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Ethereum Isn't Fun Anymore (timdaub.github.io)
293 points by timdaub 13 days ago | hide | past | favorite | 632 comments





Building something useful on something that is primarily used as highly volatile financial speculation instrument always rubbed me the wrong way. The whole crypto scene is just about making quick dough with a technology, that for some reason remains hyped through and wrapped in mysticism.

Face it, there is no sexy killer app for the masses. Wait. There is one: Crypto trading to... make quick dough. And the cryptonerds seeing the high trade volume then go and call this a success of crypto. lol


After all those years, there's still not a single useful blockchain application around.

These days I see lots companies telling me, they put their "supply chain on blockchain" and while I understand what they probably want to tell me ("you can't tamper with where our stuff comes from") I don't see the point in that. If you've got trust issues with your subcontractors you should fix those and not "seal" the willingly wrong information in a blockchain.

Maybe we should just declare blockchain a "failed technology".


I think the decentralized web pieces are starting to fall in place: decentralized file storage, decentralized domain names, decentralized communities and streaming, decentralized payments, etc.

I wouldn't declare it "failed technology" just yet.


Just because something works doesn't make it a success (see Betamax, laser disc, steam powered cars etc.).

Just because something doesn't work in the first attempt doesn't mean it never will (see various attempts at ecommerce, online news, streaming video, or just general computer-network-for-the-masses attempts from the 80s and early 90s).

It does work, that's the problem. Because even though it's working, few people are actually using it for anything other than speculative trades (and its been working for ~11 years).

The first electric car worked perfectly in 1890. 11 years is nothing!

I never claimed it was. Read back what I said.

Did Filecoin actually gain any traction?

Seems they recently launched late last year [0], some of the miners went on strike seeing the actual mining deal worse than they expected in several ways [1], and current price is going up a bit in the last few days, but consistently down vs BTC [2].

They may be having some success on their original purpose, having just passed 2.5 billion GB on the network, i.e., 2.5 exabytes, and 1300 miners, 200+ projects and 5900+ GitHub contributors [3].

[0] https://www.coindesk.com/filecoin-mainnet-now-live [1] https://news.bitcoin.com/filecoin-miners-start-a-strike-fil-... [2] https://coinmarketcap.com/currencies/filecoin/ [3] https://siliconangle.com/2021/02/16/filecoins-decentralized-...


Do you know if they list the price of storing/accessing 1 GB on Filecoin compared to say AWS?

It's obvious that people who own Bitcoin would want to use the system in order to show usefulness, demand, however I'm wondering if there's any use of people who aren't financially incentivized (like early adopters who have the most to gain).


Good question, but IDK. Current price is around $37/Filecoin, falling from $45 earlier in the week, but I have no idea what one Filecoin buys in terms of storage. Let me know if you find out more, and I'll do the same

Will do. It's always been odd to me that that is never listed prominently - as price is always the main competitive factor for anything, and even if it's 100x more expensive than similar solutions - at least people get a frame of reference to then see if the multiple is worth the value of storing in the Filecoin system; and with whatever risks may come with that.

Siacoin >>> Filecoin

I just don't get the logic behind going for PoW for Siacoin than going PoS. If people have to invest in hardware already, then why make them invest in even more unrelated hardware.

I know someone who got a 7 figure loan backed by cryptocurrency collateral in a matter of minutes using makerdao. The best part? They didn't even had to provide their name. This is the future folks, I highly recommend that you actually try some of these projects before writing them off.

You do realize it’s law and not technical incapability that prevents financial institutions from lending like this, right?

I don't think law would prevent a fully collateralized loan on the basis of borrower/lender risks.

AML seems a non issue too, as the loan only moves the question.

KYC remains one big problem but there are many startups providing those services and they are slowly gaining acceptance in courts.

Don't be impressed if a few years (and maybe even months) from now you start to see classical banks trading mortgages onchain.


The banking system doesn't work like a tech company. They're highly dependent on a credit eco-system. If the debt they sell is backed by highly volatile collateral, their own debts will become unsustainably expensive with the additional risk factors. Yes I know the future of crypto is sunshine and rainbows but the price swings of the past three months makes this a highly volatile asset class (regardless if the price is moving up). Even security backed debt negatively effects risk factors, but at least securities have accompanying rights to offset losses--crypto has absolutely zero safety nets.

I don't think law would prevent a fully collateralized loan on the basis of borrower/lender risks.

It doesn't.

AML seems a non issue too, as the loan only moves the question.

No, anti-money-laundering laws are at the heart of why the financial system can't do this. KYC laws apply at the customer level, so you only need to handle KYC once per customer. AML laws apply at the transaction level, so you need to apply them to each loan.

Cryptocurrency solves absolutely none of the existing legal reasons that banks can't issue large loans in minutes or seconds to existing (or new, well collateralized) clients.


> Cryptocurrency solves absolutely none of the existing legal reasons that banks can't issue large loans in minutes or seconds to existing (or new, well collateralized) clients.

Yes, this is definitely correct in that crypto does nothing to solve the legal requirements of the banks and does not help the banks.

But it's worth mentioning that this sort of fully collateralized and anonymous borrowing does not (and would not) happen through banks, but through platforms like AAVE and Compound. It's a financial tool separate from banks. And these tools cannot be shutdown, as long as ethereum exists, these tools exist.


Banks don't need to issue fully collateralized loans. That is not a thing people need to do in the real world, because banks will gladly issue partially collateralized loans.

As for anonymous loans, those exist solely to service criminal customers, so that is not an advantage of cryptocurrency.


For people holding crypto assets which they don't plan to sell, it's a valid way to borrow other assets for use. Potentially for other investments. Definitely not just for criminals.

And overall, it's a demonstration of a financial product which can only be built in the space of decentralized finance. I do not know of another tool which allows anyone around the world to borrow significant amounts of money anonymously and without an account. Whether it's a net good for the world I don't know, but I do believe it's a powerful technology and space.


People who equate privacy from banks and the state with criminality are the reason the financial system has normalized mass-surveillance and the principle of 'guilty until proven innocent' inherent in AML laws, and the reason why the financial system has become so laden with financial friction, power disparities, and exclusion of marginalized populations.

You do realize that's a characteristic which gives decentralized finance an advantage over traditional financial institutions, right?

It is technical incapability of some financial institutions to set this up inside of their regulated position.

Other freely operating entities across the globe are not in the same position.


It's an interesting thought. Any online brokerage, lender or retail banker could probably set up an anonymous verification of asset ownership without going through background checks or credit agencies. You just need 2-party consent and verification, not a whole blockchain. The trick is not proving you own a thing, it's that you need to prove you haven't used it as collateral for anyone else or don't hold outstanding debts somewhere else. Blockchain will be completely useless for solving that. A universal identity (ie SSN) is the only option.

I mean I don't care why they can't, right? These financial systems are so old, corrupt and broken, you have to pretty much start from scratch in my opinion.

I really am struggling to see the practical value here. You have to provide collateral worth more than your borrowed amount. The rates are HORRIBLE for borrowers. Straight up predatory.

The anonymity part is cool, but if I want to borrow to get a mortgage how exactly does this help me? I do not have $500,000 in crypto laying around and a traditional lender will give me a 2% interest rate instead of 15%


So the stability fee you pay is 4.50%. You're still holding on to your assets appreciation, so if Bitcoin continues to appreciate at 300% per year, the 4.50% is a drop in the bucket and you didn't have to pay a capital gains tax.

Eventually, some companies are working on tokenizing homes, so once that happens, you could potentially deposit that as collateral just as easily, but that's still far out.


> So the stability fee you pay is 4.50%.

The fees I am seeing on Uniswap/Aave are much much higher than 4.5%. Even at 4.5% that equates to six figures of additional interest payments over my 30 year mortgage.

> and you didn't have to pay a capital gains tax.

This isn't true. Any conversion between crypto assets is technically a taxable event...even if we both can agree that the rules are silly.

> Eventually, some companies are working on tokenizing homes, so once that happens, you could potentially deposit that as collateral just as easily, but that's still far out.

Okay great, but how does this promised future development help me secure a loan for the home I want to buy? Or the business I want to start? Again, I do not have 500k in bitcoin laying around nor a "tokenized home."

It was super easy to get approved for a 500k mortgage just based on my income.


The idea is that it's not a conversion, it's a loan. The collateral is held in a smart contract and when you pay off the loan you get it back. In much the same way, people take out loans on their stock portfolios, and they don't pay capital gains either.

Is there any definitive source on this? I get lots of conflicting information from my brief google search. Equities and Cryptocurrencies are not treated the same for tax purposes by the IRS. It seems like they are treated as property and do not qualify as a "fungible" asset like stock or USD.

I don't know and I haven't consulted a CPA, which is why I described it as an "idea" instead of a fact. I know technically how it works, but not how the IRS will view it.

But to my amateur mind, treating it as property doesn't seem like a problem for this view. If you get a loan from a pawn shop, you're not selling them your property, you're just putting it up for collateral while you pay back the loan.


This. It took me a long time to understand this. I was so focused on the volatility that I failed to look at the larger trend. It clicked for me only a couple of months back.

Same here, it took me a while to understand why anyone would get an over-collaterized loan until it just clicked, then I was like this is the future, it doesn't make any sense to sell the most valuable and appreciating asset ever, but you can still use the money from it.

> sell the most valuable and appreciating asset ever

What happens when it stops appreciating? Or is the premise that bitcoin will alway outpace interest rates?


In the short term it could do anything, in the long term you'd expect it to constantly appreciate.

It's a scarce/deflationary/limited supply asset which is compared against an endless money printer.


The 2008 financial crisis in a nutshell

Margin call.

Do you not pay the loan back in Bitcoin? How would you exercise the 300% gain while also paying the loan back?

So if Bitcoin grows 300%, that means your collateral is now worth 300% more.

You can either withdraw a portion of it back to your normal wallet or you can just borrow more against the same collateral. So it's like a credit line that's always appreciating in value.

If one day, you need the whole collateral for whatever reason, then you'd pay the loan to unlock it fully and withdraw it.


Antigravity for finance. The ages long problem of how to integrate debt and money into society is solved.

The value of that loan is less than the value of the collateral they put in though, that's how vaults work.

You're never going to get an amazing loan deal from a trustless system.


But you can access liquidity without selling your asset which is exactly what they want.

ie. So they can have cash while continuing to be speculatively exposed to eth.

I think that ethereum might have great applications, but a loan backed by more collateral than it is worth doesn't seem like one of them, unless Dao starts allowing for the use of collateral that is less liquid than eth.

The issue is that contracts don't have any way of "calling in" to the legal API, so you can't put up your house as collateral.


They also avoid capital gains tax which would be pretty significant. They can use the money to hedge their bets against crypto by buying traditional markets if they wanted.

For house mortgages, there are companies that are "tokenizing" houses on the blockchain, so putting it up collateral would be as simple as depositing that token. That said, I think this is far from becoming reality anytime soon, just because there's lots of legal issues, etc. Nonetheless, the future is pretty exciting!


I believe that technically, any conversion between crypto assets is still a taxable event. If you want to follow the (silly) rules, you have to pay taxes on your gains once you purchase something using your borrowed stablecoin.

So yes, you'd pay capital gains tax on the DAI that you've borrowed when you transfer it back to USD, but DAI is a stablecoin that's pegged to 1$ and the volumes are pretty high on many exchanges.

Once you include your exchanges fees in your cost basis, you actually lost like 30-40$, so it's a taxable event with capital gains loss.



This is more applicable to liquidity providers or things like AAVE and compound where your crypto is actually loaned out. With maker, your crypto doesn't move anywhere and isn't loaned out to anyone.

For what it's worth, if you use AAVE or Compound, you also have to declare interest income on what you've earned.

