Tuesday, August 01, 2017

Bitcoin split shows the stupidity of the concept of cryptocurrencies

...and why the central, transparent control over a currency is a key advantage, not a vice...

Today, the Bitcoin (BTC) was split into two new cryptocurrencies. From now on, you may convert your cash to Bitcoin or Bitcoin cash (click and try to distinguish their symbols LOL). For quite some time, people were using the acronym BCC for Bitcoin cash before most began to appreciate that BCC was already taken by BitConnect, the 15th largest cryptocurrency by capitalization (which lost 20% today), so BCH began to spontaneously propagate instead – the new acronym originated after the currency was created! The very naming of the old and new currency is a complete mess: a minor example of a situation in which some "adults in the room" would be helpful.

If you held 1 BTC at a given moment, you were eligible to get one new BTC and one new BCH. In principle, the rule "when" you should hold the old BTC should be absolutely and universally specified – because you surely want to know whether you're buying or selling an "asset" that is eligible for this BCH "bonus" – which is worth some 10-20 percent of the old BTC. It's exactly analogous to the splitting of a stock to two, or the payment of the dividend. The price of the "main" stock is expected to decrease exactly by the value of the smaller stock or by the dividend at the very last moment when you still have the right to get the "bonus" – the new stock or the dividend.

But the people trading this stuff don't care about details such as 10% of their wealth.




In fact, the number of "exchanges" where you won't get the new currency – 10% of your cryptocurrency wealth – is comparable to the number of the "exchanges" where you get it. In particular, Coinbase, a very large "exchange", told its consumers that they won't get any BCH. So depending on your "bank" that manages your wallet, you may be 10% richer or poorer than the other group! That's handy. ;-) No one finds it particularly unjust. The very wealthy people who play with the Bitcoin don't care about 10% of their infinite wealth, and neither do the Millennials who get the money from their parents in order to play and build this bubble of hot air along with their comrades.

So if they have a bad "exchange", they just ask their parents to pay them 10% more than what they would otherwise pay. It's a simple life to be a Millennial.

Note that the bad behavior of Coinbase is directly connected with a feature of the blockchain that its religious advocates worship – the impossibility to regulate it. Well, as a client of such an "exchange", I would be grateful if someone could give them a proper thrashing so that I could recover those 10% of the deposits! Some people, regulators of banks, central banks do lots of good things. In the cryptocurrency system, someone else has this power but he's much more likely to be a criminal that will rob you!




Now, for some 6 hours after the "discovery" that launched the splitting process (the ledger's history was doubled but the new entries in the two histories were separate), it wouldn't be even clear whether BCH would emerge at all, or whether there was a bug somewhere. Well, BCH needed a bigger block for the discovery and only a minority, some 5%, of the "mining" hardware was reserved for BCH. But after some six hours, people were happy. The first payments could have been confirmed. And the difficulty of the subsequent discoveries was lowered so that one only needed to wait for some 10 minutes before the new discovery emerged.

But imagine how practical this payment would be in the desert if you needed to buy water. You would use this state-of-the-art electronic financial technology and some 6 hours later, your payment could get through. I hope you aren't too thirsty! ;-)

After the first separate confirmed discovery of the block by BCH, the splitting process was completed.

BTC started the day between $2800 and $3000. Common sense indicates that the value must drop by the price of the new BCH. But if only 1/2 of the BTC users get BCH at all, the price of BTC should only drop by 1/2 of the price of the new currency, BCH. The price of the Bitcoin cash wildly oscillated between $180 and $400 during the day – up to some moment, BCH was only traded as futures.

You may see that it's roughly consistent with the sum rule. BCH is currently about $200 but only 1/2 of them will be saved, it seems, so you expect the drop of the price of BTC to be $100 over the day, and it roughly is.

Some people don't even understand why the total value of the new currencies is expected to be the same as the value of the old currency. But a funny thing about economics is that some of its elementary laws work even when almost all the traders are financially illiterate, like most of the traders playing with the cryptocurrncies. They could be willing to assume that they indeed get a $200 bonus for each BTC and the total price of the new BTC and the new BCH will be $200 if not $400 higher than the price of the old BTC – because they're financially illiterate, they have no problem to believe that "everyone in the system" is getting $200 or $400 for free.

But even if they're financially illiterate, the invisible hand of the free market works. You know, if you assume that the price of BTC is approximately stable during the day – it's not terribly stable but let's make this approximation – it means that there is an approximately equal amount of money that flows from the real currencies to the unreal BTC currencies and vice versa.

