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  • @fintechna 10:06 pm on November 4, 2016 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , Crypto, cryptocurrencies, , , origin,   

    A brief history of cryptocurrencies… 

    A brief history of cryptocurrencies... fintechthe inevitability of crypto economy?

    Once every few generations, we get to witness a milestone in human progress, a phenomenon or an icon so rare and inspiring that it defies extrapolation of the law of averages, and all known expectations of what is extra ordinary. At inflection points such as those, humanity makes progress by leaps and bounds. Standards are re-set. Recall the invention / discovery of electricity, spacecraft, electro magnetism, antibiotics, Einstein, the smart phone, Usian Bolt, Nicola Tesla.. they inspire awe, stretch our boundaries, expand the human experience, and alter the way we live – forever!

    Our generation has been extremely privileged to witness more than a few such rare occurrences. Internet, Smart Phone and now . It’s as if we have achieved more technological progress in the past few decades than we have in the past several centuries. Not to belittle the foundations our forefathers and the great adventurers built and have bequeathed to us, but it is natural with any tipping point where progress accelerates manifold after gathering critical mass.

    While we have significantly leveraged the internet and miniature computing, past the hype and mass adoption, we are still at the cusp of a revolution with respect to cryptocurrencies, so my piece today will focus on what awaits us in !

    (If you are short of patience, skip and head straight to Blockchain India Summit 6 Dec 2016 in New Delhi and hear directly from Vitalik Buterin, Founder of ethereum)

    Ladies and Gentlemen

    I am going to spill some secrets tonite, and betray the parable of swiss secrecy, as one does on a high.

    I am high on Switzerland!

    A brief history of cryptocurrencies... fintech

    You are probably tempted to think of some revelations of the personal kind, but the swiss mastery of money and time – “philarguria“, and “chronometry“/chronology“/”horology” the two biggest obsessions of mankind – that the Swiss have made industries of – is as fascinating. Not to mention the draw of great intellects and relativity theorists like Einstein and now the modern day cryptographers, to Switzerland. I have always held that pristine beauty and tranquility are conducive to attaining superior realms of thought and thereby pinnacles of creativity.

    Which explains the lure of Himalayas for many a world changing icon like Steve Jobs, though I couldn’t tell if Satoshi was as inspired by Switzerland as Vitalik. Anyway, if I were not Indian I would make it my home. Why, I have spent my most inspired moments here. Like when I was Vitalik’s age, I had taken my first ever international flight on Swissair to Zurich, and had been awe-struck by the experience seeing the gigantic imposing wooden doors of UBS for the first time. Years later I had returned to do my first ever investment banking deal – Hirslanden – for UBS. Years later I am about to do my first ever crypto stuff in Zurich again. So Switzerland is associated with deeply profound experiences, some romantic.

    I am going to argue in this piece for the inevitability of cryptocurrencies. Cryptocurrencies are to modern economics as the theory of relativity is to physics.

    Let us first visit the basics of money:

    What is Money?

    A form of promise – a promise to buy something of value

    A substitute for direct barter – instead of exchanging my sheep for your wheat bushels, I give you money

    A trust in a central party (like a Central Bank) that the currency note you carry will be worth some real value

    A form of exchange – you give me your services or time and I pay you money

    A factor in wealth creation, like labour – capital earns interest or can create wealth for its owner – capitalist economics

    Money as an investment / appreciating asset (like art or Gold)

    Let us for the time being ignore other philosophical definitions such as

    Money as freedom to pursue life’s lofty goals

    Money as a presumed substitute for immortality (a delusion of the rich that the more money they have the safer they will be)

    Money has been serving its various functions well since the babylonian times, and yet has evolved with each successive generation. In earlier centuries, for example, artists would create art for their masters in return for their patronage and being taken care of, and not money. But slowly, transactions have come to be more short termish than a kingly patronage and have had to rely on money for settling the exchange of value. So the modern day Emir of Dubai or Oman would give his humble vassals wads of cash or write a cheque instead of promising his life long patronage.

    The origin of cryptocurrencies

    The concept of crypto money took life in 1997, when Nick Szabo invented hashcash. If anyone knows who Nick Szabo is, I am very keen to meet, if only to ascertain if he is Satoshi, and if he ever sent me a few emails. I discarded the possibility out of fear of being proved gullible by a fake Satoshi, and never took up my email “Satoshi” on the offer! As a solace, the rest of the world also knows Satoshi only by email! 😛

    was the first real form of crypto money as opposed to digital cash – for example Paypal. Ofcourse Facebook money, QQ coins, and coins in virtual games all made their remarkable debuts but these fancy coins were seen mostly as a means for the wealthy (chinese?) to splurge on the ridiculous and the inconsequential, besides robot cafes offering forbidden pleasures, you know what I mean. None of the currencies went so far as to be treated a substitute for real money. Facebook even applied for a banking license in Ireland wanting to capitalise on FB messenger being a platform for peer-to-peer cross-border payments (these constitute a significant chunk of global remittances market of US1 trillion a day as per BIS).

    Bitcoin was the first money to solve the problem of trust in a trustless environment – The Byzantine Generals Problem – How can parties transact and establish trust, in face of non-verifiability and when all parties cannot be trusted. As all masterpieces go, Satoshi had combined together several disparate concepts in creating bitcoin. Obviously he had to have deep mastery of all subjects to come up with this invention, which has been fascinating technocrats as well as the cult of wall street.

    Bitcoin has been a preferred mode of investment for some people, from every strata, including some retirees who chose to put their entire nest egg in bitcoin. One of the early bitcoin believers had told his friend – you will either lose all of it, or make a fortune like 1000X. Invest as much as you can stomach the loss! Interestingly, Satoshi himself had never spent a single bitcoin he had mined, as was discovered by an Eastern European developer who was tasked and paid to research this. And Satoshi had amassed bitcoin equivalent to millions of dollars as he had to keep the mining operation going singlehandedly, early on. Infact there were only two miners at the beginning for the better part of the first year, and the early months had just been Satoshi’s server. That he didn’t invent bitcoin for his own benefit speaks of his selfless movie in giving the world his open source gift. For anyone familiar with the mystical, this is self-evident – nature only bestows special gifts and privileges on people who would pass on their gift for the maximum benefit.

