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Author Topic: A Bitcoin future seems like massive poverty!  (Read 3020 times)
willsterling
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July 10, 2011, 03:43:17 PM
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Hold your horses!!  The overwhelming fraction of those 2 million bitcoins are people sending money to themselves.  The way the Bitcoin client works, if you want to send 42.53 BTC to someone, and all you have is an address with 41689.32 BTC, then you have to send *all* the 41689.32 BTC out, then split it into 42.53 BTC for your recipient and 41646.79 BTC back to yourself:

Thank you for the clarification of that point, Patvarilly. That does change things quite a bit. I was wondering why the number of bitcoins sent each day was so much higher than the number traded on MtGox and the other exchanges.
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rnd0000
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July 10, 2011, 04:58:07 PM
 #22

BTW, who will register transactions when there will be no more new blocks available?


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July 10, 2011, 05:37:00 PM
 #23

BTW, who will register transactions when there will be no more new blocks available?

Blocks don't run out: there isn't a preset number of them to exhaust.  Perhaps what you're worried about is hash collisions?  Right now, block hashes are essentially 200-bit random numbers (quite a bit fewer than would be implied by hashes being 256 bits long, because of the restriction that the first 50 or so bits be zero to satisfy the proof-of-work requirement, but still astronomical).  If, for didactic purposes, you assume that the difficulty from now on will remain roughly constant (not entirely unreasonable given that the marginal cost to mine nowadays has finally equalled the marginal utility gained from the 50BTC subsidy in each block, and you see that difficulty as of late is tapering off), then the number of years we'll have to wait to witness even a single hash collision can be estimated by requiring that:

  0.50 = 1 - exp( -n^2 / (2 * 2^200) )

where n is the number of blocks generated so far [See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Birthday_problem].  The solution is about

  n = 1.5 * 10^30 blocks,

or, since blocks are produced every 10 minutes, on average, 2.8 * 10^29 years.  To put this in perspective, the estimated age of the universe is about 1.3 * 10^10 years.

Bitcoin has fatal problems related to its economics, but its technical foundations are rock-solid.  In particular, "running out of blocks", i.e., seeing a spontaneous hash collision, is not a problem.
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July 10, 2011, 05:37:46 PM
 #24

...
Maybe they are right, but Bitcoin is an interesting experiement to see if a deflationary currency can work. I think people will want to spend a deflationary currency, because once it is widely known to be deflationary, they will get better prices purchasing in deflationary currency than an inflationary one.
...

The United States Of America was an interesting experiment as well... A stressful one IMO.

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rnd0000
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July 10, 2011, 06:09:13 PM
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BTW, who will register transactions when there will be no more new blocks available?

Blocks don't run out: there isn't a preset number of them to exhaust.  Perhaps what you're worried about is hash collisions?  Right now, block hashes are essentially 200-bit random numbers (quite a bit fewer than would be implied by hashes being 256 bits long, because of the restriction that the first 50 or so bits be zero to satisfy the proof-of-work requirement, but still astronomical).  If, for didactic purposes, you assume that the difficulty from now on will remain roughly constant (not entirely unreasonable given that the marginal cost to mine nowadays has finally equalled the marginal utility gained from the 50BTC subsidy in each block, and you see that difficulty as of late is tapering off), then the number of years we'll have to wait to witness even a single hash collision can be estimated by requiring that:

  0.50 = 1 - exp( -n^2 / (2 * 2^200) )

where n is the number of blocks generated so far [See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Birthday_problem].  The solution is about

  n = 1.5 * 10^30 blocks,

or, since blocks are produced every 10 minutes, on average, 2.8 * 10^29 years.  To put this in perspective, the estimated age of the universe is about 1.3 * 10^10 years.

Bitcoin has fatal problems related to its economics, but its technical foundations are rock-solid.  In particular, "running out of blocks", i.e., seeing a spontaneous hash collision, is not a problem.

Thank you for explaining all this! My concern was not really about hash conflicts but rather the mining incentive.
For example, there are 135643 now. When there are 210000 blocks, miners will be getting 25BTC per block vs 50BTC now.

My guess, when the whole coin space gets exausted, the only revenue will come from transaction fees, right?

I have no idea, how many transaction fees miners really get now (uneducated guess is 1-3 BTC, depending on the situation.).

That is, who will be interested to produce blocks after that? How bitcoin system will survive?



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rnicoll
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July 10, 2011, 06:20:22 PM
 #26


My guess, when the whole coin space gets exausted, the only revenue will come from transaction fees, right?

