Welcome to part three of the Surviving Crypto Winter series (check out part one and two), where I profile companies and projects that have a shot at surviving the winds of crypto winter and thriving when dreams of spring comes again. This time I profile the an entire category of projects: privacy coins.
In twenty years cash will be illegal.
The great movement to a cashless society already started years ago.
The invention of the computer made it inevitable. And governments that can’t resist peering into every aspect of our lives will make it a reality.
It’s already started in places like India. In late 2016, Prime Minister Narenda Modi suddenly banned most of the country’s currency with the stroke of a pen. It was supposed to cut down on corruption and get people paying their taxes.
Both are real problems. Only about 2% of Indian citizens pay their taxes. It’s hard to support a massive country’s infrastructure when the government can’t fill the treasury.
But instead of fixing those problems it led to massive pain and suffering that hit the poor hardest. The weak and destitute lined up at banks for days to turn in their money. Street vendors couldn’t sell their wares. The rich still dodged taxes by parking their money in easily tradable luxury goods like diamonds and jewels.
By August 2017, India had backtracked. 99% of the banned bills were back in circulation.
The Prime Minster was ahead of the curve of history. He just moved too fast. He tried to force it.
The movement to a cashless world is already happening naturally. Just look to Asia.
On a recent trip to Hong Kong, to give a talk for Blockstack at their Decentralizing the World tour, I got to use the Hong Kong Octopus card. It’s simple. Just load up a little cash at a small grocery store and you’re off and running. Touch the card to a terminal and you’ve paid. No swiping necessary. It’s beautiful.
The Octopus card started as a way to ride the metro. Tap it to get on and off as you zip around the city. But soon it spread. Stores everywhere started to accept it as an alternative to credit cards and cash.
That’s how it goes. It starts small and spreads.
More and more societies will move in this way in the coming years. Centralized digital money will stretch its tentacles into every facet of your life.
In many ways this is a good thing. It makes life easier for people when they don’t have to carry around a bunch of heavy metal coins (I’m looking at you Europe with your pocket ripping metal monsters). It streamlines payments for everything from coffee to headphones.
But there’s a dark side to this great movement of history.
All that money is centralized and censorable.
Maybe you think digital cash is basically the same as folding money?
Just as the Internet made the world a two way mirror, with surveillance as the business model, centralized digital money will put the Panopticon right in your pocket.
Your phone knows where you’re going and who your friends are and what you want to buy before you do.
Centralized digital money will know even more.
The Rise of Panopticon Money
Your entire life revolves around money.
You get your breakfast, take an Uber, snag a new set of glasses on Amazon, go to a bar.
In the future, the governments that issue that money will know all that too, as tiny AIs track and correlate all that data with superhuman efficiency.
Governments, corporations and hackers will be able to roll back the clock on your life and see a timeline of everything you ever did, everything you ever loved or hated, everywhere you ever went.
And tax collecting?
That won’t be a problem for the state anymore either.
You won’t be paying your taxes at the end of they year. You’ll be paying them around the clock, every time you do a transaction.
“Tax collection will become nothing but a script.”
Whether you’re buying a house or two bucks worth of trinkets at the local tag sale, the tax man will know about it.
Even worse, the powers that be won’t have to worry about stopping some website or local loan shark from doing business. They’ll just blacklist their ability to use money at all.
Think about that.
What if the government could just shut off the money in your pocket?
Or what if they could simply turn off the ability of the store down the street to do business with the flip of a switch?
You know the fear you feel when your credit card won’t go through at dinner in front of everyone and you have to call the bank?
Imagine that fear multiplied a thousand.
That’s how it will feel when the government can turn off your money in an instant.
Now you have to call some DMV like government organization to get your account unfrozen or you can’t buy groceries or pay your electric bill in the freezing winter or charge the car to get the kids to school, all while you wait on hold for two hours before getting disconnected and having to call in again.
Sometimes it won’t even be a cold bureaucrat on the other end of the switch. It will just be a faulty, blackbox fraud detection algorithm.