With maker, you'd be responsible for capital gains if it was liquidated because you fell below the 150% minimum ratio.


Admittedly, I am not familiar with maker I will have to go take a look.

I guess the difference between me and someone who would use these DeFi apps, is that they are using crypto as a speculative investment (which is fine, I speculate with other assets all the time). But most people do not have a significant portion of their net worth in crypto tokens. For me, it is much cheaper/easier/safer to just get a traditional loan.


Presumably the point is to avoid triggering capital gains tax with the low cost basis of your coins by borrowing someone else's coins to make purchases.

AFAIK, this isn't how MakerDAO loans are being treated right now.

How is being able to do this good? There are reasons why this shit has been regulated.

It gives freedom to people, how is that bad? The whole point is that it's a permissionless, borderless technology that anyone can participate in. There's really nothing holding innovation back.

Flash loans are an example of that innovation, where if you see an arbitrage opportunity in the market, you can profit from it even if you don't own huge capital, so it levels the playing field for all these financial actors.


This seems akin to looking at someone's code and saying "This is crap! We should throw it out and rewrite it from scratch" without understanding how and why it got the way it did.

See Chesterton's Fence: https://fs.blog/2020/03/chestertons-fence/


> It gives freedom to people, how is that bad?

That's just a slogan. The devil is in the details. To use an extreme example: Murder laws removes my freedom to kill random people; how is that good?


That impinges on someone else's freedom. I'd go with something like selling 2 kidneys or contracts that result in indentured servitude.

Everything we do impinges on someone else's freedom. Being legally allowed to walk in the street? Impinges on someone else's freedom to block me from walking in the street.

It is always a tradeoff. In the case of the particular tech discussed, it's a tradeoff between being able to somewhat control crime (e.g, making payment for human trafficking harder, making it possible to reverse theft) and financial privacy. It's freedom from having things stolen and freedom from being regulated.


>It gives freedom to people, how is that bad?

Well it's great in theory until you hit a problem nobody was incentivized to guard against the resulting failure cascades.


Rich person gets easy loan and other news at 11.

That's what happens when you have an economy based on (interest bearing) loans.

> The best part? They didn't even had to provide their name.

The mafia probably doesn't need your name for a loan, too. They'll find you anyway.

But maybe I'm all alone in finding this somewhat shady.


> The mafia probably doesn't need your name for a loan, too.

What? They'll know your name, address and your whole family history usually.

It's just a smart contract execution on the global computer that is Ethereum, how is that shady?


There's a big cultural gap here, because your description sounds obviously shady to me. If my car financing agreement said "the terms of the loan are whatever happens when you run this program we wrote", I would never in a million years have signed it.

The code is immutable and open source, so you can inspect exactly what it does.

I can inspect the code I write professionally too, but I still end up shipping bugs from time to time. So I'm not really convinced that the ability to read the code will let me reliably determine what it does. Have you heard of the DAO hack?

Cryptocurrency's lack of regulation is not a feature.

Interesting. I think I know somebody who might be interested in something similar: ie, put X BTC as collateral for a loan, and pay it back after a year to get X BTC. Any pointers for where I could learn how this could work?

Or you could just treat that collateral as a credit line that's always growing, if it grows faster than your spending, just withdraw a portion of your collateral. Just look at Youtube videos on makerdao, there's some good ones out there and try it for yourself once you feel comfortable with small amounts.

Once you actually try it, you're going to be like "this is the future", every single one of my friends that tried came to the same conclusion.


Do you have any sense about what happens in the limit, like what if literally every person is sitting on a bunch of Bitcoin they earned at their job, which now pays in Bitcoin.

Everything is denominated in Bitcoin, which is always going up in price. Everyone borrows some lame legacy asset X and collateralixes with Bitcoin.

Do weird things happen? for example of Bitcoin is ubiquitous then the price of Bitcoin essentially gets factored out of the equation, so this magical leverage goes away. There are other effects but this idea that this is the future (or rather that this is a superior future ) seems a bit naive to me. Gravity will catch up to you no matter what.


What happens in the event of default?

It's over-collaterized, so if you fall below the 150% minimum collateral ratio, maker smart contract could liquidate the asset to cover the loan and then return the remaining 50%-liquidation fees back to you. As long as you're conservative in your borrowing (as in you borrow up to 25%-50% of your holding), your chances of getting liquidated are pretty slim.

I think a big part of this is that old tech companies like IBM, Oracle and probably every big management consulting trying to hype the technology up. You see consultants recommend taking on big challenges, sort of like snake oil applying it to all kinds of nonsensical scenarios around finance, insurance, supply chain, regulatory reporting, etc.

Contrary to general perception it’s not a new data transfer cure all that will actually solve problems of sharing data between organizations. It also doesn’t replace hard work required to make a new industry standard. It’s barely useful in either of those but that’s the common misconception I usually hear from nontechnical people who seem to be excited about blockchain.

Are we just trapped in a hype cycle that will inevitably end or does Bitcoin growth spell forever renewing waves of hype?


I think it's being declared "failed technology" at least once a month since inception, no?

I mean it "works", but so do steam powered cars. The problem is most people don't actually use it, just trade it. The space used to mostly involve people who actually wanted to decentralize currencies, now it's almost exclusively "hodl $$$$$ to the moon etc". This article is articulating what's been clear to many people who really believed in the promise of decentralized currency: crypto in its current iteration has essentially failed. Time to try something else.

Maybe you're hearing only "hodl" because those people are loud? Just like Vitalik doesn't give a shit about making money on speculation, so do many people working around this tech, a lot don't hold anything in crypto or purely symbolic amounts, trading takes a lot of time, energy and can drain emotionally very quickly, with more than 80% of new traders loosing money after 1 year not everybody is interested in it.

To put it in other words - crypto trading is different kind of hobby than programming. Many people are interested in what kind of systems can be built and don't give much crap about monetizing it or worry about how many people are using it.

It's a bit like getting upset at Fabrice Bellard because he created quickjs that "nobody is using" - it's completely missing the point.



Exactly. Nevermind this article because Bitcoin and a blockchain from JP Morgan have nothing in common (also JP's enthusiasm for blockchains have been steadily waning and their earlier attempts are already dead on the vine). People have no interest in the tech, just gainz, bcs blockchain finance, consensus, future, JP Morgan and whatever word cloud pumpers want to use to get you excited don't actually reflect realities. If you have so much faith in the tech, start using it for real-world transactions, which you can do right now. If you're just hodling with some vague assumptions of moon money, you're not supporting the actual purpose of crypto. But let's be honest, most people aren't really supporting it or have any interest in actually using it, that's why crypto has been failing (even though it technically "works").

Not sure, but we should act more like that then.

Full supply chain documentation takes a long time to put together. If the application could generate the full supply chain documentation for an item with a certain serial number, that would be very useful.

It is also very common for suppliers and various intermediaries to have bad document management practices that get further muddled by digital file issues (e.g. people just generating documents from their software that may be different from the real invoice).

The issue with that is that not everyone involved wants transparency or wants to know, because you can get discounts from illegal or merely hinky behavior such as through gray market imports. There are good reasons as to why a lot of people involved in bringing products to customers want to see no evil / hear no evil / speak no evil. There's room here for the law to push people into adopting better technology than what is currently used.

This is another case in which the paper tech is better for fraud, negligence, and crime than the blockchain tech. It is also more forgiving because it prevents participants in the supply chain from becoming aware of fraud further up the chain, so it prevents them from taking on liability. Transparency sounds great until you learn it means that you have to pay more for the same units because the crime / lax practices that lubed the system up is now infeasible.


Dumb this down for me, because it's unclear how blockchain would solve the issues you bring up.

Blockchain is just a ledger. So "the Blockchain" does not make anything significantly better. Its in fact ridiculously expensive.

The idea is that everytime sweat shop X finishes sewing sequins on a dress, they can scan the RFID tag on the dress with their smartphone, and the ledger gets updated, and then Walmart can prepare for that dress, the shipping company can print out labels etc.

Its a good idea.

Industries are supposed to work this out, create their own cheaper blockchains that just need some sort of simple KYC to get started, then its as cheap as email to add your little bit to the supply chain.

I dont know of any successful implementations

Edit: no blockchain will solve the grey market problems. Everything will have to be made genuninely on the chain. Which starts to lead to probelsm with if you cannot get permission to write to the chain ... etc etc


I appreciate the response, but it's still entirely unclear how blockchain would help here. In a supply chain, why would blockchain be better than a centralized process? It seems to be trying to put a square peg in a round hole.

It's a fine question - I guess politics mostly

1. If the central database is proprietary then it is enforced (usually by a major retailer ie Walmart drives all sorts of RFID supply chain requirements for its suppliers. If blockchains come in this is likely how)

1.a. But which other retailer will sign up to walmart's versions ? So it is hard for all suppliers to sign up to the same standards

2. Open standards make it easier for anyone to write apps to join the chain.

3. it's not at all clear how this is better I will admit beyond "decentralised" and "open". But those are excellent places to start.


Tampering. Bribes, hacking, idiocy, whatever. A proper blockchain is tamper resistant, so everyone trusts it.

I will bribe people to put wrong information on the blockchain then.

I understand your point, nothing is perfect, but surely a public easily-audited blockchain does more to deter corruption and, if it occurs, find the perpetrators? As compared to a traditional system which is basically a log file that anyone with access (such as a rogue IT admin) can change?

You can sign entries but unless you have each subsequent entry build on what came before like in a blockchain, entries can be removed entirely and no one will know. There is a reason companies like DHL are interested in such things.

https://www.dhl.com/au-en/home/insights-and-innovation/insig...

Example: Our product is sourced from a company and this providence is on the blockchain. It comes to light they employ slave labour and we'd rather cover it up. How do we alter these original transactions without the evidence being in plain sight?


:-)

Thank you


I mean... there are a few.

Brave (the browser) uses blockchain in their privacy protecting ad technology.

Skynet uses a blockchain to allow users to share their extra computer storage space for a CDN.

And I'm sure there are a few others. It's just that the amount of use cases send legitimate applications using them are... limited. Most of the ones I'd consider valid uses have a substance-full technical goal, like the two I mentioned above.


> Brave (the browser) uses blockchain in their privacy protecting ad technology.

uBlock Origin works fine based on txt-files. Not sure how blockchain could improve this.


Iirc the idea behind brave is to create a sustainable alternative to the ad/data collection of big tech. They use blockchain to enable microtransactions for content.

So, we are back to flattr, PayPal recurring payments or whatnot again.

$localNewspaper not go through the hassle of dealing with payments through blockchain technology.


Not really. Some people do that. Most just leave it on auto-contribute which means you'd get paid per view.

It's also not terribly hard to get verified so you get paid. As long as someone is reasonably familiar with technology, I think it'd be pretty easy for them. Haven't tried it for myself though (but the guide is up there so you can see it for yourself if your curious).


>After all those years, there's still not a single useful blockchain application around.

Why are uniswap/none of these DeFi/DEx'es "not useful"?

https://defipulse.com/


There is Sia/Skynet which I think is really cool. Sia is the decentralized storage layer and Skynet provides file-sharing and HTTP-access through webportals. It's actually working and can compete with AWS S3 in terms of security, performance and price, while being completely decentralized. Check out https://siasky.net and the Skynet App Store: https://siasky.net/hns/skyapps/#/apps/all

Just because you don’t use it doesn’t mean it’s not useful. People called computers useless for a long time too. Some still do.

> If you've got trust issues with your subcontractors you should fix those and not "seal" the willingly wrong information in a blockchain.

In first world countries, yes. In third world countries, no.




> to digitise a sector that still uses millions of paper documents

So, they now use blockchain where sending documents as a PDF would have been sufficient...

