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Author Topic: Cory Doctorow discusses the Pros and Cons of BitCoins  (Read 2144 times)
the joint
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June 21, 2012, 08:36:06 PM
 #21

I actually agree with the "the rich get richer" contention.

But, it's not necessarily because of what's happening now, but because of what has already happened in the few short years of Bitcoins existence.

Bitcoin is already distributed to extreme disproportion.  What was it that Zhoutong claimed?  Something along the lines of '5% of the Bitcoinica population carried 98% of the wealth?'  Not sure whether this was referring to BTC or fiat or if I quoted these percentages correctly, but they are close.

Even still, I think it's fair to say that an overwhelming percentage of Bitcoins are distributed among a relatively few number of people.  It doesn't matter whether this is due to the risk that early adopters took.  If Bitcoin becomes mainstream, it is likely that this disproportionate distribution of BTC wealth will continue to perpetuate itself.

To this extent, I think this is a legitimate issue and it's not an easy one to solve.  Regardless, I think a world with disproportionate Bitcoin distribution is better than one with disproportionate fiat distribution.

I also realize that if Bitcoin becomes totally mainstream to the extent that we hope it will, almost everybody on this forum will be included among the 'relatively few' at the top of the pyramid.  But, I think we're kidding ourselves if we think that Bitcoin is some kind of answer to the wealth distribution problem in the world.  It will take something else entirely to address poverty issues.

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June 21, 2012, 08:47:49 PM
 #22

Even still, I think it's fair to say that an overwhelming percentage of Bitcoins are distributed among a relatively few number of people.  It doesn't matter whether this is due to the risk that early adopters took.  If Bitcoin becomes mainstream, it is likely that this disproportionate distribution of BTC wealth will continue to perpetuate itself.
What does that mean in practical terms? Either they spend those coins or they don't. If they spend them then the don't have them any more. If they don't spend them they aren't consuming any products or services in the Bitcoin economy. Where exactly is the problem?
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June 21, 2012, 08:49:21 PM
 #23

What I meant by "Real Money" is that it is backed by some physical commodity that has some kind of intrinsic value, like gold.
One could argue if gold actually has any "intrinsic value".
Agreed: a moot point.

If people say that dollars are backed by gold (which it isn't as you state correctly, but suppose it were) then what does that mean, really? What is gold backed by?
Physical Reality - as opposed to Computer Modeled Reality, where most modern Currencies live.

If people accept that gold doesn't need to be backed by anything, or can act as a means of backing other things, then I don't see why the same wouldn't hold for bitcoins.
Philisophically, I agree there is no fundamental difference.
You might have a harder time, however, those who have not already, at least in part, become Bitcoin Enthusiasts.  It is only a small percentage of humanity that thinks much about the philosophy they use to view the world.

Well, technically, bitcoin also is "created" at the press of a button.
Yeah, but (and I know you know this, but I just wanna clarify this to everybody) there's no difference for a bank to create one million, or ten million, or one billion. Money isn't even printed anymore. They just store a random number in a computer, and that amount of dollars suddenly came into existence. Magic.
Hopefully not randomSmiley Hopefully it is the amount they decided to create.

Bitcoin cannot be created at will. Unlike fiat currency (or gold!)
If you know how to create gold .... Smiley

... the exact amount of bitcoins in existence is known and public for everybody, and can be predicted for the foreseeable future.

That phrase "the exact amount of bitcoins in existence" can be taken two ways:
* the maximum number that are mathematically possible to ever exist
* the exact number that have been "mined" and moved into the economy
Both are known, public, and predictable.
What interests speculators is the rate (and the stability of the rate) that mining moves BTC into the economy.


Which brings to my mind a tangential question about the "creation" of a new economically active bitcoin.

I have not looked at the source code yet, but the question raised is of the fesability of tweaking the generation code. (without Bitcoin Client noticing, or what would be the point)

As I understand it, a bitcoin is:
* a properly check-summed encoding of ...
* a properly calculated hash of ...
* a properly generated term in ...
* a really scary cryptographic equation series.

And, as I understand it, the job of Bitcoin Client is to:
* validate the encoding and check-summing of the hash.
* validate the transaction chain
* * since the creation of this particular bitcoin
* * if not all the way back to the Bitcoin Epoch(tm) beginning.