Sorry, you tripped an automatic fraud censor and it triggered a block on your digital cash. Please hold. Your call is very important to us.
In government’s paranoia over terrorism they will build all kinds of automatic triggers and blacklists into the system. Because those triggers are designed by the government, the same people who brought you the DMV and the Housing Authority, they’ll be even worse than the ones your credit card company uses to detect fraud, with false positives galore. Your money will get frozen all the time because the little algorithm on the other end didn’t know why you bought from a new online store or shopped at a gas station on Market street instead of Broadway.
And that’s just in a first world country that’s working well on multiple levels. Maybe they’re trying to prevent crime or stop the terrorists from striking fear into hearts everywhere.
But what happens when an authoritarian government gets that kind of power?
You post something they don’t like on social media or you speak up against corruption and graft or you hold an unfavorable opinion of the government and now you’re in serious trouble. A few hours later you get off work and find your money is shut down and you can’t take the bus home. Maybe the drone police are already waiting for you along your favorite route to walk, ready to spray you with an arrest net and haul you off to a sham trial?
But there’s a new hope.
One category of cryptocurrency holds the power to bring balance back to the force.
Privacy coins are anonymous, decentralized digital money. They mimic the properties of cash.
Nobody knows how or where you spend your folding cash. You go to the ATM, take out money and you can buy bubblegum or that pretty little lamp at the neighborhood yard sale and there is no record of it anywhere, unlike with a credit card.
These powerful privacy preserving coins will act as a critical bulwark against the inevitable rise of Panopticon digital money.
They may be our only hope.
Unless, of course, we want to go back to using buckskin or pepper as currency or trading cows for bales of hay.
And that’s why with my third article in the Surviving Crypto Winter series, I dig into a whole category of projects working to preserve our privacy and mimic good old fashioned folding cash in the digital world.
But I’ve Got Nothing to Hide
Before we get to the coins, it’s important to ask:
Why do we even need privacy?
Don’t we want all of our transactions to be transparent and traceable? Maybe you’re thinking “I’ve got nothing to hide. I’m not a criminal.”
Glenn Greenwald has a great Ted Talk on this very question. “I’ve got nothing to hide” is the classic defense of people who’ve thought very little about privacy and what it means.
In the talk, Greenwald says if you’ve got nothing to hide then go ahead and give me the password to your private email. Not your work email. Your private email. I will go through it every day for three months and anything that I find interesting I will just post on social media.
Still got nothing to hide?
Privacy doesn’t have anything to do with being a criminal.
None of us want our private lives aired to the world. Just as we don’t want the neighbors looking in our windows when we walk around naked and we don’t want someone eavesdropping as we whisper sweet nothings to our lover, we don’t want some cold bureaucrat or corporation anonymously monitoring every second of every day of our lives.
We all have opinions that we don’t want shared or held up to a lynch mob of angry people who don’t agree with us. No matter what your outlook on life is, there is always someone with the opposite outlook. If you’re a conservative, there are liberals, and vice versa. If you’re an environmentalist there is someone who thinks climate change is a joke. If you’re passionate about animals rights, there is someone who could care less how cattle are treated.
None of us want to face constant scrutiny from a hostile power that has a different view.
But what about the people who abuse this privacy to hide their illicit gains? Shouldn’t law enforcement have the power to stop the bad guys?
Right now, the bad guys set up a cash business like a nightclub and launder money through it. Maybe it comes in from drugs or murder and they make it seem like it came in through the club. Don’t we need to give law enforcement the extra power they need to stop this kind of thing right now?
Law enforcement already has an extensive toolkit to stop this kind of crime.
Don’t believe me?
Here’s a book on all the ways people try to hide illicit gains for law enforcement that specializes in it.
One of my closest friends is a white collar crime investigator. Believe me, he doesn’t need a bunch of new tools to find people hiding their money. He knows just where to look.
When we add these kinds of tools we basically assume everyone is a criminal by default and all we do is make more problems instead of solving them.
