices. If implemented properly, users can verify the amount of locked Bitcoin and the loans issued on the sidechain, making it difficult for platforms to engage in fractional-reserve lending without being detected.
  • Smart contracts: The use of smart contracts in lending platforms can help automate and enforce the lending terms, including collateral requirements and liquidation processes. This can reduce the likelihood of platforms engaging in risky lending practices, as the smart contracts can be designed to prevent over-leveraging and ensure that adequate collateral is maintained.
  • Decentralization: Decentralized lending platforms can help to distribute risk across a network of participants, reducing the concentration of risk in any single entity. This could make it less likely for fractional-reserve lending practices to emerge, as individual participants would have a greater incentive to manage their risk exposure carefully.
  • Regulation and oversight: As the cryptocurrency industry matures, it’s likely that regulatory oversight will increase, potentially helping to prevent risky lending practices like fractional-reserve banking. However, this will depend on the specific regulatory frameworks adopted by different jurisdictions and their effectiveness in overseeing lending platforms.

While the risk of fractional-reserve banking practices in Bitcoin lending cannot be entirely ruled out, the unique features of blockchain technology and the potential for greater transparency, automation, and decentralization can help to mitigate this risk. It will be crucial for the industry to adopt best practices and responsible lending standards to maintain the trust and stability of the ecosystem.

How do Layer-2 solutions and sidechains differ?

Layer-2 solutions and sidechains both aim to enhance the scalability and functionality of a primary blockchain, such as Bitcoin or Ethereum, but they differ in their architecture and implementation.

Layer-2 solutions:

  • Layer-2 solutions are built on top of the primary blockchain and leverage its security and decentralization properties without requiring a separate consensus mechanism.
  • Layer-2 solutions operate off-chain, meaning transactions occur outside of the primary blockchain but are eventually settled on-chain. This enables faster and cheaper transactions while maintaining the security of the primary blockchain.
  • Examples of layer-2 solutions include the Lightning Network for Bitcoin and the Optimistic Rollups and ZK-Rollups for Ethereum.


  • Sidechains are separate, independent blockchains that run parallel to the primary blockchain. They have their own consensus mechanisms and can be customized to support unique features or capabilities.
  • Sidechains use a two-way peg mechanism to allow assets to be transferred between the primary chain and the sidechain. Transactions on the sidechain are processed separately from the primary chain, allowing for improved scalability and potentially faster transaction processing.
  • Examples of sidechains include the Liquid Network and Rootstock (RSK) for Bitcoin and the xDai chain for Ethereum.

In summary, layer-2 solutions work on top of the primary blockchain and focus on off-chain transactions that are eventually settled on-chain, while sidechains are separate blockchains that interact with the primary chain through asset transfers. Both approaches have their advantages and drawbacks, and their suitability depends on the specific use case and requirements of the project or application being built.

What is Tether?

Tether (USDT) is a type of stablecoin, a cryptocurrency designed to maintain a stable value by pegging it to a reserve of assets, typically a fiat currency like the US dollar. Tether, in particular, is pegged to the US dollar on a 1:1 basis, meaning that one Tether token (USDT) is intended to always be worth one US dollar. This peg is maintained by the company Tether Limited, which claims to hold reserves of US dollars in a bank account to back the circulating supply of USDT.

Tether aims to combine the stability of fiat currencies with the advantages of digital currencies, such as fast transactions, low fees, and accessibility through cryptocurrency exchanges. Since its value is tied to the US dollar, Tether is often used by traders and investors as a way to hedge against the volatility of other cryptocurrencies, park their funds during market turbulence, or quickly move funds between exchanges without having to rely on traditional banking channels.

Tether is available on multiple blockchains, including Ethereum, Bitcoin (through the Omni Layer Protocol), Tron, and others. As a result, USDT exists in different versions, such as ERC-20 tokens on Ethereum or TRC-20 tokens on Tron, but they all represent the same US dollar-pegged value.

