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). This paper showed how the traditional (secrecy) conceptualization of cryptography is wanting; in its place, I argued for a new conceptualization as a notational system. As Leibniz and Turing …
). This paper showed how the traditional (secrecy) conceptualization of cryptography is wanting; in its place, I argued for a new conceptualization as a notational system. As Leibniz and Turing understood, a notational system can order the world in powerful ways. Reading the politics of Bitcoin in light of a reimagination of Deleuze’s control society (replacing modulation with order) I suggested that cryptography is a powerful “new weapon,” functioning as an ordering machine. I argued that Bitcoin is at the forefront of advancing this ordering logic, updating the economic system for our new control society. Quinn DuPont email@example.com Faculty of Information, University of Toronto i Mt. Gox was the most popular bitcoin exchange, and dealt primarily in USD, although many other exchanges are available (some with regional or jurisdictional foci). Mt. Gox started as a trading card exchange for the online game Magic: The Gathering Online, but eventually rebranded to focus exclusively on bitcoin. ii This was the first spike in value for 2013; the second (much larger) spike occurred a few months later when bitcoins were trading above 1000 USD/bitcoin, often swinging more than 50% in value in a matter of hours. iii The recent revelations of US military contractor Edward Snowden perpetuate this ideology, even if they eroded the universal trust in cryptography. For many, the response was simply a need for better cryptography, seemingly safe from the revealed fact that US Intelligence services can readily crack or circumvent available cryptography. iv The Electronic Frontier Foundation advocates the widespread use of cryptography (Opsahl et al., 2013); see below for evidence of bitcoin’s origins on the Cypherpunks mailing list. v See for example Rosenheim (1997) and Shoptaw (2000) on literature and poetics, Ellison (2011, 2008) on textual studies, Gleick (2011) on information, Pesic (2000a, 2000b, 1997) on science, Blanchette (2012) on documentation, Eco (1986) on semiotics, and Zielinski (2008) on media. vi See the journal of record, Cryptologia, for the history of cryptography. While many of the articles published in Cryptologia are the only source of history and should be applauded for their trailblazing work, most are published by hobbyists or experts in engineering who have an interest in historical matters. Even Kahn himself, who over the years has become a highly capable self-trained historian, started as a journalist. These histories, correspondingly, usually suffer from the evils of bad historiographical methodology: “impact” accounts of technical change, over-reporting of military technologies, and whiggish, teleologically-driven narratives. vii Although written prior to his famous Essay, Mercury was published posthumously. viii For an assessment of universal and philosophical language schemes, with occasional reference to the role of cryptography, see (Cohen, 1954; Formigari, 2004, 1993, 1988; Maat, 2004; Rossi, 2000; Salmon, 1971, 1966; Slaughter, 1982; Wilding, 2001). ix Note that Glidden (1987) argues that the French version (here pictured) of Trithemius’ Polygraphiae contains a slightly artificial “reinforced” link to Lullian and cabalistic influences. x Cryptography is often twinned with war. At times these associations can be productive (Deleuze and Guattari, 1987; Kittler, 1999), but far too often they constrain our thinking, leading to discourse (and associated models) of “adversaries,” “man-in-the-middle,” “attack” and so on. The bellicose nature of cryptography cannot be dismissed—it is a war machine—but I think we should derive, not assume, such connections. xi Although only occasionally recognized, the histories of information and cryptography are intimately tied (see e.g., Gleick, 2011). xii “Discrete” and “discreet” share the Latin origin discretus. xiii For a more extensive description of the dialectic of mimetic and algorithmic technologies see Takhteyev and DuPont (n.d.). xiv The skytale has been disqualified as cryptography simply because it doesn’t offer plausibly good secrecy. As I have been trying to argue, we need to think more expansively about our conceptualization of cryptography, and may want to return to the original understanding of the skytale as an encryption device, but one that offers something other than secrecy. xv It is worth noting that Alberti’s cryptographic work was also influenced by Lull (Kahn, 1980). xvi Asymmetric-key cryptography was initially invented in 1973 at the Government Communication Headquarters in the UK by James Ellis, Clifford Cocks, and Malcom Williamson but kept secret; it was then publically re-invented in 1976 by Whitfield Diffie and Martin Hellman (Levy, 2002). xvii More complicated three-pass schemes are possible too, in which I encrypt a message and pass it to you, then you encrypt the already-encrypted message and pass it back, I then decrypt my encryption and pass it back to you, at which point you can finally decrypt your encryption and read the message—successfully transferred in public while remaining encrypted. xviii At this point the anarchist/libertarian undercurrents are completely at the fore, Dai (1998) starts his proposal, “I am fascinated by Tim May’s crypto-anarchy.” xix Of course, this is the ideal scenario. Any competing network of greater computational power could best the legitimate one, and therefore human vagaries of collusion and consolidation come to play. This has actually happened, when due to a technical bug the blockchain became “forked,” and was only reset when a cartel of powerful mining pools colluded to switch to the “corrected” blockchain. Alberti, G. B. (2010). De componendis cifris. In K. Williams, L. March, & S. R. Wassell (Eds.), The Mathematical Works of Leon Battista Alberti (pp. 169–187). Basel: Springer Basel. Retrieved from 007%2F978-3-0346-0474-1_4 Aspray, W. F. (1985). The Scientific Conceptualization of Information: A Survey. Annals of the History of Computing, 7(2), 117–140. Back, A. (1997, March 28). hash cash postage implementation. Cypherpunks. Retrieved from http://www.hashcash.org/papers/announce.txt Bacon, F. (1762). Novum organum scientiarum. Venetiis: Typis G. Girardi. Bauer, F. L. (2005). Cryptology. In Encyclopedia of cryptography and security. New York: Springer. Retrieved from &T=F Bellman, B. L. (1979). The Paradox of Secrecy. Human Studies, 4(1), 1–24. Blanchette, J.-F. (2012). Burdens of Proof: Cryptographic Culture and Evidence Law in the Age of Electronic Documents. MIT Press. Carpo, M. (2011). The Alphabet and the Algorithm. Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press. Chaum, D. (1982). Blind Signatures for Untraceable Payments. In R. L. Rivest, D. Chaum, & A. T. Sherman (Eds.), (pp. 199–203). Presented at the Advances in Cryptology Proceedings of Crypto 82, Plenum. Retrieved from http://blog.koehntopp.de/uploads/Chaum.BlindSigForPayment.1982.PDF Cherry, E. (1953). A history of the theory of information. Information Theory, IEEE Transactions on, 1(1), 22–43. Cohen, J. (1954). On the Project of a Universal Character. Mind, 63(249), 49–63. Cooke, M. (1983). Ibn Khaldun and Language: From Linguistic Habit to Philological Craft. Journal of Asian and African Studies, 18(3-4), 179–188. Dai, W. (1998, November 26). PipeNet 1.1 and b-money. Cypherpunks. Retrieved from http://marc.info/?l=cypherpunks&m=95279516022393&w=2 Deleuze, G. (1992). Postscript on the Societies of Control. October, 59(Winter), 3–7. Deleuze, G., & Guattari, F. (1987). A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia. (B. Massumi, Trans.). University of Minnesota Press. Derrida, J. (1998). Of Grammatology. (G. C. Spivak, Trans.) (Corrected.). Baltimore and London: The Johns Hopkins University Press. Eco, U. (1986). Semiotics and the Philosophy of Language. Bloomington, Indiana: Indiana University Press. Ellison, K. (2008). Cryptogrammatophoria: The Romance and Novelty of Losing Readers in Code. Eighteenth Century Fiction, 20(3), 281–305. Ellison, K. (2011). Millions of Millions of Distinct Orders: Multimodality in Seventeenth-Century Cryptography Manuals. Book History, 14(1), 1–24. Finney, H. (2004, August 15). RPOW – Reusable Proofs of Work. Cypherpunks. Retrieved from http://marc.info/?l=cypherpunks&m=109259877510186&w=2 Formigari, L. (1988). Language and Experience in 17th-Century British Philosophy. Amsterdam/Philadelphia: John Benjamins Publishing Company. Formigari, L. (1993). Signs, Science, and Politics: Philosophies of Language in Europe, 1700-1830. (W. Dodd, Trans.). Amsterdam/Philadelphia: John Benjamins Publishing Company. Formigari, L. (2004). A History of Language Philosophies. (G. Poole, Trans.). Philadelphia: John Benjamins Pub. Foucault, M. (1979). Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison. (A. Sheridan, Trans.). New York: Vintage Books. Foucault, M. (2002). The Order of Things: An Archaeology of the Human Sciences. New York: Routledge. Gardner, M. (1958). Logic Machines and Diagrams. New York: McGraw-Hill. Geoghegan, B. D. (2008). Historiographic Conceptualization of Information: A Critical Survey. IEEE Annals of the History of Computing, 30(1), 66–81. Gleick, J. (2011). The Information: A History, a Theory, a Flood (1st ed.). New York: Pantheon Books. Glidden, H. H. (1987). Polygraphia and the Renaissance Sign: The Case of Trithemius. Neophilologus, 71(2), 183–195. doi:10.1007/BF00209168 Goodman, N. (1976). Languages of Art: An Approach to a Theory of Symbols. Indianapolis: Hackett Publishing. Hayles, N. K. (1999). How We Became Posthuman: Virtual Bodies in Cybernetics, Literature, and Informatics. University of Chicago Press. Heidegger, M. (2002). The Age of the World Picture. In J. Young & K. Haynes (Trans.), Off the Beaten Track (pp. 57–85). Cambridge UK: Cambridge University Press. J.M.P. (2013, December 25). Bitcoin paradise. The Economist. Retrieved from Kahn, D. (1967). The Codebreakers: The Story of Secret Writing. New York: Macmillan. Kahn, D. (1980). On the Origin of Polyalphabetic Substitution. Isis, 71(1), 122–127. Kelly, T. (1998). The Myth of the Skytale. Cryptologia, 22(3), 244–260. doi:10.1080/0161-119891886902 Kittler, F. (1990). Discourse Networks 1800/1900. Stanford, Calif.: Stanford University Press. Kittler, F. (1999). Gramophone, Film, Typewriter (1st ed.). Stanford University Press. Kockmeyer, B. (2007). A schematic that shows the SHA-2 algorithm. Retrieved from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:SHA-2.svg Kohno, T., Ferguson, N., & Schneier, B. (2010). Cryptography Engineering: Design Principles and Practical Applications. Indianapolis, IN: Wiley Publishing, Inc. Lateiner, D. (2005). Signifying names and other ominous accidental utterances in classical historiography. Greek, Roman, and Byzantine Studies, 45(1), 35–57. Leibniz, G. W. (1666). Dissertatio de Arte Combinatoria. Leipzig: Joh. Simon Fickium et Joh. Polycarp. Retrieved from http://www.rarebookroom.org/Control/leiart/index.html?page=7 Leibniz, G. W. (1989). Dissertation on the Art of Combinations. In L. E. Loemker (Ed.), Philosophical Papers and Letters (pp. 73–84). Dordrecht / Boston / London: Kluwer Academic Publishers. Lessig, L. (2006). Code v2. Basic Books. Levy, S. (2002). Crypto: Secrecy and Privacy in the New Code War. London: Penguin. Luebeke, D. M., & Milton, S. (1994). Locating the Victim: An Overview of Census-Taking, Tabulation Technology and Persecution in Nazi Germany. IEEE Annals of the History of Computing, 16(3), 25–39. Maat, J. (2004). Philosophical Languages in the Seventeenth Century: Dalgarno, Wilkins, Leibniz: Dalgarno, Wilkins, Leibniz. Springer. Manske, M. (2005). Four rotor German naval Enigma on display at Bletchley Park. Retrieved from .JPG Mackenzie, A. (1996). Undecidability: The History and Time of the Universal Turing Machine. Configurations, 4(3), 359–379. doi:10.1353/con.1996.0020 Merkle, R. C. (1982, January 5). Method of providing digital signatures. Retrieved from http://www.google.com/patents?id=Dd4zAAAAEBAJ Montiglio, S. (2000). Silence in the Land of Logos. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press. Nakamoto, S. (2008, October 31). Bitcoin P2P e-cash paper. Cypherpunks. Retrieved from http://marc.info/?l=cryptography&m=122558139832010&w=2 Opsahl, K., Cardozo, N., & Higgins, P. (2013, December 16). UPDATE: Encrypt the Web Report: Who’s Doing What. Electronic Frontier Foundation. Retrieved December 17, 2013, from at Pesic, P. (1997). Secrets, Symbols, and Systems: Parallels between Cryptanalysis and Algebra, 1580-1700. Isis, 88(4), 674–692. Pesic, P. (2000a). Labyrinth: A Search for the Hidden Meaning of Science. Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press. Pesic, P. (2000b). The Clue to the Labyrinth: Francis Bacon and the Decryption of Nature. Cryptologia, 24(3), 193–211. doi:10.1080/01611190008984242 Poe, E. A. (1991). The Gold-Bug and Other Tales (Dover Thrift Editions.). Mineola, N.Y.: Dover Publications. Poe, E. A. (2013). The Gold Bug (Unabridged.). Audio Books by Mike Vendetti. Prendergast, C. (2000). The Triangle of Representation. New York: Columbia University Press. Rosenheim, S. (1997). The Cryptographic Imagination: Secret Writings from Edgar Allen Poe to the Internet. Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press. Rossi, P. (2000). Logic and the Art of Memory: The Quest for a Universal Language. London: Athlone Press. Rousseau, J.-J. (2003). On the Social Contract. (G. D. H. Cole, Trans.). New York: Dover Publications. Salmon, V. (1966). Language-Planning in Seventeenth-Century England; Its Context and Aims. In C. E. Bazell, J. C. Catford, M. A. K. Halliday, & R. H. Robins (Eds.), In Memory of J.R. Firth (pp. 370–395). London: Longmans, Green and Co Ltd. Salmon, V. (1971). The Evolution of Dalgarno’s “Ars Signorum.” In Studies in Language and Literature in Honour of Marget Schlauch (pp. 353–371). New York: Russell & Russell. Schmeh, K. (2012). The Pathology of Cryptology—A Current Survey. Cryptologia, 36(1), 14–45. doi:10.1080/01611194.2011.632803 Shannon, C. (1945). A Mathematical Theory of Cryptography (No. 20878). New Jersey: Bell Labs. Retrieved from http://www.cs.bell-labs.com/who/dmr/pdfs/shannoncryptshrt.pdf Shannon, C., & Weaver, W. (1948). A Mathematical Theory of Communication. Bell Syst. Tech. J, 27, 379–423. Shoptaw, J. (2000). Lyric Cryptography. Poetics Today, 21(1), 221–262. Slater, J. B. (Ed.). (2013). Slave to the Algorithm (Vol. 3). Mute. Slaughter, M. M. (1982). Universal Languages and Scientific Taxonomy in the Seventeenth Century. Cambridge University Press. Szabo, N. (1997). Formalizing and Securing Relationships on Public Networks. First Monday, 2(9). doi:10.5210/fm.v2i9.548 Szabo, N. (2008, December 27). Bit gold. Unenumerated. Retrieved January 5, 2014, from http://unenumerated.blogspot.ca/2005/12/bit-gold.html Takhteyev, Y., & DuPont, Q. (n.d.). Ordering Space: Alternative Views of ICTs and Geography. Manuscript in Preparation. Thomsen, S. W. (2009). Some evidence concerning the genesis of Shannon’s information theory. Studies in History and Philosophy of Science, 40(1), 81–91. Tritheme, M. I. (1561). Polygraphie: Universelle escriture Cabalistique de M.I. Tritheme Abbé. Paris: Jaques Keruer. Retrieved from http://fantastic.library.cornell.edu/bookrecord.php?record=F034 Turing, A. (c. 1939-42). Turing’s Notes on the Enigma Machine (Catalogue reference: HW 25/3). Retrieved from http://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/spies/ciphers/enigma/en1.htm West, S. (1988). Archilochus’ Message-Stick. The Classical Quarterly, 38(1), 42–48. Wilding, N. (2001). “If You Have A Secret, Either Keep It, Or Reveal It”: Cryptography and Universal Language. In D. Stolzenberg (Ed.), The Great Art of Knowing: The Baroque Encyclopedia of Athanasius Kircher (pp. 93–103). Firenze, Italia: CADMO. Wilkins, J. (1668). Essay Towards a Real Character and a Philosophical Language. London: Royal Society. Wilkins, J. (1694). Mercury: or, The secret and swift messenger. Shewing, how a man may with privacy and speed communicate his thoughts to a friend at any distance. London: R. Baldwin. Winthrop-Young, G. (2011). Kittler and the Media. Cambridge, UK; Malden, MA: Polity Press. Zielinski, S. (2008). Deep Time of the Media: Toward an Archaeology of Hearing and Seeing by Technical Means. (G. Custance, Trans.). The MIT Press. You must be logged in to post a comment. Joining Humanity+ as a Full, Plus or Sponsor Member enables you to participate in Humanity+ governance and decision-making - an important role in the growing Transhumanist movement. It also, of course, gives you the opportunity to support us in the work Humanity+ does![Editor’s note, see http://www.iqdupont.com/ and H/T Žarko Almuli] It was April 10th, 2013 and the price of a single Bitcoin surged past 250 USD on the Mt. Gox exchange. A few months prior I had purchased seven Bitcoins for just under $200, and now they were nearing $2000 in value (Figure 1). But, just as fast as the market went up, it came down. Ever the amateur gambler, I panicked and sold too early. But, I was lulled by my humming money machine, permuting cryptographic codes by the millions every second. I was not the only one interested in playing the Bitcoin market, and the increasing price of Bitcoin was due to a number of factors, including a sustained distributed denial-of-service attack on Mt. Gox, and other people like me gambling in the latest crypto-anarchist adventure. It was April 10th, 2013 and the price of a single Bitcoin surged past 250 USD on the Mt. Gox exchange. A few months prior I had purchased seven Bitcoins for just under $200, and now they were nearing $2000 in value (Figure 1). But, just as fast as the market went up, it came down. Ever the amateur gambler, I panicked and sold too early. But, I was lulled by my humming money machine, permuting cryptographic codes by the millions every second. I was not the only one interested in playing the Bitcoin market, and the increasing price of Bitcoin was due to a number of factors, including a sustained distributed denial-of-service attack on Mt. Gox, and other people like me gambling in the latest crypto-anarchist adventure. Like many other modern currencies, Bitcoin is fiat money. But, unlike traditional fiat money, Bitcoin is cryptographic and electronic. There is no “physical” substrate to Bitcoin; the “coins” exist only as cryptographic representations stored in digital wallets. In the simplest caricature of complex economics, fiat money has no intrinsic value and thus requires people to trust that it will retain value. Usually government backing provides this semblance of trust, but when this trust is eroded (e.g., a weak government), value often plummets. Technical flaws also cripple the trust that sustains fiat money, such as rampant fraud, counterfeiting, or hyperinflation. Trust in Bitcoin rests on a range of technical advantages supplied by cryptography. According to advocates, cryptography is secure (safe from technical or mathematical error).iii When applied to economic apparatuses, counterfeiting and double-spending is prevented through the use of public key cryptography, and hyperinflation is kept in check because the cryptographically-secure mining protocol ensures the measured production of money (with a maximum number of coins produced). Yet, as with general discussions of cryptography, complicated political issues often transform into a binary of state versus personal power. On the one hand, when cryptography is used for Privacy Enhancing Technologies it is seen as a block against government snooping. On the other hand, these