However, when BTC splits into two, a certain fraction of the incoming capital (from the real world, i.e. real dollars) will flow to BCH instead. So the demand for BTC unavoidably drops by those 10-20 percent while the supply is still the same. So to match the supply and demand, the price of BTC will drop. The Millennials will keep on trading normally and they will be surprised that the price dropped because they haven't ever mastered anything like "thinking about the intrinsic value of anything". Because the final price of BCH is about 10% of the BTC and only 1/2 of those BCH will be recovered, maybe, you end up with the drop of BTC's price by approximately 5%.

OK, it doesn't make sense to calculate it too accurately because the other sources of volatility are huge – even on ordinary days – so several percent are added or subtracted to almost every cryptocurrency's price every day.

Sectarian analogy

If you followed the social networks, you would see that the fans of the Bitcoin were extremely opinionated. Most of them – unsuprisingly some 80-90 percent – think that the Bitcoin Cash is a dead end, fake Bitcoin, garbage, mistake, while the Bitcoin BTC is the legacy Bitcoin, the only real one, and so on.

And then you have some in the other group whose opinion is different – BCH is a real improvement and a fix for some mistakes that existed in BTC.

The split of the Bitcoin cult to these two camps is completely analogous to the split of a church, e.g. the Christian Church to the Catholic and Orthodox one, or the later Catholic Church to the Catholic and Protestant one, and so on, up to Mormons, Jehovists, scientologists, and other nut jobs.

I have been repeatedly explained what is the key ideological difference between the Orthodox Christianity and Catholicism, and between the Catholicism and Protestantism. But frankly speaking, I would still be unable to give you a coherent story. It's about some technical details of the role of saints or Virgin Mary or something. I honestly don't have a clue after so many repeated lessons. The reason I can't give you a satisfactory explanation is that I was just never motivated to remember this stuff. Some vital parts of my memory work extremely well – and forgetting of junk is good for me and my memory.

I think that my memory is really good at this skill and I am proud about it. Also, I feel a lot of superiority over the people who suicidally criticize themselves because they have forgotten some irrelevant junk. The fact that they have forgotten isn't bad at all – but the fact that they don't realize that this forgetting is a good thing proves that they're stupid!

OK, the separation of BTC to BTC and BCH is completely analogous to the sectarian splits of the Christian Church. It's about some stupidity analogous to the question whether Virgin Mary could have been clumped with saints or whether God is 1-in-3 or 3-in-1 or whether He may talk to you only directly or through the Pope or some other priest or some other bullšit like that. All of them still believe the very contrived text of the Bible in some way, including millions of details about the life of Jesus, details I wouldn't even consider, ever. And they disagree about some font used for some verse or whether one verse is more important than the next one or something like that – and that's a good enough reason for them to wage a war, among other things. I don't really have empathy for this stuff, it looks unthinkable to me.

In the case of the Bitcoins, some Bitcoin Foundation's Soviet or something like that and/or some NGOs and labor unions clumping the miners or some other insane bodies representing the special interests within the Bitcoin world voted that some new SegWit mechanism should be allowed by the end of August to support some parameter or something like that. The Bitcoin fanatics often love to say that the cryptocurrency doesn't depend on any powerful people and banks but when you look what's actually happening, everything depends on the Bitcoin Foundations, assorted Soviets, and especially the "exchanges" which may change the rules and rob you of the new currencies arbitrarily, without any regulation. And aside from the noise resulting from people's irrationality, the price of the cryptocurrencies primarily depends on their being allowed or forbidden by various authorities. Everything that matters is willfully controlled by politicians and bureaucrats – the dependence of the life involving cryptocurrencies on politicians, bankers, and various apparatchiks is vastly deeper than the dependence of the life with a fiat currency on the central banks. Because the cryptocurrencies have the total capitalization of $93 billion right now, 48% of which is the truncated Bitcoin, these small groups of financial activists control incredible wealth. Even a small effect of their decisions – a small fraction of the BTC capitalization (or second order corrections arising from some effect associated with a tiny change of rules) – can make them millionaires and sometimes billionaires. The system is complete Wild West.

Also, the BTC sectarian fans say that BTC is the legacy Bitcoin while BCH is some deviated modification. But BCH fans sort of more justifiably argue that BCH is really the more orthodox type of the Bitcoin that is more compatible with Satoshi's original paper, where some new ad hoc adjustments are prohibited, and so on. It has bigger blocks which may be good – yes, if I had to choose the better currency among the two almost identical ones, I would choose Bitcoin Cash! And I actually think its price will soon be comparable to that of the Bitcoin.

