Daily Bits April 29, 2017

That Teen Vogue is producing such thought-provoking political reporting is… well, in teen language, totally awesome. Let’s get the next generation asking questions.

“Any person who has stayed informed since November 9 knows the country is in total disarray. Distrust in media and toxic partisanship have allowed feelings to outweigh facts in the marketplace of ideas. Trump isn’t solely responsible for creating this situation, though he’s excelled in exploiting it beyond repair. Through a brutal combination of gaslighting, whataboutism, and blatant lies, this administration has exacerbated the national divide, undermining journalism as a check on the power of government by treating politics as two teams battling it out in a zero-sum game.”

My fervent hope is that this effort (hats off to Lauren Duca) will affect other media aimed at the young as well. It’s not the political stance of the magazine that I applaud (although I do), it’s the idea of provoking a reasoned opinion.

“Zooming out allows the daily shocks to take shape. In these first 100 days, Trump has proven to be a moral vacuum undefined by ideological or ethical principles. There is new evidence of this with each news cycle, but the outrage machine has long been at capacity. Now, even the worst possible scandals are met with resigned exasperation. And when there are multiple emergencies every week, emergencies start to seem ordinary.”

Well-written pieces, no dumbing down or condescension, not particularly subtle calls-to-arms. Lauren finishes the article with a list of actions that interested teens can take. The fabulous takeaway from that is that teens learn that they can do something about the state of the world. That their voice matters, and that they need to think about the future they want. Teen media, at the forefront of political journalism? Brilliant.

“It’s crucial we gain clarity from this manufactured benchmark, and the way it has changed us. The New York Times declared Trump’s 100 days “the worst on record.” The New Yorker called him “democracy’s most reckless caretaker.” Perhaps the most condemning diagnosis of all is simply that perpetual chaos has become the standard. There are no alarms left to sound.”

The female teen in my house is both enthralled and incensed. Just how it should be.

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I’m not sure why I find this a bit disturbing…  The void, perhaps?

via My Modern Met
via My Modern Met

The blackest paint in the world reflects no light whatsoever – so, none of the relative shadows that make 3D things look 3D. Freaky.

— x —

The Economist took a look at the recent ICO hype, pronouncing it a “bubble”, but a potentially productive one…

“Some liken the ICO craze to the South Sea bubble in the early 18th century in Britain, when promoters raised funds for companies promising the “transmutation of quicksilver into a malleable fine metal” or a “wheel for perpetual motion”. Prices soon fell, in particular after Parliament in 1720 passed the “Bubble Act” to rein in “undertakings of great advantage”. But the sorry episode was a step toward some rather useful innovations: the modern joint-stock company, for example.”

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So philosophers can actually make a decent living now? The return to “fundamentals” is interesting. And, about time…

“Philosophers arrive on the scene at the moment when bullshit can no longer be tolerated,” says Taggart. “We articulate that bullshit and stop it from happening. And there’s just a whole lot of bullshit in business today.” He cites the rise of growth hackers, programming “ninjas,” and thought leaders whose job identities are invented or incoherent.

Does JP Morgan’s exit hint at changes at blockchain consortium R3?

red-exit-sign (1)

CoinDesk reported earlier this week that JP Morgan has officially exited R3.

This is not a surprise – last year when Goldman Sachs and Banco Santander left the banking consortium, rumours abounded that JP Morgan would stay out of the funding deal that R3 was trying to put together. Disagreement with the structure of the financing was one reason cited for the exit of the two large financial firms.

Speaking of the funding deal, you know, the one that David Rutter assured us would be completed in Q1 and would be biggest ever in the sector…

“We will be closing the largest round in the industry, with the largest number of market participants, now, in the first quarter.” (from CoinDesk, January 11, 2017)

Where is it? The first quarter has come and gone, and still no news. And then we hear that JP Morgan are leaving.

R3’s reaction is disconcerting. Managing Director Charley Cooper gave the following comment to CoinDesk:

“JP Morgan parted ways with R3 to pursue a very distinct technology path which is at odds with what the global financial services industry, represented by our 80-plus members, have chosen.” (from CoinDesk, April 27, 2017)

So, the “global financial services industry” (as represented by a mere 80 firms) has chosen a certain technology path? Do the tens of thousands of financial firms not in R3 know this?

And are they really comfortable with choosing only one path this early in the game? They are so sure that R3’s solution is the correct one? Whether they are or not, it’s R3’s assumption that they should throw all in with their solution that makes me splutter.

