Central Bank Digital Currencies Are Not Like Bitcoin or ...
Central Bank Digital Currencies Are Not Like Bitcoin or ...
Mastercard Launches Digital Currency ... - Bitcoin News
Bitcoin “Could Undermine Central Banks.” Woo hoo! – Reason.com
Fractional Reserve Banking and Bitcoin - Bitcoin Wiki
Central Banks Mess - Bitcoins Channel
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/btc was created to foster and support free and open Bitcoin discussion about cryptocurrency, Bitcoin news, and exclusive AMA (Ask Me Anything) interviews from top Bitcoin and cryptocurrency leaders. Bitcoin is the currency of the Internet. A distributed, worldwide, decentralized digital money. Unlike traditional currencies such as dollars, bitcoins are issued and managed without the need for any central authority whatsoever. Learn more about Bitcoin, Bitcoin Cash, cryptocurrency, and more.
Putting $400M of Bitcoin on your company balance sheet
Also posted on my blog as usual. Read it there if you can, there are footnotes and inlined plots. A couple of months ago, MicroStrategy (MSTR) had a spare $400M of cash which it decided to shift to Bitcoin (BTC). Today we'll discuss in excrutiating detail why this is not a good idea. When a company has a pile of spare money it doesn't know what to do with, it'll normally do buybacks or start paying dividends. That gives the money back to the shareholders, and from an economic perspective the money can get better invested in other more promising companies. If you have a huge pile of of cash, you probably should be doing other things than leave it in a bank account to gather dust. However, this statement from MicroStrategy CEO Michael Saylor exists to make it clear he's buying into BTC for all the wrong reasons:
“This is not a speculation, nor is it a hedge. This was a deliberate corporate strategy to adopt a bitcoin standard.”
Let's unpack it and jump into the economics Bitcoin:
Is Bitcoin money?
No. Or rather BTC doesn't act as money and there's no serious future path for BTC to become a form of money. Let's go back to basics. There are 3 main economic problems money solves: 1. Medium of Exchange. Before money we had to barter, which led to the double coincidence of wants problem. When everyone accepts the same money you can buy something from someone even if they don't like the stuff you own. As a medium of exchange, BTC is not good. There are significant transaction fees and transaction waiting times built-in to BTC and these worsen the more popular BTC get. You can test BTC's usefulness as a medium of exchange for yourself right now: try to order a pizza or to buy a random item with BTC. How many additional hurdles do you have to go through? How many fewer options do you have than if you used a regular currency? How much overhead (time, fees) is there? 2. Unit of Account. A unit of account is what you compare the value of objects against. We denominate BTC in terms of how many USD they're worth, so BTC is a unit of account presently. We can say it's because of lack of adoption, but really it's also because the market value of BTC is so volatile. If I buy a $1000 table today or in 2017, it's roughly a $1000 table. We can't say that a 0.4BTC table was a 0.4BTC table in 2017. We'll expand on this in the next point: 3. Store of Value. When you create economic value, you don't want to be forced to use up the value you created right away. For instance, if I fix your washing machine and you pay me in avocados, I'd be annoyed. I'd have to consume my payment before it becomes brown, squishy and disgusting. Avocado fruit is not good money because avocadoes loses value very fast. On the other hand, well-run currencies like the USD, GBP, CAD, EUR, etc. all lose their value at a low and most importantly fairly predictible rate. Let's look at the chart of the USD against BTC While the dollar loses value at a predictible rate, BTC is all over the place, which is bad. One important use money is to write loan contracts. Loans are great. They let people spend now against their future potential earnings, so they can buy houses or start businesses without first saving up for a decade. Loans are good for the economy. If you want to sign something that says "I owe you this much for that much time" then you need to be able to roughly predict the value of the debt in at the point in time where it's due. Otherwise you'll have a hard time pricing the risk of the loan effectively. This means that you need to charge higher interests. The risk of making a loan in BTC needs to be priced into the interest of a BTC-denominated loan, which means much higher interest rates. High interests on loans are bad, because buying houses and starting businesses are good things.
BTC has a fixed supply, so these problems are built in
Some people think that going back to a standard where our money was denominated by a stock of gold (the Gold Standard) would solve economic problems. This is nonsense. Having control over supply of your currency is a good thing, as long as it's well run. See here Remember that what is desirable is low variance in the value, not the value itself. When there are wild fluctuations in value, it's hard for money to do its job well. Since the 1970s, the USD has been a fiat money with no intrinsic value. This means we control the supply of money. Let's look at a classic poorly drawn econ101 graph The market price for USD is where supply meets demand. The problem with a currency based on an item whose supply is fixed is that the price will necessarily fluctuate in response to changes in demand. Imagine, if you will, that a pandemic strikes and that the demand for currency takes a sharp drop. The US imports less, people don't buy anything anymore, etc. If you can't print money, you get deflation, which is worsens everything. On the other hand, if you can make the money printers go brrrr you can stabilize the price Having your currency be based on a fixed supply isn't just bad because in/deflation is hard to control. It's also a national security risk... The story of the guy who crashed gold prices in North Africa In the 1200s, Mansa Munsa, the emperor of the Mali, was rich and a devout Muslim and wanted everyone to know it. So he embarked on a pilgrimage to make it rain all the way to Mecca. He in fact made it rain so hard he increased the overall supply of gold and unintentionally crashed gold prices in Cairo by 20%, wreaking an economic havoc in North Africa that lasted a decade. This story is fun, the larger point that having your inflation be at the mercy of foreign nations is an undesirable attribute in any currency. The US likes to call some countries currency manipulators, but this problem would be serious under a gold standard.
Currencies are based on trust
Since the USD is based on nothing except the US government's word, how can we trust USD not to be mismanaged? The answer is that you can probably trust the fed until political stooges get put in place. Currently, the US's central bank managing the USD, the Federal Reserve (the Fed for friends & family), has administrative authority. The fed can say "no" to dumb requests from the president. People who have no idea what the fed does like to chant "audit the fed", but the fed is already one of the best audited US federal entities. The transcripts of all their meetings are out in the open. As is their balance sheet, what they plan to do and why. If the US should audit anything it's the Department of Defense which operates without any accounting at all. It's easy to see when a central bank will go rogue: it's when political yes-men are elected to the board. For example, before printing themselves into hyperinflation, the Venezuelan president appointed a sociologist who publicly stated “Inflation does not exist in real life” and instead is a made up capitalist lie. Note what happened mere months after his gaining control over the Venezuelan currency This is a key policy. One paper I really like, Sargent (1984) "The end of 4 big inflations" states:
The essential measures that ended hyperinflation in each of Germany,Austria, Hungary, and Poland were, first, the creation of an independentcentral bank that was legally committed to refuse the government'sdemand or additional unsecured credit and, second, a simultaneousalteration in the fiscal policy regime.
In english: *hyperinflation stops when the central bank can say "no" to the government." The US Fed, like other well good central banks, is run by a bunch of nerds. When it prints money, even as aggressively as it has it does so for good reasons. You can see why they started printing on March 15th as the COVID lockdowns started:
The Federal Reserve is prepared to use its full range of tools to support the flow of credit to households and businesses and thereby promote its maximum employment and price stability goals.
In english: We're going to keep printing and lowering rates until jobs are back and inflation is under control. If we print until the sun is blotted out, we'll print in the shade.
BTC is not gold
Gold is a good asset for doomsday-preppers. If society crashes, gold will still have value. How do we know that? Gold has held value throughout multiple historic catastrophes over thousands of years. It had value before and after the Bronze Age Collapse, the Fall of the Western Roman Empire and Gengis Khan being Gengis Khan. Even if you erased humanity and started over, the new humans would still find gold to be economically valuable. When Europeans d̶i̶s̶c̶o̶v̶e̶r̶e̶d̶ c̶o̶n̶q̶u̶e̶r̶e̶d̶ g̶e̶n̶o̶c̶i̶d̶e̶d̶ went to America, they found gold to be an important item over there too. This is about equivalent to finding humans on Alpha-Centauri and learning that they think gold is a good store of value as well. Some people are puzzled at this: we don't even use gold for much! But it has great properties: First, gold is hard to fake and impossible to manufacture. This makes it good to ascertain payment. Second, gold doesnt react to oxygen, so it doesn't rust or tarnish. So it keeps value over time unlike most other materials. Last, gold is pretty. This might sound frivolous, and you may not like it, but jewelry has actual value to humans. It's no coincidence if you look at a list of the wealthiest families, a large number of them trade in luxury goods. To paraphrase Veblen humans have a profound desire to signal social status, for the same reason peacocks have unwieldy tails. Gold is a great way to achieve that. On the other hand, BTC lacks all these attributes. Its value is largely based on common perception of value. There are a few fundamental drivers of demand:
Means of Exchange: if people seriously start using BTC to buy pizzas, then this creates a real demand for the currency to accomplish the short-term exchanges. As we saw previously, I'm not personally sold on this one and it's currently a negligible fraction of overall demand.
Criminal uses: Probably the largest inbuilt advantage of BTC is that it's anonymous, and so a great way to launder money. Hacker gangs use BTC to demand ransom on cryptolocker type attacks because it's a shared way for an honest company to pay and for the criminals to receive money without going to jail.
Apart from these, it's hard to argue that BTC will retain value throughout some sort of economic catastrophe.
BTC is really risky
One last statement from Michael Saylor I take offense to is this:
“We feel pretty confident that Bitcoin is less risky than holding cash, less risky than holding gold,” MicroStrategy CEO said in an interview
"BTC is less risky than holding cash or gold long term" is nonsense. We saw before that BTC is more volatile on face value, and that as long as the Fed isn't run by spider monkeys stacked in a trench coat, the inflation is likely to be within reasonable bounds. But on top of this, BTC has Abrupt downside risks that normal currencies don't. Let's imagine a few:
A critical software vulnerability is found in the BTC codebase, leading to a possible exploitation.
Xi Jinping decides he's had enough of rich people in China hiding their assets from him and bans BTC.
Some form of bank run takes hold for whatever reason. Because BTC wallets are uninsured, unlike regular banks, this compounds into a Black Tuesday style crash.
Blockchain solutions are fundamentally inefficient
Blockchain was a genius idea. I still marvel at the initial white paper which is a great mix of economics and computer science. That said, blockchain solutions make large tradeoffs in design because they assume almost no trust between parties. This leads to intentionally wasteful designs on a massive scale. The main problem is that all transactions have to be validated by expensive computational operations and double checked by multiple parties. This means waste:
BTC was estimated to use as much electricity as Belgium in 2019. It's hard to trace where the BTC mining comes from, but we can assume it has a huge carbon footprint.
A single transactions is necessarily expensive. A single transaction takes as much electricity as 800,000 VISA transactions, or watching 50,000 hours of youtube videos.
There is a large necessary tax on the transaction, since those checking the transaction extract a few BTC from it to be incentivized to do the work of checking it.
Many design problems can be mitigated by various improvements over BTC, but it remains that a simple database always works better than a blockchain if you can trust the parties to the transaction.
PUNTO DE PARTIDA PARA NEWBIES EN INVERSIONES. POR DONDE ARRANCAR?
¿Para quién es este post?
Este post está pensado para los que tienen plata y no saben que hacer, los que como mucho hicieron plazos fijos o comprar dolar en home-banking o ir al blue. La idea es dar una breve introducción, que sea llevadera, no muy técnica y en términos sencillos, de que cosas hay que tener en cuenta ahora que se decidieron adentrarse en el mundo de las inversiones. Espero que después de leer esta introducción, les sirva para poner en contexto las preguntas que se tienen que hacer, la información que necesitan investigar y capacitarse, antes de efectivamente ponerse a invertir. Y de yapa por haber leído hasta acá, se llevan el primer consejo: no invertir sin tener bien claro en qué nos estamos metiendo! Antes de arrancar: no confundir inversiones bursátiles con finanzas personales. Las finanzas personales abarcan toda la gestión de ingresos, inversiones, ahorros y gastos en la "microeconomia" de una persona. Acá nos vamos a centrar solamente en la parte de inversiones, en el marco de las finanzas personales.
Primero unas definiciones básicas
Vamos a arrancar con algunos conceptos que pueden parecer medio abstractos sobre el temas de dinero, para después tener una base y poder ir directo a la cuestión de inversiones. Valor tiempo del dinero Lo primero que tenemos que entender es el valor tiempo del dinero, un concepto muy sencillo pero que pocos lo tienen formalizado. Por suerte, es muy fácil de incorporar y de aprender. Puesto de manera sencilla y sin entrar en muchos números: la misma cantidad de dinero vale mas HOY que mañana. Y cuanto mas tiempo pasa, menos vale el mismo dinero. Vale aclarar que no estoy teniendo en cuenta conceptos como devaluación o inflación en este momento, simplemente que el mismo dinero hoy, va a valer mas que mañana. Veamos este concepto con un ejemplo sencillo. Cómo ordenarias según orden de preferencia las siguientes opciones?
Recibir $100 hoy
Recibir $100 mañana
Recibir $100 en 1 mes
Creo que esta claro que el orden dado, es el orden de preferencia de cualquiera de nosotros. La cuestión se pone interesante cuando empezamos a jugar con el monto vs el tiempo. Por ejemplo:
Recibir $100 hoy
Recibir $200 mañana
Recibir $1000 en 12 meses
En este caso ya empiezan a jugar otras variables. Que tan valioso es para mi el dinero hoy vs el dinero en el futuro? En esta valuación entran en juego conceptos que no voy a explicar aca pero son muy interesantes de profundizar, como el concepto de NPV (Net present value o valor presente neto), IRR o TIR (Tasa Interna de Retorno) y tasa de descuento (Discount factor). Riesgo Hay muchas maneras de definir riesgo, pero en este contexto vamos a quedarnos con una definición mas estadística para que sea fácil de entender. El riesgo es una medida de que tanta certeza vamos a tener de nuestro retorno esperado. Por ejemplo, el concepto de una tasa libre de riesgo es un caso extremo: una inversion de rendimiento fijo y conocido de antemano, que, como el nombre lo implica, se considera que tiene no tiene riesgo. Esto se traduce en que el rendimiento esperado es igual al rendimiento efectivo (o realizado) que vamos a tener al final de la inversion. En el caso de inversiones globales, se considera a los bonos del tesoro de EEUU como libre de riesgo. En nuestro caso, podemos tomar a los plazos fijos de los bancos (o mas correctamente los instrumentos de renta fija del tesoro argentino). Una vez establecido el nivel base de riesgo 0, la escala de riesgo va variando a medida que consideramos distintos instrumentos, e incluso dentro de los instrumentos, hay varios atributos para analizar. Para intentar predecir la dispersión alrededor de nuestro retorno esperado, lo que se suele hacer es basarse en la volatilidad histórica del instrumento a analizar. Para dar algunos ejemplos, una acción de un banco Argentino tiene mas riesgo que una acción de un banco de EEUU. Esto se puede analizar coyunturalmente, o se puede mirar las variaciones históricas recientes de los precios. Otra manera de pensar el riesgo, es adoptar la postura de que el mercado es "eficiente" y que los retornos esperados ya reflejan los mayores riesgos. Es decir: a mayor retorno esperado, mayor riesgo. Esto quiere decir que hay menos probabilidad hay de conseguir ese retorno esperado. Dependiendo del instrumento, estos retornos esperados se pueden calcular facilmente como en instrumentos de renta fija (métricas como TIR, paridad, etc) o pueden ser mas difíciles de calcular como en renta variable, aunque tenemos distintos ratios (o múltiplos) que podemos analizar para comparar el precio de una acción con sus fundamentals (que se desprenden de los balances presentados). Creamos o no en la eficiencia del mercado para pricear (determinar el precio de algo) las cosas, es una buena heurística a tener en cuenta que retornos altos suelen estar acompañados de riesgo alto. El corolario de esto es siempre ser escépticos de retornos altos de bajo riesgo, promesas de "plata fácil" y ese tipo de oportunidades. Retorno real vs nominal Una aclaración que nos debemos es distinguir entre retornos reales y retornos nominales. Los retornos nominales son los retornos directos obtenidos sin ningún ajuste. Por ejemplo, invertimos $100 en una acción que en 5 años se convirtieron en $200. Eso nos da un retorno del 100%. Sin embargo, esos $200 probablemente tengan menor poder adquisitivo, ya sea por devaluación (midiendo contra otras monedas) o inflación (midiendo contra bienes). Por ejemplo, si sabemos que en esos 5 años la inflación fue del 50%, nuestro retorno real fue del %50 entonces. Es muy importante siempre medir nuestras inversiones teniendo en cuenta los retornos REALES. Particularmente en pesos, donde la perdida del poder adquisitivo es tan tangible. De hecho, mi recomendación es medir las inversiones en monedas mas estables como el dolar, por defecto. Como dato de color, la inflación del dolar es de aprox. 2% anual.