I have no idea, how many transaction fees miners really get now (uneducated guess is 1-3 BTC, depending on the situation.).

That is, who will be interested to produce blocks after that? How bitcoin system will survive?

Keep in mind that transaction fees will have to find a balance with transaction speed. If the fees are too low, speed will be unusable, so people will pay higher fees until they balance. At least in theory...

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July 10, 2011, 06:24:11 PM
 #27

Thank you for explaining all this! My concern was not really about hash conflicts but rather the mining incentive.
For example, there are 135643 now. When there are 210000 blocks, miners will be getting 25BTC per block vs 50BTC now.

My guess, when the whole coin space gets exausted, the only revenue will come from transaction fees, right?

I have no idea, how many transaction fees miners really get now (uneducated guess is 1-3 BTC, depending on the situation.).

That is, who will be interested to produce blocks after that? How bitcoin system will survive?

Aahh!!  Yes!!  Rational thinking!  I recommend reading the forum posts on the economic shortcomings of Bitcoin (I linked to some of them before on this thread).  The sad conclusion I've come to, after an initial love affair with the technical underpinnings of Bitcoin, is that, in its present form, the economics of Bitcoin are a disaster, and so it won't survive long-term. [to put this in perspective, the "orthodox" answer to your question is that the Bitcoin "cognoscenti" believe the popularity of the system will explode beyond their wildest dreams, so that the per-block transaction fees become substantial.  This assumes that people will, to an appreciable extent, use BTCs for trade, not just hoarding and speculation.  This is unlikely, as many other souls capable of thought outside the Ayn Rand dystopia have pointed out.].  My hope is that a successor to it with better economic insight will eventually thrive, allowing us to use a near frictionless currency for worldwide trade.
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July 10, 2011, 06:29:09 PM
 #28

Thank you for explaining all this! My concern was not really about hash conflicts but rather the mining incentive.
For example, there are 135643 now. When there are 210000 blocks, miners will be getting 25BTC per block vs 50BTC now.

My guess, when the whole coin space gets exausted, the only revenue will come from transaction fees, right?

I have no idea, how many transaction fees miners really get now (uneducated guess is 1-3 BTC, depending on the situation.).

That is, who will be interested to produce blocks after that? How bitcoin system will survive?

Aahh!!  Yes!!  Rational thinking!  I recommend reading the forum posts on the economic shortcomings of Bitcoin (I linked to some of them before on this thread).  The sad conclusion I've come to, after an initial love affair with the technical underpinnings of Bitcoin, is that, in its present form, the economics of Bitcoin are a disaster, and so it won't survive long-term. [to put this in perspective, the "orthodox" answer to your question is that the Bitcoin "cognoscenti" believe the popularity of the system will explode beyond their wildest dreams, so that the per-block transaction fees become substantial.  This assumes that people will, to an appreciable extent, use BTCs for trade, not just hoarding and speculation.  This is unlikely, as many other souls capable of thought outside the Ayn Rand dystopia have pointed out.].  My hope is that a successor to it with better economic insight will eventually thrive, allowing us to use a near frictionless currency for worldwide trade.

Do you really think you are bring up something that hasn't been discussed ad nausium?  Check out the threads. I don't like to repeat myself.

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rnicoll
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July 10, 2011, 06:34:12 PM
 #29

Aahh!!  Yes!!  Rational thinking!  I recommend reading the forum posts on the economic shortcomings of Bitcoin (I linked to some of them before on this thread).  The sad conclusion I've come to, after an initial love affair with the technical underpinnings of Bitcoin, is that, in its present form, the economics of Bitcoin are a disaster, and so it won't survive long-term. [to put this in perspective, the "orthodox" answer to your question is that the Bitcoin "cognoscenti" believe the popularity of the system will explode beyond their wildest dreams, so that the per-block transaction fees become substantial.  This assumes that people will, to an appreciable extent, use BTCs for trade, not just hoarding and speculation.  This is unlikely, as many other souls capable of thought outside the Ayn Rand dystopia have pointed out.].  My hope is that a successor to it with better economic insight will eventually thrive, allowing us to use a near frictionless currency for worldwide trade.

I believe the argument is that transaction fees should scale with transactions executed, and that cost (hardware, maintenance, electricity, etc.) to manage the transactions should drop quickly enough that the two meet in the middle, rather than specifically requiring a large number of people trading the coins regularly for it to work.

I will admit I can easily see Bitcoin being the precursor to something better, in the same way Gopher came before the web, but I can't see transaction fees and costs going away.

