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  #101  
Old 07-14-2017, 01:22 PM
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I'll bet you a dollar that quantum computing will not destroy Bitcoin.

Every year there's some probability that Bitcoin will stop being a thing. Every year there's some probability that cryptography-destroying quantum computing will start being a thing.

The probability of the first thing is much greater than the probability of the second thing.
  #102  
Old 07-14-2017, 02:24 PM
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Obviously my statement assumed that something else wouldn't kill it first.
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  #103  
Old 07-14-2017, 03:04 PM
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so basically bit coin is like a company stock that people occasionally accept for payment ?
  #104  
Old 07-15-2017, 03:01 AM
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Quantum computing gets held up as the great destroyer of crypto. However, as noted earlier, there is are no extant physical realisations of even the most trivial building blocks from which a quantum computer capable of performing the needed factorisations are built. The attack on crypto is based upon factorisation using Shore's algorithm, which is in turn built atop the Quantum Fourier Transform. The existence proofs of the idea are built on quantum systems that cannot scale. The only existing quantum computer is the D-Wave, and some would suggest it isn't actually a real quantum computer. (From the little playing about I have done with one I have an open mind on this, but would hesitate to claim it is one.) It cannot perform Shore's algorithm, and it isn't even clear it can really outrun a conventional computer. Its ability to solve a version of simulated annealing is interesting, but casting problems in a form it can usefully attack is non-trivial. My main cynicism about large scale factorisation ever being possible is the intrinsic noise in the system. For a successful factorisation every qbit needs to resolve to the right value. Repetition of the factorisation operation can help resolve things, but the entropy is not going to be small, and as the number of bits increases you will be fighting exponential growth in the number of repetitions needed. Which is just what you don't want. Just as increasing the number of bits eventually defeats the largest scale conventional attacks, it will IMHO defeat quantum attacks.
  #105  
Old 07-15-2017, 03:37 AM
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I'm not sure I agree with this. It could cost $1000 to mine a new Bitcoin, and the value of that new Bitcoin could be $1, or $0. If no one wants to trade your new Bitcoin for a new hamburger, then your Bitcoin won't be worth a thing, it's just a mathematical curiosity. Sure, nobody would mine new Bitcoins if it costs $1000 and Bitcoins are trading below $1000. That doesn't mean Bitcoins can't fall below that cost.
Yeah, the reasoning is circular. But that is the nature of money
The value of a Bitcoin is underpinned by the cost of production whilst there is a working exchange system. Chicken and egg. So long as there is utility in buying Bitcoins as a payment mechanism, the dollar value will be underpinned by the production cost. If you are buying something (or paying a ransom) the cost is actually in dollars. You don't care what the exchange rate is, Bitcoin is no different to a Western Union money transfer. You dollars get converted to some bits somewhere, and your money pops out for the recipient somewhere else. It matters not to you if a Bitcoin is worth 0.000001$ or a billion dollars. But whilst there is utility in the trade there will be a price, and since they cost $xxx to make, the trade will tend to reflect that cost.
If you are somehow wedded to the idea that either Bitcoin is the way of the future, or simply that they have generally increased in value over time, you may pay more for them as you are now speculating on them. Much like any commodity. That level of sentiment will tend to increase the value - whilst it lasts.

As you say, once any of those basics is gone, the circular logic of its value vanishes. Once production ceases everyone holding onto Bitcoin has simply Bitcoins. For people using Bitcoins as a token to move real money about, they still don't care what the exchange rate is. It could drop though the floor, and so long as they don't get burnt on a falling value during a transaction they won't even notice.

If you have a stash of Bitcoins you have two choices. Keep the faith and continue to try to trade with Bitcoins, or try to cash out. The only value of Bitcoins is its value as an exchange mechanism. And it isn't alone in that market. Given one of its biggest attractions - anonymity - has gone, it doesn't have a lot going for it. The total value of the Bitcoin economy becomes essentially its value as a money mover of not much better utility than Western Union. And that value includes the value of the service companies as well as the value of the Bitcoins in the system. It isn't hard to see that a Bitcoin's intrinsic value rapidly becomes close to zero.
One suspects that a significant holding of Bitcoins is by people hoping to cash out. Once there is any real movement to cash out the market will crash. Tulips.
  #106  
Old 07-15-2017, 04:34 AM
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For some people technology has become a substitute for religion.

You see an example of this in the faith-based view of Bitcoin, that it will magically free money from any connection with governments and underpin a libertarian / anarchic / techno-punk civilization.
  #107  
Old 07-15-2017, 06:38 AM
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This thread may be getting too focussed on Bitcoin, but, just to expand on what Francis Vaughan wrote, the ultimate steady state of Bitcoin is that there exist a fixed number of coins, and nobody can generate new ones. Ever. (You can still destroy coins if you wish.)

The network operates due to "miners" (could be 1, could be 10000, but there need to be some of them online at any given moment). Each one is some computing hardware which had to be purchased and constantly consumes resources because it needs physical hosting, Internet, electricity, air conditioning, office space, human operators, etc. What the miner receives in recompense are transaction fees, paid of course in Bitcoins.

Right now there is still demand for digital payment systems (note PayPal is still in business and turns quite a profit), so there is room for someone to develop a network that is really anonymous, really peer-to-peer, really scalable, really trustworthy, really easy to use, and has no or minimal transaction costs compared to Bitcoin, Western Union, PayPal, and so forth. (There are probably other desirable properties as well.) That would be closer to what the endgame would look like.

