The Past and Future of Digital Assets
During the 1980s, the world entered the computer age, where PCs began to play a more prominent role in homes and workplaces. Like with any new technology, there were a number of sceptical individuals. A number of people felt that the introduction of computers contributed to societies move towards a complete surveillance state comparable to George Orwell’s 1984.
The inception of the Cypherpunk era
As a result, a number of computer programmers decided to rebel using their code as a weapon. Thus, in the latter parts of the 80s, the cypherpunk movement was conceived. Their main focus was the protection of people’s privacy in the digital world.
One of those original programmers was Eric Hughes, who collated their goals and intentions into a book called ‘A Cypherpunk’s Manifesto’. The cypherpunks wished to see both encrypted and safe communications in the digital world, including anonymous transactions. Unlike credit card transactions, where both the payer and receiver can be identified, cypherpunks were envisaging a digital currency with which people could both send and receive money without being tracked — not divergent to paying in cash at the local shops.
An American cryptographer, David Chaum, was at the forefront of this digital cash creation. In 1983 he published a scientific paper, Blind Signatures for Untraceable Payments, that outlined anonymous digital money. In 1989 he created ‘DigiCash’ which put the concept he outlined in his research into practice. DigiCash revolved around Blind Signature technology which warranted both the safety and privacy of transactions between individuals not dissimilar to the cryptocurrency concept we know today.
The concept of a blind signature, outlined in his paper, can be illustrated by an example taken from physical paper documents. The paper analog of a blind signature can be implemented with carbon paper lined envelopes. Writing a signature on the outside of such an envelope leaves a carbon copy of the signature on a slip of paper within the envelope.
At a similar time to the DigiCash concept being realised, leading Dutch supermarket Albert Heijn, pressured banking partners to come up with a way to allow shoppers to pay directly from their bank accounts in store, which acted as the foundation to the early point-of-sale systems; and consequently one of the earliest examples of electronic cash that we associate with present day digital currencies.
In 1997 they launched the Cypherpunks Distributed Remailer (CDR), which was the first step towards a private communication system, in essence, it acted as an anonymous, decentralised email system. Shortly after this was the inception of b-money, whose creation is credited to an individual with the online moniker ‘Wei Dai’.
German philosopher, Johann Gottlieb Fichte, became a founding figure of the philosophical movement known as German idealism. Of particular interest here, Fichte developed a theory about the ethics of currency. Recently, another philosopher evaluated the extent to which Bitcoin meets Fichte’s standards for a just and ethical currency. She concludes that “Bitcoin forsakes the general welfare and is, as such, unethical by Fichtean lights”
1837 to 1863
Is known as the free banking period in the history of American banking. After two attempts at establishing a central bank for the country (the First Bank of the United States and the Second Bank of the United States), the federalists lost the power struggle to the advocates of states’ rights, and all banks began to be chartered by the states. The result was a proliferation of banks. Each of these banks issued their own banknotes against their deposits of gold and silver. These notes did not trade one for one, and their value mostly depended on the size of the issuing bank. Issuing paper currency wasn’t just limited to banks; even drugstores and railroad and insurance companies sometimes issued their own notes. The notes were also of varying size and color, and forgers had a field day: approximately a third of all paper currency during this period was counterfeit. Benchmarks like the reserve ratio, the capital adequacy ratio, and interest rates were set by the states. About half of these banks failed, and their average lifespan was five years.
A total of 1,600 state-chartered private banks were issuing their own unique paper money in the U.S. in 1836. For example, it might take three $1 bills printed by a small-town bank to buy two $1 bills issued by a nearby large city bank. Situations like this meant that if someone traveled from a small town to a large city they might have to take 50% additional small-town cash because of the unfavorable exchange rate differences.
The National Banking Act of 1863 brought an end to the Free Banking Era of 1837-1862. Among other things, the National Banking Act created:
• A system of national banks that had higher reserve standards and more ethical business practices than the numerous state banks, many of which were chartered in Michigan.
• A uniform national currency, which required all national banks to accept the national currency at its full par (face) value.
• The Comptroller of the Currency. The money printed by the Comptroller of the Currency was manufactured using uniformly high quality standards that greatly reduced the widespread use of cheaply printed counterfeit money.
Cipher Block Chaining (CBC) - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Block_cipher_mode_of_operation#CBC
Ralph Merkle published the article ‘Secure Communications Over Insecure Channels’ in which he “provides a logically new kind of protection against the passive eavesdropper.”
