Bitcoin links: quitting, struggling, hoping

…and researching – it’s been a tense week in Bitcoinland.

 

Some of the best Bitcoin-related articles from the past few days:

 

The resolution of the Bitcoin experiment – by Mike Hearn, via Medium

Has Bitcoin failed? Mike Hearn thinks so. In a long, somewhat bitter and worrying piece, he announces his resignation from Bitcoin activity.

Why has Bitcoin failed? It has failed because the community has failed. What was meant to be a new, decentralised form of money that lacked “systemically important institutions” and “too big to fail” has become something even worse: a system completely controlled by just a handful of people. Worse still, the network is on the brink of technical collapse. The mechanisms that should have prevented this outcome have broken down, and as a result there’s no longer much reason to think Bitcoin can actually be better than the existing financial system.”

 

A Bitcoin Believer’s Crisis of Faith – by Nathaniel Popper, for The New York Times

Nathaniel Popper’s gripping summary of Mike’s decision and the tension that led to it.

“The current dispute… is a reminder that the Bitcoin software — like all computer code — is an evolving product of the human mind, and its deployment is vulnerable to human frailties and divergent ideals.”

 

This picture has nothing to do with Bitcoin, but I’m putting it in because pictures are good. Image by Natasha Vasiljeva, via Unsplash
This picture has nothing to do with Bitcoin, but I’m putting it in because pictures are good. Image by Natasha Vasiljeva, via Unsplash

 

Bitcoin Competitiveness in Kenya – by Tomer Kantor, for Coinscrum

An excellent critique of the West’s “condescending” investment in African startups, and the naïve belief that bitcoin will “help lift countries out of poverty”. Eye-opening, refreshing, and optimistic about the local potential.

“When exploring the case studies of remittance companies entering Kenya, one must not be naive to think that the VC money is largely used to integrate with the so called ‘unbanked’. It may be the branded poster, but in a technocratic, solutionist start-up life, a company needs to be able to disrupt and scale. “

 

Why Bitcoin Can’t Help The Poorest – Yet  – by John Biggs, for TechCrunch

John Biggs’ impassioned plea for easier money transfers, the one thing that will help alleviate poverty, and the main thing that Bitcoin is best positioned to satisfy.

“Regulations are scaring off money sending projects because they were written for a more barbaric age. This can only change but will take effort by the industry to move the perception that anonymous money sending is the tool of terrorists and drug dealers. By allowing $100 in cash to move anonymously you are helping a poor worker and not a gangster.”

 

Bitcoin’s Bold Experiment: A Goldmine for Economic Researchers – by Michael Casey, via Medium

A fascinating highlight of the social aspect of the Bitcoin protocol: can we maintain a self-regulating system that controls – in a decentralized way – something as important as money?

“Bitcoin is much more than a computer science development; it’s also a unique, self-regulating incentive system for achieving a notoriously difficult social objective: getting human beings to act in ways that serve both their self-interest and the common good. Bitcoin is a governance project, an attempt to overcome the Tragedy of the Commons.”

Mr. Casey also describes the current dangers in the block size debate and the resulting “battle of interests”, and sets out a series of questions that we need to be asking: what will the real economic impact of bitcoin and blockchain adoption be?

“This innovative energy will change how we do commerce. What’s now needed is serious academic research into its economic impact. Key research questions include: What are the financial systemic risks associated with different blockchain governance structures? How do we apply contract law in this environment? How should it be regulated?”

Food for thought…

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