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July 10, 2011, 06:47:42 PM
 #30

I will admit I can easily see Bitcoin being the precursor to something better, in the same way Gopher came before the web, but I can't see transaction fees and costs going away.

Certainly true.  The need I see a Bitcoin-like system filling is reducing transaction costs for electronic transactions down from the present extortionary level.  I've paid upwards of $100 for international money transfers, and this isn't uncommon (if you dig deep enough, there's a story on the forums of someone living in the UK having to pay £20k taxes in Austria; the same-day limit for UK-Austria transfers that he was subject to was £5k, so he ended up having to send £5k on each of four consecutive business days, paying a £25 fee each time).  Similarly, credit and debit card processing fees are much higher than they realistically could be today (something like 2-3% + $0.35 per transaction).  While I don't expect any system to be free of fees and costs, I think we can certainly build something much better than what we have to deal with today.
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July 10, 2011, 06:51:29 PM
 #31

Do you really think you are bring up something that hasn't been discussed ad nausium?  Check out the threads. I don't like to repeat myself.

"ad nauseum"

I have read the threads.  They're precisely what encouraged me to think that not everyone in the forum has been co-opted by delusional groupthink!  This being the Newbie section, I think it's important to bring others up to speed on what has been discussed before.
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July 10, 2011, 06:57:07 PM
 #32

Do you really think you are bring up something that hasn't been discussed ad nausium?  Check out the threads. I don't like to repeat myself.

"ad nauseum"

I have read the threads.  They're precisely what encouraged me to think that not everyone in the forum has been co-opted by delusional groupthink!  This being the Newbie section, I think it's important to bring others up to speed on what has been discussed before.

Well then either I clairvoyantly fell victim to groupthink before even discovering the group or I managed to persuade the group before they discovered me. I must be made of awesome. 

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patvarilly
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July 10, 2011, 07:16:09 PM
 #33

Well then either I clairvoyantly fell victim to groupthink before even discovering the group or I managed to persuade the group before they discovered me. I must be made of awesome. 

It's easy to think you've reached a consensus when you only talk to people who think like you do.  I can see why Bitcoin would, in the beginning, attract people with a particularly quirky worldview.  I can also understand why talking to each other, you might think that you've stumbled onto the one-and-only truth, and you feel that your mission is to open the eyes of the confused and oppressed others.  I'm just glad that it's also attracting other people with saner views.  It gives me hope that the technical solution to the double-spending problem that Bitcoin has demonstrated might actually find its way into the mainstream in the future, help lower transaction costs we all face, and end up facilitating trade and prosperity worldwide.
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July 10, 2011, 07:17:39 PM
 #34

Thank you for explaining all this! My concern was not really about hash conflicts but rather the mining incentive.
For example, there are 135643 now. When there are 210000 blocks, miners will be getting 25BTC per block vs 50BTC now.

My guess, when the whole coin space gets exausted, the only revenue will come from transaction fees, right?

I have no idea, how many transaction fees miners really get now (uneducated guess is 1-3 BTC, depending on the situation.).

That is, who will be interested to produce blocks after that? How bitcoin system will survive?

Aahh!!  Yes!!  Rational thinking!  I recommend reading the forum posts on the economic shortcomings of Bitcoin (I linked to some of them before on this thread).  The sad conclusion I've come to, after an initial love affair with the technical underpinnings of Bitcoin, is that, in its present form, the economics of Bitcoin are a disaster, and so it won't survive long-term. [to put this in perspective, the "orthodox" answer to your question is that the Bitcoin "cognoscenti" believe the popularity of the system will explode beyond their wildest dreams, so that the per-block transaction fees become substantial.  This assumes that people will, to an appreciable extent, use BTCs for trade, not just hoarding and speculation.  This is unlikely, as many other souls capable of thought outside the Ayn Rand dystopia have pointed out.].  My hope is that a successor to it with better economic insight will eventually thrive, allowing us to use a near frictionless currency for worldwide trade.

Ok. We have an equation with many variables, right? The question is, is the system overall stable in the whole range of scenarios
(from 0 usage to everyone on the planet using it), and with different ways to use (that is, including "hoarding and speculation")?

Why do you try to tell by stating "the economics of Bitcoin are a disaster"? I believe, such things should be equally thoroughly researched as cryptoalgos.
If it has been done, then no matter what users do, the only real disaster for the bitcoin is that everyone will abandon it and the electricity required for it will be lost without any sensible return.

Everything else it is possible to balance, to bring nearer a stable equilibrium.

Its another story if bitcoin is not inherently stable though...

