Decentralized exchange project Bancor (BNT) is currently in the midst of launching a massive airdrop to all its token holders. Cointelegraph took the occasion to interview Co-founder and Product Architect Eyal Hertzog, and Head of Growth Nate Hindman. The duo shared their thoughts on the airdrop, existing trends in decentralized finance (DeFi) and Bancor’s upcoming transition to a Decentralized Autonomous Organization (DAO).
Engaging the community through an airdrop
In November, Bancor announced an airdrop of ETHBNT to all those who held its BNT token as of Jan. 1. The airdrop gives the equivalent value of 10 percent of the wallet’s BNT balance as ETHBNT, a “pool token.”
These tokens are a key feature of the Bancor exchange. Unlike normal order book-based platforms, Bancor relies on an algorithm that automatically calculates price based on the difference in buying and selling pressure. Liquidity pools made of tokens like ETHBNT are a key component of this system. Users can acquire pool tokens and stake them in the liquidity pool, receiving a portion of the exchange fees. Then, at any moment, they can be exchanged for either ETH (and other coins) or BNT.
The token will be distributed to all non-custodial wallets and supporting exchanges, a list that currently includes Binance and, as of Jan. 16, Poloniex.
Bancor maintains that the airdrop will increase the number of users in DeFi six-fold by adding 60,000 new people into the ecosystem. However, airdrop participants are naturally inclined to take them as “free money,” selling the tokens at the first opportunity and never really joining the community.
Both Hindman and Hertzog acknowledged this possibility, with the latter noting that it’s “part of the freedom.” Hindman elaborated further on Bancor’s expectations from the airdrop:
“Of course, there’s many people who won’t do it [join the ecosystem], will either sell it immediately or won’t do anything with it. But we’re thinking if we can capture even 20 percent of those new users and get them using this ‘new DeFi asset,’ staking in liquidity pools, utilizing the Zerion interface… that’s how the protocol succeeds.”
In preparation for the airdrop, Bancor developed the Zerion interface as a staking dashboard, allowing users to manage their funds and get a clear view of returns.
Indeed, the primary motivation of the airdrop is to show users that DeFi is not so scary, as Hertzog noted:
“For someone that is holding BNT, it may be kind of scary to take the first step and put this BNT in a relay […] It’s a very natural thing that people are concerned about things that they haven’t tried before. But using this airdrop, we created a situation where […] as you look at the wallet and all of a sudden you see a token like ETHBNT, maybe you heard about the airdrop, and then you click on that and you see that you have this amount […] it gives you the experience of participating in DeFi and not just being a holder of a token.”
Bancor’s transition to a DAO
The new year is set to bring about Bancor’s transition to a decentralized structure. The BNT token will be changed to an inflationary supply model, with the community deciding the specific rate of inflation. But that is just a start, as Hindman explained:
“Within the next month or two, there will be a formalized voting and proposal process for the DAO […] We’re very excited to really have the protocol built into this DAO, so that any changes to the token model, any potential improvements can really come from the community.”
Hertzog revealed that the DAO transition is something that always made sense for a project like Bancor:
“We think that Bancor, and some other projects, are in this category of not being classic corporations or services. I like to describe services like Bancor, or even like Maker, as a common agreement about a set of rules. As I like to say, it’s the difference between England and English […] England is a real entity and English is just an agreement, a global agreement about the meaning of the words.”
Though the loss of control may be a scary proposition for some blockchain projects, Hertzog sees it as the only way of scaling the ecosystem’s adoption:
“We’re not looking to build a service here, make money and enjoy the revenue, we’re looking to create a standard. We’re looking to create a standard that will be adopted, and our success will come from the adoption of the standard. We don’t want to control it, but because no one has done that before, we cannot create a standard on day one and expect that to work. It’s going to be a process, it’s going to take years to realize what it even should be. I think that the DAO is the final step to when we would say: ‘ok, that’s the standard, we understand how it works.’”
The future of DeFi and blockchain
The rise of decentralized finance has been one of the key stories of 2019, though Hertzog noted that Bancor was, in a sense, a DeFi project since before the term went mainstream.
Sharing his thoughts on the evolution of the industry, Hertzog said:
“DeFi is a great thing and it’s a natural evolution of what I call the ‘industry dogfooding.’ I like to think of the story of when I was young and started to work in an Internet company in 1997. I had an email, I had a browser and I was connected to the Web. But all you could do with it in 1997 was just to use it within the Internet industry. The only people I could email were from other Internet companies. The only things that I could find on the web were technology news that are related to the Internet. I think we are going through the same phases now with crypto.”
While the primary crypto use case in 2017 was financing through initial coin offerings, Hertzog compared DeFi to Wall Street’s accessory services to the simple buying and selling of shares. While calling them beautiful, he considers decentralized alternatives to loans and leverage options as simply the natural evolution of the financing use case.
Finding uses outside of the crypto trading market is not easy, and Bancor itself is still primarily one of these providers of accessory services for trading. When asked by Cointelegraph whether the project is working on something beyond DeFi or the cryptocurrency world at large, Hertzog grinned, replying:
“We actually are working hard on major partnerships that extend beyond crypto assets. It’s not in the stage of even announcing it […] But definitely we are looking at how those technologies can be leveraged […] Maybe the primary advantage is the transparency that this kind of finance has.”
Forget Bitcoin! Analysts think you should watch this ASX share in 2020
Bitcoin and blockchain technology have been heralded as key disrupters of the finance sector. Investing in disruption technologies can be extremely risky with variable investment returns and profitability.
Last week, analysts from corporate advisory service Moelis Australia initiated a buy rating on a disrupter in the personal lending market. The company in question is WISR Ltd (ASX:WZR) and here’s why analysts think it has great potential for 2020 and beyond.
