It’s Time to Take it Back

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Full disclosure, I only entered the cryptosphere about 4 weeks ago. I wasn’t even one of those guys who had heard lots about it and done extensive research before finally deciding to buy my first stake in Bitcoin. My story was different.

I had just moved house, with my wife and dog into the rural plains of Queensland. We are both full-time students and have lived pay-check to pay-check for as long as we can remember. In the weeks leading up to the move we had ricocheted like helpless pinballs between one bullshit encounter with centralised authorities to the next. Whether service providers, financial institutions, even local governments — one after the other they held us in contempt and extorted us for our time, attention and hard-earned money.

I’m sure you’ve been there. You’ve been given some bullshit parking ticket or fine. Immediately you are no longer innocent until proven guilty. You are guilty and must prove your innocence in the most cumbersome way possible — writing and posting a physical letter and waiting for months for a response.

I had flights cancelled. flights I paid for in real money, in real time. Their compensation was to offer me a cheque for some of the cost which would be posted “in the next 6-8 weeks.”

When we vacated our rental property the real estate agent held our bond deposit over our heard like tyrannical oligarchs, demanding repaints, repairs, returfs. I had a cleaner take my money and run, without doing the job I had paid for.

It was honestly so infuriating to be at the mercy of these entities. Groups who had dominance over our lives in so many ways. We were just trying to do the right thing, help out where we could, and get on with our studies and our lives. It was at this time — in this frame of mind — that a friend introduced me to crypto. I immediately fell in love with the ethos. An economy, a movement, predicated on decentralisation. The shifting of power from the few to the many. The opportunity to own, like truly own our wealth, our value, our influence.

I was in.

I was in 5 days before “the crash” but I was in nonetheless and I have no regrets.

Though, one thing that has pissed me off since becoming part of the cryptosphere, however, is an attitude I keep bumping into. It’s held by people largely unfamiliar with blockchain technology and the potential revolution it will bring. It is an attitude that can be summed up by the phrase: “Oh, so you’re a gambling man?”

These are people who think that trading in crypto is essentially glorified gambling. They may mean well, they may simply not have taken the time to look into blockchain tech, but they confidently assume that because the market is volatile, that its unfamiliar, then it must be a bubble, a scam.

No.

You know what is a bubble? The housing industry that currently enslaves 35% of my country to crippling mortgage debt while the remaining 75% pay extortionist rents to help mitigate the cost. You know what is a scam?  The fact that the banking sector in my country is among the most profitable in the world, with their CEOs pocketing upwards of $12,000,000 while the average household salary has stagnated, cost of living and student debt has increased and the value of our dollar weakened.

Am I any more of a gambler than the guy who bets on the banks, his superannuation account, his national dollar to not screw him over? Is crypto any more volatile than my handing over $400 for a cleaner to do the simple job they advertised only to have them rob me and run?

I did not enter into crypto as a gamble. I entered as a gambit. An educated, calculated play at reclaiming some ground. Reclaiming some autonomy, some control over my fucking time, my money.

I invested in the future, I invested in the power of decentralisation. I took back control of my wealth (tiny though it may be). I am excited to grow alongside these projects.

The cryptosphere is more than a market. It is a new technological universe being birthed out of our current, stale and broken one. At times it will be uncomfortable, painful, scary — any good birth is. Just don’t call me a gambler because I’ve chosen to be there when the baby arrives.


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The Trade-off of ‘Trustless’

 

 

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Do you trust me?

 


Of the dozens of ways the Global Financial Crisis of 2007/08 has been described, one phrase remains common between them. People simply “lost confidence” in the banks, and for good reason. The centralised economic powers were lending money that didn’t exist to people who could not afford it, to spend on depreciating assets. A loss of confidence is a direct result of breached trust. The people could no longer trust in the centralised economy.

In 2009, the entity known as Satoshi Nakamoto created Bitcoin, largely as a response to the obvious fragility of an economy predicated on a trust in centralisation. Bitcoin was to be a real-world application of a ‘trustless economy.’

Dani Amsalem’s Decryptionary defines ‘trustless’ as “a positive quality where you are not required to trust the person you’re doing the transaction with. A trustless system or technology is so secure and smooth in handling your transactions, that both people in a transaction can safely hand over money and other valuables without the risk of being cheated.”

This is one of the hallmarks of the decentralised economy and part of what makes the cryptocurrency revolution so appealing. Another added benefit of Bitcoin was that transactions could only involve the transfer of actual currency, already existing.

