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Telegram quietly snuck its blockchain past regulators (decrypt.co)
203 points by elies 20 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 146 comments

I'm conflicted about electronic, non-regulated payment systems.

On one hand (not to be an anarchist or anything) I like the idea of government having less control of things (up to a point) and that we could potentially have lots of choice of currencies although that could be a problem in itself if you have to "hold" lots of currencies.

On the other hand, the reality will be one or two mega-currencies, FB, Amazon, Google etc. will be eventually used for everything. And the last thing I want is Google telling me one day that I have violated their TOS and all my currency belongs to them. Especially if I pay for a ton of stuff in it and there is no recourse due to using AI.

If I had to pick a side, I think I'd stick with centralised gov. in this case!

Edit: Changed a word or two

Your concern about "voilating the TOS" and losing your money is just as likely with government controlled currency. Asset forfeiture over small infractions is well documented.[0]

I have never seen an argument against crypto currency that doesn't already apply to the current systems, we just pretend its not the same.

0. https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/the-watch/wp/2017/10/18/...

> Your concern about "voilating the TOS" and losing your money is just as likely with government controlled currency. Asset forfeiture over small infractions is well documented.[0]

> I have never seen an argument against crypto currency that doesn't already apply to the current systems, we just pretend its not the same.

This is wrong. While they are imperfect, the US government has a much better developed body of law and practice to protect citizens from its actions than Google does. Citizens have much more leverage over what laws are written than they have over the terms in Google's TOS.

Google reserves the right to unilaterally terminate its relationship with for you for any reason with little to no ability to appeal, and regularly exercises that right. When it does that, you lose access to all accounts and all data you've stored with them. If the government were like that, it'd regularly be revoking people's citizenships and confiscating all of their property without even giving a reason, let alone a trial. The US government doesn't do that, and if it did it would be illegal.

In my view, cryptocurrency is in fact more primitive and less advanced than government currency in all but a few narrow, technical senses. There's a huge amount of valuable social technology that most cryptocurrencies just threw away for ideological reasons.

The accurate way of stating it is that it's about as possible, although not quite equivalent since, while it's true that the IRS can seize assets, garnish wages, place liens, etc, those all involve at least some cooperation with a non-government actor.

> The accurate way of stating it is that it's about as possible, although not quite equivalent since, while it's true that the IRS can seize assets, garnish wages, place liens, etc, those all involve at least some cooperation with a non-government actor.

I disagree that's an accurate way of stating it. IRS isn't lawless, and unlike Google it doesn't unilaterally write its own laws. It's got significant internal controls that prevent it from lawlessly "seize[ing] assets, garnish[ing] wages, place[ing] liens, etc" without relying on necessary cooperation from non-government actors to keep it in check. The US Government as a whole is also inhibited from much lawlessness through deliberately designed checks and balances and other mechanisms, mechanisms that are largely absent in private corporations like Google. Then there are elections, which provide some measure of accountability to the general population; rather than a smaller, self-interested set of shareholders as is the case with Google.

All these mechanisms aren't perfect, but their importance needs to be understood and recognized.

It was pretty clear in context that I was speaking of binary possibility, not likelihood, which is what you are talking about.

IRS has to work with my tax attorney. Banks have to insure money (up to a point). Banks also have to be careful about shenanigans. If people lose confidence, they would be a run on the banks, which they prefer to avoid.

Google/FB have to ... well, nothing. I have the same say with them as I would with a video game company and in-game gold. They could decide I simply don't exist. Ticket closed. Block chain (from the implementations I have seen) does not solve this.

Although similar they are not the same. The government must still, in most states, have charges on the books or more to seize anything and there is generally recourse if not suing for your assets back then voting or running for office to change laws.

Google is far less likely to ever let you tell them what they can or can't do, even as a regulator. The government is you, fundamentally, while Google is not.

Market forces work where there is a market.

When the nature of the problem is such that rational customer behavior leads to one player taking all, the market deteriorates, and customers lose the benefits of competition.

This is a problem that the anti-monopoly laws exist to solve.

Another body of law prevents the federal government from seizing all the power, and to keep different branches on power competing without mergers and acquisitions of each other.

An anarchist / libertarian approach would work if minting your own interoperable coin was possible and reasonable. With gold coins, it is (was) technically trivial. Digital currency has still to solve this.

The other problem with minting your own currency is that it has to be worth something to someone, and it’s basically just bartering with more steps.

Not only that, but all these self-cryptos would be backed by the word of the person, and people lie, so you could potentially just end up with a whole bunch of crypto coins worth nothing in the end.


Gold has some intrinsic value (you can make stuff out of it at least). Same for makeshift currencies like the Tide detergent.

US dollars are backed by US industrial and military power.

Random crypto tokens have about as much value as paper money: they are relatively hard to produce, but not very much so. They need to be backed by a power / reputation of some kind, or a directly consumable resource of some kind, to be widely usable.

My big worry with crypto is as soon as it loses legitimacy or security like via a large hack or hijacked transfer the trust is shot and the value is gone. It may rebuild trust over time, but it could also keep falling as it goes out of use or hodlers see it as a losing investment vs real world assets and cash out.