Receta básica para una inversion
Que componentes tiene una inversion? Estos son los ingredientes mínimos que la componen:
Capital: Monto de dinero para invertir
Retorno: Cual es el % o monto de ganancia sobre el capital que esperamos obtener. Puede ser aproximado.
Riesgo: Medida de que tan probable es que consigamos el retorno esperado. Difícil de estimar exactamente!
Horizonte/plazo: Cuanto tenemos que dejar la plata para maximizar las chances del retorno esperado
Instrumento: El método mediante el cual vamos a invertir
Liquidez: que tan rápido/costoso es entrasalir
Moneda: en que moneda podemos entrasalir de la inversion
Fricciones: gastos/comisiones/impuestos a tener en cuenta
Dados estos ingredientes, vemos que algunos son variables que podemos definir nosotros y otros son interdependientes. Veamos algunos ejemplos:
Si queremos obtener una ganancia de 100 pesos en un plazo fijo con tasa 1% mensual, el resto de las variables quedan prácticamente predefinidas: el riesgo es casi nulo, y por ende el retorno es conocido. El capital es función del retorno en este caso, tenemos que colocar 10k pesos. El horizonte es 1 mes. La liquidez es nula, no podemos retirar el dinero hasta que no termina nuestra inversion. Y la moneda es pesos. Prácticamente no hay gastos ni impuestos que nos importen.
Quiero invertir 10k USD y obtener una rentabilidad de 5% anual durante 2 años. En este caso, un instrumento adecuado para ese tipo de inversion podría ser un bono corporativo en USD. La moneda es en dolares y el hecho de tener un plazo de inversion corto con un rendimiento de 5% anual, nos fija que el riesgo que vamos a tener que correr va a ser moderado (si comparamos con la tasa libre de riesgo o con otros bonos que rinden similares tasas). La liquidez es baja porque los bonos corporativos no se negocian mucho, y el costo de salir antes puede ser moderado, dependiendo del instrumento en sí. Los gastos van a ser los de operar, comisiones al broker, hay que investigar los impuestos respecto a este instrumento.
Si mi objetivo es duplicar un capital de 25k pesos en un mes: para eso podemos utilizar opciones sobre acciones locales, intentando capturar la tendencia en algún papel que hayamos estudiado. Necesitamos conocer en profundidad el instrumento (en este caso opciones) y saber que estamos corriendo un riesgo alto, que vamos a pasar, con alta probabilidad, por periodos de grandes perdidas, incluso llegando a perder todo nuestro capital. La liquidez es alta, podemos salir cuando querramos, pero con alto costo, dada la importancia del timing. Las comisiones van a ser altas, impuestos a renta financiera también.
Depositar mis ahorros en algún instrumento para generar rentabilidades minimas hasta necesitarlos, sin asumir mucho riesgo. Podemos buscar un fondo común de inversion en USD que invierta en bonos LATAM de mas bajo riesgo. O llevar nuestro dinero al exterior e invertir en un ETF de bonos globales o del tesoro de EEUU de bajo riesgo. Vamos a tener nuestra inversion en USD, liquidez alta aunque puede ser costosa si involucra mover fondos en el exterior debido a las comisiones. El riesgo es bajo. Hay que tener en cuenta los impuestos, especialmente por la moneda y el hecho de ser en el extranjero en el segundo caso.
Como se puede apreciar, en estas tensiones entre todos estos (y otros) atributos, hay juegos entre retornos esperados y "primas" (costos) que hay que pagar. Por ejemplo, por operar un instrumento poco liquido, tenemos la "prima de liquidez" que se refiere a los costos extra de por ejemplo, comprar un instrumento mas caro porque no hay vendedores a un precio mas barato. Otro ejemplo es la "prima de inversiones extranjeras", donde aumentan nuestros gastos de movimiento de fondos e impositivos. Incluso hay limitaciones con respecto al capital: algunas inversiones son poco viables si tenemos muy poco o demasiado capital para invertir, ya sea por mínimos requeridos o porque no hay liquidez suficiente en el instrumento que nos interesa.
Los instrumentos mas comunes que debemos aprender
Aca simplemente voy a listar los instrumentos que deberíamos tener en nuestra caja de herramientas de inversión, con un breve comentario de cada uno explicando que usos tiene y de que se trata.
Plazo fijo: rendimientos fijos a plazo conocido. No necesita mucha explicación. Hay que tener mucho cuidado con las tasas nominales vs las tasas reales para ver si convienen o no.
Dolar: refugio de valor por excelencia, pero como el plazo fijo hay veces que conviene y veces que puede ser una mala opción para nuestro perfil.
Cauciones: inversion prácticamente libre de riesgo, como un plazo fijo pero de mas corto plazo. Rara vez las tasas reales son positivas, pero son buenos instrumentos para los que tienen dinero ocioso en la bolsa o para los que quieren apalancarse (invertir con plata prestada) en el corto plazo
Fondos comunes de inversion: dejo un link con introducción. Son instrumentos muy flexibles para inversiones mas pasivas (lo opuesto a inversion activa, en la que debemos estarle encima de manera constante, dia a dia por ej.). Son todo un mundo, ya que al estar compuestos por distintos instrumentos (por ej. acciones, o plazos fijos, etc) cada FCI requiere su propio análisis.
Criptomonedas: activos descentralizados y anónimos que pueden ser útiles para especular o para hacer transacciones por fuera del sistema. También como moneda de cambio o de inversion. Buscar posts sobre CeFi (Centralized finance) y DeFi (Decentralized finance) en el sub, podemos poner nuestras criptos a trabajar en prestamos tipo plazo fijo o en fondos con rendimientos variables. Ejemplos: Bitcoin, Ethereum.
Stablecoins: son criptos que suelen estar atadas de alguna manera u otra al valor del dolar o algún activo mas estable, haciéndolas mas atractivas para perfiles mas conservadores. Igual que las criptos, permiten usarse para cambiar de moneda o inversiones, asi como para hacer transacciones y fondeos. Ejemplos: DAI, USDT.
Acciones (renta variable): nos permite participar en las ganancias de una empresa. Alto riesgo, aunque hay matices dependiendo de la empresa, sector, pais, contexto, etc. Puede ser acciones locales o podemos operar en el exterior directamente y acceder a acciones de todo el mundo.
Bonos (renta fija): son instrumentos con flujos de fondo conocidos. Los riesgos son mayormente de default (escenario de no pago) y de crisis de confianza que pueden hacer bajar los precios (puede ser oportunidad de compra o punto costoso de venta para el tenedor).
CEDEARs: son instrumentos locales en pesos pero que representan acciones del exterior. Nos permite invertir en una gran colección de empresas grandes, mayormente de EEUU pero también de Brazil y las empresas argentinas mas grandes (Mercado Libre y Globant). Tienen ventajas en costos operativos para inversores minoristas en Argentina.
Opciones: son contratos de compra/venta a precios prefijados. Hay infinidad de estrategias, desde lo mas especulativo y de alto riesgo, a cosas muy conservadoras como usarlo como seguro contra la baja de una acción que tenemos en cartera. Por ejemplo, podemos pagar una prima (un costo fijo) por asegurarnos de limitar las perdidas de una acción que tengamos en caso que baje, durante un plazo de tiempo. También nos permite apostar a la baja de una acción! Y apalancarnos, en el sentido de que podemos ganar exposición a mas capital del que tenemos, multiplicando las subas (y las bajas, claro).
ETFs: instrumento que solo se puede operar en el exterior. Como los Fondos Comunes de Inversion, hay de todos los sabores y colores, permitiéndonos invertir de manera diversificada en sectores, países enteros, tendencias de inversion como energias renovables o automatización, grupos de bonos de cierta calidad crediticia, etc.
El rol del broker y el mercado
La mayoría de estos instrumentos se acceden a través de un broker, que es una empresa que nos permite acceso al mercado. Los instrumentos relacionados a crypto se acceden generalmente via exchanges. Para mas información sobre brokers o exchanges, buscar por el sub. En ambos casos, debemos tener presente que comisiones vamos a tener al operar, que instrumentos tiene cada broker, su reputación, atención al cliente, participación en nuevas emisiones y varias cosas mas. Es bastante común tener cuenta comitente (el análogo a una cuenta bancaria, donde en vez de dinero, también podemos tener títulos como acciones, etc) en varios brokers! El mercado en si, no es mas que el medio electrónico donde se intercambian la mayoría de los títulos listados. Este intercambio se hace mediante oferta y demanda, donde tienen prioridad los que quieren comprar a mayor precio y los que quieren vender a menor precio, y luego los que llegan antes en ese orden. Una vez que se matchea el precio de compra, con el precio de venta, se concreta la operación y se intercambian títulos por dinero, determinando así el precio del activo en cuestión. En este mercado, participan todos los inversores, desde un inversor minorista físico buscando timbear unos pesitos o invertir sus ahorros, hasta empresas que emiten deuda o acciones para financiar su operación. Luego tenemos grandes inversores como inversores institucionales, bancos o empresas de seguros que buscan invertir el capital de sus clientes así como provincias y países que buscan financiarse emitiendo bonos.
El perfil del inversor, emociones y disciplina
Ya sabemos entonces que las distintas inversiones van a tener su nivel de riesgo, entre otras limitaciones. El desafío ahora es intentar asegurarnos de que el nivel de riesgo requerido para una inversion, sea adecuado para el inversor. Por qué es importante que el perfil de inversor este en consonancia con la inversion? Porque cuando hay ruido, las emociones nos pueden llevar a romper nuestra estrategia inicial que tan cuidadosamente planeamos. Si no tenemos la disciplina, vamos a hacer estragos. Cabe destacar que esto puede suceder cuando el riesgo de la inversion es mas alto que el que el inversor esta dispuesto a tolerar, asi como en el caso inverso. Esto se puede ilustrar con dos ejemplos:
Compramos CEDEARs de MSFT con el objetivo de sacarnos de encima los pesos y dejarlos en algún lado dolarizado para uso en algunos años, de paso sacando una ganancia. Sin embargo, no nos dimos cuenta que los CEDEARs son instrumentos altamente volátiles, ya que combinan la volatilidad del tipo de cambio, con la volatilidad de la acción subyacente. Un día, el dolar baja abruptamente por alguna medida y al mismo tiempo la empresa presenta balances en EEUU. Vemos que el precio del CEDEAR esta mostrando -10% en la apertura del mercado. A la media hora vemos -15% y temiendo por nuestro capital ,decidimos vender, ya que parece no tener piso. A los 6 meses, el CEDEAR esta 50% arriba del valor al que vendimos y nos queremos morir. Que sucedió? No respetamos la estrategia original. Pero por qué? No necesitábamos esos pesos. Analizamos la empresa y parecia solida. Sin embargo, al momento de ver esa volatilidad diaria, las emociones nos dominaron y vendimos. Esto es una señal de que algo en la inversion original (en este caso el riesgo), no es acorde al perfil del inversor.
Supongamos que somos una persona joven, con buenos prospectos de crecimiento en nuestro laburo y queremos invertir nuestro capital. Como todavia no tenemos muchas obligaciones, nos sobra un buen monto cada mes para invertir. Decidimos ponerlo en plazo fijo todos los meses. Al año, nos damos cuenta que si tuvimos suerte, apenas le ganamos a la inflación. En este caso no vamos a hacer cagadas en el medio de la inversion, pero nos damos cuenta del costo de oportunidad perdido al comparar con haber invertido en instrumentos mas rendidores como acciones. Al evaluar esta situación, decidimos elegir otra estrategia para nuestra próxima inversion.
Para intentar determinar nuestro perfil de inversor podemos utilizar tests online. Si bien nos pueden dar una idea, es esperable que hasta no tener las manos en la masa, no nos demos cuenta de cual es realmente nuestro perfil. Una ultima cuestión a tener en cuenta con respecto al perfil, es que si bien el riesgo es uno de los items mas importantes a descubrir, no es el único. Otro importante por ejemplo, es el plazo. Podemos pensar que estamos a largo plazo, pero si estamos mirando nuestra inversion dia a día, tenemos una disonancia. Otro es el nivel de conocimiento de los instrumentos a operar en la estrategia. Si nos metemos a compravender futuros sin tener mucha idea de la mecánica, aumentamos exponencialmente las chances de que salga todo mal, por mas que el resto de la estrategia este delineada cuidadosamente.
La importancia de la diversificación
Diversificar significa reducir o eliminar riesgos, mediante la combinación de varios instrumentos. Vamos a dar varios ejemplos en vez de entrar en definiciones:
Supongamos que queremos apostar a la recuperación de los cruceros luego de la pandemia del COVID. Una opción es ir y comprar acciones de RCL (Royal Caribbean). Sin embargo, una alternativa menos riesgosa, es comprar varias acciones de cruceros que sean representativas del mercado: RCL (Royal Caribbean), CCL (Carnival Cruises), NCLH (Norwegian Cruises). De esta manera, estamos mitigando el riesgo de una unica empresa.
Supongamos que queremos invertir en acciones de Brazil, porque nos parece que el pais tiene mucho potencial de convertirse en un mercado del primer mundo. En este caso, podríamos comprar las empresas mas representativas de Brazil, como Vale, Banco Bradesco, Petrobras o Banco Itaú, y asi sucesivamente (por ej, 10 empresas). Si bien estaríamos diversificados, hay un instrumento mas apropiado para eso que es un ETF como el EWZ, una pseudo-acción, que esta compuesta por cientos de las empresas mas grandes de Brazil. De esta manera, no solo diversificamos muchísimo mas (prácticamente la perdida es nula si una empresa quiebra), sino que la gestión es mas sencilla al ser un único activo.