One of the main ingredients of the GFC was the fact that people had little-to-no choice but to trust the centralised powers that controlled their economy. With the cryptocurrency revolution that is no longer the case. We can now exchange real value on a peer-to-peer level without the need of a centralised power to govern and legitimise it. We needn’t even know the person we are transacting with. With crypto, the fear of being cheated and the worry that the ‘powers that be’ might be taking us for a ride is significantly reduced. As Amsalem states, trustless is a “positive quality.”

While this is an exciting and revolutionary step forward for our economies, it is worth us taking a moment to reflect not only on the positives but also on what might be lost when we shift from a trust-based economy to a trustless one. We need to remember that we haven’t forsaken trust altogether. It is true that when we participate in the crypto economy we no longer need to trust the person we are transacting with. However, we mustn’t forget that we have simply shifted that trust to the blockchain. We trust in the blockchain to maintain fair transactions because that is what the blockchain does.

But is there a trade-off?

What effect do trustless economies have on us as inherently trusting, cooperative communities? Trust is essential for the building of healthy relationships. If trust is no longer a needed ingredient between people transacting value do we not run the risk of losing some essential ingredient of a healthy society?

For the most part, the cryptosphere has proven this worry warranted, though not defeating. Online communities of crypto enthusiasts, traders, investors and the generally curious have come together to help each other better understand and participate in the economic revolution. This is the ethos of Crypto 101. We may have negated the need for trust in matters of transacting value but as a result, we have increased our need for, and willingness to provide, a healthy dose of trust in our communities. This is a wonderful thing.

As participants in the trustless economy, we need to consciously remind ourselves of the importance of trust for the communities we are entering into. Intentionally putting that into practice by being trustworthy participants is one of the best ways we can further legitimise and empower the cryptosphere.


 

The Weird & Wonderful World of Altcoins #1

Internet culture is an enormously complex but very new phenomenon in the grand scheme of human activity. Prior to the advent of the information age, cultural activity was bound by the domains of geography, language, religion and occupational activity. A cross-pollination of these categories (accelerated by real-time interpersonal and group interaction) initiated the rapid rise of a new set of unique macro and micro online subcultures.

Use of emojis and internet slang are now commonplace, but among the most notable of the cultural artifacts produced by people interacting online is that of the internet meme.

One such meme has had a remarkable period of longevity: Pepe the Frog. He first appeared in comics by Matt Furie via Myspace​ in 2005 and has since then experienced an unparalleled number of permutations. Pepe has also represented various (even diametrically opposed) political ideologies over the subsequent years. The tug-of-war over Pepe’s representation of ideas is fraught with intrigue.

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The original Pepe

Which brings us to now, where Pepe has been essentially deified in a near-endless series of iterations, many of which have appeared in repost after repost to the extent that specific versions are widely known. This also conversely implies that some Pepes are posited as rare in comparison to their more well-known counterparts. Rare Pepes give a quick wink to the inherent irony of digital images being commonly replicated simply with save-as or copy/paste.

With the advent of blockchain technology, however, the concept of a fixed digital asset has arrived as exemplified by bitcoin, a virtual currency with a finite number of units.

It is the phenomenon of these rare Pepes fusing with the unduplicable nature of bitcoin which brings them to the level of a digital commodity​. Rare Pepes are similar to collectible trading cards​ which are produced in limited quantities to boost their desirability, but rather than producing actual physical cards the limited quantity and ownership of them is validated on the Bitcoin​ blockchain. The purchase transactions are facilitated by a specific cryptocurrency, Pepe Cash. The authenticity of each card “must be certified by the Rare Pepe Foundation,” which succeeds in being as ludicrous at it sounds.

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A rare Pepe featuring Doge

Pepe Cash’s early success builds on the legitimacy of Dogecoin​, another meme-based cryptocurrency which has successfully modeled the ability which niche online culture has in finding a real-world use case. The object of using Pepe Cash and trading/collecting rare Pepes is purely for entertainment purposes and in celebrating meme culture, yet, its rise in value has led to others investing in them speculatively for profit.

The official icon for the currency (which is also its own collectible card) depicts Pepe wearing a garish purple hat (consistent with attire synonymous with pimps) and aviator sunglasses while standing near a McMansion​ which has three Lambourghinis parked in front of it – all symbols of new and rapidly acquired wealth (a status many cryptocurrency speculators seek to achieve).​ The caption to the image reads: The Pepe Cash card is useful for buying houses, fast cars and yachts.

