Pirate Beachbum

Bitcoin Editor at Large

Bitcoin Bear Market Diaries Volume 13 Yves Bennaim

The Bitcoin Bear Market Diaries are a series of interviews featuring various important voices and perspectives in the Bitcoin ecosystem. Each interviewee was carefully selected and asked the same group of questions. The main goal was to provide the world with a collection of commentary and opinions on the state of the current Bitcoin and crypto market. Some of the names you will recognize while others don’t wish for the limelight but have great insight and experience we all can learn from.

These interviews are raw and unfiltered with no agenda other than giving each individual their opportunity to speak their mind. If you like what you see, please share with your friends. If something offends you, you should probably X out and find another crypto fluff piece that gives you warm fuzzies.

Yves Bennaim is a Swiss Bitcoiner who has been in the game since 2011. He is also the founder of @2B4CH, a Swiss think tank assisting private and governmental bodies in understanding Bitcoin & Blockchain technologies. You may also know him from some of his articles in both English and French.

Name

Yves Bennaïm

Country

Enjoyed digital nomadism in the 90’s, now based in Switzerland.

How do people know you?

Online, I’m @ZLOK on Twitter. Offline, I have been educating a wide variety of people and organisations on Bitcoin and Blockchain. Hopefully more French speakers will know me from my book on Bitcoin vulgarization soon too. I also chair the Swiss delegation at the ISO technical committee on Blockchain and DLT standardisation. Other people know me for starting TEDx events to Switzerland, or through Japanese cuisine, but that’s irrelevant here.

How long have you been into Bitcoin?

Fell into the rabbit hole in June 2011 when Gawker published their infamous Silk Road article (https://gawker.com/the-underground-website-where-you-can-buy-any-drug-imag-30818160). Then, I came across the blog post published just two days earlier by Falkvinge, in which he explained why he planned to invest all his savings into Bitcoin (https://falkvinge.net/2011/05/29/why-im-putting-all-my-savings-into-bitcoin/). I was not looking to buy nor sell illegal drugs and I’m not a fan of his, but all the pieces of a solid ecosystem puzzle seemed to fall in place and I started getting a déjà-vu of the Internet in the mid-90’s. I felt it would either collapse catastrophically (by a global government crackdown or a fatal tech flaw) or be a major change to stay for the very long term.

Best Bitcoin experience?

Cliché answer: all of it. Everyday brings one new popcorn event after the next. Heros become villains, what you took for granted gets suddenly kicked out by what you would not have been able to predict the day before. The more you follow what’s happening and learn, the more you realise you are missing important stuff. It’s incredible, think about it: something that didn’t exist 10 years ago and came out of nowhere from an anonymous character, and feels like a sci-fi soap opera, is turning upside down everything we know.

The crazy thing is that almost nobody on Earth understands or cares about it yet (proportionally to the vast majority of the planet, Bitcoin Twitter is really a handful of people). And even among those who are paying attention, and learn about it, most don’t realise how immense and deep the repercussion of this revolution are going to go.

I personally see it like the evolution of the Industrial Revolution converging with the evolution of the Internet. Machines enabled automation, mass production, and changed everything about society, from demographic distribution to urbanism, to health standard to education systems. One part of it led to the development of computers and computer networks. Which in turn changed the way we communicate, access information, commerce, locally and internationally.

The Internet also started the beginning of the end of Nation-States, which we also take for granted even though it’s a relatively recent concept. Now that the line between digital and physical has been blurred by Uber and AirBnB among others, and GAFAM are basically behaving like independent stateless nations, it only makes sense a borderless, independent, and purely digital system of value takes over our very clumsy USD-centric trust-based global system.

But to answer the question a little more straight forward, I guess my best Bitcoin experience was when I bought some for the first time, and I experienced the feeling of having nothing tangible to look at or to hold, yet knowing I was part of a historical moment.

Worst Bitcoin experience?

Not getting a huge stash in 2011, because I was a chicken? :)

Luckily enough, I’m extremely cautious about what could go wrong, so I never left any coins on exchanges, and therefore wasn’t affected by MtGox or BitFinex for example. Also, as I mentioned earlier, I’m not a gambler nor fundamentally greedy, so I stayed far away from BitConnect for example.