Last edited by DPRK; 07-15-2017 at 06:39 AM.
  #108  
Old 07-15-2017, 06:56 AM
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Originally Posted by Francis Vaughan View Post
Yeah, the reasoning is circular. But that is the nature of money
The value of a Bitcoin is underpinned by the cost of production whilst there is a working exchange system. Chicken and egg. So long as there is utility in buying Bitcoins as a payment mechanism, the dollar value will be underpinned by the production cost. If you are buying something (or paying a ransom) the cost is actually in dollars. You don't care what the exchange rate is, Bitcoin is no different to a Western Union money transfer. You dollars get converted to some bits somewhere, and your money pops out for the recipient somewhere else. It matters not to you if a Bitcoin is worth 0.000001$ or a billion dollars. But whilst there is utility in the trade there will be a price, and since they cost $xxx to make, the trade will tend to reflect that cost.
If you are somehow wedded to the idea that either Bitcoin is the way of the future, or simply that they have generally increased in value over time, you may pay more for them as you are now speculating on them. Much like any commodity. That level of sentiment will tend to increase the value - whilst it lasts.

As you say, once any of those basics is gone, the circular logic of its value vanishes. Once production ceases everyone holding onto Bitcoin has simply Bitcoins. ...
I mostly agree with most of your several posts' collective POV. Ref the above snip, here's a quibble / request for further elaboration on a nuance point.

Ref https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bitcoin#Supply the current supply of Bitcoins is ~16M of the eventual 21M limit. So in terms of volume we're about 80% of the way to the end of mining. But (something I just learned) the difficulty of mining new coins is designed to increase exponentially such that it's expected (planned?) to be another 100+ years until the last possible Bitcoin is mined. So measured in time we're just 8 years into a 100-130 year journey to the end of mining.


Those facts lead to these tentative conclusions / questions:

1. In the very early days when they were few, the prices were strongly floored by the marginal cost of mining. As you say. But conversely, now that there are a lot of them in existence, the price could collapse to, e.g. 50% of the current cost of mining. Pretty quickly the mining operations would be idled because they'd be unprofitable. But that mining stoppage in and of itself does not automatically spell the end of Bitcoin as either a speculative commodity or as a medium of transaction.

ISTM your base contention that current price >= current cost of new production * speculative sentiment depends crucially on the newest coins being a material fraction of the total. That's not true today and will be increasingly untrue going forward.

IOW, given a large enough existing supply, the presence or absence of mining doesn't actually alter the floor price. And hence doesn't affect the price at all.


2. I knew mining was intended to get more difficult over time before becoming mathematically impossible. I had not realized the decline was that slow and the end so far out. So we're not looking at a brick wall transition from "material mining every day" to "zero mining". Rather mining slowly, very very slowly, becomes an ever smaller factor in the Bitcoin universe.

So the fraction of economic activity within the Bitcoin universe supplied by mining will likewise decline at a very gradual and exponentially decreasing rate.

IMO that argues that this thought becomes invalid at the limit:
current price >= current cost of new production * speculative sentiment so when new production = 0 the formula predicts zero value.
IOW, practically speaking, the formula ceases to apply years or decades before we get to the "anything times zero is zero" anomaly.

Markets hate surprises. Markets dislike abrupt changes, even ones that are well-known well in advance. Markets are real good at absorbing slow gradual change. Especially change that's extremely predictable long in advance.

Tentative bottom line: the end of mining will be a non-event of negligible significance to the Bitcoin universe.

Aside: the odds on Bitcoin living the necessary hundred years to see the end of mining are IMO very, very low. But if it does survive that long, even as only a very niche product, the end of mining won't be a watershed event for the price/exchange rate.

Thoughts?
  #109  
Old 07-15-2017, 07:53 AM
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Thoughts?
Here's what I think is the primary factor propping up the value of bitcoin.

Most of the bitcoins that were mined have never been spent (and may have been lost). So the actual pool of liquid cryptocurrency is small.

Bitcoin is volatile and has no inherent value. So the primary reason to buy bitcoin is not because you are 'storing' your money. It's because you have a specific thing you want to buy and you're trying to reduce how much evidence there is tying you to the transaction. This was the reason bitcoins are over $1000 a coin. An illegal site called 'alphabay' where apparently you could purchase 'drugs, stolen credit cards, and other contraband' on a large scale.

So here's the reason bitcoin has value. In order for someone to make a purchase from alphabay (or the sites before and after it), they have to buy bitcoins, and there is a limited pool of bitcoins actually in circulation. Most are hoarded or lost. So the market price goes up. Now, an illegal transaction isn't instant. Once the purchaser of illegal goods has the bitcoins in hand, he shops, ebay-like, on the online market and buys whatever. The coins go to the coffers of the drug market now and are kept 'in escrow'. These markets have reputation systems as it's in their best interest for people to get the unlawful goods they paid for.

After the illegal goods arrive, and the buyer confirms it, the coins are taken from the drug market's accounts and paid to the seller. The seller then uses some anonymized method of converting the coins to cash and the coins now have returned to the pool of coins available to be purchased again.

Sometimes, large numbers of coins are stolen, and the thieves have to anonymize (launder) the stolen coins before they can sell them. This takes time. Sometimes, hackers demand a ransom be paid in bitcoins, and similarly there is a holding time by the hackers after they receive their ransom before they sell.