    As it turns out, Bitcoin is also a form of protection against inflation for hyper inflationary countries, like any appreciating asset. One of the early bit coiners (Wences Casares, Founder of Xapo and Board member of Paypal) as a young boy would run into an Argentinian store with his family, grabbing all they could for the money his mom had just received in salary, so that they could maximise the value of goods purchased – in the face of hyperinflation. There was no concept of saving for tomorrow, because a few minutes later, the same notes would buy significantly less food as store keepers went around the aisles all the time rewriting price tags. Real story!

    As a tribute to the genius of Satoshi, here is my attempt to decrypt his magic recipe of bitcoin.

    Bitcoin is a cult!

    Decentralisation – Satoshi’s first ingredient:

    Satoshi essentially solved the problem of centralisation. A handful of people in the world got to decide how much money would be in circulation at any point (monetary policy), how much would its relative value be vis-a-vis other currencies, are people spending too much or too little and how to mend that (fiscal policy), how much would be the time value of money (interest rate), and what do people have to give up by way of data and privacy (endless KYC and identity verifications and intrusion into private affairs) in order to spend their money (yes you read it right – I didn’t say what people have to give up in order to earn money, but to spend money!)

    If people could determine with zero error if money had indeed changed hands between parties and by how much, through alone, without having to trust each other or any third party like a central record keeper, it frees people from the tyranny of watchful big brothers. And if I may add, greedy, power-hungry, self-aggrandising actors (if not dictators) on rotation – in the form of elected governments. Oligopolies who want to make money off your money spending transactions. With bitcoin, people can choose how and when they spend without a concern for informing anyone else about it – which many would agree “informing” amounts to slavery or extortion or restriction of liberty or all of the above.

    The magic is that Satoshi achieves decentralisation through a mere technology protocol. A protocol that combines cryptography, mathematical functions, the economics of incentives in markets and game theory. There may have been bugs in code, as Satoshi himself encouraged other developers to fix and even go so far as to take ownership of the protocol but the code is essentially robust, and bitcoin code today contains supposedly only 15% of Satoshi’s original code.

    Now experts are anticipating “segwit activation” on bitcoin code to happen in 2016, which will enable “Lightning Network” to speed up transactions on the original bitcoin – whose 10 min Block interval had been a bottleneck for many, especially financial institutions. The earlier drawbacks of bitcoin – such as slow Block Verification – had been leveraged well by some firms such as Bitfury with their Lightning protocol and side chains. Bitcoin Blockchain is by far the most robust Blockchain, having been tested, bug-exposed, and reengineered by fervent believers espousing the cause of decentralisation. Bitcoin is no longer a currency or a technology, it is a cult! With Lightning embedded on top, the current Bitcoin Blockchain will give a tough fight to many fledgling and newer well-funded blockchains. Afterall, Cult figures are difficult to dethrone, no matter how nimble and powerful the imitators. Satoshi Nakamoto is a cult, and so is bitcoin!

    I am not speaking yet about the blockchain or its benefits of faster, cheaper, frictionless transactions upending intermediaries in every industry, and am restricting my arguments only to bitcoin so far. See more bitcoin drama here. Read my piece on blockchain herehttps://www.linkedin.com/pulse/besotted-blockchain-arifa-khan and the sequel here

    Cryptography – Satoshi’s second ingredient:

    Cryptography and trap-door functions involving prime numbers and factoring, were applied to device public and private keys – a combination of which would enable you to unlock a bitcoin but make it impossible for you to reverse engineer a private key from a public key – thereby ensuring safety and irreversibility of a bitcoin transaction.

    Game Theory – Satoshi’s third ingredient:

    Since the mining operation is computational and energy intensive, what if some miner or a mining group amassed enough power to subvert the process to his benefit – aka the 51% hash attacks? Satoshi figured that for a serious miner playing for long term stakes, it is important that bitcoin’s value is sustained through confidence of the market and players. Any attempt by a player to abuse the process will result in bitcoin losing value, which would not benefit the rogue miners in long run. Ofcourse many hackers got away with blackmail ransoms from founders like Stephanie Kent who were blindsided by attacks on their chains. But those outcomes for hackers were not the Game theory Maxima, and the Nash equilibrium of bitcoin in long term does point to a sustainable bitcoin economy and thereby, an appreciating bitcoin – as has been proven by bitcoin price charts.

    Macroeconomics – Satoshi’s fourth ingredient:

    Satoshi foresaw that for the hashing to go on indefinitely, miners had to be incentivised by rewards (bitcoin) for carrying out the computational processing. He also took into account demand-supply dynamics of hashing power, and accommodated in his code self-adjusting difficulty level of computations required for arriving at the winning hash so as to keep the time interval between blocks a constant ~ 10 minutes. As he had anticipated, the early community actively engaged in upgrading the code, discovering and fixing bugs as it was open source – bootstrap nodes were introduced as an example to defend against DDOS attacks, and rogue miners hijacking the wrong fork of the blockchain.

    Smart Contracts as a way of Record-Keeping— Satoshi’s futuristic fifth ingredient:

    A brief history of cryptocurrencies... fintech

    Satoshi had apparently studied money so thoroughly that he wanted to accord bitcoin the features of money as a tool for record keeping too, besides as a token of value or means of transfer. In Babylonian times, contracts were recorded on clay tablets as to how much one owed the other and when.

    (Image of ‘A tablet from the Babylonian times’ – Prof Willi Brammertz Author of Unified Financial Analysis explaining Financial Contracts to me)

    The complex hieroglyphics are thought to be the first form of record-keeping or accounting. To store 1MB of data in Babyloninan times would have taken a warehouse of several football fields and to transfer this data would perhaps take a ship physically ferrying these clay tablets across distances. The contracts were just a record, and depended on the good nature of the contractual parties or the fearsomeness of a central authority for execution. Satoshi now conceptualised a foundation for contract which depended on neither the goodwill or generosity of the counter party nor the authority of an intermediary to execute. The contract, with its collateral of cryptomoney in escrow, would irreversibly tilt the outflow of the underlying asset from one party to another, based on the outcome of a pre-determined function. Prof Willi demonstrated to me that all financial contracts currently in existence in the world can be explained by just some 30 patterns – so very amenable to Smart Contracts.