„Hash chain”: L. Lamport, “Password Authentication with Insecure Communication”, Communications of the ACM 24.11 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hash_chain
David Chaum, Blind Signatures for Untraceable Payments, proposes an early form of digital value transfer
The late 1980s — likeminded individuals began to pool ideas founding the Cypherpunk movement.
Ecash was conceived by David Chaum as an anonymous cryptographic electronic money or electronic cash system in 1983. It was realized through his corporation Digicash and used as micropayment system at one US bank from 1995 to 1998.
DigiCash launch, the late 1980s — likeminded individuals began to pool ideas founding the Cypherpunk movement
Two research scientists, Stuart Haber and W. Scott Stornetta, identified a problem: How can it be ensured that digital documents are authentic and changes to them are tracked in an immutable time-stamped manner? In How to time-stamp a digital document, they worked on the concept of append-only, cryptographically secured logs. With their work, the foundations of what much later becomes blockchain technology were laid. Haber and Stornetta’s work was later followed and elaborated on by Ross J. Anderson in 1996 when he described the creation of The Eternity Service, a storage medium resistant to DoS attacks using redundancy and scattering techniques, as well as anonymity mechanisms.
Creation of ‘A Cypherpunk Manifesto’ by Eric Hughes
Eric Hughes - Privacy is necessary for an open society in the electronic age. Privacy is not secrecy. A private matter is something one doesn't want the whole world to know, but a secret matter is something one doesn't want anybody to know. Privacy is the power to selectively reveal oneself to the world.
Bill Gates was proposing to cooperate with David's Chaum DigiCash to implement the e-money in Windows 95.
David Chaum answered:
No, thanks Bill.
Computer scientist Nick Szabo first described the concept of smart contracts. It is important to recognize that Szabo's intent was to minimize the need for trusted intermediaries. In 1998 he proposed BitGold, a conceptual predecessor to Bitcoin as he argued for a decentralised digital currency. In both, PoW is used as a consensus algorithm to solve cryptographic puzzles in a P2P network with Byzantine Fault Tolerance. The solutions are also linked together by a "hash chain" (See: Moskoy, Phillip (2018): What Is Bit Gold? The Brainchild of Blockchain Pioneer Nick Szabo). Although BitGold was never implemented, many perceive it as being the direct ancestor to BitCoin.
October 11, 1994
The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences has decided to award the Bank of Sweden Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel, 1994, jointly to
- Professor John C. Harsanyi, University of California, Berkeley, CA, USA,
- Dr. John F. Nash, Princeton University, Princeton, NJ, USA,
- Professor Dr. Reinhard Selten, Rheinische Friedrich-Wilhelms-Universität, Bonn, Germany,
The special commodity or medium that we call money has a long and interesting history. And since we are so dependent on our use of it and so much controlled and motivated by the wish to have mor eof it or not to lose what we have we may become irrational in thinking about it and fail to be able to reason about it like about a technology, such as radio, to be used more or less efficiently.
Jim Choate and Igor Chudov set up the Cypherpunks Distributed Remailer
The launch of b-money an ‘anonymous, distributed electronic cash system’; https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cypherpunk#History
Initial proposition of Hashcash by Adam Back; The launch of b-money an ‘anonymous, distributed electronic cash system’. An essential component for Bitcoin was created by Adam Back: the Proof-of-Work algorithm.
Adam Back, was a subscriber to the Cryptography Mailing List, and it was this channel that he used to publicize his invention in March 1997 by sending an email. At the time, Back was taking a postdoc at the University of Exeter in the UK and was 26 years old. Your idea can be compared to buying a stamp to add to an email, using a “cryptographic trick”.
Subscribers to the List were called Cypherpunks, and used the science of cryptography to carry forward the main values they defended in this forum: privacy, freedom of expression and libertarianism. Adam Back has become one of the most active participants on the List, sending dozens of emails a month. He was involved in technical discussions about file encryption systems or electronic money, such as the one developed by Dr. David Chaum.
Professor Adam Back and his Hashcash, are one of the references named by Satoshi Nakamoto, in the Bitcoin paper. It was in this way that he recognized the importance it had in the creation and development of Bitcoin. Without the Proof-of-Work algorithm, a decentralized electronic money system would not be possible.
Currently, Dr. Adam Back is the CEO of Blockstream, a leading crypto company that is dedicated to building products and services to take blockchain technology further.
B-money: the Bitcoin predecessor
B-money operates similarly to how bitcoin works today, all users of the currency held a copy of the transaction ledger so that all payments were posted for everyone to see and potentially approve or dispute. The prominent difference between b-money and bitcoin is that in 1997, there was no decentralised way to maintain the accounts.