same cryptographic technologies are often used against the people. This debate is particularly important for crypto/cyber-libertarians,iv who often believe that Bitcoin’s lack of government backing is a virtue (J.M.P., 2013). Described generally, cryptography is typically understood as a means to ensure “information security” or “information secrecy” (see e.g. Kohno et al., 2010). Here, security and secrecy are understood in terms of social relations (c.f. Bellman, 1979). Modelled in its simplest formulation, a secret is some information that I possess and you do not, while information security might be described more abstractly as control of information within a relationship. Or, the encyclopaedic definition: “the aim [of cryptography] is secrecy and confidentiality: the practice of keeping secrets, maintaining privacy, or concealing valuables” (Bauer, 2005). Though the conceptual analysis usually stops here, cryptography also functions more deeply, in ways rarely appreciated by those developing the technology. Understanding how cryptography functions at this deeper level is essential to understanding how Bitcoin functions. I argue that cryptography is central to Bitcoin and yet produces a set of non-secret powers for its social (and economic) effect. This paper suggests that cryptography can be reimagined and reconceptualised, putting forth an alternative to the dominant view that cryptography is secrecy. The long history of cryptography is abbreviated to show that cryptography previously functioned in many different ways, but has been systematically black-boxed. By opening up this black box and reconceptualizing cryptography I argue that we can attend to the history of cryptography yet retain analytical rigour by viewing cryptography as a discrete notational system. Then, returning to Bitcoin, I describe the specific cryptographic mechanisms as used in Bitcoin. Building on this foundation I offer a description of a full Bitcoin transaction. My method for understanding this technical foundation was to engage in praxis, and so, returning to my introductory story about my own experiences with Bitcoin I describe the lessons I learned by running a Bitcoin mining machine. Finally, I take up Gilles Deleuze’s suggestion to “look for new weapons” in our control society. By drawing on my reconceptualization of cryptography as a discrete notational system I suggest that Bitcoin functions as a new weapon in a logic of order. Given the important role that cryptography plays in our lives, it is surprising how little attention it receives outside of the academic worlds of mathematics/engineering and privacy/law. A few authors outside of these fields have explored how cryptography intersects with other domains, but for the most part, cryptography has been a mathematical and legal concern.v Perhaps the most useful of these authors is Kahn (1967) who provides a history of cryptography,vi identifying how the golden age of Western cryptography started with Leon Battista Alberti (1404-1472). Reaching far beyond mathematics and law, Alberti identified cryptography as an intriguing mix of technologies and practices: the “occult arts,” “mysteries of nature,” “strange characters with unusual meanings,” ”movable type,” and secrecy (Alberti, 2010). Over the next six centuries these themes played out in interesting ways. In the 17th century, John Wilkins (1614-1672) developed a proposal for an unambiguous, universal/philosophical language (1668) after developing the ideas in Mercury (1694), the first English-language cryptography manual.vii Athanasius Kircher (c. 1601-1680), similarly, reworked Johannes Trithemius’ (1462-1516) troubled work on cryptography for his universal language scheme (Figure 2).viii Francis Bacon (1561-1626) worked out a method for universally signifying nature with his bilateral cipher before launching his “great reformation” of scientific interpretation (Bacon, 1762). And Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz (1646-1716) contributed to discrete mathematics after writing his dissertation (1989) on the cryptographic combinatorics of Raymund Lull’s (1232-1315) occult and cabalistic science (Gardner, 1958). The richness of these historical themes has now, in contemporary cryptography, practically disappeared. Cryptography has become operationalized and nearly univocal—gone are the vibrant connections to language, science, and art. Today, our most influential conceptualization is Claude Shannon’s (1945) linked notion of secrecy and information. Prior to his famous Mathematical Theory of Communication (Shannon and Weaver, 1948), Shannon had been working on war-time encryption systems.x Shannon’s cryptographic work stemmed from a long line of influences and prior work (e.g., Nyquist, Hartley, and Wiener) (Thomsen, 2009), as well a richer, multivocal, and open conceptual backdrop (Cherry, 1953; Geoghegan, 2008). Research on cryptography set the stage for Shannon’s more general, and more rigorous portrayal of information. It was in working out the coding issues for cryptography that Shannon developed his theory of information.xi In contrast to much of the engineering work being done on information transmission at that time, Shannon focused on discrete rather than continuous signals (Thomsen, 2009). Drawing on Hartley, Shannon bracketed the issue of meaning, and discussed only how much information can pass through a channel. This conceptualization, combined with Nyquist’s observation that information transmission obeys a logarithmic rule, allowed Shannon to generalize the issue and show that information accords to physical properties of the world (Aspray, 1985; Hayles, 1999). Despite being central to his study, Shannon left his understanding of “secrecy” implicit. The closest we get to a description of secrecy is that it arises from the “a priori probability associated with… choosing that [enciphering] key” (Shannon, 1945). The a priori probability is a function of the statistics of the transformation from one (information) space to another. In ideal situations, secrecy becomes a matter of making guesses in the presence of a stochastic phenomenon. Before Shannon “won” the battle for our history—how we come to think of cryptography—the field of possibility was more open (Cherry, 1953). Competing conceptualizations existed but none were better prepared than Shannon’s for the coming changes in cybernetics and informatics (also made possible, in large part, by his work on the Mathematical Theory of Communication). By identifying “secret information” as the endpoint of cryptographic conceptualization, however, we risk teleological explanations that make it difficult to understand cryptography’s non-secret role in contemporary society. If we start to reconfigure our understanding of cryptography—open the socio-technical black box—we stand to gain a deeper appreciation, and may be better able to understand the politics of technologies that use cryptography. In order to open the black box of cryptography our metaphors must also be rethought. The analysis of cryptography rarely penetrates beyond metaphors, so it is especially important to dispel any mistaken notions. There are two closely related classes of metaphor most often used to describe cryptography: the dead, and the missing or hidden. The metaphor of death is most common in literary accounts, if for no other reason than the association of “crypt” and “cryptography.” On this account cryptography “buries” (Derrida, 1998; Turing quoted in Mackenzie, 1996) and even communes with the dead (Poe, 1991; Rosenheim, 1997). The metaphor of being “hidden” is likely due to the perceived semiotic shift that occurs when a text gets encrypted: at one moment it is there and seen by all, and (like a good magic trick) the next moment it is gone (until conjured up again in decryption). Here the language used is “hidden” (Schmeh, 2012), “veiled” (Cooke, 1983), or perhaps text containing a “false bottom” (Glidden, 1987). These metaphors are evocative but lacking. As will become clear below, a more useful metaphor is “discreet,” in the sense of being circumspect, but also “discrete” as separate or distinct.xii I argue that cryptography can be re-conceptualized as a generic notational system, quite appropriately sharing the ambiguous name “code.” To get to this conclusion, I argue that cryptography is unspeakable in the sense of being a written language without syllables (which perhaps disqualifies it as a language at all). Due to the curious nature of being unspeakable, cryptography shifts from mimetic to algorithmic representation. Algorithmic representation permits the transposition and combination of its symbolic elements, but only when made of disjoint, articulate, and unambiguous marks. This system of marks is a discrete notational scheme. Additionally, because algorithmic representation permits the rearrangement of its symbolic structure it can be used to order the world, in subtle but powerful ways. “Literature has nothing more to say,” remarks Friedrich Kittler, “because it all ends in cryptograms” (1999). This is only true if we take Kittler very literally, that literature has been silenced and can no longer speak. Kittler reminds us that speaking written words is not natural and immediate. First, the Greeks needed to “invent” vowels so as to create a storage system able to capture the wealth of articulable knowledge (Winthrop-Young, 2011). Second, in what Kittler (1990) called the Discourse Network 1800, the Mother’s Mouth must teach children how to speak these written marks. Kittler goes on to accuse those languages lacking written vowels as being unable to perfectly capture the world’s information. Written languages that lack vowels are not as expressive, Kittler problematically suggests, and so are not as mimetic (Winthrop-Young, 2011). Kittler remarks, “nobody knows how the heretic king Akhneten called his N-f-r-t-t when they were making children” (Kittler quoted in Winthrop-Young, 2011, p. 91). But, of course, this is a challenge for history, not the Egyptians. The Egyptians were able to speak the name that was recorded as N-f-r-t-t because they added the appropriate vowels, that is, they created syllables in speech. It is hard to underline this important point in the written form—I suggest you try speaking the letters, but out loud: N-f-r-t-t. The punchline is that in order to be voiced, syllables must be created, making sounds like “nef eff arr tee tee.” In the audio book version of E.A. Poe’s The Gold Bug (2013) this same comedy plays out when the poor narrator is forced to articulate a long series of cryptographic symbols, so that 5 3 ‡ ‡ † 3 0 in the text becomes “five, three, double dagger, double dagger, single dagger, three, zero” in the audio book (and to great comedic effect, this goes on for half a page). While the narrator demonstrated that it is possible to speak a cryptogram in some fashion, it no longer counts as speech in the sense of meaningful language. This is the lesson that the Mother’s Mouth must teach her children, separating the grunts of animals from those of human language (Kittler, 1990). The reason cryptography cannot be spoken is because it has very particular syntactic requirements. These requirements where formalized by Nelson Goodman (1976) in his analysis of notational schemes. Roughly, a notational scheme requires that marks can be interchanged within a class of marks without difference, and that one can in theory determine what character a particular mark belongs to. The result of this analysis is that a number of forms of writing, upon inspection, share a common ancestor. In addition to cryptography, notational schemes include musical notation, Morse code, and binary (e.g., compiled software code). Although Kittler’s accusations that consonantal written languages are less mimetic than their vowelized cousins is problematic, this lack becomes very real when writing transforms into a notational scheme. The smooth contours of the world are not well represented in a notational scheme. In Kittler’s media triptych, the gramophone and film camera are highly mimetic in that they record every gradient of nature, whereas the typewriter eradicates the “continuous movement of the hand” in handwriting (Benjamin quoted in Kittler, 1999, p. 196). The representation of likeness or verisimilitude is easy to imagine with a photograph, and yet even a typed, well-crafted story can also be very mimetic, as though the reader is transported into the scene. So the typewriter can, of course, be used to write a mimetic story, but it excels when it reduces the world to discrete symbols. Putting aside, for the moment, Kittler’s (1999) penchant for inaccurate but provocative history, it is a short historical step from typewriter to cryptogram, with the transformation of Nietzsche’s Malling typewriter into the German crypto-typewriter, the Enigma machine (Figure 3). Unlike the gramophone and film camera, recording N-f-r-t-t is no trouble for the typewriter. While the typewriter cannot capture voiced syllabification, it perfectly represents the alphabetization of language. And for the typewriter so too for cryptography: when encrypted, N-f-r-t-t readily becomes A-S-E-G-G. While notational schemes are poor at mimetic representation, the ease in which parts can be split and rearranged make them ideal for what I call “algorithmic” representation. Algorithmic technologies are powerful because they chop the world up in to discrete pieces and then re-arrange the results.xiii These technologies order the world rather than model or recreate it. To underline the point, all cryptography is just the simple substitution cipher, shuffling symbols about in determined, ordered ways. And the same principle is at work in all notational systems, where complex and surprising uses abound. Conceptualized in light of a notational scheme, cryptography surpasses the typical narrow conceptualization as secrecy. For example, Kittler’s barbarian Spartans invented a writing technology called the skytale. The skytale is a leather strap along which letters are written that, once wrapped around a wooden rod of a particular diameter, reveals a message. The device was once thought to facilitate a kind of primitive encryption, but recent research has shown it to be something else (Kelly, 1998; West, 1988).xiv How this technology was actually used is unknown, and somewhat beside the point: the skytale exemplified an early algorithmic machine, made of Kittler’s alphabet but impossible to phonetically speak. In fact, there is good evidence that the device may have been used to ensure silence, as a way of guarding against the accidental articulation of bad omens and the like (c.f. Lateiner, 2005; Montiglio, 2000). The skytaleis, perhaps, the first device to destroy syllabification, and to depart from mimetic media and move towards ordering language and the world. Another important aspect of cryptography is that it decomposes language into identical, modular pieces. This fact works equally well for other applications of the discrete notational scheme too. A thousand years after the Spartans, Alberti ushered in a new notational method for architecture that replaced the older craft-oriented way of building (Carpo, 2011). This notational system permitted architects to become designers, not makers, and enabled the construction of identical but modular buildings. So close is the connection between the notational schemes of architecture and cryptography, in fact, that Alberti generalized his architectural advancements and applied the same thinking to language to develop polyalphabetic cryptography (Alberti, 2010; Kahn, 1980). Similarly, Leibniz employed a notational scheme when he established the groundwork for discrete mathematics, and specifically, the mode of mathematics that we now use to analyze and model cryptography, known as combinatorics (what Leibniz called “complexions”). In Leibniz’s early work, Dissertation on the Art of Combinations (Dissertatio de arte combinatoria) (1989), he develops Raymund Lull’s cabalistic method of interrogating language and the natural world, setting it on firm mathematical and logical ground (Figure 4).xv To do so, Leibniz derives his metaphysical analysis of order from the existence of natural parts and wholes (or “unities”). Leibniz writes, “let the whole be ABC; then AB, BC, and AC will be smaller wholes,” which “by reason of order” results in “abcd, bcda, cbab, dabc” (calculated to be “arranged in 24 ways”) (Leibniz, 1989, p. 78). Leibniz’s development of order ultimately leads to modern symbolic logic, and by way of Stanhope, Jevons, and others to the calculating machine (Gardner, 1958). Eventually, it can be surmised, Turing’s machine would read a tape of Leibniz’s letters and re-order the input, perhaps (after von Neumann) according to a particular programmed algorithm. Although Shannon recognized the importance of discrete symbol processing (as noted above), it was Turing that really advanced this position by seeing the potential in ordering discrete symbols (Figure 5). The link from Alberti to Turing arrives by way of representational machines that employ a discrete notational scheme. When this representation is set in motion, the complex ordering is not limited to language. Cryptography has long been used to investigate the natural world or create art, and is now poised to order the economy. Before showing how Bitcoin orders the economy we must understand how cryptography functions in Bitcoin. The cryptography used in Bitcoin is not unusual or exemplary; in fact, there are no cryptographic innovations in Bitcoin (in computer security terms, this is a virtue of the system). Bitcoin uses a standard SHA-256 hashing algorithm. This hashing algorithm is put to some seemingly strange uses, but nothing unique to the history of cryptography since the development of public key cryptography in the 1970s. For the vast majority of the history of cryptography—its development from substitution ciphers and code systems to polyalphabetic and keyed algorithms—the encrypting mechanism was unitary. With the invention of public (or asymmetric) key cryptography in the 1970s it became possible to create a system that “split” the cryptographic key.xvi Splitting the cryptographic key (explained below) ushered in new uses for cryptography, and was well timed for the coming advance of the Internet and popularization of point-to-point electronic communication. In simple “code” systems (often called “nomenclators”) a letter, word, or entire phrase may be replaced with an alternative, with the substitution presumably kept private between the two communicating parties (Kahn, 1967). The basic principle is captured by so-called substitution ciphers, which exchange one letter for another in a deterministic manner. From this mechanism more complicated forms of cryptography were invented. Polyalphabetic cryptography uses multiple alphabets for the substitution, sometimes jumping from one alphabet to another according to an agreed-upon secret “key.” For much of the history of cryptography no notion of cryptographic “key” existed. In more recent usage the key became analytically separated from the cryptographic algorithm, as a result of “industrial” uses of cryptography that require reusable ciphers. We now generally speak of an immutable (public) algorithm, and a mutable (private) key. In fact, the key is no more important than the set of transformations (and should be characterized as part of the system of transformation). For purposes of cryptanalysis (“codebreaking”) a key is only as valuable as knowledge of the corresponding mechanism or set of transformations. Yet, in recent years cryptographic best practice requires keeping the key secret and the mechanism public (working on the assumption