    He visualised that this protocol would enable self-executing financial contracts to be embedded in code, and thereby obviate many other forms of centralisation such as the legal profession, notaries, securities exchanges etc. However, he was content to leave bitcoin code simplistic, in order to achieve more code robustness – to withstand any malafide attacks and bugs.

    Disclaimer: I haven’t read Satoshi’s original paper. If I do, I hope to be able to decipher unspoken magic beyond Smart Contracts. If I go recluse, it would be because Satoshi will have sworn me to secrecy. 🙂

    The history of Cryptocurrencies

    Bitcoin is the world’s favourite , as a wide variety of players around the world have embraced it as an investment vehicle. It competes with real investments like real estate, gold, precious metals, art, jewelry, fiat currencies.

    A brief history of cryptocurrencies... fintech

    Hundreds of Remittance startups around the world have bitcoin rails supporting their FX remittance operations (buying and selling in the background which creates demand supply for bitcoin). 1000s of merchants in Africa and countries with hyper inflation or unstable currencies prefer to accept bitcoin over fiat.

    Nearly 600 cryptocurrencies have been issued so far, since Satoshi gifted us the ‘bitcoin’ in 2009, and are now again back in the limelight. Zooko & Co have just launched Zcash (@zcashco) – a variation of bitcoin with absolute anonymity (no pseudonymity). The bitcoin price currently at $710 as of 30 Oct 2016 (having appreciated wildly in the past week with the hype around launch of new crypto “Zcash”) is expected to touch $1000 in 2017. Bitcoin has ridden the crests of human imagination at a scale never before witnessed, as one of the most fascinating man-made phenomenon of 21st Century. Bitcoin has survived drama of Shakespearean proportions. One investor who had put all his retirement savings in bitcoin early had lost it in one swoop when MtGox went belly up in 2014, losing a collective $400 million of its investors wallets in compromised security.

    ZCash or ZEC works on a similar algorithm to bitcoin with the same 21 million ZECs to be issued during the lifetime etc, but 10% of which would be set aside and issued to stakeholders like founders, investors etc. Bitcoin was not entirely anonymous as its early adopters thought, as was proven by the anti-climax of Silk Road. Nor was ethereum’s DAO safer than a dozen put together, as a hacker proved – resulting in the hard fork that split ether into ETH and ETC.

    Many companies use cryptography in varying context. blockchain.info wallet only holds crypto files to encrypt and decrypt private keys and does not really hold the bitcoins in the wallet, thereby eluding regulation and also the licenses required for holding e-money. Nicolas Cary, CEO, is an oft quoted figure in bitcoin annals, a bundle of energy, and is a pleasure to listen to.

    Now Zcash would be entirely anonymous. Enough to justify its futures trading price at 1.5BTC, when it hadn’t even begun trading? When it was launched, one report pegs the traded coin value at USD7000 , an eye-popping number given the highest bitcoin ever reached was ~ USD1000.

    Cryptocurrencies – an inevitability of Modern Economics

    You can now spend your crypto with absolutely no traceability. This would give the transaction finality of cash. You spend it and forget it – the original raison d’être of money. No need to maintain bills, accounting, or record the spend on a clunky blockchain. Take privacy back from the Governments, the Amazons, the Paypals, the Visas, Facebooks, Squares and Banks who horde all this data about your faintest digital trails and your minutest personal proclivities. Interesting anyone? You bet! It finally dawned on me why all the rich guys insist on spending only in cash everywhere. I am talking of respectable and responsible PE investors & the Valley kings, not just the flamboyant types.

    Behold another variation at the opposite extreme of Zcash! A new coin wants to be the cryptocurrency with zero anonymity. You can always associate this coin with its owner’s identity. This is a play to serve the excessively cautious regulators and Central Bankers who would be loathe to give up on their KYCs and citizen accountability, much like Accenture wants to serve the Bank market who would love to get on a Blockchain lest they get taken over by Silicon Valley, but would be loathe to give up their control of data, and keep it mutable.

    Then there are the architects of circular economies like the Solar coin, Diamond coin, Gold coin. Many firms are offering tokens/ coins at their ICOs such as Decent, Apptrade (Initial Coin Offerings are equivalents of IPOs in Crypto but no investment bank determines the subscription price). Apptrade is a stock market exchange for new DApps.

    As eventful as my research goes, I met someone claiming to be the patent holder being infringed upon by – hold your breath – Apple, Samsung, and now Ethereum.. and he needed me as saviour to restore his rightful intellectual property and the billions (in dollars) to follow. Anyway, I happened to be in a conversation trois – at a swiss bar between the geek and Andreas Antonopoulos on patents & decentralisation. (I checked with another friend for a word for conversation between three – just so I wouldn’t accidentally mention the wrong menage and he goes “if you are part of the conversation, then its called “a monologue with two listeners“! hmm.. With friends like that, do I need detractors?) I caught Andreas, the author of “Internet of Money”, in a lighter moment in an impromptu conversation informelle and asked him why he thinks cryptocurrencies are inevitable. I quote him verbatim –

    "The architecture of centralisation is antithetical to the principles and interest of society. Patents and any intellectual property is passe and will be outdone by open source as it is more conducive to innovation, and will garner more support as it is philanthropic. All my life, I have been against patents. This century is about decentralisation. So cryptocurrencies are here to stay!" Andreas Antonopoulos 
    

    Why will Crypto Currencies succeed?

    • We are tired of paying fees, and customers will revolt when faced with superior customer friendly options
    • We are tired of being surveillanced, and we will fiercely guard our privacy and interest when faced with more secure options
    • Why do we have to supply onerous information when we decide to send or spend our own money? We tend to adopt the easier and more discreet options.

    In a face-off between Wences Casares and Bill Gates, Wences had managed to convince an initially skeptical Gates that bitcoin was the tool for getting a bang out of his buck spent uplifting poor nations, and putting power back in the hands of the impoverished and unbanked. Bill Gates bought into that pitch. Alas, Wences just told me he can’t make it on 6 Dec to India – a favourite of every philanthropist trying to make a dent in the universe! Soon Wences!

    Switzerland and its historic relationship with money (not a tryst)

    Then there is the history of Switzerland as a storehouse of money. Even during the world wars, the wealthy chose Swiss underground caverns for preserving their wealth, as Switzerland has forever been a neutral peace-loving country more focused on being the world capital for banking, engineering precision, ultra luxury craft, hospitality, private schools and sanatoriums. Famous for its secrecy laws, the Swiss rarely concede to authorities as formidable as even the FBI. In keeping the tradition, The SBB (my favourite Swiss Bahn Railway) will be opening up its 1000 ticket kiosks as bitcoin ATMs on 11 Nov 2016.