DigiCash, created by David Chaum, was launched prior to e-commerce taking shape on the internet and ended up filing for bankruptcy in 1998, as online shoppers opted to use the familiarity of credit cards over anonymity for online purchasing. That being said, some of the concepts, formulas and encryption methods outlined by David Chaum, acted as a foundation for digital currencies developed in the future.
There have been other attempts to create cryptocurrencies since DigiCash and b-money, but these attempts were extinguished at the time of the dot-com bubble bursting at the turn of the century.
Prior to bitcoin, the most successful digital currency is arguably Hashcash. This currency was created as prevention to email spam and DDoS attacks. Hashcash utilised the proof-of-work algorithm that both aided the generation and distribution of new coins, a technique used in many of the cryptocurrencies we know today. Hashcash faced increasing processing power demand, which it was unable to supply, and consequently became less and less effective before the platform was eventually closed down.
With which nearly a decade of silence ensued, until 2008, when bitcoin emerged, becoming the world’s first decentralised digital currency.
Digicash begins bankruptcy proceedings after being unable to grow its userbase and Wei Dai proposed B-money to allow for an "anonymous, distributed electronic cash system". Bruce Schneier and John Kelsey proposed a computationally cheap way to safeguard sensitive information and allow for computer forensics with secure audit logs by using hashing, authentication keys, and encryption keys (See: Schneier, B. & Kelsey, J. (1998): Secure Audit Logs to Support Computer Forensics).
In his proposal, Dai also described how to create money, transfer money and resolve contractual conflicts. However, he believed that his protocol was not possible to become a practical application, as it did not prevent the problem of double spending, and therefore presented a second version of his b-money protocol.
In this second version, there would be servers that were responsible for keeping the record books up to date. Users would have to check with the servers if the transactions were legitimate, if they were not able to reject them.
Anyone could create a server. It would be enough to make a deposit of a certain amount of money that would be used in a system of penalties or rewards. This system is also similar to what we now know as Proof-of-Stake, and which is used in several cryptography.
The high-tech company DigiCash finally went bankrupt. The office in Palo Alto, California remained open for a while but it was merely a stay of execution. Two months ago the company filed for Chapter 11.
Nobody realizes, but with the “pending failure” of DigiCash, a bit of Dutch Glory died. The company made a brilliant product. Even Silicon Valley was jealous of the avant-garde technology invented in the Amsterdam Science Park. Internet “guru” Nicholas Negroponte went so far as to call the electronic payment system, ecash1, “the most exciting product I have seen in the past 20 years.” The rise and fall of DigiCash: a story of paranoia, idealism, amateurism and greed.
Adam Black more formerly outlines the Hashcash concept in his paper ‘Hashcash — A Denial of Service Counter-Measure’
Hal Finney built upon the idea of Hashcash and created Reusable Proofs of Work.
“Linked Data is about using the Web to connect related data that wasn’t previously linked, or using the Web to lower the barriers to linking data currently linked using other methods. More specifically, Wikipedia defines Linked Data as “a term used to describe a recommended best practice for exposing, sharing, and connecting pieces of data, information, and knowledge on the Semantic Web using URIs and RDF.” Linked Data, a term coined by Sir Tim Berners-Lee, is a way of publishing data online so it can be easily interlinked and managed using semantic queries. This helps the exposure and interlinking of datasets so that data can be exchanged, reused and integrated.
Nick Szabo proposed Bit Gold. Where unforgettable proof of work chains would share properties of gold: scarce, valuable and trust minimised but with the benefit of being easily transactable.
November 1, 2008
Message on email list. http://satoshinakamoto.me/2008/11/01/bitcoin-p2p-e-cash-paper/
November 9, 2008
Bitcoin project registered on Sourceforge.
August 18, 2008
The Bitcoin domain was registered.
October 31, 2008
The ‘Bitcoin: A Peer-to-Peer Electronic Cash System’ paper was distributed to a cryptography mailing list by Satoshi Nakamoto
Satoshi Nakamoto and the creation of Bitcoin
To this day, we do not know who is behind the white paper or the first implementation of the client. Satoshi Nakamoto is the pseudonym used by the person or group that published the white paper. As you might have seen in the news, the identity of Nakomoto has sparked plenty of conspiracy theories as several individuals have claimed to be the creator of Bitcoin. But to this date, none of the claims have been verified.
What is certain is that the community initially working on the network and the client can be characterised as generally pro-capitalist, anti-regulation and monopoly, as well as pro-free-trade. Many of those developing and driving the technology have also heralded its potential to reduce corruption and perceived human failures by pushing processes out of human reach.