that the mechanism will eventually be discovered and reverse-engineered anyway). Symmetric-key cryptography employs the same key for encryption and decryption, so the shared secret item is identical among parties. The obvious downside is that to maintain secret communications all parties must ensure that the shared key is kept private from any so-called adversaries. Modern forms of symmetric-key cryptography work on digital bits, either encrypting the bits one at a time (or, more realistically, encrypting byte by byte or in prescribed bit-length “words”), or grouping the bits into blocks (and adding padding as needed so that each block includes the same number of bits). Other non-cryptographic features may be present in a modern cryptographic system, such as error detection, compression, and so on. The symbolic transformations in symmetric-key cryptography are fundamentally the same as that of asymmetric-key cryptography—in fact, symmetric-key primitives can be used to build asymmetric-key systems. The sole (but critically important) difference between symmetric-key and asymmetric-key cryptography is that rather than sharing a single (unitary) secret key, asymmetric-key cryptography uses a binary key, in which the two parts are linked and both are required to decrypt and encrypt. By splitting the key into two linked parts, one part can be kept secret, while the other is made public (the parts are typically linked mathematically—e.g., prime factorization or calculating the discrete logarithm—but any suitable mechanism could be used). The private key should not be easily deducible from the public key, yet the public key should be easily deducible from the private key (using so-called mathematical trap-door functions). A trap-door function such as exponentiation modulo is based on the mathematical belief that it is easy to calculate the remainder when a number is raised to some power, divided by another (the modulus), yet, if given all the information other than the exponent, it is very difficult to solve for the exponent (i.e., it is slow to compute the discrete logarithm). Only when the secret key is possessed is it easy to open the trap door, otherwise the calculation is slow (but certainly tractable). Asymmetric-key setups offer several interesting possibilities. The key used to encrypt a message is not the same key used to decrypt it, so I may encrypt a message with your public key, in which only you can decrypt (using your linked private key). Configured this way, I can send you a message that only you can read (akin to placing a piece of mail in a publicly-accessible but locked mailbox), and you can do the same for me by using my public key, ensuring confidentiality.xvii Similarly, if I encrypt a message with my private key and send you both my (cleartext) message and the encrypted message (or a “digest” of it), your ability to decrypt the encrypted message with my public key ensures that the message is authentic (non-repudiated, i.e., guaranteed to be mine). These features work to permit secret message communication without ever requiring a secret communication channel, or to ensure that a message has not been changed. In a world where the communication channel is necessarily open to eavesdropping, asymmetrical-key cryptography performs a kind of magic trick: secret messages over public channels without ever requiring the prior transmission of secret information. A related application of asymmetric-key cryptography is the hash function. A hash function is a set of permutations that transform some data into a fixed-sized output (a digest), which changes considerably given even a slightly different input datum. When a hash function uses cryptographic mechanisms to create the digest it can be used to ensure the message is not repudiated (its integrity can be verified), which is especially useful for creating compact, easily transmittable “fingerprints” of data. Similarly, by computing a hash for a password, the hash may be stored in place of the secret password, and authenticated against the digest representation instead of the actual password (allowing the digest to be captured by an adversary without losing secrecy). The hash algorithm used in Bitcoin is SHA-256, a protocol for hashing in the Secure Hash Algorithm 2 family that outputs 256 bit digests. SHA-256 is composed of a simple set of logic transformations configured to perform the necessary mathematical trap-door function required by the asymmetric-key cryptography. Thus, described in as many of levels of abstraction as I can muster, from the basics of digital computation to a full ASCII-encoded hash digest, the SHA-256 hash algorithm operates as follows. Electromagnetic flux is discretized on a clock-cycle. Bits are then transformed using logical operations performed by transistors. The binary representation is collected into 64 bit “words” that function as high-level data structures (integers). Mathematical trap-door/one-way functions are constructed from the set of transformations (+, and, or, xor, shr, rot), with the entire algorithmic structure corresponding to the Merkle–Damgård padding and compression scheme (Figure 6). The resulting 256-bit hash digest may then be encoded into an ASCII-encoded character string for portability and human-readability. In sum, SHA-256 is the process of successively interpreting electric-magnetic flux as a series of different ordering mechanisms or techniques. The primary ordering is the first: from flux to binary, and once this discretization is accepted as real (by fiat) the ordering techniques are limited only by human imagination. The fundamental cryptographic algorithm used in Bitcoin is SHA-256, however, its conceptual utility draws on a recent history of academic and practical developments. Of the numerous developments, the most significant and relevant are: Ralph Merkle’s hash-trees (patent filed in 1979), David Chaum’s blind signatures (1982), Adam Back’s hashcash proof of work system (1997), Wei Dai’s b-money scheme (1998), Nick Szabo’s bit gold concept (1999), and Hal Finney’s reusable proofs of work (2004). In addition to having a hand in the invention of public key cryptography, Ralph Merkle developed a system for efficiently verifying large data structures through a tree structure of hash digests (Merkle, 1982). As described above, a hash digest can be used to verify the non-reputability of a datum, but for large data structures it would be extremely time-consuming to perform a hash function on every datum. Merkle realized that by organizing hash digests into a tree structure (where each node is a hash digest) it is possible to compute the hash digest for only the top-most node (while authenticating the left and right nodes) rather than every node, to ensure non-reputability. Hash trees are commonly used to ensure data integrity, but when used with cryptographic hash functions every prior message is checked for authenticity (none of the messages can be faked). Blind signatures are another result of public key cryptography being used in unexpected ways. In Chaum’s original concept for blinded signatures, payment systems with the anonymity of cash but the security of digital money (like Bitcoin) were the intended target (Chaum, 1982). By using public key cryptography Chaum proposed a system that ensured 1) the inability of third parties to determine information about the payee, 2) the ability of individuals to provide proof of payment, and 3) the ability to stop payments when needed (in cases of theft). Chaum envisioned a digital equivalent of paper envelopes lined with carbon paper. By writing a signature on the outside of the envelope a second “blind” signature is duplicated on the inside. In Chaum’s example of authenticated secret voting, the blinded signature is sent to the elector, removed from the envelope, signed by the elector, and mailed back to the voter in a new envelope (thus only the elector views the signature). If a voting dispute arises the signatures can be authenticated against the signatures on the envelopes, but each vote remains anonymous. While the mutability of binary digits is useful for much computing, a system of electronic cash requires the opposite quality: money needs to be made solid, slow, and non-(token)replicable. Originally proposed and developed by Adam Back (1997) for limiting email spam, hashcash uses two facts of public key cryptography: non-reputability of hash digests, and the computational difficulty of finding a hash “collision.” Due to the fact that it is nearly impossible to predict the outcome of a hash function on an arbitrary input (with current knowledge of the mathematical underpinnings of asymmetric-key cryptography used in hash functions), but easy to verify the results, a challenge-response mechanism can be created to require “work” (computational effort). By arbitrarily requiring a specified output of a hash function—such as that the first 20 or more bits of the hash digest must be zeros—the sender can establish a “difficulty” threshold. The only way to find a hash digest with a specified output is to compute the hash of a different input value over and over until the result meets the necessary difficulty, and since the result can be verified easily the receiver of the hash function does not need to repeat the computational work to verify that the sender expended a set amount of work. For its original purpose of limiting email spam, the requirement to perform work when sending email would make sending email slow and computationally expensive, thus, sending a single email would result in a modest slow-down, but sending millions would become nearly impossible (or at least would require many expensive computers). In such an email system any email that was sent without corresponding evidence of computational work would not pass verification by the receiver (which is a quick calculation, in comparison to performing the original hash calculation), and would be discarded as spam. As part of the discussion of applications to Back’s hashcash proposal on the Cypherpunks mailing list, Wei Dai proposed a system of currency generation using Back’s mechanism (Dai, 1998).xviii Dai applies Back’s hashcash mechanism in an effort to create a world where cryptography functions as the “medium of exchange,” and as a way to “enforce contracts” without the intervention of a government (Dai, 1998). Dai’s protocol for the creation of bmoney requires a specified amount of computational work (that anyone can perform), which is then verified by the community who update a collective ledger book, awarding the worker the specified funds. In the bmoney proposal, exchange of funds is accomplished by collective bookkeeping (authenticated with cryptographic hashes), and contracts are enforced through the broadcast and signing of transactions with digital signatures (i.e., public key cryptography). Hal Finney (2004) extended the bmoney and hashcash proposals by suggesting a formalization of the proof of work mechanism, a scheme that permits the reuse and exchange of proof of work tokens (hash digests). With these extensions it became possible for Nick Szabo (Szabo, 2008, 1997) to conceive a system that accurately calculates the “difficulty” of proof of work for the purpose of money generation, and to allow the generated money (hash digests) to be exchanged and reused. When the pseudonymous programmer Satoshi Nakamoto proposed Bitcoin in 2008 it built on the crypto-anarchist developments from the following two decades (Nakamoto, 2008). In terms of invention, Bitcoin introduced a modest change to the bmoney, bit money (and other) proposals already in existence. Rather than require a single collective ledger of transactions, or awkwardly share the ledger among parties, Nakamoto suggested that a “blockchain” contain all transactions (including generated money by “miners” performing cryptographic proofs of work, described in more detail below). The blockchain is a Merkle hash tree of transactions. For each transaction the mining servers verify the hash digests that result from transactions, incentivised to perform computational work by being awarded money for successfully performing proofs of work. The transactions are verified by the miners and grouped into “blocks”; once the top node of each block is verified a specified amount of work is required to seal the block and win the resulting money. A full round of a transaction requires several steps. Money is stored in a wallet, which is a unique hash digest generated by each user (and any number of wallets are possible). To send you money I first digitally sign the transaction request with my private key (that is, I perform asymmetric-key encryption on the transaction request data). Using my public key, the network can verify my transaction request. The transaction request is sent (via peer-to-peer communication protocols) to the network and then bundled with others into blocks every ten minutes. Each block includes a hash digest of the previous blocks (arranged in a hash tree), a hash digest of the current block, and a “nonce”. A nonce is added input that (when hashed) results in a radically different output. Only when an output value meets a certainly “difficulty” (proof of work) will a block be considered authenticated (the difficulty is specified by requiring at least n leading zeros in the hash digest output, set by the protocol to regulate the speed of block generation). As each subsequent block is verified the previous blocks fall further down the hash-tree, with the newer hashes contingent on the previous hash digests’ value. In this way any fraudulent changes to the blockchain are instantly discovered (and rejected). It is improbable to create fraudulent transactions because as time goes on, and block upon block is verified by the miners, fraudulent transactions would require changing every subsequent block, at a rate greater than the (legitimate) network of miners. A fraudulent block would only be accepted if the alternative blockchain is longer, which would require performing more proofs of work than the legitimate network.xix In many ways the Bitcoin miner is at the heart of Bitcoin cryptography, since it creates money and verifies transactions. Starting in 2013, I engaged in the practical operation of a Bitcoin miner. What follows is a description of this Bitcoin praxis as I learned the details of the protocol. As described above, the Bitcoin algorithm uses the SHA-256 method of computing hash digests. While any computing mechanism could in theory calculate a SHA-256 hash, there are certain reasons why conventional Central Processing Unit (CPU) mining is now rarely used. With even the fastest modern CPUs running software designed to take advantage of multithreaded computation the number of hashes computed per second is low compared to other technologies, and because the ability to “win” the awarded money for a successfully verified block is in competition with other miners, an arms race is always at hand. CPUs are usually designed to manage and switch computational tasks, and take care of a variety of sub-processes, which makes a CPU ideal for general computing but inefficient for performing the same type of simple calculation repeatedly. Commercially available Graphics Processing Units (GPUs) are designed to be relatively free from the management of resources and thus (when appropriately programmed using low-level software) are able to perform repeated calculations much faster than CPUs. Additionally, GPUs are designed to work in parallel, so while a multi-core, multithreaded CPU may be able to perform a certain amount of work in parallel, a modern GPU can perform thousands of computations in parallel. Some GPUs are ideally suited to perform SHA-256 calculations because they have been designed to perform XOR logic in a single step, rather than the two steps (or cycles) needed for other devices (the SHA-256 algorithm relies extensively on XOR transformations). For real-world comparison, on a slightly aging (2008) Mac Pro computer I was able to perform roughly 30 Kh/s (kilo hashes per second, or thousands of hashes per second) using the CPU (a server-grade 3GHz quad core Intel Xeon processor). When I installed a modern mid-level gaming video card (AMD Radeon HD 5850) with a dedicated GPU the same machine was able to perform roughly 350 Mh/s (millions of hashes per second), using only the GPU for calculating the hashes. While 350 Mh/s may seem like considerable computational power—and it is, especially for the corollary purpose of password cracking—newer technologies have all but obsoleted GPU Bitcoin mining. For the last several years more dedicated Bitcoin mining individuals have purchased Field Programmable Gate Array (FPGA) devices that are tailored to perform these sorts of computational tasks, doing so much more quickly and with less power consumption. By the end of 2012 the newest type of Bitcoin mining device entered the commercial market, eclipsing even FPGA devices in terms of speed and power efficiency. These Application-Specific Integrated Circuit (ASIC) devices are custom-designed for Bitcoin mining and thus do so with remarkable speed and power efficiency. As of 2013 there are commercially available Bitcoin miners available for $150 USD that perform 5 Gh/s (billions of hashes per second) and use only 30 watts of power (compared to an average video card’s consumption of 100-150 watts), with more expensive versions performing hundreds or even thousands of Gh/s. Efficient Bitcoin mining is only possible using specially built software, tailored to take advantage of built-in hardware capabilities. On GPUs the programming language used to write the portion of software that performs the hash calculations is typically Compute Unified Device Architecture (CUDA) or Open Compute Language (OpenCL), whereas the high-level software that controls the input/output, networking, and display of graphical user interfaces can be written in any suitable programming language. Contemporary cryptography algorithms are highly repetitive, requiring round after round of simple logic transformations, just like digital signal processing, big data and science computing, and gaming (computing millions of polygons). For this reason, cryptography shares many of the technological advances with these computing fields. As demonstrated above, a more expansive view of cryptography suggests that cryptography can be used for more than just secrecy; it can be fruitfully understood as a notational system. When this notational system is operationalized it orders its symbolic input according to particular logics. When these ordered symbols represent the world, as in the case of economic transactions, a politics of ordering is present. That the economy is a “slave to the algorithm” (Slater, 2013) is not due to Bitcoin; dominant capital is now almost exclusively run through digital trading software (acknowledged as “high-frequency trading”), and much of the developed world’s “cash” passes digitally direct from bank to merchant (to bank) through debit or credit machines at point-of-sale terminals. Cash money already seems quaint: the stuff of slightly unscrupulous transactions (a manual trade exchanged for tax-free cash payment), or downright illegal transactions (purchasing drugs). The politics of this “new” economy can be read in light of Gilles Deleuze’s short “Postscript on the societies of control” (1992). Deleuze summarizes Foucault’s (1979) periodization of history by reflecting on the “transience of the model,” noting that the sovereign society was replaced by a disciplinary one—a transition occurring roughly at the dawn of the eighteenth century. According to Deleuze, the next shift occurs at the outset of the twentieth century, towards a control society (Deleuze, 