It is important to note that Tether has faced controversies and criticism regarding its transparency, auditing practices, and the accuracy of its claims about the reserves backing the USDT tokens. Despite these concerns, Tether remains one of the most widely used stablecoins in the cryptocurrency market.

So, a stablecoin is a type of cryptocurrency? What are the others? Also explain their characteristics and advantages and disadvantages.

Yes, a stablecoin is a type of cryptocurrency. Cryptocurrencies can be broadly categorized into the following types, each with its unique characteristics, advantages, and disadvantages:

Bitcoin and Bitcoin-like cryptocurrencies:

  • Characteristics:
    • Bitcoin (BTC) is the first and most well-known cryptocurrency. Other similar cryptocurrencies, such as Litecoin (LTC) and Bitcoin Cash (BCH), are often referred to as Bitcoin-like cryptocurrencies.
    • They are primarily designed to function as digital currencies for peer-to-peer transactions.
  • Advantages:
    • Decentralized and resistant to censorship.
    • Limited supply, which can protect against inflation.
    • Wide adoption and acceptance, particularly for Bitcoin.
  • Disadvantages:
    • Scalability issues, leading to slow transaction times and higher fees during peak periods.
    • High price volatility, which can make them less suitable for everyday transactions or as a store of value.
    • High energy consumption in Proof-of-Work mining, particularly for Bitcoin.

Altcoins (Alternative coins):

  • Characteristics:
    • Altcoins are cryptocurrencies other than Bitcoin.
    • They often include improvements or different features compared to Bitcoin, such as faster transaction speeds, enhanced privacy, or different consensus algorithms.
  • Examples:
    • Ethereum (ETH)
    • Ripple (XRP)
    • Cardano (ADA)
    • Monero (XMR)
  • Advantages:
    • Potential for innovation and unique features.
    • Can address specific use cases or target particular industries.
    • Sometimes faster or more efficient than Bitcoin.
  • Disadvantages:
    • Lower adoption and acceptance compared to Bitcoin.
    • Can be more susceptible to market manipulation and price volatility.
    • Some altcoins may not have a strong development team or long-term viability.


  • Characteristics:
    • Pegged to a stable asset, such as a fiat currency or a commodity, to maintain a stable value.
    • Often used to hedge against volatility in the cryptocurrency market.
  • Examples:
    • Tether (USDT)
    • USD Coin (USDC)
    • Paxos Standard (PAX)
  • Advantages:
    • Reduced price volatility, making them suitable for everyday transactions and as a store of value.
    • Can facilitate trading and moving funds between exchanges quickly.
    • Bridge between traditional financial systems and cryptocurrencies. 
  • Disadvantages:
    • Often rely on a central authority to maintain the peg, which can introduce counterparty risk.
    • May require regular audits to ensure transparency and trust, which is not always guaranteed.
    • Susceptible to regulatory scrutiny due to their ties to traditional financial systems.

Utility tokens:

  • Characteristics:
    • Tokens designed to be used within a specific platform, ecosystem, or decentralized application (dApp).
    • Can serve various functions, such as access to a service, voting rights, or as a medium of exchange within the platform. 
  • Examples:
    • Chainlink (LINK)
    • Filecoin (FIL)
    • Basic Attention Token (BAT)
  • Advantages:
    • Can provide incentives for users to participate in and contribute to the platform.
    • Potential for value appreciation if the underlying platform or dApp gains adoption and usage.
  • Disadvantages:
    • Value and utility are often dependent on the success of the underlying platform or dApp.
    • May face regulatory scrutiny, particularly if they resemble securities.

Governance tokens:

  • Characteristics:
    • Used to participate in the governance and decision-making processes of a decentralized platform or protocol.
    • Holders can propose, discuss, and vote on changes to the platform.
  • Examples:
    • Maker (MKR)
    • Compound (COMP)
    • Uniswap (UNI)
  • Advantages:
    • Empowers users to have a direct say in the development and management of the platform.
    • Can align the interests of users, developers, and other stakeholders. 
  • Disadvantages:
    • Value can be dependent on the success and adoption of the underlying platform.
    • Possibility of low voter participation, leading to centralization of decision-making

Could a stablecoin be backed by or pegged to Bitcoin?