All this may not seem important but it is. Blockchain technology was built with disruption in mind. It was envisaged as the antithesis of the central control of banks, governments, and incumbent holders of monopolies. This has an influence on the direction of the technology and remains a strong influence on its development.
Given its anti-establishment roots, blockchain technology has been seized upon by other groups interested in circumventing government, law enforcement, or regulatory control, both on the radical right and left fringes, as well as among activists persecuted by their governments.
Bitcoin’s creation is attributed to the alias Satoshi Nakamoto, the true identity of this individual (or individuals) remains a mystery even to this day. Nakamoto was however very clear with his intentions, he wanted the concept of a traditional bank, a centralised financial institution, to become redundant. This is why bitcoin does not operate on any centralised registry and why all transactions are made directly between users.
After the 2008 financial crisis, there was significant disillusionment with the current centralised banking system. As frustration grew, individuals sought alternatives, which is what bitcoin was created to be. As a result, bitcoin began to gain traction and has grown to become what it is today.
Whilst bitcoin has a number of characteristics like traditional money (portability, scarcity, durability, fungibility, divisibility and recognisability) it is orientated around mathematical properties rather than trust in physical backing (like silver and gold) or central authorities (like fiat currencies). With all these attributes, all that is required for a particular form of money to hold value is adoption and trust.
In the case of bitcoin, this metric can be measured in the growing number of users, merchants and startups utilising bitcoin. As with all currency, bitcoin’s value derives from people’s willingness to accept them as payment.
January 3, 2009
— The Bitcoin genesis block was mined — embedded in this block was the text ‘The Times 03/Jan/2009 Chancellor on brink of second bailout for banks’
January 12, 2009
The “first transaction” was made when Satoshi sent bitcoins to Finney.
May 22, 2010
Laszlo Hanyecz agreed to pay 10,000 Bitcoins for two delivered Papa John’s pizzas, one of the first documented transactions.
November 10, 2010
Bitcoin and Wikileaks When the United States blocked Wikileaks access to its funds, a bitcoin user suggested that Wikileaks use bitcoin. Other users joined the conversation, some recommending not doing so due to the negative attention that could be given to the cryptocurrency when relating it to the organization.
December 12, 2010
Satoshi’s last post Nakamoto posted his latest post on the Bitcoin Forum. In a few months, he stopped contributing, and Andressen took the lead. Nakamoto’s identity remained a mystery.
Bitcoin’s roller coaster and first hack: bitcoin equaled the dollar
Little more to say than BOOM! At this moment, the attention of the media began to shoot up.
Utilising Bitcoin’s open-source code, other cryptocurrencies began to emerge
June 13, 2011
First attack A user denounced the first hack in the forum, a theft of 25,000 BTC. At the time of the robbery, the value was $ 500,000. The community was starting to take the security of their wallets more seriously.
September 27, 2012
Bitcoin Foundation The Bitcoin Foundation was created, becoming the semi-official home of the cryptocurrency.
November 18, 2013
Bitcoin reached the ears of the Senate The Senate Security and Government Affairs Committee held the first debate on Bitcoin. Two days later, the same thing happened in the Senate Banking Committee, and the regulators agreed to do nothing to prevent the development of the currency.
Dr. Richard Stallman said:
American Capitalism has turned into Plutocracy
Ethereum has a much faster block time, i.e. the time it takes to generate a new block, than Bitcoin (currently around 15s), made practical thanks to its implementation of the GHOST protocol (https://www.cs.huji.ac.il/%7Eyoni_sompo/pubs/15/inclusive_full.pdf). Ethereum implements a variation of Bitcoin's proof-of-work consensus algorithm called Ethash, which is intended to be ASIC-resistant and GPU friendly(https://github.com/ethereum/wiki/wiki/Ethash-Design-Rationale). Core developers of the Ethereum project are planning to switch to the proof-of-stake consensus algorithm in the future.
Gavin Wood coined the term “Web 3.0.”
Crowd sale of Ethereum raised $18MM in bitcoin fund the project.
August 3, 2014
Tezos: A Self-Amending Crypto-Ledger Position Paper L.M Goodman ("Tezos truly aims to be the last cryptocurrency")
“Laissez faire les propri´etaires.” — Pierre-Joseph Proudhon
Laissez faire les propri translates to "Let the owners do it." I think hopefully most of us know the ideology behind Laissez Faire. What's interesting to me is that this quote is by Pierre-Joseph Proudhon, who is said to be the first anarchist.