1992). Deleuze charges his readers not to “fear or hope [for]” these mechanisms but instead to “look for new weapons” (Deleuze, 1992, p. 4). I argue that cryptography is one such new weapon in the control society: controlling economics through the ordering application of Bitcoin. Deleuze argues that the control society is characterized by modulation, rather than the “molds, distinct castings” of the prior disciplinary society (Deleuze, 1992). In the English translation “modulation” evokes the Latin modus, meaning measurement, accomplished by numbers (“numerical”). Similarly, each society is characterized by a kind of language: the disciplinary society is analogical and the control society is numerical. Yet, Foucault spends considerable effort in Order of Things (2002) showing how measurement and number are still foundational to the logic of the classical era, summed up in the term “order.” While it is commonly believed that cryptography is mathematical (mathematicians, after all, are the gatekeepers of contemporary cryptography), above I showed how mathematics is but one of many ways to enact a deeper ordering. The notational system—discrete marks capable of being rearranged—is, I argue, the heart of cryptography. Numeracy is an after-effect of the deeper logic that Leibniz, Turing, and others recognized—and proven daily by capable software developers with almost no mathematical skill. So long as you can represent objects within a notational system, the world can be ordered with no mathematics at all. Yet, Deleuze thinks that the mechanism of the control society is modulation or measurement, and Kittler too thinks that by counting the Greek alphabet we arrive at all the mathematical truths of the world (Winthrop-Young, 2011). It is exactly the infinite variability of measurement that cannot be ordered, since there is always a more precise measurement possible (Goodman’s formalization explicitly rules out continuous measurement). Kittler’s gramophone records the smooth contours of a voice perfectly, but the result is not susceptible to decomposition, and therefore cannot be ordered. It is only by ignoring the measurements (continuous waves) that ordering technologies are able to function. When we discretize the voice we perform violence, and we lose the knowledge of what king Akhneten called his N-f-r-t-t. For Bitcoin, the smooth transfer of cash (previously “filthy lucre”) from hand-to-hand is replaced with an algorithmic logic. In our society, the largely invisible but very powerful effects of control often result from ordering technologies. Algorithmic technologies are able to sort, move, and re-arrange entire populations in ways that mimetic technologies are unable to accomplish. The Hollerith tabulator, an early proto-computer, was effective in aiding the Nazi extermination of Jews (Luebeke and Milton, 1994) because it could collect, process, and order entire populations in ways that mimetic technologies such as radio or television were incapable of. Cryptography now functions infrastructurally, and sits invisibly behind most of the world’s communications (machinic “data” transmissions such as encrypted Netflix TV streams or Trusted Computing modules, but also human correspondences such as email communications). As Bitcoin and other electronic crypto-cash systems become prevalent, cryptographic ordering will become more entrenched in the economic realm (it already functions invisibly at electronic point-of-sale machines, automated bank tellers, financial trading, and so on). For Bitcoin, the specific ordering is the logic of SHA-256 described above: discrete symbols arranged through a collection of logical transformations, built block by block of irreversible containers with strong identity parameters (necessarily discrete and disjoint). The hash digests are then organized into a tree structure. Finally, the hash tree is sent through peer-to-peer networks, succumbing to a logic of collusion and virality. Cryptography is “code,” and code is cryptography. Code is powerful because it represents, that is, it both “re-presents” or makes something present again, and “stands for” or “substitutes” (Prendergast, 2000). Code worries us for the reasons that Rousseau rallied against political representation, fearing a dictatorial relationship where we permit others to “stand in” for us (2003). Similarly, Heidegger calls representation the master category of modern thought because it forces the division of subject and object (Heidegger, 2002; Prendergast, 2000). More concretely, our cryptographic technologies are at once Privacy Enhancing Technologies and also weapons in the commonplace cyberwars amongst developed nations. Even prosaic questions become ambiguous. Does Google increase my privacy by encrypting my Gmail communications, now open to only the machinic display of advertising? Am I better off by having a cryptographically secure boot sequence for my computer (and thus preventing the installation of “competitor” operating systems, like Linux)? Is it a “feature” that Bitcoin transactions are cryptographically irreversible? In this new control society there is no second-guessing your economic decisions, and no need to involve messy legal and political authorities, since code has become law in frighteningly efficient ways (Lessig, 2006
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barbaric past making Bitcoin the ultimate boon to the meaningfulness of relationships. But to get there, we must face reality head on and deal with it as it is, which brings to the here and …
barbaric past making Bitcoin the ultimate boon to the meaningfulness of relationships. But to get there, we must face reality head on and deal with it as it is, which brings to the here and now.Facing Reality (p.138) Mans most distinctive quality is our singular ability to look down on reality from a higher perspective and synthesize an understanding of it.Since 2008, central banks across the world have injected an unprecedented flow of fiat currency liquidity into the economic system. Expectantly, this has furthered wealth disparity and sewn new seeds of systemic risks. Although we remain in a historically long economic bull run, these hidden risks appear to be rousing from their dormancy. No matter what form the next crisis takes, central banks have only three options to try and mitigate its consequences: 1) cutting entitlement benefits, 2) raising taxes, and 3) printing money. All three of these options will hit those living on fixed-income retirees, pensioners, and the working poor the hardest. Of the three, printing money is historically most favored by central bankers as it can be done (and is being done) with little political fuss or muss.These systemic risks are compounded by negatively yielding government bonds, which most retirees, who typically have lower risk appetites because of their age, depend on for fixed-income in their twilight years. Since these many of these instruments now suffer from negative yields, this forces investors with low risk appetites, including retirees and pension funds, to keep their nest-eggs at risk in equities markets, lower quality bonds, or even riskier assets. This contradicts the standard American dream in which you spend your younger years earning and investing in higher risk assets, like equities, so that as you neared retirement you could gradually transition your exposure to lower risk investments that generate a relatively predictably, consistent return like bonds. The intention of this approach gives you exposure to higher upside when you are young and reduce downside exposure as you age, so that your nest-egg doesnt get crushed in a stock market crash.Bitcoin can help those living on fixed-income protect themselves from the accumulation of hidden risks created by the optionality-theft central banks impose on citizens. A small allocation of less than 5% gives those vulnerable to economic contractions a kind of insurance policy a put option on the idiocy inherent to a politically-charged, debt-based monetary system. Once again we find the wisdom of Taleb, as this is an expression of the : an approach to investing and other aspects of life in which assumes a large exposure to a low-risk, low-reward element and small exposure to a high-risk, high-reward element. In fact, a portfolio with 95% cash and 5% Bitcoin outperformed the S&P500 on risk and return every year over the past 6 years:After decades of flooding the market with cheap money, central banks have distorted free market incentive systems and made economies dependent on this artificial liquidity to stay afloat. Even the indication of quantitative tightening sent markets tumbling in 2018, which was quickly reversed by The Feds now infamous dovish pivot back to a more accommodative monetary policy. As this soft money is continually injected into the economy, it is flowing to hard assets so that investors can protect their wealth against the inevitable inflation quantitative easing creates, thus further distorting soft-money-denominated prices and setting the stage for new bubbles in markets like real estate and equities. At the core of this perpetual monetary easing is the (perhaps well-intentioned but certainly misguided) attempts of central banks to create price stability and smooth out the business cycle which, intentionality aside, is equivalent to an arsonist racing to extinguish the fire he started. To state the argument again succinctly: printing money does not create stability of any kind, it distorts price signals and exacerbates the severity of economic cycles.Further, it is printing of money that has created the deeply negative bond rates we are seeing in Europe. As the European central bank (ECB) keeps printing money, it must buy bonds to inject this cash into the economy, which drives up the price of bonds and depresses their yields. So, we get into this (familiar) fiat currency trap in which the attempts to keep the economy healthy by injecting artificial liquidity hurt the most vulnerable among us, those living on fixed-income, the most. Bitcoin fixes this: by taking monetary policy out of the hands of people, who are incapable of managing a complex system like the economy as much as they are the weather, it eliminates the vector by which policymakers create these economic distortions that they then try to fight off using the same policy tools that created the problems in the first place. Since Bitcoins supply is absolutely scarce, whatever portion you own of the total supply, you can be 100% certain that you will always have at least that fraction; this is the crucial discovery of absolute scarcity that Bitcoin represents, a one-time event that can never be recreated.Another way soft money is distorting markets is through share buybacks, in which corporations take out cheap loans and use the proceeds to buy back their own shares. This action is an expression of the belief that the companys stock will outperform the cost of capital net of inflation over the loan term. Also, the agency problem rears its head again here, as the reduction of shares outstanding helps corporate executives hit their earnings per share targets on which their bonus packages are based. This financialization of the real economy is a product of the flaws incentives inherent to fiat currency. Unsurprisingly, in the wake of the past 10 years of reckless money printing, corporate share buybacks are now the dominant source of demand for equities:A perverse configuration of dependencies arises as a result: low risk appetite investors have been driving out of safe investments like bonds because of their negative yields, thus pushing further out along the risk curve into equities or worse. However, due to the soft money fueled share buybacks outlined above, the dominant source of demand for these equities are the corporations themselves, which makes their share prices perversely dependent on the continued central bank provision of low interest rate loans. So now, in a twisted turn of fiat disease, entire retirement portfolios and pension funds have been forced into dependency on the continued accommodative monetary policy of central banks, which can only maintain their confiscation via inflation so long as the underlying society remains sufficiently productive and submissive under its authority.Facing reality then, we see that the fiat currency experiment is in the endgame now. It interest rates arent held down or if central banks relent injecting liquidity in steadily larger doses, the economy will crash cataclysmically. Even if they do, it is only a matter of time before society begins to come unglued, as it always does when its trust fabric, money, is sufficiently debased. So, the time is now to accept our reality, lean on the lessons of history, and plan for a better future. Although its probably clear by now, fiat currency is not a viable monetary system. In any case, lets look down on the reality of different monetary systems to glean some comparative insight as to their fundamental nature and what would best suit us from an organizing principle standpoint. In a sense, each particular kind of money represents an equity stake in its respective monetary system. Lets compare:Fiat Currency: Liquid equity in a central bank, a privately owned and operated monetary monopoly - Only Class B Shares available, All Class A Shares owned by Central Bank Shareholders- No voting rights- Board observation rights limited to public central banker appearances- Converts greed into monetary dilution, confiscation via inflation, and trade wars- Liquid equity subject to unlimited dilution- Liquid equity subject to deauthorization- Liquid equity subject to censorship- Liquid equity subject to confiscation- Liquid equity has no claim on underlying assets of monetary network (gold)Gold: Semi-liquid equity in the worlds original, physical, and free market money - Class A Shares = Physical Gold, Class B Shares = Gold Certificates- No voting- Governed by nature, no board to observe (only for Class A)- Converts greed into monetary value and unforgeable costliness- Liquid equity subject to unlimited dilution, although historically this is low and predictable- Liquid equity immune to deauthorization (only for Class A)- Liquid equity immune to censorship (only for Class A)- Liquid equity subject to confiscation- Liquid equity is the underlying asset (gold, only for Class A)Bitcoin: Liquid equity in the worlds only global, digital, final settlement monetary network - Class A Shares = Private Key, Class B Shares = Bitcoin Exchange IOUs- Pro-rata voting rights, option to fork network to new ruleset- 100% transparent ruleset, no board to observe- Converts greed into monetary value, unforgeable costliness, and network security- Liquid equity immune to dilution- Liquid equity immune to censorship (only for Class A)- Liquid equity resistant to confiscation (only for Class A)- Liquid equity is the underlying asset (Bitcoin, only for Class A)Ultimately, none of our individual opinions matter about this; it is up to the free market to decide. Fortunately, Bitcoin exists as a free market alternative upon which society can stand and clean up this mess central banks and governments have created for the world. Only time will tell how this all plays out. Remember: the escalating stock-to-flow ratio of Bitcoin is relentless. At this point, it is fiduciarily irresponsible to ignore this asset completely, and the pain of having no exposure to it will likely only worsen with time.With that, let me briefly summarize my arguments before closing:Distorted price signals are the nerve damage inevitably suffered by an economic order based on central banking. As is true with all industrial monopolies, the profits for few are subsidized at the expense of many. Bitcoin fixes this by disintermediating the market for money and restoring its natural supply and demand dynamics. As Ray says, An idea meritocracy requires people to do three things: 1) Put their honest thoughts on the table for everyone to see, 2) Have thoughtful disagreements where there are quality back-and-forths in which people evolve their thinking to come up with the best collective answers possible, and 3) Abide by idea-meritocratic ways of getting past the remaining disagreements. These three requirements of the idea meritocracy, closely reflected in free markets, can be summarized as honesty, quality competition, and conflict-resolution. Bitcoin satisfies all three: it is completely transparent (honesty), secured by a free market for mining (quality competition), and governed by a community-determined ruleset that is algorithmically enforced (conflict-resolution protocol). Bitcoin embodies idea-meritocratic elements, and is one of the only sources of truth in modernity. As Einstein said: The significant problems of our time cannot be solved by the same level of thinking that created them. In the same way that we needed the breakthrough of double-entry bookkeeping to catalyze capitalism, as it enabled us to synchronize our economic efforts further across spacetime, we now need the system intrinsic to Bitcoin to break the central bank monopoly and more greatly amplify the synchrony of mankinds economic efforts into futurity.Bitcoin is an open-source protocol for exchanging value. Such openness ensures that Bitcoins code cannot be manipulated to benefit anyone at the expense of anyone else. The rules governing Bitcoin are founded in the (absolutely) uncompromising laws of mathematics natures fundamental language. Bitcoin is the zero-marginal-cost-marketplace into which all available energy maybe sold; this means that every joule of energy which cannot find a more profitable employment flows into the alchemization of digital gold (the ultimate energy unemployment relief program, if you will). This realigns the race to the bottom associated with fiat currency, in which all monopolists are incentivized to devalue their currencies and secretly tax their people, to become a race to the bottom for the cheapest energy sources, thus spurring innovation in the realm of energy efficiency worldwide, forever. This perpetual bounty program for cheap energy becomes increasingly economically compelling as more monetary value accretes to Bitcoin, as more stranded joules become savable.With central planning, any defectors from the single unitary plan become enemies of the state. This concentrates power in the hands of a progressively smaller few, which makes the intoxication of power more potent and attracts the most unscrupulous among us to seek its reigns. Bitcoin is the exit option, the plan B, for those enslaved by the prevailing monetary monopolies; it allows defectors a way out of the constructed by politicians and bankers by simply exercising their freedom of speech. It is a peaceful revolt against the institutionalized system of time-theft we call central banking. In the same way that Galileos new perspectives on the heavenly bodies shattered the political influence of the church over time, Bitcoin obliterates political control over money because it is the one-time discovery of absolute scarcity a quintessential property of time that lives beyond the reach of mankinds laws.The idea meritocracy is the depoliticization of decision-making; Bitcoin is the depoliticization of money. Bitcoin is an idea meritocracy and unstoppable free market for money, it is naturally outcompeting all monopoly-insulated monies by transcending the laws which protect them and forcing them into the competitive sphere in which only their merits matter. Bitcoin is a free-market-chosen-hard-money emancipating the monopoly-warrened economic fiefdoms all over the world. Bitcoin is an idea meritocracy consisting of: radical truth (true consensus, immutable records, carrier of truthful price signals) + radical