JP Morgan’s leaving is quite a big deal – it was a founding member.

Back when Goldman Sachs (also a founding member) and Santander left, my hypothesis was that they were backing away from consortia in general. Consortia are especially useful when investigating a marginal activity. When it becomes key, and when businesses feel that they know enough, it makes more sense to “go it alone” for competitive advantage.

JP Morgan, however, is active in both Hyperledger and the Enterprise Ethereum Alliance, and has contributed code to each. It’s not rejecting consortia as a concept. (Also, Santander since then has joined the Enterprise Ethereum Alliance as a founding member.)

So, it does sound like there were issues with R3 in particular. And it sounds like R3’s funding round isn’t going as smoothly as hoped.

Daily Bits April 27th, 2017

(So much for doing this daily… Lots to catch up on.)

Some great articles from the past few days that deserve attention:

An excellent comment from Patrick Murck in the Harvard Business Review looks at the concept of blockchain governance, and how it cannot be “added on” later – it needs to be part of the protocol.

“The blockchain is truly an innovative approach to governance for networks and machines. But we must resist the temptation to anthropomorphize code and misapply machine governance to social systems. Code is law for machines, law is code for people.”

I really liked his description of the ethereum hard fork: “akin to burning down the house to roast the pig”.

The “trust” part of governance is removed from the human part of the equation and embedded in the code:

“The power of blockchain technology is that it can algorithmically enforce private agreements and community principles at a global scale by shifting the cost of trust and coordination to the network. This is what allows blockchains to create new markets where they couldn’t exist before, whether for political or for economic reasons. To do this, we have to be able to trust the blockchain, and to trust that no one controls it.”

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The New York Times reported that bank lending in the US is stalling, largely due to lower demand for debt (as post-election optimism gives way to concern).

As bank quarterly results were released, we saw that Wells Fargo’s loans were up only 1% yoy, while Citigroup’s were up 2%.

“The results followed recent signs that lending has been slowing, and in some cases declining more broadly in the banking industry. Data from the Federal Reserve showed that lending in February was flat, while lending to manufacturers and energy companies was in decline, after many months of growth.”

Combine that with the resurgence of talks about Glass-Steagall, and banks must be feeling nervous about their bottom line.

Cue: even more fervent activity in blockchain testing.

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There has been a lot of exciting news on CoinDesk this week, which I’ll get to this weekend – meanwhile, this caught my eye:

Swift revealed more details of its blockchain test aimed at streamlining the nostro-vostro system, in which correspondent banks hold balances in local currencies on behalf of international banks. It makes cross-border payments possible, but at the cost of leaving money idle. And settlement time can be as much as weeks for complex transactions.

The proof of concept will be built on Hyperledger’s Fabric codebase, to leverage the existing GPI platform. On top of that the developers will layer smart contracts that could help to automate the transfer process.

Given that Swift moves daily almost 30 million payments messages, and given that it serves almost 11,000 financial institutions, the impact could be huge. Intriguingly exciting.

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Getting philosophical: I’ve always loved the Japanese art of kintsugi, making broken things that have been fixed even more beautiful than they were whole.

Now, if we can apply that to life – the bits of us that break end up making us more appealing….

via MyModernMet
Photo credit: June Child, via MyModernMet

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This is fascinating: a digital book that you can pass on to someone else only after you have changed it a bit. On each page, you have to take out two words and add one.

The idea is that after about 20 shares, it becomes unreadable.

In a curious twist, the changes are saved and tracked on a blockchain. I’m not sure which one.

It’s easy to say “but what’s the point?”… You could, I suppose, say that about most forms of art.

So, is this art? Why wouldn’t it be?

 

Blockchain data storage

database

One relatively overlooked application of the blockchain is that of data storage. This is odd, given that the technology is all about data: moving it, sharing it and keeping it whole. So why the lapse of coverage?

It may just be my blinkers – data storage is not the most sexy of functions. But, having dug into it a bit over the past few days, I’m realizing how varied and important the solutions are. It’s not just the need for safe and reliable data to value just about anything we do… It’s also the increasing role that data plays in our lives. If data is the new oil, and the big data enthusiasts proclaim, then we really need to think seriously about how we handle and store it.

