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Archive for the ‘bitcoin’ tag

Sep 6, 2017

Spell it Out: What, exactly, backs Bitcoin?

Posted by in categories: bitcoin, cryptocurrencies, economics

On August 1 2017, the value of a Bitcoin was at $2,750 US dollars. Today, just over one month later, it is poised to leap past $5,000 per unit. With this gain, many people are asking if Bitcoin has any genuine, inherent value. Is it a pyramid scheme? —Or is it simply a house of cards ready to collapse when the wind picks up?

In a past article, I explained that Bitcoin fundamentals ought to place its value in the vicinity of $10,000.* (At the time, it was less than $450, and had even fallen to $220 in the following year).

For many consumers viewing the rising interest in Bitcoin from the stands, there is great mystery surrounding the underlying value. What, if anything, stands behind it? This is a question with a clear and concise answer. In fact, it has a very definitive and believable answer—but it is easiest to understand with just a little bit of historical perspective.

At one time, G7 fiat currencies were backed by a reserve of physical Gold or the pooling or cross-ownership of other currencies that are backed by gold. That ended in 1971 when the Bretton Woods agreement was dissolved by president Richard Nixon in Ithaca NY.

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Aug 2, 2017

BCH: Did I throw away $$$$? Perhaps…

Posted by in categories: bitcoin, cryptocurrencies, economics, internet

Yesterday was D-Day in the Bitcoin world: On Tuesday, Aug 1st 2017, Bitcoin Cash (BCH) forked off of Bitcoin (BTC). For anyone with control over their wallet and private keys, they now have an equal amount of BTC and BCH.

I have a Bitcoin wallet. Yet, I don’t have any new Bitcoin Cash—and I have no one to blame but myself. Will I ever get the BCH associated with my pre-fork coins? I think that it is likely, though certainly not assured. If not, it will still be my fault. After all, I had fair warning from the company that I trust as custodian of my assets.

A Cryptocurrency Mantra:
“Woe be the person who trusts decentralized cash to a custodian”

I trust Coinbase for good reason. I left my BTC in my Coinbase wallet and vault throughout the fork. Let me tell you how I view the risks of failing to remove my coins before August 1…

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Jun 2, 2017

Wallet Security: Cloud/Exchange Services

Posted by in categories: bitcoin, cryptocurrencies, finance, hacking

3½ years ago, I wrote a Bitcoin wallet safety primer for Naked Security, a newsletter by Sophos, the European antivirus lab. Articles are limited to just 500 hundred words, and so my primer barely conveyed a mindset—It outlined broad steps for protecting a Bitcoin wallet.

In retrospect, that article may have been a disservice to digital currency novices. For example, did you know that a mobile text message is not a good form of two-factor authentication? Relying on SMS can get your life savings wiped out. Who knew?!

With a tip of the hat to Cody Brown, here is an online wallet security narrative that beats my article by a mile. Actually, it is more of a warning than a tutorial. But, read it closely. Learn from Cody’s misfortune. Practice safe storage. If you glean anything from the article, at least do this:

  • Install Google Authenticator. Require it for any online account with stored value. If someone hijacks your phone account, they cannot authenticate an exchange or wallet transaction—even with Authenticator.
  • Many exchanges (like Coinbase) offer a “vault”. Sweep most of your savings into the vault instead of the daily-use wallet. This gives you time to detect a scam or intrusion and to halt withdrawals. What is a vault? In my opinion, it is better than a paper wallet! Like a bank account, it is a wallet administered by a trusted vendor, but with no internet connection and forced access delay.

Exchange and cloud users want instant response. They want to purchase things without delay and they want quick settlement of currency exchange. But online wallets come with great risk. They can be emptied in an instant. It is not as difficult to spoof your identity as you may think (Again: Read Cody’s article below!)

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May 30, 2017

How to Incentivize Bitcoin miners after all 21M BTC are awarded

Posted by in categories: bitcoin, cryptocurrencies, economics, innovation, internet, mathematics

Individuals who mine Bitcoins needn’t be miners. We call them ‘miners’ because they are awarded BTC as they solve mathematical computations. The competition to unearth these reserve coins also serves a vital purpose. They validate the transactions of Bitcoin users all over the world: buyers, loans & debt settlement, exchange transactions, inter-bank transfers, etc. They are not really miners. They are more accurately engaged in transaction validation or ‘bookkeeping’.

There are numerous proposals for how to incentivize miners once all 21 million coins have been mined/awarded in May 2140. Depending upon the network load and the value of each coin, we may need to agree on an alternate incentive earlier than 2140. At the opening of the 2015 MIT Bitcoin Expo, Andreas Antonopolous proposed some validator incentive alternatives. One very novel suggestion was based on game theory and involved competition and status rather than cash payments.

I envision an alternative approach—one that also addresses the problem of miners and users having different goals. In an ideal world the locus of users should intersect more fully with the overseers…

To achieve this, I have proposed that every wallet be capable of also mining, even if the wallet is simply a smartphone app or part of a cloud account at an exchange service. To get uses participating in validating the transactions of peers, any transaction fee could be waived for anyone who completes 1 validation for each n transactions. (Say one validation for every five or ten transactions). In this manner, everyone pitches in a small amount of resources to maintain a robust network.