Proudhon was an anti-capitalist and a proclaimed socialist in his time. He believed the idea of property was theft. As quoted from wikipedia -> When he said "property is theft", he was referring to the landowner or capitalist who he believed "stole" the profits from laborers. For Proudhon, the capitalist's employee was "subordinated, exploited: his permanent condition is one of obedience".
I can't seem to find the actual quote “Laissez faire les propri´etaires.” on the internet, let alone it being authored by Proudhon. Not to say it's inaccurate, but the quote seems contradicting to his ideologies.
Ultimately his ideologies seem counterintuitive in comparison to Tezos's, although laissez faire seems to align. What are your thoughts behind this?
Proudhon also said "property is liberty." He's an interesting paradox of a guy. You can play it safe and just call him a very dialectical thinker. I've read some of his work (his back and forth with Bastiat is great just for the matchup alone) but have never come to some sort of fixed idea for him like I have for Stirner, Bakunin, Molinari, et al.
Proudhon significantly changed his views towards the end of his life and adopted much more proprietarian views. It's double fun to quote Proudhon then because they are good quotes and it peeves those who supports his earlier work.
Another Proudhon quote is:
La taxe n'est pas répartie en raison de la force, de la taille, ni du talent : elle ne peut l'être davantage en raison de la propriété. Si donc l'État me prend plus, qu'il me rende plus, ou qu'il cesse de me parler d'égalité des droits ; car autrement la société n'est plus instituée pour défendre la propriété, mais pour en organiser la destruction. L'État, par l'impôt proportionnel, se fait chef de bande ; c'est lui qui donne l'exemple du pillage en coupes réglées ; c'est lui qu'il faut traîner sur le banc des cours d'assises, en tête de ces hideux brigands, de cette canaille exécrée qu'il fait assassiner par jalousie de métier.
My rough translation:
The tax burden isn't shared in proportion to strength, height, or talent: it cannot be in distributed in proportion to property either. If the State takes more, let it give me back more, or let it stop talking to me about "equal rights" ; for otherwise, society isn't formed to defend property but to organize its destructions. The State, through proportional taxation, becomes a gang leader. It sets and example by looting on a set schedule; it is the State that needs to be drawn on the accused bench, ahead of these hideous robbers, of the hated scum that it kills by professional jealousy.
July 30, 2015
August 1, 2017
Bitcoin split After a sequence of historical uploads, some miners and startups decided to separate the original developers creating what was called the hard fork. Bitcoin became Bitcoin Cash and Bitcoin Core, Bitcoin Classic, and Bitcoin Unlimited were born. Throughout the year, bitcoin did not stop marking historic highs, exceeding $ 3,400 per coin on August 7 and a total value of 5 billion. This separation did not appear to have damaged confidence in the currency but rather to strengthen it.
Tezos was the first liquid PoS system to launch when it did so in June 2018. An earlier and smaller PoS implementation is used in Nxt (cryptocurrency and payment network launched in 2013). PoS solves the energy problem in PoW as "work" (i.e. use of energy through computational power) is not the proof requested.
The Avalanche protocol is a robust consensus algorithm, with proofs of its Byzantine Fault Tolerant (BFT) properties. It has different properties than Proof of Work (PoW), which makes it suitable to be used as a complement to PoW. Using both algorithms where they are strongest would allow Bitcoin Cash to enjoy the benefits of both Avalanche and PoW.
May 12, 2020
May 24, 2019
PolkaDAO is live!
July 16, 2019
Announcing the Kusama Network
March 2, 2020
La justice française assimile le bitcoin à de la monnaie. Pour le Tribunal de Commerce de Nanterre, le bitcoin est un actif incorporel fongible. Une décision importante qui devrait faciliter les opérations en bitcoins et assurer une meilleure liquidité du marché.
Les décisions de justice concernant les cryptomonnaies sont si rares qu'elles méritent attention dans un univers en voie de régulation. Mais la décision du Tribunal de Commerce de Nanterre, en date du 26 février, et révélée par « L'Agefi », fera date à double titre : c'est une première en France, d'autant plus qu'elle sort de la jurisprudence habituelle. Surtout, elle permet de qualifier la nature juridique du bitcoin, la plus célèbre et ancienne cryptomonnaie.
Crypto Now Officially Seen as Financial Instruments in Germany.
May 26, 2020
Zug, Switzerland – Web3 Foundation today launched the initial version of Polkadot, a sharded protocol that allows decentralized blockchain networks to operate together, seamlessly and at scale. Polkadot gives peer-to-peer applications, organizations, businesses, economies – entire digital societies – the agency required to form, grow, govern themselves, and interact without the need for the centralized institutions that we are forced to place our trust in today.
.. to be continued..