Yes, a stablecoin could be backed by or pegged to Bitcoin, but it would have some inherent challenges due to Bitcoin’s price volatility. A stablecoin pegged to Bitcoin would be a cryptocurrency designed to maintain a stable value relative to Bitcoin rather than a fiat currency like the US dollar.

In this case, the stablecoin’s value would fluctuate in relation to fiat currencies, as it would be pegged to Bitcoin, which is known for its price volatility. This would make it less effective as a stable store of value compared to traditional stablecoins pegged to more stable assets like the US dollar or other fiat currencies.

However, such a stablecoin could still have some use cases within the crypto ecosystem, such as providing a way to hedge against the volatility of other cryptocurrencies in relation to Bitcoin or facilitating transactions within platforms that primarily deal with Bitcoin-denominated assets.

Creating and maintaining a stablecoin pegged to Bitcoin would require a mechanism to adjust the stablecoin supply and manage reserves, ensuring that the peg remains stable despite Bitcoin’s price fluctuations. This could involve complex algorithms, smart contracts, or other mechanisms to track and adjust the value of the stablecoin relative to Bitcoin.

In summary, while it’s possible to create a stablecoin pegged to Bitcoin, it would have limited utility as a stable store of value due to Bitcoin’s price volatility. Instead, such a stablecoin would likely find niche use cases within the crypto ecosystem, where stability relative to Bitcoin is desired.

How does the Lightning Network work?

The Lightning Network is a Layer-2 solution built on top of the Bitcoin blockchain, designed to enable fast, scalable, and low-cost transactions. It achieves this by creating off-chain payment channels between users, allowing multiple transactions to occur off-chain before being settled on the Bitcoin blockchain.

Here’s an overview of how the Lightning Network works:

  • Opening a payment channel: Two parties, Alice and Bob, create a multi-signature (multisig) wallet, which requires signatures from both parties to spend its funds. They then create and sign a transaction that funds this multisig wallet on the Bitcoin blockchain. This transaction is considered the opening of a payment channel between Alice and Bob.
  • Updating the channel balance: Once the payment channel is open, Alice and Bob can make multiple transactions between them, updating the channel balance without recording these transactions on the Bitcoin blockchain. They do this by exchanging signed transactions that redistribute the funds in the multisig wallet. These transactions are not broadcasted to the network and can be updated as many times as needed.
  • Closing the channel: When Alice and Bob want to close the payment channel, they can agree on the final channel balance and sign a transaction that distributes the funds in the multisig wallet accordingly. This closing transaction is then broadcasted to the Bitcoin network and recorded on the blockchain, effectively settling the net result of their off-chain transactions.
  • Routing payments: The real power of the Lightning Network lies in its ability to route payments between users who do not have a direct payment channel. If Alice wants to send funds to Carol, but they don’t have a direct payment channel, the Lightning Network can find a path through a series of connected payment channels (e.g., Alice -> Bob -> Carol) to route the payment. This process uses a routing protocol called the “Onion Routing Protocol,” which helps preserve the privacy of transactions and allows for the efficient routing of payments.

The Lightning Network significantly improves Bitcoin’s transaction throughput, speed, and cost by allowing multiple off-chain transactions to occur before settling on the main blockchain. It also enables micropayments and cross-chain atomic swaps, further expanding the utility of the Bitcoin network. However, it’s worth noting that the Lightning Network is still a developing technology, and some challenges remain, such as liquidity, routing efficiency, and user experience.

It sounds like Layer-2 solutions, sidechains and stablecoins offer tremendous potential to build out a whole new international financial system.

Indeed, Layer-2 solutions, sidechains, and stablecoins offer significant potential to transform and enhance the international financial system. These technologies aim to address the limitations of existing blockchain networks, such as scalability, transaction costs, and volatility, while preserving the core benefits of decentralization, security, and accessibility.