Take something like KYC, or Know Your Customer laws. When you sign up to trade gold or coffee or stocks on an exchange, the exchange needs you to upload an ID and a picture and they need all kinds of personal information about you, such as where you live and your phone number.
In short, they need all the information an identity thief needs to steal your identity.
And centralized entities have proven again and again and again that they can’t keep that data safe. Every other day some big central entity loses our information. Equifax lost the personal data of half of the United States, but that is just a big flashy example.
Breaches happen every day, to every major organization on Earth.
Security is hard to do. Very hard.
“In the past six years, identity thieves have stolen over $107 billion in the US” alone, says Asaf Greiner writing for Forbes.
Identity theft dwarfs all other kinds of property theft combined.
Take all the stolen cars and stolen art and liquor store robberies and add them together and they don’t even come close to identity theft. The bad guys already know it’s better to steal from someone at a distance than to stick a gun in their face. There’s a lot less risk too.
In other words, KYC laws and the need to keep tons and tons of information on everyone in centralized databases has caused more crime, crime that is easier to commit.
The KYC laws don’t stop the bad guys. The bad guys know how to grab 100 IDs on the dark web for $25 and set up a fake persona. All these laws do is put all the innocent people at risk.
It’s backwards thinking.
It’s like when people argue that video games make people kill (they don’t). You saw this argument a lot in the 80s and 90s, especially after a mass shooting when the media would dig into a shooter’s background and find out he played video games. Ah ha! Of course! It must be those games.
Let’s make those evil video games illegal and we’ll stop all violence forever!
Of course, this is basically insane.
If 1000 people happen to play video games and also kill people then what about the 300 million other people who played video games and didn’t? It’s statistical absurdity and yet people continue to believe it.
That’s the real problem, mistaken belief systems. Humans are great at believing things work even when they don’t work.
You’ll still find people all over the world who think video games are cranking out killers and that we need to keep that identity data on file or the terrorists win! Centralized powers have a natural inclination to, well, centralize.
If they can catch just one bad guy, it’s worth it they argue. But it’s not. If the cure is worse then the disease than all we’ve done is create more problems for everyone. To catch a few extra bad guys we made everyone a criminal and we opened up brand new avenues of crime to digitally savvy international criminals.
The Silk Road
Or maybe you think that the blackmarket is the only use for cash?
If something is illegal there is a black market for it somewhere. Whether it’s drugs or books, someone will take the risk to sell it to you.
Don’t we want to stop all this illegal activity? Isn’t that enough of a reason to outlaw cash?
Again, law enforcement doesn’t need any new tools to stop black markets. They already do it every day.
I’ll also say something that might sound crazy at first. The world needs black markets.
That’s because the definition of black market changes dramatically depending on where you live in the world.
If you’re living in a healthy, stable first world country, where business and society works well and the police are generally doing their job and government provides the services it promises, even if it’s inefficient, then the black market is just a place where bad guys by drugs and hookers.
But if you live in an unstable country, like Venezuela or Zimbabwe, your idea of the black market is very, very different.
I recently hosted a panel for the Human Rights Foundation, where I interviewed speakers who’d lived through hyperinflation as their countries collapsed at every level. People were waiting on lines for sugar for hours. A loaf of bread could cost a month’s salary. The black market was the place to get the goods people needed to survive. Diapers. Bananas. Clean water. Gas.
The nature of something changes based on the context.
But you don’t need a crazy societal wide collapse to not want Big Brother looking over your shoulder. Let’s say you live in a first world country and the opposing political party gets in and bans contributions to all organizations that support your cause.
They make it look legitimate. Maybe they close down three or four organizations that were skirting contribution laws. Maybe they’re responding to a take over attempt, they say. They follow that up with shutting down all organizations of that kind in order to “study” the problem but their real goal is not to study those organizations at all, it’s to shut them down completely.
Now you can’t donate to the people who can maintain the checks and balances on the people in power and soon their power spreads. Soon enough, there are no checks and balances.
All this happened in Turkey and then some.