I guess my worst Bitcoin experience has been the counterbalance of one of the best thing about Bitcoin, actually. The same way it gave me hope in humans to see that Satoshi built something instead of just whining and procrastinating, to see all these developments from people coming out of nowhere, for an ideology of good, rather than a stinky get-rich-quick scheme, it is quite painful to be brought back to reality, and to be disappointed by people who used to be involved in Bitcoin but segued into scams, power grabs, lies and deception… It’s a constant vicious-and-virtuous cycle though, from NYA and Bitpay’s fall came UASF and Dorier’s BTCPay.

What do you think is Bitcoin’s biggest threat?

At this stage, I don’t imagine Bitcoin failing anymore. But I also see attacks getting bigger and stronger, meaner and less ethical too, as it keeps growing. Also, small bugs will have bigger potential consequences, so there is a risk of inertia becoming heavier and heavier as we move forward.

I think the main danger will come from very elaborate FUD aiming to slow or stop mainstream adoption. For example, a conspiracy theory of mine is that some Bitcoin forks have been created to eventually crash and make people lose money, which will turn these people into the best advocate *against* Bitcoin, against crypto-anything, and especially against decentralisation. Forget the 51% attack, you can hurt Bitcoin a lot by sabotaging a confusingly-named clone which you created from scratch.

What are your thoughts on the various Bitcoin forks?

I started to address my thoughts a little bit in the previous answer. To me, they are at best altcoins playing on ignorance, greed, and confusion of gullible people. At worst, very well organized FUD attacks on Bitcoin. At this stage, nothing surprises me anymore really.

In any case, I have spent the last 20 years hearing about how “X is better than Y and will revolutionize everything”, only to see Google, Apple, Facebook, Amazon, Twitter etc slowly take over the scene and reshape it according to their own rules, without heavy pretentious pre-announcements or intellectual plagiarism. I don’t believe in “Bitcoin 2.0” or “the Bitcoin-killer” the same way I don’t think people will use “Bing” as a verb to mean “search” anytime soon.

What are you optimistic about in this space?

People in this space are truly amazing. Everyday I’m reminded that mediocracy is not a fatality. Even when it feels nothing works and everything is falling apart, I see clever and critical people explore intricacies of details to improve the system.

Biggest regret during the last bull market?

No regrets. Cycles come and go, I’m usually thinking long term and I don’t really care about bear and bull phases to be honest. I guess the more you have been in this space the less it affects you. And nor being a gambler nor a speculator helps too. Of course, if I could travel back in time I’d sell at the top and buy back at the bottom, but that is not really me anyway, even with a time machine.

What have you learned during the current bear market?

Both bull and bear are good for Bitcoin™. With fewer distractions, people have been able to work in a more quiet environment and bring amazing new stuff at every level. Bear market sometimes means regulators and media don’t take you seriously, but being under the radar also means they are not breathing down your neck not trying to stop you at every chance they get. In the long term, bull and bear are the two faces of one same coin, and they only matter for short term manipulations.

Another interesting thing about bear markets (not this one in particular, but including this one) is that it’s easier to have an intelligent conversation about the fundamentals and the value of Bitcoin, as well as the tech and the ideology and societal impacts, without the other party to focus only on price, or assume you are selling them something. Having a positive attitude towards an asset with a falling price creates more interesting conversations, in my experience.

What is the biggest fail you have seen during the bear market?

I think the split and collapse of the Wright-Ver-Wu alliance brought schadenfreude to a lot of people. It was quite entertaining but also a big waste. Oh well.

What do you think helped trigger the current bear market?

Too much enthusiasm on Bitcoin inspired and enabled charlatans to create an ICO frenzy and divert into their own pockets “investments” from greedy newcomers.

What kind of damage do you think latest price drop has done to buyer sentiment?

I don’t worry too much about “the market”, as I look at Bitcoin on a larger scale, of which price fluctuations are only a relatively small natural element, consequence of many other factors. To sum up my sentiment, I care more about “value” than “price” or “market cap”, even if they are of course interconnected.

What is interesting about these repetitions of “bubbles”, is that each cycle will erode people’s innocence a little more, while at the same time bringing them a little more experience. The market is growing at the same time individuals in it are evolving and becoming more critical. For those who want to learn from their experience, today’s “damage” is tomorrow’s maturity.

How do you feel about the current state and future of lightning network?

I’m very excited by how things are evolving. And as I mentioned earlier, this bear market allows developments to happen when everyone was asleep, not paying too much attention to the oil spills. But if I’m being completely honest, and for the sake of the argument, I feel we have fallen back into geek territory perhaps a bit too soon and too long, if we consider Lightning as “an evolution” of Bitcoin. I know it’s not, but perception from others is important too. It makes confusion (voluntarily or not) between layers 1 and 2 easier, gives arguments against LN to BCash and BCash SV FUDsters, when in reality it doesn’t affect Bitcoin’s fundamentals. The sooner we get functional fool-proof general audience *non-custodial* LN wallets (even very rudimentary), the better!