En todos los casos estamos reduciendo riesgo a cambio de retornos menos volátiles, y por ende sacrificando situaciones de muy altos retornos pero también eliminando situaciones de grandes perdidas (ej, una empresa quiebra). Un concepto muy importante asociado a la diversificación, es la correlación. La correlación es una medida estadística de que tan similar es el movimiento de una variable con respecto a otra. Va desde -1 que significa correlación perfecta inversa (ej, cuando uno sube en un 5%, el otro baja en 5%), 0 que significa que no hay correlación y 1 que significa correlación perfecta (ej, cuando uno sube 5%, el otro sube 5%). Cuanto mas correlacionados están dos instrumentos, menos diversificación obtenemos al combinarlos y viceversa. Esto quiere decir que si tenemos una cartera con 50% de un instrumento A y 50% de otro instrumento B, el nivel de diversificación real que vamos a tener, va a depender de la correlación entre A y B. Si están perfectamente correlacionados, la diversificación es nula. En cambio, si su correlación es 0 o menor, el beneficio es mucho mayor. Si volvemos a nuestro ejemplo de los cruceros, si bien estamos diversificando el riesgo de una empresa, no estamos diversificando el riesgo del sector (esto es a proposito), donde todas las acciones relacionadas con cruceros tienen alta correlación, ni tampoco estamos diversificando el riesgo del mercado, ya que ninguna empresa esta aislada y todas las acciones dependen entre si: para construir un crucero necesito materiales para fabricarlo, necesito contratar gente, necesito capital y prestamos, necesito que la gente tenga plata y este dispuesta a gastarla en cruceros, y un gran etcétera.
Armando un portfolio (cartera) acorde a nuestros objetivos
Una vez que tenemos nuestras posibles inversiones, vamos a agarrar nuestro capital y decidir como distribuirlo. Nuestra cartera puede tener un mix de inversiones de distintos horizontes, en distintos instrumentos, con distintos niveles de riesgo y porcentajes acordes. Es muy importante tener en cuenta el nivel de riesgo de nuestra cartera en total, viendo los niveles de correlación entre los activos que tenemos. Por ejemplo, es muy común incorporar una parte de nuestra cartera en cash o en renta fija de bajo riesgo, para tener baja correlación con las acciones o correlación inversa en el caso de los bonos. Esto se debe a que cuando las acciones caen, los inversores aversos al riesgo, suelen vender y comprar bonos. Una teoria muy usada para aprender sobre el análisis de portfolios es el modelo CAPM, que no voy a profundizar aca pero les dejo la punta para investigar si quieren darle un enfoque mas cuantitativo a la diversificación de la cartera. Cabe aclarar que es un modelo anticuado (el primer modelo de hecho) pero no es menos util. El armado de portfolios es toda una ciencia y se estudia bajo lo que se llama MPT (Modern Portfolio Theory).
Como evaluar las decisiones de inversion
Repitan conmigo: para evaluar que tan buena o mala fue una inversion tiene tanto o mas peso el proceso de decision al ingresar y al salir de la inversion, que el resultado (retorno) de la misma. Estamos intentando evitar dos escenarios, que son MUY problemáticos para los inversores y tenemos que tratar de identificarlos a toda costa:
Una inversion nos puede salir bien, aunque hayamos hecho todo mal. Esto se suele resumir en el dicho popular "todos somos genios cuando la bolsa esta subiendo".
Una inversion nos puede salir mal, aunque hayamos hecho todo bien. Esto se debe a que en inversiones de riesgo, lo que estamos haciendo es tratando de manejar riesgos y retornos, pero no controlamos cuales de los eventos terminan sucediendo en la practica.
En el primer caso, el problema es que probablemente lleguemos a conclusiones incorrectas, reforzando nuestro esquema de decision erróneo, y en algún momento nos llevemos una sorpresa desagradable. Mientras que en el segundo caso, el problema es que probablemente nos desalentemos y dejemos de invertir aunque íbamos por el camino correcto. Vamos con un ejemplo de cada uno:
"Me gustan las películas de Disney, voy a comprar unas acciones". A la semana, Disney lanza una serie nueva que tiene mucho potencial y la acción sube 10%. Naturalmente, al ver esta ganancia en el corto plazo, nos olvidamos que nos metimos en Disney por cuestiones marketineras en vez de por cuestiones de análisis serio de la empresa, y nos creemos que somos unos capos. "Claro, era obvio que iba a subir". Satisfechos con el resultado, seguimos con nuestra metodologia: "El futuro son los autos eléctricos, yo me mando y compro Tesla, no puede fallar". Al dia siguiente, Elon Musk twittea que van a abandonar las operaciones en China por nuevas tarifas impuestas por el gobierno Chino y la acción cae 20% en un dia. En pánico, vendemos todo y no entendemos que pasó. "El mercado es una timba", gritamos, acompañado de varios insultos, y juramos nunca mas invertir nuestro dinero mientras vamos a la cueva de confianza a pagar un tremendo sobreprecio por el dolar blue.
"Analicé todos los balances recientes de Apple. La empresa tiene números sólidos y grandes proyectos. Las perspectivas de crecimiento, tanto desde los fundamentals como desde el consenso del mercado en los precios (gráficos) son excelentes. Validé mis análisis contra otros análisis de varias fuentes, enriqueciendo mis hipótesis y validando aún mas mis proyecciones. Acordemente, voy a poner una parte importante de mi capital en acciones de AAPL". Al mes, cae un avión en el medio de la asamblea de inversores matando a todos los presentes de la junta directiva, incluido el CEO y a Warren Buffet que pasaba por ahí cerca. La acción colapsa -30% al dia siguiente. Frustrados por semejante baja inesperado, vendemos nuestra posición. "El mercado es una timba", gritamos, acompañado de varios insultos, y juramos nunca mas invertir nuestro dinero mientras vamos a la cueva de confianza a pagar un tremendo sobreprecio por el dolar blue.
Esto no quiere decir que no debemos evaluar una inversion sobre la marcha y post cierre de la misma. Muchas veces podemos aprender cosas útiles. Pero el proceso de aprendizaje tiene que estar atado al proceso de toma de decisiones y de gestión de riesgo, no de intentar predecir eventos aleatorios. Después de todo, la gestión de riesgo es justamente eso: intentar predecir qué eventos aleatorios, fuera de nuestro control, se pueden dar y con que probabilidad, y no si se van a dar o no y cuando.
Recomiendo seguir con este curso para intentar determinar que perfil de inversión va mas de acuerdo con nuestra capacidad, tiempo y objetivos. Una vez que tengamos claro estos principios, el siguiente paso sería familiarizarnos con la mecánica de la operación en el mercado y los distintos instrumentos. Espero que les haya servido y cualquier comentario, duda, cosa me avisan en los comentarios. Mucha suerte en este camino que recién empieza ;)
There is a constant war being fought between goldbugs, like Peter Schiff, and Bitcoin enthusiasts so I decided to make an outline, with links, comparing and contrasting gold and Bitcoin. I made this in November of 2019 (thus the information therein is based on figures from that time) but, being scatter brained, neglected to post this for the Bitcoin community to see. The yardsticks I used to compare the two assets included the following: shipping/transactions costs, storage costs, censorship factor, settlement time, stock to flow, blockchain vs clearing house, validation, etc. I will also touch on Roosevelt's gold confiscation executive order in 1933, transporting gold during the Spanish Civil War in 1936, and the hypothetical cost for Venezuela to repatriate its gold more recently. I will provide a brief summary first then follow that with the outline I made. This information can be used as a tool for the Bitcoin community to combat some of the silly rhetoric coming from goldbugs such as Peter Schiff and James Rickards. I would like to make it clear, however, that I am not against gold and think that it performed its role as money very well in a technologically inferior era, namely Victorian times but I think Bitcoin performs the functions of money better than gold does in the current environment. I have been looking to make a contribution to the Bitcoin community and I hope this is a useful and educational tool for everyone who reads this. Summary: Shipping/transaction costs: 100 ounces of gold could be shipped for 315 dollars; the comparable dollar value in Bitcoin could be sent for 35 dollars using a non-segwit address. Using historical precendent, it would cost an estimated $32,997,989 to transport $1 billion in gold using the 3.3% fee that the Soviets charged the Spaniards in 1936; a $1 billion Bitcoin transaction moved for $690 last year by comparison. Please note that the only historic example we can provide for moving enormous sums of gold was when the government of Spain transported gold to Moscow during the Spanish Civil War in 1936. More information on this topic will be found in the notes section. Storage costs: 100 ounces of gold would require $451 per year to custody while the equivalent value of Bitcoin in dollar terms could be stored for the cost of a Ledger Nano S, $59.99. $1 billion USD value of gold would cost $2,900,000 per year while an Armory set up that is more secure would run you the cost of a laptop, $200-300. Censorship factor: Gold must pass through a 3rd party whenever it is shipped, whether for a transaction or for personal transportation. Gold will typically have to be declared and a customs duty may be imposed when crossing international borders. The key take-away is gatekeepers (customs) can halt movement of gold thus making transactions difficult. $46,000 of gold was seized in India despite the smugglers hiding it in their rectums. Settlement time: Shipping gold based on 100 ounces takes anywhere from 3-10 days while Bitcoin transactions clear in roughly 10 minutes depending on network congestion and fee size. Historic confiscation: Franklin Roosevelt confiscated and debased the paper value of gold in 1933 with Executive Order 6102. Since gold is physical in nature and value dense, it is often stored in custodial vaults like banks and so forth which act as a honeypot for rapacious governments. Stock to flow: Plan B's stock to flow model has become a favorite on twitter. Stock to flow measures the relationship between the total stock of an asset against the amount that is produced in a given year. Currently gold still has the highest value at 62 while Bitcoin sits at 50 in 2nd place. Bitcoin will overtake gold in 2024 after the next halving. Blockchain vs clearing house: gold payments historically passed through a 3rd party (clearinghouse) in order to be validated while Bitcoin transactions can be self validated through the use of a node. Key Takeaway from above- Bitcoin is vastly superior to gold in terms of cost, speed, and censorship resistance. One could theoretically carry around an enormous sum of Bitcoin on a cold card while the equivalent dollar value of gold would require a wheelbarrow...and create an enormous target on the back of the transporter. With the exception of the stock to flow ratio (which will flip in Bitcoin's favor soon), Bitcoin is superior to gold by all metrics covered. Notes: Shipping/transaction costs Gold 100 oz = 155,500. 45 x 7 = $315 to ship 100 oz gold. https://seekingalpha.com/instablog/839735-katchum/2547831-how-much-does-it-cost-to-ship-silver-and-gold https://www.coininvest.com/en/shipping-prices/ 211 tonnes Venezuela; 3.3% of $10.5 billion = 346,478,880 or 32,997,989/billion usd http://blogs.reuters.com/felix-salmon/2011/08/23/how-to-get-12-billion-of-gold-to-venezuela/ (counter party risk; maduro; quotes from article) Bitcoin 18 bitcoin equivalent value; 35 USD with legacy address https://blockexplorer.com/ https://bitcoinfees.info/ 1 billion; $690 dollars https://arstechnica.com/tech-policy/2019/09/someone-moved-1-billion-in-a-single-bitcoin-transaction/ Storage costs Gold .29% annually; https://sdbullion.com/gold-silver-storage 100 oz – $451/year $1 billion USD value – $2,900,000/year Bitcoin Ledger Nano S - $59.00 (for less bitcoin) https://shop.ledger.com/products/ledger-nano-s/transparent?flow_country=USA&gclid=EAIaIQobChMI3ILV5O-Z5wIVTtbACh1zTAwqEAQYASABEgJ5SPD_BwE Armory - $200-300 cost of laptop for setup https://www.bitcoinarmory.com/ Censorship factor (must pass through 3rd party) Varies by country Gold will typically have to be declared and a customs duty may be imposed Key take-away is gatekeepers (customs) can halt movement of gold thus making transactions difficult $46,000 seized in India https://www.foxnews.com/travel/indian-airport-stops-29-passengers-smuggling-gold-in-their-rectums Settlement time Gold For 100 oz transaction by USPS 3-10 days (must pass through 3rd party) Bitcoin Roughly 10 minutes to be included in next block Historic confiscation-roosevelt 1933 Executive Order 6102 (forced spending, fed could ban cash, go through and get quotes) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Executive_Order_6102 “The stated reason for the order was that hard times had caused "hoarding" of gold, stalling economic growth and making the depression worse” Stock to flow; https://medium.com/@100trillionUSD/modeling-bitcoins-value-with-scarcity-91fa0fc03e25 (explain what it is and use charts in article) Gold; SF of 62 Bitcoin; SF of 25 but will double to 50 after May (and to 100 in four years) Blockchain vs clearing house Transactions can be validated by running a full node vs. third party settlement Validation Gold; https://www.goldismoney2.com/threads/cost-to-assay.6732/ (Read some responses) Bitcoin Cost of electricity to run a full node Breaking down Venezuela conundrum; http://blogs.reuters.com/felix-salmon/2011/08/23/how-to-get-12-billion-of-gold-to-venezuela/ “The last (and only) known case of this kind of quantity of gold being transported across state lines took place almost exactly 75 years ago, in 1936, when the government of Spain removed 560 tons of gold from Madrid to Moscow as the armies of Francisco Franco approached. Most of the gold was exchanged for Russian weaponry, with the Soviet Union keeping 2.1% of the funds in the form of commissions and brokerage, and an additional 1.2% in the form of transport, deposit, melting, and refining expenses.” “Venezuela would need to transport the gold in several trips, traders said, since the high value of gold means it would be impossible to insure a single aircraft carrying 211 tonnes. It could take about 40 shipments to move the gold back to Caracas, traders estimated. “It’s going to be quite a task. Logistically, I’m not sure if the central bank realises the magnitude of the task ahead of them,” said one senior gold banker.” “So maybe Chávez intends to take matters into his own hands, and just sail the booty back to Venezuela on one of his own naval ships. Again, the theft risk is obvious — seamen can be greedy too — and this time there would be no insurance. Chávez is pretty crazy, but I don’t think he’d risk $12 billion that way.” “Which leaves one final alternative. Gold is fungible, and people are actually willing to pay a premium to buy gold which is sitting in the Bank of England’s ultra-secure vaults. So why bother transporting that gold at all? Venezuela could enter into an intercontinental repo transaction, where it sells its gold in the Bank of England to some counterparty, and then promises to buy it all back at a modest discount, on condition that it’s physically delivered to the Venezuelan central bank in Caracas. It would then be up to the counterparty to work out how to get 211 tons of gold to Caracas by a certain date. That gold could be sourced anywhere in the world, and transported in any conceivable manner — being much less predictable and transparent, those shipments would also be much harder to hijack. How much of a discount would a counterparty require to enter into this kind of transaction? Much more than 3.3%, is my guess. And again, it’s not entirely clear who would even be willing to entertain the idea. Glencore, perhaps?” “But here’s one last idea: why doesn’t Chávez crowdsource the problem? He could simply open a gold window at the Banco Central de Venezuela, where anybody at all could deliver standard gold bars. In return, the central bank would transfer to that person an equal number of gold bars in the custody of the Bank of England, plus a modest bounty of say 2% — that’s over $15,000 per 400-ounce bar, at current rates. It would take a little while, but eventually the gold would start trickling in: if you’re willing to pay a constant premium of 2% over the market price for a good, you can be sure that the good in question will ultimately find its way to your door. And the 2% cost of acquiring all that gold would surely be much lower than the cost of insuring and shipping it from England. It would be an elegant market-based solution to an artificial and ideologically-driven problem; I daresay Chávez might even chuckle at the irony of it. He’d just need to watch out for a rise in Andean banditry, as thieves tried to steal the bars on their disparate journeys into Venezuela.”