Layer-2 solutions and sidechains can dramatically improve transaction throughput, speed, and cost, enabling a wide range of use cases that were previously not feasible on the base layer of blockchains. They allow for the creation of decentralized applications (dApps), financial services, and various other innovations that can interact with and complement traditional financial systems.

Stablecoins offer a bridge between the traditional financial system and the cryptocurrency world by providing a stable store of value and medium of exchange. They can be used for remittances, cross-border transactions, and a variety of other financial services, often with lower fees and faster processing times than traditional banking solutions.

Together, these technologies can help create a more inclusive, efficient, and accessible international financial system by:

  • Expanding access to financial services: Cryptocurrencies and blockchain-based solutions can provide access to financial services for unbanked and underbanked populations worldwide, enabling them to save, invest, and transact digitally.
  • Facilitating faster and cheaper cross-border transactions: By leveraging the global nature of cryptocurrencies and blockchain networks, cross-border transactions can be executed more quickly and cost-effectively than traditional methods, benefiting businesses, individuals, and the global economy.
  • Increasing financial transparency and security: The use of blockchain technology can help increase transparency and trust in the financial system, reducing fraud, money laundering, and other illicit activities.
  • Fostering innovation: Layer-2 solutions, sidechains, and stablecoins enable new business models, financial products, and services that were not previously possible, driving innovation and growth in the financial sector.
  • Enhancing financial resilience: Decentralized financial systems can provide increased resilience against single points of failure, reducing systemic risks associated with centralized institutions.

While these technologies hold great promise, it is essential to address the challenges and risks associated with their widespread adoption. This includes tackling regulatory compliance, ensuring the security and privacy of users, and fostering the development of user-friendly interfaces and applications. By overcoming these challenges, Layer-2 solutions, sidechains, and stablecoins can help build a more efficient, inclusive, and innovative international financial system.

Bitcoin Can’t Be Stopped

Posted: March 24, 2023 in Economics, War
Tags: ,

By Richard Martin

There is Bitcoin, and there is everything else. The legacy financial system is a dead man walking. Banks and other financial institutions must start adapting now or the same thing will happen to them as happened to the old media businesses with the invention of the world wide web and social media.

I think that may be one of the reasons that the Fed, SEC and other federal agencies are clamping down on crypto exchanges. There’s also a concern that this is part of attempt to choke crypto on-ramps and slow down transactions. I think they will succeed in eliminating most of the dubious players, but they won’t be able to stop Bitcoin.

It is my considered opinion than Bitcoin is unstoppable. There is no founder, no organization, no board, no CEO, no centralized system or hoard to seize. It’s a transparent, decentralized, open-source protocol spread around the world. Its tokens are completely fungible and can be taken off exchanges. They can be safeguarded in cold storage in multi signature hardware wallets, and even exchanged by hand on small thumb drive like devices. Transactions can’t be censored.

The aptly named Lightning Network is designed to facilitate and accelerate Bitcoin transactions worldwide at the speed of the Internet at a fraction of the cost. The significant proportion of people on the the planet who are still unbanked now have a means to become banked. Think of the Kiva model and the Grameen Bank, but on steroids.

There are companies building micro hydro power stations in Africa and using the electricity to mine Bitcoin and as local market demand ramps up, they can shift to that and move to other projects. People in the developed world can’t see that and can’t see the need for it. But for the rest of the planet it is a massive opportunity.

There’s a US company called Strike that provides fund transfer services for cash remittances to El Salvador, the Philippines, Ghana, and Kenya, and more will be coming online in the next few years. Funds can be transferred directly between family members around the world instantaneously and for pennies.

The Bitcoin Network can’t be controlled by the United States or any other state. The bad guys are starting to cotton on to that fact, so it’s going to make economic warfare a lot harder, for example against Russia, Iran, and North Korea as it can probably be used to get around sanctions and export restrictions.