    Recognising Switzerland’s potential to emerge as the hub of crypto economy, Blockchain Storm hosted a roundtable discussion in Geneva on 30 Sep 2016 with authorities on distributed ledger technology such as Brian Behlendorf of Hyperledger, Bruce Pon of Bigchain, Eddy Travia of Coinsilium etc, which I moderated. We all agreed on the merits and the inevitability of crypto economy and that we now needed to work on interoperable systems and standards. So we will be gathering again in 2017.

    A brief history of cryptocurrencies... fintech
    A brief history of cryptocurrencies... fintech

    Switzerland could emerge as a cauldron of unimagined combination of industries and academia – asset management, banking, crypto economy, precision engineering, luxury goods.

    Many firms have made their home in crypto valley, Zug – perhaps for proximity to ethereum. Sample a bitcoin investment bank – “bitcoinsuisse”. If you wonder what CEO Niklas Nikolajsen looks like in real life, he had all the panache of a real investment banker spreading his fiat notes including a collectors’ item – A 100 SFR from centuries ago – on the table of a bar. How is that for a conversation starter? I remembered being in Copenhagen years ago on a deal, when my investment banking colleague Diamandakis had just given me a wad of cash and asked me to play at the Casino. I remember winning big at the tables that night, and feeling like Bond girl! And of course enjoying the high of a banker! We bankers are hopeless Adrenalin chasers! Years later, he was still surviving the credit crunch as a lone Director who held forth at Credit Suisse, long after many of his peers had ‘left’. Says something about human nature and the importance of making people happy as a secret of success in banking and elsewhere!

    "Future of cryptocurrencies is bright. It's what we have been waiting for. The cheaper, faster, better system always wins. First came the internet which liberated data. Now comes Blockhain which will liberate value." - Niklas Nikolajsen, CEO bitcoinsuisse as told to Miss Khan
    

    Caution : He could do this in Switzerland (display all forms of money old, new and crypto at a bar), but don’t try it elsewhere 😛

    A brief history of cryptocurrencies... fintech

    Now there are dozens of companies leveraging the swiss reputation as trust- keepers and managers of money. So much so that whenever a famous world leader dies or takes seriously ill, legends abound of their nearest kith and kith reaching first for their personal effects supposedly storing the password to their swiss account, before they consider anything else. So the Swiss had outdone Satoshi in private keys long before cryptocurrencies would become a global fashion? And they had combined it with their other passion for fine luxury crafted jewellery? Luxury Jewellery – a perfect draw for women, in turn a perfect draw for… Any Crypto Lord listening? 😛

    Woman is the Oasis of Life!

    A brief history of cryptocurrencies... fintech

    Consider this tagline – Cryptocash – for cold bitcoin storage in swiss mountains. (I’d head there in a jiffy!)

    A brief history of cryptocurrencies... fintech

    The rise of Cryptarchs

    Want to mint your own Cryptocurrency?

    There are some things that cannot be cryptoed, but for everything else there is Batman. (Thank you MasterCard – your only legacy in a few years may be your clever advertising)

    A brief history of cryptocurrencies... fintech

    Input Output (IOHK) is a firm specialising in cryptocurrencies, ICOs and circular economies, the stuff where minting your own crypto is still a legitimate way to create wealth, and also to make yourself famous – while the fable of crypto is still an intriguing mystery. If you have an idea for another wildly successful crypto – consult with Batman in the guise of Charles Hoskinson, a fine mathematician, a person exuding eloquence on esoteric subjects, and great authority on all things crypto. We are pleased to be hosting him at our Blockchain Storm – Cryptocurrencies & Modern Economics – 20 January 2017 in collaboration with Swiss Finance Institute at University of Zurich.

    All systems have been created by people no better and smarter than ourselves. We don’t have to accept them as fait accompli! –Charles Hoskinson

    Charles, you can thank me later. But, where’s my crypto? 😛

    IC3 – Initiative for Cryptocurrencies & Contracts

    Lending cryptos their respectability is IC3 – an academic consortia led by Cornell University – which I was very privileged to receive an invite to join! Well, hobnobbing with academia has it’s benefits! Which brings me to our partnership with Swiss Finance Institute at University of Zurich, the university which employed Einstein as a Physics Professor in 1909. We are pleased to be hosting a “Cryptocurrencies & Modern Economics – Blockchain Storm Switzerland” event at Uni of Zurich on 20 Jan to bring together banks, academia and crypto economy stakeholders to take the debate to the next level. I chose Zurich, the world capital & Mecca of Banking as the destination for its concentration of intellect as well as assets under management, and for crypto valley – home of many game changers in open source protocols. Zurich is now interestingly the confluence of old money and new bleeding edge inventors. Be there at University of Zurich to herald 2017, the year that cryptocurrencies emerged as mainstream.

    A brief history of cryptocurrencies... fintech

    The legend of Vitalik Buterin

    I am also playing hostess to India’s first ever Blockchain Summit http://europeindiaconclave.com, with the rare privilege of presenting Vitalik Buterin to India, alongside many distributed ledger technology firms from co-founders of Ethereum. India is eager to make the best of blockchain and welcomes Vitalik (read more about Vitalik in my Daily Pioneer article here). Zero Field Labs will be the bridge between Indian firms and Distributed Ledger Technology expertise in the west, and will also set up an Academic Excellence Centre on Blockchain in partnership with Indian Institute of Technology, my alma mater. We will also announce Blockchain Council India to work with the rule-makers on policy issues. I hope to have the regulator on stage for views on just what will be allowed and encouraged in India – given bitcoin is borderless and , by its very design, resists patrolling by powers-that-be.

    I might consider giving a keynote on “India’s Climb to becoming an Economic Super-Power – What would I do as a Macro Economist”. I would be happy to host Senior Ministers at such a gathering, and hope the importance is not lost on rule-makers in the protocol maze.

    Bitcoin is a mystery that never ends, wrapped in sequinned layers, beguiling a whole generation of crypto suitors.