I'm so proud!

edit: Read the article! That's truely their main selling point. Formerly it was done on/with paper, now it's "on the blockchain". This is another great example why we don't need blockchain.


What’s the point of a PDF when a fax would be sufficient?

The problem is that the purpose of the Blockchain is to achieve distributed trustless consensus. Any time the Blockchain interacts with the physical world you need to introduce a centralised trusted entity (the oracle problem)

i guess the whole point of tracking containers on blockchain was that you don't have to trust middlemen to do the right thing anymore.

I've read some detailed discussions from people in the industry explaining how blockchains don't help. And I've read some very high level, breezy assertions from people outside the industry asserting that blockchains can help (although they never spell out how, exactly).

As far as I can tell:

1. There's a pretty big issue with containers having the wrong contents (eg, counterfeit items loaded initially, or contraband added during transit). Current solutions are focused around physical security, seals, locks, etc., but it's fairly easy to bypass and forge these physical measures.

2. There's no real issue with tracking containers. We don't always know what's actually in them, but we know really well where they are and what's meant to be in them.

3. There's some efforts to try and replace the electronic systems for tracking where they are and what should be in them with blockchains. But as above, that's the bit that's currently working fine.

Not needing to trust middlemen is a good goal, I just don't see how tracking containers on blockchains reduces my need to trust middlemen. When Customs seizes the container at the border and finds someone has added 100kg of cocaine to the container, how does the blockchain prove who jimmied the lock open and then replaced the tamper seals?


This, a thousand times _this_!

I've worked in shipping for decades. There is no problem with BOLs magically changing with no traceability (which blockchain could solve, I guess, if that problem existed?). There is no problem with checking that the seal on a box at arrival is the same seal that was on the box when it departed.

The only viable purpose I've heard for blockchain is quasi-anonymous decentralized trust negotiation. This purpose doesn't match any real-world use case in shipping. A shipper doesn't want to ship product from an anonymous untrusted producer and no carrier wants to carry goods from an anonymous untrusted shipper.

Blockchain won't stop companies from misdeclaring hazardous (but otherwise legal) goods[1], it won't stop traffickers from misdeclaring illegal goods (or smuggling illegal goods among legal goods)[2], it won't stop trucks from running overweight[3], it won't stop ships from being misloaded[4]...

---

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/MV_Hyundai_Fortune

[2] https://www.freshplaza.com/article/9295962/cork-cocaine-valu...

[3] this sort of thing doesn't usually make the news so I don't have a link

[4] https://www.shippingandfreightresource.com/one-apus-containe...


Trust is a lower energy state than distrust. I find it unlikely that society wants to incur the massive expensive of climbing that trust gradient for no benefit.

Any society that adopts trust will be able to compete very well against a society of no trust.

Thst is my conjecture at any rate.


And, more importantly, a blockchain provides a trustless data store. Why can't I just trust myself to keep the data?

"shit in, shit out" is still the working principle. I don't see why the middlemen should make true statements, if that's not in his interest after all. Instead he will just enter wrong information, which will then become "correct" information, "because it's on the blockchain!!11".

Are the middlemen competing with each other to change the supply chain tracking information after it's been recorded in a system over which the purchaser has no control? If so, then maybe blockchain could help with that specific risk. But it can do nothing to prevent middlemen from putting fraudulent information into the record in the first place.

Cryptokitties is actually great

They left Ethereum due to the high gas prices, didn't they? How many MAU do they have?

Putting supply chain on a blockchain isn't about verifying the authenticity of the goods. Its about being able to buy and sell the goods at any time, hedge out price risk, etc.

> Its about being able to buy and sell the goods at any time, hedge out price risk, etc.

Can you explain this in greater detail? I don't wish to be a naysayer, but I don't understand how those concepts are blockchain-specific. Goods being re-sold/diverted while in transit was a regular occurrence prior to the existence of blockchain technologies. What is being brought to the table that is new?


All actors having better access to these tools and others, more open markets. Someone with knowledge of new tools can build services aimed at various market participants, without needing much capital etc. Goods were sold before the Internet, too.

The hardest pill to swallow is that we already had a very low cost of moving money around between hostile nation-states. And it's been around since the 8th century - read 700ACE-800ACE.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hawala

Its money dealer to money dealer, and the money dealers keep scrips. Average fees are from 0.2% to 0.5% . It's definitely un-sexy since its not technology based. No chains of blocks or programmers needed. Fees are low, so the money transferrers can make a living, but not allow speculation or other hazardous acts.

And the only reason why it's not more massively used is because of the US's adherence that it's "terrorism".

I'd imagine that the terrorism angle is more of a "allows people to ignore central banks ran by USA and Europe"... as the US didn't much care when HSBC was financing drug cartels, terrorists, and the like ( https://www.forbes.com/sites/afontevecchia/2012/07/16/hsbc-h... )


>And the only reason why it's not more massively used is because of the US's adherence that it's "terrorism".

I don’t think so. A system with clear record keeping, auditable by third parties, and subject to the judiciary is far better than below:

> Trust and extensive use of connections are the components that distinguish it from other remittance systems. Hawaladar networks are often based on membership in the same family, village, clan, or ethnic group, and cheating is punished by effective excommunication and "loss of honour"—leading to severe economic hardship.[3]

Technology has obviated the need for unnecessary levels of allegiance to your tribe, as required in the above system.


> I don’t think so. A system with clear record keeping, auditable by third parties, and subject to the judiciary is far better than below:

And we've learned that record-keeping has its own very strong negative side. It alone can establish ties between people, and serve to eliminate privacy all in the names of "transparency". (And I can hear it now too - "Why want privacy if you have done nothing wrong?"). I think we're only at the beginning of crypto-fraud arrests, because the ledger is the log - and that's a liability.

And the auditability is primarily a governmental requirement, usually based around fraud, financing terrorists, or the like. If cheating occurs, the excommunication from the network is the punishment - you are removed from your position of power. And frankly, we can look at our systems of how auditability doesnt stop the various failure modes: blatant financing of terrorism/HBSC, billions of $ transferred away from citizens with usurious fines, overleveraging finance side affecting savings/loan. In the end, auditability is just a way to assign blame. And that blame is never directed towards those at the top who manufacture and use illegal techniques - it is used to blame the rank and file; the cashier, the teller, the engineer, the low middle manager.

And subject to the judiciary is an interesting case you bring up... Because transfers in (I believe) all cryptocurrency is not subject to the judiciary. And in many more popular cryptosystems, that is seen as a strong anti-government bonus, and not a malus. And

Point being, is that the Hawala is the last millenium's Bitcoin.. And when compared to BTC or ETH now, is still strictly better. (And we haven't discussed the barrier to entry, wasted electrical power, e-waste, etc.)


>And we've learned that record-keeping has its own very strong negative side. It alone can establish ties between people, and serve to eliminate privacy all in the names of "transparency".

Hawala people can establish ties too, unless they are somehow incorruptible. And electronic money transfer systems and SWIFT and whatnot aren't perfect, but my contention is they are more preferable to almost all people than Hawala. I am aware of the corruption with regards to HSBC, but I can't agree with

>billions of $ transferred away from citizens with usurious fines, overleveraging finance side affecting savings/loan

Keeping funds secure and moving money has never been so easy and so cheap for almost all people. Yes, you can get screwed if the government deems you a terrorist, and a more distributed system like Hawala might be more resilient to that kind of attack, but there's other costs to Hawala that the current system doesn't have.

>Point being, is that the Hawala is the last millenium's Bitcoin.. And when compared to BTC or ETH now, is still strictly better. (And we haven't discussed the barrier to entry, wasted electrical power, e-waste, etc.)

I can't comment on this since I don't know enough about BTC or ETH or Hawala.


Technology doesn't imply a good civil society (where you can, on average, trust people. Aka "social capital").

But does technology imply social capital? I don't think so.

So if you set up the dichotomy, and had to choose, I'd choose "social capital" every time.

I know, you didn't use this phrasing. But when I read "allegiance to your tribe", what does that even mean? If you're American and you support your troops, isn't that "allegiance to your tribe"?


Technology removes the need for middlemen, and hence any trust needed for the middlemen.

Allegiance to the tribe means following the customs/social ordering/rules of the tribe. For example, how well would a gay/non religious/etc person fare in tribes that don't believe in civil liberties?


> Technology removes the need for middlemen, and hence any trust needed for the middlemen.

Unfortunately, I see what happens when 'We' use technology to remove middlemen...

Apple: https://www.macrumors.com/2021/01/02/amphetamine-app-store-r...

Google: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=22348568

(person 17h ago on HN talking about google acct ban remediation https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=26218795 )

https://www.businessinsider.com/google-users-locked-out-afte...

That's what technology has gotten us. Accounts get closed down due to automated systems. Something gets flagged as "fraud" and you lose access/money. Your previous business selling apps gets cancelled when your app is deregistered and removed.

At least, the recourse is "Complain on HN or Twitter". Worst case is you file a lawsuit against a multi-billion dollar company (hah!).

Now, what do you do to file a dispute against Ethereum or Bitcoin? Well, nobody. There is no clearinghouse and no masters - that's the selling point! But what about fraud or likewise? Too bad, so sad.

With the hawaladars, their word, ethics, and livelihood is on the line. You have a real human who can handle the squishy and nigh-unautmatable parts. And they can talk with the person trying to transfer money in case there is problems unforseen.

> Allegiance to the tribe means following the customs/social ordering/rules of the tribe.

Well, yes.

> For example, how well would a gay/non religious/etc person fare in tribes that don't believe in civil liberties?

But this seems like a veiled way to attack a way of moving money around solely because the name is Islamic. And hate crimes happen nearly everywhere. And there was the Kentucky county clerk who refused to sign marriage certificates because a couple was gay.... And unlike the hawaladars whom you can go to a different one, these people in the county had no such choice.

It's easy to set up a strawman that someone may not support your beliefs, but it's a false narrative to think that only those people do it.


>That's what technology has gotten us. Accounts get closed down due to automated systems. Something gets flagged as "fraud" and you lose access/money. Your previous business selling apps gets cancelled when your app is deregistered and removed.

Automated solutions do not preclude having human reviewers, and I do not think it's unreasonable for the government to step in and mandate quality (such as subjecting the automated solutions to a small claims court style jurisdiction).

>With the hawaladars, their word, ethics, and livelihood is on the line. You have a real human who can handle the squishy and nigh-unautmatable parts. And they can talk with the person trying to transfer money in case there is problems unforseen.

While there's plusses, there's also minuses. What happens when something goes wrong with a $100M+ transaction? What happens if your hawaladar or the other one burns you? There's 7B+ people in the world, eventually some organization to manage reputation will develop, maybe even by the hawaladars themselves, and you end up back where you started.

>But this seems like a veiled way to attack a way of moving money around solely because the name is Islamic.

I specifically wrote "etc" so I didn't have to specify each and every instance of discrimination, and my example of "gay" would certainly include the KY county clerk, so I don't see how you could claim I was attacking an Islamic concept because it's Islamic.

I'm not even attacking it, it's a perfectly valid way for transactions to work. In fact, my family has done it many, many times when they immigrated and they did it between various African countries, UK, USA, AUS, NZ. But that was during a time when transferring money was more costly and they didn't have another option. Now they might choose to use transferwise.


Technology is itself a middleman in most cases. You still have to trust the technology itself and the person/persons who created it.

This statement about technology removing middlemen is not true it can be disproven with some handful of examples.

Cryptocurrencies can take the role of a settlement network between the money dealers. This allows money dealers who either don't fully trust each other, or simply need to settle debt internationally because the transaction flow is asymmetric, to make these transactions.