A quick review by Richard Martin

Bottom Line Up Front (BLUF): If you have any interest in, or concern about, collective and individual security, prosperity, cyber defence, psychological warfare, and/or the defence of our Western way of life, then you MUST read Jason Lowery‘s Softwar: A Novel Theory on Power Projection and the National Strategic Significance of Bitcoin.

Jason has developed and disseminated this thesis as a “deliverable” (his term) under the terms of a DoD sponsored Defense Fellowship at MIT. Defense fellowships are highly sought after and require sponsorship at the highest levels of the defense forces. They are intended to explore the implications of new technical developments, among other topics, for national security, defense policy, and the grand strategy of the US and its allies.

With that said, there are caveats (or rather factors) to consider, although they don’t take away from his fundamental thesis and the conclusions he derives therefrom. So, I’ll just come right out and say this. The document is a mixture of sound argumentation, infuriating over-generalizations, polemical statements, and rhetorical flourishes. As an academic thesis, it is extremely long, convoluted, repetitious, sometimes sophomoric. However, that’s MIT’s business, not ours.

But, and this is crucial, it is also filled with brilliant nuggets (almost on every page) that generate profound insights and epiphanies which in turn lead the reader to explore and reflect further. I predict that this work will have a significant influence within the national defense and collective security communities in the USA, Five Eyes, and NATO alliances.

By Richard Martin

I’m developing a new concept I call “encroachment syndrome.” I call it a syndrome as an analogy to a medical syndrome, where signs and symptoms appear together in individuals, without necessarily implying an understanding or acceptance of common etiology. I don’t mean to imply any form of medical disturbance or illness, either physical or mental. I use it merely as a metaphor.

Encroachment syndrome describes overlapping belief networks, to the effect that national and/or global elites (or other nefarious actors, usually hidden) are trying (and in some cases, succeeding) to encroach on individual rights and liberties, especially the right to earn a livelihood and to control one’s own body. Many of these beliefs appear to form networks of mutually supporting concepts, phrases, memes, narratives, stories, and explanations. They tend to overlap or appear in combination in individuals, who then tend to share these beliefs, mainly through online interactions and social media, which reinforces them and creates a community of belief.

Here is my initial take.

1. Resistance to Covid vaccine mandates. Notice I didn’t say “anti-vaxxers,” which refers to people who are against vaccines in general. Many people were inconvenienced, offended, skeptical, and/or fearful of the Covid vaccine and vaccine mandates. Many weren’t/aren’t against the vaccines if they are not obligatory and don’t threaten their livelihood. Some Covid-vaccine resisters even took the vaccines and boosters themselves as well as vaccines for other conditions. They just viewed it as a major encroachment on personal liberty and contrary to the Hippocratic Oath. I’m not saying they’re right or wrong, but that seems to be the motivating belief.

2. Against support and material/financial/military assistance of Ukraine. Individuals who promote this belief network mostly adhere to Russian talking points about how the Russian invasion of Ukraine is supposedly NATO’s fault. I won’t elaborate further, but you can read more in these articles: On Tankies and No, NATO Isn’t Responsible for Russia’s Invasion of Ukraine. This appears to stem from a fear of the war in Ukraine expanding into a world war because of US- and NATO-led support for Ukraine. I don’t think it is an irrational fear, but it appears to stem from disinformation and uninformed sharing of social media snippets and poor knowledge of history and strategy. It should be addressed by providing valid background knowledge supported by sound arguments that also address probabilities. See the following article on How to Argue Properly.

3. Supported and/or participated in the Truckers’ Convoy last winter in protest at government vaccination mandates and cross-border travel restrictions, especially as applied to Canadian truckers whose work involves driving to and from the USA. The basic issue wasn’t that people were against Covid vaccination per se, but rather the negative impacts on the truckers who chose to not get vaccinated. It was compounded by general dissatisfaction with pandemic shutdowns and the economic disruption and impoverishment this caused for many Canadians. This was all leveraged and amplified by what appeared to be Russian agitprop to exploit the situation. I wrote about this in February 2022: The Current Situation and What Is the Link Between the Russia-Ukraine Crisis and What Is Happening in Canada.