transparency (open-source, inflation-immune, transparent and reliable money supply) + believability weighted decision making (one hash equals one vote, skin in the game governance). In this way, it is a free market money that is subsuming all economies facilitated with fiat currencies (centrally planned monies) into itself. Bitcoin is unregulatable, unstoppable, perfectly transparent implementation of energy-based, absolutely scarce, hard money devouring all softer forms and infusing the value stored therein into itself, once and for all. Bitcoin is hard money bending monetary history back towards its free market point of origin.In the grand arc of human history, Bitcoin represents a reversion to a free-market-chosen hard money system. Ray, Bitcoin is the paradigm shift youve seen coming; once again, natures pendulum is changing directions: As Alexander the Great once said:Through every generation of the human race there has been a constant war, a war with fear. Those who have the courage to conquer it are made free and those who are conquered by it are made to suffer until they have the courage to defeat it, or death takes them.Courage can only exist in the face of fear. If you listen closely, you may hear the devil whispering You cant withstand the storm. And if you listen closely to your heart, to the warrior within, you will hear him respond, I am the storm.The Coming Storm In the 19th century essay by Georgi V. Plekhanov titled The Role of the Individual in History, a strong case is made for the inevitability of the path which charts itself as an expression of the unpredictably free action of people. As a process, human history expresses laws (principles) by which to orient its constituents. As an actualization, human history is made by those who set and solve the problems of progress in accordance with the conditions of their respective epoch, regardless of its laws. In this sense a great man is great because he possesses qualities which make him most capable of serving the great social needs of his time.Restoration of individual sovereignty is the chief aim of separating money and state. Free markets are idea meritocracies; minimized barriers to the interplay, recombination, and reproduction of knowledge are the defining characteristics of both. And knowledge growth is the key driver of innovation and economic growth. Bitcoin is both a free market money and a free market in and unto itself, with entrepreneurs freely entering and exiting its mining network. Consistent with Rays definition of an idea meritocracy, Bitcoin is radical truth and radical transparency in action, governed with skin in the game. As the central pillar of every economy, it is critical that the market for money remain free and unobstructed by monopolists, else we witness the continued cartelization of those industries closest to its economic influence.Paradoxically, it is only when people are free to act on their own accord that they become conscious of economic necessity by virtue of having skin in the game. Those who are coerced by regulations or insulated from the consequences of their actions by government guarantees suffer from a disconnection with reality and atrophy over time. In this sense, freedom is the conscious awareness of necessity; acceptance of the opportunity costs to be incurred in action, awareness of the obstructions to be overcome, and understanding of natural laws. Value is the bridge between the conscious awareness of lifes necessities and the freedom to choose; it is expressed in price: the intersection of (objective) supply with (intersubjective) demand. Without an objective touchstone for the value of things (hard money), market signals are distorted and capital allocations are manipulated, causing societies to trend towards centralized power concentrations (bigger government), nationalization of assets (less free enterprise), and marginalization of citizenries (inflation, taxation, and conscription). Entrepreneurs are elemental to free markets and antithetical to state control. Leaving each person free to pursue profits by whatever (nonviolent) means necessary ensures that markets generate the lowest prices, highest satisfactions of wants, and continuous streams of innovations for all to enjoy.Freedom allows people to self-actualize the actions they themselves deem necessary as they face the inherent scarcities of existence. Freedom, in a profound sense, is necessity transformed into action. A profound definition like this is fractal, in that it does not refute its superficial form, but is instead inclusive of it. Once an individual overcomes the restrictions imposed with both within and without, he is born again; his free actions become the conscious and free expression of necessity. By transcending the government coercion against money production, Bitcoin facilitates a reversion to mans natural, sovereign state of being; an existence with more freedom of expression and less oppression. By incinerating the opacity of central banking with the light of pure transparency, drowning the lies inherent to fiat currency in a ceaseless flow of indisputable truth (a new block roughly every 10 minutes), and like the free people whose sovereignty it is reinvigorating, Bitcoin is swelling into a great social force that is:Bursting on cunning falsehoodLike a storm of wrath divineBitcoin is the first social institution in history with the potential to subvert the greatest man-made scourge humanity has ever faced the infamous wealth-extracting, disparity-driving, and warfare-financing duopoly of monopolists: governments and central banks.Thank you for reading An Open Letter to Ray Dalio re: BitcoinFollow me on Twitter: My sincerest gratitude to these amazing minds:@real_vijay, , , , , @NickSzabo4, , @MartyBent, , , , @MarkYusko, @CaitlinLong_, , , , , , , @MustStopMurad, , , , @FriarHass, , , , , , , @RaoulGMI, @DTAPCAP, , @Rhythmtrader, , @sthenc, , @ck_SNARKs, , , Special thanks to the man himself: And anyone else I forgot :)Sources a. i. Where you see page numbers marked (p.##) throughout this essay, they are referencing Rays book, Principlesb. c. d. e. f. g. h. i. j. k. l. m. n. o. p. q. r. s. t. u. v. w. x. y. z. aa. bb. cc. dd.An Open Letter to Ray Dalio re: Bitcoin 103 min readAn open letter to hedge fund colossus Ray Dalio regarding his worldview, the forces of financial nature, and how Bitcoin is bound to reshape both. Introduction Ray, your ability to penetrate the opaque realm of economics and share its secrets in an easy to understand language is one of your greatest gifts to humanity. With your videos, openly published research, and authorship, you have opened the eyes of many to a topic most consider too difficult to comprehend. The world needs more pioneers like yourself writing easy-to-read maps for the nearly incomprehensible territory of economics. Macroeconomists, Academics and Central Bankers rely heavily on deceptive language and universal public ignorance to perpetrate their schemes; your work in converting this esoteric domain into a more exoteric form is therefore commendable.Let me begin by saying that, like you Ray, I consider myself a dumb shit who is more focused on dealing with what I dont know rather than relying on what I do know to navigate life and work a mindset well accorded with ancient wisdom:All I know is that I know nothing. SocratesEpistemic reach is finite, as knowledge cannot explain everything in the world and, often, it clouds the truth. So let us explore the territory of economics with a beginners mind, free of the accumulated clutter commonly called conventional wisdom. It is from this frame of mind that I present to you this open letter regarding your perspective on Bitcoin through the lens of your stated principles on life and work (in this letter, I sometimes direct my comments at Ray, and sometimes at the audience, so please bear with these shifting perspectives).We begin with an evaluation of Ray set in the idea-meritocratic style practiced at Rays firm, Bridgewater. The purpose of these evaluations is to grade your peers candidly, being brutally honest and holding no punches, to ensure that the best ideas rise to the surface unimpeded by policy, politics, or hierarchy so that they may be scrutinized and, if useful, acted upon. In Bridgewaters culture, communication is both top-down and bottom-up, so that people feel empowered to share their honest perspectives. For Ray, its all about getting to the truth by any means necessary, and I appreciate his blunt approach. We will explore all of this more deeply below so lets dive in.Evaluation of Rays Assessment of Bitcoin Subject: Rays Assessment of Bitcoin From: Robert Breedlove To: Ray Dalio Cc: Everyone Attachments: Rays assessment of Bitcoin available here Ray,You deserve an F for your assessment of Bitcoins significance and future prospects. Although there are very few of us, everyone who has the requisite depth of understanding in the fields of computer science, monetary history, game theory, economics, and mathematics, and has spent the time intensely studying Bitcoin (it takes a lot), agrees with this harsh evaluation of your short-sighted assessment of this momentous monetary innovation. As one of your biggest fans, I truly believe that if you take another look (a long, hard, thoughtful look), you will see the light. Specifically, your assessment fails for the following three reasons:1. You claim that you are sold blockchain technology, despite the only proven use case for blockchain technology is as a component of Bitcoin. Contrary to conventional wisdom, the real breakthrough is Bitcoin, not blockchain.2. You state that Bitcoin could be disrupted by another cryptocurrency, however this extremely unlikely: Bitcoin is a path-dependent, one-time invention; its critical breakthrough is the discovery of absolute scarcity a monetary property never before achieved by mankind. The emergence of Bitcoin cannot be reproduced because absolute irreproducibility is the discovery! The iPhone disrupting Blackberry analogy you cite is irrelevant; Bitcoin is a protocol, not a consumer product.3. You state that price-stable, central bank issued currencies will be issued, which will likely be attempted, but such currencies would be antithetical to free markets. Further, price stability is an illusion: all economic goods move against one another in ratios of exchange, money is simply the most marketable good, hence the reason money-denominated prices tend to be more stable, but are still subject to supply and demand interaction. Since Bitcoin is absolutely scarce and cannot be stopped, it is likely to continue outcompeting all other monetary technologies on the free market thus disrupting central bank monopolies as we know them. As an economic good monetizing in real time, the exchange ratio between Bitcoin and fiat currencies is likely to remain volatile for some time, but this volatility will continue to subside as Bitcoins market capitalization grows, thus making its use as a medium of exchange more practical (similar to the evolutionary phases gold underwent during its monetization process).Your assessment is especially disappointing for three reasons: 1) You have consistently exhibited a knack for comprehending, distilling, and communicating highly complex economic concepts in a manner palatable for general audiences, 2) The depth of knowledge you possess in history, economics, and free market dynamics presents you with a privileged position to best understand the emergence of and demand for this asset, and 3) Your virtually unparalleled reach and reputation as a macroeconomic thought leader, organizational engineer, and cultural innovator is an invaluable platform from which to trumpet to the dire circumstances faced by the prevailing economic order and how Bitcoin has the potential to alleviate them.In the following open letter, I will show that the fundamental tenants of your worldview, as stated in your book Principles and other writings, are fully consistent with Bitcoin even though you may not yet realize it. Ill begin with two primer sections: one on the nature of money and its history, and one on Bitcoins general functionality and economic properties either or both may be skipped by the reader who has already fallen down the Bitcoin rabbit hole, so to speak. After these primers, I will walk through many of Rays most important Principles, one by one, and break them down to better understand their relationship to markets and Bitcoin. Lets begin.Primer on Money (this Primer on Money and the following Primer on Bitcoin may be skipped by the reader who understands the traits of money and Bitcoins general functionality/economic properties)Money is a tool for moving value across time and space (or spacetime, as Einstein explained, these are actually one in the same). Money is an emergent property of barter (or direct exchange) that purports to solve the three dimensions of its non-coincidence of wants problem; it evolves naturally in the free market as the most exchangeable good in an economy. Although he is silent as to its origins, Ray understands the technological functions of money, as stated in his video assessment of Bitcoin (see open letter attachment above) that the primary functions* of money are:1. A store hold of wealth: also called a store of value in regard to moving value across time (the first function and evolutionary phase of money)2. A medium of exchange: in regard to moving value across space (the second function and evolutionary phase of money)*We will ignore for now the third function and evolutionary phase of money, unit of account, as it isnt pertinent to our discussion here.Although the purpose of money always remains the same, to move value across spacetime, the technology fulfilling this purpose is constantly being subjected to market-driven evolutionary pressures. The greater a monetary technologys resistance to value dilution across time whether by counterfeiting, supply inflation, or deterioration the more effective it is as a store of value. Once a store of value accrues enough value, people begin to use it for trading purposes. The more widely accepted a form of money is, the higher its value as a medium of exchange, which makes this aspect of its value proportional to the number of its monetary network participants (aka users). When a specific monetary technology, in the form of an economic good, becomes widely accepted in interpersonal exchange (aka trade) it is called money. Monetary technologies compete to become more widely adopted based on the following traits:1. Scarcity: resistance to money supply manipulations and, thus, dilutions to its monetary unit value (difficult to produce)2. Divisibility: ease of accounting and transacting at various scales (separable and combinable units)3. Portability: ease of moving value across space (high value-to-weight ratio)4. Durability: ease of moving value across time (resilient to deterioration)5. Recognizability: ease of identifying and verifying the monetary value by other parties in a transaction (universally identifiable and verifiable)Due to the relative advantages competing monetary technologies offer, the particular economic good being used as money can, and does, change over time. Throughout history, mankind has employed seashells, salt, cattle, precious metals, and government paper as money, to name a few. Similar to the price discovery process in a free market where the collective actions of buyers and sellers are continuously compressed into a single actionable variable called the market price competing monetary technologies undergo a market-driven discovery process. We can gain a better understanding of this dynamic through an analogy: monetary evolution is (roughly) comparable to the evolutionary process we see in communications technologies.No matter what specific means is used to fulfill it, the purpose of communications technology remains the same: to move information across spacetime. Similar to the market for money, competition is at all times alive among different communications technologies, in which they are all subjected to a market-driven discovery process. As newer technologies are invented they are market-tested through competition; each survives or dies in terms of its relative speed, message fidelity, reliability, traceability, and mobility. Since these technologies have a singular purpose, people tend to adopt a common technology, a coalescent process that is propelled by network effects.Network effects, defined as the incremental benefit attained by adding a new member to a network for all of its existing participants, drive people to adopt a primary form of communications technology. As more people migrate to the latest and greatest technology, it encourages others to do the same, as more network participation exponentially increases the number of possible connections. A simple example of this is the telephone: with two phones in existence, only 1 connection is possible; with five phones in the network, the number of connections jumps to 10; and with twelve networked phones, the number of connections increases exponentially again to 66, and so on. (see Metcalfes Law for a directional explanation of this network effect dynamic):Since the purpose of communications technology remains singular (moving information across spacetime) despite technological advances, whichever technology is best at fulfilling this purpose has a tendency to become dominant in the marketplace. This tendency, reinforced by network effects, has driven communications technology evolution from carrier pigeons to telegraphs, to the internet today. This is an expression of the winner-take-all (or, winner-take-most) dynamic inherent to many networks, including those of the communications and monetary technology varieties.Similar to the purpose of communications technology, the purpose of monetary technology is singular: to move value across spacetime. The various monetary technologies used to fulfill this purpose, however, undergo market-driven discovery and, thus, evolve over time based on their respective monetary traits. In respect to the traits of money, the one that takes primacy in determining a specific monetary technologys likelihood of success in the free market is its hardness (also called the scarcity or soundness of money). This trait is of primary importance because it determines a moneys usefulness as a store of value, and a money that cannot adequately store value across time necessarily cannot transmit value effectively across space. The relative hardness, or scarcity, of a competing monetary technology is quantified by its stock-to-flow ratio, a valuation metric also common in precious metals markets such as gold: Stock is the existing unit supply of monetary units (for example: ounces of gold, quantity of US Dollars, or quantity of Bitcoin) Flow is the newly created supply over a specific time span, usually one year The stock-to-flow ratio is calculated by dividing the stock of monetary units by its newly created supply flow (can be thought of as the inverse of inflation) The higher the stock-to-flow ratio, the greater the hardness (also called soundness or scarcity) of the monetary technologyWe can think of monetary hardness as the difficulty (or cost) necessary to produce an incremental unit of a monetary technology. For instance, the capital and operational expenditure necessary to extract an ounce of gold from the ground is the basis of its monetary hardness. As producers of gold will always seek to extract it until their incremental cost per ounce is equal to their incremental revenue per ounce (in other words, until marginal cost equals marginal revenue), there is a perpetual financial incentive for producers to maximize new supply flows up to the point of economic breakeven. In comparison to communications technologies, money exhibits much stronger centripetal, winner-take-all network effects that drive users to adopt a single store of value. Those who fail to adopt the hardest money available to them face a debasement of their stored value by those who can produce it at an incremental profit (where MC