Here’s a brief overview of the main blockchain innovators in the data storage space:

The group that has been at it the longest is Scotland-based Maidsafe. It has been working on decentralized computing for over 10 years now, and it doesn’t rely on a blockchain for data storage (it has built a distributed alternative which, to my non-expert ears, sounds a lot less streamlined). It does, however, rely on a native cryptocurrency for incentives – MaidSafeCoin is now the 10th largest in terms of market cap. Users contribute unused computing capacity in exchange for the native cryptocurrency, which can be sold or used to pay for network services.

Instead of information being uploaded to a central server, it is broken up, encrypted and stored on random computers across the network – several times each, to ensure availability. Data is moved around the network as computers are turned on and off and as demand ebbs and flows from certain areas, to improve access, speed and security (information is difficult to hack if you don’t know where it’s going to be).

Maidsafe aims to do more than offer distributed storage – it wants to establish a “decentralized internet”, in which surveillance and data theft are impossible.

After a murky ICO in 2014, Maidsafe’s second funding round was a £1.3m equity crowdfunding October 2016 (lower than the target of £1.75m). The alpha network was released in August of 2016, and has encouraged an ecosystem of apps includes data storage, email, forums and video conferencing, with more to come. One drawback to this project is the long development time. It’s an ambitious goal, true, but over 10 years’ buildup – especially with distributed technology evolving as fast as it is – runs the risk of being obsolete before it starts. Not to mention the risk that other, more agile competitors that started later with a different tech base can overtake on the inside…

Such as Sia, for example. Rather than try to rebuild the internet from scratch, Sia is starting with data storage. Like Maidsafe, it aims to harness unused computer space to offer a low-cost, decentralized alternative to Amazon’s S3 and the like.

To that end the Boston-based company built a proprietary blockchain that uses smart contracts to handle the payment from the user to the space contributor. Payments are made in the native cryptocurrency Siacoin, currently 40th in terms of market cap.

As with Maidsafe, information is split up, encrypted and distributed, retrievable only with the user’s key.

After an initial crowdfunded round of $500,000 in early 2014, the first beta prototype was launched in 2015, with version 1.0 following in June 2016. Sia’s parent company raised a further $750,000 in September 2016, from VCs Raptor Group and Procyon Ventures.

Storj, based in the US, is another startup going after the enterprise storage market. It started out on the bitcoin blockchain (with transactions occurring off-chain), although it recently announced its intention to migrate to ethereum.

As with Sia, participants receive a native cryptocurrency (in this case, Storjcoin, currently #35 in the market capitalization rankings) in exchange for offering their storage capacity. After an initial ICO in June 2014 of almost $500,000, Storj raised a further $3m in February of this year from angel investors, making it the best-funded startup in the data storage space.

Testing of the network began in 2014, continued through 2015 and in April 2016, Storj launched in beta and was added to Microsoft Azure.

A spectacularly ambitious project comes from the BigChainDB stable: its public network IPDB, which stands for Inter-Planetary Database (next stop = the universe!). The project aims to be the database for the “emerging decentralized world computer” (possibly that of Maidsafe, but more likely to be that of Golem, a project focused on harnessing unused computing power rather than storage space).

Rather than try to turn a blockchain into a database, BigChainDB approaches the problem from the other direction – by adding blockchain functionality onto database technology (this may sound like trying to fit a round peg into a square hole, and I’m not a database technician so no expertise here, but it could lead to a more adaptable and flexible solution).

The Germany-based startup has managed to raise £5m so far, including €3m in a Series A last September from Earlybird Venture Capital, Anthemis Group, Digital Currency Group and innogy SE, among others.

The barriers to these becoming mainstream are 1) regulation, and 2) reliability.

If data is sensitive (and it often is), then someone is going to want to regulate it. “Sharing” is simply not possible with certain types (health, fiscal, etc.), and even if encryption and protection assure that only those who should access it can, the chance that others could gain access is enough for regulators and potential clients to hesitate, or even downright object.

It’s a bit like the decision between keeping your gold spread around the world (where it is more vulnerable, but on a piecemeal scale), or in a vault 600m deep in a mountainside (where it’s harder to get to, but if the bad guys do…).

The reliability issue is also going to be a concern for the important stuff (like identity, finance and government documents). Even with layers of redundancies, is it enough? Sure, distributed risk is preferable in that system failure is less likely. But what about responsibility? If the distributed system fails, no-one takes the blame, but also no-one makes up the loss.