4. Anti-wokeness. Many people believe that there is an attack against traditional Western institutions and culture underway, fed by Marxist ideologues and activists. I won’t go into this more at this point, but suffice it say that I personally agree with many criticisms of wokeness. And please don’t ask me to define wokeness. Look it up for yourself.

5. Anti-globalist/anti-WEF beliefs. This is too complex to go into here, but it is also part of the syndrome. My current thinking is that it appears to stem from a deep-felt fear of losing one’s autonomy, of being infected by mind viruses, memes, and other “contaminants,” including of the physical body and the body politic. I am in the process of developing these ideas and will write more about them when ready.

6. Global financial system. The final phenomenon that is part of the encroachment syndrome I’m proposing is the belief that political and social elites control the global financial system to exploit ordinary people. Many bitcoiners fall into that category, though not all. Moreover, this appears to be a minority position. I personally hold Bitcoin as part of my portfolio and believe it has a lot of utility that will continue to develop and evolve. Here are some links about Bitcoin: Riot Platforms Brief on Bitcoin to White HouseThe Bitcoin Revolution and What It Means for Africa; and Bitcoin and “Crypto” in General: The Crux of the Issue.

I don’t mean to belittle any of these belief networks. I’m simply observing a concurrence of phenomena, many of which appear to have some grounding in fact and evidence. I don’t agree with the victory lap some of the vaccine resisters are taking right now because of conflicting scientific evidence regarding the efficacy of the Covid vaccines. It’s still too early to tell and the weight of evidence remains in favour of the vaccination campaigns. Whether the lockdowns and compulsory vaccine mandates in some institutions and organizations, public and private, were warranted, should be a matter for scientific debate and further research. This can’t be settled by social media sharing and one-upmanship.

Most of the belief networks do not yet appear to have spawned any social or political movements, but that doesn’t mean that they can’t or won’t. Also, I don’t think using a label like “alt-right,” “far right,” or “conspiracy theorists” is helpful. Such tactics result in conflict rather than understanding.

I will write more about this and related matters as my thinking develops.

The attached paper was shared recently on Twitter by Pierre Rochard of Riot Platforms. It is an excellent primer on Bitcoin and overview of some of the financial, technical, and economic issues surrounding its adoption and development. I have taken the liberty of combining the screen grabs Rochard shared on Twitter into a single pdf file. I’m assuming he won’t mind.

Bitcoin is not going anywhere, as it is a superior global medium of exchange, store of value, and digital asset. We must realize that there is Bitcoin and its 2nd layer transactional network known as Lightning, and then everything else. All other other “cryptocurrencies” are either failed “altcoins” (a.k.a. shitcoins), scams, or unregistered securities.

Bitcoin is the first, and still the only, fully digital commodity. New applications are being developed every day in an open source environment.

By Richard Martin

Mises and most Austrian economists states that praxeology and, specifically, economics, are purely deductive sciences. On the the other hand, most conventional economists claim that economics is an inductive, empirical science. This is a false dichotomy. It can be both.

In formulating a praxeological law, we can never be certain that we have identified all logical deductions from the axioms. Sometimes, we have to see the results of action to confirm the exhaustiveness of the axioms, inferences, and conclusions. There is always a real world limit to the definiteness of deductions. This is especially the case with new discoveries or inventions, which may have to be implemented in real life to see how they will play out.

The axioms and inferences may be completely valid, but it may nonetheless be necessary to see them in action “in the arena” to see their actual consequences in the behaviour of flesh and blood human beings. Bitcoin is in this category, as it was invented at a definite place and time. It is working itself out in a dialectical manner. We can therefore speak of its eduction from first principles and rules.

© Richard Martin

CBDCs Are Programmable Money

Posted: December 18, 2022 in Economics
Tags: , ,

By Richard Martin

Central Bank Digital Currencies are not just digital money, which is simply money represented symbolically in digital ledgers.

They are much more; they represent the switch to fully Programmable Money.