Needless to say, I couldn't possibly care in one way or another. These are totally minor technical questions. The two new currencies are almost identical, just like the different Christian denominations are almost identical. People must be extremely obsessed with their religion – whether it's the Christian religion or the cult of cryptocurrencies – to care even about the tiny differences between the subsects of the cult.

It's very likely but not guaranteed that BTC will remain the most important cryptocurrency while BCH will be just one of the minor supplements. But it isn't a tiny supplement right now. Once the numbers for the capitalization are updated, BCH will become the world's 3rd or 4th most important cryptocurrency by capitalization. Also, you should notice that just like the current total capitalization of the cryptocurrencies or BTC is just some "random large number", even the price ratio of the cryptocurrencies, including the BCH/BTC ratio (about 10%), is a random number. There doesn't exist any calculation, and not even a sketch of it, that would imply that the new BTC should be 10 times more expensive than its "near perfect copy" BCH. The ratio is just a ratio of the concentration of two slightly different flavors of a mass delusion. It's a random number. Why is it a random number? Because the ratio is really 0/0, an indeterminate form that may have any value. And yes, the BCH/BTC price ratio is 0/0 because in reality, both of them are intrinsically worthless.

Cryptocurrency software is a family of computer games of a sort which deal with virtual money – and some people are willing to pay real money for the money in the computer game, just like in many other computer games. An advantage of this game is that you may sell the virtual money to others so many people have made a huge profit and it's possible as long as the pyramid scheme is increasing. In other computer games, the payment of the real money tends to be irreversible – the real money is pocketed by the creators of the game. ;-)

But the split of BTC to BTC and BCH means that many of these people must suddenly play two computer games instead of one. If you know the Adventure Capitalist, it's analogous to earning the money on Earth and then starting to play the analogous sectors of the game on the Moon, Mars, or the special events.

Aside from the real money, people are investing real time to this enterprise. How long will they be enthusiastic about these computer games and the growing demands for their time? Pokémon Go was really hot only for weeks. It's similar with other games. The Bitcoin has been around for 8 years or so and it still finds some new people who play it which allows the pyramid scheme to grow so far. But isn't it obvious that the dynamics in the longer run simply has to be analogous to the dynamics of any fixed computer game? After some time, there are many variations of it and competitors and people simply have to switch from the old game to the newer ones. No one will be paying the real money to you in order to buy your virtual money in the BTC or BCH games – because the games will be obsolete.

You could try to make a smooth profit by investing into "all" cryptocurrencies you may find somewhere. Buy the same share in each of them. But it won't be a reliable recipe for a profit forever, either, because the whole "genre" of the cryptocurrency games is very narrow-minded and it will be gradually replaced with fundamentally different things in the future.

The blockchain is a solution to a problem in recreational mathematics and its author could deserve $100,000 for finding this solution – just like the programmers of millions of other interesting programs (e.g. in the App Stores). But the problem wasn't really a true problem that real-world people in the real-world financial markets would normally care about (I've never seen any problem with the transactions' being centrally verified by a bank). It is a totally artificial problem so the practical-world value of the solution is basically zero. The idea that it should be $93 billion or even higher is just absolutely preposterous. A "currency" such as BCH where you need to wait for 6 hours – or even 15 minutes – to confirm your payment is extremely unpractical, just like a currency whose value relatively the dollar (or food) fluctuates by roughly 70% every day, and BCH did today. People who worship this stuff as some groundbreaking change of the world economy that has an intrinsic value – that they're willing to quantify as any giant number (that they cannot calculate) and that they're always willing to increase by another order of magnitude, they're dangerously stupid lunatics.

The cryptocurrencies have provided the world with a mechanism to concentrate the capital in the hands of the leaders of this community of idiots – and I find it extremely dangerous. The capital should be concentrated in the hands of those who know how to build real values and who can distinguish real values from bogus ones. The cryptocurrency people are the opposite sort of creatures. They can't tell apart real values from fake ones at all – and they are proud about it. It's a catastrophe that this Ponzi scheme has been capable of rewarding these people, or at least their "leaders", for this fundamental mental defect. Just like the growth of the wealth of George Soros, the growth of wealth of these people is another threat for the advanced human civilization.

Incidentally, just seconds ago, I received a summary in Nature of an article claiming that the digital native is a myth – the younger generation uses technology in the same way as the older generations (and in particular, they're no better at multitasking). So their financial illiteracy etc. could ultimately be the main difference when it comes to similar issues such as the cryptocurrency hype.

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