Which suggests that the "transaction of creation" (if that is a proper phrase) must contain enough information to verify that the data used to create the hash did in fact come from the scary cryptographic equation series.

And that this "transaction of creation" is still in the transaction chain so the client can verify it and all following transaction (that involve the bitcoin in question).

So the question becomes:
* Is it mathematically feasible to build a "transaction of creation", that passes current tests for validity, using less CPU power than the standard mining process?


I suspect the answer is "No" to the best ability of the cryptologists and programmers behind Bitcoin, else there would be no Bitcoin.

( : I seem to have drifted far from my original topic. : )

-Jesse

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JesseChisholm
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June 21, 2012, 08:51:04 PM
 #24

Quote
Boing-Boing is a site that hosts lots of "grid-computing" or "cloud-computing" projects.  Basically anything that can be divvied into small work chunks and passed out to a bazzilion personal computers to have the work done in parallel.  typically everyone's computer is an unpaid volunteer.
Eh? Are you sure you are speaking about BOINC and about https://boinc.berkeley.edu/ wich is totally unrelated to this "boing boing" thing?

Darn it all, you are correct.  I saw "Boing" and read "Boinc".
<expression type="facial" category="grin" style="sheepish" />

-Jesse

EDIT: As far as I can tell, there are no Boink projects dedicated to the mining of bitcoins.
Though some teams do declare that they accept donations in BTC.

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JesseChisholm
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June 21, 2012, 09:06:18 PM
 #25

Even still, I think it's fair to say that an overwhelming percentage of Bitcoins are distributed among a relatively few number of people.  It doesn't matter whether this is due to the risk that early adopters took.  If Bitcoin becomes mainstream, it is likely that this disproportionate distribution of BTC wealth will continue to perpetuate itself.
What does that mean in practical terms? Either they spend those coins or they don't. If they spend them then the don't have them any more. If they don't spend them they aren't consuming any products or services in the Bitcoin economy. Where exactly is the problem?

re: "If they spend them then the don't have them any more."

A company spends currency in order to reap even more currency.
True, they do not "have" the original items of currency, but they don't care, they have more total value of other items of currency.
If they don't get more (on average over time) then they go bankrupt.

The Typical End Consumer spends to consume, true; but does not typically spend to produce.
The Consumer typically trades "their time at work" for some currency (whether Fiat or Bitcoin or whatever).

The rate are which such a Consumer can acquire BTC is limited to their ability to work.
( e.g., there are only 24 hours in a day )

The rate at which a Rich individual can spend currency to produce currency in not limited in the same way.
( e.g., the more currency I have, the more I can use to produce more currency )

re: Where exactly is the problem?
It isn't a "problem" but an "observation".

In the Bitcoin economy, as in every other economy so far known, "The Rich Get Richer" (faster than anyone behind them).

In this early phase where not all BTC have been mined, then it is determined by who can afford to throw the most CPU/GPU power at mining.

Eventually, when all bitcoins have been mined, that aspect goes away.  The Bitcoin Economy will still be subject to normal economic flows.

-Jesse

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justusranvier
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June 21, 2012, 09:16:52 PM
 #26

A company spends currency in order to reap even more currency.
True, they do not "have" the original items of currency, but they don't care, they have more total value of other items of currency.
If they don't get more (on average over time) then they go bankrupt.
But what is the mechanism by which that happens?

What your're talking about it the system in which people can use their money to buy political favors and coercively funnel other people's towards themselves. That's how wealth accumulates to the those at the top but it's a function of the State, not the currency.

Without the ability of a central bank to print an unlimited amount of Bitcoins this wealth transfer mechanism is far less effective. If the early adopters want to hold on to their share of Bitcoins they must either never spend them, and thus never have an effect on the economy or they must somehow produce a value equal to or greater than they consume. If they can't manage to produce enough value their share of the Bitcoins will inevitably decline.
the joint
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June 21, 2012, 09:17:05 PM
 #27

Even still, I think it's fair to say that an overwhelming percentage of Bitcoins are distributed among a relatively few number of people.  It doesn't matter whether this is due to the risk that early adopters took.  If Bitcoin becomes mainstream, it is likely that this disproportionate distribution of BTC wealth will continue to perpetuate itself.
What does that mean in practical terms? Either they spend those coins or they don't. If they spend them then the don't have them any more. If they don't spend them they aren't consuming any products or services in the Bitcoin economy. Where exactly is the problem?