Pepe Cash heralds a new level of reification for internet culture. Vapid and intangible meme concepts are manifesting into our everyday lives, and this is accomplished in a truly absurd and hilarious fashion. In keeping with the long-practiced online tradition, Pepe Cash has successfully trolled the concepts of commodity, rarity and commerce itself.

Stand in awe, we’re only witnessing the cusp of dawn on the cryptosphere’s horizon.

Ep. 66 — Crypto 101’s Two Rules of Trading

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Before we get started, the usual disclaimer: despite the title this post is not designed to be taken as professional financial advice. It absolutely can not take the place of your own, independent and comprehensive research.

When I was first introduced to cryptocurrency it wasn’t long before two acronyms: FUD (fear, uncertainty, doubt) and FOMO (fear of missing out) became part of my vocabulary. These acronyms pertain specifically to the practice of trading in cryptocurrencies. I entered the market early January and without explicitly being aware of these two forces, they definitely affected my decision making in those early days.

Both FUD and FOMO have one thing in common: fear. The lesson to be learned here is that if we can do something to control fear, we might just have done the bulk of the work necessary to make smarter decisions in the marketplace. It is an exciting time to be engaged, but external pressures and confusion can hinder our thought processes. When these are coupled with fear, we are much more likely to make poor decisions.

Below are two simple rules that we at Crypto 101 believe help guard the average consumer against falling victim to FUD and FOMO.

1. Don’t invest more money than you are willing to lose.

The money you are willing to lose is the money you are willing to forget about. If you find yourself constantly obsessing about your investment, you may have already made this mistake. Or perhaps, you invested a sensible amount of money but you also may have invested your ego.

Try not to attach your personal identity to the money you put into the market. We all make mistakes, we are all susceptible to rushing in or feeling too personally attached to our choices. A good lesson here is to try not to take market fluctuations personally. How much credit can you really take for a coin skyrocketing or plummeting? If your investment fails, it’s not necessarily your fault. But if you invest only what you are willing to lose, losing doesn’t affect you.

2. Only sell your coins when you are happy with the profit or you have accepted the loss.

Part of this includes having a pre-established goal. This can be flexible, for sure. But make sure you have a starting point. If you invest in a coin at $1, have a clear exit strategy in mind. Maybe it’s $1.50, maybe it’s $2. The end goal can be flexible based upon context: headlines, the performance of the rest of your portfolio etc. But make sure you always have a goal in mind.

Another thing to remember is that over-trading reduces your chances of reaching your goal. Be patient and make educated moves, sparingly. It is time to sell when you are either happy with your profits or you have accepted your loss. If you can’t honestly admit either of these things, it is not the right time to sell. Sometimes you may sell at a point you are comfortable with. You take some profits and are happy with your decision. The next day the coin you sold may continue to grow. It is important to remember that this is fine, you entered with a plan, you made the right decision at the time, and you were happy with your profits. The market will continue to do its thing, we can’t let it fool us into thinking a good decision we were content with, was actually a bad one.

One final point

There will always be another opportunity. If you feel like you sold too soon, or you missed an opportunity — don’t panic. There are new decisions to be made and along the way you have gained more experience in making them better. Again, remove fear as best you can and start afresh.


Crypto 101 Episode 66 — https://apple.co/2GgQFxd

Ep. 76 – Humaniq

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Let’s be frank: Many in the cryptosphere were lured by the promise of quick or effortless gains, a more secure future or even fantasies of driving previously-unattainable luxury vehicles across the lunar landscape.

While self-interest serves as the initial draw, learning about the blockchain to understand how crytpocurrencies work we begin to also see the potential it holds in transforming the world in other ways. Perhaps to change not only our lives, but of those who aren’t in such privileged financial situations.

The momentum around blockchain technology is ramping up, and global banks have begun looking into its implementation. Current blockchain scalability is ill-equipped to handle their transaction volume, however.

Humaniq plans to use blockchain technology to bypass the traditional top-down approach of large financial entities and instead meet the individuals where they are, via access from smartphones.

So, what is Humaniq? Can I invest in it? When moon???

First, let’s look at what banks actually do. Basically, banks facilitate financial transactions and are custodians of value and assets. Individuals and groups form symbiotic relationships with banks – the capital you ask them to store becomes their temporary investment, generating profit. The aggregate of these individuals, business entities and banks are an interlocking system.

But what happens if you live outside that system? You are unbanked.