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currencies as their principal unit of account. Classification of bitcoin by the United States government is to date unclear with multiple conflicting rulings. In 2013 Judge Amos L. Mazzant III of …
currencies as their principal unit of account. Classification of bitcoin by the United States government is to date unclear with multiple conflicting rulings. In 2013 Judge Amos L. Mazzant III of the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Texas stated that "Bitcoin is a currency or form of money". In July 2016, Judge Teresa Mary Pooler of Eleventh Judicial Circuit Court of Florida cleared Michell Espinoza in State of Florida v. Espinoza in money-laundering charges he faced involving his use of bitcoin. Judge Pooler stated "Bitcoin may have some attributes in common with what we commonly refer to as money, but differ in many important aspects, they are certainly not tangible wealth and cannot be hidden under a mattress like cash and gold bars." In September 2016, a ruling by Judge Alison J. Nathan of United States District Court for the Southern District of New York contradicted the Florida Espinoza ruling stating "Bitcoins are funds within the plain meaning of that term.— Bitcoins can be accepted as a payment for goods and services or bought directly from an exchange with a bank account. They therefore function as pecuniary resources and are used as a medium of exchange and a means of payment." The Commodity Futures Trading Commission classifies bitcoin as a commodity, and the Internal Revenue Service classifies it as an asset. Journalists and academics also debate what to call bitcoin. Some media outlets do make a distinction between "real" money and bitcoins, while others call bitcoin real money. The Wall Street Journal declared it a commodity in December 2013. A Forbes journalist referred to it as digital collectible. Two University of Amsterdam computer scientists proposed the term "money-like informational commodity". In a 2016 Forbes article, bitcoin was characterized as a member of a new asset class. The People's Bank of China has stated that bitcoin "is fundamentally not a currency but an investment target". In addition to the above, bitcoin is also characterized as a payment system.:1 Bitcoins can be bought and sold both on- and offline. Participants in online exchanges offer bitcoin buy and sell bids. Using an online exchange to obtain bitcoins entails some risk, and, according to a study published in April 2013, 45% of exchanges fail and take client bitcoins with them. Exchanges have since implemented measures to provide proof of reserves in an effort to convey transparency to users. Offline, bitcoins may be purchased directly from an individual or at a bitcoin ATM. Bitcoin machines are not however traditional ATMs. Bitcoin kiosks are machines connected to the Internet, allowing the insertion of cash in exchange for bitcoins. Bitcoin kiosks do not connect to a bank and may also charge transaction fees as high as 7% and exchange rates $50 over rates from elsewhere. As of 2016 it was estimated there were over 800 bitcoin ATMs operating globally, the majority (500+) being in the United States. According to Mark T. Williams, as of 2014, bitcoin has volatility seven times greater than gold, eight times greater than the S&P 500, and eighteen times greater than the U.S. dollar. Attempting to explain the high volatility, a group of Japanese scholars stated that there is no stabilization mechanism. The Bitcoin Foundation contends that high volatility is due to insufficient liquidity, while a Forbes journalist claims that it is related to the uncertainty of its long-term value, and the high volatility of a startup currency makes sense, "because people are still experimenting with the currency to figure out how useful it is." There are uses where volatility does not matter, such as online gambling, tipping, and international remittances. As of 2014, pro-bitcoin venture capitalists argued that the greatly increased trading volume that planned high-frequency trading exchanges would generate is needed to decrease price volatility. The price of bitcoins has gone through various cycles of appreciation and depreciation referred to by some as bubbles and busts. In 2011, the value of one bitcoin rapidly rose from about US$0.30 to US$32 before returning to US$2. In the latter half of 2012 and during the 2012–13 Cypriot financial crisis, the bitcoin price began to rise, reaching a high of US$266 on 10 April 2013, before crashing to around US$50. On 29 November 2013, the cost of one bitcoin rose to the all-time peak of US$1,242. In 2014, the price fell sharply, and as of April remained depressed at little more than half 2013 prices. As of August 2014 it was under US$600. In January 2015, noting that the bitcoin price had dropped to its lowest level since spring 2013 – around US$224 – The New York Times suggested that "[w]ith no signs of a rally in the offing, the industry is bracing for the effects of a prolonged decline in prices. In particular, bitcoin mining companies, which are essential to the currency's underlying technology, are flashing warning signs." Also in January 2015, Business Insider reported that deep web drug dealers were "freaking out" as they lost profits through being unable to convert bitcoin revenue to cash quickly enough as the price declined – and that there was a danger that dealers selling reserves to stay in business might force the bitcoin price down further. On 4 November 2015, bitcoin had risen by more than 20%, exceeding $490. The Financial Times associated the rapid growth with the popularity of "socio-financial networks" MMM operated by Russian businessman Sergei Mavrodi. According to The Wall Street Journal, as of April 2016, bitcoin is starting to look slightly more stable than gold. Bitcoin has been labelled a speculative bubble by many including former Fed Chairman Alan Greenspan and economist John Quiggin. Nobel Memorial Prize laureate Robert Shiller said that bitcoin "exhibited many of the characteristics of a speculative bubble". On March 14, 2014, the American business magnate Warren Buffett said, "Stay away from it. It's a mirage, basically." Two lead software developers of bitcoin, Gavin Andresen and Mike Hearn, have warned that bubbles may occur. David Andolfatto, a vice president at the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, stated, "Is bitcoin a bubble? Yes, if bubble is defined as a liquidity premium." According to Andolfatto, the price of bitcoin "consists purely of a bubble," but he concedes that many assets have prices that are greater than their intrinsic value. Journalist Matthew Boesler rejects the speculative bubble label and sees bitcoin's quick rise in price as nothing more than normal economic forces at work. The Washington Post pointed out that the observed cycles of appreciation and depreciation don't correspond to the definition of speculative bubble. Various journalists, economists, and the central bank of Estonia have voiced concerns that bitcoin is a Ponzi scheme. Eric Posner, a law professor at the University of Chicago, stated in 2013 that "a real Ponzi scheme takes fraud; bitcoin, by contrast, seems more like a collective delusion." In 2014 reports by both the World Bank and the Swiss Federal Council examined the concerns and came to the conclusion that bitcoin is not a Ponzi scheme. Financial journalists and analysts, economists, and investors have attempted to predict the possible future value of bitcoin. In April 2013, economist John Quiggin stated, "bitcoins will attain their true value of zero sooner or later, but it is impossible to say when". A similar forecast was made in November 2014 by economist Kevin Dowd. In December 2013, finance professor Mark T. Williams forecast that bitcoin would trade for less than $10 by mid-year 2014. In the indicated period bitcoin has exchanged as low as $344 (April 2014) and during July 2014 the bitcoin low was $609. In December 2014, Williams said, "The probability of success is low, but if it does hit, the reward will be very large." In November 2014, David Yermack, Professor of Finance at New York University Stern School of Business, forecast that in November 2015 bitcoin may be all but worthless. In the indicated period bitcoin has exchanged as low as $176.50 (January 2015) and during November 2015 the bitcoin low was $309.90. In May 2013, Bank of America FX and Rate Strategist David Woo forecast a maximum fair value per bitcoin of $1,300. Bitcoin investor Cameron Winklevoss stated in December 2013 that the "small bull case scenario for bitcoin is... 40,000 USD a coin". The "death" of bitcoin has been proclaimed numerous times. One journalist has recorded 29 such "obituaries" as of early 2015. Forbes magazine declared bitcoin "dead" in June 2011, followed by Gizmodo Australia in August 2011. Wired magazine wrote it had "expired" in December 2012. Ouishare Magazine declared, "game over, bitcoin" in May 2013, and New York Magazine stated bitcoin was "on its path to grave" in June 2013. Reuters published an "obituary" for bitcoin in January 2014. Street Insider declared bitcoin "dead" in February 2014, followed by The Weekly Standard in March 2014, Salon in March 2014, Vice News in March 2014, and Financial Times in September 2014. In January 2015, USA Today states bitcoin was "headed to the ash heap", and The Telegraph declared "the end of bitcoin experiment". In January 2016, former bitcoin developer Mike Hearn called bitcoin a "failed project". Peter Greenhill, Director of E-Business Development for the Isle of Man, commenting on the obituaries paraphrased Mark Twain saying "reports of bitcoin's death have been greatly exaggerated". Some economists have responded positively to bitcoin while others have expressed skepticism. François R. Velde, Senior Economist at the Chicago Fed, described it as "an elegant solution to the problem of creating a digital currency". Paul Krugman and Brad DeLong have found fault with bitcoin, questioning why it should act as a reasonably stable store of value or whether there is a floor on its value. Economist John Quiggin has criticized bitcoin as "the final refutation of the efficient-market hypothesis". David Andolfatto, Vice President at the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, stated that bitcoin is a threat to the establishment, which he argues is a good thing for the Federal Reserve System and other central banks, because it prompts these institutions to operate sound policies. Free software movement activist Richard Stallman has criticized the lack of anonymity and called for reformed development. PayPal President David A. Marcus calls bitcoin a "great place to put assets" but claims it will not be a currency until price volatility is reduced. Bill Gates, in relation to the cost of moving money from place to place in an interview for Bloomberg L.P. stated: "Bitcoin is exciting because it shows how cheap it can be." Officials in countries such as Brazil, the Isle of Man, Jersey, the United Kingdom, and the United States have recognized its ability to provide legitimate financial services. Recent bitcoin developments have been drawing the interest of more financially savvy politicians and legislators as a result of bitcoin's capability to eradicate fraud, simplify transactions, and provide transparency, when bitcoins are properly utilized. In 2015, the number of merchants accepting bitcoin exceeded 100,000. Instead of 2–3% typically imposed by credit card processors, merchants accepting bitcoins often pay fees in the range from 0% to less than 2%. As of December 2014 select firms that accept payments in bitcoin include: Bitcoin is accepted by The Electronic Frontier Foundation, Greenpeace, The Mozilla Foundation, and The Wikimedia Foundation. Some U.S. political candidates, including New York City Democratic Congressional candidate Jeff Kurzon have said they would accept campaign donations in bitcoin. In late 2013 the University of Nicosia became the first university in the world to accept bitcoins. Merchants accepting bitcoin, such as Dish Network, use the services of bitcoin payment service providers such as BitPay or Coinbase. When a customer pays in bitcoin, the payment service provider accepts the bitcoin on behalf of the merchant, directly converts it, and sends the obtained amount to merchant's bank account, charging a fee of less than 1 percent for the service. Due to the design of bitcoin, all retail figures are only estimates. According to Tim Swanson, head of business development at a Hong Kong-based cryptocurrency technology company, in 2014, daily retail purchases made with bitcoin were worth about $2.3 million. He estimates that, as of February 2015, fewer than 5,000 bitcoins per day (worth roughly $1.2 million at the time) were being used for retail transactions, and concluded that in 2014 "it appears there has been very little if any increase in retail purchases using bitcoin." Bitcoin companies have had difficulty opening traditional bank accounts because lenders have been leery of bitcoin's links to illicit activity. According to Antonio Gallippi, a co-founder of BitPay, "banks are scared to deal with bitcoin companies, even if they really want to". In 2014, the National Australia Bank closed accounts of businesses with ties to bitcoin, and HSBC refused to serve a hedge fund with links to bitcoin. Australian banks in general have been reported as closing down bank accounts of operators of businesses involving the currency; this has become the subject of an investigation by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission. Nonetheless, Australian banks have keenly adopted the blockchain technology on which bitcoin is based. In a 2013 report, Bank of America Merrill Lynch stated that "we believe bitcoin can become a major means of payment for e-commerce and may emerge as a serious competitor to traditional money-transfer providers." In June 2014, the first bank that converts deposits in currencies instantly to bitcoin without any fees was opened in Boston. Some Argentinians have bought bitcoins to protect their savings against high inflation or the possibility that governments could confiscate savings accounts. During the 2012–2013 Cypriot financial crisis, bitcoin purchases in Cyprus rose due to fears that savings accounts would be confiscated or taxed. Other methods of investment are bitcoin funds. The first regulated bitcoin fund was established in Jersey in July 2014 and approved by the Jersey Financial Services Commission. Also, c. 2012 an attempt was made by the Winklevoss twins (who in April 2013 claimed they owned nearly 1% of all bitcoins in existence) to establish a bitcoin ETF. As of early 2015, they have announced plans to launch a New York-based bitcoin exchange named Gemini, which has received approval to launch on 5 October 2015. On 4 May 2015, Bitcoin Investment Trust started trading on the OTCQX market as GBTC. Forbes started publishing arguments in favor of investing in December 2015. In 2013 and 2014, the European Banking Authority and the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA), a United States self-regulatory organization, warned that investing in bitcoins carries significant risks. Forbes named bitcoin the best investment of 2013. In 2014, Bloomberg named bitcoin one of its worst investments of the year. In 2015, bitcoin topped Bloomberg's currency tables. To improve access to price information and increase transparency, on 30 April 2014 Bloomberg LP announced plans to list prices from bitcoin companies Kraken and Coinbase on its 320,000 subscription financial data terminals. In May 2015, Intercontinental Exchange Inc., parent company of the New York Stock Exchange, announced a bitcoin index initially based on data from Coinbase transactions. Venture capitalists, such as Peter Thiel's Founders Fund, which invested US$3 million in BitPay, do not purchase bitcoins themselves, instead funding bitcoin infrastructure like companies that provide payment systems to merchants, exchanges, wallet services, etc. In 2012, an incubator for bitcoin-focused start-ups was founded by Adam Draper, with financing help from his father, venture capitalist Tim Draper, one of the largest bitcoin holders after winning an auction of 30,000 bitcoins, at the time called 'mystery buyer'. The company's goal is to fund 100 bitcoin businesses within 2–3 years with $10,000 to $20,000 for a 6% stake. Investors also invest in bitcoin mining. According to a 2015 study by Paolo Tasca, bitcoin startups raised almost $1 billion in three years (Q1 2012 – Q1 2015). The decentralization of money offered by virtual currencies like bitcoin has its theoretical roots in the Austrian school of economics, especially with Friedrich von Hayek in his book Denationalisation of Money: The Argument Refined, in which he advocates a complete free market in the production, distribution and management of money to end the monopoly of central banks. Bitcoin appeals to tech-savvy libertarians, because it so far exists outside the institutional banking system and the control of governments. However, researchers looking to uncover the reasons for interest in bitcoin did not find evidence in Google search data that this was linked to libertarianism. Bitcoin's appeal reaches from left wing critics, "who perceive the state and banking sector as representing the same elite interests, [...] recognising in it the potential for collective direct democratic governance of currency" and socialists proposing their "own states, complete with currencies", to right wing critics suspicious of big government, at a time when activities within the regulated banking system were responsible for the severity of the financial crisis of 2007–08, "because governments are not fully living up to the responsibility that comes with state-sponsored money". Bitcoin has been described as "remov[ing] the imbalance between the big boys of finance and the disenfranchised little man, potentially allowing early adopters to negotiate favourable rates on exchanges and transfers – something that only the very biggest firms have traditionally enjoyed". Two WSJ journalists describe bitcoin in their book as "about freeing people from the tyranny of centralised trust". The legal status of bitcoin varies substantially from country to country and is still undefined or changing in many of them. While some countries have explicitly allowed its use and trade, others have banned or restricted it. Likewise, various government agencies, departments, and courts have classified bitcoins differently. Regulations and bans that apply to bitcoin probably extend to similar cryptocurrency systems. In April 2013, Steven Strauss, a Harvard public policy professor, suggested that governments could outlaw bitcoin, and this possibility was mentioned again by a bitcoin investment vehicle in a July 2013 report to a regulator. However, the vast majority of nations have not done so as of 2014. It is illegal in Bangladesh, Bolivia, Ecuador. The use of bitcoin by criminals has attracted the attention of financial regulators, legislative bodies, law enforcement, and the media. The FBI prepared an intelligence assessment, the SEC has issued a pointed warning about investment schemes using virtual currencies, and the U.S. Senate held a hearing on virtual currencies in November 2013. Several news outlets have