Eth 2.0 vs Polkadot and other musings by a fundamental investor
Spent about two hours on this post and I decided it would help the community if I made it more visible. Comment was made as a response to this
I’m trying to avoid falling into a maximalist mindset over time. This isn’t a 100% ETH question, but I’m trying to stay educated about emerging tech. Can someone help me see the downsides of diversifying into DOTs? I know Polkadot is more centralized, VC backed, and generally against our ethos here. On chain governance might introduce some unknown risks. What else am I missing? I see a bunch of posts about how Ethereum and Polkadot can thrive together, but are they not both L1 competitors?
What else am I missing?
The upsides. Most of the guys responding to you here are full Eth maxis who drank the Parity is bad koolaid. They are married to their investment and basically emotional / tribal in an area where you should have a cool head. Sure, you might get more upvotes on Reddit if you do and say what the crowd wants, but do you want upvotes and fleeting validation or do you want returns on your investment? Do you want to be these guys or do you want to be the shareholder making bank off of those guys? Disclaimer: I'm both an Eth whale and a Dot whale, and have been in crypto for close to a decade now. I originally bought ether sub $10 after researching it for at least a thousand hours. Rode to $1500 and down to $60. Iron hands - my intent has always been to reconsider my Eth position after proof of stake is out. I invested in the 2017 Dot public sale with the plan of flipping profits back to Eth but keeping Dots looks like the right short and long term play now. I am not a trader, I just take a deep tech dive every couple of years and invest in fundamentals. Now as for your concerns:
I know Polkadot is more centralized
The sad truth is that the market doesn't really care about this. At all. There is no real statistic to show at what point a coin is "decentralized" or "too centralized". For example, bitcoin has been completely taken over by Chinese mining farms for about five years now. Last I checked, they control above 85% of the hashing power, they just spread it among different mining pools to make it look decentralized. They have had the ability to fake or block transactions for all this time but it has never been in their best interest to do so: messing with bitcoin in that way would crash its price, therefore their bitcoin holdings, their mining equipment, and their company stock (some of them worth billions) would evaporate. So they won't do it due to economics, but not because they can't. That is the major point I want to get across; originally Bitcoin couldn't be messed with because it was decentralized, but now Bitcoin is centralized but it's still not messed with due to economics. It is basically ChinaCoin at this point, but the market doesn't care, and it still enjoys over 50% of the total crypto market cap. So how does this relate to Polkadot? Well fortunately most chains - Ethereum included - are working towards proof of stake. This is obviously better for the environment, but it also has a massive benefit for token holders. If a hostile party wanted to take over a proof of stake chain they'd have to buy up a massive share of the network. The moment they force through a malicious transaction a proof of stake blockchain has the option to fork them off. It would be messy for a few days, but by the end of the week the hostile party would have a large amount of now worthless tokens, and the proof of stake community would have moved on to a version of the blockchain where the hostile party's tokens have been slashed to zero. So not only does the market not care about centralization (Bitcoin example), but proof of stake makes token holders even safer. That being said, Polkadot's "centralization" is not that far off to Ethereum. The Web3 foundation kept 30% of the Dots while the Ethereum Foundation kept 17%. There are whales in Polkadot but Ethereum has them too - 40% of all genesis Ether went to 100 wallets, and many suspect that the original Ethereum ICO was sybiled to make it look more popular and decentralized than it really was. But you don't really care about that do you? Neither do I. Whales are a fact of life.
VCs are part of the crypto game now. There is no way to get rid of them, and there is no real reason why you should want to get rid of them. They put their capital at risk (same as you and me) and seek returns on their investment (same as you and me). They are both in Polkadot and Ethereum, and have been for years now. I have no issue with them as long as they don't play around with insider information, but that is another topic. To be honest, I would be worried if VCs did not endorse chains I'm researching, but maybe that's because my investing style isn't chasing hype and buying SUSHI style tokens from anonymous (at the time) developers. That's just playing hot potato. But hey, some people are good at that. As to the amount of wallets that participated in the Polkadot ICO: a little known fact is that more individual wallets participated in Polkadot's ICO than Ethereum's, even though Polkadot never marketed their ICO rounds due to regulatory reasons.
generally against our ethos here
Kool aid. Some guy that works(ed?) at Parity (who employs what, 200+ people?) correctly said that Ethereum is losing its tech lead and that offended the Ethereum hivemind. Oh no. So controversial. I'm so personally hurt by that. Some guy that has been working for free on Ethereum basically forever correctly said that Polkadot is taking the blockchain tech crown. Do we A) Reflect on why he said that? or B) Rally the mob to chase him off?
Also Parity locked their funds (and about 500+ other wallets not owned by them) and proposed a solution to recover them. When the community voted no they backed off and did not fork the chain, even if they had the influence to do so. For some reason this subreddit hates them for that, even if Parity did the 100% moral thing to do. Remember, 500+ other teams or people had their funds locked, so Parity was morally bound to try its best to recover them. Its just lame drama to be honest. Nothing to do with ethos, everything to do with emotional tribalism. Now for the missing upsides (I'll also respond to random fragments scattered in the thread):
This isn’t a 100% ETH question, but I’m trying to stay educated about emerging tech.
A good quick intro to Eth's tech vs Polkadot's tech can be found on this thread, especially this reply. That thread is basically mandatory reading if you care about your investment. Eth 2.0's features will not really kick in for end users until about 2023. That means every dapp (except DeFI, where the fees make sense due to returns and is leading the fee market) who built on Eth's layer 1 are dead for three years. Remember the trading card games... Gods Unchained? How many players do you think are going to buy and sell cards when the transaction fee is worth more than the cards? All that development is now practically worthless until it can migrate to its own shard. This story repeats for hundreds of other dapp teams who's projects are now priced out for three years. So now they either have to migrate to a one of the many unpopulated L2 options (which have their own list of problems and risks, but that's another topic) or they look for another platform, preferably one interoperable with Ethereum. Hence Polkadot's massive growth in developer activity. If you check out https://polkaproject.com/ you'll see 205 projects listed at the time of this post. About a week ago they had 202 listed. That means about one team migrated from another tech stack to build on Polkadot every two days, and trust me, many more will come in when parachains are finally activated, and it will be a complete no brainer when Polkadot 2.0 is released. Another huge upside for Polkadot is the Initial Parachain Offerings. Polkadot's version of ICOs. The biggest difference is that you can vote for parachains using your Dots to bind them to the relay chain, and you get some of the parachain's tokens in exchange. After a certain amount of time you get your Dots back. The tokenomics here are impressive: Dots are locked (reduced supply) instead of sold (sell pressure) and you still earn your staking rewards. There's no risk of scammers running away with your Ether and the governance mechanism allows for the community to defund incompetent devs who did not deliver what was promised.
Wouldn’t an ETH shard on Polkadot gain a bunch of scaling benefits that we won’t see natively for a couple years?
Yes. That is correct. Both Edgeware and Moonbeam are EVM compatible. And if the original dapp teams don't migrate their projects someone else will fork them, exactly like SUSHI did to Uniswap, and how Acala is doing to MakerDao.
Although realistically Ethereum has a 5 yr headstart and devs haven't slowed down at all
Just because it's "EVM Compatible" doesn't mean you can just plug Ethereum into Polkadot or vica versa, it just means they both understand Ethereum bytecode and you can potentially copy/paste contracts from Ethereum to Polkadot, but you'd still need to add a "bridge" between the 2 chains, so it adds additional complexity and extra steps compared to using any of the existing L2 scaling solutions
That only applies of you are thinking from an Eth maximalist perspective. But if you think from Polkadot's side, why would you need to use the bridge back to Ethereum at all? Everything will be seamless, cheaper, and quicker once the ecosystem starts to flourish.
I see a bunch of posts about how Ethereum and Polkadot can thrive together, but are they not both L1 competitors?
They are competitors. Both have their strategies, and both have their strengths (tech vs time on the market) but they are clearly competing in my eyes. Which is a good thing, Apple and Samsung competing in the cell phone market just leads to more innovation for consumers. You can still invest in both if you like. Edit - link to post and the rest of the conversation: https://www.reddit.com/ethfinance/comments/iooew6/daily_general_discussion_september_8_2020/g4h5yyq/ Edit 2 - one day later PolkaProject count is 210. Devs are getting the hint :)
Congress Flirts With Digital Dollar; That’s a significant step, and I argue that such crisis situations always produce new ideas, and acceptance of new ideas, that will live on long after the coronavirus has burned through the world,”
I keep hearing "Deflation before massive inflation"
So what can we do about it? Any ideas are welcome. It has a lot of "what if's"... It depends how tax and law play out with it.Historically speaking:
Commodities and things people use every day become expensive,
Luxury goods fall in value.
Inflation wipes out all savings, there is often a rush to spend money while it has value. "Bank runs" and "Bank Bail in's" where the bank will limit your withdraws to prop up the bank temporarily. Sure here the FDIC may insure it, but its nothing if your money is losing value by the hour and it takes months to get it actually into your hands. And many countries have issues with a person holding cash..."You're automatically a drug dealer! >your money is now drug money! >Asset forfeiture" ...I cant count how many times this happens.
People yell " physical gold and silver!" ... yeah, those do hold value well, however the gov does tax that at 26-30% when sold, and will often ban its use in dire times. ....huge grey / pirate area.
Mining stock is the same in the tax range, and nearly anything you "resell", imposed taxes and royalties can be added leaving you high and dry.
Precious metal holdings have been banned in the past, even here in the USA...aka Government confiscation.
Nationalization of Precious metals mines have happened.
Edit: I now realize there are many ways stocks can play out.
Real Estate will raise in value hugely, However so will the taxes, longer contracts at fixed rates benefits the lendee.
Things that you use, if you can stock or invest in it.
-I stock bulk diesel for my cars while following historical averages to buy cheap.
-Rotating food stock
-Extra maintenance items, including the big things like a roof on your home if its coming time. Not joking I have a spare water heater and backup heating options, along with minor parts and filters to fix them. Same with cars and engines, (spark plugs, filters (all different filters), oil, cheap sensors that usually go bad and are only 4-10$ each, 1-2 extra alternator per vehicle, belts, mowing belts, bearings, grease, ... and I've literally had to use everything on that list and reorder.)
Things that directly pay you back or are insurance. Saving money is making money.
-Security, Locks, Alarms, Cameras, people steal.
A deep freezer for instance can stock food you use and buy on sale.
Solar energy and solar heating supplements energy you use anyways
Rainwater can be collected and used rather than buying from a source.
A cooking gadget vs eating out.
Tools and learning to fix things vs hire.
House insulation.-Better insulative windows, and sealing.
Bidet on toilet (lol serious though...)
Your education can be a huge one, not just for prepping but also in your work.
Things that prevent rot, fire, flood / humidity, or failure. Humidity is a silent killer to many preps. (water sump pumps, dehumidifiers, leak prevention, fire extinguishers / sprinklers, )
Things that last and can be resold on the street if need be. This list can be huge, you have to balance it with liquidity, what you use but can also sell before it goes bad / fails.
Honestly and unpopularly, Things that can avoid tax when the price inflates out of control and you wish to sell. The numbers can be so distorted in both price and taxing of income. Eggs for instance, in many countries from Weimar Republic of Germany to Venezuela, increased 15,000%+, So that $15,000 egg / $150,000 dozen that you sold from your chickens gets taxed in the highest tax bracket? (which can go into the 90% range if rules aren't changed for the massive inflation) Taxes usually try raising during this and many companies flee the country, add robots / machines, or downsize as the result of more taxes making work and jobs even more of an issue. .. honestly history shows the whole thing being a cluster-duck in so many ways. Alternative currencies pop up, actual trades happen and go unreported, crime even shifts when things get too bad, again with Venezuela, I read that criminals were moving to other countries because the people were too poor to even make anything robbing! You can also have a business where you write off so many things that you would use anyways. The numbers get... err... odd, play the game.
It is usually around 10 years of chaos before things start "stabilizing." and even then, so much damage has occured.
This is a serious thing that has happened to once prosperous people / civilizations in the past...don't think you're exempt, especially when the numbers are at historical limits in many countries. Invest in yourself and what you use regularly.
Summary: Everyone knows that when you give your assets to someone else, they always keep them safe. If this is true for individuals, it is certainly true for businesses. Custodians always tell the truth and manage funds properly. They won't have any interest in taking the assets as an exchange operator would. Auditors tell the truth and can't be misled. That's because organizations that are regulated are incapable of lying and don't make mistakes. First, some background. Here is a summary of how custodians make us more secure: Previously, we might give Alice our crypto assets to hold. There were risks:
Alice might take the assets and disappear.
Alice might spend the assets and pretend that she still has them (fractional model).
Alice might store the assets insecurely and they'll get stolen.
Alice might give the assets to someone else by mistake or by force.
Alice might lose access to the assets.
But "no worries", Alice has a custodian named Bob. Bob is dressed in a nice suit. He knows some politicians. And he drives a Porsche. "So you have nothing to worry about!". And look at all the benefits we get:
Alice can't take the assets and disappear (unless she asks Bob or never gives them to Bob).
Alice can't spend the assets and pretend that she still has them. (Unless she didn't give them to Bob or asks him for them.)
Alice can't store the assets insecurely so they get stolen. (After all - she doesn't have any control over the withdrawal process from any of Bob's systems, right?)
Alice can't give the assets to someone else by mistake or by force. (Bob will stop her, right Bob?)
Alice can't lose access to the funds. (She'll always be present, sane, and remember all secrets, right?)
See - all problems are solved! All we have to worry about now is:
Bob might take the assets and disappear.
Bob might spend the assets and pretend that he still has them (fractional model).
Bob might store the assets insecurely and they'll get stolen.
Bob might give the assets to someone else by mistake or by force.
Bob might lose access to the assets.