What are your thoughts on HODLing Bitcoin?

The original meaning was about “not selling” when prices were crashing, coined by someone who admitted being a bad trader. So, HODL is about understanding the long term aspect of Bitcoin.

Of course, it evolved into a meaning closer to “holding, without spending”, and I deplore the resemblance with the word “hoard”, which is a totally different thing. As I tweeted before, since when has saving become a negative behavior? Has inflation-fueled growth-dependent consumerism reach the point where someone who simply wants to keep their assets aside is called a ‘hoarder’ as if they were sick? Disposable-everything & programmed obsolescence are cancer.

To many people including me, Bitcoin has brought back the notion of “saving”. HODLing is appreciating (pun intended) the value of your assets, as opposed to considering money only as a disposable consumable.

What are you thoughts on alt-coins?

Litecoin and Dogecoin were interesting experiments. It’s important to experiment, if we want to strengthen the system. Others like Monero for example, are exploring and tinkering on aspects which will benefit Bitcoin in the future, one way or another.

The real value of altcoins in my opinion will be with the privacy enhancements and other features enabled by atomic swaps. This is why I’m not fundamentally against altcoins as such. I think there will be some that can act as a second layer.

Ethereum is a very interesting concept, and I like that it was created. I would not bet on it, nor invest my money. And definitely not build a startup business depending on it. To me, the decisive point of no-return was the creation of ETC as an alt of ETH, which I felt was very dishonest toward the whole “code is law”, and people invested in the project. The bloating issues and reliance on PoS to survive are just the last nails on a catastrophe waiting to happen.

ICO-launched tokens are scams, one way or another, even when they are not purely scam according to the dictionary definition.

Do you hold any? If not, why?

I have a few sats worth of Litecoin and Monero for experimentation purposes. When compared to Bitcoin, alts are worth less than garbage in my eyes, except for trading and playing the markets which I don’t do anyway.

What kind of impact do you think the radical drop in alt-coins will have on their future?

Let’s first separate altcoins from tokens. I think we all know ERC20 ICO tokens relying on someone else’s Blockchain are the equivalent of penny stocks and offer no value except for founders and pre-ICO investors when they dump them. The party is over, and I don’t think as many people will be ripped off again anytime soon.

For the few “legitimate” alts, with a proper concept etc, the drop in value signifies the end of the “get-rich-quick” pump and dump phase, and I guess now we will see competition and market mechanisms getting properly established. It’s the same with critical mass adoption for one instant messaging app instead of another. Those who will survive are those who provide enough value to enough people, so that they can compete with the established system (GAFAM and central banks) and with Bitcoin. This is why Facebook acquired WhatsApp, or why Google entered the mobile OS and browser businesses.

I don’t know the future, but I don’t think Ethereum will age gracefully, nor that Ripple will stay competitive in the coin scene for example. But I see Monero, whatever Telegram comes up with, and JPMcoin getting strong in their respective niches

Meanwhile, every article about anything “crypto” or “blockchain” related will continue to be illustrated with the Bitcoin logo…

Thoughts on the notion of bitcoinization?

The more I learn about Bitcoin, and the more I learn about the world in general, the more I believe it’s inevitable. But it might jump a few steps and become “invisible”, embedded into other tools and mechanisms, before we actually have a chance to see it become mainstream in its current form.

But as Bitcoin becomes more understood and better accepted, a larger concept of “bitcoinization”, with a bigger reach, could be understood more widely, to include a new approach to value, privacy, encryption, sovereignty, responsibility… In other words, Bitcoin is bringing mainstream adoption to the cypherpunks ideas.

What Bitcoin startups are you excited about?

Coinkite is often surprising and fun to follow. Trezor and Ledger obviously. Easy-to-use LN wallets like Zap and Blue. Sovereignty and plug-and-play full nodes like Nodl and Casa. Of course privacy builders like Samourai and Wasabi. And of course now Square Crypto too.

What “crypto influencers” do you think get it wrong and why?