However, the idea is interesting, and could well be where the internet is heading. Once the technology has advanced further and speed and distribution issues are ironed out, could it replace our current siloed format of storing data, with ownership, rights and other fundamental concepts in the murky area of this-is-not-what-we-meant-by-equal-access? Will the benefits and redistribution of wealth offset the humongous costs of changing the way the current system works?

Time (sorry, I mean the market) will tell.

Daily Bits April 19th, 2017

CoinDesk took a look at land titling on the blockchain – while chaotic property registries in some developing economies (and the economic risk they pose) are a concern, I didn’t realize it was even a problem in the US!

I also wasn’t aware that land registries are increasingly being privatized… Interesting. Will have to think a bit more about this.

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MIT Technology Review summed up Emin Gün Sirer’s talk at their Business of Blockchain conference, in which he urged caution when dealing with code. And, of course, with hype:

“Gün Sirer said, however, that the hype surrounding blockchain technologies was sometimes running ahead of the reality. He noted that some of the ideas currently receiving millions of dollars in funding seem like mediocre academic research projects.”

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Quartz published a refreshing article in defense of grumpiness at work – why pretend? (I posit that it depends on the job. If your sector lets you work in isolation, such as journalism or research, fine. But if you need to be part of a team, grumpiness does not help.)

Too much cheeriness is, to be fair, downright annoying. Being curt is fine. Being obnoxious and rude, not so much.

This stood out:

“In 2017, there’s no reason for us to grin and bear it. For one thing, researchers from Munich’s Technische Universitaet have found that women were less likely to be promoted to management positions if they appeared too cheerful.”

Seriously??? That’s enough to make me stop being cheerful, and not because I want a management position (been there, done that). Because of the stereotyping.

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Made me chuckle:

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The Spanish press reported yesterday on the government’s response to a question about their state of readiness in the eventuality of a zombie apocalypse.

It turns out that the government doesn’t have a plan.

Their justification is that they believe that, should such an eventually happen, there isn’t much they could do.

How very comforting.

— x —

This has to be one of the most fun designs for pasta packaging out there:

Pasta Nikita Packaging by Nikita Konkin, via Colossal
Pasta Nikita Packaging by Nikita Konkin, via Colossal

VC funds have too much money

Yesterday’s Lex column in the FT (paywall) commented on the mountain of cash sitting in VC funds. According to analysts at Goldman Sachs, approximately $121bn is waiting to be invested. This reveals two things:

  • Investors are hungry for VC returns.
  • VCs are having a tough time finding viable investments.

The first point is understandable, given the paltry returns elsewhere.

The second is interesting. It’s not for a lack of startups vying for cash. And not just startups, there are plenty of ongoing businesses that could use an infusion, which they might not be able to get from ever-more-conservative banks.

Could it be that investment firms are understaffed? Or could it be that the opportunities don’t meet the requirements?

The pressure is on, as cash holdings weigh down the overall returns, which further down the line will affect the amount of cash coming in.

This could explain the interest of some VC firms in alternative investments. A few weeks ago Harvard Business Review looked at the surge of interest on the part of VCs in ICOs, or “initial coin offerings” – tokens issued on a blockchain that confer value or utility.

In spite of their tenuous legal situation (are they securities? are they currencies? For now they are largely unregulated), institutional investors are attracted by the potentially high returns and the liquidity. And institutional interest could explain why several recent issuances were sold out within minutes.

The danger is the paucity of supply relative to the funds available. VCs could end up competing for stakes in blockchain projects, which would push valuations to ridiculous levels.

There is no way that crypto investments could make even a small dent in the piles of unused cash. CoinDesk Research revealed that 2016 saw a total of $236m of investment in ICOs. Even if 2017’s offering were to triple, it would still be miniscule in comparison.

This creates a potentially dangerous situation. Even if only 1% of the surplus cash wanted to try out an ICO opportunity, the imbalance in demand and supply would distort market fundamentals.

A bubble in the ecosystem would do damage – when it pops, investment and development are likely to be set back for years.

 

 

 

Daily Bits April 18th, 2017

My article on CoinDesk this week: Bullion on the Blockchain: A New Gold Standard?

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David Birch digs into the hypothetical mechanism of Central Bank Digital Currency, positing that it’s most likely to manifest as a “connector”:

“It is entirely possible that cryptocurrency will come to exist as a settlement money that connects other different monies (although my suspicion is that these will be community-based more than simply bank-based). But is this a role for Bitcoin?”

— x —

Tearsheet dives into some recent surveys that highlight some disconcerting blockchain trends.