It's pretty simple. Before we had to trust Alice. Now we only have to trust Alice, Bob, and all the ways in which they communicate. Just think of how much more secure we are! "On top of that", Bob assures us, "we're using a special wallet structure". Bob shows Alice a diagram. "We've broken the balance up and store it in lots of smaller wallets. That way", he assures her, "a thief can't take it all at once". And he points to a historic case where a large sum was taken "because it was stored in a single wallet... how stupid". "Very early on, we used to have all the crypto in one wallet", he said, "and then one Christmas a hacker came and took it all. We call him the Grinch. Now we individually wrap each crypto and stick it under a binary search tree. The Grinch has never been back since." "As well", Bob continues, "even if someone were to get in, we've got insurance. It covers all thefts and even coercion, collusion, and misplaced keys - only subject to the policy terms and conditions." And with that, he pulls out a phone-book sized contract and slams it on the desk with a thud. "Yep", he continues, "we're paying top dollar for one of the best policies in the country!" "Can I read it?' Alice asks. "Sure," Bob says, "just as soon as our legal team is done with it. They're almost through the first chapter." He pauses, then continues. "And can you believe that sales guy Mike? He has the same year Porsche as me. I mean, what are the odds?" "Do you use multi-sig?", Alice asks. "Absolutely!" Bob replies. "All our engineers are fully trained in multi-sig. Whenever we want to set up a new wallet, we generate 2 separate keys in an air-gapped process and store them in this proprietary system here. Look, it even requires the biometric signature from one of our team members to initiate any withdrawal." He demonstrates by pressing his thumb into the display. "We use a third-party cloud validation API to match the thumbprint and authorize each withdrawal. The keys are also backed up daily to an off-site third-party." "Wow that's really impressive," Alice says, "but what if we need access for a withdrawal outside of office hours?" "Well that's no issue", Bob says, "just send us an email, call, or text message and we always have someone on staff to help out. Just another part of our strong commitment to all our customers!" "What about Proof of Reserve?", Alice asks. "Of course", Bob replies, "though rather than publish any blockchain addresses or signed transaction, for privacy we just do a SHA256 refactoring of the inverse hash modulus for each UTXO nonce and combine the smart contract coefficient consensus in our hyperledger lightning node. But it's really simple to use." He pushes a button and a large green checkmark appears on a screen. "See - the algorithm ran through and reserves are proven." "Wow", Alice says, "you really know your stuff! And that is easy to use! What about fiat balances?" "Yeah, we have an auditor too", Bob replies, "Been using him for a long time so we have quite a strong relationship going! We have special books we give him every year and he's very efficient! Checks the fiat, crypto, and everything all at once!" "We used to have a nice offline multi-sig setup we've been using without issue for the past 5 years, but I think we'll move all our funds over to your facility," Alice says. "Awesome", Bob replies, "Thanks so much! This is perfect timing too - my Porsche got a dent on it this morning. We have the paperwork right over here." "Great!", Alice replies. And with that, Alice gets out her pen and Bob gets the contract. "Don't worry", he says, "you can take your crypto-assets back anytime you like - just subject to our cancellation policy. Our annual management fees are also super low and we don't adjust them often". How many holes have to exist for your funds to get stolen? Just one. Why are we taking a powerful offline multi-sig setup, widely used globally in hundreds of different/lacking regulatory environments with 0 breaches to date, and circumventing it by a demonstrably weak third party layer? And paying a great expense to do so? If you go through the list of breaches in the past 2 years to highly credible organizations, you go through the list of major corporate frauds (only the ones we know about), you go through the list of all the times platforms have lost funds, you go through the list of times and ways that people have lost their crypto from identity theft, hot wallet exploits, extortion, etc... and then you go through this custodian with a fine-tooth comb and truly believe they have value to add far beyond what you could, sticking your funds in a wallet (or set of wallets) they control exclusively is the absolute worst possible way to take advantage of that security. The best way to add security for crypto-assets is to make a stronger multi-sig. With one custodian, what you are doing is giving them your cryptocurrency and hoping they're honest, competent, and flawlessly secure. It's no different than storing it on a really secure exchange. Maybe the insurance will cover you. Didn't work for Bitpay in 2015. Didn't work for Yapizon in 2017. Insurance has never paid a claim in the entire history of cryptocurrency. But maybe you'll get lucky. Maybe your exact scenario will buck the trend and be what they're willing to cover. After the large deductible and hopefully without a long and expensive court battle. And you want to advertise this increase in risk, the lapse of judgement, an accident waiting to happen, as though it's some kind of benefit to customers ("Free institutional-grade storage for your digital assets.")? And then some people are writing to the OSC that custodians should be mandatory for all funds on every exchange platform? That this somehow will make Canadians as a whole more secure or better protected compared with standard air-gapped multi-sig? On what planet? Most of the problems in Canada stemmed from one thing - a lack of transparency. If Canadians had known what a joke Quadriga was - it wouldn't have grown to lose $400m from hard-working Canadians from coast to coast to coast. And Gerald Cotten would be in jail, not wherever he is now (at best, rotting peacefully). EZ-BTC and mister Dave Smilie would have been a tiny little scam to his friends, not a multi-million dollar fraud. Einstein would have got their act together or been shut down BEFORE losing millions and millions more in people's funds generously donated to criminals. MapleChange wouldn't have even been a thing. And maybe we'd know a little more about CoinTradeNewNote - like how much was lost in there. Almost all of the major losses with cryptocurrency exchanges involve deception with unbacked funds. So it's great to see transparency reports from BitBuy and ShakePay where someone independently verified the backing. The only thing we don't have is:
ANY CERTAINTY BALANCES WEREN'T EXCLUDED. Quadriga's largest account was $70m. 80% of funds are in 20% of accounts (Pareto principle). All it takes is excluding a few really large accounts - and nobody's the wiser. A fractional platform can easily pass any audit this way.
ANY VISIBILITY WHATSOEVER INTO THE CUSTODIANS. BitBuy put out their report before moving all the funds to their custodian and ShakePay apparently can't even tell us who the custodian is. That's pretty important considering that basically all of the funds are now stored there.
ANY IDEA ABOUT THE OTHER EXCHANGES. In order for this to be effective, it has to be the norm. It needs to be "unusual" not to know. If obscurity is the norm, then it's super easy for people like Gerald Cotten and Dave Smilie to blend right in.
It's not complicated to validate cryptocurrency assets. They need to exist, they need to be spendable, and they need to cover the total balances. There are plenty of credible people and firms across the country that have the capacity to reasonably perform this validation. Having more frequent checks by different, independent, parties who publish transparent reports is far more valuable than an annual check by a single "more credible/official" party who does the exact same basic checks and may or may not publish anything. Here's an example set of requirements that could be mandated:
First report within 1 month of launching, another within 3 months, and further reports at minimum every 6 months thereafter.
No auditor can be repeated within a 12 month period.
All reports must be public, identifying the auditor and the full methodology used.
All auditors must be independent of the firm being audited with no conflict of interest.
Reports must include the percentage of each asset backed, and how it's backed.
The auditor publishes a hash list, which lists a hash of each customer's information and balances that were included. Hash is one-way encryption so privacy is fully preserved. Every customer can use this to have 100% confidence they were included.
If we want more extensive requirements on audits, these should scale upward based on the total assets at risk on the platform, and whether the platform has loaned their assets out.
There are ways to structure audits such that neither crypto assets nor customer information are ever put at risk, and both can still be properly validated and publicly verifiable. There are also ways to structure audits such that they are completely reasonable for small platforms and don't inhibit innovation in any way. By making the process as reasonable as possible, we can completely eliminate any reason/excuse that an honest platform would have for not being audited. That is arguable far more important than any incremental improvement we might get from mandating "the best of the best" accountants. Right now we have nothing mandated and tons of Canadians using offshore exchanges with no oversight whatsoever. Transparency does not prove crypto assets are safe. CoinTradeNewNote, Flexcoin ($600k), and Canadian Bitcoins ($100k) are examples where crypto-assets were breached from platforms in Canada. All of them were online wallets and used no multi-sig as far as any records show. This is consistent with what we see globally - air-gapped multi-sig wallets have an impeccable record, while other schemes tend to suffer breach after breach. We don't actually know how much CoinTrader lost because there was no visibility. Rather than publishing details of what happened, the co-founder of CoinTrader silently moved on to found another platform - the "most trusted way to buy and sell crypto" - a site that has no information whatsoever (that I could find) on the storage practices and a FAQ advising that “[t]rading cryptocurrency is completely safe” and that having your own wallet is “entirely up to you! You can certainly keep cryptocurrency, or fiat, or both, on the app.” Doesn't sound like much was learned here, which is really sad to see. It's not that complicated or unreasonable to set up a proper hardware wallet. Multi-sig can be learned in a single course. Something the equivalent complexity of a driver's license test could prevent all the cold storage exploits we've seen to date - even globally. Platform operators have a key advantage in detecting and preventing fraud - they know their customers far better than any custodian ever would. The best job that custodians can do is to find high integrity individuals and train them to form even better wallet signatories. Rather than mandating that all platforms expose themselves to arbitrary third party risks, regulations should center around ensuring that all signatories are background-checked, properly trained, and using proper procedures. We also need to make sure that signatories are empowered with rights and responsibilities to reject and report fraud. They need to know that they can safely challenge and delay a transaction - even if it turns out they made a mistake. We need to have an environment where mistakes are brought to the surface and dealt with. Not one where firms and people feel the need to hide what happened. In addition to a knowledge-based test, an auditor can privately interview each signatory to make sure they're not in coercive situations, and we should make sure they can freely and anonymously report any issues without threat of retaliation. A proper multi-sig has each signature held by a separate person and is governed by policies and mutual decisions instead of a hierarchy. It includes at least one redundant signature. For best results, 3of4, 3of5, 3of6, 4of5, 4of6, 4of7, 5of6, or 5of7. History has demonstrated over and over again the risk of hot wallets even to highly credible organizations. Nonetheless, many platforms have hot wallets for convenience. While such losses are generally compensated by platforms without issue (for example Poloniex, Bitstamp, Bitfinex, Gatecoin, Coincheck, Bithumb, Zaif, CoinBene, Binance, Bitrue, Bitpoint, Upbit, VinDAX, and now KuCoin), the public tends to focus more on cases that didn't end well. Regardless of what systems are employed, there is always some level of risk. For that reason, most members of the public would prefer to see third party insurance. Rather than trying to convince third party profit-seekers to provide comprehensive insurance and then relying on an expensive and slow legal system to enforce against whatever legal loopholes they manage to find each and every time something goes wrong, insurance could be run through multiple exchange operators and regulators, with the shared interest of having a reputable industry, keeping costs down, and taking care of Canadians. For example, a 4 of 7 multi-sig insurance fund held between 5 independent exchange operators and 2 regulatory bodies. All Canadian exchanges could pay premiums at a set rate based on their needed coverage, with a higher price paid for hot wallet coverage (anything not an air-gapped multi-sig cold wallet). Such a model would be much cheaper to manage, offer better coverage, and be much more reliable to payout when needed. The kind of coverage you could have under this model is unheard of. You could even create something like the CDIC to protect Canadians who get their trading accounts hacked if they can sufficiently prove the loss is legitimate. In cases of fraud, gross negligence, or insolvency, the fund can be used to pay affected users directly (utilizing the last transparent balance report in the worst case), something which private insurance would never touch. While it's recommended to have official policies for coverage, a model where members vote would fully cover edge cases. (Could be similar to the Supreme Court where justices vote based on case law.) Such a model could fully protect all Canadians across all platforms. You can have a fiat coverage governed by legal agreements, and crypto-asset coverage governed by both multi-sig and legal agreements. It could be practical, affordable, and inclusive. Now, we are at a crossroads. We can happily give up our freedom, our innovation, and our money. We can pay hefty expenses to auditors, lawyers, and regulators year after year (and make no mistake - this cost will grow to many millions or even billions as the industry grows - and it will be borne by all Canadians on every platform because platforms are not going to eat up these costs at a loss). We can make it nearly impossible for any new platform to enter the marketplace, forcing Canadians to use the same stagnant platforms year after year. We can centralize and consolidate the entire industry into 2 or 3 big players and have everyone else fail (possibly to heavy losses of users of those platforms). And when a flawed security model doesn't work and gets breached, we can make it even more complicated with even more people in suits making big money doing the job that blockchain was supposed to do in the first place. We can build a system which is so intertwined and dependent on big government, traditional finance, and central bankers that it's future depends entirely on that of the fiat system, of fractional banking, and of government bail-outs. If we choose this path, as history has shown us over and over again, we can not go back, save for revolution. Our children and grandchildren will still be paying the consequences of what we decided today. Or, we can find solutions that work. We can maintain an open and innovative environment while making the adjustments we need to make to fully protect Canadian investors and cryptocurrency users, giving easy and affordable access to cryptocurrency for all Canadians on the platform of their choice, and creating an environment in which entrepreneurs and problem solvers can bring those solutions forward easily. None of the above precludes innovation in any way, or adds any unreasonable cost - and these three policies would demonstrably eliminate or resolve all 109 historic cases as studied here - that's every single case researched so far going back to 2011. It includes every loss that was studied so far not just in Canada but globally as well. Unfortunately, finding answers is the least challenging part. Far more challenging is to get platform operators and regulators to agree on anything. My last post got no response whatsoever, and while the OSC has told me they're happy for industry feedback, I believe my opinion alone is fairly meaningless. This takes the whole community working together to solve. So please let me know your thoughts. Please take the time to upvote and share this with people. Please - let's get this solved and not leave it up to other people to do. Facts/background/sources (skip if you like):
The inspiration for the paragraph about splitting wallets was an actual quote from a Canadian company providing custodial services in response to the OSC consultation paper: "We believe that it will be in the in best interests of investors to prohibit pooled crypto assets or ‘floats’. Most Platforms pool assets, citing reasons of practicality and expense. The recent hack of the world’s largest Platform – Binance – demonstrates the vulnerability of participants’ assets when such concessions are made. In this instance, the Platform’s entire hot wallet of Bitcoins, worth over $40 million, was stolen, facilitated in part by the pooling of client crypto assets." "the maintenance of participants (and Platform) crypto assets across multiple wallets distributes the related risk and responsibility of security - reducing the amount of insurance coverage required and making insurance coverage more readily obtainable". For the record, their reply also said nothing whatsoever about multi-sig or offline storage.
In addition to the fact that the $40m hack represented only one "hot wallet" of Binance, and they actually had the vast majority of assets in other wallets (including mostly cold wallets), multiple real cases have clearly demonstrated that risk is still present with multiple wallets. Bitfinex, VinDAX, Bithumb, Altsbit, BitPoint, Cryptopia, and just recently KuCoin all had multiple wallets breached all at the same time, and may represent a significantly larger impact on customers than the Binance breach which was fully covered by Binance. To represent that simply having multiple separate wallets under the same security scheme is a comprehensive way to reduce risk is just not true.
Private insurance has historically never covered a single loss in the cryptocurrency space (at least, not one that I was able to find), and there are notable cases where massive losses were not covered by insurance. Bitpay in 2015 and Yapizon in 2017 both had insurance policies that didn't pay out during the breach, even after a lengthly court process. The same insurance that ShakePay is presently using (and announced to much fanfare) was describe by their CEO himself as covering “physical theft of the media where the private keys are held,” which is something that has never historically happened. As was said with regard to the same policy in 2018 - “I don’t find it surprising that Lloyd’s is in this space,” said Johnson, adding that to his mind the challenge for everybody is figuring out how to structure these policies so that they are actually protective. “You can create an insurance policy that protects no one – you know there are so many caveats to the policy that it’s not super protective.”
The most profitable policy for a private insurance company is one with the most expensive premiums that they never have to pay a claim on. They have no inherent incentive to take care of people who lost funds. It's "cheaper" to take the reputational hit and fight the claim in court. The more money at stake, the more the insurance provider is incentivized to avoid payout. They're not going to insure the assets unless they have reasonable certainty to make a profit by doing so, and they're not going to pay out a massive sum unless it's legally forced. Private insurance is always structured to be maximally profitable to the insurance provider.
The circumvention of multi-sig was a key factor in the massive Bitfinex hack of over $60m of bitcoin, which today still sits being slowly used and is worth over $3b. While Bitfinex used a qualified custodian Bitgo, which was and still is active and one of the industry leaders of custodians, and they set up 2 of 3 multi-sig wallets, the entire system was routed through Bitfinex, such that Bitfinex customers could initiate the withdrawals in a "hot" fashion. This feature was also a hit with the hacker. The multi-sig was fully circumvented.
Bitpay in 2015 was another example of a breach that stole 5,000 bitcoins. This happened not through the exploit of any system in Bitpay, but because the CEO of a company they worked with got their computer hacked and the hackers were able to request multiple bitcoin purchases, which Bitpay honoured because they came from the customer's computer legitimately. Impersonation is a very common tactic used by fraudsters, and methods get more extreme all the time.