We see these kinds of moves in the dictators playbook all around the world. In societies that have no rule of law or rule of law that is eroding, we see the people in power make up charges against the opposition, have them arrested, or they just ban contributions to any cause except the cause of the man in charge.
Centralized digital money means the end of reasonable checks and balances. If you disagree with the people in power now, you can still put your money where you mouth is and resist.
When central powers have complete control of purely digital money all that will end.
The end of cash means the end of free choice.
And that’s where privacy coins come back into the picture.
A lot of people say there is no killer app for crypto. They’re wrong.
We’ve figured out how to mimic cash in an environment that is entirely hostile to privacy:
Return of Privacy
The biggest feature of cash is that it’s really, really hard to track.
In other words, anonymity is the main feature of cash.
Only the two parties that conducted business know it happened.
But wait, isn’t Bitcoin anonymous?
It must be, right? I mean, I heard those evil people were buying drugs on the Silk Road and that Bitcoin was only for criminals and lunatics and North Korea.
Bitcoin is not anonymous by a long shot.
It may have seemed anonymous in the halcyon early days because central powers didn’t understand it, but that’s just security through obscurity which is no security at all.
In fact, early digital ledgers are absurdly easy to track. Bitcoin enshrines every transaction ever done right out in the open. Digital ledgers are the third entry in triple entry accounting systems and they open up the financial history of the entire system to the everyone who knows where to look.
Even with the rise of tumblers and other technologies designed to hide those transactions Bitcoin is simple to follow. As central powers caught on to how digital ledgers worked, it gave rise to blockchain analysis. In many ways blockchains make it even easier to follow the money. Tracing old world money through wire transfers and tracking down offshore banks in the Caymen Islands looks positively cave man by comparison.
And that know-how will only increase in the coming years as governments and corporations hungry to know every aspect of our lives level up their understanding of these new technologies.
Privacy coins are the death of blockchain analysis.
They bring back the true anonymity of cash.
In order to do it they have to solve a catch-22.
How do we prove we exchanged digital money without logging it to central server or logging it in the open to a blockchain?
In the real world that problem is solved for us. Our sense of sight and touch are enough. The proof is right in front of us. I hand you cash and you take the cash. You know you got the cash because you physically took possession of it and counted it.
If you haven’t read this book you are banished from the crypto community.
To mimic the beautiful anonymous nature of cash, privacy coins pull a number of clever cryptographic tricks that would make even the great geek God, Neal Stephenson, proud ( and they might just get us to funding data havens in the fictional Sultanate of Kinakuta, but that is a story for another day.)
Those tricks obscure transactions at every step of the process of exchanging money between two people or two entities. That includes where the money came from, who has it, who has how much, where did it go, and when?
And because they’re dealing with that catch-22, how do I prove that something happened without revealing it, they exist at the absolute bleeding edge of crypto research.
From zero knowledge non-interactive proofs, aka zk-SNARKS, to ring signatures and stealth addresses, to jumbling all the transactions together so none of the transactions can be identified individually, privacy coin developers are working at the outer limits of human knowledge on cryptography and advancing the science further and further.
The leading projects in the privacy race are Monero, Zcash, ZCoin and coins based on the MimbleWimble protocol, a brand new entry into the space and one of the most promising. MW coins currently include Beam and Grin.
Let’s start with Zcash.
Vinay Gupta called zk-SNARKS “the equivalent of spaceships compared to cave technology” in my recent podcast with him.
What are they?
The trusty Zcash site points us in the right direction:
“Zero-knowledge’ proofs allow one party (the prover) to prove to another (the verifier) that a statement is true, without revealing any information beyond the validity of the statement itself.”
Basically they allow a transaction to take place that’s “shielded” from third party eyes, while also allowing someone to prove that certain things about the transaction happened without revealing anything else about the transaction.
The classic way to visualize this is:
You have a color blind friend. You hand him two balls, one green and one red. He can’t tell they’re different but you can. They look the same to him.
And you actually don’t want him to know which is which, but you do want to prove that you know. To prove they’re different you tell him to put the balls behind his back and shuffle them or don’t shuffle them. His choice.