These 'holding times' are what give bitcoins value. If you think about it, reducing the holding times would mean that more unlawful transactions could be performed using a smaller number of bitcoins. This would act to lower the price of bitcoins. Tomorrow, someone might rob an online market again of a few hundred million in bitcoins but then be shot and their wallet file password is lost. This would permanently remove those coins from circulation and would raise the price of bitcoin.

While in the early days, there were legitimate users of bitcoin who were experimenting with the concept (you may have heard of people buying pizza with it, etc), for another reason the per transaction fee is now about $1. More than legitimate forms of payment now. Plus bitcoin has no protection against fraud. So at this point only a total zealot/moron would use bitcoin for legitimate purposes, I would assume that at least 99% of transactions now are related to crime.

Because of that, eventually I expect a crackdown. Eventually, lawful governments are going to declare that buying or selling bitcoin is in itself a crime, a felony worthy of federal prison time, and bitcoin will collapse from a lack of people using it.

Last edited by SamuelA; 07-15-2017 at 07:55 AM.
  #110  
Old 07-15-2017, 08:38 AM
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This thread may be getting too focussed on Bitcoin, but, just to expand on what Francis Vaughan wrote, the ultimate steady state of Bitcoin is that there exist a fixed number of coins, and nobody can generate new ones. Ever. (You can still destroy coins if you wish.)
which means it's "deflationary," encouraging hoarding and not spending.
  #111  
Old 07-15-2017, 09:16 AM
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I mostly agree with most of your several posts' collective POV. Ref the above snip, here's a quibble / request for further elaboration on a nuance point.
...
So measured in time we're just 8 years into a 100-130 year journey to the end of mining.
...

Those facts lead to these tentative conclusions / questions:

1. In the very early days when they were few, the prices were strongly floored by the marginal cost of mining. As you say. But conversely, now that there are a lot of them in existence, the price could collapse to, e.g. 50% of the current cost of mining.
I suspect that this is actually what will happen. Mining will become unprofitable, even in the face of the speculative margin that props up the current value does, and as you say..
Quote:
Pretty quickly the mining operations would be idled because they'd be unprofitable.
However IMHO the entire edifice won't survive once the prices stall.

Quote:
ISTM your base contention that current price >= current cost of new production * speculative sentiment depends crucially on the newest coins being a material fraction of the total. That's not true today and will be increasingly untrue going forward.
Which may mean we are already past the tipping point where it all unravels.
Quote:
IOW, given a large enough existing supply, the presence or absence of mining doesn't actually alter the floor price. And hence doesn't affect the price at all.
Assuming there is some other economic driver that keeps the system alive. It is common to think one is making money in a rising market. Back in the days of "greed is good" we heard all about "wealth creation" which was nothing but speculative gains on worthless stock. Bitcoin is held up by a religion that this will make the players rich, or immune to governments, or both. They have a microcosm, where by their own internal metric they are rich, and they make continue to make money by mining.

Quote:
Rather mining slowly, very very slowly, becomes an ever smaller factor in the Bitcoin universe.
However, as you note, it will squeeze miners, and once it becomes uneconomical, it becomes hard for anyone to stay mining for any reason other than a religious belief. Moore's Law has been a big part of the continued mining. But the speed possible is topping out. Arrays of FPGAs or even ASICs are not getting much faster. And the power needed has never been part of Moore's Law.

Quote:
IMO that argues that this thought becomes invalid at the limit:
current price >= current cost of new production * speculative sentiment so when new production = 0 the formula predicts zero value.
IOW, practically speaking, the formula ceases to apply years or decades before we get to the "anything times zero is zero" anomaly.
I regard it as a singularity. Once the production stalls, there is no useful way of predicting the value. IMHO, once the value becomes unstable it only has one direction to go, and the incentive for owners for Bitcoin to cash out to retrieve some small percentage of their value will drive the rate into the ground very quickly.

Quote:
Markets hate surprises. Markets dislike abrupt changes, even ones that are well-known well in advance. Markets are real good at absorbing slow gradual change. Especially change that's extremely predictable long in advance.
Stable markets can absorb slow change. But I don't think Bitcoin is stable - not in the sense that it can sustain perturbation. The volatility of the price of a Bitcoin certainly suggests a lack of internal stability. The human habit of panicking and selling out has driven even the more stable markets into instability really quickly, and then even for markets of things that have a clear intrinsic value.

Of course this is all IMHO. However history is replete with money making schemes, and they all fail, so history isn't on the side of the Bitcoin enthusiasts.
  #112  
Old 07-15-2017, 10:02 AM
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I suspect that this is actually what will happen. Mining will become unprofitable, even in the face of the speculative margin that props up the current value does, and as you say..

However IMHO the entire edifice won't survive once the prices stall.

Which may mean we are already past the tipping point where it all unravels.

Assuming there is some other economic driver that keeps the system alive.
Read my post above. I already assume mining is almost meaningless at this point, and the current value is being propped for a different reason (delay times in escrow for black market transactions). Also, each bittcoin transaction now pays the miners a fee of about $1.