If the USD has $1TT stolen or an anti-counterfeit measure is bypassed, the US government could step in and support use of the dollar with some guarantee or security advancement like better counterfeiting protections or freezing stolen assets then (as bad as it is often seen) printing replacement bills or something. Some of this is already ongoing with the Mint developing anti-counterfeit measures for each new bill released.

Crypto can't do that, it's just a volatile stock like commodity with no underwritten assets or real world backing. There's no centralized backer that can prop it up in crisis. That's risky.

Being excluded from the digital banking system does not preclude me from walking around with a wad of cash.

Even the insane concept of asset forfeiture in the USA is on its way out.

What makes you think asset forfeiture in the USA is on the way out?

Generally a functional gov will serve the people. A functional corp will serve its shareholders.

Easy side to choose I'd say

A functional government? Does this even exist?

Not completely, but there are many examples that do function up to a certain point.

Also, do not confuse functional with efficient. Efficiency is at a third place way bellow fairness and efectivity on a government's priority.

> A functional government? Does this even exist?

Short answer: yes. Don't dismiss the good because it's not perfect.

That is true in the US, but not to the same extent in all countries. In some respects Google is more centralized than national governments. It’s possible to have a future where it’s easier to move countries than to avoid Google completely.

And there is still due process - flawed as it might be for governments - which Google does not even need to pretend it does.

Sure it's not a new problem, but it's one of the things people claim will be solved by crypto currency. If crypto currency is just regular currency except controlled by a non-democratic entity then it's a step back, not a step forward.

concerning 'controlled by a non-democratic entity'

I'd say it's a step sideways.

The USD or any fiat currency is not controlled democratically or by a democratic entity either. When was the last time we heard of a vote before increasing the money supply of a nation's currency? If there is a vote, it is done by people who have not been democratically elected.

Locking down accounts you control on your infrastructure is vastly easier to scale than asset forfeiture. Scale and ease does matter here.

>I have never seen an argument against crypto currency that doesn't already apply to the current systems, we just pretend its not the same.

It's not the same: cryptocurrencies are generally more restrictive about reversing transactions (in that you can't), for instance. We can reverse some transactions in the current system.

Some call this a feature, but they're likely okay with every day people getting their shit stolen easily because they don't know anything about computer security.

RE: Reversing Transactions - I'd call it a necessity for any currency. Cash works this way.

It's a middleman or escrow who performs this service. Credit Cards and banks act as the middlemen to reverse transactions. No reason cryptos can't have those too. I imagine Uphold or Coinbase or whoever can serve this function.

as far as people being thieved I would agree that it is important to shore up computer security. Physical wallets and stashes of cash also are stolen when security is lax. Again, a middleman might play a role to secure, just as banks do for USD/EUR /etc. Giving money to a bank is essentially delegating the protection of your savings. The alternative being a home safe or under a mattress where the security remains the holder's responsibility.

Even the argument of the energy consumption?

People only seem to cry crocodile tears about energy consumption when it's something they don't like.

To me, electronic cash is far from the first thing on the chopping block when we look at the sheer wastefulness of our society.

Maybe the externalities should be priced into the cost of energy so that we don't have to conduct these witchhunts on how others spend their energy, like whether they use a dish washer or clothes dryer or A/C. Seems inconsistent to me.

Sorry but your comment sounds like you are trying to discredit an argument using pretty words like "crocodile tears", and the sole argument you are using is textbook whataboutism.

We are comparing the energy consumption of crypto currencies vs regular money. From what I read (granted, not much), Bitcoin would not scale to the current usage of regular money.

From [1]:

"Digiconomist compared bitcoin's network energy consumption to another payment system like Visa. It reports that bitcoin consumed the equivalent energy of nearly 2.8 million U.S. households, while Visa's consumption numbers around 50,000 U.S. households."

"That's about 0.13 percent of total global electricity consumption, according to Digiconomist. That would rank bitcoin as 61st if it were its own country."

"Bitcoin mining uses more electricity than […] Ireland or Nigeria."

"Nearly 10 U.S. households can be powered for one day by the electricity consumed for a single bitcoin transaction"

Nothing remotely comparable to using a dishwasher. And all this is considering that very few people use Bitcoin.

> how others spend their energy

It's not a problem at the individual level. It's not "other spending their energy". It's people spending everybody's resources. This cannot be solved with money.

[1] https://www.cbsnews.com/news/bitcoin-mining-energy-consumpti...

Digiconomist is not an authoritative source. There are a number of issues with their work and what they consider to be peer review, you can Google for more about it.

The Cambridge bitcoin electricity consumption index is probably a more superior and realistic model.


Yes it uses electricity, (what doesn't these days), but it is often renewable and excess power that would otherwise not be used e.g Hydro in China.

So it's not as bad as it seems, doesn't mean it can't be improved, but electricity consumption is not the issue digiconomist makes it out to be.