Then he shows you the two balls. You correctly tell him every time that the balls were shuffled or not.
He repeats this enough times that it’s impossible for you to have guessed them all correctly. You have now convinced your friend that the balls are actually different but since it is “zero knowledge” he still doesn’t know which one is green and which one is red.
That’s useful if I want to prove that money in the amount of $10,000 was sent to a certain address while not revealing who sent it.
zk-SNARKS stands for “Zero-Knowledge Succinct Non-Interactive Argument of Knowledge.”
The “succinct” part means that all this crypto wizardry happens fast (a few millisecond). In other words, it doesn’t take up too much processing time and the proof it quick to do and test.
The non-interactive means that nobody needs to do anything to prove something. I don’t need to call out my question and wait for you to respond.
All this happens by using several keys, a “view key” that lets me see certain aspects of a transaction, and a “spend key” that gives me control over spending funds.
But zk-SNARKS are not without some downsides. The biggest one is that they require that a group of people do a multi-party computation ceremony at the initial creation phase of the currency. You have to trust that at least one member of the group was not compromised to trust the system doesn’t have a backdoor. You can read about some of the lengths the founders went to in this fascinating piece.
If the founders don’t go to that length you could have an entire crypto that is corrupt from day one with no way to go back and fix it.
Beyond Zcash we have Monero.
Monero may have the biggest mind share among privacy minded, free thinking folks.
Many of the main developers are completely anonymous, just as Satoshi remained anonymous. They don’t want their work compromised or an angry central power knocking on their door and hauling them off to the inquisition.
Monero touts the fungibility of their currency. What is that?
Investopedia defines it as this:
“Fungibles refer to goods, securities, or instruments that are equivalent and, therefore, interchangeable. In other words, they are goods that consist of many identical parts which can be easily replaced by other, identical goods. If the goods are sold by weight or number, this is a good sign that they are fungible.”
But what does that have to do with cryptocurrency?
If someone does something illegal with Bitcoin, like buying forbidden drugs through the dark web, those coins take a hit. They’re tainted. It’s harder to spend them and they may not be worth as much in the future because they become harder to use.
Good old folding cash is different.
Like a woman of loose morals, I have no idea where the money in my pocket has been before.
That’s actually a good thing.
It’s like what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas.
We don’t know if someone used our hundred dollar bill to buy an ice cream cone or rolled it up and snorted a line off a hooker’s stomach. What someone did before me with that cash is not my problem. My hundred dollars is still worth a hundred dollars. I can still do my perfectly legal transaction and buy an old book at a thrift store before picking up some fresh vegetables at the farmer’s market. It’s not tainted by the places it’s been and the people it’s known.
Since all the transactions of Monero are anonymous it means we don’t know where Monero has been either and that means none of the coins ever get tainted with the darkness that came before I owned some.
Beyond fungibility, which all privacy coins share in one way or another, maybe the biggest crypto trick Monero brings to the table is ring signatures.
A ring signature pulls together a group of people and gives them a way to sign a message or a transaction. I know the group signed the transaction but I don’t know which person in the group signed it. It could be anyone in the group.
How does that work with anonymous currency?
The Monero site explains it pretty damn well:
“A ring signature makes use of your account keys and a number of public keys (also known as outputs) pulled from the blockchain using a triangular distribution method. Over the course of time, past outputs could be used multiple times to form possible signer participants. In a “ring” of possible signers, all ring members are equal and valid. There is no way an outside observer can tell which of the possible signers in a signature group belongs to your account. So, ring signatures ensure that transaction outputs are untraceable.”
In other words it jumbles a bunch of transaction outputs together so it’s really hard to tell which of the transactions belongs to who. If I don’t know who did what transaction I have plausible denyability.
And that brings us to Zcoin, an implementation of the Zero Coin protocol.
It uses the Onion network and Tor to attempt to keep transactions private. But using Tor is old hat and the NSA and FBI are not sitting around worried about how to attack Tor, when they can just compromise a node or multiple nodes. So Tor isn’t enough.