Last edited by SamuelA; 07-15-2017 at 10:02 AM.
  #113  
Old 07-15-2017, 11:23 AM
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Yeah, delay times are an interesting thought.
The $1 is still paid in Bitcoin, not real money, so the question will also be whether it is possible to maintain the blockchain cost effectively. If there is enough black market stuff going on it may stave off the time of the collapse, but I really doubt it is enough to avoid it.
  #114  
Old 07-15-2017, 12:38 PM
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Yeah, delay times are an interesting thought.
The $1 is still paid in Bitcoin, not real money,
You just made a serious cognitive error there. You made a second one in assuming the miners have to find bitcoins or they will all quit. If every transaction pumps 1 real dollar (and yes, it's a real dollar, read some economics books and work it out) to the miners, a smaller number of miners will remain mining. The mining system's main purpose is actually to act like a voting system for verifying blockchain transactions. As long as a big enough pool remains such that 1 group doesn't control a majority of the hashing power (which would give them the ability to falsify transactions), bitcoin continues to work. I don't expect bitcoin to last forever, either, but the reasons you gave are not what would bring it down. The price of bitcoins is determined by supply and demand, and the demand is from black market buyers. Mining is completely irrelevant to determining the price of bitcoin, save the effect of mining reducing that price slightly.

Last edited by SamuelA; 07-15-2017 at 12:41 PM.
  #115  
Old 07-15-2017, 12:52 PM
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I do not pretend to be well-informed about Bitcoin in specific. I'm mostly applying undergraduate & MBA economics to an academic case of a generic money. Plus some quick wiki/Google on Bitcoin specifics.

SamualA's idea that the free float is much smaller than it seems is really a game-changer here. If indeed coins have been lost or stolen then abandoned in serious material quantity we're in a very different state of play. As well, if that trend continues or accelerates it would be hugely influential on the spot price for Bitcoin.

Given the extreme friction in the slow clunky trade flow of dollars to buyer's bitcoin to (e.g.) drug order to escrow to drug delivery to de-escrow to dollars again, the only way a smallish number of coins can support a largish dollar volume of drug sales is if the value of a single coin is huge.

This is essentially the same phenomenon as why the US wants to stop making $100 bills and wishes the EU would stop making $500s. When the bad guys need to move cash by the railroad carload just to handle a single day's take, the authorities made their life harder.


There is one other economic factor outside the contraband (mostly illegal drugs) economy.

If indeed there's a big business in China using bitcoin as a way to evade capital controls, that might A) swamp the Bitcoin drug trade, and B) survive efforts by western authorities to stomp out the drug trade. Plenty of US capitalists and defense hawks think massive Chinese capital flight in spite of the CCP's attempts at capital controls is just, well, a capital idea.

Much as we saw during the "privatization" of the former Soviet Union into the hands of the Oligarchs, politics can make some serious economic insanity very profitable. Who cares how much you waste when you're getting it for 2 cents on the dollar?

Last edited by LSLGuy; 07-15-2017 at 12:54 PM.
  #116  
Old 07-15-2017, 01:00 PM
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Late add ahead of the Chinese politics section:

If we assume the demand for drugs is inelastic (it mostly is) and we assume alternative drug trade money-moving systems are rare = barriers to alternatives entering that industry are high, then Bitcoin will survive even another MtGox event which would otherwise be fatal to trust in a more conventional currency as (even a temporary) store of value.

IOW: It's the only game in town. Drugsters got use it.

Imagine the money to be made by A) owning a bunch of Bitcoin, then B) arranging for a large stash of somebody else's Bitcoin to be lost forever. Like 5 or 15% of the free float. Instant 2 or 4 or 10x on your money. Kinda like the Hunt brothers' attempt to corner the silver market. But moreso.

One "nice" thing about markets run of, by, and for crooks. You can count on lots of unexpected and unscrupulous events.

Last edited by LSLGuy; 07-15-2017 at 01:02 PM.
  #117  
Old 07-15-2017, 01:37 PM
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I'm not sure how many people in this thread realize that Bitcoin allows senders to voluntarily add a transaction fee to be given to the miner. The primary flow of funds goes to the intended receiver's account, but a side payment can be added that would flow to the miner as a reward for the necessary service.

Right now, miners receive their reward in the form of newly "minted" Bitcoin, not explicit transaction fees. But even when that reward of brand new money vanishes, after all possible Bitcoin has been minted by the algorithm, there could still be incentive to mine based on these transaction fees. As long as payments to miners are believed to exceed the opportunity cost of hashing all those transactions, there would be no shortage of miners willing to do the work.

The limit on total Bitcoin doesn't mean miners won't be paid.



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Not in the sense we use it in the operating world of the investment and finance. The real asset is the physical asset.
I appreciate the distinction that financial professionals draw between real vs financial assets (as well as intangible vs intangible assets).

However, in the posts I was criticizing earlier, there was no adherence to standard financial terminology. This would be totally fine by me, as long as the arguments were logically consistent. But I do not believe that such was the case.
  #118  
Old 07-15-2017, 02:03 PM
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Vice had a recent article about Bitcoin mining in China:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K8kua5B5K3I
  #119  
Old 07-15-2017, 04:29 PM
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...
I appreciate the distinction that financial professionals draw between real vs financial assets (as well as intangible vs intangible assets).