A notable case in Canada was the Canadian Bitcoins exploit. Funds were stored on a server in a Rogers Data Center, and the attendee was successfully convinced to reboot the server "in safe mode" with a simple phone call, thus bypassing the extensive security and enabling the theft.
The very nature of custodians circumvents multi-sig. This is because custodians are not just having to secure the assets against some sort of physical breach but against any form of social engineering, modification of orders, fraudulent withdrawal attempts, etc... If the security practices of signatories in a multi-sig arrangement are such that the breach risk of one signatory is 1 in 100, the requirement of 3 independent signatures makes the risk of theft 1 in 1,000,000. Since hackers tend to exploit the weakest link, a comparable custodian has to make the entry and exit points of their platform 10,000 times more secure than one of those signatories to provide equivalent protection. And if the signatories beef up their security by only 10x, the risk is now 1 in 1,000,000,000. The custodian has to be 1,000,000 times more secure. The larger and more complex a system is, the more potential vulnerabilities exist in it, and the fewer people can understand how the system works when performing upgrades. Even if a system is completely secure today, one has to also consider how that system might evolve over time or work with different members.
By contrast, offline multi-signature solutions have an extremely solid record, and in the entire history of cryptocurrency exchange incidents which I've studied (listed here), there has only been one incident (796 exchange in 2015) involving an offline multi-signature wallet. It happened because the customer's bitcoin address was modified by hackers, and the amount that was stolen ($230k) was immediately covered by the exchange operators. Basically, the platform operators were tricked into sending a legitimate withdrawal request to the wrong address because hackers exploited their platform to change that address. Such an issue would not be prevented in any way by the use of a custodian, as that custodian has no oversight whatsoever to the exchange platform. It's practical for all exchange operators to test large withdrawal transactions as a general policy, regardless of what model is used, and general best practice is to diagnose and fix such an exploit as soon as it occurs.
False promises on the backing of funds played a huge role in the downfall of Quadriga, and it's been exposed over and over again (MyCoin, PlusToken, Bitsane, Bitmarket, EZBTC, IDAX). Even today, customers have extremely limited certainty on whether their funds in exchanges are actually being backed or how they're being backed. While this issue is not unique to cryptocurrency exchanges, the complexity of the technology and the lack of any regulation or standards makes problems more widespread, and there is no "central bank" to come to the rescue as in the 2008 financial crisis or during the great depression when "9,000 banks failed".
In addition to fraudulent operations, the industry is full of cases where operators have suffered breaches and not reported them. Most recently, Einstein was the largest case in Canada, where ongoing breaches and fraud were perpetrated against the platform for multiple years and nobody found out until the platform collapsed completely. While fraud and breaches suck to deal with, they suck even more when not dealt with. Lack of visibility played a role in the largest downfalls of Mt. Gox, Cryptsy, and Bitgrail. In some cases, platforms are alleged to have suffered a hack and keep operating without admitting it at all, such as CoinBene.
It surprises some to learn that a cryptographic solution has already existed since 2013, and gained widespread support in 2014 after Mt. Gox. Proof of Reserves is a full cryptographic proof that allows any customer using an exchange to have complete certainty that their crypto-assets are fully backed by the platform in real-time. This is accomplished by proving that assets exist on the blockchain, are spendable, and fully cover customer deposits. It does not prove safety of assets or backing of fiat assets.
If we didn't care about privacy at all, a platform could publish their wallet addresses, sign a partial transaction, and put the full list of customer information and balances out publicly. Customers can each check that they are on the list, that the balances are accurate, that the total adds up, and that it's backed and spendable on the blockchain. Platforms who exclude any customer take a risk because that customer can easily check and see they were excluded. So together with all customers checking, this forms a full proof of backing of all crypto assets.
However, obviously customers care about their private information being published. Therefore, a hash of the information can be provided instead. Hash is one-way encryption. The hash allows the customer to validate inclusion (by hashing their own known information), while anyone looking at the list of hashes cannot determine the private information of any other user. All other parts of the scheme remain fully intact. A model like this is in use on the exchange CoinFloor in the UK.
A Merkle tree can provide even greater privacy. Instead of a list of balances, the balances are arranged into a binary tree. A customer starts from their node, and works their way to the top of the tree. For example, they know they have 5 BTC, they plus 1 other customer hold 7 BTC, they plus 2-3 other customers hold 17 BTC, etc... until they reach the root where all the BTC are represented. Thus, there is no way to find the balances of other individual customers aside from one unidentified customer in this case.
Proposals such as this had the backing of leaders in the community including Nic Carter, Greg Maxwell, and Zak Wilcox. Substantial and significant effort started back in 2013, with massive popularity in 2014. But what became of that effort? Very little. Exchange operators continue to refuse to give visibility. Despite the fact this information can often be obtained through trivial blockchain analysis, no Canadian platform has ever provided any wallet addresses publicly. As described by the CEO of Newton "For us to implement some kind of realtime Proof of Reserves solution, which I'm not opposed to, it would have to ... Preserve our users' privacy, as well as our own. Some kind of zero-knowledge proof". Kraken describes here in more detail why they haven't implemented such a scheme. According to professor Eli Ben-Sasson, when he spoke with exchanges, none were interested in implementing Proof of Reserves.
And yet, Kraken's places their reasoning on a page called "Proof of Reserves". More recently, both BitBuy and ShakePay have released reports titled "Proof of Reserves and Security Audit". Both reports contain disclaimers against being audits. Both reports trust the customer list provided by the platform, leaving the open possibility that multiple large accounts could have been excluded from the process. Proof of Reserves is a blockchain validation where customers see the wallets on the blockchain. The report from Kraken is 5 years old, but they leave it described as though it was just done a few weeks ago. And look at what they expect customers to do for validation. When firms represent something being "Proof of Reserve" when it's not, this is like a farmer growing fruit with pesticides and selling it in a farmers market as organic produce - except that these are people's hard-earned life savings at risk here. Platforms are misrepresenting the level of visibility in place and deceiving the public by their misuse of this term. They haven't proven anything.
Fraud isn't a problem that is unique to cryptocurrency. Fraud happens all the time. Enron, WorldCom, Nortel, Bear Stearns, Wells Fargo, Moser Baer, Wirecard, Bre-X, and Nicola are just some of the cases where frauds became large enough to become a big deal (and there are so many countless others). These all happened on 100% reversible assets despite regulations being in place. In many of these cases, the problems happened due to the over-complexity of the financial instruments. For example, Enron had "complex financial statements [which] were confusing to shareholders and analysts", creating "off-balance-sheet vehicles, complex financing structures, and deals so bewildering that few people could understand them". In cryptocurrency, we are often combining complex financial products with complex technologies and verification processes. We are naïve if we think problems like this won't happen. It is awkward and uncomfortable for many people to admit that they don't know how something works. If we want "money of the people" to work, the solutions have to be simple enough that "the people" can understand them, not so confusing that financial professionals and technology experts struggle to use or understand them.
For those who question the extent to which an organization can fool their way into a security consultancy role, HB Gary should be a great example to look at. Prior to trying to out anonymous, HB Gary was being actively hired by multiple US government agencies and others in the private sector (with glowing testimonials). The published articles and hosted professional security conferences. One should also look at this list of data breaches from the past 2 years. Many of them are large corporations, government entities, and technology companies. These are the ones we know about. Undoubtedly, there are many more that we do not know about. If HB Gary hadn't been "outted" by anonymous, would we have known they were insecure? If the same breach had happened outside of the public spotlight, would it even have been reported? Or would HB Gary have just deleted the Twitter posts, brought their site back up, done a couple patches, and kept on operating as though nothing had happened?
In the case of Quadriga, the facts are clear. Despite past experience with platforms such as MapleChange in Canada and others around the world, no guidance or even the most basic of a framework was put in place by regulators. By not clarifying any sort of legal framework, regulators enabled a situation where a platform could be run by former criminal Mike Dhanini/Omar Patryn, and where funds could be held fully unchecked by one person. At the same time, the lack of regulation deterred legitimate entities from running competing platforms and Quadriga was granted a money services business license for multiple years of operation, which gave the firm the appearance of legitimacy. Regulators did little to protect Canadians despite Quadriga failing to file taxes from 2016 onward. The entire administrative team had resigned and this was public knowledge. Many people had suspicions of what was going on, including Ryan Mueller, who forwarded complaints to the authorities. These were ignored, giving Gerald Cotten the opportunity to escape without justice.
There are multiple issues with the SOC II model including the prohibitive cost (you have to find a third party accounting firm and the prices are not even listed publicly on any sites), the requirement of operating for a year (impossible for new platforms), and lack of any public visibility (SOC II are private reports that aren't shared outside the people in suits).
Securities frameworks are expensive. Sarbanes-Oxley is estimated to cost $5.1 million USD/yr for the average Fortune 500 company in the United States. Since "Fortune 500" represents the top 500 companies, that means well over $2.55 billion USD (~$3.4 billion CAD) is going to people in suits. Isn't the problem of trust and verification the exact problem that the blockchain is supposed to solve?
To use Quadriga as justification for why custodians or SOC II or other advanced schemes are needed for platforms is rather silly, when any framework or visibility at all, or even the most basic of storage policies, would have prevented the whole thing. It's just an embarrassment.
We are now seeing regulators take strong action. CoinSquare in Canada with multi-million dollar fines. BitMex from the US, criminal charges and arrests. OkEx, with full disregard of withdrawals and no communication. Who's next?
We have a unique window today where we can solve these problems, and not permanently destroy innovation with unreasonable expectations, but we need to act quickly. This is a unique historic time that will never come again.
A criticism of the article "Six monetarist errors: why emission won't feed inflation"
(be gentle, it's my first RI attempt, :P; I hope I can make justice to the subject, this is my layman understanding of many macro subjects which may be flawed...I hope you can illuminate me if I have fallen short of a good RI) Introduction So, today a heterodox leaning Argentinian newspaper, Ambito Financiero, published an article criticizing monetarism called "Six monetarist errors: why emission won't feed inflation". I find it doesn't properly address monetarism, confuses it with other "economic schools" for whatever the term is worth today and it may be misleading, so I was inspired to write a refutation and share it with all of you. In some ways criticizing monetarism is more of a historical discussion given the mainstream has changed since then. Stuff like New Keynesian models are the bleeding edge, not Milton Friedman style monetarism. It's more of a symptom that Argentinian political culture is kind of stuck in the 70s on economics that this things keep being discussed. Before getting to the meat of the argument, it's good to have in mind some common definitions about money supply measures (specifically, MB, M1 and M2). These definitions apply to US but one can find analogous stuff for other countries. Argentina, for the lack of access to credit given its economic mismanagement and a government income decrease because of the recession, is monetizing deficits way more than before (like half of the budget, apparently, it's money financed) yet we have seen some disinflation (worth mentioning there are widespread price freezes since a few months ago). The author reasons that monetary phenomena cannot explain inflation properly and that other explanations are needed and condemns monetarism. Here are the six points he makes: 1.Is it a mechanical rule?
This way, we can ask by symmetry: if a certainty exists that when emission increases, inflation increases, the reverse should happen when emission becomes negative, obtaining negative inflation. Nonetheless, we know this happens: prices have an easier time increasing and a lot of rigidity decreasing. So the identity between emission and inflation is not like that, deflation almost never exists and the price movement rhythm cannot be controlled remotely only with money quantity. There is no mechanical relationship between one thing and the other.
First, the low hanging fruit: deflation is not that uncommon, for those of you that live in US and Europe it should be obvious given the difficulties central banks had to achieve their targets, but even Argentina has seen deflation during its depression 20 years ago. Second, we have to be careful with what we mean by emission. A statement of quantity theory of money (extracted from "Money Growth and Inflation: How Long is the Long-Run?") would say:
Inflation occurs when the average level of prices increases. Individual price increases in and of themselves do not equal inflation, but an overall pattern of price increases does. The price level observed in the economy is that which leads the quantity of money supplied to equal the quantity of money demanded. The quantity of money supplied is largely controlled by the [central bank]. When the supply of money increases or decreases, the price level must adjust to equate the quantity of money demanded throughout the economy with the quantity of money supplied. The quantity of money demanded depends not only on the price level but also on the level of real income, as measured by real gross domestic product (GDP), and a variety of other factors including the level of interest rates and technological advances such as the invention of automated teller machines. Money demand is widely thought to increase roughly proportionally with the price level and with real income. That is, if prices go up by 10 percent, or if real income increases by 10 percent, empirical evidence suggests people want to hold 10 percent more money. When the money supply grows faster than the money demand associated with rising real incomes and other factors, the price level must rise to equate supply and demand. That is, inflation occurs. This situation is often referred to as too many dollars chasing too few goods. Note that this theory does not predict that any money-supply growth will lead to inflation—only that part of money supply growth that exceeds the increase in money demand associated with rising real GDP (holding the other factors constant).
So it's not mere emission, but money supply growing faster than money demand which we should consider. So negative emission is not necessary condition for deflation in this theory. It's worth mentioning that the relationship with prices is observed for a broad measure of money (M2) and after a lag. From the same source of this excerpt one can observe in Fig. 3a the correlation between inflation and money growth for US becomes stronger the longer data is averaged. Price rigidities don't have to change this long term relationship per se. But what about causality and Argentina? This neat paper shows regressions in two historical periods: 1976-1989 and 1991-2001. The same relationship between M2 and inflation is observed, stronger in the first, highly inflationary period and weaker in the second, more stable, period. The regressions a 1-1 relationship in the high inflation period but deviates a bit in the low inflation period (yet the relationship is still there). Granger causality, as interpreted in the paper, shows prices caused money growth in the high inflation period (arguably because spending was monetized) while the reverse was true for the more stable period. So one can argue that there is a mechanical relationship, albeit one that is more complicated than simple QTOM theory. The relationship is complicated too for low inflation economies, it gets more relevant the higher inflation is. Another point the author makes is that liquidity trap is often ignored. I'll ignore the fact that you need specific conditions for the liquidity trap to be relevant to Argentina and address the point. Worth noting that while market monetarists (not exactly old fashioned monetarists) prefer alternative explanations for monetary policy with very low interest rates, this phenomena has a good monetary basis, as explained by Krugman in his famous japanese liquidity trap paper and his NYT blog (See this and this for some relevant articles). The simplified version is that while inflation may follow M2 growth with all the qualifiers needed, central banks may find difficulties targeting inflation when interest rates are low and agents are used to credible inflation targets. Central banks can change MB, not M2 and in normal times is good enough, but at those times M2 is out of control and "credibly irresponsible" policies are needed to return to normal (a more detailed explanation can be found in that paper I just linked, go for it if you are still curious). It's not like monetary policy is not good, it's that central banks have to do very unconventional stuff to achieve in a low interest rate environment. It's still an open problem but given symmetric inflation targeting policies are becoming more popular I'm optimistic. 2 - Has inflation one or many causes?
In Argentina we know that the main determinant of inflation is dollar price increases. On that, economic concentration of key markets, utility price adjustments, fuel prices, distributive struggles, external commodity values, expectatives, productive disequilibrium, world interest rates, the economic cycle, stationality and external sector restrictions act on it too. Let's see a simple example: during Macri's government since mid 2017 to 2019 emission was practically null, but when in 2018 the dollar value doubled, inflation doubled too (it went from 24% to 48% in 2018) and it went up again a year later. We see here that the empirical validity of monetarist theory was absent.