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Image and data courtesy of Humaniq’s whitepaper

Traditional banking systems fail to reach the unbanked essentially because it is not profitable. There is too great a risk in managing accounts for individuals without any proof of identity and anyway, the interface (whether brick-and-mortar or digital) simply doesn’t exist.

To utilize Humaniq, however, there is only one minor hurdle: an ultra-low-priced smartphone (sales of which are rapidly gaining traction in emerging markets). There’s no need for any kind of pre-existing banking infrastructure.

Humaniq’s goal is to become a banking platform which validates identity, stores value and facilitates peer-to-peer transaction – all in one singular application. With these prerequisite aspects in place, its users may then integrate with traditional banking systems.

How is it done?

Humaniq will utilize three components: the mobile app (which acts as a token wallet and performs identity verification), the Humaniq servers (to connect these identities to the blockchain), and Ethereum smart contracts (which enable the transactions and platform to be built on).

HMQ Digital Passports

Users first create a unique and secure digital identity using biometrics (facial and emotional recognition) and 4-tier authentication.

Poof! A digital asset has just been created.

Data is collected about the user, however its sale is not Humaniq’s goal, it is instead to empower each user by giving them proof of identity.

HMQ token

Following an ICO phase to generate startup capital, the HMQ token will launch. Users will be rewarded immediately with the HMQ token via a minting (rather than mining) process. Whole-number increments are used to accommodate users who lack the understanding of fractional numbers. Further tokens are rewarded for referring others to the platform, and there is a firm limit on the number of HMQ which can be minted for each person. The app includes a chat application which facilitates peer-to-peer communication and transactions.

Networks

Each country will have its own blockchain, acting in essence as a microcosm of the surrounding cryptoeconomy. Stability, utility, adoption and scaling are reinforced by an emphasis on incentivizing users with digital identities and a medium of exchange. Humaniq is to absorb the end users’ network fees initially and will support the use of independent nodes in the future.

Ambassadors

Cryptocurrency enthusiasts in developing regions will serve to educate and facilitate adoption of Humaniq’s services. This activity will be incentivized by compensation in cryptocurrency, and recruits in several African nations are already in place.

So, will HMQ moon?

Maybe – but maybe that’s not the point. Perhaps the blockchain revolution can transform the lives of the brilliant individuals in developing nations who may otherwise never gain access to the necessary resources needed to develop their skills and improve their quality of life. Humaniq (Human IQ) can, if nothing else, direct our attention to thinking about someone else’s moon – the one we may already take for granted.


Crypto101 interview with Humaniq CIO Hazam Al-Nakib

For more information about Humaniq:
https://humaniq.com/

Check out the whitepaper:
https://humaniq.com/pdf/humaniq_wp_english.pdf

Blockchain Applications: Facilitating Democracy in Brazil

The old adage warns us not to witness the production of two things in life: sausage and laws. I prefer bacon myself, but when it comes to the laws that govern our lives, citizens of all nations have an inherent interest in their creation and implementation – regardless of how much they might actually lay eyes upon. Unfortunately, many people don’t enjoy the privilege of civic mechanisms or legal recourse that facilitate the proposal and legislative consideration of ideas conceived by the general public. In the case of Brazil, even when such a mechanism is provided for in the constitution, logistical challenges and government corruption doom the majority of these public petitions before they begin.

Enter the possibilities of blockchain technology, where the fundamentals of a distributed ledger are being harnessed to overcome these hurdles of the past. Brazilians have a constitutional right to have their public petitions heard by Congress if they are endorsed by at least 1% of the electorate. In a diverse nation of 207 million with nearly 150 million voters and variable internet access, gathering and verifying the required signatures has been a monumental task. The results of successful petitions are even more discouraging, yielding the passage of only four laws. Without a modern method for verification, the petitioners rely upon individual legislators to adopt proposals as their own, a risky venture for both parties in a nation with a declining democratic environment. According to The Economist’s Intelligence Unit, Brazil’s democracy index score has fallen since 2014:

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One of the primary computing platforms thriving in the current blockchain technology renaissance is Ethereum. Released in 2015, the Ethereum platform is open source, public and blockchain-based with high “smart contract” functionality that utilizes a global infrastructure network to thwart third party interference. Simply put, the Ethereum protocol presents itself as an ideal solution for Brazil’s need to record, preserve and independently verify data (signatures). Two innovative Brazilians recognized this potential and strengthened their collaboration and resolve during the Ethereum Foundation’s annual developers conference in Mexico last November.