There are a bunch of people I honestly don’t understand how they got where they are, with the cult following they drag behind them. Not going to mention names (they know who they are), but I’m looking forward to the time when their lipstick will fade off and their real persona will be exposed. In the meantime, I ignore them, as life is too short and I have enough other people to follow, information and opinions to digest, not to be bothered by egotistical auto-proclaimed leaders and self-cheerleaders.

I’m a firm believer that it’s “Bitcoin *AND* Blockchain”, obviously not “Blockchain not Bitcoin”, but not “Bitcoin not Blockchain” either. Recently, @udiWertheimer tweeted that the Blockchain should be viewed as the unavoidable “waste” generated by Bitcoin. I strongly disagree, as I see it more like a byproduct which can and will be exploited. Leaves are not the “waste” of roots, nor the opposite. Fungi are not the “waste” of plants, nor the opposite. The Bitcoin Blockchain is not radioactive waste, it is useful compost.

For this reason, I find interesting ‪@saifedean‬’s take on Bitcoin but I find it too limited and short-sighted, as it addresses only a small part of the changes about to happen.

Another side note about getting it wrong: I’m an omnivore, because I’m a reasonable human being. Anything in excess is against nature. Just saying.

What “crypto influencer” do you think get it right and why?

I like to read what @udiWertheimer, @brian_trollz, @MrHodl, @StopAndDecrypt, @DanDarkPill, @WhalePanda, @notgrubles, @piratebeachbum have to say because they have a very deep and wide understanding of tech and non-tech aspects of this scene, and are obviously convinced Bitcoiners, but they keep doubting, questioning, and attacking everything, without any fanboyism affecting their judgment.

I pay attention to anything @peterktodd and @NicolasDorier have to say because I feel we add a community are lucky to have such brilliant and generous yet humble people working on this project.

I have a lot of respect for @BrianLockhart, ‪@MediumSqueeze‬, and @jmcorgan for their “been there done that” no BS views and opinions.

I’m always interested in anything @danheld and ‪@jchervinsky‬ have to say because I find their high-level thoughts and views quite inspiring and eye-opening.

Most of what I learned from the very beginning came from @aantonop, to whom I’m forever grateful. He has gotten some backlash recently for his association with Ethereum, but I believe he’s one of the good guys and definitely a scholar in the crypto world, so I give him permanent benefit of the doubt, as long as he doesn’t become an actual active enemy of Bitcoin (which I don’t think will ever happen to be honest).

Special mention for @cryptograffiti because s/he (?) offers another very interesting and talented, original reading of all this.

Of course there are others. These are the ones from the top of my head, and I sound already too much like a kiss-ass as it is…

What’s it going to take for this bear market to turn around?

Time. That’s why we HODL, right? ;)

How bullish are you on Bitcoin despite this recent pullback?

I am confident in Bitcoin the same way I’m confident in the Internet.

Any tips you want to give to people new to Bitcoin?

Relax, it’s a marathon not a sprint. We’re living through historical times, a revolution of society and the very notions of value and information. If you are reading these words on a mobile device screen, take a second to reflect how far we got in the last couple of decades and apply it to worldwide transfer of unfalsifiable immutable valuable bits.

Also, don’t trust anyone. Do your own research and educate yourself. It’s half of the fun.

Best tips for storing Bitcoin?

The first rule of Bitcoin is “not your keys, not your coins”.

The second rule of Bitcoin is “not your keys, not your coins”.

Once this is clear, I’d recommend to get familiarised with the “5$ wrench attack” concept (https://xkcd.com/538/) and assume people are more clever and resourceful as you would assume.

Bitcoin brings back personal responsibility. It’s a tough challenge for everyone, but a very important lesson to us as humans. It brings us back to more humble and basic values, and we should feel lucky to have this opportunity.

The minimum: get a quality hardware wallet and store your seed in 2 locations separate from your wallet and from each other. Ideally Encrypted by a passphrase. Then, be creative…

Name some of your favorite information sources and/or podcasts in the space.

Twitter 24/7 obviously :/ For podcasts, the usual ones (‪Stephan Livera‬’s, Tales from the Crypt, Reckless Review, Noded…), and also “21 millions” and “Le Balado” in French. And I still have a lot to discover obviously… Also, mainstream media, to see how things are perceived outside of the echo chamber.

Any last words of wisdom?

(You think I didn’t ramble enough already?)

This is still the very early days of History being written, be mindful, pay attention, and enjoy it to the fullest.

And, again, be careful of scammers and charlatans out there. Peace.

Stay tuned for the next Bear Market Bitcoin Diaries. You can find more volumes and articles here!

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