For the first paragraph, one could try to run econometric tests for all those variables, at least from my layman perspective. But given that it doesn't pass the smell test (has any country used that in its favor ignoring monetary policy? Also, I have shown there is at least some evidence for the money-price relationship before), I'll try to address what happened in Macri's government and if monetarism (or at least some reasonable extension of it) cannot account for it. For a complete description of macroeconomic policy on that period, Sturzenegger account is a good one (even if a bit unreliable given he was the central banker for that government and he is considered to have been a failure). The short version is that central banks uses bonds to manage monetary policy and absorb money; given the history of defaults for the country, the Argentinian Central Bank (BCRA) uses its own peso denominated bonds instead of using treasury bonds. At that time period, the BCRA still financed the treasury but the amount got reduced. Also, it emitted pesos to buy dollar reserves, then sterilized them, maybe risking credibility further. Near the end of 2017 it was evident the government had limited appetite for budget cuts, it had kind of abandoned its inflation target regime and the classic problem of fiscal dominance emerged, as it's shown in the classic "Unpleasant monetarist arithmetic" paper by Wallace and Sargent. Monetary policy gets less effective when the real value of bonds falls, and raising interest rates may be counterproductive in that environment. Rational expectations are needed to complement QTOM. So, given that Argentina promised to go nowhere with reform, it was expected that money financing would increase at some point in the future and BCRA bonds were dumped in 2018 and 2019 as their value was perceived to have decreased, and so peso demand decreased. It's not that the dollar value increased and inflation followed, but instead that peso demand fell suddenly! The IMF deal asked for MB growth to be null or almost null but that doesn't say a lot about M2 (which it's the relevant variable here). Without credible policies, the peso demand keeps falling because bonds are dumped even more (see 2019 for a hilariously brutal example of that). It's not emission per se, but rather that it doesn't adjust properly to peso demand (which is falling). That doesn't mean increasing interest rates is enough to achieve it, following Wallace and Sargent model. This is less a strict proof that a monetary phenomenon is involved and more stating that the author hasn't shown any problem with that, there are reasonable models for this situation. It doesn't look like an clear empirical failure to me yet. 3 - Of what we are talking about when we talk about emission? The author mentions many money measures (M0, M1, M2) but it doesn't address it meaningfully as I tried to do above. It feels more like a rhetorical device because there is no point here except "this stuff exists". Also, it's worth pointing that there are actual criticisms to make to Friedman on those grounds. He failed to forecast US inflation at some points when he switched to M1 instead of using M2, although he later reverted that. Monetarism kind of "failed" there (it also "failed" in the sense that modern central banks don't use money, but instead interest rates as their main tool; "failed" because despite being outdated, it was influential to modern central banking). This is often brought to this kind of discussions like if economics hasn't moved beyond that. For an account of Friedman thoughts on monetary policies and his failures, see this. 4 - Why do many countries print and inflation doesn't increase there? There is a mention about the japanese situation in the 90s (the liquidity trap) which I have addressed. The author mentions that many countries "printed" like crazy during the pandemic, and he says:
Monetarism apologists answer, when confronted with those grave empirical problems that happen in "serious countries", that the population "trusts" their monetary authorities, even increasing the money demand in those place despite the emission. Curious, though, it's an appeal to "trust" implying that the relationship between emission and inflation is not objective, but subjective and cultural: an appreciation that abandons mechanicism and the basic certainty of monetarism, because evaluations and diagnostics, many times ideologic, contextual or historical intervene..
That's just a restatement of applying rational expectations to central bank operations. I don't see a problem with that. Rational expectations is not magic, it's an assessment of future earnings by economic actors. Humans may not 100% rational but central banking somehow works on many countries. You cannot just say that people are ideologues and let it at that. What's your model? Worth noting the author shills for bitcoin a bit in this section, for more cringe. 5 - Are we talking of a physical science or a social science? Again, a vague mention of rational expectations ("populists and pro market politicians could do the same policies with different results because of how agents respond ideologically and expectatives") without handling the subject meaningfully. It criticizes universal macroeconomic rules that apply everywhere (this is often used to dismiss evidence from other countries uncritically more than as a meaningful point). 6 - How limits work?
The last question to monetarism allows to recognize it something: effectively we can think on a type of vinculation between emission and inflation in extreme conditions. That means, with no monetary rule, no government has the need of taxes but instead can emit and spend all it needs without consequence. We know it's not like that: no government can print infinitely without undesirable effects.
Ok, good disclaimer, but given what he wrote before, what's the mechanism which causes money printing to be inflationary at some point? It was rejected before but now it seems that it exists. What was even the point of the article?
Now, the problem is thinking monetarism on its extremes: without emission we have inflation sometimes, on others we have no inflation with emission, we know that if we have negative emission that doesn't guarantees us negative inflation, but that if emission is radically uncontrolled there will economic effects.
As I wrote above, that's not what monetarism (even on it's simpler form) says, nor a consequence of it. You can see some deviations in low inflation environment but it's not really Argentina's current situation.
Let's add other problems: the elastic question between money and prices is not evident. Neither is time lags in which can work or be neutral. So the question is the limit cases for monetarism which has some reason but some difficulty in explaining them: by which and it what moments rules work and in which it doesn't.
I find the time lag thing to be a red herring. You can observe empirically and not having a proper short/middle run model doesn't invalidate QTOM in the long run. While it may be that increasing interest rates or freezing MB is not effective, that's less a problem of the theory and more a problem of policy implementation. Conclusion: I find that the article doesn't truly get monetarism to begin with (see the points it makes about emission and money demand), neither how it's implemented in practice, nor seems to be aware of more modern theories that, while put money on the background, don't necessarily invalidate it (rational expectation ideas, and eventually New Keynesian stuff which addresses stuff like liquidity traps properly). There are proper criticisms to be made to Friedman old ideas but he still was a relevant man in his time and the economic community has moved on to new, better theories that have some debt to it. I feel most economic discussion about monetarism in Argentina is a strawman of mainstream economics or an attack on Austrians more than genuine points ("monetarism" is used as a shorthand for those who think inflation is a monetary phenomenon more than referring to Friedman and his disciples per se).
Hey all, I've been researching coins since 2017 and have gone through 100s of them in the last 3 years. I got introduced to blockchain via Bitcoin of course, analyzed Ethereum thereafter and from that moment I have a keen interest in smart contact platforms. I’m passionate about Ethereum but I find Zilliqa to have a better risk-reward ratio. Especially because Zilliqa has found an elegant balance between being secure, decentralized and scalable in my opinion.
Below I post my analysis of why from all the coins I went through I’m most bullish on Zilliqa (yes I went through Tezos, EOS, NEO, VeChain, Harmony, Algorand, Cardano etc.). Note that this is not investment advice and although it's a thorough analysis there is obviously some bias involved. Looking forward to what you all think!
Fun fact: the name Zilliqa is a play on ‘silica’ silicon dioxide which means “Silicon for the high-throughput consensus computer.”
This post is divided into (i) Technology, (ii) Business & Partnerships, and (iii) Marketing & Community. I’ve tried to make the technology part readable for a broad audience. If you’ve ever tried understanding the inner workings of Bitcoin and Ethereum you should be able to grasp most parts. Otherwise, just skim through and once you are zoning out head to the next part.
Technology and some more:
The technology is one of the main reasons why I’m so bullish on Zilliqa. First thing you see on their website is: “Zilliqa is a high-performance, high-security blockchain platform for enterprises and next-generation applications.” These are some bold statements.
Before we deep dive into the technology let’s take a step back in time first as they have quite the history. The initial research paper from which Zilliqa originated dates back to August 2016: Elastico: A Secure Sharding Protocol For Open Blockchains where Loi Luu (Kyber Network) is one of the co-authors. Other ideas that led to the development of what Zilliqa has become today are: Bitcoin-NG, collective signing CoSi, ByzCoin and Omniledger.
The technical white paper was made public in August 2017 and since then they have achieved everything stated in the white paper and also created their own open source intermediate level smart contract language called Scilla (functional programming language similar to OCaml) too.
Mainnet is live since the end of January 2019 with daily transaction rates growing continuously. About a week ago mainnet reached 5 million transactions, 500.000+ addresses in total along with 2400 nodes keeping the network decentralized and secure. Circulating supply is nearing 11 billion and currently only mining rewards are left. The maximum supply is 21 billion with annual inflation being 7.13% currently and will only decrease with time.
Zilliqa realized early on that the usage of public cryptocurrencies and smart contracts were increasing but decentralized, secure, and scalable alternatives were lacking in the crypto space. They proposed to apply sharding onto a public smart contract blockchain where the transaction rate increases almost linear with the increase in the amount of nodes. More nodes = higher transaction throughput and increased decentralization. Sharding comes in many forms and Zilliqa uses network-, transaction- and computational sharding. Network sharding opens up the possibility of using transaction- and computational sharding on top. Zilliqa does not use state sharding for now. We’ll come back to this later.
Before we continue dissecting how Zilliqa achieves such from a technological standpoint it’s good to keep in mind that a blockchain being decentralised and secure and scalable is still one of the main hurdles in allowing widespread usage of decentralised networks. In my opinion this needs to be solved first before blockchains can get to the point where they can create and add large scale value. So I invite you to read the next section to grasp the underlying fundamentals. Because after all these premises need to be true otherwise there isn’t a fundamental case to be bullish on Zilliqa, right?
Down the rabbit hole
How have they achieved this? Let’s define the basics first: key players on Zilliqa are the users and the miners. A user is anybody who uses the blockchain to transfer funds or run smart contracts. Miners are the (shard) nodes in the network who run the consensus protocol and get rewarded for their service in Zillings (ZIL). The mining network is divided into several smaller networks called shards, which is also referred to as ‘network sharding’. Miners subsequently are randomly assigned to a shard by another set of miners called DS (Directory Service) nodes. The regular shards process transactions and the outputs of these shards are eventually combined by the DS shard as they reach consensus on the final state. More on how these DS shards reach consensus (via pBFT) will be explained later on.
The Zilliqa network produces two types of blocks: DS blocks and Tx blocks. One DS Block consists of 100 Tx Blocks. And as previously mentioned there are two types of nodes concerned with reaching consensus: shard nodes and DS nodes. Becoming a shard node or DS node is being defined by the result of a PoW cycle (Ethash) at the beginning of the DS Block. All candidate mining nodes compete with each other and run the PoW (Proof-of-Work) cycle for 60 seconds and the submissions achieving the highest difficulty will be allowed on the network. And to put it in perspective: the average difficulty for one DS node is ~ 2 Th/s equaling 2.000.000 Mh/s or 55 thousand+ GeForce GTX 1070 / 8 GB GPUs at 35.4 Mh/s. Each DS Block 10 new DS nodes are allowed. And a shard node needs to provide around 8.53 GH/s currently (around 240 GTX 1070s). Dual mining ETH/ETC and ZIL is possible and can be done via mining software such as Phoenix and Claymore. There are pools and if you have large amounts of hashing power (Ethash) available you could mine solo.
The PoW cycle of 60 seconds is a peak performance and acts as an entry ticket to the network. The entry ticket is called a sybil resistance mechanism and makes it incredibly hard for adversaries to spawn lots of identities and manipulate the network with these identities. And after every 100 Tx Blocks which corresponds to roughly 1,5 hour this PoW process repeats. In between these 1,5 hour, no PoW needs to be done meaning Zilliqa’s energy consumption to keep the network secure is low. For more detailed information on how mining works click here. Okay, hats off to you. You have made it this far. Before we go any deeper down the rabbit hole we first must understand why Zilliqa goes through all of the above technicalities and understand a bit more what a blockchain on a more fundamental level is. Because the core of Zilliqa’s consensus protocol relies on the usage of pBFT (practical Byzantine Fault Tolerance) we need to know more about state machines and their function. Navigate to Viewblock, a Zilliqa block explorer, and just come back to this article. We will use this site to navigate through a few concepts.
We have established that Zilliqa is a public and distributed blockchain. Meaning that everyone with an internet connection can send ZILs, trigger smart contracts, etc. and there is no central authority who fully controls the network. Zilliqa and other public and distributed blockchains (like Bitcoin and Ethereum) can also be defined as state machines.
Taking the liberty of paraphrasing examples and definitions given by Samuel Brooks’ medium article, he describes the definition of a blockchain (like Zilliqa) as: “A peer-to-peer, append-only datastore that uses consensus to synchronize cryptographically-secure data”.
Next, he states that: "blockchains are fundamentally systems for managing valid state transitions”. For some more context, I recommend reading the whole medium article to get a better grasp of the definitions and understanding of state machines. Nevertheless, let’s try to simplify and compile it into a single paragraph. Take traffic lights as an example: all its states (red, amber, and green) are predefined, all possible outcomes are known and it doesn’t matter if you encounter the traffic light today or tomorrow. It will still behave the same. Managing the states of a traffic light can be done by triggering a sensor on the road or pushing a button resulting in one traffic lights’ state going from green to red (via amber) and another light from red to green.
With public blockchains like Zilliqa, this isn’t so straightforward and simple. It started with block #1 almost 1,5 years ago and every 45 seconds or so a new block linked to the previous block is being added. Resulting in a chain of blocks with transactions in it that everyone can verify from block #1 to the current #647.000+ block. The state is ever changing and the states it can find itself in are infinite. And while the traffic light might work together in tandem with various other traffic lights, it’s rather insignificant comparing it to a public blockchain. Because Zilliqa consists of 2400 nodes who need to work together to achieve consensus on what the latest valid state is while some of these nodes may have latency or broadcast issues, drop offline or are deliberately trying to attack the network, etc.
Now go back to the Viewblock page take a look at the amount of transaction, addresses, block and DS height and then hit refresh. Obviously as expected you see new incremented values on one or all parameters. And how did the Zilliqa blockchain manage to transition from a previous valid state to the latest valid state? By using pBFT to reach consensus on the latest valid state.
After having obtained the entry ticket, miners execute pBFT to reach consensus on the ever-changing state of the blockchain. pBFT requires a series of network communication between nodes, and as such there is no GPU involved (but CPU). Resulting in the total energy consumed to keep the blockchain secure, decentralized and scalable being low.
pBFT stands for practical Byzantine Fault Tolerance and is an optimization on the Byzantine Fault Tolerant algorithm. To quote Blockonomi: “In the context of distributed systems, Byzantine Fault Tolerance is the ability of a distributed computer network to function as desired and correctly reach a sufficient consensus despite malicious components (nodes) of the system failing or propagating incorrect information to other peers.” Zilliqa is such a distributed computer network and depends on the honesty of the nodes (shard and DS) to reach consensus and to continuously update the state with the latest block. If pBFT is a new term for you I can highly recommend the Blockonomi article.
The idea of pBFT was introduced in 1999 - one of the authors even won a Turing award for it - and it is well researched and applied in various blockchains and distributed systems nowadays. If you want more advanced information than the Blockonomi link provides click here. And if you’re in between Blockonomi and the University of Singapore read the Zilliqa Design Story Part 2 dating from October 2017. Quoting from the Zilliqa tech whitepaper: “pBFT relies upon a correct leader (which is randomly selected) to begin each phase and proceed when the sufficient majority exists. In case the leader is byzantine it can stall the entire consensus protocol. To address this challenge, pBFT offers a view change protocol to replace the byzantine leader with another one.”
pBFT can tolerate ⅓ of the nodes being dishonest (offline counts as Byzantine = dishonest) and the consensus protocol will function without stalling or hiccups. Once there are more than ⅓ of dishonest nodes but no more than ⅔ the network will be stalled and a view change will be triggered to elect a new DS leader. Only when more than ⅔ of the nodes are dishonest (66%) double-spend attacks become possible.