Of course, someone will always win. (say, early adopters which mined with easy and sold BTC at 30$ ;-)

I think, these things are not only useful for "the next cryptocurrency", but may advance human economy beyond "hoarding and speculation".

Not being an economist, I can't make educated judgements on the matters. I believe though that bitcoin ecosystem will somehow reflect objective (are there such?) laws of any economics. Like water in the artificial aqueduct behave in a similar way to the water in the natural river.

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July 10, 2011, 07:34:42 PM
 #35

Well then either I clairvoyantly fell victim to groupthink before even discovering the group or I managed to persuade the group before they discovered me. I must be made of awesome. 

It's easy to think you've reached a consensus when you only talk to people who think like you do.  I can see why Bitcoin would, in the beginning, attract people with a particularly quirky worldview.  I can also understand why talking to each other, you might think that you've stumbled onto the one-and-only truth, and you feel that your mission is to open the eyes of the confused and oppressed others.  I'm just glad that it's also attracting other people with saner views.  It gives me hope that the technical solution to the double-spending problem that Bitcoin has demonstrated might actually find its way into the mainstream in the future, help lower transaction costs we all face, and end up facilitating trade and prosperity worldwide.

Sorry, what the groupthink, I do not quite understand. Propagating ideas is known to have an effect (desired or otherwise). I even tend to think that
its better to bias toward positive outcome, because early scepticism really hurts whatever enterprise at hand.

I've asked innocent question if things were designed beyond preventing double-spending... May be it was not even intention this time.


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July 10, 2011, 08:01:13 PM
 #36

Why do you try to tell by stating "the economics of Bitcoin are a disaster"? I believe, such things should be equally thoroughly researched as cryptoalgos.

Yes, precisely.  The trouble I see is that almost everyone coming into this project (like me) comes at it from the point of view of technology.  As you read through the explanations of what keeps all the bitcoin structures in place (proof-of-work, blockchaining, public/private keys as handles for money, what have you), you can see that's it's very well thought out, and, as far as its technical aspect is concerned, the thing is a jewel.

Independently, layered on top of this are a series of economic decisions, such as "what is a reasonable way to determine the value of the coinbase transaction?" or "should there be a limited or unlimited number of bitcoins?" or "how should we distribute an initial set of bitcoins to use?", etc.  Economics being a social science, these aren't 1+1=2 questions.  There are centuries worth of ongoing, raging debates in economics as to how to answer many of these questions (the thorough research you are talking about).  They involve all sorts of compromises outside of the realm of clean mathematical abstractions, having to do with human psychology and what makes people tick.  I invite you to read about these debates (the posts I linked to below are an interesting sample of the kinds of diverging opinions people have to whet your appetite).  I think you'll find that the current rules of this system are among the worst that could have been chosen, with well-studied problems.

If it has been done, then no matter what users do, the only real disaster for the bitcoin is that everyone will abandon it and the electricity required for it will be lost without any sensible return.

That's exactly what I mean by a disaster.  I would hate to see the technical innovation introduced by Bitcoin, with its promise of much smoother international transactions, be torpedoed by the fringe economics that's been foisted upon it.  It's too beautiful an idea for it to die like this.  On a more practical note, many people are investing small fortunes into setting up mining rigs and trading, and for them, there's a real loss in having all of this implode.  On a social note, this is happening concurrently with the early adopters reaping ridiculous profits off the backs of naive late comers.  There are many similarities between the current Bitcoin frenzy and Ponzi schemes, pump-and-dump schemes, etc., as is pointed out by many others, and I hope you'll find that there's something substantive to these comparisons.

Not being an economist, I can't make educated judgements on the matters. I believe though that bitcoin ecosystem will somehow reflect objective (are there such?) laws of any economics. Like water in the artificial aqueduct behave in a similar way to the water in the natural river.

Neither am I, but I'm a good critical thinker.  Go out there and read as much as possible about the diverging opinions on Bitcoin.  Do this *before* you plunk down any substantial amount of cash into it.  Try to think through the consequences of setting up an economy this way or that way (be sure to peek at what others who spend their lifetimes doing this have said, they've usually thought about all the things you have and many that you've missed).  Then form your own opinions.  A piece of advice, though: if something reads like it's out of the prayer-book of a religious sect, be skeptical.  Very few people who pride themselves in thinking logically see the world in extremes and black-and-white choices.  The world is rife in nuance and complication, and to boot, you have to account for with human psychology and irrationality.

Best of luck!
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July 10, 2011, 08:52:08 PM
 #37

I would hate to see the technical innovation introduced by Bitcoin, with its promise of much smoother international transactions, be torpedoed by the fringe economics that's been foisted upon it.  It's too beautiful an idea for it to die like this.
So please start your own block chain with your own economics and your preferred incentives. Within a year we'll know whether Bitcoin or Patvarillycoin is the one that got it right.