However, in the posts I was criticizing earlier, there was no adherence to standard financial terminology. This would be totally fine by me, as long as the arguments were logically consistent. But I do not believe that such was the case.
Ah yes, true, true. It is a morass of confusion and misunderstanding.
  #120  
Old 02-02-2019, 11:05 AM
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Updating this thread an interesting situation in Canada:
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A cryptocurrency exchange in Canada has lost control of at least $137 million of its customers’ assets following the sudden death of its founder, who was the only person known to have access the the offline wallet that stored the digital coins. British Columbia-based QuadrigaCX is unable to access most or all of another $53 million because it’s tied up in disputes with third parties...

Following standard security practices by many holders of cryptocurrency, QuadrigaCX stored the vast majority of its cryptocurrency holdings in a “cold wallet,” meaning a digital wallet that wasn’t connected to the Internet. The measure is designed to prevent hacks that regularly drain hot wallets of millions of dollars (Ars has reported on three such thefts here, here, and here.)

Thursday’s court filing, however, demonstrates that cold wallets are by no means a surefire way to secure digital coins. Robertson testified that Cotten stored the cold wallet on an encrypted laptop that only he could decrypt. Based on company records, she said the cold wallet stored $180 million in Canadian dollars ($137 million in US dollars), all of which is currently inaccessible to QuadrigaCX and more than 100,0000 customers.
https://arstechnica.com/information-...-to-the-grave/
  #121  
Old 02-02-2019, 11:24 AM
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Updating this thread an interesting situation in Canada:...
How bizarre. There seem to be two layers to this fiasco. In principle, any kind of valuable proprietary information could be lost through such idiocy. But it seems to be that fact that bitcoin hot wallets are so vulnerable that motivated the idiotic "so secure nobody can get to it" setup. Have other cryptocurrencies addressed this vulnerability?
  #122  
Old 02-02-2019, 11:28 AM
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Updating this thread an interesting situation in Canada:

https://arstechnica.com/information-...-to-the-grave/
That article says that "she said the cold wallet stored $180 million in Canadian dollars", but that seems doubtful- there were probably just bitcoins and what not.

That someone's important corporate laptop cannot be accessed without his password is normal and by design, but entrusting full and exclusive control of your business's critical digital assets to one guy who, at any moment, could steal them or get hit by a bus makes little sense.

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Have other cryptocurrencies addressed this vulnerability?
It's not a vulnerability; that is also by design. You cannot decrypt the secret message without the private key. If you need to share control of the secret information then you can certainly do so cryptographically (this is a general thing that has nothing to do with currency specifically).

Last edited by DPRK; 02-02-2019 at 11:31 AM.
  #123  
Old 02-02-2019, 11:55 AM
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If only there was some sort of central agency that establish industry best practices for secure control of these things,l by digital exchanges, and enforce them by something, call them, oh I don't know - laws, maybe?

And possibly even have the digital exchanges contribute to a deposit insurance system of some sort, to compensate innocent customers who could otherwise get wiped out by theft or gross negligence by the cryptocurrency holders?

Too pie-in-the-sky and unworkable, I guess.
  #124  
Old 02-02-2019, 12:05 PM
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What is the endgame of cryptocurrencies?


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Originally Posted by DPRK View Post
That someone's important corporate laptop cannot be accessed without his password is normal and by design, but entrusting full and exclusive control of your business's critical digital assets to one guy who, at any moment, could steal them or get hit by a bus makes little sense.

Help me understand, please.

They stored the bitcoins off-line, because they were afraid if they were on-line, they'd get hacked.

Right, but to store off-line, doesn't that mean it all has to be in one off-line computer? If you have something that holds over $100,000,000 in other people's money, you need to take extraordinary security steps to protect it.

It's not just like making sure there's one other person who knows the password. You have to protect that physical doo-dad (laptop or whatever) as if it's worth $100,000,000.

You can't just treat it like a home laptop. If your house burns; if you have it in your car and get in a serious accident; if you just accidentally lose it; there's so many ways it could be destroyed.

It should be in a bank vault somewhere, to protect your customers' assets. If you don't do that, you're grossly negligent.

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  #125  
Old 02-02-2019, 01:21 PM
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It's not a vulnerability; that is also by design. You cannot decrypt the secret message without the private key...
??? I meant the vulnerability of hot wallets to hacking.
  #126  
Old 02-02-2019, 01:36 PM
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Help me understand, please.

They stored the bitcoins off-line, because they were afraid if they were on-line, they'd get hacked.

Right, but to store off-line, doesn't that mean it all has to be in one off-line computer? If you have something that holds over $100,000,000 in other people's money, you need to take extraordinary security steps to protect it.

It's not just like making sure there's one other person who knows the password. You have to protect that physical doo-dad (laptop or whatever) as if it's worth $100,000,000.

You can't just treat it like a home laptop. If your house burns; if you have it in your car and get in a serious accident; if you just accidentally lose it; there's so many ways it could be destroyed.

It should be in a bank vault somewhere, to protect your customers' assets. If you don't do that, you're grossly negligent.
A simple way (not necessarily the best way, but much better than what they apparently did) to do it would be to have, say, 5 trustees, and accessing the off-line assets requires any 3 of them to act in concert.

If one of them dies, or goes rogue, or just has a hardware failure or their laptop stolen, that is no problem as long as a majority is still available to regenerate the shared secret.
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Old 02-02-2019, 01:43 PM
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??? I meant the vulnerability of hot wallets to hacking.
Sorry; I misunderstood. If a "hot wallet" means an automated on-line trading program has access to it, that does seem like a single point of vulnerability to hackers. What do traditional currency trading platforms do to mitigate such risk? Besides obvious things like separating the system exposed to the Internet from the system that submits irreversible transactions to settle accounts.
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Old 02-02-2019, 02:30 PM
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You can't just treat it like a home laptop. If your house burns; if you have it in your car and get in a serious accident; if you just accidentally lose it; there's so many ways it could be destroyed.