    The coming generations will remember the legend of Satoshi Nakamoto as a man who singlehandedly reduced a whole planet of rule makers to bedazzled spectators watching a real sci-fi thriller, with their hands tied. And being an object of Satoshi’s attentions (if not the object), however questionable the claim, gives me bragging rights 😛

    You see, I have a rival in bitcoin!

    About the Author

    Miss Khan, the author, dedicated a significant chapter of her life, as investment banker executing Leveraged Buy-outs for Private Equity firms, at two bastions of swiss banking – UBS and Credit Suisse, after obtaining a MBA in Finance at Wharton Business School, University of Pennsylvania. Miss Khan is an avid blockchain researcher and speaker at various international forums such as Payments International. She advises Govt. of India on international financing. She has now identified her favourite destination Switzerland – as also a hub for people that will go down as legendary historic figures in the evolution of money – cryptocurrencies.

    She lives in London. She paints for recharging, and photographs Switzerland. Meet her in New Delhi 6 Dec 2016 at http://europeindiaconclave.com with Vitalik , and in Zurich 20 Jan 2017 http://blockchainstormzurich.eventbrite.com with Charles Hoskinson. Follow her @misskhan

    True to the spirit of sublimely Swiss, this piece was created on panoramic trains, charming rides on country roads, tete-a-tetes at chocolate places, tram rides to a quaint strasse where Einstein once lived, all soaking in excessive beauty of Switzerland. She marks this para as being penned on a very refreshing ride from Zurich to Luzerne which had turned rather chilly by nightfall on return.

    A brief history of cryptocurrencies... fintech

    Season’s Greetings

    Happy Diwali

    A brief history of cryptocurrencies... fintech

    Miss Khan is CEO of Zero Field Labs, a crypto economy play.

    A brief history of cryptocurrencies... fintech
     
  • @fintechna 3:35 pm on September 6, 2016 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , anmelden, , , , Crypto, , , , , , Tickets   

    Win 3 Tickets for The Swiss Crypto Finance 2.0 Conference 

    The generates a lot of headlines – positive and negative ones. At our we are discussing the the long-term capabilities of digital currencies and their impact.

    , the behind it, is arguably the most disruptive and the important discoveries of our age. But is Blockchain ready to go mainstream? How can this technology improve existing processes? What are the most interesting use cases and what are the impacts on other industries?

    On September 13, 2016, leading experts are going to talk about these topics at Kunsthaus Zurich.

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    Win a FREE-pass to attend &;16 by sending email to ck@finanzpro.ch with your full name.

    THREE lucky emails will be chosen and announce (via email) as winners on this Thursday, September 08

    Win 3 Tickets for The Swiss Crypto Finance 2.0 Conference fintech

    If you miss this give-away, News readers are offered 25% OFF when registering with code &;FinTech&8220;

    Win 3 Tickets for The Swiss Crypto Finance 2.0 Conference fintech

    SPEAKERS

    Win 3 Tickets for The Swiss Crypto Finance 2.0 Conference fintech

    Rik Willard
    Agentic Group
    Founder & Managing Director

     

    Rik Willard is the Founder of Agentic Group, a global consortium of Blockchain and related companies in the US, France and the UK. He is the former co-founder and CEO of MintCombine, the world&8217;s first digital currency and blockchain think-tank that worked with CEOs around the world to map the use of blockchains and meta-assets in many major business sectors. He is one of AlleyWatch magazine&8217;s &8220;14 NYC People in Bitcoin You Must Know&; and is featured on CNN and CNBC, with speaking engagements at Harvard Business School Club, Kaufmann Institute, Dow Jones Speaker Series and more.

     

     

    Win 3 Tickets for The Swiss Crypto Finance 2.0 Conference fintech

    Lucas Betschart Blockchain Source Co-Founder

     

     

    Lucas Betschart is the founder of Blockchain Source, a consulting company focusing on applying Blockchain technologies in the real world. Being involved in Bitcoin since the early days he has a deep understanding of decentralized systems, cryptography and the technologies available today, to build or integrate with.
    He is the founder and organizer of the Blockchain Meetup Zurich group, which connects and educates startups, corporates and enthusiasts and president of the Bitcoin Association Switzerland.

     

     

    Win 3 Tickets for The Swiss Crypto Finance 2.0 Conference fintech

    Fabio Federici
    Skry
    Co-Founder & CEO

     

     

    Fabio initially founded Skry (formerly Coinalytics), based in Palo Alto, in 2014. Prior to founding Skry Fabio was enrolled at the Lucerne University of Applied Sciences and Art in Switzerland, pursuing a Master in Business Administration. One semester into the program Fabio got handed the opportunity to take Skry and join the acclaimed 500 Startups accelerator program in Mountain View, California.

     

     

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    Save-the-Date: 1st InsurTech Conference is going to take place on November 1, 2016 (Kunsthaus Zurich). Get 20% off when registering with Code &8220;FinTech-Insur&8220;

    The post Win 3 Tickets for The Swiss Crypto Finance 2.0 Conference appeared first on Fintech Schweiz Digital Finance News – FintechNewsCH.

    Fintech Schweiz Digital Finance News – FintechNewsCH

     
  • @fintechna 12:18 pm on August 3, 2016 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Alps, Birthday, Crypto, , Happy, Searching, , Valleys   

    Happy Birthday Switzerland: Searching for Crypto in Valleys and Alps 

    Image courtesy Eiger Hotel Today is Swiss National Day, so although Daily is a global business and we do not take sides in the Fintech Capital of the world debate, today is a day to celebrate all things Swiss. First, a personal note, I chose to live here forRead More
    Bank Innovation

     
  • @fintechna 3:35 pm on June 9, 2016 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , , , Crypto, , , , , Reference,   

    Alex Batlin’s Briefing of Crypto 2.0 Musings – Standards and Reference Data Governance DAO 

    Last few weeks has seen the rise of The DAO &; an organization like no other. Part VC fund of about 170 million USD, part crowdfunding platform, part machine. The machine part is the novel piece of the puzzle &8211; effectively all of the of this new entity is done by smart contracts on Ethereum, so whereas before, humans outsourced worked to machines, the machines now outsource work to humans &8211; machines invite humans to fund them and then vote on, and monitor investments on their behalf.

    Read my PALE blog for more details behind the concept of distributed autonomous organizations.