  • Only one in four companies in global finance is familiar with the technology.
  • Less than 20% of large financial firms have made blockchain investment a priority, while 30% are investing heavily in AI.
  • On the other hand, 90% of payments companies are planning to adopt it by 2020.
  • And consortia? Opinion is divided on whether they are a help or a hindrance.

— x —

Bloomberg Gadfly took at look at ICOs and the relative threats they pose for Wall Street (not so much) and the VC industry (more).

“If there is a silver lining in ICOs, it’s unlikely to be its dream of rebuilding the financial world on open-source technology. It’s more the hope that tech evangelists preaching digital disruption might have to face a bit of disruption themselves.”

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And now for some colour: If you happen to have some spirulina powder in the back of your kitchen cupboard (of course you do), you can make “mermaid toast”.

image via Vogue
image via Vogue

Add a few other ready-to-hand ingredients such as turmeric root and chlorophyll drops, and you can upgrade to “unicorn toast”. The edible gold leaf is a nice touch that rounds out the effect.

image via Vogue
image via Vogue

(Yes, I am being tongue-in-cheek – although I won’t deny they’re very pretty toasts! Via Vogue.)

The “long tail” of currencies

by Daniel Funes Fuentes, via Unsplash
by Daniel Funes Fuentes, via Unsplash

Over the weekend CoinDesk published a thought-provoking opinion piece on the “long tail” of digital assets.

Galia Benartzi, founder of Bancor, argues that we are on the brink of an ecosystem of “user-generated currencies”, each with specific uses and characteristics.

“Communities of any flavor can now be empowered to agree on credit-issuing policies and governance structures, and enjoy internal marketplaces from which to buy and sell goods or services, without relying on access to national money.

…as technical barriers to entry are removed, we are on the precipice of millions of user-generated currencies, of all shapes and sizes.”

The author compares the potential with the impact that WordPress and YouTube had on user-generated content. The result was chaos and information overload, but also empowerment and freedom of expression.

The result of a proliferation of tokens (beyond the bewildering array we already have) is also likely to be chaos, information overload, empowerment and greater freedom.

It could also, however, imply less freedom.

For instance, through lack of fungibility. If I hold tokens issued by you that can only be used in your business or community, then I am tied in. With cash, I can use my notes and coins almost anywhere. (True, this is changing as we move towards a “cashless society”, but you get the idea.)

Also, digital transactions are more traceable. Activity around communities will be easier to monitor, and even anonymous tokens send an indirect message to those watching (nothing is more guaranteed to arouse suspicion than to deny access to information).

Finally, the resulting chaos could lead to loss of value through “leakage” – people not understanding the systems, misallocating resources and eventually dropping out. Several studies have shown that too much choice tends to paralyze consumers. When you’re talking about jam or detergent, the cost is not material (except to the manufacturers, I suppose). But when you’re talking about “money”, the cost – to the functioning of the economy – is greater.

The idea of a “long tail” of currencies is heartening and exciting. Personally, I love the stimulation of the “long tail” of music and books. But the proliferation of online information brought us blogs and fun videos, but also click-bait, fake news, trolling, piracy and identity theft. The end result of a blossoming diversity in means of exchange will also not be as empowering and uplifting as we had hoped.

Daily Bits April 15th, 2017

Last week CoinDesk reported on a new supply chain platform developed by IBM, and supply chain management company Hejia, for the pharmaceutical industry. It seems to be focusing on the finance rather than the logistical side, in that it aims to accelerate the country’s underdeveloped credit evaluation system, which makes it hard for suppliers to raise short-term working capital.

Two things stand out:

  • IBM has developed a vertical solution for a specific industry. It’s easy to lose sight of the vast scope of ‘supply chain management’ and assume that all processes are the same. Obviously, they’re not, and the launch of projects targeted at a certain sector underlines that. The sector-by-sector approach is not as ‘granular’ as it seems – the adaptations demonstrate the flexibility of the underlying technology, which is shared with many other projects (in this case, as with most IBM projects, it’s built on Hyperledger’s Fabric).
  • IBM’s representative clarified that the tech giant wasn’t concentrating on China, in spite of a rash of recent announcements of projects aimed at that market. According to CoinDesk, Ramesh Gopinath, vice president of Blockchain Solutions at IBM, said: “I wouldn’t calculate this as ‘OK, we have a concerted effort to do something in China’.” It’s curious that the firm felt the need to distance itself from that perception, since I can’t see what harm it does. IBM is obviously a global organization, so I doubt that anyone would think it’s “giving up” on other areas. And, there is so much going on in China at the moment in terms of technological development (especially applied to finance) that becoming known as an expert in that area can only be a good thing. To be fair, I imagine that Gopinath wants to make it clear that IBM is more interested in use cases than a specific country. But then again, it’s not unreasonable to assume that IBM Greater China Group’s priority is China.