It also allows for a new kind of system where the money dealers act as access points to the network, and customers trust their local money dealer, but you don't need trust connections between the money dealers: If I want to send money to you from my remote village to yours, I ask you which money dealer you trust, go to my trusted money dealer, give him cash, and tell him that it is to go to your trusted money dealer.

The two money dealers don't have to trust each other for the transaction to work, and the transactions are much harder to disrupt than classic banking transactions.


FX dealers I have dealt with definitely want to know who they are trading with. The information is extremely useful. It's not better for them not to know. If you lose trust in a counterparty, there is a reason.

Exchanges all over the world have membership comprised of people who voluntarily group together to create and enforce trust. Using a different denominator for transactions wont take away the forces that cause this state of affairs.


How do you build initial trust though?

Kinda ...

Far more likely that money dealers held powerful positions, ensuring some very conservative social constructs stayed in place. People just routed around this by using "modern" technology.

And so the percentage of legitimate uses of the system dwindle, and the percentage of less legitimate increase till at some point you are no longer a useful social service but a money launderer for criminals who occasionally helps the diaspora send money home.


The crypto killer app is using the money to buy illegal drugs. It always has been. Most of the people I knew who were into crypto early used it to buy weed online, not as an investment.

> The crypto killer app is using the money to buy illegal drugs.

Meeh! Not even that, anymore.

In Brazil there was a brief moment in 2014 when you could buy marijuana and cocaine with bitcoins. But now, with all this volatility, transfer costs and low liquidity, not even drug dealers want crypto currency.


Mining/Trading BTC over the counter since 2011.

I've never used a darknet market.

I read an article on slashdot in 2011 called "Bitcoin Mining for fun and profit" I bought a graphics card, it paid itself off in 21 days.

I bought 12 more graphics cards and sucked down 3kW for 24 months.

I do not regret this and every single person here that doesn't understand proof of work, doesn't understand a deflating asset with 8 (10 million) decimal places of trading precision against fiat currencies with only 2 decimal places...

Well I can't help people on the internet do math and make money, no one pays me to do that.


I don't think one could claim mining bitcoin is the killer app of bitcoin. That's a reason why people would support bitcoin.

The killer app is the combination of economics, sociology, game theory and decentralized ledger blah blah blah

When you take one currency pair with 8 digits of precision that’s PROGRAMMED to deflate and trade that against an inflating currency with 2 digits of precision...

You’re going to need a whole lot of the inflating thing to buy the deflating thing, this is math.

Me personally, my electrical bills and the costs I’ve eaten has yielded tremendous value: for me. I mined, I was rewarded, I stimulated the economy.

Long before there was an economy.


Don't forget ransomware payoffs

Decentralisation is itself the killer app. If you live in the developed world all your life you’ll have a skewed view of this and not understand the true benefit here. As trust decays in the 1st world I sincerely hope you are open minded enough to change your opinion.

Some more killer apps; - RENVM decentralized darkpools - Chainlink decentralized oracles - Deco by chainlink labs decentralized private information sharing - NFTs and NFT marketplaces. This one is going to be huge. - The entire defi space is pretty remarkable from Dexes to Bancor and Yearn to keeperdao

Respectfully comments like yours and others in this thread seem like people saying the internet wouldn’t take off in the 80s/90s. I don’t know how a technical audience like the one here doesn’t get it.

Sure there’s greed but that’s a feature of humans not crypto. We are most definitely in a bubble but the dot com bubble bore seeds which grew into trees that were mighty.


Yep RenVM is a big deal. Iirc they had something called Cafe which demonstrated turning your bitcoins into a privacy coin, ZEC. I remember when REN was only 5 cents. Amazing how much it costs to run a darknode now! Truly a successful project.

Also another cool dApp is DyDx, margin trading platform


This same comment appears on every single crypto post. if it was actually true do you think people would have stopped posting about crypto in the past six years or so?

Plenty of bubbles take time to fully pop.

It can both be true that cryptocurrency is nifty and has real world applications, and is at also widely speculative currently.


I don't think people would have stopped posting for a few reasons:

1. There are currently useful applications. 2. It currently brings value to some people in one way or another. 3. If there are no killer apps, it's not obvious to a large swath of the population.

I try not to be one who invests too much into the wisdom of the crowd. I also try not to dismiss them either. We can be both clever and easily fooled.


>if it was actually true do you think people would have stopped posting about crypto in the past six years or so?

I think crypto posts continue to appear because the idea is sexy, but I also think the parent poster is correct: the realized applications are not.

Crypto captures the imagination, but it's a disappointment in practice.


Greed is perhaps one of the most powerful motivators known to man.

Probably because it largely acts as a proxy for survival mechanisms.

Give most people want they need and a little of what they want and you'll find most greed driven behaviors largely disappear except for a select few who I'd argue have dysfunctions or lack basic social maturity.


The Mouse Utopia study from the 1960's suggest otherwise.

https://www.smithsonianmag.com/smart-news/how-mouse-utopias-...


To prove the comment wrong you just have to provide a single example, but you can't do that so instead you're criticizing the complaint and saying it isn't novel (which is true, but irrelevant to its validity).

Nope, I'm criticizing the complaint because it's vapid, which it is.

Interesting concept I learned when I stopped drinking -- you aren't owed a rebuttal when your argument is stupid!


You still can't provide a single example, and playing games about how you don't need to rebut a vapid argument only makes this more obvious to everyone else.

Bro you already won the HN argument, you don't need to keep replying unless you want to hang out sometime. Just let me know

Anyone who knows about Ray Peat and Terry Davis is alright in my book, so my email is in my profile if you're ever in Utah.

HN loves bashing crypto because as tech nerds, we all knew about Bitcoin/Ether at their inception, but missed the boat. Now we all watch as our weird crypto friends get rich, and we have to bash Bitcoin, predicting its inevitable decline, so that we can feel better about our past decisions.

they stopped for the past 2 years until it went up again. similiar to people who won’t stop selling their herbalife shakes

>Face it, there is no sexy killer app for the masses.

It's not only the volatility but also the inefficiency which is the price that has to be paid for the decentralization. I really have trouble coming up with an app where the constant fees that have to be paid for actions are justified compared to a centralized solution.


> where the constant fees that have to be paid for actions

I agree, this has to change. I see Ethereum fees as the early days of the internet when we paid for every freaking minute! Today you can have high-speed internet with no bandwidth limit with a fixed monthly fee. The only limit is maximum download/upload speed and that's probably the key question: What is "maximum speed" for Ethereum? Instead of paying for every action, we would pay fixed daily/weekly/monthly fee, but it would be limited by that "maximum speed".


Decentralized uncensorable currency exchange is a real use case that is live today. Billions in real value change hands on DEXes run on ETH every day.

What about a voting system? That's the only application of a public, decentralized ledger that can kind of makes sense to me. I'm from Switzerland, every few months we have a public voting for various changes to the federal or cantonal laws. I currently do not have a way to be certain that my vote is taken in account. With a public ledger I can check and be sure that my vote is correct.

I'm generally opposed to software voting because I have a complete distrust for such systems, but a public ledger (preferably not based on proof of work, so not ethereum) has interesting characteristics. And the price or inefficiency isn't an issue in this context.

Edit: people commenting seem to misunderstand the proposition. I'm perfectly aware of the privacy around voting and not advocating against it. It should be possible to have a system where your vote is registered publicly as a transaction between your wallet and a "referendum" wallet, in that case unless you have a way to link the public identity of a wallet to an identity (meaning people would somehow leak their public address somewhere) you do not have a way to know my vote. The only thing you could know is the number of total votes and their choice. You can of course generate a new wallet per voting as a way to not have a history.

Edit 2: the plausibility deniability is a fair point, I concede.


> With a public ledger I can check and be sure that my vote is correct

Any voting system with a public ledger where you can later check your vote is a disaster for election integrity. It's probably surprising, and certainly counter-intuitive, but that's a vector for fraud.

That's why we have a long history of secret ballots. And no cameras in the voting booth.

From a comment a few weeks ago (https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=25739051):

> you could look up your own vote and the votes of your friends to confirm

You can't do that because visibility causes voting fraud.

By coercion. If votes can be checked by other people, a very large number of people (enough to change the result) will be forced under threat by someone else to "vote correctly".

The same happens if you can check your own vote, because any mechanism that lets you do that can usually be used by someone else - "give me your phone so I can check you voted for X like I told you to" (while holding a gun).

That's why free & fair elections have secret ballots, without personal identification on the ballots. To prevent coercion fraud.


First off, there have been many implementations of various forms of secret ballots on Ethereum using zero knowledge proofs. Mix and match your feature set of who can verify what and when, and there's a zero knowledge scheme that can do it.

Second, coercion has been rolled out as an excuse to disenfranchise voters for ages with no evidence that it's a real threat in the modern era. I live in Oregon, which has been doing mail in voting since the 70s. People argue all the time that mail in voting will lead to coercion, but it has literally never happened in Oregon.

Also, voter rolls are public information. I like collecting data, so I have voter rolls of most states, which often allows me to look up name, home address, phone number, and registered party of anyone who is registered to vote. A lot of states even have parts of voting history publicly available. It's super easy for any employer to figure out what party any employee is in, and exactly which candidates that they've donated money to, etc, yet coercion still isn't a thing.

If you look at the pure economics of coercion, it's pretty obvious why it isn't a thing. It just doesn't scale. Every person that gets added under a coercion scheme make it that much more likely that the person running the scheme is going to go to jail for the rest of their life. No one cares so much about politics that they're going to throw their life away for the potential of changing 5 or so votes.


> First off, there have been many implementations of various forms of secret ballots on Ethereum using zero knowledge proofs. Mix and match your feature set of who can verify what and when, and there's a zero knowledge scheme that can do it.

Yes, no problem with that. But the GP was arguing that it's better if ballots are not secret. I think it's a common misconception that if only all votes were open they would be more democratic.

At a small scale, I've directly witnessed people who decided not to vote on issues where their vote could be figured out by others, saying they didn't want social consequences of being seen to disagree. I've also known people afraid to vote with their conscience due to reprisals, and I do mean afraid.

> Second, coercion has been rolled out as an excuse to disenfranchise voters for ages with no evidence that it's a real threat in the modern era.

Good point. For the record, I'm pro mail-in voting too, especially during a pandemic. I'm not impressed by those who sought to disenfranchise votes in the USA this time around by arguing that mail-in votes should not be counted after they have been cast in good faith.

The mechanisms we use to protect vote integrity are meant to be a "best we can do" while still allowing people a reasonable way to actually vote. As soon as people are prevented from voting in the name of "integrity", that's not democracy any more.

Mail-in voting fraud has been found to a notable amount in the UK, though not enough to swing a result. But it did not come from individual homes. It's important to have mechanisms in place to look for it, if only to evaluate that it's not happening to a significant degree. Monitoring mail-in vote integrity should be on the look out for where ballots are posted from, and whether there are collisions with multiple votes from the same persons. If 10,000 votes are detected postmarked from the same employer warehouse with the same handwriting, that's time to be suspicious. When it's from 10,000 individual homes, each marked in a different style, you can be much more confident nobody has the capacity to go around every household to make that happen.

However, back to the technical suggestion of a public verifiable vote. If 10,000 people vote privately and then someone they have a commercial relationship with asks for proof they voted a particular way before they get a discount or whatever, that swings it from "nobody can visit every household" back to "systematic pressure is realistic", and it's not democracy any more.

> It's super easy for any employer to figure out what party any employee is in, and exactly which candidates that they've donated money to, etc, yet coercion still isn't a thing.

If people choose to announce their party affiliation, that's something else. Nothing stops people choosing to broadcast how they voted either. That's fine.

However in both cases, people are free to vote differently in secret than whatever they are broadcasting or socially going along with.

