Bitcoin and alternative digital currencies (altcoins) are much more that just simple currencies–they are a means of exchange, and the entry point into the new digital economy: the cryptoeconomy. Their development represents a technological protocol for digital ownership and economic exchange. This has far reaching ramification for both the internet and money as they both evolve to create their own new economic machine totally removed from state command economies and monetary systems.
With digital currencies acting as a new sovereign monetary force, they are facilitating the growth of a radical new sector of the digital economy that is total unregulated, and removed from the onerous regulations of all state governments. This is allowing for a proliferation of specialized ‘altcoins’ which range from useless to spectacular, each which seeks to create their own specialization within this new digital economy. While many are duds and even outright scams, there is a whole new economy being built, and many of the ideas are both huge in scope, and with the impact they want to create.
Specialization, Money, and Transaction Cost
Adam Smith and David Ricardo
Adam Smith first presented the idea of specialization in Wealth of Nations. David Ricardo later expanded on this idea with his theory of comparative advantage, which is the idea that that nations should specialize in industrial production that they have distinct advantages in. Digital currencies can specialize in the same way, creating their own comparative advantage by working directly within the framework of the internet, rather then limiting themselves with anachronistic limits of state forms of money, and their laws. This, in turn, radicalizes not just money and finance, but anything to do with the internet and economics.
One of the most important economic features of bitcoin and other digital currencies is the near-zero transaction cost they have, which means that in almost all cases over an extended timetable, digital currencies will always have a lower systemic transaction cost than any form of fiat money. Thus, using bitcoin as a mode of exchange to invest in new and exciting technologies not only is quicker, cheaper, and more secure (when using appropriate security protocols!) than in the fiat economy, but also opens up a whole new world of investing opportunity that could not exist otherwise.
With digital currencies being native to the internet, unlike fiat money, they are empowered to create a totally new kind of economy which is not based on regulations and permission-seeking, but through creating totally new markets and technological opportunities. There is a plethora of new digital currencies and projects which all are using this same near-zero transaction cost to radicalize pretty much every single area of the contemporary economy through applying this technological advancement of money to their field. Each one of these project are focused on an area where the traditional economy is failing or falling short, and where a new digital version of it can change everything.
Initial Coin Offerings
Usually a public offering from a company is going to take millions of dollars, lots of legal fees, and huge amounts of regulatory oversight. The massive inefficiencies and regulatory burdens of this process has locked out most people from being able to be involved in this process, and unable to reap the massive profits that can come from high-risk investing like this. Now with the ability to raise tens of millions of dollars using cryptocurrencies, almost anyone can create a public offering for just fractions of what it once cost. The most common way of doing this with crypto at this time is through an initial coin offering (ICO).
ICO are one of the most powerful modes of investing in the cryptoeconomy. Cutting through all of the red tape of investing and assuming the risks and rewards for oneself; there are huge opportunities (and scams!) that are occurring right now in the cryptoeconomy that are going to fundamentally destroy the old economy modes, in exchange for newer and better ones. The creative destruction of cryptocurrencies is changing all of the old way of investing and economic control, and imbuing that into the digital sphere.
One of the reasons that this can be done is because of the stable store of value and the unit of accounting that bitcoin provides to these new investments. Through acting as a unit of accounting, people are able to invest directly into ICOs by sending bitcoin directly, and in some cases taking their profits in bitcoin directly too. There are also several great projects being built in the Ethereum ecosystem that are taking this same approach, with profits being paid out in Ether, the currency native to the Ethereum blockchain.
Let’s take a look at just a few of the great projects that are currently being working on in the cryptoeconomy.
I wrote a post recently about how bitcoin is the money of the internet and ethereum seeks to be the finance of the internet. I see bitcoin as being a core stable money of the internet, like gold throughout the world for most of modern history, and ethereum as being finance for the internet.
I see a lot of ‘bitcoin 2.0’ being developed with ethereum, and a lot of amazing project are being built on top of it creating ‘Dapps’ or decentralized app. These Dapps are the applications which are going to fundamentally restructure the economy. From self-driving cars that pay for themselves and take themselves to the repair shop, to drones that will drop off your tacos once you send some bitcoin, Dapps are going to change the world.
These project range from simply dice games, to robust prediction platforms, and public offerings for decentralized companies. Much of the reason for this is the simple object-oriented programing language, Solidity, that was developed for building smart contracts in Ethereum. This allows for simple smart contract to be built in a few days, rather then the few months it would take to do the same with bitcoin.
Monero in many ways is what bitcoin originally wanted to be. Using a new kind of cryptographic protocol that is different from bitcoin, Monero provides strong anonymity that ensures that users financial information, along with their personal identity is much harder to track then it is with bitcoin. For this reason, several darknet markets have recently started supporting Monero, and Monero looks like it is trying to create its own niche within the cryptoeconomy centered around true anonymity and privacy.
I personally also like that the devs of Monero are anonymous, as I cannot imagine the state would ever let someone build a cryptocurrencys like this, and not attack them directly. Overall, Monero looks like a strong privacy-centered digital currency that could one day be the privacy currency.
Augur is a Dapp, meaning that it was built on top of etheruem as a decentralized app. Augur is the first of a few different prediction market apps that seek to create a prediction platform by letting users bet on pretty much anything. You can check out more information about it here: https://www.augur.net/
There are a few different projects similar to FileCoin such as Storj and Madesafe, which are all seeking to create a decentralized storage and hosting solution for the web. These are the kinds of huge, infrastructure changing, decentralizing projects which I think can radically change the internet, and in turn society itself. While FileCoin has not had an ICO yet, both Madesafe and Storj have, and they also have small limited application of the project released. These are the sort of radical project that are creating the new cryptoeconomy.
Through creating alternative, decentralized networks that have the same functions as more expensive, centralized, state-sanctioned networks; we are creating the conditions of dual power in order to collapse the state. It is not just the market efficiency of these systems that will do this, but the very decentralized nature of them that will come to fully challenge the power of the state, and the networks they use. Each state-sanctioned network (facebook, fiat money, ISPs, exchange markets, etc.) will come to be challenged by a non-state network, and over time, simply because of the lack of onerous regulations, and the well-placed mistrust of the state; they will come to prevail over the state-sanctioned network.
The digital age is presenting the interregnum between centralized state power, and decentralized digital power. Over the course of the next decade, states will find themselves struggling more and more with the spectre of the internet and the new forms of power it has created. As states do everything in their power to try to stomp out these new decentralized networks (particularly in more extreme ways as their power is challenged), they will come to find that they do not have power in this space. They will see the destituent power of cryptosystems, and will only be able to show their powerlessness against the immanence of systems built upon the power of mathematics, rather than the wills of men.