It should be in a bank vault somewhere, to protect your customers' assets. If you don't do that, you're grossly negligent.
Yep. It was the equivalent of setting up "Grandpa's Bank" and holding cash in the tool shed out back. In other words: dumb.

Or, alternatively, that is just the story being told and the assets are available to whoever took them (and possibly killed the founder???).
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Old 02-02-2019, 02:32 PM
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So who are the trustees? Is there transparency, so the people who are entrusting their bitcoins to them know who had control of their assets? Are they bonded, in case three if decide to make off with the $100,000,000?
  #130  
Old 02-02-2019, 02:33 PM
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What is the endgame of cryptocurrencies?


Technical question: would they need to be able to access this off-line storage thing on a daily basis, to provide service to their clients?

Last edited by Northern Piper; 02-02-2019 at 02:34 PM.
  #131  
Old 02-02-2019, 03:20 PM
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Technical question: would they need to be able to access this off-line storage thing on a daily basis, to provide service to their clients?
I can't answer that question, but if you are interested, this article describes how Coinbase handles these same issues. In summary, they have redundancy for off line servers as well as encrypted hardcopy backups of keys stored in safe deposit boxes etc.

https://blockonomi.com/is-coinbase-safe
  #132  
Old 02-02-2019, 03:30 PM
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Or, alternatively, that is just the story being told and the assets are available to whoever took them (and possibly killed the founder???).
I strongly suspect that the death of the founder is part of a scam and the founder is not dead he just ran off with people's money.

But the fact that there are lots of exchanges used by people to process crypto currency transactions and store their cyrpto currencies means that crypto currencies are not solving any issues with current money. The main point of crypto currencies is to allow people to exchange money without the need for things like banks or credit card companies. But currently crypto currencies don't work for that so exchanges have popped up to replace banks and credit card companies.
  #133  
Old 02-02-2019, 04:25 PM
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Metal coins I suppose have an intrinsic scrap value, but not typically anything like their face value.
The notable exception.
  #134  
Old 02-02-2019, 05:12 PM
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For that matter, why was anyone storing wealth in bitcoins controlled by someone else? The whole point of bitcoin is that you can store them yourself, without having to trust anyone else. If you're going to make use of a third party financial institution, why not just use a regular bank?
  #135  
Old 02-02-2019, 05:26 PM
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For that matter, why was anyone storing wealth in bitcoins controlled by someone else? The whole point of bitcoin is that you can store them yourself, without having to trust anyone else. If you're going to make use of a third party financial institution, why not just use a regular bank?
The idea isnt to "store wealth"- the idea is to invest in Bitcoins and take advantage of the market fluctuations.
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Old 02-02-2019, 08:03 PM
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Getting back to the very first posts, I'm not seeing the argument for lower transaction costs for bitcoin.

To use it, you need to have a certain degree of computer literacy and computer equipment. That's not the case with cash or debit cards.

And, at some point, if you want to convert your bitcoin into something that non-bitcoiners will accept (i.e. - pretty much all of the economy), you need some sort of conversion mechanism, which is not needed for cash or debit cards.

If someone owes me $1,000 and says "will you take hundreds or twenties?", it's easy-peasy - I'll take Queenies or Robert L. without question.

If someone offers to pay me in bitcoins, my answer is "whut?" I don't think I'm out of the ordinary on this point.
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Old 02-02-2019, 08:15 PM
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Well, OK, then, investing, or speculating, or whatever you want to call it. But you can do any of those things without having to trust someone else to hold the bitcoins for you. You're basically giving your money to some random guy on the Internet, just because he pinky-swears that he'll give it back to you when you ask. Why would anyone be surprised when he doesn't?
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Old 02-02-2019, 08:46 PM
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Hmm. So it seems like a secure, stable currency that's relatively immune to hacks, widely accepted, stable in value, and doesn't have the "grandpa's dead!" problem would be something like...the US dollar? Or the Euro?

The whole conversation proves that bitcoin is really just a speculative investment.

Last edited by TSBG; 02-02-2019 at 08:46 PM.
  #139  
Old 02-02-2019, 10:26 PM
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Well, OK, then, investing, or speculating, or whatever you want to call it. But you can do any of those things without having to trust someone else to hold the bitcoins for you. You're basically giving your money to some random guy on the Internet, just because he pinky-swears that he'll give it back to you when you ask. Why would anyone be surprised when he doesn't?
You pretty much have to use a Bitcoin exchange in order to buy & sell large amounts of Bitcoins, while speculating.

It's a little like a stock exchange. While it is possible to sell a share or two without going thru a exchange or broker, you pretty much need one .
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Old 02-03-2019, 04:01 AM
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The Bank of International Settlements has a amusing graphic, which the Alpha Ville blog of the Financial Times has published that indeed makes these points, that the blockchain structure is solution looking for a problem... (that is it unless you are of the paranoid libertarian point-of-view that is ideologically favoring no central coordination for its own paranoid sake, the conceptual system is one structurally ineffecient).
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Old 02-03-2019, 07:32 AM
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OK, so you use the exchange to buy and sell bitcoins, no problem. But if I were to buy a bitcoin, I would expect to get a bitcoin. The owners of that $100,000,000 worth of bitcoins didn't get bitcoins; they just got a pinky swear from someone that he would take care of their bitcoins for them.
  #142  
Old 02-03-2019, 08:25 AM
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While I think the bitcoin thing is dumb and founded on an enormous misunderstanding of finance and economics, the holding issue isn't really that unusual, Chronos.