Polling data suggests there are plenty of people who are reluctant to truthfully say how they vote, even when told the polling is confidential. I'm sure there are people who leave it implied among their social groups that they lean one way, when in private they actually vote another way.


I'm a Judge of Elections in Pennsylvania, USA.

You write: > If people choose to announce their party affiliation, that's something else.

In PA (as in most states) one's party affiliation is public by law. In PA it's important because one can only vote in the primary for the party one is registered as a member of. (Voters who do not register an affiliation or are affiliated with a third party simply aren't allowed to vote during the primary.) So it's not really a case of "choosing" to announce their affiliation.

Also, I know multiple individuals in my neighborhood who have confided in me that they registered as members of one party but preferred to vote for the other party. Why? Because (at least historically) our county has a long history of being run by a single party and (to quote my neighbor), "If you are a member of the wrong party your trash won't get picked up."

The secret ballot really DOES prevent certain abuses.


I must admit, the notion of being "in" a party in a way an employer can easily check, or party affiliation that is legally registered, is outside my experience. By affiliation I meant only the party a person tells other people they support, in a non-binding social sense. I'm not in the USA.

I agree, where affiliation with a party has greater meaning and consequences, and is practically required for access to ordinary local services, the secret ballot is even more important.

That neighbourhood is a great example.

I'm disappointed, really, that in 21st century USA those people are still disenfranchised by local politics from voting in the primary of the party they actually support. But presumably there are good reasons for legal registration.


To be fair, even if you register for the opposing party, helping to choose the opponent is still useful. I've considered such plays before.

> And no cameras in the voting booth.

Even with cameras in the voting booth, voters still have plausible deniability because they can spoil their marked ballot (that they may have photographed) and request a fresh blank one.

In-person paper voting is pretty much the best voting method we have in terms of privacy, usability, scrutability, and reliability.


Isn't that already a risk though? I vote remotely by mail, you could coerce me to vote for something specific and even send the mail yourself if you want to be sure.

There is a difference between active coercion (someone goes to your house and forces you with a gun to vote their way) and passive coercion (if you vote for X in 20 years time your vote might be considered inappropriate and you will be fired from your job).

What about if in 20 years your social media comment was considered inappropriate? For this example let's say it was in a "private" forum but political in nature, would that also be an act of passive coercion to silence a political viewpoint?

Eg: We need to make a list of all his enablers before they delete their posts...


Isn't this more about whom I trust less, the politicians or a third party (that might as well be the politicians)?

If so, why is it in the state's power to decree that we have to trust the politicians but not the 3rd parties?


No it is isn't. Secret ballots aren't about whether you trust those administering the election, although that's a factor.

They are to let you vote as you privately decide with safety from everyone who has an interest in the vote, whether that's third parties, your boss, insurance company, local mafia, etc., or the state.

The state's role, in a democracy, is to ensure state-level elections take place with the various ingredients that ensure it has high integrity. That requires a lot of things; a lot of resources, making sure everyone knows about it, making it clear the result will be respected by the state itself, acting as a coordination point with some kind of authority so that people will tend to respect that an election actually took place.

If you have a third party available who can do that, by all means go for it, but generally you don't have one, and if you did you would start calling it the state.

However, in a democracy the electoral process should be administered as separately as possible from the politicians of the day. Politicians of the day should not be getting much involved, other than to ensure it takes place with all the usual resources.

Note that "the state" and "the politicians" are not the same thing in a democracy. The state consists of multiple institutions, many of which do not particularly trust politicians either.

The people most directly involved in actually running it should demonstrate a commitment to the integrity of the election itself foremost, ahead of their personal political views. On the principle that democracy itself is more valuable than winning any particular election, while still being drawn fairly from a range of people. But they should be observed (without interference) at multiple levels by representatives of different political groups.

Making a combination of people, systems and motivations to achieve integrity is the art of institution building (and maintenance), an electoral commission or something like that. Its independence from politicians of the day is one of its key features.

Regardless of who runs it and who you trust, you still need secret ballots to ensure integrity of the result.


The main problem as I see it is that such a system would be completely inaccessible to anyone who is not a software developer.

With a paper-based system, all you need to understand is that your paper goes into a box and someone counts it later on. Everyone understands every step, including the steps required to secure that box. But once you require people to understand blockchain you are putting the intregrity of the election in the hands of a privileged elite.


It's sad so many technically-minded people fail to account for this when it comes to trust, especially in the context of voting. You can't get people to trust a system by cloaking it in cryptographic black magic. It has to be scrutable to the people participating in it, especially the voters and volunteer poll workers who most closely interact with it.

> But once you require people to understand blockchain you are putting the integrity of the election in the hands of a privileged elite.

I would say, even worse, we would have to require people to TRUST a system that uses blockchain in addition to understanding it. The fact that in some thin layer of a gigantic inscrutable system there's a mathematically irrefutable "truth" does NOT make people feel better about it.

Trust is NOT a mathematical concept.

In any case for blockchain to ever take off in common usage, it's going to have to overcome its association with scammy cryptocurrency schemes. That's going to be a while!


I don't understand that system. I drop off a sealed ballot in a ballot box and then that's it. I just have to trust that the system works. I have to way to prove that my vote was counted. I have no way to count the votes for. I don't understand the process behind how my votes get counted and it would be fine if people didn't understand how blockchains work.

If you want to understand how your local elections work, just go volunteer when they ask for volunteers.

Yes, that's a very good point and another reason I personally advocate for paper ballots. But you can also see it the other way: anyone can learn how to check their entry in the ledger, that takes time but it's not some rocket science. That can be democratized in a way paper ballot cannot be as it requires a huge amount of people and has an important cost for the community.

> I currently do not have a way to be certain that my vote is taken in account.

That is something we do a lot of R&D on @Electis, along with the fine fellows from InfernoRed, Microsoft and others. Because the value of an election is the thrust that voters have in it!

It is part of what the homomorphic encryption protocol we use (electionguard) aims at solving. Your ballot is encrypted with a joint public key, and all the "artifacts" of the election are published after it closes. You can verify that your encrypted ballot is present in the artifacts, and that the whole artifacts archive verifies mathematically.

https://www.electionguard.vote/ https://electionguard-python.readthedocs.io/ https://www.electis.io/ https://electeez.com/


That's great, thanks for sharing. That could be its own HN submission!

This may surprise you, but most voting systems make verification hard deliberately. If you can check your vote at home, others can verify your vote as well, which means you've lost the advantages of a secret ballot.

You can only know my vote if you have a way to associate an address with an identity. Unless that's the case, you may be able to check the set of votes, but that's it.

> You can only know my vote if you have a way to associate an address with an identity.

A secret ballot makes it impossible to verify votes even with collusion between the voter and interested party. That makes vote-purchasing infeasible, since I could take money to vote for you and still defect at the secret ballot box.

A cryptographically-secure secret ballot in this threat model would need to provide the voter with a valid zero-knowledge proof for their actual vote and an imposter zero-knowledge proof for their alternative vote. Something like "if I input A into the system, then it counted vote X; if I input B then it counted vote Y," with A/B remaining private to the voter.


Whoever forces you to vote a certain way can force you to reveal your address too.

Fair point

Maybe I'm missing something, but I think the original point is that blockchain will help the voting process by providing the transparency and verification in the process. And part of that is everyone being able to see that yes the winner won because we can see every vote and clearly see who won.

However, that doesn't help unless you know that every vote was a legitimate and eligible vote. How do you know the votes are legitimate and eligible if the address is anonymous? You need some system to either publicly identify each address or you need a central authority saying which addresses are allowed to vote.

The latter goes right back to the situation we are in today and the blockchain becomes no more useful than a centralized database, because we are still reliant on the centralized authority to tell us how many valid votes mattered.


You have a list of citizens, their personal information are stored in your country databases. They have a unique key pair assigned at some point during their life (let's call it Citizen Key, may be paired to a Citizen ID or something like this).

There is a new voting event, each citizen can now create a voting wallet using their Citizen Key then vote on the various motions by sending a transaction to a destination wallet created for this event.

At the end of the voting event, the votes are counted and no transaction can be send to the destination wallet.

You do have a central authority, it's the country (or state). Only citizens can vote, and only citizens have a valid set of keys.

The benefits is that anyone voting or people who want to verify the voting numbers can do, and without having to trust the software managing the database (I mean, you of course have to trust the blockchain itself...).


Address records are very much not considered private. Yellow pages only stopped being printed in 2019. The information is still accessible.

By "address" I meant a wallet address on the blockchain.

I'm against doing electronic voting and tracking [0]. Others have commented on the tracking/anonymous issues, so I'll leave that.

Make the whole system as hard as possible to manipulate by involving a lot of people who distrust the person they're working with.

There is a tiny chance your personal vote will get lost in all the paper handling, but you can be assured that the system is a lot harder to manipulate simply because of the sheer number of people involved.

[0] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LkH2r-sNjQs


What about government spending? All the way from taking taxes to paying vendors. Including the spending of all politicians. (Minus a reasonable “dark fund” for military and whatnot simply because it can be important to hide your cards from other countries)

If citizens can see exactly where their dollars go it could make corruption very difficult and lead citizens to be far more engaged in their democracies.


You can see where your tax dollars go now (except for the classified items, but even there you can see the totals). You can get detailed breakdowns of nearly everything, including salaries. For example, you can see every NYC employee salary here https://www.seethroughny.net/payrolls. If you want, you can scroll through the massive list of federal, state, local gov contracts on a variety of websites today. For example, Florida state gov contracts https://www.dms.myflorida.com/contract_search

But the fact is, (almost) no one really cares. Many people want to believe they would care, but they don't really. Either way, knowing what's being spent where only makes corruption marginally more difficult. It certainly doesn't lead citizens to be any more engaged. We know this because what you want is already here and it has solved precisely nothing (IMO).


Very solid points.

I personally think the engagement part would come instead from "My $5000 in tax went through the system and was eventually spent on a federal initiative I don't agree with" (or since it's all granular: "only $13 of that $5000 went to anything that benefits my community?"). No, I'm not saying that everyone will care, but I think that more people will care.


I live in Florida, so they only non-federal tax I pay is property tax. (Excluding sales taxes, of course.) Every year, I get a full breakdown of exactly what mils go where with the bill. I bet we would have something similar at the federal level by now, except that stupidly we have to do the whole "guess the number I'm think of" game with the IRS instead of them sending a bill.

We could do that without bitcoin. Lot of things we can do, like make democracy more direct by allowing people to vote on issues from an app on their phone. The technology is there.

The difficulty with that is getting trusted information published, not storing it in a secured manner.

If citizens paid in COUNTRYCOIN (publicly-visible blockchain-based currency), all spending was done in COUNTRYCOIN, and all government loans (in or out) were in COUNTRYCOIN, then trusted information would be integral to the whole system.

Yes a contractor could still charge $10k for a hammer, but citizens would uncover that almost immediately.


That destroys plausible deniability, no? How would that system work?

A public ledger can be achieved without a blockchain right? My understanding is that a ledger can guarantee that your vote was counted, but it can't guarantee that all the other votes are legitimate.

That may be the case. My point was to say that there is at least one potential application for a blockchain. But I'm sure that's not the best way to approach the problem, just a potential solution I could think of.

Great way to put it. Yes I got excited for crypto when it came out but long ago realised there's nothing emancipatory about it.

You'll be back. The fundamentals are strong and the technology is genuinely interesting, and real world use cases like Sia's Skynet are starting to finally hit stride.

The get rich quick crowd overwhelmed everything else but didn't suffocate it, just merely put it way in the background.


> You'll be back. The fundamentals are strong and the technology is genuinely interesting, and real world use cases like Sia's Skynet are starting to finally hit stride.