In practical terms it means just exactly what I said -- disproportionate wealth distribution is likely to perpetuate itself.  The consequences of this would likely be similar to what we see in society today, namely that social distancing between the extremely wealth and the non-wealthy leads to things like corruption.

Ok, so they spend some BTC.  Right now that doesn't mean anything because the Bitcoin community is still extremely small.  Again, if Bitcoin becomes totally mainstream, then we will all be a part of that upper echelon.  1% of the world population is ~60,000,000 people.  The problem will come if (the hypothetical if) Bitcoin becomes accepted as the dominant form of currency by billions of people.  As long as you have at least a few BTCs, you will be among the most wealthy Bitcoin owners in the world if this happens.  By this point, prices would be denominated in things like mBTC and uBTC.  

I'm not really sure what you're not understanding.  You're talking about BTCs being spread around the (hypothetical) future 1%, or more like .01%.  It doesn't matter if people are spending them now...it only matters if they spend all of them (e.g. such that they would have a balance of < 1 BTC) at the time that Bitcoin is used globally by the mainstream population.

Edit:  In other words, a likely future scenario is this:
100 people own > 1000 BTC
10,000 people own > 100 BTC
100,000 people own > 1 BTC
7,000,000,000 own ~ .001 BTC

justusranvier
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June 21, 2012, 09:18:28 PM
 #28

In practical terms it means just exactly what I said -- disproportionate wealth distribution is likely to perpetuate itself.
Look at the reply I posted above. Just saying that a disproportionate wealth distribution is likely to perpetuate itself doesn't mean anything unless you explain the mechanism of how.
the joint
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June 21, 2012, 09:25:49 PM
 #29

In practical terms it means just exactly what I said -- disproportionate wealth distribution is likely to perpetuate itself.
Look at the reply I posted above. Just saying that a disproportionate wealth distribution is likely to perpetuate itself doesn't mean anything unless you explain the mechanism of how.

Ok...3 questions:

How many coins have been created already?

How many current Bitcoin users are there?

Now, why do you think that suddenly the rest of the entire world is going to get a proportionate cut of not only the remaining BTC, but also the BTC currently in existence?

If you need another example, I'll give you a personal one.  I keep a balance of between 50-500 BTC in my savings.  It will never go below this.  Why?  Because I've determined so.  Now, how many others do you think keep a minimum balance or a savings balance?  My guess is, quite a lot.

Seriously, this isn't hard to understand.

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June 21, 2012, 09:29:21 PM
 #30

I keep a balance of between 50-500 BTC in my savings.  It will never go below this.  Why?  Because I've determined so.
That's just magical thinking to say it doesn't go below 50 merely because you determine it to be so.

It doesn't go below 50 because either you don't spend the coins or because you expend resources to obtain more.
the joint
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June 21, 2012, 09:33:34 PM
 #31

I keep a balance of between 50-500 BTC in my savings.  It will never go below this.  Why?  Because I've determined so.
That's just magical thinking to say it doesn't go below 50 merely because you determine it to be so.

It doesn't go below 50 because either you don't spend the coins or because you expend resources to obtain more.

False dichotomy.  I'm a miner, and a certain % of my mined Bitcoins currently goes towards the purchase of gold and silver while the rest gets stashed.  I've already paid off my mining hardware.  So yes, I am spending coins, and I'm also getting more without having to expend any additional resources (especially because electricity is included in my rental agreement).

And yes, I've determined that I will not remove those BTC until it becomes accepted globally.  It's my lotto-ticket-retirement-fund. 

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June 21, 2012, 09:35:29 PM
 #32

What you're talking about it the system in which people can use their money to buy political favors and coercively funnel other people's towards themselves. That's how wealth accumulates to the those at the top but it's a function of the State, not the currency.
I disagree that it is a function of the State (or even of the State's Fiat Currency).
I believe it is a function of Human Corruptibility.