It's possible these days to buy gold in large quantities. But what you GET when you do so is a certificate that you own, say, 10 pounds of gold held in bank XYZ located in NYC or London or whatever. Generally, you don't actually take possession of the gold itself. So the model of bitcoin 'holders' isn't that far off the reservation.
  #143  
Old 02-03-2019, 09:04 AM
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While I think the bitcoin thing is dumb and founded on an enormous misunderstanding of finance and economics, the holding issue isn't really that unusual, Chronos.

It's possible these days to buy gold in large quantities. But what you GET when you do so is a certificate that you own, say, 10 pounds of gold held in bank XYZ located in NYC or London or whatever. Generally, you don't actually take possession of the gold itself. So the model of bitcoin 'holders' isn't that far off the reservation.
Except those intermediaries you buy gold through are regulated and subject to audit. Thatís a big difference.
  #144  
Old 02-03-2019, 12:50 PM
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OK, so you use the exchange to buy and sell bitcoins, no problem. But if I were to buy a bitcoin, I would expect to get a bitcoin. The owners of that $100,000,000 worth of bitcoins didn't get bitcoins; they just got a pinky swear from someone that he would take care of their bitcoins for them.
You can store them on some service, or you can store them locally in a wallet or even just on paper. The choice is primarily based on convenience and trust (that the chosen mechanism will have a low chance of problems).

I'm guessing, for many, that the "trust" analysis is substantially based on incomplete information.
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Old 02-03-2019, 01:29 PM
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I strongly suspect that the death of the founder is part of a scam and the founder is not dead he just ran off with people's money.
If QuadrigaCX (or someone with the appropriate password) starts spending those Bitcoins, will it be apparent from the blockchain? Visible only to supersleuths? Not visible at all?
  #146  
Old 02-03-2019, 01:40 PM
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While I think the bitcoin thing is dumb and founded on an enormous misunderstanding of finance and economics, the holding issue isn't really that unusual, Chronos.

It's possible these days to buy gold in large quantities. But what you GET when you do so is a certificate that you own, say, 10 pounds of gold held in bank XYZ located in NYC or London or whatever. Generally, you don't actually take possession of the gold itself. So the model of bitcoin 'holders' isn't that far off the reservation.
Yes, and it's a little more than a pinky swear, but Chronos has adeptly spotted the issue that many investors have failed to see.
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Old 02-03-2019, 01:49 PM
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Plus, the reason that you have people hold onto your gold for you is that gold is heavy and hard to ship around and easy to steal. You can't just e-mail a bar of gold.
  #148  
Old 02-03-2019, 01:56 PM
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For that matter, why was anyone storing wealth in bitcoins controlled by someone else? The whole point of bitcoin is that you can store them yourself, without having to trust anyone else. If you're going to make use of a third party financial institution, why not just use a regular bank?
I see three reasons someone would want to own bitcoins rather than have money in a regular bank: investment, ideology, and anonymity. Those are valid reasons, even if using bitcoin for any of those might seem foolish to most of us.

I think the reasons why centralized exchanges, or de facto banks, became necessary for bitcoin despite one of its primary goals being to avoid centralization are:

1. Keeping track of your own bitcoins (or wallet) has its own risks, and is perceived as being difficult.
2. Converting bitcoin to US dollars or other currency requires trust, so exchanges are needed.
3. Very few people actually use bitcoin to buy anything.

There are many news articles about people losing millions of dollars worth of bitcoins because they threw away a computer, or had a hard drive fail. Most people don't have a good computer backup strategy, and it's easy to forget a password. We are used to trusting financial institutions, and only have a vague idea of what types of protections the regulations provide us, and that those regulations don't apply to cryptocurrency exchanges. When a non-savvy person decides to buy some bitcoins, they evaluate the risk of losing it if they have a problem with their computer, versus the risk of a bitcoin "bank" losing it. They think the bank has a much higher stake in utilizing proper backups and security, so they trust them. Even if it's just some random guy on the internet. That random guy has thousands of customers and millions in assets, so they must be doing something right.

There's also the fact that to even convert your dollars to bitcoin you most likely had to go through an exchange in the first place. It's easier to leave the bitcoin where it is, rather than research how to install a wallet and transfer your bitcoin back out of the exchange. Most people will probably be thinking that they are just going to convert it back to dollars anyway, so why go through the hassle?

I don't speak from experience, because I haven't owned a bitcoin or plan to, but from what I've read actually using bitcoin isn't very intuitive. You have a wallet, which is basically just a program to manage your addresses and keys. That wallet generates something like a hundred addresses. The goal is to use a different address for each transaction to help keep things anonymous. Each address will have its own balance, and you can generate more addresses or consolidate as you see fit (but consolidation will incur a transaction fee and remove some of the anonymity). These addresses are just numbers, and each has its own private key that the wallet manages. If you lose the password to the wallet, or it gets corrupted, your bitcoins are gone.