Skynet feels more like the next step in P2P solutions like BitTorrent, than what most people think of when talking about blockchain solutions. It kind of also confirms that the only real use-cases of decentralized trustless solutions are relatively trivial problems like those involving purely digital assets (files, domains, etc)

I don't think anyone will claim that the technology isn't interesting. I think it's super interesting. But I think there's way too much hype, especially on the financial side (currencies, DeFi, etc)


You're missing the point, which was "there's nothing for the masses". Interesting technology is not a selling point for the masses. Strong fundamentals are not a selling point for the masses. Whether there's a get rich quick crowd around crypto (or not) is not a selling point for the masses.

The haber process feeds 4 billion people, and most don't know it exists. Not everything needs to be sold and popularised to the masses.

Again, that's not the point. The point isn't that something has to be for the masses but that there's nothing in crypto that's appealing for the masses. ASN.1 is used by everyone but that doesn't mean it's appealing to the masses.

What about browser-based payments? Fast forward 2 years, and assume Ethereum has implemented POS/sharding, and zkRollups have been adapted to fully utilize the data this makes available to them.

In this scenario, the world can execute 100-200,000 transactions per second on Ethereum, and people are able to execute these transactions from any software interface, including a browser wallet extension.

This would make electronic payments cheap - on order of costing $0.01 in fees - and you would be able to send a payment in a stablecoin, like USDC or DAI which track the value of 1 USD.

In this scenario, you could send micro-payments to any party on the internet, without having a pre-existing relationship with or divulging personal information to them, and without both parties relying on the same trusted third party payment system.

Imagine thousands of news sites all around the world offering short-term browsing access, like a 1 day browsing pass for $0.05, and all of these offerings being accessible with just one browser-based wallet.

This can become even more amenable to metered payments when combined with other scalability solutions, like Plasma chains and payment channel networks.

In such scenarios, fees would decline orders magnitude of more, making it possible to send fractions of a cent in value for consuming tiny amounts of goods/services. For instance, you pay 0.25 cents worth of a crypto asset to access one paywalled article. This can be done behind the scenes, with you simply pressing 'okay' on a consent form. No registration, or the divulging of private identification information or credit card details necessary. A single peer-to-peer transfer of electronic cash suffices.

Suddenly content providers have a massive new source of revenue apart from advertising that can sustain them, leading to the production of more quality content, and information consumers can avail themselves of this content with much greater convenience and privacy, and without the financial risk of laying our $20 for a subscription they may not use.


The people who got the initial bitcoin and held onto it still have the majority of it. I don't see that changing. It's not healthy for the monetary system having most people try to just get rich by holding onto the currency.

I'm not disagreeing with you, but this isn't the first time. The people who made the first money held onto that, and then used it to control their environment and make more money. When the British queen invested in that first wooden ship to bring back riches, she made a ton of money. Then she started the East India Company. I don't see those first BTC holders as worse?

The East India company which ruined Bengal, enriched a few English elite. Yeah sounds about right.

The inherent tension in the crypto space is that for early adopters crypto is the best thing imaginable: figuratively winning enormous sums with little to no effort. For anyone else, it is not only a generator of envy and bitterness but a burden on energy production, GPUs and whatnot.

The ideological aspect of crypto as a defense against the big bad system is dead in the water since early adopters are so massively powerful within the hypothetical new system, and nobody really wants to use it as a currency as opposed to a pyramid scheme.


That "for some reason" is that's obvious abd straight forward to anyone being honest and not trying to push propaganda is that Bitcoin, and other blockchains structures like it, are MLM schemes - and that it's decentralized and on a global scale is why it's been able to pick up so much energy - aligning people and industrial complexes globally to bring it mainstream.

Design a blockchain system where it's agreed upon consensus and use/adoption is voluntary through democratically elected processes (save regulatory capture), and we'll have a good system that's not unnecessarily and unreasonably transferring wealth from later adopters to earlier adopters. You won't be able to make a fortune on it by buying it and pumping it to make its value goes up, nor will you be able to make money selling shovels to desperate or greedy or gullible people once they catch wind of the "gold rush."

The one major benefit of all if this craziness is that the flood of money into blockchains has meant technology development and many more engineers with experience; whether there are engineers who'd work on non-Pyramid/MLM-Ponzi scheme blockchains though, if they're financially incentivized/aligned with Bitcoin et al, that's TBD.


Can you point to a legitimate problem that “blockchain” can solve, which can’t be solved with existing tools?

I think every smart person working on any kind of blockchain-related tech is seriously wasting their talent and life.


There may be existing tools that are foolproof that can provide an immutable ledger, I'm unsure if that's fully possible otherwise, however having all transactions and changes to said system being public would prevent things like nations printing money without reporting it accurately - helping to make sure everyone's playing a fair game; using such a ledger would have to be voluntary, with nations who are aligned with similar values.

Edit to add: This may in fact be the only important use case for blockchain, where nations under different groups of democratic-based control, agree to use the same blockchain - so they can all know no one else is cheating the system. The transparency could allow public, peer analysis of transactions as well - and who knows what insights or protections-security could come from having that crowdsourced witnessing occurring; perhaps distributing the mining amongst the citizens of each nation as well, if deemed necessary as a safeguard.

Serendipitously, this was just posted to HN: "Data Immutability, Verifiability and Integrity Without the Blockchain Overhead" - https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=26221324


You are trying to solve a problem that is a feature. Printing money is a feature to keep our societies afloat during dark times.

It is one of the tools to keep a currency stable.

Not to say that there aren't serious problems in the fin-tech world, but immutable ledgers and rigid currencies aren't going to solve those.

The key problem - and your post is yet another example - is that you can't replace trust with an immutable ledger.

https://www.schneier.com/essays/archives/2019/02/theres_no_g...

The real problem - in my view - is that people don't understand the foundations of a society anymore, how to live together.


You're misunderstanding what I'm saying.

"... is that you can't replace trust with an immutable ledger."

"The real problem - in my view - is that people don't understand the foundations of a society anymore, how to live together."

I agree with you 100%. Also, I never said we should prevent printing money with blockchain - the purpose and value is so that if a nation does print money, they're open and honest about it. It would be their own democratic decision to do so, likewise in the blockchain system I envision - it would be that same democratic process, decision making, that they would want to join such a managed system that other trusted-democratic nations are part of - where they believe in the transparency of it all.

And I never even alluded to replacing trust with an immutable ledger, just that an immutable ledger becomes a witness that each nation would decide to be witnessed by by their peers.

All of my projects are health-wellness focused, in part to help people develop their self-awareness, to gain and maintain their health, and in part that is healing through community - building real community.


> Can you point to a legitimate problem that “blockchain” can solve, which can’t be solved with existing tools?

I will never understand this. The vast majority of problems have more than one solution, most of the time is just about solving something in a (much) better way.

If the bar for something to exist is "solve a problem that can't be solved with existing tools" then 99% of startups wouldn't exist.


I think you misinterpret my statement.

Just as you have just a finite set of notes on a piano, you can create infinite music.

And even if IT has a finite set of regular tools like SQL databases, programming languages and protocols, it's the thing you create with that, what counts.

Blockchain is a tool that does nothing better than existing tools.

Blockchain is a solution to a problem nobody has.


I don't know if you'd count it as a blockchain solution but I constantly use crypto to send money to my family and it's the best solution that I've found.

And yes, I now about transferwise, paypal, swift, etc. And using crypto is faster and cheaper.


I call maximum shenanigans on "cheaper" unless you're sending large amounts of money.

Bitcoin: ~$25

Ethereum (and all tokens): ~$17

For comparison, to burn that much in fees on Paypal (2.5% + 30c), I'd need to send around 10K.

Crypto is currently pointless for anything other than big transactions, and the unpredictability of the transaction fees, let alone the coin's value, is a big problem.


There's more than just bitcoin and ethereum

Not that have any kind of mainstream usage.

They have more than enough to make transactions cheaper than other alternatives. Call it whatever you want.

What are the tax implications for the receiving side?

System that can't be shut down by governments?

You mean that government that just shuts down internet, making your 'system' totally useless?

Yes, right!

You can't fix societal problems with tech.


Yes you can, access to free information and finance should be a human right. Just like cash can be used by anyone, so electronic cash should be.

Cryptocurrencies and blockchain were never really about human rights.

It's all about making a quick buck. If that's at the expense of other people or our environment, who gives a fuck right?


Those crypto tools came from techno-anarchist circles, heavily based on academia research - not much of a quick buck there, more passion for privacy and aversion to government and any form of control. Speculators are great for funding and where is money you'll see scammers quickly as well.

Something to consider: shutting down the internet is very expensive for a government and is likely to results in social unrest and have a lot of other negative side effects.

For first-world countries yes, but we see second and third world countries do it all the time.

And that damages their reputation, creates social unrest, makes it difficult to do business from there, etc. I just want to say that yes, you can shut down the internet but that's already a quite high bar if that's the only way a government can stop a system.

It seems that the people who need it the most are least likely to gain utility from it.

Can you point to a legitimate problem that "whatsapp" solved that could not be solved with existing tools?

Between SMS, MMS, 'normal' calls and Skype, whatsapp added nothing technically new to the world.


Whatsapp is an app not a technology - the protocols allowibg users to communicate through whatsapp are the real innovation there

Whatsapp was cross platform and free.

Skype was cross-platform and free too. Also, we are talking technology, their pricing strategy is a different problem.

No, you have to take in the context and timeframe.

Skype was not a messaging platform that regular users used on their Phone.

iPhone and Android each were their own bubble and required paid expensive SMS messages to talk to each other.

Whatsapp was at least very populair in The Netherlands for this reason alone.

Pricing is important because that proves why it was useful to people. Also: ease of use, based on how Whatsapp works.

We are not talking just technologies but technologies in a context.


Could be an antidote to spam and ai generated content? It could be used as a signal in the noise because of skin in the game for the participants in the network. One could look at it as a common backend for anyone to build clients that combine and present these feeds.

Perhaps we're not seeing the forest because we're looking at the monetization capabilities in the wood.


Micropayments to prevent spam has been attempted a number of times in the past and it has never really worked.

The article states plainly:

“What’s Ethereum’s killer app?” we asked ourselves not long ago. Now we know. It’s the world’s best publicly-accessible settlement platform for financial transactions. In a way, that’s exciting. The markets think so too.


> Building something useful on something that is primarily used

What is built on something often determines the way it is used.


> "that is primarily used as highly volatile financial speculation instrument "

How is that different from any other asset; stocks, land, property. It's all speculation nowadays.

From what I've read there are pretty much three use cases:

1. store of value akin to gold (bitcoin)

2. decentralised privacy money (monero etc, to avoid taxes?)

3. a platform on which to build decentralised technologies (ethereum, ada, thorchain...countless others - some with specific niches: gaming, streaming etc)

I think your evaluation is bit unfair and shortsighted.

Maybe we are not "there" yet, but why should we be? It is still a nascent technology and I think it would be foolish, and history has shown that, to dismiss it.

Of course, like other asset classes, crypto is now infested with shills, scammers and their jargon designed to confuse and obfuscate in order to take money from the naive.


> How is that different from any other asset, stocks, land, property.

You're putting completely different things in the same bag. I would say you're right that crypto currencies and stocks are kind of similar, but stocks at least have a small (very tenuous, I admit) connection to reality. Stocks are related to real-world companies that deal things people are willing to pay for with real money. Stocks go up and down based on how much money the companies are making, not only based on how much speculation their stocks are being subjected to.

Crypto is purely and solely speculation. There's no one actually trading anything else other than the crypto coins themselves! That's quite different in my opinion.

Now, even though, sometimes, land and property are used as instruments of speculation, they're still connected strongly to the real world, real people. If the world forbid speculation overnight, people would still need to own property and land to survive, and they would still be willing to buy it in exchange for their work or other assets.