They are similar to loyalty program points, usable in only certain conditions and for specified purposes and durations.

With Programmable Money, the state no longer has to convince or coerce intermediaries to prevent use of money in proscribed exchanges or encourage its use in favoured transactions.

This is part of a wider trend toward private disintermediation, where private parties can contract directly without going through a third party.

Private disintermediation is generally a net positive, as it gives greater power to the parties to the exchange as they don’t have to convince a 3rd party to the transaction, nor do they have to conform to the 3rd party’s rules.

On the other hand, Programmable Money empowers the government as the unique intermediary for all monetary transactions, obviating the requirement to coerce or convince parties in specific transactions, especially intermediaries and other 3rd parties.

In other words, the state wishes businesses to be simple order takers who do the will of the government, rather than exercise their own free will or that of the owners/entrepreneurs.

When the government forces businesses to do its bidding, this is the very definition of fascism, turning the free market business owner and entrepreneur into executors of the government’s will, what the Nazis called Betriebsführer (shop or factory manager).

As Programmable Money, CBDCs will allow the issuer to take even this limited freedom of action and initiative away from the contracting parties and the intermediaries.

The government issuer of Programmable Money can build automatic functions in to the currency to achieve what it views as desirable outcomes or characteristics through predetermined activation and deactivation protocols.

This could include building in functionality to ensure a specified duration of validity (spend before date); specified use cases (only for approved exchanges); geographical constraints (only in certain territories); types of users (e.g., not for minors); and manipulation of currency denominations akin to stock splits, merges, and swaps (1 unit is now 10 units, or vice versa).

The fact that China is implementing a “digital yuan” should have us all concerned about this, especially if it becomes the norm in supposedly free societies.

© Richard Martin

by Richard Martin

Bitcoin has already been attacked unsuccessfully several times. If it were possible for a government to take down Bitcoin it would have already happened, and probably in China first. The ECB head, Christine Lagarde said almost two years ago that it was her goal to regulate crypto and bitcoin. The former is possible and should be done, the latter can’t. The ECB can’t, nor can the Fed. The only thing they can do is to conjure up CBDCs (Central Bank Digital Currencies), but if the market (i.e., the people) don’t accept them, there is nothing they can do. But they’ll try to talk them up and trash talk crypto, hoping that it will take down Bitcoin in the process. It won’t happen.

The fact that BTC can be lost or “hoarded” is irrelevant. In the past, gold was buried in hoards and graves and lost in shipwrecks. It didn’t affect a thing and only made the remaining gold more valuable. Bitcoins and other cryptos have been stolen from online exchanges since the start, the most prominent being the Mt. Gox heist in 2014.

But they can’t be stolen by hacking if you don’t hold them in an online exchange or on a device that can be accessed through the internet. These are known as “hot wallets,” a fitting term. If you hold BTC in a “cold wallet,” i.e., offline, then they can’t be stolen through hacking. There are also services that offer cold storage and multiple signatures to access them. Bitcoin ownership is linked to your private signature, which can be accessed through a 12-word or 24-word seed phrase. If you lose your cold wallet or it is stolen, all you have to do is enter your seed phrase in a new wallet to have access to BTC again, while the old wallet will be automatically zeroed. There are cases of people leaving countries with capital controls who memorized their seed phrase and reaccessed their BTC savings after they left their original jurisdiction.

There have already been hundreds of attempts to change the Bitcoin network by what’s known as hard forking the blockchain. All that happened is that the ones trying to use the “new” BTC lost out, as it depends on the consensus of work nodes (miners), verification nodes and holders/users. In 2017 there was a concerted and coordinated attempt by the great majority of miners — something like 80% — to hard fork the network to allow more and faster transactions. It failed miserably and the original blockchain won out.

There is a theoretical possibility of what’s called a “51% attack,” but that would require some entity to control over 50% of the mining power and then maintain that essentially forever. The energy costs would be astronomical and would require a grouping of sovereign entities around the world to even consider it at this stage. I’ll leave you to consider whether that is a realistic possibility.