    Whereas before, humans outsourced worked to machines, the machines now outsource work to humans

     

    Alex Batlin’s Briefing of Crypto 2.0 Musings – Standards and Reference Data Governance DAO fintech

    Baltlin&;s &8211; Personal View

    Machine Governance makes better decisions

    Whilst the idea of machine governance is truly exciting, in the case of a VC fund, folks like BitShares, who have been running a less public but none the less similar scheme for a bit now, have raised concerns such as effective engagement &8211; people like the idea and invest in a fund, but do not have the time or expertise to manage it, so without a clear leader, good decision making is absent &8211; of course on the other hand we have seen plenty of leaders make very bad decisions and whole concept of crowd wisdom argues that even relatively uninformed people, in sufficient numbers will make better decisions than a well informed individual.

    The same concept of automated governance e.g. voting, can in my opinion be easily transplanted to many other areas, including bodies. Think open source foundations like Apache Software Foundation, Linux Foundation, Ethereum Foundation and Bitcoin Foundation, or folks like International Organisation for Standardization (ISO) and BSI Group.

    Governance DAO solves managerial issues based on its smart contract

    Whilst standard setting activity is far less glamorous than managing a multi-million fund, in my opinion it faces a far smaller risk of rejection &8211; very few people I suspect get excited about operating governance procedures, so automation here is a form of pain relief. The other issue with blockchains today is lack of transaction amount privacy, which may be an issue for VC funds in some cases, but a must-have feature for a standards body.

    Assuming that either a standards body will be comfortable using virtual currencies or fiat money will be on-chained, a Governance DAO will even be able to manage it’s own funds to pay human staff wages, office leases etc.

    And here comes the double whammy &8211; if the standards body is managing , take ISO 4217 currency codes for example, both the codes and their metadata i.e. a living locally stored and replicated document, as well as governance rules like votes for change, can be managed on-chain by smart contracts.

    Any change is replicated in near real-time to anyone running a node, to make use of as appropriate inside their firewall. Given the importance of reference data and today’s reconciliation issues, a Governance DAO sounds to me like a great value proposition.

    Source: https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/crypto-20-musings-standards-reference-data-daos-alex-batlin

    The post Alex Batlin’s Briefing of Crypto 2.0 Musings – Standards and Reference Data Governance DAO appeared first on Fintech Schweiz Digital Finance News – FintechNewsCH.

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  • @fintechna 3:35 am on May 28, 2016 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , , , 8242, 8243, , , , , , Combining, , Crypto, , hasAgentAddress, , Ricardian,   

    Alex Batlin’s Briefing of Crypto 2.0 Musings – Combining Ricardian and Smart Contracts 

    Alex Batlin’s Briefing of Crypto 2.0 Musings – Combining Ricardian and Smart Contracts fintech

    Baltlin&;s &; Personal View

    Nick Szabo proposed the idea of smart contracts back in 1997

    • Many kinds of contractual clauses (such as collateral, bonding, delineation of property rights, etc.) can be embedded in the hardware and software we deal with, in such a way as to make breach of contract expensive (if desired, sometimes prohibitively so) for the breacher.
    • A canonical real-life example, which we might consider to be the primitive ancestor of , is the humble vending machine. Within a limited amount of potential loss (the amount in the till should be less than the cost of breaching the mechanism), the machine takes in coins, and via a simple mechanism, which makes a freshman computer science problem in design with finite automata, dispense change and product according to the displayed price. The vending machine is a contract with bearer: anybody with coins can participate in an exchange with the vendor. The lockbox and other security mechanisms protect the stored coins and contents from attackers, sufficiently to allow profitable deployment of vending machines in a wide variety of areas.
    • Smart contracts go beyond the vending machine in proposing to embed contracts in all sorts of property that is valuable and controlled by digital means.

     

    The Origin of Peer-to-Peer Electronic Cash System

    Satoshi Nakamoto incorporated the idea of a smart contract in his Bitcoin: A Peer-to-Peer Electronic Cash System whitepaper. Instead of a vending machine safe keeping snacks and cash, and dispensing snacks plus change in exchange for cash, a distributed ledger, controlled by smart contract code, keeps account of how many bitcoins are held by which account and determines if new coins can be issued or existing ones transferred.

    So what happens when the vending machine fails to give you back the right change? Most likely you look for a sticker on the vending machine with a phone number to call. You call the number, tell the operator the machine number, they pull up the instructions on what to do in case of failure, based on clauses of the vending machine legal contract, and hopefully proceed to solve the issue.

    Wait, hold on, the operator follows instructions based on legal contract clauses! So there is an overall legal contract, some of contract clauses are performed by the vending machine’s smart contract code, others are performed by people. ’s design deliberately focused on a pure digital asset exclusively controlled by distributed-consensus-seeking smart contract code, which means that all legal clauses are covered by smart contract code, and hence there is no need for an encompassing legal contract, but for most real world use cases, including vending machines, you do need an overarching legal contract, and autonomous agents – be they humans, organizations or smart contracts, distributed or centrally operated, to ensure performance of one or more legal clauses.

    Traditional legal contracts are unstructured paper or electronic documents that are not machine-readable, not surprising given they were only designed for human consumption. They also tend to be declarative, not procedural in nature i.e. they specify what should happen, not how.

    That is why often there are operating instructions and procedures that describe how humans should do what things in order to comply with legal clauses. It is therefore useful to think of smart contracts as procedural code that is executed by a centralized or distributed-consensus-seeking platform in order to enforce performance of one or more declarative legal contract clauses, but in order to do that, the legal contract’s automation salient details must be machine readable.

     

    The Idea of Ricardian Contract

    This is where Ian Grigg’s idea of Ricardian Contract comes in

    • Our innovation is to express an issued instrument as a contract, and to link that contract into every aspect of the payment system.
    • By this process, a document of some broad utility (readable by user and program) is drafted and digitally signed by the issuer of the instrument. This document, the Contract, forms the basis for understanding an issue and every transaction within that issue.
    • By extension, all issues of value, such as currencies, shares, derivatives, loyalty systems and vouchers, can benefit from this approach.
    • A Ricardian Contract can be defined as a single document that is a) a contract offered by an issuer to holders, b) for a valuable right held by holders, and managed by the issuer, c) easily readable by people (like a contract on paper), d) readable by programs (parsable like a database), e) digitally signed, f) carries the keys and server information, and g) allied with a unique and secure identifier (content hash).