Zerocoin was first proposed by professor Matthew D. Green and some grad students at Johns Hopkins University as an extension to make Bitcoin private that was never adopted. Zerocoin delivers anonymity by creating a mixing service or tumbler known as a zerocoin. Essentially it pools together a bunch of coin transactions and mixes them up so it’s harder to see where one is going or coming from before it tumbled into the pool.
And before you ask, yes, professor Green took this idea from money laundering pools.
Tumblers exist already for Bitcoin but they are run by third parties and that means you have to trust that third party. If that party is compromised, the tumbler failed you and all your coins are tracked. It’s like tagging cash with invisible ink. But the zerocoin system implements tumblers at the protocol level, killing any need to trust a third party at all.
The designers of zerocoin and Zcoin also see the protocol level tumbler as superior to ring signatures.
The main advantage seems to be that instead of a mixing a few outputs like ring signatures do, it mixes thousands of transactions together which makes it orders of magnitude harder to de-anonymize. According to the Zcoin site:
Zcoin “has an anonymity set that encompasses all minted coins in a particular RSA accumulator that can scale to many thousands.”
The biggest downside seems to be that all this is a lot more computationally heavy. According to the Bitcoin Wiki entry on Zerocoin:
“Since the verification process for zerocoins is much more computationally heavy than for bitcoins, the verification time for a block would increase up to 6 times depending on the ratio between bitcoins and zerocoins.”
Some implementations of Zerocoin protocol, like Pivx, seemed to have solved for this already but work is ongoing.
That brings us to the strangely named MimbleWimble, aka MW.
MimbleWimble. Say that five times fast.
Lord Voldemort wants you to use Mimble Wimble.
The name comes to us from Harry Potter, named after a curse. It has a curious and somewhat whimsical history but it’s attracted the devotion of some of the most hardcore Bitcoin maximalists, who see it as the biggest innovation in the space since Bitcoin itself.
The first description of the MW protocol came to us via an anonymous onion network post of a paper on the #bitcoin-wizards IRC channel in August 2016. An anonymous creator (surprise!) calling himself Tom Elvis Jedusor dropped the paper. Jedusor is an anagram of Voldemort, the big baddy in Harry Potter, in French.
The paper attracted the eyes of some heavy cryptographic hitters, like blockstream math genius Andrew Poelstra. He fixed some flaws in the original design and put out an updated version of the paper.
By late Nov 2016 we had another anonymous poster to the IRC channel, using yet another name from the Harry Potter universe, Ignotus Peverell, the inventor of the invisibility cloak. Perverell went a step further and put out the the first working implementation of Mimblewimble. In other words, working code with its very own Github Link.
Other coins followed, including Beam, who’s co-founder worked with Poelstra and who’s logo looks like the founders took too much acid as they were listening to Dark Side of the Moon synced up to The Wizard of Oz.
Grin excited those old school Bitcoin maximalists because unlike many of the newer crypto coins it didn’t have a founder’s reward or an ICO. People have to mine the coins and nobody has an early advantage so it’s consider more “fair” with no pre-minted millionaires.
Most importantly, MimbleWimble delivers a number of incredibly sexy innovations.
It clusters all transactions together so they look like nothing but white noise. It’s literally impossible to separate one transaction from any other.
Cryptobriefing explains it best:
“MimbleWimble changes this bitcoin model by creating one multisignature for all of the inputs and outputs. The parties involved in a transaction create one public multisignature key that can verify the transaction. There are no addresses in the system because two parties engaging in a transaction share what’s called a “blinding factor” where only those two parties know they are engaging in a transaction; keeping the privacy of the network.
A blinding factor is a shared secret between the two parties that encrypts the inputs and outputs in that specific transaction as well as the transacting parties’ public and private keys. MimbleWimble utilizes a Pedersen commitment scheme where full nodes subtract the encrypted amounts on the sending side of transactions (inputs) from the encrypted amounts on the receiving side of transactions (outputs).
