02-11-15 -- Michael Goldstein (Satoshi Nakamoto Institute) (MP3 LOADED & VIDEO LOADED)
Michael Goldstein (President of the Satoshi Nakamoto Institute) comes on the show to talk about Satoshi Nakamoto and the Satoshi Nakamoto Institute, Bitcoin, Satoshi Roundtable, and the future of cryptocurrencies.
Wednesday, February 11, 2015
Time: 228:0 Mins and Secs
Hour 3 -- Michael Goldstein (President of the Satoshi Nakamoto Institute) comes on the show to talk about Satoshi Nakamoto and the Satoshi Nakamoto Institute, Bitcoin, Satoshi Roundtable, and the future of cryptocurrencies.
Michael Goldstein is the founder and president of the Satoshi Nakamoto Institute, a non-profit organization dedicated to hosting the best literature on cryptography & society. While studying at the University of Texas, Michael ran the Mises Circle, an economics discussion group following in the tradition of the Austrian school. He is a programmer residing in Austin, TX.
Bonnie and Clyde cannot simply rob First National Block Chain. They can hack servers and unencrypted wallet files or scan low-entropy brain wallets. But the costs of obtaining bitcoins hoarded on a high-entropy, password-protected paper wallet, for instance, are incredibly high. A computer cannot be expected to brute force the wallet in the universe's lifetime, so a trespasser would have to employ expensive tactics such as kidnapping and torture on any prospective, individual target. Criminals, con artists, and swindlers cannot rely on violence to get the wealth they desire—it has become too cumbersome. These scoundrels must rely on good ol' fashioned market forces.
And it's working. Bitcoin is poised for exponential growth, so the opportunity costs of not being involved to the highest personal degree possible are incalculable. Yet merchants, investment peddlers, and other hoarders have been able to convince countless bitcoiners to part with their future riches, despite the obvious downsides given you have a long enough time horizon to see the coming post-fiat world. They'll tell you spending is vital, that Bitcoin 2.0 will be even better if only you give them some of your Bitcoin 0.9, or that your bitcoins are worth only $475 a piece. They'll tell you this with a straight face, the wringing of their hands unseen across the Internet. And once you have fallen to temptation, they'll leave you on your own to learn there are no 'backsies'. In the realpolitik of the block chain, everyone is a scammer. There is a war going on for your bitcoins, and willpower is your only defense.
Not every bitcoin scammer is merely an amoral businessman or investor. Many are outright fraudsters and con-artists. When you buy a rug from Overstock, at least you actually get a rug. When you send money to Ethereum, you may actually get a worthless ether token eventually. You know what you probably will never get? Your Butterfly Labs pre-order or your Goxbucks.
Some scams are pulled off by convincing other bitcoiners to not take advantage of Bitcoin's value proposition. That is, they convince bitcoiners that while they shouldn't trust third parties, this guy is totally cool. I'm looking at you, Mt.Gox. Others convince them to play investment games that turn out to be Ponzi schemes. Sup, Bitcoin Savings and Trust?
Some scams are the purest synthesis of bitcoiner avarice and stupidity. Ponzi.io explicitly marketed itself as a Ponzi scheme, promising to send you back more bitcoins coming from the pockets of the next investors. Have fun. Their address, 1ponziUjuCVdB167ZmTWH48AURW1vE64q, received nearly 350 BTC.
Some scams are outright malicious. Scammers have resorted to malware and ransom. CryptoLocker infected computers by encrypting the user's files and only gave up the private key if a ransom was paid in bitcoins within 48 hours.
Scammers have resorted to blackmail. On September 8th, a hacker gained control of Satoshi Nakamoto's email account, using it not only to deface the Bitcoin sourceforge page, but to allegedly find out Satoshi's true name. From a Vice article: "After inquiring what [the hacker] was trying to get out of all this, he said 'Bitcoins, obviously… [But] don't forget the lulz.'"
Scammers will do whatever it takes to increase their bitcoin holdings. You know this. You scammed someone to get yours. You probably did not outright defraud or hack someone like the above, but you necessarily took advantage of their short-term thinking.