    Whilst the focus of a Ricardian Contract is in recognizing that financial instruments e.g. currencies, bonds, shares should be issued as human and machine readable contracts, same principles can be in my opinion applied more broadly to any kind of legal contract, so as to be fully or partially enforced by both human and smart contract autonomous agents.

    This is by no means a new idea. Primavera de Filippi published an excellent Legal Framework For -Ledger Transactions post about integrating legal and smart contracts. She cites CommmonAccord, a global legal contract template system, as a means to create Ricardian Contracts.

    Eris proposes an alternative eris: legal system, based on legal_markdown templates and CommonForm renderer, for what they call cryptographically-certain duel integration process:

    • Deploy a smart contract
    • Reference the chainId and contractAddress of the deployed smart contract in the final draft of the real world contract.
    • Finalize the real world contract and find its digital fingerprint.
    • Send a transaction logging the checksum of the real world contract into the storage of the smart contract.

     

    Blockchain enforces Ricardian Contract clauses

    smart contracts are by no means the only way to enforce Ricardian Contract clauses. Open-Transactions project, see whitepaper, implements financial instruments as Ricardian Contracts, processed by a transaction server based on cryptographic proof instead of trust, allowing any willing parties who wish to contract with each other to enjoy the benefits of a server without needing to trust it &8211; a solution that demotes transaction servers to mere notaries, only able to counter-sign contracts that have first been signed by their clients. Barclays’ Dr Lee Braine recently presented yet another alternative vision when he demonstrated an ISDA Master Agreement proof of concept on R3’s Corda &8211; a blockchain inspired platform lead by Richard Gendal Brown &8211; R3’s CTO.

    One of the issues I foresee with the emergence of many different template and markup standards is the very plurality of standards. How do you know that the term in contract A is same or different in contract B. How can you create a nice looking document, yet mark it up in such a way as to make it machine readable. Turns out most of these questions have already been solved by the Semantic Webproject in the form of RDFa standard that embeds Linked Data in HTML, an extension to HTML5 that helps you markup things like People, Places, Events, Recipes and Reviews.

    It builds upon standard Web technologies such as HTML, HTTP, RDF (allows creation of unambiguous structured data taxonomies) and URIs, but rather than using them to serve web pages for human readers, it extends them to share information in a way that can be read automatically by computers. RDFa was originally designed for Search Engines and Web Services to use this markup to generate better search listings and give users better visibility on the Web, so that people can find websites more easily, but in my opinion can be applied without alteration to Ricardian Contracts.

     

    Example Weather Insurance Ricardian Contract

    Let’s provide a simple example – a Ricardian Contract for weather insurance. Here is what a user would see in their web-browser:

    &;-

    Example:

    I, Alex Batlin, authorise the transfer from address &;abcdwerr&8217; to address &8217;24dsfrg3434&; using smart contract agent address &8217;24dsfrg3434&8242; of &8217;10&8217; unit(s) of GBP pounds held by smart contract address &8216;4854398578934&8217; on the condition that website &8216;Weather.com&8216; confirms that &8216;0.5&8217; cumulative inches of rain did indeed fall between start date &8216;9:00AM UTC 10th of March, 2015&8217; and finish date &8216;9:00AM UTC 11th of March, 2015&8217; in country &8216;GB&8217; and postcode &8216;EC2Y 0RT’.

    &8212;-

    Hopefully pretty much self-explanatory, but on first glance not very useful for machine consumption. Let’s have a look at the underlying HTML:

    &8212;-

    <html>

    <head>

    <title>Example <a href=&;http://reference.com/master-agreement-123&amp;;>Weather Insurance</a> Ricardian Contract</title>

    </head>

    <body prefix=&8221;rc: http://batlin.com/ricardian#&8221;&gt;

    <h1>Example Weather Insurance Ricardian Contract</h1>

    <p typeof=&8221;rc:RicardianContract&8221;>

    <span>I, Alex Batlin, authorise the transfer</span>

    <span property=&8221;rc:hasTransferAuthorisation&8221; typeof=&8221;rc:TransferAuthorisation&8221;>

    from address &8216;<span property=&8221;rc:hasFromAddress&8221;>abcdwerr</span>&8217;

    to address &8216;<span property=&8221;rc:hasToAddress&8221;>24dsfrg3434</span>&8217;

    using smart contract agent address &8216;<span property=&8221;rc:&8221;>24dsfrg3434</span>&8217;

    of &8216;<span property=&8221;rc:hasInstrumentUnits&8221;>10</span>&8217; unit(s)

    of GBP pounds held by smart contract address &8216;<span property=&8221;rc:hasInstrumentAddress&8221;>4854398578934</span>&8217;

    </span>

    <span property=&8221;rc:hasTransferCondition&8221; typeof=&8221;rc:TransferCondition&8221;>

    on the condition that

    website &8216;<a href=&8221;https://www.weather.com&8221; property=&8221;rc:hasOracleUrl&8221;>Weather.com</a>&8217;

    confirms that &8216;<span property=&8221;rc:hasCumulativeInchesOfRainDetected&8221;>0.5</span>&8217; cumulative inches of rain

    did indeed fall between start date &8216;<span property=&8221;rc:hasStartDate&8221; content=&8221;2016-03-10T09:00:00<&;>9:00AM UTC 10th of March, 2015</span>&8217; and

    finish date &8216;<span property=&8221;rc:hasFinishDate&8221; content=&8221;2016-03-11T09:00:00<&8220;>9:00AM UTC 11th of March, 2015</span>&8217;

    in country &8216;<span property=&8221;rc:hasCountryCode&8221;>GB</span>&8217;

    and postcode &8216;<span property=&8221;rc:hasPostCode&8221;>EC2Y 0RT</span>&8217;.

    </span>

    </p>

    </body>

    &8212;-

    You will notice that many HTML tags have additional attributes like property and type. When the same document is parsed through an RDFa parser, the following structured data (for this example in Turtle format) is extracted:

    &8212;-

    @prefix rc: <http://batlin.com/ricardian#&gt; .