If crypto were forbidden overnight, the real world would be unaffected. Some people would lose savings they bet on a fictional economy, but beyond that, nothing would change. These things are fundamentally different.


> How is that different from any other asset, stocks, land, property. It's all speculation nowadays. Just look at the housing market in London and other places.

This is a common talking point but it's not actually true. 99% of London housing is used for living in.


> 99% of London housing is used for living in.

Are they all owners or the owners actually "invested" in a piece of property calculating the rent passive income and the possible increase in market value as part of the overall rentability of their investment?


Even owner-occupiers may be "investors" - plenty of people's retirement plan involves selling their London home. But the houses are being lived in and are therefore providing real-world value, which is the main thing IMO - speculators can toss money back and forth all day, as long as the useful thing keeps happening.

Land (for example) is NOT primarily used as a speculation instrument. Speculation on land is theoretically a bet on whether the inherent value will go up.

I don't want to call cryptocurrency as money because they're not circulating as you'd expect from money. Globally limited transaction rate, relatively long confirmation time, and few adoption.

An ACH transfer through my bank takes multiple days. I've only made a few transactions on crypto, but confirmation was more like seconds to minutes.

> An ACH transfer through my bank takes multiple days

But that's just a regulation and/or implementation issue.

You can transfer in minutes between countries in different currencies without blockchain.

The fact that your country is stuck in the stone age in this regard isn't really a good argument that cryptocurrencies fundamentally provide value over a solution without blockchains.

I guess the main value blockchain could provide here is to give banks and politicians a kick in the butt, and force them to invest in solutions and regulations that speed up money transfers.


In practical terms the main value of cripto is to people that are legally forbidden to access these kind of services. Even if the Nigerian prince was a scan there are many countries where limited access to financial services is unescapable; it is to them that crypto has the greatest value proposition (whether it will be good or bad in reality I have no idea)

That’d be true if the BCH people won, but btc as a mechanism to evade oppressive governments doesn’t work for the masses when transaction costs are so high.

Yes, nowadays Bitcoin is just a shell of its former self. It simply is not practical for anything other than Tulip manias. That's incredibly sad. Practical usage of Bitcoin doesn't even compete with the speculation beyond transaction capacity. If anything speculators would prefer an economy built on Bitcoin that actually guarantees that it's more than just an instrument for speculation.

In euro area we have SEPA instant payments. Cross border payments that take place in real-time (10 seconds max).

Took some time for the old banks to wake up, but I think they have been doing decent work on catching up.


I was imagining paying subway for my lunch using money.

Most people use debit/credit cards which batch process in the evening and the store doesn't get the funds until some time after that. And the fees to merchants on those cards are in the range of 2%.

>How is that different from any other asset; stocks, land, property. It's all speculation nowadays. How is that different from any other asset; stocks, land, property. It's all speculation nowadays.

Just because other people are insane doesn't mean you should be insane too.

You can sanely invest into stocks, land and property. You can never sanely invest into cryptocurrencies, the same way nobody invests into dollars. No, buying dollars when your national currency is hyperinflating is not an investment since you merely expect your purchasing power to stay the same.


> At the end of the day, crypto is mountain you can't ignore anymore

Is it really? Is there anyone that can say that a company has suffered because it didn't adopt crypto? It seems like it's perfectly safe to ignore crypto completely. You could gain a bit of advantage. You can use it as a marketing tool, or to attract certain kinds of investors, by cashing in on the blockchain hype. But I haven't seen that there's any advantage yet in using the technology itself.

Regarding the use-cases you mention:

> 1 store of value akin to gold (bitcoin)

Bitcoin is not a store of value. It's a destructor or sink of value. A store of value should have some reserves behind them or some physical asset. Something that has value to others that have not invested in it. Bitcoin and similar cryptocurrency only has value to those that hold them. The value of Bitcoin could crash to 0 tomorrow, and nobody except the investors would care at all. If the gold price crashed I'd be very interested. Would be cool to buy some gold just to play with. Maybe make my own jewelry. But WAY before that there'd be plenty of others buying it for a higher price, for jewelry or manufacturing.

> 2 decentralised privacy money (monero etc)

Aka a gift to crime. I mean, in an ideal world it'd be amazing to have a currency like this. But in practice it does more damage to good. Yes, IMO it's a bad thing even in corrupt countries where you might have legitimate reasons to hide from the state. Because having currency like that doesn't solve all the other problems with having a corrupt government, so it's really just a distraction from solving real problems.

> 3 a platform on which to build decentralised technologies

This is the only legitimate use-case IMO. But it has yet to be proven that using a platform like this has a real advantage.

I think the issue is that problems that you can solve with trustless decentralized algorithms are mostly very trivial. Who has ever had issues with a bank money transfer itself? Meanwhile, the problems we'd really like to solve around currencies, payment and financial services, are basically impossible to solve with trustless. The real problem in payment is to ensure that the seller delivers the product. The real problem in lending is to ensure that the borrower can afford the loan and uses the money on what he says he will.

So you really can't get rid of the human component in most of these applications, if you want a solution that's as good as what you're trying to replace. And in that case, the blockchain is just a fancy and expensive implementation detail that serves little to no practical purpose.

There may be some crossover point where these technologies provide some value. But I suspect it's a much smaller niche than most blockchain proponents would like to admit. I think settling international transactions between banks is one of the very few use-cases where it may be valuable.


A part of what was not mentioned is that it is used as a gambling chip. Plain and simple. Sure, not the cheapest lottery ticket you can find but hey, your chances of making money are probably higher with crypto than the average lottery.

Is gambling useful to the society as whole? Probably not. But it does make things interesting and alas, Bitcoin (and other cryptos) intersect in a most curious way where you are gambling but also have a very easy method to move those assets around.

And I think cryptos do save money when making larger transactions between entities. So there is something real there, although it's not very tangible. For the average Joe, I agree. I don't think they really provide that much value except your average thrill at the casino (with better odds, sure).


> The real problem in lending is to ensure that the borrower can afford the loan and uses the money on what he says he will.

So the lender pays the money into a multisignature 2-of-3 wallet, gives 1 key to the borrower, and if when the borrower signs a transaction with that key to spend the funds is buying what they are authorised to buy, countersigns, else does not. And then you wrap this up in a smart contract, call it DeFi, have a liquidity pool for people to loan out a token for car financing, and if those people don't want to perform the check themselves, plug in an oracle like chainlink to deal with the real world part. On the repayment side, if repayment not made, a company can buy the debt and chase it, or can be hired to chase it. Wall torn down around car (insert asset here) financing..


The repossession is the hard part. Let’s say I lend ten grand to some wallet so they can buy a car. They do so. Now they’ve got a car. They now move all their wealth to other wallets or fiat and refuse to pay me back. I need some mechanism of repossessing their car, which only works if I have state infrastructure and a legal system attached to my contract.

“Btc bounty hunters” isn’t a good enough explanation.


Your correct to say the debt would need to be legally recognised, before it could be sold on to a legally registered debt collector. Aave for example has a UK Electronic Money Institution license, you might need some legal entity to take part in what I describe until laws catch up with innovation. Self driving cars, uber, Airbnb, face similar issues with regulation needing to adjust, that doesn't invalidate the innovation.

I think the comparison to airbnb is revealing.

Airbnb allowed individuals to rent their home to other individuals. But this is done through a centralized service. Scams and abuse exist, but the centralized service offers some nice benefits like reviews and bans for abusive participants. The innovative part was the new model of what you could rent, not the how of how you rent it.

In comparison, the defi loan innovation is "how" rather than "what". As a borrower I still get some cash and pay interest on it. Same as with a bank. As a lender I still deposit some cash and obtain interest on it. Same as with a bank. And a centralized service provides some nice guarantees about checking that my money isn't going to criminal organizations or that I have some guarantee that I can withdraw my money when needed and risk is amortized. Like with airbnb, I'd expect a centralized model to be more appealing to many people than a decentralized model. And we already have a centralized model. They are called banks.

Airbnb succeeded because it created a product that didn't exist before.

I only think that the defi loan system is interesting if it enables a ton of people to obtain a different thing than the thing they can already get from a bank. This matters for people with bad credit and people without access to banking institutions... but how many people are super excited to personally lend to those people?


I suppose, with software eating the world, I want to believe we will collectively own and operate that software, rather than a particular company, that it will be open source, and if those who own it charge too much someone will fork it and outcompete them.

That might be nice, but it isn't a feature. Vanishingly few people consider "the product is collectively owned and open source" to be a feature that they are willing to prioritize over other things. As such, it is hard to support any very large endeavor just off this thing. There is a reason why Blender shows up over and over and over and over again on "lists of awesome FLOSS apps" and that is because it has damn good features. Decentralization is not itself a business strategy outside of niche cases.

I think you're conflating two things. Collectively owned, as in how large companies are owned by their shareholders. Decentralized, as in instead of a company, its a piece of software, that we are collectively funding the development of and profiting from. As more business can be done with software, with less people, I see this as a way for us to own that software, and contribute to it. If some group of owners charge too much, it can be forked, similar to how a business can be undercut by a competitor if they charge too much.

At the moment DeFi loans are fully collateralized, with the loan to value ratio affecting the interest rate you pay. If your collateral drops in value you have to recollateralize the loan, or are liquidated.

I don't understand. Why would I need a loan for $X if I already have $X to put up as collateral?

I have been trying to understand this too. Best I can figure, it's basically a short sell on USD.

The key element is that the loan is not denominated in BTC, but a stablecoin pegged to fiat. DAI is one of these pegged 1:1 to USD.

Say you are holding Bitcoin and think it's going to the moon. You tie up your Bitcoin as collateral and take out a loan of roughly 75% of its value, in DAI. Then you spend that DAI to buy more Bitcoins. Now you are exposed to Bitcoin's price movements on two ends: the BTC you bought with your loan, and the BTC you put up as collateral. If Bitcoin's DAI price goes up by more than the interest rate on the loan, you can sell and have more than enough to repay the loan. The extra is pure profit and plus your collateral grew in value in the meantime too, so you're a winner on both fronts.

On the other hand, if Bitcoin's price goes down by too much and you can't repay the loan, your collateral could be liquidated and become property of the lender. You lose everything.

Color me surprised that the amazing decentralized finance, the future of banking, etc. is... yet another way to speculate on "number go up".


DAI is mostly minted from ETH, at a rate of $150 collateral to $100 DAI. https://daistats.com/#/. The $200m DAI minted from WBTC represents 0.02% of Bitcoin's market cap.

Is what I outlined still basically correct in terms of describing the utility of an overcollateralized loan? That is: Use crypto for collateral to borrow stablecoins, to buy more crypto, to make profit (hopefully exceeding loan interest) when the crypto price goes up.

Or do I have that all wrong? I really am not sure that I grok how this works, at all. I'm trying to figure out what is going on in this space and you seem to know a lot more about it than I do. I couldn't figure out another good reason to use an overcollateralized loan but it's clearly something people are interested in and using as a selling point for DeFi.

What actually happens if the borrower defaults on the loan? Do they "just" lose their collateral, or can they be held to account for the DAI somehow too?


If loan repayment is not made, or the collateral falls in value sufficiently that the loan becomes undercollateralized, the collateral will be sold to cover the outstanding debt. The outstanding debt can be invested on a new business, stocks or gold - its not restricted to buying digital assets.

If what you are saying is true then this is literally the housing crisis with variable rate loans and a collapsing market putting everybody underwater. If the value of the item used as collateral sinks then you go from fine to broke in an instant.

The total being used as collateral can be seen here https://defipulse.com/defi-lending, and https://nexostatistics.com/loans/. A small proportion of market cap, and these loans have low loan to value ratios - typically 20%; no-one wants to risk liquidation.