I am in the same camp, but I also changed my mindabout decentralized crypto - bitcoin et al. When you look at it close enough you will recognize that they are controlled and influanced exclusively by Whales (individual with enormous amounts of given crypto). Of course that is not a direct control more akin to grey eminence, but it almost 100% opaque. Also there are a lot of different options for FIAT money and as everything on the internet there can be only one/few winners. As you said we would be at mercy of FB, Amazon, Google, or whoever has their hands on BT.

You are right about the Whales. I think regulation should prevent massive mining factories, which would also greatly reduce the risk for a 50% attack. Mining should only be allowed for individuals with a certain maximum hash rate so more people have equal chances. But I'm afraid our politicians are not going to help us with that.

I think electronic non-regulated centralized payment systems are worrying. However if they are de-centralized there are less things to worry about. As long as the community is verifiably in control of the validators/nodes then a central authority cannot impose and block your account.

communities only stay in control through active intervention by some strong enough authority. This is the problem with the 'law of the jungle' logic of crypto currency, not having any authority doesn't imply that the system doesn't move towards centralisation, it simply builds out informal hierarchies, and those are usually a lot worse than formal and legitimised ones because they are based on resource concentration and have nothing to reign them in. Well functioning markets are constructed and reconstructed through social interaction and institutions, they don't predate them. That they simply exist in harmony and tend towards some magical happy state is essentially religious thinking.

The Tyranny of Structurelessness (https://www.jofreeman.com/joreen/tyranny.htm) is a great and pretty timeless piece on why decentralisation does not lead to some sort of greater freedom or community control.

Could that one not have rules without rulers, if the protocol and incentives are properly structured?

Only if you never, ever upgrade the software. As soon as you need to make changes, that unavoidably hands control to those doing the changes.

(This has become very apparent among all the bitcoin forks; the "default" fork has won every time because hardly anyone can be bothered to pick a specific one and it's far better to be on the majority one)

Except that there have been multiple upgrades on the original Bitcoin chain. The software is on version 0.18. While preserving backwards compatibility, today bitcoin includes Segregated Witness, which separated the constraints on unspent transaction outputs from spending transactions (this also solved the transaction maleability problem). That upgrade alone showed us that changes the majority of network participants accept can be upgraded, but even when a strong consortium of powerful merchants or mining groups tried to force change, no one group could---though folks argued and tried to change it for more than two years. There are multiple stakeholder groups who have to form consensus for upgrades: protocol developers, application devs, network security folks(i.e. miners), full-node users validating transactions, merchants accepting payments, and users choosing wallet software; thus, upgrades are hard but possible when really necessary.

Network forks simply show that the entire system is voluntary and non-coersive: if you disagree, you're free to built an alternative with like-minded people. But if the economic activity doesn't follow you, you're left with a not much more than a free software project.

Nit, but the key point is that it preserves forwards compatibility.

Exactly, and you can see the extremes people with go to, in order for them to control and enforce their views ie Bitcoin cash.

But the Bitcoin Cash devs can't force anyone to use their fork. Users are still free to run the software or not.

Yes, but it shows that people will do a lok of shady things in attempt to capture the reins of control. At the moment you have rather educated in crypto people using crypto. You don't have to think hard as to what happens when majority of people have their say on things they have no idea about (appeal to emotion /emotional manipulation).

Rein; not reign.

Unfortunately any such community tends to start out with starry-eyed tech idealists but converges towards a teeming hive of the least scrupulous market manipulators, pump'n'dump bot army generals, ICO fraudsters, etc.

And of course at the fringes of the community with no power are the retail investors who bought the thing during a bubble peak 10x higher and now spend their days harassing critics on Twitter because all the promises of the technology are coming true Real Soon Now.

I am glad there is crypto because cash is dying and complete government control over all your assets is becoming a real possibility. Cashless is convenient but also very dangerous for a free society.

Fiat is great, if cash exists.

Government can just declare your cash worthless, or devalue it though.

The trick is that government is actually people, so make sure it's the right people

> Government can just declare your cash worthless, or devalue it though.

That's the entire point of crypto, the government has nothing to do with it. Bitcoin was being used for years before any laws came out.

Mostly by criminals in money laundering and attempting to use the internet as a black market. Oh and investors buying to hold and watch it drop lol.

I can't help but wonder whether or not people realize that everything from fascist dictators to literal jihadist terrorists desperately want government-less crypto currency to finally unlock their finances from western sanction, so they can super-charge their activity (be it oppressing their people, committing terror attacks, invading their neighbors, etc).

There's a very real political cost to uncontrollable finance systems, and that cost is bourne in violence and suffering.

That's before we begin to discuss unregulated black markets that thrive on unregulated currencies.

How many kids are being hospitalized or dying because of black market vaping products they bought online?

Currently anyone including "fascist dictators to literal jihadist terrorists” as well as others of their ilk, like the Mexican Cartels, drug dealers, money launderers (and any other criminal bogeymen you want to bring up) are all happy to transact in USD.

How many kids are being hospitalised because of black market vaping products bought online with VISA/MASTERCARD/PAYPAL?