    [] a rc:RicardianContract;

    rc:hasTransferAuthorisation [ a rc:TransferAuthorisation;

    rc:hasAgentAddress &8220;24dsfrg3434&8221;;

    rc:hasFromAddress &8220;abcdwerr&8221;;

    rc:hasInstrumentAddress &8220;4854398578934&8221;;

    rc:hasInstrumentUnits &8220;10&8221;;

    rc:hasToAddress &8220;24dsfrg3434&8221; ];

    rc:hasTransferCondition [ a rc:TransferCondition;

    rc:hasCountryCode &8220;GB&8221;;

    rc:hasCumulativeInchesOfRainDetected &8220;0.5&8221;;

    rc:hasFinishDate &8220;2016-03-11T09:00:00<&8220;;

    rc:hasOracleUrl <https://www.weather.com&gt;;

    rc:hasPostCode &8220;EC2Y 0RT&8221;;

    rc:hasStartDate &8220;2016-03-10T09:00:00<&8221; ] .

    &8212;-

    You will notice that at the top there is a link to the taxonomy definition file, which means every single property, is completely unambiguous. In fact you can define many different taxonomies or use many shared ones within the same document, which promotes re-use and efficiency, and you can use your client to also pull-in descriptions, labels, additional facts and any rules associated with a property. See if you can read the extract below, from the http://batlin.com/ricardian taxonomy file:

    &8212;-

    <rdf:Description rdf:about=&8221;http://batlin.com/ricardian#hasAgentAddress&8221;&gt;

    <rdfs:label xml:lang=&8221;en&8221;>Agent Address</rdfs:label>

    <rdfs:comment xml:lang=&8221;en&8221;>Address of the smart contract responsible for doing the actual condition transfer.</rdfs:comment>

    </rdf:Description>

    &8212;-

    Pretty powerful stuff! It’s worth pointing out that many financial vocabularies or taxonomies like ISO20022 are already expressed in XML Schemas, which can be easily converted to RDF schemas. In another words you do not need to re-invent how create your legal documents, just write them in HTML, which even MS Word supports, you don’t need to re-invent structured data serialization – use RDF, you can use RDFa to mark-up HTML with RDF, and you can reuse existing taxonomies like ISO20022 either by converting them from XML Schema or writing them native in RDF Schema or OWL.

    So ok, you have defined your Ricardian Contract as RDFa marked-up HTML document that grants someone the right to withdraw some money from someone’s account based on a pre-specified condition, now what?

    This is where I get inspired by Bitcoin – it defines a distributed ledger that safe keeps bitcoins and defines in a smart contract the generic transfer and issuance rules e.g. only allow someone who possesses the correct private key to spend only the ones what they own etc. If I try and create a more generic pattern, lets say on Ethereum, I end up with what I called the Instrument Smart Contract (ISC) – something that defines the procedural rules linked to one or more contractual clauses of a financial instrument Ricardian Contract and keeps ledger of ownership.

    Bitcoin actually specifies some of it’s transfer rules via scripts attached to transactions – default one being that a specific key is required to spend the transactions, whilst double spend prevent etc. rules are hardwired into the protocol code. Scripts can support more advanced conditions like multisig. To create a more generic and re-usable pattern, I propose the idea of an Agent Smart Contract (ASC)– something that encapsulates more user specific conditions in procedural code to achieve the declarative end state, again linked to legal clauses.

     

    Agent Smart Contract

    In effect, the Weather Insurance ASC is granted permission to transfer value held in the GBP ISC from issuer to beneficiary if it is presented with sufficient evidence by the beneficiary. In this example, proof-of-contract and proof-of-weather (a form of proof-of-condition) will be required as evidence. Proof-of-contract is the digitally signed Ricardian Contract expressed as RDFa marked-up HTML document. Proof-of-weather is in this case a digitally signed JSON response from a RESTful API service by Weather.com with contract matching parameters. It could as easily be a smart contract controlled by a smart oracle – if on-chain notary is an advantage.

    Here is a, not at all well thought out, process to claim your insurance and get paid:

    • Beneficiary buys the weather insurance from an insurer and receives from them by email or other means the digitally signed Ricardian Contract, which is stored in beneficiary’s digital wallet.
    • Beneficiary’s wallet will inspect the contract and decide when it should query the weather service to determine if a claim can proceed.
    • Assuming a claim can proceed, the wallet sends a transaction that primarily includes the Ricardian Contract to the ISC to register the ASC as a trusted third party able to act as a value transfer delegate on behalf of the issuer.
    • The wallet then sends a transaction to the ASC, primarily including the Ricardian Contract and Weather.com JSON response.
    • The ASC validates the contract and JSON response, and if all ok sends a transaction to the ISC, instructing transfer of GBP in this case from issuer to beneficiary.

    Note, the ASC may itself be an ISC – meaning that for instance if you buy a bond, the bond gives you the right to get paid coupons from the issuer’s money smart contract. In this way you can implement complex atomic swaps spanning multiple instruments e.g. Delivery vs. Payment, Payment vs. Payment. In fact the ASC may be a good place to implement Interledger’s notary services, as long as the ISC supports ledger-provided escrow. Interledger is a protocol for payments across payment systems. It enables secure transfers between ledgers and allows anyone with accounts on two ledgers to create a connection between them. Ledger-provided escrow removes the need to trust these connectors. Connections can be composed to enable payments between any ledgers, creating a global graph of liquidity or Interledger.

    The ASC can also be a good place to implement state (micropayment) channels and off-chain oracles. Many contracts never get exercised e.g. options, insurance – so recording them on-chain is a waste of resource – good enough security can be achieved without use of on-chain smart oracles or storage of contract instance if proof-of-contract and proof-of-condition (in this case weather) is submitted to ASC when the claim needs to be made. Another advantage of this approach versus bundling all logic into the instrument code is flexibility – code can be kept tight and implement core logic, and allow many claim conditions e.g. if the holder of a bond fails to collect coupon payments, but has a credit default swap, this can be activated and money collected from underwriter.

    Source: Content from https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/crypto-20-musings-combining-ricardian-smart-contracts-alex-batlin and Image from http://www.lyntonweddingvenue.co.uk/hands.jpg

    The post Alex Batlin’s Briefing of Crypto 2.0 Musings &8211; Combining Ricardian and Smart Contracts appeared first on Fintech Schweiz Digital Finance News – FintechNewsCH.

    Fintech Schweiz Digital Finance News – FintechNewsCH

     
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