Based on the paragraph that I quoted above, why would you not want to do this? Why would you prefer talk to action?
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July 10, 2011, 09:23:18 PM
 #38

So please start your own block chain with your own economics and your preferred incentives. Within a year we'll know whether Bitcoin or Patvarillycoin is the one that got it right.

Based on the paragraph that I quoted above, why would you not want to do this? Why would you prefer talk to action?

That's my intention.
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July 10, 2011, 11:47:41 PM
 #39

...bitcoin structures in place (proof-of-work, blockchaining, public/private keys as handles for money, what have you), you can see that's it's very well thought out, and, as far as its technical aspect is concerned, the thing is a jewel.

Independently, layered on top of this are a series of economic decisions, such as "what is a reasonable way to determine the value of the coinbase transaction?" or "should there be a limited or unlimited number of bitcoins?" or "how should we distribute an initial set of bitcoins to use?"

You make good point. However, consider the incentives of those with economic power to obscure economic theory. Employers prefer employees don't discuss their wages, just as creditors prefer debtors don't discuss banking mechanics. Bitcoin is an assertion that a different monetary model is possible.

Bitcoin is an experiment, but not with random initial values.

One bitcoin client sets a default transaction fee, but that's easy enough to alter and the market gets to decide the optimal fee on each and every transaction. Distribution of bitcoins is part of the foundation of bitcoin decentralization without which bitcoin would have a very different as yet undiscovered validation model.

The distribution rate (and finite scarcity) was an arbitrary, though darling variable of Satoshi. It is the only significant 'variable' that was truly (and now unalterably) configurable.

It's a fascinating exercise to tweeze out these preconfigurable variables for future or parallel experiments. Maybe a faster validation rate, perhaps constant inflation with no transaction fees, perhaps perhaps... We'll learn an enormous amount by this experiment. I happen to think the experiment will be so successful that it's advantageous network effect will overshadow better implementation models. In other words, sticking to the short comings may be preferable to creating a better model for a long time. IPv4 vs IPv6 anyone? Bitcoin won't die easily.

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July 11, 2011, 12:08:22 AM
 #40

Bitcoin is an experiment, but not with random initial values.

One bitcoin client sets a default transaction fee, but that's easy enough to alter and the market gets to decide the optimal fee on each and every transaction. Distribution of bitcoins is part of the foundation of bitcoin decentralization without which bitcoin would have a very different as yet undiscovered validation model.

The distribution rate (and finite scarcity) was an arbitrary, though darling variable of Satoshi. It is the only significant 'variable' that was truly (and now unalterably) configurable.

It's a fascinating exercise to tweeze out these preconfigurable variables for future or parallel experiments. Maybe a faster validation rate, perhaps constant inflation with no transaction fees, perhaps perhaps... We'll learn an enormous amount by this experiment. I happen to think the experiment will be so successful that it's advantageous network effect will overshadow better implementation models. In other words, sticking to the short comings may be preferable to creating a better model for a long time. IPv4 vs IPv6 anyone? Bitcoin won't die easily.

I agree that it's a fascinating experiment, and I lost sleep over the network effect baking the economic model into the current implementation to the point where no alternative would really have a chance.  Certainly if the only advantage of an alternative implementation where a technicality (say, using 64-bit timestamps everywhere, or an average block generation time of 5 minutes instead of 10), nobody would pick it up.  But I'm pretty convinced that the current economics of Bitcoin isn't just a blemish.  It's a terrible set of rules that makes BTCs unworkable for widespread trade instead of speculation, and that that will prevent it from going mainstream.  An alternative that does away with this problem and actually encourages trade would thus have a fighting chance of overcoming the network effect.  In such a scenario, Bitcoin by itself probably doesn't die (there will always be hardcore supporters), it simply gets overtaken by its workable alternative.  I'm excited by this idea enough that in the near future I'll try to put together a proposal soon for doing just this.

That said, I'm open-minded: if the facts don't fit my thinking, I'll change my thinking.  I'm willing to offer that if, contrary to what seems to me will happen, the current implementation of Bitcoin becomes wildly successful, I will eat a boiled and seasoned copy of Atlas Shrugged, a la Werner Herzog (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Werner_Herzog_Eats_His_Shoe).  A reasonable definition of "wildly successful" shouldn't be too hard to agree on, perhaps something like half of Amazon's trade volume being denominated in BTCs.
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