Every issue you have with bitcoin exists with other currencies and mediums if exchange. Bitcoin is a drip in the ocean in comparison.

If these are genuine concerns of your you should focus on another method of preventing them.

>How many kids are being hospitalised because of black market vaping products bought online with VISA/MASTERCARD/PAYPAL?

A lot less than you think. These networks, UNLIKE BITCOIN, are regulated, must follow the law, and actively combat fraud and crime on their networks. They keep records and turn records over to law enforcement and many criminals have been caught because they used these networks.

>are all happy to transact in USD.

Where we have laws and regulations, flagging, bank reporting, and entire law enforcement divisions dedicated to tracking financial crime, combating it, and bringing lawsuit against those who do it.

Almost every major criminal who chose to use USD got caught because of that choice.

Unlike Bitcoin, which is unregulated, unmonitored, with no ability to flag suspicious transactions, and no ability to ban bad actors.

>Every issue you have with bitcoin exists with other currencies and mediums if exchange.

This is extremely false. Major networks all obey law and regulation, assist law enforcement actively, track and report suspicious uses, and are vital in combating sex trafficking, drug trafficking and terrorism.

I'm frankly shocked at the illogical nature of your reply, to false equivocate between a fully deregulated currency that has no law enforcement whatsoever, with one of the most regulated and monitored currencies in the world -- it's breathtaking.

To prove how illogical and ridiculous you are being, I will ask you one question:

If you want to buy $15,000 worth of heroin from a dark net drug distributor, would you do it in bitcoin, or a USD wire transfer?

Your answer to this question should help you realize the ridiculously fallacious nature of your reply to me.

>If these are genuine concerns of your you should focus on another method of preventing them.

We successfully combat these things in USD, Visa, etc. We cannot combat them BY DESIGN in bitcoin. For you to suggest that we abandon the only mediums where we can track and stop criminals and switch to a medium where criminals are largely untrackable and operate freely without fear, it's beyond illogical, it's downright insane.

"Someone got murdered once, that proves the police are 100% ineffective and we should switch to a society without police!"

>A lot less than you think.

Citation please.

>If you want to buy $15,000 worth of heroin from a dark net drug distributor, would you do it in bitcoin, or a USD wire transfer?

Sure, you use bitcoin because thats what online distributors accept. But you answer me this, if I want to buy 50kg of cocaine or heroin, am I paying the Mexican Cartels/Afghan warlords/Colombian cartels USD or BTC?

>We successfully combat these things in USD, Visa, et

If we could successfully combat these with VISA would carding still be a thing? Would identity theft be a thing?

1bn was stolen from Moldovan banks by bank transfer and they still couldn't get the money back. https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Moldovan_bank_fraud_scandal

So it's hardly like any of these are a secure medium, sure there are laws that can be used to prosecute offenders, same ones that can be used for crimes involving bitcoin. Bitcoin is also trackable/traceable with the right resources BY DESIGN (not sure why that matter but it matters to you).

Also I think it was the SEC who said that cash was the preferred option for criminals, with bitcoin being a very small area for money laundering or other criminal activities.

There is a lot of hyperbole in your comment (breathtaking, insane, illogical) and a significant misunderstanding of bitcoin. Perhaps don't act so superior when you don't know everything.

As someone who's family is affected by the Iran sanctions regime I think that Bitcoin being useful to circumvent it is a rather wonderful thing.

As someone who doesn't like it when Iran threatens to murder me and my people, I don't like that they hire terrorists to attack the world oil system while chanting death to me.

Crazy, I know.

So the benefit of controllable finance systems is not that they eliminate violence and suffering, only that the powerful can decide who is to bear it.

Government =/= people affected by sanctions.

Plus, haven't governments massacred millions of people? If you're concerned to protect human rights from evil, look no further than the 20th centuries wars, pogroms, and political cleansings. How did all these governments fund all that evil: typically by abandoning sound money and massively inflating their currencies.

Nor necessarily. The German hyper inflation happened in the 20s as a direct result of the financial crash in the US and had nothing to do with a war. Same for Germany after WW2, during the war the currency held itself rather well, the collapse happened after the war.

That countries usually overstretch their economies is something different from inflating money.

Of all things in the world, you talk about vaping products?

Do Mexican cartels accept bitcoin? Do black market arms dealers? Prostitution, modern slavery?

Bitcoin increased a thousand times in value, and it made no material difference to circulation of illegal goods. You can't even buy weed from local dealers with it.

One reason (IMHO) for your last statement is people in general (A) don't understand crytocoin/blockchain blah-blah, and (B) if they attempt to buy some they discover an ATM charges them 10-20% to convert $ to BTC.

Adoption will be swift, and then ton might just make it

>so make sure it's the right people

I'm sure Putin would like to see you try. Sometimes a political solution is not possible (e.g. Russia, China), so a technological solution is the only option.

> government control over all your assets is becoming a real possibility

Isn't this already the case? it's just in day to day life they don't exert that control over you, but they can. Which of your assets are currently out of reach by your government?