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A sobering account from the New York Times of the American retail sector, and how unprepared the economy is for the changes…

“More workers in general merchandise stores have been laid off since October, about 89,000 Americans. That is more than all of the people employed in the United States coal industry, which President Trump championed during the campaign as a prime example of the workers who have been left behind in the economic recovery.”

The inevitable growth of e-commerce seems to be the main culprit, and over-investment in retail space didn’t help…

“Store closures, meanwhile, are on pace this year to eclipse the number of stores that closed in the depths of the Great Recession of 2008 … The current torrent of closures comes as consumer confidence is strong and unemployment is low, suggesting that a permanent restructuring is underway, rather than a dip in the normal business cycle. In short, traditional retail may never recover.”

— x —

newcoins

Both the Royal Mint of the UK and the Canadian Royal Mint make coins for other countries as well as their own.

The difference is, the Royal Mint won’t say who, claiming that it is “commercially sensitive information”.

The Canadian Royal Mint, on the other hand, is much more forthcoming. Several sovereign clients are disclosed in their Wikipedia entry, and the Canadian Numismatic Society goes as far as to publish a list of countries for whom the Mint at one time or another produced coinage.

And foreign sales are up

I am curious as to why the two institutions have such different approaches… Does anyone know?

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From an installation called “People I Saw But Never Met”, by artist Zadok Ben-David (via Colossal):

Installation by Zadok Ben-David, via Colossal
Installation by Zadok Ben-David, via Colossal

Over 3,000 chemically etched miniature figures taken from photographs of trips around the world, in varying proportions… Snippets of life, in 2-d made 3-d…

Daily Bits April 12th, 2017

Today I tried to catch up on my CoinDesk reading, so most of the bits (= things that I find interesting) are from there. Although do take a look at the National Geographic article mentioned below, it’s amazing.

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Yesterday the European Central Bank (ECB) released its annual report, along with a section on distributed ledger technology (DLT). The organization assures us that it has no intention of using DLT in market infrastructure, as the technology is “not mature enough”.

Far from disappointing, this is sensible and a relief. While DLT science has come a long way, it is still relatively untested. Using it for something as systemically important as European market infrastructure would be foolish.

What is interesting is that an institution not doing something is considered news. That implies an underlying assumption that all institutions are planning on implementing DLT. Thus, when one publicly states that it’s not, the stance is worth commenting on.

That in itself highlights the level of excitement around the technology, and the conviction that it will reshape the way markets work.

Personally, I subscribe to that belief. But at the same time, I feel reassured by the news that systemic institutions are being careful.

Note that the ECB is not rejecting progress. The report states:

“As DLT-based solutions are constantly evolving, the ECB will continue to monitor developments in this field and explore practical uses for DLT.” (quote pulled from CoinDesk)

The organization is working on a joint research effort with the Bank of Japan, and continues to investigate and publish on its own account.

The strategy is intelligent, and a brilliant execution of expectations management. Do the work, gain the knowledge but keep the market’s assumptions realistic.

— x —

Perhaps influenced by Japan, Russia takes a big step towards a sensible approach. CoinDesk reports that senior officials from the Ministry of Finance and the central bank are developing a position on digital currencies.

Recognizing that allowing bitcoin transactions will make it easier to gather information, they seem to be focusing on how to regulate exchanges. As we saw in Japan, official recognition and exchange regulation gives a boost to merchant adoption and possibly to eventual use by the public.

— x —

Intesa Sanpaolo has tested a platform that validates trading data based on the bitcoin blockchain. Yes, a public blockchain.

It is, though, just a test (for now), and the Italian bank has said future plans include working with other blockchains, including private ones. Keeping options open.

— x —

To say that this report from National Geographic is “enchanting” doesn’t do it justice.

via National Geographic
via National Geographic

It’s at the same time adorable and exhilarating, not to mention breathtakingly artistic.

via National Geographic
via National Geographic

Take a look, really.

via National Geographic
via National Geographic