The solution to that is to treat all crypto, except Bitcoin, as securities, and thus subject to securities laws and regulations. The heads of the SEC and the CFTC (Commodities Futures Trading Commission) in the US have both stated publicly that Bitcoin is a commodity. This means it’s an actual thing that can’t be manipulated or conjured out of thin air. It’s like pork bellies and corn. You have to expend energy and do work to create them.

 © Richard Martin

By Richard Martin

What follows is a summary of my current understanding of the “crypto” space, including Bitcoin. I am interested in this because I think it’s a fascinating topic and very important. I think there will be an overreaction (what else is new) with all kinds of regulations that will end up having unintended consequences. We keep reliving Bastiat’s “broken window fallacy.” See also the writings of Thomas Sowell.

1. “Crypto” is either a scam, a means to perpetrate a scam, or a bad idea that leads to unintended consequences, most of which are bad.

2. You don’t need crypto to scam people, although it helps if it’s dressed up as magic internet money. Madoff didn’t need crypto to scam people, nor did Ponzi (of eponymous fame), John Law, and many others throughout history too numerous to name or remember.

3. Setting aside the shady aspects of crypto, we can say that the whole “industry” comes from attempts to improve on Bitcoin through various means. The Bitcoin source code was published in late 2008 by an anonymous developer (or group) under the pseudonym “Satoshi Nakamoto.” “Nakamoto” disappeared into the ether at the end of 2010 and hasn’t been heard from since.

4. Anyone can download the code as it is freely available and try to tinker with it. But there is only one widely used and accepted implementation, Bitcoin Core, which is used to run most of the Bitcoin network.

5. So far, no one has come up with an objectively better version of the original Bitcoin concept, although there have been minor adjustments that have been adopted through the consensus of node operators, miners, and holders.

6. There have been attempts to take over the Bitcoin network, but they have all failed, and the network has only become more robust and resilient over time. In essence, you either: 1) need a massive amount of energy to take over Bitcoin, or 2) must convince the great majority of stakeholders to accept proposed changes. The former is coercive while the latter requires the changes to be advantageous for all stakeholders, both in perception and in reality.

7. Probably the best way to characterize BTC is as a form of digital gold. Like gold, it can’t be conjured out of thin air, like the USD and all other government enforced currencies. Like gold, it is intended to have saleability through time (i.e., preserve its value), but contrary to gold, it also has saleability through space (see The Bitcoin Standard by Saifedean Ammous). You can move BTC anywhere in the world at the speed of the internet at minimal cost. Gold requires massive storage and security, with enormous transportation costs to move safely and securely. As an example, France sent an aircraft carrier in the 1960s to New York to recover its gold that was still being held by the US Treasury because of WW2.

8. Given all this, BTC is intended to replace the USD as a global base money. Whether that happens or not is open to conjecture. We can think of any number of scenarios of how the US and other states react over time, some bordering on the conspiratorial.

9. In my opinion, the most likely path forward is that the Fed, SEC, CFTC, etc., plus central banks and securities/monetary regulators around the world will try to limit or even coopt crypto and BTC to maintain the current government-controlled fiat monetary system. Whether and how that happens is not predictable at present.

10. One crypto-like idea being discussed extensively is CBDCs, or Central Bank Digital Currencies. From what I gather, the idea is to create and launch fully programmable – and thus controllable – digital money. The Fed seems hesitant, but the Chinese Communist Party thinks it’s a great idea! How could it possibly go wrong?

11. As for blockchain technology, my understanding is that it is a method of storing data and information in a decentralized ledger. The Bitcoin network uses a blockchain to ensure its ledger is public, distributed, decentralized, and fully auditable. Every transaction is recorded in the blockchain and maintained by the network, which includes both the verification nodes and the work nodes (miners). Whether or not blockchains are useful in other areas remains an open question. From what I’ve read and heard, it is inefficient as a means of managing data, and centralized databases remain the gold standard (pun intended) in information management.

© Richard Martin