There are checks and balances with the gov though. A sitting member of parliament can't decide to freeze all my assets: A judge must do that after due process.

FB (and by extension any private entity) can ban my account for nothing if they like.

> FB (and by extension any private entity) can ban my account for nothing if they like.

And Google actually does that. I'm not bringing up Google to shift the example from Facebook, but only to remind everyone that there already is at least one company controlling important aspects of lives of many people, that's known for shutting down people's account seemingly without reason (maybe there are good reasons, but they don't communicate them well) and without recourse (except posting on HN and hoping some googler will spot it). So what you describe isn't a hypothetical problem.

Smallish cash transactions aren't actively subjected to scrutiny.

For instance, if someone buys drugs with cash, there's no automatically generated electronic record of that transfer.

That's different than if you Venmo your dealer or whatever.

Sure, but they absolutely can simply come to your home, seize your cash, all stuff you've bought with it, seize the home itself and you as well.

A sovereign government has full control of the life, liberty and assets of everyone in their territory, subject to all kinds of due process on how they're going to exercise that control or not. The main restraints on gov't power are the ethical and legal choices we the people make to say what the government should be allowed to do, not a physical impossibility to do them. It's not really relevant to debabate whether gov't is capable to seize your virtual assets if it's capable to come and shoot you in the head; it doesn't do that because it's not supposed to do that, not because it's incapable.

My point is that there are worthwhile freedoms that exist whether the government can seize all your assets or not. That the government can come and take all my cash doesn't make cash less useful for (smallish) private transactions that I'd like to keep private.

In the 'free-market' capitalist democracy most of the western world lives in, you can have some (varying degree of) influence on what the government does but not a whole lot on what private companies do. If you are afraid of the government you should be terrified of Google/Facebook/etc.

I put 'free' in quotes because complete freedom for one person is slavery for another, so it is never completely clear to me what people actually want when they talk about free society or free markets.

> I put 'free' in quotes because complete freedom for one person is slavery for another, so it is never completely clear to me what people actually want when they talk about free society or free markets.

My understanding is that free markets must be non-coersive and non-violent, where all participants exercise freedom in how they act or not within the marketplace. Otherwise, if we allow any form of coersion (including any price controls) we have at least some slavery, not a free markets.

When people write 'free market' I always want to know the limits of it.

Can I sell dangerous products? Can I lie about my product? Am I obligated to explain the negative consequences of using my products? Can I sell drugs to kids?

For most people there comes a point where they say 'hang on, you are not allowed to do that!' And then the regulation debate starts.

>> I put 'free' in quotes because complete freedom for one person is slavery for another, so it is never completely clear to me what people actually want when they talk about free society or free markets.

> My understanding is that free markets must be non-coersive and non-violent, where all participants exercise freedom in how they act or not within the marketplace. Otherwise, if we allow any form of coersion (including any price controls) we have at least some slavery, not a free markets.

I don't think you're really answering the GP's question. You could have a literal slave market that's totally free, non-violent, and non-coercive, because in that market, the slaves are products, not market participants. If you don't want stuff like slave trading, then you need to put limits on the free market, so an important question is what limits (if any) does the speaker want on the "free market."

I can agree with that definition. But then again in order to ensure that you would need regulations and enforcement, so then some others might say it's not a free market.

When I read my previous comment again I see it can come off as a bit preachy, I'm actually all for regulated free markets and regulated capitalism. But I also hate regulations that are only for the benefit of entrenched players, like for example when you need a license to call yourself a hairdresser or something. I do support the need for a license to call yourself a doctor or structural engineer, so it's a tricky path.

I agree that in the real world, while it's vital to promote freedom, I can't agree fully with anarchist friends. Looking at history, we will always need some form of government or regulation, because human brokenness runs deep. Yet, where we can decentralized power, I think we should (and suspect you'd agree), as this minimized the damage abuse of authority (or regulatory capture) can cause.

In the hands of humans, liberty and justice are always proximate, not ultimate (though I think they can be real).

> In the 'free-market' capitalist democracy most of the western world lives in, you can have some (varying degree of) influence on what the government does but not a whole lot on what private companies do.

You also have vastly more freedom over whether to deal with any specific company or not than you do with the government, and they either genuinely don’t care about you so they’ll leave you alone, or they want your money so they’ll try to please you. If the government worked as well as Google, a company with legendarily bad customer service that would probably be an improvement for most over now.

Given the choice between exit and voice the former is vastly better at getting good results.

Totally different. Facebook and Google need to make money.

Government collects taxes.

There is an unavoidable obligation for companies to provide value.

There is an unavoidable obligation for companies to make money. That may or may not involve providing value to you, or any net value at all.

There are plenty of companies that provide negative value to some of their stakeholders. If you imagine adding up all the value provided to the primary and secondary stakeholders, for some companies this sum arguably ends up being negative. Business models where that sum ends up strongly negative tend to be banned quickly, though.

These systems are all ultimately based on a foundation of trust. If you don' trust your government, its people and processes, then you have a problem regardless of how transactions are happening. This trust of course starts with how secure and safeguarded the democratic process is - and there is a constant war between democracy and bad actors trying to takeover the systems of the richest nations in the world, whether nation states or smaller bad actors indirectly working toward negatively influencing a society through regulatory capture, etc..