But then we are back at the original problem, which is that I have no ability to repossess a nontrivial amount of property to handle a default and this system is explicitly constructed to be outside of the bounds of things like credit scores.

Regarding the auto financing. Traditional lenders will typically have no ability to repossess secured assets themselves, they will send out a colourful letter and if that doesn't work, sell the debt to a collection agent. DeFi in the form currently available doesn't need a credit score as it is secured against collateral, but a credit score would likely be needed in this case. New cars sold in the EU are likely trivial to repossess; I believe they have built in location trackers.

Incidentally, it is my hope that once laws change the collateral can be any type of asset, not only digital assets. The collateral could also be some sort of tokenized reputation issued by a collective, whom have decided you are worthy of credit. Perhaps they are affiliated with your employer or have enough knowledge to assess the stability of your income due to their knowledge of your skillset. The lenders would then be paid by them, by proxy - allowing those capable of assessing risk, and those with sufficient funds to lend, to be distinct. Incidentally, this is all bleeding edge, let's see what is actually built and what works with all this new possibility.

To avoid triggering the taxes (and in many cases, never paying them).

Now I'm wondering if software contracts have ever been legally tested. I'd enjoy a lawyer reading out the relevant if statement to the court.

I certainly don't think it is impossible. But the "defi will let everybody make 8% on their savings accounts by loaning cash to people around the world with no barriers" folks need to provide some evidence that I'm not actually going to lose everything to people just refusing to pay me back.

While it is interesting that you can implement this on block-chain this is a perfect example of how block-chain does not provide more than just being trustless.

(personally I like having trusted third parties)


> If the gold price crashed I'd be very interested.

Imo central banks are in a tough spot now. They've issued huge amounts of bonds, and cannot raise interest rates. If inflation rises, they will be unable to raise rates - unless they want to pay incredible amounts of interest to the banks. If they do decide to do so, they will need to sell large quantities of gold to help pay for that, which will be a heavy downward pressure on the price of gold. More likely is they allow fiat to devalue, in turn making the loans easier to pay off in the future, with the side effect of averting any trouble brewing in the stock market - people won't exit their positions to cash if stocks continue to climb (even if it is due to a devaluing currency). Just my opinion.


Central banks do not issue bonds. What they've been doing is buying bonds issued by national governments. Usually on the public markets, not directly. Where do they get the money to buy the bonds? Why they just magically create it. That's their job.

Central banks do not care, per se, if they have to "pay incredible amounts of interest to the banks" since they literally create (and destroy) money. Central banks do not need to buy or sell gold to create money since money is no longer gold backed. Operationally, central banks can create any amount of money they want anytime they want. Obviously, there are political considerations though.

"More likely is they allow fiat to devalue", yes. That is exactly what they will do if inflation increases substantially. Though not because it will make their loans "loans easier to pay off" since central banks have no loans to pay off; instead they get paid coupons and principal on they bonds.


Thanks, your understanding is better than mine. Its the national governments who would have to pay the incredible amounts of interest, and may fund that by selling the gold they own (https://www.usfunds.com/investor-library/frank-talk-a-ceo-bl...). Interested to hear whether you think gold will increase or decrease its value, over the next years.

Rising interest rates will only make new debt more expensive for governments. Existing debt will actually become cheaper as rates rise. If rates rise high enough, they could actually call (buy back) the bonds early for less than face value. This is because most government debt is fixed rate.

To use an example, you issue a 10 year bond with a face value of $100 with a 1.00% coupon (i.e. you need to pay $1/yr for 10 years and then $100 at maturity after 10 years). Fast forward 5 years -- rates have risen for similar risk debt rise to 5.00%. You've paid out $5 so far in coupons... but that bond (now 5 years to maturity) will cost $84 on the open market. So you simply buy it back for $84. That means you spent $84 + $5 = $89 for $100. Woohoo!

One financial strategy for governments would be to 1) issue excessive debt when rates are very low, 2) don't spend all the money, 3) buy back some of the debt when rates go up for less than you issued it, thus further lowering the cost of debt for the portion you did spend. Sadly, most governments have trouble with step #2.

As for gold, I have no idea. Historically, gold was an inflation hedge (i.e. it's price rose with inflation). But so are a lot of other things. At this point, there's nothing special about gold except that it stays shiny forever.


Rising stock price due to currency devaluation is already happening.


>A store of value should have some reserves behind them or some physical asset

Nope. This is old people thinking. Young people are used to digital items being worth money. People spend real money on cosmetics in video games despite there being nothing physical about them. These "imaginary" things spawned into existence can have value.


Have you considered that your use of the term "real money" undermines your position a bit?

People spend money on things with little tangible value all the time. The benchmark, IMHO, is whether others accept these things as payment. It's generally pretty hard to pay your utility bill with Farmville coins, or buy groceries with Angry Birds Mighty Eagles.


You can't pay your utility bill with Apple stock, or buy groceries with crude oil ETFs. You have to convert them into money first. Does this mean that they are not a store of value?

The alternative is building on AWS or whatever, where a big company can just decide arbitrarily to kill your startup at any arbitrary moment by shutting down your access, or confiscating your funds.

This happens all the time.


Trading assets is a fundamental cooperative human activity that allows us to coordinate our actions at scale to reach much higher levels of collective productivity.

The idea that profit-motivated exchange and investment is a useless human activity is a layman's understanding of economics.


In countries with working currencies like EU and US, yes almost all crypto is speculation. BUT, countries that have poor banking system a poorly managed/trusted economy don't have access to even banks, let alone investments and stocks. Crypto lets those people participate in the global market.

I think that if you come across some well known crypto, it is better you just hold on to it and pray for appreciation due to high demand rather than trading in and out of it frequently.

Isn't cryptocurrencies used all over the Darknet ? I know that is not "the masses" but it is still a non-negligeable usage which is unlikely to stop, no?

Can you give better examples of funding your idea to change the internet/world/whatever? Taking aside if your idea is great or dumb.

There is a killer app for crypto: international money laundering and untraceable transfers.

Crypto transfers are the opposite of untraceable. I’m not sure why that sentiment is so prevalent.

Largely agree. It's what makes Bitcoin different. Bitcoin's killer app is the network itself. The fact that you can send money/transfer wealth instantly without a bank to tell you what you can and can't do IS the value of Bitcoin and why it's not some purely speculative ponzhi scheme. As far as I understand, you can't reaaally use Ethereum for the same purpose because of high fees.

That's one of the point that makes little sense to me. The government/bank regulation kicks in when you try to convert to your local currency. They now have your full history of transactions and can decide to refuse your bitcoins or find you guilty of fraud or whatever illegal thing you tried to hide. Regulations will always be present at the edge.

I didn't say that it has to be for illegal things or avoiding regulation. I said it's a trust-less global payment infrastructure. Say I need to send $500k to a relative in a third world country at 12AM on a Sunday. A completely legal transfer of money that I plan to disclose to the government. 100% regulated. But I need the transaction to go through very quickly. What are my options? Chase? Paypal? Western Union? What if Paypal decides this transaction is fraudulent and says "no". What if Western Union decides to limit my account? What if Chase wire transfer to third world bank takes 5 days? With Bitcoin, you can just send the money, legally, but without a private third party as a middleman. There is value in that.

I agree. The "without a bank to tell you what you can and can't do" made me believe that you were hinting to non-regulated transactions, my bad then.

Gotcha, yep I could have phrased that better.

You can use Ethereum for the same purpose. The transaction fees for sending Ether in a reasonable amount of time stands at sub $5. To send the same amount in the same time on Bitcoin's network is higher. Ethereum's high fees mainly hinder smart contract usage, which, depending on the complexity of the contract, may incur up to hundreds if not thousands of dollars at current gas prices.

Transaction fees appear to be significantly higher than $5 at the moment (see e.g. https://www.coindesk.com/ethereum-transaction-fees-hit-recor...).

>Bitcoin's killer app is the network itself. The fact that you can send money/transfer wealth instantly

Instantly?

>can't reaaally use Ethereum for the same purpose because of high fees

BTC fees are also high?


Yes, that assertion sound like it's coming from someone who has never actually used Bitcoin.

There are cryptos which are instant and without transaction fees (e.g. Nano for payments and maybe in the future IOTA as an alternative to Ethereum). So there is some hope for the technology, but it remains to be seen if any of this actually takes off.


This is really short sighted thinking. The web had no "killer app" in the first 10+ years. It was obscure technology with thousands of naysayers laughing at us "web nerds" because we thought it would change everything.

Cryptocurrency is very young. While its hard to say if BTC or ETH or something yet to be invented will be part of the digital money future, it is absolutely reasonable to expect this technology will have a role in the world. Of course people will make and lose "quick dough" but that's like saying the web failed because some idiot made or lost money on Pets.com or AOL stock.

Trade volume just means that the idea is in circulation, people of many walks of life are seeing what is there. Feel free to ignore those people, but to write off the entire concept as "about making quick dough" is asinine.


Bloomberg and Wired went online 4 years after the invention of the World Wide Web. In the first ten years, Amazon, eBay, Google, and PayPal were all founded. Technology adoption curves have only gotten steeper since then (e.g. iPhone/Android was basically the dominant consumer computing platform 10 years after its introduction).

You are comparing touchscreen mobile phones with a technology delving into what both gold / hard value stores AND cash do for society. That is not a typical technology adoption cycle. I’m not an extremist to say Bitcoin will eat the world or even replace any existing system entirely, but I still disagree with those that say it has no utility beyond get rich quick scheme.

Referencing Wired as the killer app of the early Internet is good comedy. Bloomberg terminals were already connected, just not by this new tech.


M-Pesa was used by over 90% of Kenyan households in about 2 years after its launch. I could go on.

Mobile computing has changed the entire world; it’s not plainly obvious that cryptocurrency would change it even more or is substantially more difficult to execute on.


M-Pesa is very important, society changing financial app/system that did not need iPhone or Android to be dominant. It was built on SMS and why it could achieve such market share. Don't give smartphones credit for putting interfaces on successful technology.

Mobile computing is obviously important, but its importance says zero about the possibility - and that's all I argued - that cryptocurrency could also be very important.


Yes but, bet on BLOCKCHAIN not a cryptocurrency(at least for now?)

Satoshi Nakamoto created something truly revolutionary; a complex method of processing and recording data in a system, quickly began to overturn everything. Microsoft Word was the dominant word processing software for over a decade, with the creation of this new system, however, something similar arrived: Google Docs, Instead of one person editing a document, and being locked out when the other person began to edit, multiple people could now edit documents. That opened an entire world of possibility, from collaborative conferences online to fiction writing with both people online, using Google Docs. Microsoft Word was obsolete(even if still many people use it). Blockchain is a technology that outshines the concept of Google Docs collaboration like a spark versus a star.

Blockchain runs on a principle similar to the collaborative ability of Google Docs, by having multiple computers check to ensure that digital information is recorded accurately, millions of computers, called nodes, check this data and record it perfectly, trying to hack Blockchain is like trying to write swears in Google Docs: Everyone notices immediately. Blockchain-based businesses are growing exponentially as the technology improves. Blockchain technologies are not dominated by large industries yet. The entire industry of Blockchain technology is empty except for a few small yet growing businesses. Anyone can use this technology, and anyone can learn about it. In fact, by creating a startup focused on some sort of Blockchain transaction, whether it’s for transporting value across the internet, or general information, or financial records, you’re democratizing the entire process and keeping it away from FAANG or even Govs. Blockchain has been compared to the Internet. The Internet was extremely profitable and Blockchain arguably has the potential to be more so, simply by upgrading the existing framework. The person who sets their mind to creating a Blockchain technology has the potential to be unbelievably successful beyond simply creating a profitable niche industry.


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