In other words, MW seems to be rocking some homomorphic encryption because of its confidential transactions. That’s encrypted data that we don’t have to decrypt to work with, which was the subject of billions of dollars of past research that hasn’t amounted to much until now.
Oh and you read that right, MW has no addresses.
That’s good for privacy because we can expect central powers to force address registration in the future, or public key registration. But nobody can force you to register an address if it doesn’t exist. Only your private key knows how much money your wallet has and where you sent it and when.
And MW it is super scalable. It stores only a fraction of the data needed by Bitcoin. A gigayte or so of the Bitcoin blockchain could fit in a megabyte of MW.
Lastly, the Grin creators made the coin ASIC resistant, which will become increasingly important in the coming years.
Right now, giant ASIC farms are centralization nightmares, with corrupt governments ferreting them out and demanding tax or seizing them and minting their own coins, with Venezuela as a prime example. This will only get worse in the coming years as Bitcoin becomes more and more profitable and essential on the world stage.
ASIC resistance means that people can use commodity hardware to run full nodes on the network and that makes it more decentralized. As the Bitcoin blockchain gets bigger and bigger over the coming years, eventually only people with Petabyte SAN clusters will be running full nodes and that makes it highly centralized unless we come up with some kind of shared distributed database.
But Grin’s much smaller blockchain means we won’t have to worry about big, centralized minders. With a much smaller blockchain and that means more and more people can run a full node, because it fits on commodity hardware, which makes the coin more resilient to failures.
The more copies we have of the chain, the safer it is in the long run.
Just ask your DNA. There is a copy in every cell for a very good reason.
Privacy and Liberty
A lot of people think the death of cash is a good thing.
You don’t have to be a criminal to want privacy. Everyone deserves privacy.
Just as you don’t want someone looking in your window while you change, or looking over your shoulder and reading the emails you send to your best friend, you don’t want a big company watching everything you spend your hard earned money on so they can advertise another sweater or pair of shoes to you.
We have to be able to disagree with the people who control the reigns of power at any given moment or we’re nothing but slaves. Right now we’re headed towards a society where centralized digital money will sweep cash away forever.
Nothing will save you from the prying eyes of the Panopticon.
A digital trail of your entire life will live forever and allow anyone in power, good or evil, to roll back time and look at your life in intimate detail, probing for anything they want to know about you.
And by the time the average person wakes up to the danger it will be too late.
The only real hope is decentralized privacy coins catching on in the real world. If we can build a real economy around decentralized money and regular people are using that decentralized money every day and trusting it, then that freedom preserving money will act as a parallel economic operating system for the world.
Centralized money will continue to exist but it will die a slow death. In a hundred years who’s going to want money from a single country that can change the rules on you overnight or make a bad decision that tanks the economy?
But if decentralized money fails to catch on, central money will mean absolute command and control in a way that dictators of the past could only imagine in their wildest dreams.
And power unchecked is a disaster, as the Founding Fathers knew all too well.
“Power must never be trusted without a check,” said John Adams.
The death of cash is the death of freedom.
Privacy coins may just be the rebirth of it.
Surviving The Crypto Winter Series - Hacker Noon
What does crypto winter mean? Great cryptocurrencies, products and companies will survive all seasons of crypto. Here…hackernoon.com
What does crypto winter mean? Great cryptocurrencies, products and companies will survive all seasons of crypto. Here…hackernoon.com
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A bit about me: I’m an author, engineer and serial entrepreneur. During the last two decades, I’ve covered a broad range of tech from Linux to virtualization and containers.
You can check out my latest novel, an epic Chinese sci-fi civil war saga where China throws off the chains of communism and becomes the world’s first direct democracy, running a highly advanced, artificially intelligent decentralized app platform with no leaders.
You can get a FREE copy of my first novel, The Scorpion Game, when you join my Readers Group. Readers have called it “the first serious competition to Neuromancer” and “Detective noir meets Johnny Mnemonic.”
Lastly, you can join my private Facebook group, the Nanopunk Posthuman Assassins, where we discuss all things tech, sci-fi, fantasy and more.