If you don't get to vote for the people who control the money supply, it's not a democracy or a republic or anything of the sort.

"He who controls the money supply controls the British Empire, and I control the money supply" Rothschild

Never let a for-profit entity control the money supply. Last time we tried it, serious suffering was the result https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Company_town

> On the other hand, the reality will be one or two mega-currencies, FB, Amazon, Google etc.

When you stick with the government this statement indeed could become a reality. And that's why non-regulated payment systems are preferred. In the hands of banks, corporations, etc.. cryptocurrencies lose their ideal because these parties will always build their regulating mechanisms in the algorithm, without it they are not interested.

In speaking with an old friend of mine who is a hard-core libertarian, he told me that he generally prefers the free market over anything else, he does prefer the government run things when a monopoly is inevitable. The reason being, a democratic government is at least in theory still somewhat accountable to the general public while a privately-held monopoly is not.

I think that's similar to the feelings you're expressing: centralization isn't great, but if we have centralization anyways, let's use the government. The big question in this case being how centralized do we think things might end up in practice.

Don't be shy of identifying as an anarchist. You'd be in good company: https://simple.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_anarchists

The fourth result is the Unabomber.

Otherwise, good list.

His bombing campaign of terror was inexcusable and absolutely counterproductive to promoting his views but having read his collected writings he was surely ahead of his time as far as sussing out prevalent and significant ecological and social issues arising from our relationship to technology and the rest of the planet.

Good grief, Kaczynski is on there. Bjork, however, is fourth in the list and I'm fairly certain she wasn't involved!

There is a different between libertarianism and anarchism though.

Right. Libertarians (or at least the consistent ones) are all anarchists, but not all anarchists are libertarians. "Anarchist" is a very broad term spanning the complete range from pacifist voluntaryism to violent agents of chaos. Libertarians tend to be completely non-violent so long as they and their property are unmolested, in stark contrast to certain other notable anarchists.

Thats fine, the way it will come to pass is some people wont trust crypto and stick with traditional currency.

The crypto that will win, will be the one that people adopt to a higher frequency over traditional currency because it will bring them more value over time. Then the ones who will be upset at this will be the ones who benefited from the inefficiencies of the prior monetary system, which by its very nature was prejudiced.

Their use case is primarily obfuscating movement of money. Crypto isn't exactly useful day to day, and it'll take some time and ingenuity to be able to achieve the convenience of modern payment systems in a decentralized, distributed manner.

Right now, that's the only use case which warrants crypto over fiat currency is if you ever want to send large sums of money and not leave a trail.

Not only. Remittances to less developed countries, chaotic national currency, undeveloped banking, etc. Half of Africa uses e-money, and crypto is a good replacement.

at least Goverment is tied to a democracy. Multinational corporation not so much.

Most multinational corporations are democracies, though. They are governed by boards of directors elected by their members (shareholders).

And companies are in practice more accountable to their constituents than governments

Don’t hold all eggs in one bin.

FB, Amazon, Google etc currencies don't seem to be happening. I think it will be government currencies or something like Bitcoin.

Well Facebook is pushing out Libra.

Amazon has its own Managed Blockchain for currencies https://aws.amazon.com/managed-blockchain/ as well as a ledger https://aws.amazon.com/qldb/ along with a POW https://cointelegraph.com/news/amazon-patent-casts-light-on-... so I wouldn't exactly be surprised if they push out their own coin.

I don't think Google has made any big moves in crypto. Though if Amazon/FB really start pushing for their own coins I doubt Google wouldn't try something to compete on that market.

Ah yeah I didn't put that well. I was more thinking that they will not be big compared to fiat or bitcoin.

They are a bit neither one thing or another. Bitcoin is fully unregulated so you can use it in ways that governments would ban if they could, fiat is pretty much regulated (apart from cash in hand), but Libra etc combine the inconvenience of crypto with being subject to regulation.

Technology is not the same as adoption.

Bitcoin is big because it's adopted and decentralized.

The same fears about Facebook is why their currency will not be trusted. I don't trust Amazon, but I do trust Bitcoin.

Every retail brick and mortar store needs to have their own delivery services.

Every content creator and distribution network needs to have their own closed streaming platform and app and monthly fee schedule.

Every tech platform that connects one user to others in any form or fashion needs to have their own blockchain system for the transfer of value.

Apparently.. this is where we're headed right now.

It's not where we're headed, it's where we're at right now.

There are many, many examples of this behavior in new markets (e.g. railroads, search engines), which is eventually followed by market consensus around a small number of winners and a market consolidation.

I don't see any reason the examples you mentioned will be different.

I've been staying in hotels a bit more, in recent weeks, than I have in a while. So I'm seeing more television. I'm seeing more messaging around this than I usually do.

Target advertising their own delivery services was news to me... of course I was familiar with all the food delivery services (UberEats, DoorDash, etc).