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May 20, 2017

Bitcoin closes in on (US) $2000; Why it matters

Posted by in categories: bitcoin, cryptocurrencies, economics, finance, government

At the beginning of 2016, Bitcoin was fairly steady at $430. Richelle Ross predicted that it would finish the year at $650. She would have been right, if the year had ended in November. During 2016, Bitcoin’s US dollar exchange rose from $433 to $1000. In the past 2 months (March 24~May 20, 2017), Bitcoin has tacked on 114%, rising from $936 to $2000. [continue below image]…

If this were stock in a corporation, I would recommend liquidating or cutting back on holdings. But the value of Bitcoin is not tied to the future earnings or property value of an organization. In this case, supply demand is fueled—in part—by speculation. Yes, of course. But, it is also fueled by a two-sided network built on the growing base of utilitarian adoption. And not just an adoption fad, but adoption that mirrors the shift in our very understanding of bookkeeping, trust and transparency.

Despite problems of growth, governance and regulation, Bitcoin is more clearly taking its place as the future of money. Even if it never becomes “legal tender” in any country—and is used only as a mechanism of payments and settlement, it is still woefully undervalued. $2000 is not an end-game. It is a beginning.

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Mar 13, 2017

Perspective of a former “Bitcoin Maximalist”

Posted by in categories: bitcoin, cryptocurrencies

This pundit is very cogent, as he criticizes early Bitcoin adopters and evangelists. He believes that they are too wrapped up in the original blockchain implementation, and that what goes up must come down—or, at least, that the earliest implementation of a new technology cannot adapt and become the durable leader in the field that it launched.

It’s the 15-minutes-of fame argument. But, I disagree! There are plenty of reasons to support, repair and expand Bitcoin—rather than fragment goodwill and abandon and a viable, two-sided network into 3,000 altcoins and blockchain startups.

Still, the author is very very bright and defends his position.

Mar 5, 2017

Bitcoin ETF Buzz Offers Short Term Opportunity

Posted by in categories: bitcoin, cryptocurrencies, economics, finance, Mark Zuckerberg, policy

If you follow Bitcoin at all, then you know that its value is spiking. It has already surpassed a massive spike on Thanksgiving night 2013, and it has just surpassed the cost of an ounce of gold. [continue below image]

Like any commodity, the exchange value of Bitcoin is driven by supply and demand. But, unlike most commodities, including the US Dollar, the Euro or even gold, the eventual supply is capped. It is a mathematical certainty. Yet, demand is affected by many factors: Adoption as a payment instrument, early signs that it is being considered as a reserve currency, fascination by Geeks and early adopters and its use as a preferred tool by some criminals.

But chief among reasons for acquiring Bitcoin is speculation. Whether it is buy-and-hold or day trading, speculators still outnumber those who use Bitcoin to settle debts or to buy and sell other products and services. (Earlier this week, I argued that speculation is responsible for 85% of demand and of transactions—but that’s another story).

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Mar 4, 2017

Antonopolous Clarifies Blockchain’s Profound Leap

Posted by in categories: bitcoin, cryptocurrencies, disruptive technology, economics, education, geopolitics

I use to hate it when my dad insisted that I read something longer than 2 paragraphs. (Something related to his interests, but not to my school work, his career or our family). That’s because it shouldn’t require a 30 minute read to determine if it piques my interest, as it does his.

But I am asking Lifeboat readers to invest 37 minutes in the video linked below. Even if you give it just 5 minutes, it will provide sufficient motive for you to stick around until the end. [continue below video]

I want you view it because we are on the threshold of something bigger than many people realize. Bitcoin and the blockchain is not just a new currency or a way of distributing books among network users. We are becoming involved with a radical experiment in applied game theory that is shockingly simple, but nascent. Opportunities abound, and the individuals who recognize those opportunities or learn to exploit them will benefit themselves as they benefit the global community. Because it is so radical (and because it clashes with deeply ingrained beliefs about authority, control mechanisms, democracy and money), it seems complex and risky—but it’s really not.

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Mar 3, 2017

What Fraction of Bitcoin Value is Driven by Speculators?

Posted by in categories: bitcoin, cryptocurrencies, economics, internet

At Quora, I occasionally play, “Ask the expert”. Several hundred of my Quora answers are linked here. Today, I was asked “How much of Bitcoin’s value is driven by speculation”. This is my answer…


This is a great question! While the value of any commodity is determined by supply and demand, speculation is one component of demand. Another is the unique utility value inherent in a product or process. This is sometimes called ‘intrinsic value’.

It’s ironic that when a high fraction of value is driven by speculation, short-term value becomes volatile and long-term value becomes less certain—and less likely to produce returns for those same speculators.

Editor’s Note: In the past few weeks, a significant spike in Bitcoin’s value and trading volume relates to a pending regulatory decision expected at the end of next week. This activity is certainly driven by speculation. But for this article, I am considering periods in which the demands of individual events are less clear.

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Feb 18, 2017

MIT is working on 3 BIG Blockchain Ideas

Posted by in categories: bitcoin, cryptocurrencies, economics, innovation, internet, software

MIT has never stood stand still in the presence of change and opportunity. Their Media Lab Currency Initiative is at the forefront of Blockchain and Bitcoin research. With the fracture of the founding core team, MIT stands to become the universal hub for research and development.

The initiative now has a team of 22 people and at least
seven ongoing research projects, and it nurtures three startups that use cryptocurrencies and the underlying technology in a variety of ways. Blockchain research now sits alongside transparent robots that eat real-world fish, solar nebula research, and other imaginative, futuristic projects in progress at the university.

The initiative has already funded the work of bitcoin protocol developers and has supported research, going far beyond bitcoin—even partnering with Ripple Labs and developing enterprise data projects.

Now, the MIT Media Lab Digital Currency Initiative is working on 3 big Blockchain ideas:

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