Bitcoin Bits: 12 February 2016

Four of the most interesting bitcoin articles of the week:

Bitcoin Is Too Libertarian to Save the Developing World, Says UN Paper – by Jordan Pearson, for Motherboard

This is fascinating. Jordan discusses a UN Paper that accuses bitcoin of being too focussed on avoiding institutions to really do good in developing nations, where bolstering the institutions would be more productive.

“It is one thing to use Bitcoin to provide a counter-power to the powerful cartels of banks in nations like the United States, but in a country like Zimbabwe the real need may be to strengthen the integrity of the banking system, something that can only be achieved by hard, long-term political battles… Escaping weak local institutions might help individual people, but does little to empower the broader social majority who remain reliant on the existing systems.”

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by Jan Erik Waider for Unsplash
by Jan Erik Waider for Unsplash

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Bitcoin’s governance bungles stain the blockchain’s reputation – by Mark Pesce, via The Register

Broad in scope and thought-provoking, this article highlights the vulnerabilities in the system that the current disagreements on block size are leaving open.

“Security begins with governance. Where you can’t govern yourself, anyone else can govern you. If Bitcoin falls over, the blockchain – which can exist apart from Bitcoin and all its argy-bargy – will be unfairly stained with that instability, giving shonky hardware manufacturers all the reason they need to avoid the obvious security solution as ‘unreliable’.

In the connected world, we have to accept that civilisation asks us to build consensus. There is no other way forward, because consensus is the mortar in the wall that defends us against the barbarian hordes outside, constantly probing for weaknesses, looking for a way in.”

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The Princeton bitcoin textbook is now freely available – by Arvind Narayanan, via Freedom to Tinker

Last year Princeton professors Arvind Narayanan and Joe Bonneau launched a MOOC on bitcoin. I took it, and can tell you that it was excellent. Interesting and well-reasoned, it covered the mechanics and the possibilities. It was accompanied by a draft .pdf version of a textbook – the first of its kind, I believe – that has just been officially released, for free download. It’s among the best resources that I have come across, and is totally worth taking a look at.

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Bitcoin, Online Payments and the Scourge of PayPal – by Richard MacManus, via CoinDesk

As I’m currently going through the hassle of choosing an international payment process for a platform I’m developing, I found this article particularly interesting. Bitcoin for international payments is nothing new. Bitcoin as a substitute for PayPal? That sounds promising.

“What makes bitcoin more appealing than PayPal or credit cards?

For a start, the fees are much less extravagant. You may not even need to pay any transaction fee, although bitcoin’s website suggests that paying a small fee could speed up the transaction.

Bitcoin is also appealing because it is essentially a universal currency. So, there aren’t onerous currency conversion procedures to go through – which are always a ‘gotcha’ with international bank transfers, PayPal transactions and credit card payments.”


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