This will crash, as you say, and some will survive as the Lyfts of the market.

But I don't hear a lot about Zipcar anymore...?

If your conclusion is that there are more delivery services than the market can support, I agree completely.

Ultimately, I think the end result will be a stable market with a few competitors, as some of the existing companies fail, some of the bigger chains offering delivery shut down their internal service and outsource the work while others spin out their service to support external customers, etc.

Zipcar still exists and seems to be doing fine in my area, with car2go and a couple others as competitors.

There's a lot of capital, and not as many investment opportunities. So successful companies are trying to differentiate themselves and lock people in by replicating infrastructure.

When capital disappears or the economy becomes more dynamic, this will change.

I think I'd rather have a government with decades of fiscal management, bad or otherwise look after money than an organisation that has absolutely no accountability whatsoever.

What about a protocol regulated by mathematics and well-designed economic game theory, controlled by no one party or group, which only gets stronger security when attacked?

I don't disagree in principal, but:

> well-designed economic game theory

Game theory is loosely based on the idea of behavioral economics, which is an imperfect science.

The fact that the Winkelvoss twins have to store their BTC password separated into several hidden physical vaults (bank safes mind you) is all you have to know about how the trust system actually works in real life.[0]

[0] https://www.nytimes.com/2017/12/19/technology/bitcoin-winkle...

    > What about a protocol regulated by mathematics and well-designed economic game theory...
Well, THAT protocol is turning out to be a vehicle for investment thrill-rides, where extreme volatility seems to be the central, most defining characteristic. I mean, if you put a bitcoin in your pocket, you have no idea what it will be worth when you pull it out of your pocket.

Currency should be a medium for exchanging goods and services. It should be boring and reliable.

turns out it is not all that well designed...

In a perfect world, it sounds perfect.

As I see it, governments can raise money three ways: taxes, bond sales, and their monetary printing presses.

Bitcoin removes the third option, helping to hold government abuses it check a little bit. It's not a solution for everything, but hopefully it restores money to a function of communicating value rather than being both political control and theft. If Bitcoin works it will also force governments towards greater fiscal responsibility.

Bitcoin is not a perfect solution for all problems, but a partial solution in a deeply broken world.

Governments also have a number of additional regulatory functions in addition to raising funds. Things like seizing the proceeds of crime, preventing fraud etc. Monetary policy is more than just a money raising exercise. There can be good reasons for devaluing a currency.

Think for a moment about the implications of a world with a single currency mediated through a block-chain predicated on the idea than no-one can ever get more than 50% of the processing capacity. Think about Angola, China, Sweden and the US sharing that currency

This still runs on software, so this protocol is controller by a one party: a software developers.

The whole history of cryptocurrency forks shows this very nicely.

The developers can propose changes but they can't force anyone to adopt them. Moreover, the software itself is open source so if they try to push anything too unpopular a new group of developers can take over who better represent the community's interests.

Which protocol is that? It doesn't describe any current cryptocurrencies to the best of my knowledge.

The one with the military...

Proof-of-violence instead of proof-of-work.

Arguably more energy-efficient and better for the planet

Bitcoin is actually using a lot of energy that would have simply been wasted: much of bitcoin's hashing power comes from renewable hydropower that wasn't already being used as it was too remote to economically transmit to cities. In most places, if one mines Bitcoin on non-renewable electric grids, it's incredibly hard to be profitable.

No need to worry about Telegram then, the Russian state has a plenty of experience in fiscal management.

The whole point of blockchain is for it to be not regulated or controlled by anyone - especially the government. Its control should be decentralized, its transaction history and owners private,and its ledger impossible to manipulate without destroying.

He who achieves this will be the currency of the future.

> He who achieves this will be the currency of the future.

I disagree. The currency of the future is one that is readily available and easy to use. Because generally, regular users don't care about privacy, government control or decentralisation, they care about being able to buy and sell crap easily.

A currency that achieves all the stuff you've listed would be the best-case scenario, yes, but I'm not so sure the general public will be accepting of it.

[Also, hasn't Monero achieved all this? (I'm not that knowledgeable on crypto)].

I worry that this is scope creep for Telegram. I trust them--for now--as a secure messaging service. That's serious enough. But incorporating an entire bespoke payments system puts an even bigger target on Telegram's back and introduces new trust issues.

Also, I can't help but compare this to Keybase's affiliated payment system, Stellar. I'm curious what the differences are in the two projects.

That reminds me, apparently I've been airdropped $20 in "lumens" as a keybase customer. Any idea what the point of that is or how I can cash out easily?

If you're already on Coinbase, you can cash out there by sending your Lumens over.