Merchants are Scammers...
At long last Newegg accepts Bitcoin, along with Overstock.com, TigerDirect, Dell.com, Expedia, and other major retailers and websites. So let's go spend all our bitcoins, right? No so fast. Let's wipe off the drool from looking at all the shiny toys and think this through.
Merchants have absolutely every reason to accept Bitcoin. BitPay recently removed all fees for payment processing, including currency exchange. Not only can merchants receive payments without fees, but there are of course a litany of other benefits, from no fraud or chargeback to easy international payments. They can pass on their savings to customers or increase their profit margins. They also can and should hold onto bitcoins as their accounting permits, so as to earn profits from future price increases. After all, if Bitcoin increases adoption for payments, there are only so many units to go around, so each one will become more valuable.
A common and understandable concern about Bitcoin is that it might become corrupted at the protocol level to serve special interests rather than the unwashed masses. For example, features might become adopted which make Bitcoin much less anonymous or which turn it into a centralized system. This question is really about who can influence the development of updates and who can block them. Anyone can fork Bitcoin, but suppose there were an upgrade proposed by some very influential people-the core devs-and suppose that it would hard-fork the Bitcoin protocol in some fundamental and controversial way. The core devs say it's a good idea, but maybe they've been paid off by the NSA. The question I will answer here is whether and how such an upgrade could be prevented from becoming standardized. Who controls Bitcoin?
New and Classic
We'll assume that there is some real disagreement about whether the upgrade is a good idea because if there was not, then there would be no problem. Thus, once the upgrade is released, the network splits. Everyone can choose which fork to follow, or even run both versions at the same time. Effectively there are two Bitcoins now. I'll call them Bitcoin New and Bitcoin Classic. Each has its own network, and anyone who owned bitcoins before has the same amount of New and Classic.
Who can stop New Bitcoin from taking over? This thread on BitcoinTalk argues that the people who run full nodes can stop an upgrade by refusing to upgrade. Well, it is true that if literally no one upgrades, then Bitcoin New fails. However, it is also true that almost nobody's decision to upgrade has any real effect on the network. Most nodes are dead weight. Even the full nodes (by which I mean, nodes that store and validate the whole block chain) are not contributing much. A full node doesn't do anything that lots of other nodes cannot do, and in order to remain synced with the network, they demand as much data as they provide. The network can function just fine with only a few full nodes. Therefore, Bitcoin New won't necessarily be stopped even if a lot of full nodes refuse to upgrade.
The nodes that really matter are the ones that provide valuable services. It doesn't matter if you upgrade. What matters is if Coinbase, BitStamp, and Blockchain.info upgrade. These nodes provide a lot of the infrastructure for Bitcoin, so if they do not upgrade, Bitcoin New will be a lot less useful. However, these nodes are in it for profit, so they will tend to go where the money is. They cannot necessarily afford to wield the influence they might have at the risk of short-term losses. Therefore, they do not necessarily have as great an effect on the outcome as it might at first seem.
What about the miners? If they refuse to mine on the new chain, that will stop Bitcoin New in its tracks, right? Well no! Miners are in it for the money too, and if Bitcoin Classic cannot support the same hash rate as Bitcoin New, then they put more resources into mining Bitcoin New. Thus, miners also do not necessarily have much of a say in the matter either.
It all boils down to the value of the two coins. If Bitcoin New becomes more valuable than Bitcoin Classic, then miners will mine it and services will support it. If not, then it won't. Investors settle the question. A Bitcoin investor can sell his Bitcoin New for Bitcoin Classic, or vice versa, depending on which he thinks is the better idea.
In both the cases of the service providers and the miners, the problem which makes them less influential than one might think is the fact that they do not necessarily have the funds to take the risk of deciding for themselves which version they like better and which they are going to promote. In short, the problem is that they are not necessarily investors, who by definition do have the funds. Investors do not have to listen to anybody else because they can afford to take the risk of asserting influence. Thus, it is the investors who control Bitcoin.
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