asserted that the popularity of bitcoins hinges on the ability to use them to purchase illegal goods. In 2014, researchers at the University of Kentucky found "robust evidence that computer programming enthusiasts and illegal activity drive interest in bitcoin, and find limited or no support for political and investment motives." A CMU researcher estimated that in 2012, 4.5% to 9% of all transactions on all exchanges in the world were for drug trades on a single dark web drugs market, Silk Road. Child pornography, murder-for-hire services, and weapons are also allegedly available on black market sites that sell in bitcoin. Due to the anonymous nature and the lack of central control on these markets, it is hard to know whether the services are real or just trying to take the bitcoins. Several deep web black markets have been shut by authorities. In October 2013 Silk Road was shut down by U.S. law enforcement leading to a short-term decrease in the value of bitcoin. In 2015, the founder of the site was sentenced to life in prison. Alternative sites were soon available, and in early 2014 the Australian Broadcasting Corporation reported that the closure of Silk Road had little impact on the number of Australians selling drugs online, which had actually increased. In early 2014, Dutch authorities closed Utopia, an online illegal goods market, and seized 900 bitcoins. In late 2014, a joint police operation saw European and American authorities seize bitcoins and close 400 deep web sites including the illicit goods market Silk Road 2.0. Law enforcement activity has resulted in several convictions. In December 2014, Charlie Shrem was sentenced to two years in prison for indirectly helping to send $1 million to the Silk Road drugs site, and in February 2015, its founder, Ross Ulbricht, was convicted on drugs charges and faces a life sentence. Some black market sites may seek to steal bitcoins from customers. The bitcoin community branded one site, Sheep Marketplace, as a scam when it prevented withdrawals and shut down after an alleged bitcoins theft. In a separate case, escrow accounts with bitcoins belonging to patrons of a different black market were hacked in early 2014. According to the Internet Watch Foundation, a UK-based charity, bitcoin is used to purchase child pornography, and almost 200 such websites accept it as payment. Bitcoin isn't the sole way to purchase child pornography online, as Troels Oertling, head of the cybercrime unit at Europol, states, "Ukash and Paysafecard... have [also] been used to pay for such material." However, the Internet Watch Foundation lists around 30 sites that exclusively accept bitcoins. Some of these sites have shut down, such as a deep web crowdfunding website that aimed to fund the creation of new child porn. Furthermore, hyperlinks to child porn websites have been added to the blockchain as arbitrary data can be included when a transaction is made. Some malware can steal private keys for bitcoin wallets allowing the bitcoins themselves to be stolen. The most common type searches computers for cryptocurrency wallets to upload to a remote server where they can be cracked and their coins stolen. Many of these also log keystrokes to record passwords, often avoiding the need to crack the keys. A different approach detects when a bitcoin address is copied to a clipboard and quickly replaces it with a different address, tricking people into sending bitcoins to the wrong address. This method is effective because bitcoin transactions are irreversible. One virus, spread through the Pony botnet, was reported in February 2014 to have stolen up to $220,000 in cryptocurrencies including bitcoins from 85 wallets. Security company Trustwave, which tracked the malware, reports that its latest version was able to steal 30 types of digital currency. A type of Mac malware active in August 2013, Bitvanity posed as a vanity wallet address generator and stole addresses and private keys from other bitcoin client software. A different trojan for macOS, called CoinThief was reported in February 2014 to be responsible for multiple bitcoin thefts. The software was hidden in versions of some cryptocurrency apps on Download.com and MacUpdate. Another type of bitcoin-related malware is ransomware. One program called CryptoLocker, typically spread through legitimate-looking email attachments, encrypts the hard drive of an infected computer, then displays a countdown timer and demands a ransom, usually two bitcoins, to decrypt it. Massachusetts police said they paid a 2 bitcoin ransom in November 2013, worth more than $1,300 at the time, to decrypt one of their hard drives. Linkup, a combination ransomware and bitcoin mining program that surfaced in February 2014, disables internet access and demands credit card information to restore it, while secretly mining bitcoins. In June 2011, Symantec warned about the possibility that botnets could mine covertly for bitcoins. Malware used the parallel processing capabilities of GPUs built into many modern video cards. Although the average PC with an integrated graphics processor is virtually useless for bitcoin mining, tens of thousands of PCs laden with mining malware could produce some results. In mid-August 2011, bitcoin mining botnets were detected, and less than three months later, bitcoin mining trojans had infected Mac OS X. In April 2013, electronic sports organization E-Sports Entertainment was accused of hijacking 14,000 computers to mine bitcoins; the company later settled the case with the State of New Jersey. German police arrested two people in December 2013 who customized existing botnet software to perform bitcoin mining, which police said had been used to mine at least $950,000 worth of bitcoins. For four days in December 2013 and January 2014, Yahoo! Europe hosted an ad containing bitcoin mining malware that infected an estimated two million computers. The software, called Sefnit, was first detected in mid-2013 and has been bundled with many software packages. Microsoft has been removing the malware through its Microsoft Security Essentials and other security software. Several reports of employees or students using university or research computers to mine bitcoins have been published. Bitcoins may not be ideal for money laundering, because all transactions are public. Authorities, including the European Banking Authority the FBI, and the Financial Action Task Force of the G7 have expressed concerns that bitcoin may be used for money laundering. In early 2014, an operator of a U.S. bitcoin exchange, Charlie Shrem, was arrested for money laundering. Subsequently, he was sentenced to two years in prison for "aiding and abetting an unlicensed money transmitting business". A report by UK's Treasury and Home Office named "UK national risk assessment of money laundering and terrorist financing" (2015 October) found that, of the twelve methods examined in the report, bitcoin carries the lowest risk of being used for money laundering, with the most common money laundering method being the banks. In a Ponzi scheme that utilized bitcoins, The Bitcoin Savings and Trust promised investors up to 7 percent weekly interest, and raised at least 700,000 bitcoins from 2011 to 2012. In July 2013 the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission charged the company and its founder in 2013 "with defrauding investors in a Ponzi scheme involving bitcoin". In September 2014 the judge fined Bitcoin Savings & Trust and its owner $40 million for operating a bitcoin Ponzi scheme. There have been many cases of bitcoin theft. One way this is accomplished involves a third party accessing the private key to a victim's bitcoin address, or of an online wallet. If the private key is stolen, all the bitcoins from the compromised address can be transferred. In that case, the network does not have any provisions to identify the thief, block further transactions of those stolen bitcoins, or return them to the legitimate owner. Theft also occurs at sites where bitcoins are used to purchase illicit goods. In late November 2013, an estimated $100 million in bitcoins were allegedly stolen from the online illicit goods marketplace Sheep Marketplace, which immediately closed. Users tracked the coins as they were processed and converted to cash, but no funds were recovered and no culprits identified. A different black market, Silk Road 2, stated that during a February 2014 hack, bitcoins valued at $2.7 million were taken from escrow accounts. Sites where users exchange bitcoins for cash or store them in "wallets" are also targets for theft. Inputs.io, an Australian wallet service, was hacked twice in October 2013 and lost more than $1 million in bitcoins. In late February 2014 Mt. Gox, one of the largest virtual currency exchanges, filed for bankruptcy in Tokyo amid reports that bitcoins worth $350 million had been stolen. Flexcoin, a bitcoin storage specialist based in Alberta, Canada, shut down on March 2014 after saying it discovered a theft of about $650,000 in bitcoins. Poloniex, a digital currency exchange, reported on March 2014 that it lost bitcoins valued at around $50,000. In January 2015 UK-based bitstamp, the third busiest bitcoin exchange globally, was hacked and $5 million in bitcoins were stolen. February 2015 saw a Chinese exchange named BTER lose bitcoins worth nearly $2 million to hackers. A major bitcoin exchange, Bitfinex, was hacked and nearly 120,000 bitcoins (around $60m) was stolen in 2016. Bitfinex was forced to suspend its trading. The theft is the second largest bitcoin heist ever, dwarfed only by Mt. Gox theft in 2014. According to Forbes, "All of Bitfinex's customers,... will stand to lose money. The company has announced a haircut of 36.067% across the board." Thefts have raised safety concerns. Charles Hayter, founder of digital currency comparison website CryptoCompare said, "It’s a reminder of the fragility of the infrastructure in such a nascent industry." According to the hearing of U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Small Business in April 2, 2014, "these vendors lack regulatory oversight, minimum capital standards and don't provide consumer protection against loss or theft." Various potential attacks on the bitcoin network and its use as a payment system, real or theoretical, have been considered. The bitcoin protocol includes several features that protect it against some of those attacks, such as unauthorized spending, double spending, forging bitcoins, and tampering with the blockchain. Other attacks, such as theft of private keys, require due care by users. Unauthorized spending is mitigated by bitcoin's implementation of public-private key cryptography. For example; when Alice sends a bitcoin to Bob, Bob becomes the new owner of the bitcoin. Eve observing the transaction might want to spend the bitcoin Bob just received, but she cannot sign the transaction without the knowledge of Bob's private key. A specific problem that an internet payment system must solve is double-spending, whereby a user pays the same coin to two or more different recipients. An example of such a problem would be if Eve sent a bitcoin to Alice and later sent the same bitcoin to Bob. The bitcoin network guards against double-spending by recording all bitcoin transfers in a ledger (the blockchain) that is visible to all users, and ensuring for all transferred bitcoins that they haven't been previously spent. If Eve offers to pay Alice a bitcoin in exchange for goods and signs a corresponding transaction, it is still possible that she also creates a different transaction at the same time sending the same bitcoin to Bob. By the rules, the network accepts only one of the transactions. This is called a race attack, since there is a race which transaction will be accepted first. Alice can reduce the risk of race attack stipulating that she will not deliver the goods until Eve's payment to Alice appears in the blockchain. A variant race attack (which has been called a Finney attack by reference to Hal Finney) requires the participation of a miner. Instead of sending both payment requests (to pay Bob and Alice with the same coins) to the network, Eve issues only Alice's payment request to the network, while the accomplice tries to mine a block that includes the payment to Bob instead of Alice. There is a positive probability that the rogue miner will succeed before the network, in which case the payment to Alice will be rejected. As with the plain race attack, Alice can reduce the risk of a Finney attack by waiting for the payment to be included in the blockchain. Each block that is added to the blockchain, starting with the block containing a given transaction, is called a confirmation of that transaction. Ideally, merchants and services that receive payment in bitcoin should wait for at least one confirmation to be distributed over the network, before assuming that the payment was done. The more confirmations that the merchant waits for, the more difficult it is for an attacker to successfully reverse the transaction in a blockchain—unless the attacker controls more than half the total network power, in which case it is called a 51% attack. Deanonymisation is a strategy in data mining in which anonymous data is cross-referenced with other sources of data to re-identify the anonymous data source. Along with transaction graph analysis, which may reveal connections between bitcoin addresses (pseudonyms), there is a possible attack which links a user's pseudonym to its IP address. If the peer is using Tor, the attack includes a method to separate the peer from the Tor network, forcing them to use their real IP address for any further transactions. The attack makes use of bitcoin mechanisms of relaying peer addresses and anti-DoS protection. The cost of the attack on the full bitcoin network is under €1500 per month. While it is possible to store any digital file in the blockchain, the larger the transaction size, the larger any associated fees become. Various items have been embedded, including URLs to child pornography, an ASCII art image of Ben Bernanke, material from the Wikileaks cables, prayers from bitcoin miners, and the original bitcoin whitepaper. In September 2015, the establishment of the peer-reviewed academic journal Ledger (ISSN 2379-5980) was announced. It will cover studies of cryptocurrencies and related technologies, and is published by the University of Pittsburgh. The journal encourages authors to digitally sign a file hash of submitted papers, which will then be timestamped into the bitcoin blockchain. Authors are also asked to include a personal bitcoin address in the first page of their papers. In the fall of 2014, undergraduate students at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) each received bitcoins worth $100 "to better understand this emerging technology". The bitcoins were not provided by MIT but rather the MIT Bitcoin Club, a student-run club. The documentary film, The Rise and Rise of Bitcoin (late 2014), features interviews with people who use bitcoin, such as a computer programmer and a drug dealer. Several lighthearted songs celebrating bitcoin have been released. In Charles Stross' science fiction novel, Neptune's Brood (2013), a modification of bitcoin is used as the universal interstellar payment system. The functioning of the system is a major plot element of the book. In early 2015, the CNN series Inside Man featured an episode about bitcoin. Filmed in July 2014, it featured Morgan Spurlock living off bitcoins for a week, to figure out whether or not the world is ready for a new kind of currency.Bitcoin is a cryptocurrency and a payment system:3 invented by an unidentified programmer, or group of programmers, under the name of Satoshi Nakamoto. Bitcoin was introduced on 31 October 2008 to a cryptography mailing list, and released as open-source software in 2009. There have been various claims and speculation concerning the identity of Nakamoto, none of which are confirmed. The system is peer-to-peer and transactions take place between users directly, without an intermediary. These transactions are verified by network nodes and recorded in a public distributed ledger called the blockchain, which uses bitcoin as its unit of account. Since the system works without a central repository or single administrator, the U.S. Treasury categorizes bitcoin as a decentralized virtual currency. Bitcoin is often called the first cryptocurrency, although prior systems existed and it is more correctly described as the first decentralized digital currency. Bitcoin is the largest of its kind in terms of total market value. Bitcoins are created as a reward in a competition in which users offer their computing power to verify and record bitcoin transactions into the blockchain. This activity is referred to as mining and successful miners are rewarded with transaction fees and newly created bitcoins. Besides being obtained by mining, bitcoins can be exchanged for other currencies, products, and services. When sending bitcoins, users can pay an optional transaction fee to the miners. This may expedite the transaction being confirmed. In February 2015, the number of merchants accepting bitcoin for products and services passed 100,000. Instead of 2–3% typically imposed by credit card processors, merchants accepting bitcoins often pay fees in the range from 0% to less than 2%. Despite the fourfold increase in the number of merchants accepting bitcoin in 2014, the cryptocurrency did not have much momentum in retail transactions. The European Banking Authority and other sources have warned that bitcoin users are not protected by refund rights or chargebacks. The use of bitcoin by criminals has attracted the attention of financial regulators, legislative bodies, law enforcement, and media. Criminal activities are primarily focused on darknet markets and theft, though officials in countries such as the United States also recognize that bitcoin can provide legitimate financial services. The word bitcoin occurred in the white paper that defined bitcoin published in 2008. It is a compound of the words bit and coin. The white paper frequently uses the shorter coin. There is no uniform convention for bitcoin capitalization. Some sources use Bitcoin, capitalized, to refer to the technology and network and bitcoin, lowercase, to refer to the unit of account. The Wall Street Journal, The Chronicle of Higher Education, and the Oxford English Dictionary advocate use of lowercase bitcoin in all cases. This article follows the latter convention. The blockchain is a public ledger that records bitcoin transactions. A novel solution accomplishes this without any trusted central authority: maintenance of the blockchain is performed by a network of communicating nodes running bitcoin software. Transactions of the form payer X sends Y bitcoins to payee Z are broadcast to this network using readily available software applications. Network nodes can validate transactions, add them to their copy of the ledger, and then broadcast these ledger additions to other nodes. The blockchain is a distributed database – to achieve independent verification of the chain of ownership of any and every bitcoin (amount), each network node stores its own copy of the blockchain. Approximately six times per hour, a new group of accepted transactions, a block, is created, added to the blockchain, and quickly published to all nodes. This allows bitcoin software to determine when a particular bitcoin amount has been spent, which is necessary in order to prevent double-spending in an environment without central oversight. Whereas a conventional ledger records the transfers of actual bills or promissory notes that exist apart from it, the blockchain is the only place that bitcoins can be said to