Otherwise, you can go through one of the Stellar exchange frontends and convert the lumens (there are a few institutions set up to accept lumens and convert them into a token tied to the value of a fiat currency (these tokens are still part of the Stellar network) -> real currency via bank transfer)

I worry that this will be a deciding excuse to paint them as pure terrorist evil and shut them down - "they're not only helping TERRORISTS organize, but now also transfer large amounts of money for their operations"

if you have the opportunity to observe wechat payment in china, it will make a lot more sense.

payment in a chat application right now is the best way to bring electronic payments to everyone. because within that chat application you already established trust with your communication partner, and using the same tool to exhange payments thus builds on that trust and reduces the chances for fraud. (it does not eliminate fraud, but when making payments to a known entity, i can trust that the payments go to the right place)

this is independent from using a blockchain to do that, or facilitating payments in regular currency. the principal is the same. payments across an existing chat system are simply easier to trust than payments across a new wallet where i have to make sure that the wallet target actually match who i want to send money to.

WeChat isn't just a chat application. You can buy all sorts of things in WeChat - taxi trips, takeout, food off the menu of the restaurant you're sitting in, and on and on. Is Telegram trying to go this route?

Almost certainly, yes. They started with a fairly extensive bot platform, and I'd expect that this will plug commerce as a first-class into bots.

Yesterday another messenger was in news for going out of business due to blockchain adventures. I just recently stopped using WhatsApp (because FB is evil) and using telegram for comms. I really hope they dont go out of business as well.

> “We do not possess any specific information on TON. That's why we cannot comment on this app.”

That's basically it. Marketing of financial services is regulated. TON hasn't been heavily marketed yet. So there's no marketing to criticise.

Does anyone have any detail to add? Are the tokens "free floating" or are they supposedly pegged to real money? Are they for a utility purpose or purely for speculation?

(I also wonder if they're delaying the launch given the disappointing Bakkt launch and the implosion of Kik)

Good. More competition in the space of currencies and money is exactly what it's needed for hundreds of years.

Care to elaborate?

Money creation and currency competition has historically been controlled by very few entities, most of the time governments. Competition takes place in other areas and technologies and ideas have advanced while the innovation in money and currency has been much slower and often stagnated by various societies printing their currency out of existence.

As long as people have the power to consent to which currencies they use the availability and competition among them creates a market for competition and innovation.

"Snuck Past" doesn't matter. They can penalize after the fact.

It's actually probably worse, because if you get caught at the beginning you might stop. If you don't get caught at the beginning you can make things a lot worse.

Coindesk reported that TON is supposedly trading in unauthorised secondary market already[1].

[1]Post seems to have been removed, available on Google Cache - https://webcache.googleusercontent.com/search?q=cache:https:...

It's not regulated because it's not a popular topic yet. People always try to find rational reasons for why other people care about stuff.

The world is not a meritocracy or a rational place. It operates just like a giant high school. No one cares about Telegram's money simply because no one cares. The cool kids haven't started talking about it yet. That's it.

It actually is similar to Libra and other projects in lots of ways.

Transactional is different. It only needs to have stable value in the short term. If Starbucks says 3 credits for a coffee and they have a liquid market for credits they will use it. Ingress/egress that sweeps into savings many will adopt. FB would be wise to take 10% of profits and sweep them into a credit dividend for users so even the poorest have liquidity in the market.

Is Telegram going to find itself with issues similar to Kik's? https://www.engadget.com/2019/06/05/sec-sues-kik-for-running...

Human beings digitize and exchange with each other everything they can. Movies, music, text, audio, and now money. Less middlemen, less friction and less decay (inflation in the case of currency) is usually better. One should not need to sneak peer to peer communications software and past anyone.

Telegram is primarily Russian so it's unlikely they would heed American regulators anyway.

How is it Russian in any way? The app has been banned in Russia for more than a year now and the creator/CEO Pavel Durov is in exile from Russia.

>CEO Pavel Durov is in exile from Russia.

Pavel Durov is a Kremlin ally who pretends to be in exile from Russia. The app being sort-of blocked in Russia is just a part of the elaborate PR campaign to legitimize this VK spin-off.


Telegram has shipped blatant backdoors in the past (This one is particularly egregious as there's no way to explain away this MITM feature as a bug) http://habrahabr.ru/post/206900/

Seeing how hard Russia tries to ban it and that the founder had to leave the country for his safety, they are probably not sharing anything to Russia.

> Telegram is primarily Russian

Telegram isn't Russian at all at this point.

"Although Telegram was founded by a Russian, Pavel Durov (more on him later), the messaging app rejects any affiliation with Russia."


Telegram is legally British.

I'm building (and betting everything on) 'an app' on Telegram, and this shit makes me nervous.

Telegram, please don't crash

Does anyone know where to buy it?

A comment on decentralisation:

>> If there is one person who manages the payment system, it is this person who must comply with all the laws and regulations of the regulators, and if there is no central agent, then there is no one to present the requirements to.*

Is this correct? Or do all users need to be GDPR compliant? Blockchains rely on lots of people storing the same data, and their interaction constitutes "running the service". Playing Devil's Advocate, I don't see how Bitcoin mining that validates drug-purchase transactions is legally much different to running a TOR exit node -- you're looking the other way while potentially abetting crimes.

Morally I think I don't have a problem with it, but I don't think it would be difficult to ban or regulate after the fact.

Running TOR exit node is not illegal. Take this logic far enough: criminals use shoes, so make it illegal.

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