If a politician were offered 1M to make a decision a particular way, it doesn't matter if it is in USD or EURO or BTC.  What matters is the character of the politician.

Without the ability of a central bank to print an unlimited amount of Bitcoins this wealth transfer mechanism is far less effective. If the early adopters want to hold on to their share of Bitcoins they must either never spend them, and thus never have an effect on the economy or they must somehow produce a value equal to or greater than they consume. If they can't manage to produce enough value their share of the Bitcoins will inevitably decline.

As I understand it, (which is still a raw Newbie level of understanding in may ways) as the total number of bitcoins approaches maximum, ans as the "deflationary" aspect kicks in, the quantities transferred for a particular commodity could dropfrom 1BTC to 0.001 BTC  to 0.000001 BTC etc.  If the bottom rungs of the economy need to deal with nano-BTC to be meaningful, it will likely mean that some small number of individuals (or more likely corporations) are the only ones for whom 1 BTC is still meaningful.

It doesn't mean that they do not spend.

It means that don't need to spend as much this year as last year for the same thing.
It means that there are a limited number of players who can offer anything to them worth 1K BTC or 1M BTC.

Whether such a deflationary economy will be good for Bitcoin or not, I have no idea.
Whether such a deflationary economy will be good for the average human in this planetary system or not, I have no idea.
Whether it will even turn out exactly that way, I have no idea.

Whether trying something different than what has always failed before is a good idea or not, ..., I think so.

-Jesse

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June 21, 2012, 09:40:07 PM
 #33

A company spends currency in order to reap even more currency.
True, they do not "have" the original items of currency, but they don't care, they have more total value of other items of currency.
If they don't get more (on average over time) then they go bankrupt.
But what is the mechanism by which that happens?

What you're talking about it the system in which people can use their money to buy political favors and coercively funnel other people's towards themselves. That's how wealth accumulates to the those at the top but it's a function of the State, not the currency.
Actually, I was talking about normal business practices of spending currency to:
* produce something
* convince Consumers to buy product
* make a profit doing it

-Jesse

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justusranvier
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June 21, 2012, 09:45:54 PM
 #34

Actually, I was talking about normal business practices of spending currency to:
* produce something
* convince Consumers to buy product
* make a profit doing it
Ok. If the large holders can produce as much value as they consume by spending bitcoins they will keep the same number of bitcoins. Otherwise they will lose them over time.

Is that a problem that needs to be solved?
the joint
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June 21, 2012, 10:12:18 PM
 #35

Actually, I was talking about normal business practices of spending currency to:
* produce something
* convince Consumers to buy product
* make a profit doing it
Ok. If the large holders can produce as much value as they consume by spending bitcoins they will keep the same number of bitcoins. Otherwise they will lose them over time.

Is that a problem that needs to be solved?
[/quote

Profit implies the ability to acquire more Bitcoins, not keep the same number.  I doubt any company goes in business to break even.

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June 21, 2012, 11:37:29 PM
 #36

What you're talking about it the system in which people can use their money to buy political favors and coercively funnel other people's towards themselves. That's how wealth accumulates to the those at the top but it's a function of the State, not the currency.
I disagree that it is a function of the State (or even of the State's Fiat Currency).
I believe it is a function of Human Corruptibility.


Truth, and the next obvious point to be made is that all fiat currencies that were designed by (presumedly honest) human beings are still being run by human beings.  Do you still presume them honest?

I  can pretty much assume that the math functions in my computer are honest, as the souless machine has no vested interest in any particular outcome.  Humans do, and that is the root of the problem with fiat currencies.  Sure, they're great in theory, but in practice they require levels of integrity and wisdom from people in the positions of power that cannot (logicly) be maintained over generations.

"The powers of financial capitalism had another far-reaching aim, nothing less than to create a world system of financial control in private hands able to dominate the political system of each country and the economy of the world as a whole. This system was to be controlled in a feudalist fashion by the central banks of the world acting in concert, by secret agreements arrived at in frequent meetings and conferences. The apex of the systems was to be the Bank for International Settlements in Basel, Switzerland, a private bank owned and controlled by the world's central banks which were themselves private corporations. Each central bank...sought to dominate its government by its ability to control Treasury loans, to manipulate foreign exchanges, to influence the level of economic activity in the country, and to influence cooperative politicians by subsequent economic rewards in the business world."