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Everton Fraga (left, Ethereum software engineer) and Ricardo Fernandes Paixao (right, Professor and Congressional economic advisor) view the use of blockchain technology as a way to finally implement the public petition provision within their nation’s constitution. A government-backed mobile application could transform the signature-gathering process from pickup trucks with crates of physical paper into a digital on-ramp into the Ethereum blockchain. Daily hashing could then attach batches of signatures to encrypted transactions with, perhaps most importantly, one-way capability for verification. At that point, the record of signatures has been permanently recorded on the distributed ledger without the need for third party verification.

The political landscape in Brazil is highly volatile amidst recent scandals that have entangled dozens of top government and business leaders. Leading up to national elections in October, many leaders are trying to establish a forward-looking agenda while considering all kinds of proposals for reform and beneficial progress, including this petition process enhancement. For now, Fraga, Paixao, and the countless Brazilians they represent must eagerly await their government’s decision and the potential impact of Ethereum blockchain technology on the democratic nature of their country.

 


 

Author

About the author: Ryan LaMonica is a management consultant and blockchain enthusiast with a background in engineering, energy, marketing and risk management. The views reflected in this article are his own and do not reflect those of his employer. He currently resides outside of Atlanta, Georgia where he and his wife manage the energy and risk of their four amazing children.

Sources:

  • The Economist: 

https://infographics.economist.com/2017/DemocracyIndex/

  • Bill Purcell Photography via Flikr:
© Bill Purcell Photographry
  • Quartz:

Brazil may write new laws with data stored on the ethereum blockchain

  • Cointelegraph:

https://cointelegraph.com/news/brazilian-government-plans-to-process-petitions-and-write-laws-on-ethereum

(header image: http://www.blockchaintechnologies.com)

 

Ep. 74 — Get Yo’ House in Order!

 

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Image: Still from ‘Snakes on a Plane’

 


There is no doubt 2017 was a breakout year for cryptocurrency. With Bitcoin reaching an all-time high of near $20 000 USD and the introduction of hundreds of new alt coins to the market — each promising new and interesting solutions to stale yet worthwhile problems. The cryptosphere saw hundreds of thousands of new investors, traders and those who were simply curious about blockchain technology enter the arena.

Various projects watched their market caps rise exponentially as we invested more and more money into them. Some of us were looking to be taken to the moon, others were throwing a little money behind a project they believe in. But all of us were somewhere on the spectrum between the two.

November and December hit us like a full chamber orchestra. At first, lulling and cooing at us with warm tones of bemusement and intrigue. The symphony soon rose to euphoria as we were swept up in the semi-orgasmic, too-good-to-be-true, nothing-but-up adventure we all found ourselves on.

Then the crescendo hit. Far from euphoric, she struck with a vengeance. Shaking us from our brain-dead complacency. Ripping us from the inexplicable, yet somehow, expected torrent of good news, great times, and incredible gains.

But this was needed. This was healthy.

As investors, we poured money into projects with no real-world products. We signed up to financially support a long list of promises that in reality should have already been delivered. 2017 saw the price of many cryptocurrencies vastly outrank their tangible value.

Don’t get me wrong, this is not FUD — I am bullish. I am bullish enough on cryptocurrency to expect excellence. We need to understand that if we have put money into a crypto project we are investors. Companies are accountable to their shareholders and cryptocurrencies and protocols are accountable to their coin/token holders.

Of course, this is a relatively new space, and things are changing rapidly. Many projects are working hard at delivering on their promises and moving the cryptosphere into an exciting future, which is great — but many are not.

Bloomberg recently published a report detailing how 30% of Millennials would feel more comfortable investing in cryptocurrency than traditional stocks.

You know what Millenials value? They value good design, a crisp aesthetic appeal. They value intuitive usability and instant feedback. They value clarity and sharability. All of this is disappointingly lacking. Yet they should be priorities for the projects currently dominating the cryptosphere.

If I can’t download a clean iOS app, send funds instantly and touch and feel the real-world impact of the project, I will quickly lose interest. Granted, some of that responsibility falls on me as the user/investor (as Taylor Monahan rightly stresses here). But we need to re-assess our measures of success. A popular Telegram channel is not enough (have you experienced the chaos of a 10, 000+ person Telegram channel!?).

2017 may have been the “breakout” year for crypto but 2018 needs to be the “get your shit together” year! As investors, and pioneers in the space, we owe it to ourselves and the technology to demand as much from these projects in 2018.


 

Bloomberg Article — https://bloom.bg/2hUiKkl 

Crypto 101 Podcast Episode 74 — https://apple.co/2HfkLml