To send money to someone you need the recipient to give you their address, which again is just a bunch of numbers, and you have to go to your wallet, choose one of your addresses or combination that has enough to cover it, plus the transaction fee, and have your wallet generate the transaction to send to the network. Using an exchange for transactions hides a lot of the complexity.

That's a lot of hassle and worry to go through if I just want to buy a loaf a bread. In addition, transaction fees have been high in the past. Someone in this thread back in 2017 said transaction fees were at $1. It's currently $0.10, but in January it peaked at almost $0.40. If I want to buy a loaf a bread, that's more than my credit card is charging for the transaction.

For a cryptocurrency to gain widespread use for actually buying things the usability and transaction cost problems will need to be solved. It's a bit of a chicken or egg problem. If bitcoin isn't really being used to buy things there's little reason for people not to just leave the money in the "bank".

TLDR: Many cryptocurrency owners don't really care about the ideology behind decentralization enough to overcome the technical challenges.
  #149  
Old 02-03-2019, 03:06 PM
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If only there was some sort of central agency that establish industry best practices for secure control of these things,l by digital exchanges, and enforce them by something, call them, oh I don't know - laws, maybe?

And possibly even have the digital exchanges contribute to a deposit insurance system of some sort, to compensate innocent customers who could otherwise get wiped out by theft or gross negligence by the cryptocurrency holders?

Too pie-in-the-sky and unworkable, I guess.
I feel a little sorry for bitcoin owners who had their bitcoins in exchanges like QuadrigaCX or MtGox and lost their money, but really not all that sorry. I said in my previous post that those who kept their bitcoins in exchanges didn't care about the ideology of decentralization, but what the core bitcoin believers really care about is deregulation. If you buy into an investment, with everyone else buying that investment having an ethos of "buyer beware", and then you weren't aware enough to not trust some guy on the internet, then you kind of deserved it. That may be blaming the victim, and QuadrigaCX is certainly who to blame in this case, but anyone investing in financial instruments should at least educate themselves a little about who they are giving their money to.

That's why we have regulation. To protect us, at least a little, from fraud or negligence. It's almost like we as a society have learned something over thousands of years. In this case, with bitcoin, many people are reassured that because the blockchain itself (it's math!) insures trust between untrusted parties, that anything having to do with it is therefor trusted by default.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Northern Piper View Post
Help me understand, please.

They stored the bitcoins off-line, because they were afraid if they were on-line, they'd get hacked.

Right, but to store off-line, doesn't that mean it all has to be in one off-line computer? If you have something that holds over $100,000,000 in other people's money, you need to take extraordinary security steps to protect it.

It's not just like making sure there's one other person who knows the password. You have to protect that physical doo-dad (laptop or whatever) as if it's worth $100,000,000.

You can't just treat it like a home laptop. If your house burns; if you have it in your car and get in a serious accident; if you just accidentally lose it; there's so many ways it could be destroyed.

It should be in a bank vault somewhere, to protect your customers' assets. If you don't do that, you're grossly negligent.
I think you understand this just fine. Having an off-line (cold) store is a good security practice. Having only one person with access, or one physical copy which could easily become inaccessible is a horrible, negligent practice. Any information security professional, or indeed anyone with any common sense, could see how this could go horribly wrong. The fact that QuadrigaCX did this with millions of dollars of customers' money is inexcusable. This is indeed why we have laws.

Quote:
Originally Posted by gazpacho View Post
I strongly suspect that the death of the founder is part of a scam and the founder is not dead he just ran off with people's money.

But the fact that there are lots of exchanges used by people to process crypto currency transactions and store their cyrpto currencies means that crypto currencies are not solving any issues with current money. The main point of crypto currencies is to allow people to exchange money without the need for things like banks or credit card companies. But currently crypto currencies don't work for that so exchanges have popped up to replace banks and credit card companies.
There's a more in-depth article than the Ars Technica one at: https://www.coindesk.com/quadriga-cr...tection-filing. It includes more details and the affidavit that all the details are based on.

It seems the owner died of Crohnís disease in India. That does sound like conspiracy theory fodder, but they included a death certificate so he's probably really dead. I would think it would be fairly easy to trace the blockchain transactions to and from their cold wallet, and if you see transactions out after his reported death, or a bunch of movement shortly before, everyone would know something isn't right.
  #150  
Old 02-03-2019, 06:29 PM
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Interesting comments - thanks all.

A couple of things that occurred to me as I was reading.

One is, as others pointed out, calling this a "currency" isn't really accurate. It behaves more like an e-security, where people invest in it for speculative purposes.

Over time, my guess is that the policy of government regulation of securities is going to be applied to these crypto-currency "banks", in response to cases like this one. Consumer protection laws don't care so much about "buyer beware". They care about regulating the conduct of people who hold large amounts of other people's valuables, whether that's money, gold, shares and bonds, or valuable bytes.

If one negligent person's death means the customers lose $180,000,000 in assets, "Regulation is coming." Libertarian ideology be damned.

The other thing I'm not quite sure about - as a practical matter, does this bitcoin bank have to have access to the "cold wallet" every day, to make transactions to the " hot wallet"? Or is it only something needed every couple of weeks or months?

In other words, could this business model work if the "cold wallet" laptop is kept in a bank vault and only taken out now and then? Or do they need to be able to access it daily?

Because if it's the latter, they need to have their own physical security system equivalent to protecting an asset worth over $100,000,000.
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