- Carroll Quigley, CFR member, mentor to Bill Clinton, from 'Tragedy And Hope'
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June 22, 2012, 05:36:36 PM
 #37

I  can pretty much assume that the math functions in my computer are honest, as the souless machine has no vested interest in any particular outcome.  Humans do, and that is the root of the problem with fiat currencies.  Sure, they're great in theory, but in practice they require levels of integrity and wisdom from people in the positions of power that cannot (logicly) be maintained over generations.
If you are unwilling to assume that the human beings are honest enough,
Then why would you assume that the math functions in your computer are honest?
Wasn't the software written by human beings?
    Open Source Software is not a panacea.
    You either have to read and understand all the code yourself.
    Or you have to _trust_  someone else who did.
        ( or the community of many who did )

re: the souless machine has no vested interest in any particular outcome.
The soulless machine has exactly the interest in a particular outcome that someone programmed it to have.

If that were not so, then there would be no debate about electronic voting machines being used to subvert an election.

re: Humans do, and that is the root of the problem with fiat currencies.
If the very Human "love of (fiat) money" is the root of all evil, then how is the "love of bitcoin money" any different?

-Jesse

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June 22, 2012, 06:22:19 PM
 #38

Quote
Boing-Boing is a site that hosts lots of "grid-computing" or "cloud-computing" projects.  Basically anything that can be divvied into small work chunks and passed out to a bazzilion personal computers to have the work done in parallel.  typically everyone's computer is an unpaid volunteer.
Eh? Are you sure you are speaking about BOINC and about https://boinc.berkeley.edu/ wich is totally unrelated to this "boing boing" thing?

Darn it all, you are correct.  I saw "Boing" and read "Boinc".
<expression type="facial" category="grin" style="sheepish" />

-Jesse

EDIT: As far as I can tell, there are no Boink projects dedicated to the mining of bitcoins.
Though some teams do declare that they accept donations in BTC.

There is one

It's a sub-project of GPUGRID

http://www.gpugrid.net/

and is called Donate@Home http://www.donateathome.org/ Basically you mine for them

(and it's Boinc, not Boink Cheesy)

Edit: i wonder if they know about the Butterfly Labs ASIC  Cheesy How to make their project useless  Cheesy
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June 22, 2012, 08:41:17 PM
 #39

Quote
Boing-Boing is a site that hosts lots of "grid-computing" or "cloud-computing" projects.  Basically anything that can be divvied into small work chunks and passed out to a bazzilion personal computers to have the work done in parallel.  typically everyone's computer is an unpaid volunteer.
Eh? Are you sure you are speaking about BOINC and about https://boinc.berkeley.edu/ wich is totally unrelated to this "boing boing" thing?

Darn it all, you are correct.  I saw "Boing" and read "Boinc".
<expression type="facial" category="grin" style="sheepish" />

-Jesse

EDIT: As far as I can tell, there are no Boinc projects dedicated to the mining of bitcoins.
Though some teams do declare that they accept donations in BTC.

There is one

It's a sub-project of GPUGRID

http://www.gpugrid.net/

and is called Donate@Home http://www.donateathome.org/ Basically you mine for them

(and it's Boinc, not Boink Cheesy)

Edit: i wonder if they know about the Butterfly Labs ASIC  Cheesy How to make their project useless  Cheesy
Ah!
I had not checked for "sub-projects", only those listed at the top level of Boinc's project list.

Interesting that GPUGRID does not list Donate@Home as one of their sub-projects.
    Well, not directly.
    If you go to their "Donations" page, it is quietly mentioned.

Also interesting that at Boinc it is only mentioned in a forum.  I guess sub-projects are second class citizens. Smiley

-Jesse

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June 22, 2012, 09:21:04 PM
 #40

Well the BOINC website only list main projects. Donate@Home is an experiment of GPUGRID

Lol, in the donation page they look for 7970 Cheesy People who don't know Bitcoin will think "why they are looking for ATI gpus if the project (gpugrid, not donate@home) is nvidia-only?"
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