If the network stalls no transactions can be processed and one has to wait until a new honest leader has been elected. When the mainnet was just launched and in its early phases, view changes happened regularly. As of today the last stalling of the network - and view change being triggered - was at the end of October 2019.
Another benefit of using pBFT for consensus besides low energy is the immediate finality it provides. Once your transaction is included in a block and the block is added to the chain it’s done. Lastly, take a look at this article where three types of finality are being defined: probabilistic, absolute and economic finality. Zilliqa falls under the absolute finality (just like Tendermint for example). Although lengthy already we skipped through some of the inner workings from Zilliqa’s consensus: read the Zilliqa Design Story Part 3 and you will be close to having a complete picture on it. Enough about PoW, sybil resistance mechanism, pBFT, etc. Another thing we haven’t looked at yet is the amount of decentralization.
Currently, there are four shards, each one of them consisting of 600 nodes. 1 shard with 600 so-called DS nodes (Directory Service - they need to achieve a higher difficulty than shard nodes) and 1800 shard nodes of which 250 are shard guards (centralized nodes controlled by the team). The amount of shard guards has been steadily declining from 1200 in January 2019 to 250 as of May 2020. On the Viewblock statistics, you can see that many of the nodes are being located in the US but those are only the (CPU parts of the) shard nodes who perform pBFT. There is no data from where the PoW sources are coming. And when the Zilliqa blockchain starts reaching its transaction capacity limit, a network upgrade needs to be executed to lift the current cap of maximum 2400 nodes to allow more nodes and formation of more shards which will allow to network to keep on scaling according to demand. Besides shard nodes there are also seed nodes. The main role of seed nodes is to serve as direct access points (for end-users and clients) to the core Zilliqa network that validates transactions. Seed nodes consolidate transaction requests and forward these to the lookup nodes (another type of nodes) for distribution to the shards in the network. Seed nodes also maintain the entire transaction history and the global state of the blockchain which is needed to provide services such as block explorers. Seed nodes in the Zilliqa network are comparable to Infura on Ethereum.
The seed nodes were first only operated by Zilliqa themselves, exchanges and Viewblock. Operators of seed nodes like exchanges had no incentive to open them for the greater public. They were centralised at first. Decentralisation at the seed nodes level has been steadily rolled out since March 2020 ( Zilliqa Improvement Proposal 3 ). Currently the amount of seed nodes is being increased, they are public-facing and at the same time PoS is applied to incentivize seed node operators and make it possible for ZIL holders to stake and earn passive yields. Important distinction: seed nodes are not involved with consensus! That is still PoW as entry ticket and pBFT for the actual consensus.
5% of the block rewards are being assigned to seed nodes (from the beginning in 2019) and those are being used to pay out ZIL stakers. The 5% block rewards with an annual yield of 10.03% translate to roughly 610 MM ZILs in total that can be staked. Exchanges use the custodial variant of staking and wallets like Moonlet will use the non-custodial version (starting in Q3 2020). Staking is being done by sending ZILs to a smart contract created by Zilliqa and audited by Quantstamp.
With a high amount of DS; shard nodes and seed nodes becoming more decentralized too, Zilliqa qualifies for the label of decentralized in my opinion.
Generalized: programming languages can be divided into being ‘object-oriented’ or ‘functional’. Here is an ELI5 given by software development academy: * “all programs have two basic components, data – what the program knows – and behavior – what the program can do with that data. So object-oriented programming states that combining data and related behaviors in one place, is called “object”, which makes it easier to understand how a particular program works. On the other hand, functional programming argues that data and behavior are different things and should be separated to ensure their clarity.” *
Scilla is on the functional side and shares similarities with OCaml: OCaml is a general-purpose programming language with an emphasis on expressiveness and safety. It has an advanced type system that helps catch your mistakes without getting in your way. It's used in environments where a single mistake can cost millions and speed matters, is supported by an active community, and has a rich set of libraries and development tools. For all its power, OCaml is also pretty simple, which is one reason it's often used as a teaching language.
Scilla is blockchain agnostic, can be implemented onto other blockchains as well, is recognized by academics and won a so-called Distinguished Artifact Award award at the end of last year.
One of the reasons why the Zilliqa team decided to create their own programming language focused on preventing smart contract vulnerabilities is that adding logic on a blockchain, programming, means that you cannot afford to make mistakes. Otherwise, it could cost you. It’s all great and fun blockchains being immutable but updating your code because you found a bug isn’t the same as with a regular web application for example. And with smart contracts, it inherently involves cryptocurrencies in some form thus value.
Another difference with programming languages on a blockchain is gas. Every transaction you do on a smart contract platform like Zilliqa or Ethereum costs gas. With gas you basically pay for computational costs. Sending a ZIL from address A to address B costs 0.001 ZIL currently. Smart contracts are more complex, often involve various functions and require more gas (if gas is a new concept click here ).
So with Scilla, similar to Solidity, you need to make sure that “every function in your smart contract will run as expected without hitting gas limits. An improper resource analysis may lead to situations where funds may get stuck simply because a part of the smart contract code cannot be executed due to gas limits. Such constraints are not present in traditional software systems”.Scilla design story part 1
Some examples of smart contract issues you’d want to avoid are: leaking funds, ‘unexpected changes to critical state variables’ (example: someone other than you setting his or her address as the owner of the smart contract after creation) or simply killing a contract.
Scilla also allows for formal verification. Wikipedia to the rescue: In the context of hardware and software systems, formal verification is the act of proving or disproving the correctness of intended algorithms underlying a system with respect to a certain formal specification or property, using formal methods of mathematics.
Formal verification can be helpful in proving the correctness of systems such as: cryptographic protocols, combinational circuits, digital circuits with internal memory, and software expressed as source code.
“Scilla is being developed hand-in-hand with formalization of its semantics and its embedding into the Coq proof assistant — a state-of-the art tool for mechanized proofs about properties of programs.”
Simply put, with Scilla and accompanying tooling developers can be mathematically sure and proof that the smart contract they’ve written does what he or she intends it to do.
Smart contract on a sharded environment and state sharding
There is one more topic I’d like to touch on: smart contract execution in a sharded environment (and what is the effect of state sharding). This is a complex topic. I’m not able to explain it any easier than what is posted here. But I will try to compress the post into something easy to digest.
Earlier on we have established that Zilliqa can process transactions in parallel due to network sharding. This is where the linear scalability comes from. We can define simple transactions: a transaction from address A to B (Category 1), a transaction where a user interacts with one smart contract (Category 2) and the most complex ones where triggering a transaction results in multiple smart contracts being involved (Category 3). The shards are able to process transactions on their own without interference of the other shards. With Category 1 transactions that is doable, with Category 2 transactions sometimes if that address is in the same shard as the smart contract but with Category 3 you definitely need communication between the shards. Solving that requires to make a set of communication rules the protocol needs to follow in order to process all transactions in a generalised fashion.
There is no strict defined roadmap but here are topics being worked on. And via the Zilliqa website there is also more information on the projects they are working on.
Business & Partnerships
It’s not only technology in which Zilliqa seems to be excelling as their ecosystem has been expanding and starting to grow rapidly. The project is on a mission to provide OpenFinance (OpFi) to the world and Singapore is the right place to be due to its progressive regulations and futuristic thinking. Singapore has taken a proactive approach towards cryptocurrencies by introducing the Payment Services Act 2019 (PS Act). Among other things, the PS Act will regulate intermediaries dealing with certain cryptocurrencies, with a particular focus on consumer protection and anti-money laundering. It will also provide a stable regulatory licensing and operating framework for cryptocurrency entities, effectively covering all crypto businesses and exchanges based in Singapore. According to PWC 82% of the surveyed executives in Singapore reported blockchain initiatives underway and 13% of them have already brought the initiatives live to the market. There is also an increasing list of organizations that are starting to provide digital payment services. Moreover, Singaporean blockchain developers Building Cities Beyond has recently created an innovation $15 million grant to encourage development on its ecosystem. This all suggests that Singapore tries to position itself as (one of) the leading blockchain hubs in the world.
Zilliqa seems to already take advantage of this and recently helped launch Hg Exchange on their platform, together with financial institutions PhillipCapital, PrimePartners and Fundnel. Hg Exchange, which is now approved by the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS), uses smart contracts to represent digital assets. Through Hg Exchange financial institutions worldwide can use Zilliqa's safe-by-design smart contracts to enable the trading of private equities. For example, think of companies such as Grab, Airbnb, SpaceX that are not available for public trading right now. Hg Exchange will allow investors to buy shares of private companies & unicorns and capture their value before an IPO. Anquan, the main company behind Zilliqa, has also recently announced that they became a partner and shareholder in TEN31 Bank, which is a fully regulated bank allowing for tokenization of assets and is aiming to bridge the gap between conventional banking and the blockchain world. If STOs, the tokenization of assets, and equity trading will continue to increase, then Zilliqa’s public blockchain would be the ideal candidate due to its strategic positioning, partnerships, regulatory compliance and the technology that is being built on top of it.
What is also very encouraging is their focus on banking the un(der)banked. They are launching a stablecoin basket starting with XSGD. As many of you know, stablecoins are currently mostly used for trading. However, Zilliqa is actively trying to broaden the use case of stablecoins. I recommend everybody to read this text that Amrit Kumar wrote (one of the co-founders). These stablecoins will be integrated in the traditional markets and bridge the gap between the crypto world and the traditional world. This could potentially revolutionize and legitimise the crypto space if retailers and companies will for example start to use stablecoins for payments or remittances, instead of it solely being used for trading.
Zilliqa also released their DeFi strategic roadmap (dating November 2019) which seems to be aligning well with their OpFi strategy. A non-custodial DEX is coming to Zilliqa made by Switcheo which allows cross-chain trading (atomic swaps) between ETH, EOS and ZIL based tokens. They also signed a Memorandum of Understanding for a (soon to be announced) USD stablecoin. And as Zilliqa is all about regulations and being compliant, I’m speculating on it to be a regulated USD stablecoin. Furthermore, XSGD is already created and visible on block explorer and XIDR (Indonesian Stablecoin) is also coming soon via StraitsX. Here also an overview of the Tech Stack for Financial Applications from September 2019. Further quoting Amrit Kumar on this:
There are two basic building blocks in DeFi/OpFi though: 1) stablecoins as you need a non-volatile currency to get access to this market and 2) a dex to be able to trade all these financial assets. The rest are built on top of these blocks.
So far, together with our partners and community, we have worked on developing these building blocks with XSGD as a stablecoin. We are working on bringing a USD-backed stablecoin as well. We will soon have a decentralised exchange developed by Switcheo. And with HGX going live, we are also venturing into the tokenization space. More to come in the future.”
Additionally, they also have this ZILHive initiative that injects capital into projects. There have been already 6 waves of various teams working on infrastructure, innovation and research, and they are not from ASEAN or Singapore only but global: see Grantees breakdown by country. Over 60 project teams from over 20 countries have contributed to Zilliqa's ecosystem. This includes individuals and teams developing wallets, explorers, developer toolkits, smart contract testing frameworks, dapps, etc. As some of you may know, Unstoppable Domains (UD) blew up when they launched on Zilliqa. UD aims to replace cryptocurrency addresses with a human-readable name and allows for uncensorable websites. Zilliqa will probably be the only one able to handle all these transactions onchain due to ability to scale and its resulting low fees which is why the UD team launched this on Zilliqa in the first place. Furthermore, Zilliqa also has a strong emphasis on security, compliance, and privacy, which is why they partnered with companies like Elliptic, ChainSecurity (part of PwC Switzerland), and Incognito. Their sister company Aqilliz (Zilliqa spelled backwards) focuses on revolutionizing the digital advertising space and is doing interesting things like using Zilliqa to track outdoor digital ads with companies like Foodpanda.
Zilliqa is listed on nearly all major exchanges, having several different fiat-gateways and recently have been added to Binance’s margin trading and futures trading with really good volume. They also have a very impressive team with good credentials and experience. They don't just have “tech people”. They have a mix of tech people, business people, marketeers, scientists, and more. Naturally, it's good to have a mix of people with different skill sets if you work in the crypto space.
Marketing & Community
Zilliqa has a very strong community. If you just follow their Twitter their engagement is much higher for a coin that has approximately 80k followers. They also have been ‘coin of the day’ by LunarCrush many times. LunarCrush tracks real-time cryptocurrency value and social data. According to their data, it seems Zilliqa has a more fundamental and deeper understanding of marketing and community engagement than almost all other coins. While almost all coins have been a bit frozen in the last months, Zilliqa seems to be on its own bull run. It was somewhere in the 100s a few months ago and is currently ranked #46 on CoinGecko. Their official Telegram also has over 20k people and is very active, and their community channel which is over 7k now is more active and larger than many other official channels. Their local communities also seem to be growing.
Moreover, their community started ‘Zillacracy’ together with the Zilliqa core team ( see www.zillacracy.com ). It’s a community-run initiative where people from all over the world are now helping with marketing and development on Zilliqa. Since its launch in February 2020 they have been doing a lot and will also run their own non-custodial seed node for staking. This seed node will also allow them to start generating revenue for them to become a self sustaining entity that could potentially scale up to become a decentralized company working in parallel with the Zilliqa core team. Comparing it to all the other smart contract platforms (e.g. Cardano, EOS, Tezos etc.) they don't seem to have started a similar initiative (correct me if I’m wrong though). This suggests in my opinion that these other smart contract platforms do not fully understand how to utilize the ‘power of the community’. This is something you cannot ‘buy with money’ and gives many projects in the space a disadvantage.
Zilliqa also released two social products called SocialPay and Zeeves. SocialPay allows users to earn ZILs while tweeting with a specific hashtag. They have recently used it in partnership with the Singapore Red Cross for a marketing campaign after their initial pilot program. It seems like a very valuable social product with a good use case. I can see a lot of traditional companies entering the space through this product, which they seem to suggest will happen. Tokenizing hashtags with smart contracts to get network effect is a very smart and innovative idea.
Regarding Zeeves, this is a tipping bot for Telegram. They already have 1000s of signups and they plan to keep upgrading it for more and more people to use it (e.g. they recently have added a quiz features). They also use it during AMAs to reward people in real-time. It’s a very smart approach to grow their communities and get familiar with ZIL. I can see this becoming very big on Telegram. This tool suggests, again, that the Zilliqa team has a deeper understanding of what the crypto space and community needs and is good at finding the right innovative tools to grow and scale.
To be honest, I haven’t covered everything (i’m also reaching the character limited haha). So many updates happening lately that it's hard to keep up, such as the International Monetary Fund mentioning Zilliqa in their report, custodial and non-custodial Staking, Binance Margin, Futures, Widget, entering the Indian market, and more. The Head of Marketing Colin Miles has also released this as an overview of what is coming next. And last but not least, Vitalik Buterin has been mentioning Zilliqa lately acknowledging Zilliqa and mentioning that both projects have a lot of room to grow. There is much more info of course and a good part of it has been served to you on a silver platter. I invite you to continue researching by yourself :-) And if you have any comments or questions please post here!
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