exist in the form of unspent outputs of transactions. A valid transaction must have one or more inputs. Every input must be an unspent output of a previous transaction. The transaction must carry the digital signature of every input owner. The use of multiple inputs corresponds to the use of multiple coins in a cash transaction. A transaction can also have multiple outputs, allowing one to make multiple payments in one go. A transaction output can be specified as an arbitrary multiple of satoshi. As in a cash transaction, the sum of inputs (coins used to pay) can exceed the intended sum of payments. In such a case, an additional output is used, returning the change back to the payer. Any input satoshis not accounted for in the transaction outputs become the transaction fee. Paying a transaction fee is optional. Miners can choose which transactions to process and prioritize those that pay higher fees. Fees are based on the storage size of the transaction generated, which in turn is dependent on the number of inputs used to create the transaction. Furthermore, priority is given to older unspent inputs. The unit of account of the bitcoin system is bitcoin. As of 2014, symbols used to represent bitcoin are BTC, XBT, and. Small amounts of bitcoin used as alternative units are millibitcoin (mBTC), microbitcoin (µBTC, sometimes referred to as bit), and satoshi. Named in homage to bitcoin's creator, a satoshi is the smallest amount within bitcoin representing 0.00000001 bitcoin, one hundred millionth of a bitcoin. A millibitcoin equals to 0.001 bitcoin, one thousandth of a bitcoin. One microbitcoin equals to 0.000001 bitcoin, one millionth of a bitcoin. A proposal was submitted to the Unicode Consortium in October 2015 to add a codepoint for the symbol. As of November 2016, it is in the pipeline for position 20BF (₿) in the Currency Symbols block. Mining is a record-keeping service. Miners keep the blockchain consistent, complete, and unalterable by repeatedly verifying and collecting newly broadcast transactions into a new group of transactions called a block. Each block contains a cryptographic hash of the previous block, using the SHA-256 hashing algorithm, which links it to the previous block, thus giving the blockchain its name. In order to be accepted by the rest of the network, a new block must contain a so-called proof-of-work. The proof-of-work requires miners to find a number called a nonce, such that when the block content is hashed along with the nonce, the result is numerically smaller than the network's difficulty target. This proof is easy for any node in the network to verify, but extremely time-consuming to generate, as for a secure cryptographic hash, miners must try many different nonce values (usually the sequence of tested values is 0, 1, 2, 3, ...) before meeting the difficulty target. Every 2016 blocks (approximately 14 days), the difficulty target is adjusted based on the network's recent performance, with the aim of keeping the average time between new blocks at ten minutes. In this way the system automatically adapts to the total amount of mining power on the network. Between 1 March 2014 and 1 March 2015, the average number of nonces miners had to try before creating a new block increased from 16.4 quintillion to 200.5 quintillion. The proof-of-work system, alongside the chaining of blocks, makes modifications of the blockchain extremely hard, as an attacker must modify all subsequent blocks in order for the modifications of one block to be accepted. As new blocks are mined all the time, the difficulty of modifying a block increases as time passes and the number of subsequent blocks (also called confirmations of the given block) increases. It has become common for miners to join mining pools, which combine the computational resources of their members in order to increase the frequency of generating new blocks. The reward for each block is then split proportionately among the members, creating a more predictable stream of income for each miner without necessarily changing their long-term average income, although a fee may be charged for the service. The competitive nature of mining has led to ever-more-specialized technology being utilized. The most efficient mining hardware makes use of custom designed application-specific integrated circuits, which outperform general-purpose CPUs while using less power. As of 2015, a miner who is not using purpose-built hardware is unlikely to earn enough to cover the cost of the electricity used in their efforts, even if they are a member of a pool. In 2013, Mark Gimein estimated electricity use to be about 40.9 megawatts (982 megawatt-hours a day). In 2014, Hass McCook estimated 80.7 megawatts (80,666 kW). As of 2015, The Economist estimated that even if all miners used modern facilities, the combined electricity consumption would be 166.7 megawatts (1.46 terawatt-hours per year). Journalist Matt O'Brien opined that it is not obvious whether bitcoin is lowering transaction costs, since the costs are transformed into pollution costs, which he characterizes as "environmental spillovers on everyone else, or what economists call negative externalities." To lower the costs, bitcoin miners have set up in places like Iceland where geothermal energy is cheap and cooling Arctic air is free. Chinese bitcoin miners are known to use hydroelectric power in Tibet to reduce electricity costs. The successful miner finding the new block is rewarded with newly created bitcoins and transaction fees. As of 9 July 2016, the reward amounted to 12.5 newly created bitcoins per block added to the blockchain. To claim the reward, a special transaction called a coinbase is included with the processed payments. All bitcoins in existence have been created in such coinbase transactions. The bitcoin protocol specifies that the reward for adding a block will be halved every 210,000 blocks (approximately every four years). Eventually, the reward will decrease to zero, and the limit of 21 million bitcoins will be reached c. 2140; the record keeping will then be rewarded by transaction fees solely. In other words, bitcoin's inventor Nakamoto set a monetary policy based on artificial scarcity at bitcoin's inception that there would only ever be 21 million bitcoins in total. Their numbers are being released roughly every ten minutes and the rate at which they are generated would drop by half every four years until all were in circulation. A wallet stores the information necessary to transact bitcoins. While wallets are often described as a place to hold or store bitcoins, due to the nature of the system, bitcoins are inseparable from the blockchain transaction ledger. A better way to describe a wallet is something that "stores the digital credentials for your bitcoin holdings" and allows you to access (and spend) them. Bitcoin uses public-key cryptography, in which two cryptographic keys, one public and one private, are generated. At its most basic, a wallet is a collection of these keys. There are several types of wallets. Software wallets connect to the network and allow spending bitcoins in addition to holding the credentials that prove ownership. Software wallets can be split further in two categories: full clients and lightweight clients. Besides software wallets, Internet services called online wallets offer similar functionality but may be easier to use. In this case, credentials to access funds are stored with the online wallet provider rather than on the user's hardware. As a result, the user must have complete trust in the wallet provider. A malicious provider or a breach in server security may cause entrusted bitcoins to be stolen. An example of such security breach occurred with Mt. Gox in 2011. Physical wallets store the credentials necessary to spend bitcoins offline. Examples combine a novelty coin with these credentials printed on metal, Others are simply paper printouts. Another type of wallet called a hardware wallet keeps credentials offline while facilitating transactions. The first wallet program was released in 2009 by Satoshi Nakamoto as open-source code. Sometimes referred to as the "Satoshi client," this is also known as the reference client because it serves to define the bitcoin protocol and acts as a standard for other implementations. In version 0.5 the client moved from the wxWidgets user interface toolkit to Qt, and the whole bundle was referred to as Bitcoin-Qt. After the release of version 0.9, the software bundle was renamed Bitcoin Core to distinguish itself from the network. Today, other forks of Bitcoin Core exist such as Bitcoin XT, Bitcoin Classic, and Bitcoin Unlimited. Ownership of bitcoins implies that a user can spend bitcoins associated with a specific address. To do so, a payer must digitally sign the transaction using the corresponding private key. Without knowledge of the private key, the transaction cannot be signed and bitcoins cannot be spent. The network verifies the signature using the public key. If the private key is lost, the bitcoin network will not recognize any other evidence of ownership; the coins are then unusable, and thus effectively lost. For example, in 2013 one user claimed to have lost 7,500 bitcoins, worth $7.5 million at the time, when he accidentally discarded a hard drive containing his private key. Bitcoin creator Satoshi Nakamoto designed it to not need a central authority. Per sources such as the academic Mercatus Center, U.S. Treasury, Reuters, The Washington Post, The Daily Herald, The New Yorker, and others, bitcoin is decentralized. There is also a minority opinion published in an article that appeared in IEEE Security & Privacy magazine, in which it is stated that "contrary to widespread belief, it isn’t truly decentralized as it's deployed and implemented today." Bitcoin is an open source software which was initially led by Satoshi Nakamoto. Nakamoto stepped back in 2010 and handed the network alert key to Gavin Andresen. Andresen stated he subsequently sought to decentralize control stating: "As soon as Satoshi stepped back and threw the project onto my shoulders, one of the first things I did was try to decentralize that. So, if I get hit by a bus, it would be clear that the project would go on." This left opportunity for controversy to develop over the future development path of bitcoin. The reference implementation of the bitcoin protocol called Bitcoin Core obtained competing versions that propose to solve various governance and blocksize debates; the alternatives are called Bitcoin XT, Bitcoin Classic, and Bitcoin Unlimited. Bitcoin is pseudonymous, meaning that funds are not tied to real-world entities but rather bitcoin addresses. Owners of bitcoin addresses are not explicitly identified, but all transactions on the blockchain are public. In addition, transactions can be linked to individuals and companies through "idioms of use" (e.g., transactions that spend coins from multiple inputs indicate that the inputs may have a common owner) and corroborating public transaction data with known information on owners of certain addresses. Additionally, bitcoin exchanges, where bitcoins are traded for traditional currencies, may be required by law to collect personal information. To heighten financial privacy, a new bitcoin address can be generated for each transaction. For example, hierarchical deterministic wallets generate pseudorandom "rolling addresses" for every transaction from a single seed, while only requiring a single passphrase to be remembered to recover all corresponding private keys. Additionally, "mixing" and CoinJoin services aggregate multiple users' coins and output them to fresh addresses to increase privacy. Researchers at Stanford University and Concordia University have also shown that bitcoin exchanges and other entities can prove assets, liabilities, and solvency without revealing their addresses using zero-knowledge proofs. According to Dan Blystone, "Ultimately, bitcoin resembles cash as much as it does credit cards." Wallets and similar software technically handle all bitcoins as equivalent, establishing the basic level of fungibility. Researchers have pointed out that the history of each bitcoin is registered and publicly available in the blockchain ledger, and that some users may refuse to accept bitcoins coming from controversial transactions, which would harm bitcoin's fungibility. Projects such as Zerocoin and Dark Wallet aim to address these privacy and fungibility issues. Bitcoin was created by Satoshi Nakamoto, who published the invention on 31 October 2008 to a cryptography mailing list in a research paper called "Bitcoin: A Peer-to-Peer Electronic Cash System". It was implemented as open source code and released in January 2009. Bitcoin is often called the first cryptocurrency although prior systems existed. Bitcoin is more correctly described as the first decentralized digital currency. One of the first supporters, adopters, contributor to bitcoin and receiver of the first bitcoin transaction was programmer Hal Finney. Finney downloaded the bitcoin software the day it was released, and received 10 bitcoins from Nakamoto in the world's first bitcoin transaction. Other early supporters were Wei Dai, creator of bitcoin predecessor b-money, and Nick Szabo, creator of bitcoin predecessor bit gold. In the early days, Nakamoto is estimated to have mined 1 million bitcoins. Before disappearing from any involvement in bitcoin, Nakamoto in a sense handed over the reins to developer Gavin Andresen, who then became the bitcoin lead developer at the Bitcoin Foundation, the 'anarchic' bitcoin community's closest thing to an official public face. Based on bitcoin's open source code, other cryptocurrencies started to emerge in 2011. In March 2013, a technical glitch caused a fork in the blockchain, with one half of the network adding blocks to one version of the chain and the other half adding to another. For six hours two bitcoin networks operated at the same time, each with its own version of the transaction history. The core developers called for a temporary halt to transactions, sparking a sharp sell-off. Normal operation was restored when the majority of the network downgraded to version 0.7 of the bitcoin software. In 2013 some mainstream websites began accepting bitcoins. WordPress had started in November 2012, followed by OKCupid in April 2013, TigerDirect and Overstock.com in January 2014, Expedia in June 2014, Newegg and Dell in July 2014, and Microsoft in December 2014. The Electronic Frontier Foundation, a non-profit group, started accepting bitcoins in January 2011, stopped accepting them in June 2011, and began again in May 2013. In May 2013, the Department of Homeland Security seized assets belonging to the Mt. Gox exchange. The U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) shut down the Silk Road website in October 2013. In October 2013, Chinese internet giant Baidu had allowed clients of website security services to pay with bitcoins. During November 2013, the China-based bitcoin exchange BTC China overtook the Japan-based Mt. Gox and the Europe-based Bitstamp to become the largest bitcoin trading exchange by trade volume. On 19 November 2013, the value of a bitcoin on the Mt. Gox exchange soared to a peak of US$900 after a United States Senate committee hearing was told by the FBI that virtual currencies are a legitimate financial service. On the same day, one bitcoin traded for over RMB¥6780 (US$1,100) in China. On 5 December 2013, the People's Bank of China prohibited Chinese financial institutions from using bitcoins. After the announcement, the value of bitcoins dropped, and Baidu no longer accepted bitcoins for certain services. Buying real-world goods with any virtual currency has been illegal in China since at least 2009. The first bitcoin ATM was installed in October 2013 in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. With about 12 million existing bitcoins in November 2013, the new price increased the market cap for bitcoin to at least US$7.2 billion. By 23 November 2013, the total market capitalization of bitcoin exceeded US$10 billion for the first time. In the U.S., two men were arrested in January 2014 on charges of money-laundering using bitcoins; one was Charlie Shrem, the head of now defunct bitcoin exchange BitInstant and a vice chairman of the Bitcoin Foundation. Shrem allegedly allowed the other arrested party to purchase large quantities of bitcoins for use on black-market websites. In early February 2014, one of the largest bitcoin exchanges, Mt. Gox, suspended withdrawals citing technical issues. By the end of the month, Mt. Gox had filed for bankruptcy protection in Japan amid reports that 744,000 bitcoins had been stolen. Months before the filing, the popularity of Mt. Gox had waned as users experienced difficulties withdrawing funds. On 18 June 2014, it was announced that bitcoin payment service provider BitPay would become the new sponsor of St. Petersburg Bowl under a two-year deal, renamed the Bitcoin St. Petersburg Bowl. Bitcoin was to be accepted for ticket and concession sales at the game as part of the sponsorship, and the sponsorship itself was also paid for using bitcoin. Less than one year after the collapse of Mt. Gox, United Kingdom-based exhange Bitstamp announced that their exchange would be taken offline while they investigate a hack which resulted in about 19,000 bitcoins (equivalent to roughly US$5 million at that time) being stolen from their hot wallet. The exchange remained offline for several days amid speculation that customers had lost their funds. Bitstamp resumed trading on 9 January after increasing security measures and assuring customers that their account balances would not be impacted. The bitcoin exchange service Coinbase launched the first regulated bitcoin exchange in 25 US states on 26 January 2015. At the time of the announcement, CEO Brian Armstrong stated that Coinbase intends to expand to thirty countries by the end of 2015. A spokesperson for Benjamin M. Lawsky, the superintendent of New York state's Department of Financial Services, stated that Coinbase is operating without a license in the state of New York. Lawsky is responsible for the development of the so-called 'BitLicense', which companies need to acquire in order to legally operate in New York. In August 2015 Barclays announced that they would become the first UK high street bank to start accepting bitcoin, with a plan to facilitate users to make charitable donations using the cryptocurrency outside their systems. They partnered in April 2016 with mobile payment startup Circle Internet Financial. A major bitcoin exchange, Bitfinex, was hacked and nearly 120,000 BTC (around $60m) was stolen in 2016. On March 2nd, 2017 the price of 1 Bitcoin surpassed the spot price of an ounce of gold for the first time. Bitcoin is a digital asset designed by its inventor, Satoshi Nakamoto, to work as a currency. It is commonly referred to with terms like: digital currency, digital cash, virtual currency, electronic currency, or cryptocurrency. The question whether bitcoin is a currency or not is still disputed. Bitcoins have three useful qualities in a currency, according to The Economist in January 2015: they are "hard to earn, limited in supply and easy to verify". Economists define money as a store of value, a medium of exchange, and a unit of account and agree that bitcoin has some way to go to meet all these criteria. It does best as a medium of exchange, as of February 2015 the number of merchants accepting bitcoin has passed 100,000. As of March 2014, the bitcoin market suffered from volatility, limiting the ability of bitcoin to act as a stable store of value, and retailers accepting bitcoin use other
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