What does Wisr do?
Wisr is Australia’s first neo-lender that has a major focus on consumer financial wellness. As an online lender, Wisr boasts an innovative business model and unique distribution channels that allow the company to attract consumers.
The personal lending sector in Australia is worth approximately $50 billion and Wisr aims to disrupt the market by providing consumers with fairer credit programs and data driven platforms. Wisr aims to nurture a financial wellness culture by providing consumers with innovative finance products and the Wisr app that helps users pay down debt. The company also boasts the country’s only credit score comparison service through WisrCredit.com.au
How has Wisr performed?
Wisr has had a positive start to 2020 with the company’s share price up more than 35% since the start of January and has returned more than 466% in the past 12 months. Earlier this month, Wisr provided shareholders with an update on the company’s performance in the second quarter of FY20.
For the second quarter, Wisr reported a record 36% growth in quarterly loan origination of $163.8 million to 31 December 2019. According to management, the performance in the second quarter shows that Wisr can grow its core lending business whilst also focusing on consumer wellness.
Analysts from Moelis Australia released a bullish note regarding their outlook for Wisr and issued a $0.28 share price target. Wisr’s performance in the second quarter for FY20 was cited by analysts as an indicator of further acceleration in volumes. As a result, Wisr’s revenue estimates for FY20 were revised 7.8% higher to $8.9 million for FY20.
According to analysts, Wisr’s commercialisation of new distribution channels and personal loans is still in its infancy. Analysts see further upside in loan volumes for Wisr as the company looks to take advantage of the large opportunity provided by the personal lending market.
The Royal Commission into banking and lending, alongside the advent of open banking and positive credit reporting has presented Wisr with a large and addressable market opportunity. The focus on consumer wellness follows in the footsteps of companies like Afterpay Ltd (ASX:APT), which operates in the buy-now, pay-later sector.
Analysts from Moelis have provided excellent research on Wisr, however a bullish note should not prompt investors to automatically buy shares in the company. In my opinion, Wisr is well poised to take advantage of a large market opportunity and it is exciting to see disrupters focused on consumer wellness.
The Wisr share price is currently trading near all-time highs and if the company can continue to grow loan volumes there should be further upside. I think a prudent strategy would be to keep Wisr on a watchlist and wait for price action to confirm before making an investment decision.
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User Retention: The Holy Grail for DApps Moving Beyond Buzzword Status
Decentralized apps (DApp) continue to be a major focus point for developers in the crypto space. However, 2019 ended with DApps still far off from reaching their much-touted potential of being the “future of the internet.”
DApp projects in 2019 continued to suffer from their usual issues like poor user retention and the difficulties of navigating user interfaces (UI), among others. While some projects boast market capitalizations north of $100 million, they fail to attract more than a handful of daily users.
In the early weeks of 2020, some analytics firms dedicated to monitoring the DApp ecosystem have released reports summarizing the performances of DApp developers and projects in 2019. These reports paint a similar picture for the decentralized apps ecosystem with significant increases in on-chain transactions and new projects without any corresponding improvement in user statistics.
Also troubling is the trend of the high DApp turnover rate with as many new projects appearing as those being decommissioned. While such trends might appear common for nascent technologies, DApps will require some staying power to present themselves as viable applications of the emerging blockchain narrative.
However, the 2019 DApp market performance did throw up some positives with decentralized finance (DeFi)-focused platforms and non-fungible tokens (NFT) rising to some prominence within the broader ecosystem.
2019 DApp market review
As previously reported by Cointelegraph, both DApp aggregator DappReview and DApp analytics platform Dapps.com have published detailed reviews of the performance of decentralized apps in 2019. The following is a summary roundup of the information gleaned from both reports.
According to DappReview, on-chain DApp transactions in 2019 amounted to $23 billion with more than 1,900 newly added applications. Dapp.com, however, puts the number of newly added DApps for 2019 at about 1,450, a slight decrease from the 1,500 recorded in 2018.
Figures from Dapp.com show that more than 1,300 DApps were abandoned in 2019. According to the analytics platform, an abandoned DApp is one with no transactions occurring within 30 days.
Despite Ethereum leading the way in several categories, the EIDOS launch in November 2019 skewed the results of Dapp.com’s market report, with EOS accounting for the largest transaction count and volume. Transactions on the EOS blockchain dwarfed all other DApp platforms put together.
Such was the extent of EIDOS’s popularity that transactions on the DApp caused congestion on the EOS blockchain. With EIDOS accounting for nearly 95% of all transactions on the EOS network, nodes with significantly smaller staked CPU resources experienced difficulty sending transactions across the blockchain.
Setting the EIDOS figures aside, the number of active users of EOS DApps declined during 2019. Before its launch, EOS boasted the highest number of daily active users, however, the EIDOS launch saw its average user statistics fall by about 80% from 80,000 per day to 15,000 users per day. The drop in EOS user stats meant TRON became the second-largest DApp platform behind Ethereum.
Concerning user retention
User retention remains one of the major problems for DApp platforms. An excerpt from the Dapp.com 2019 report reads:
“The number of active dapp users in 2019 has doubled compared to 2018, from 1.48M to 3.11M. There are 2.77M new users who experienced decentralized apps. User retention is still a problem for dapps — there are only 348K old users remaining active in 2019, accounting for 11% of all active users.”
For mainstream centralized apps, the existing reality is that users never have to pay for computation. If the app requires a data connection, as long as customers have an active internet subscription, they can make use of the application.
For Ethereum-based DApps, the situation is different with developers not covering gas fees, pushing that cost to the end-user. Gas on the Ethereum network refers to the unit of measure used up to execute a transaction on the blockchain. During periods of high network stress caused by such congestions, these costs can become impractical for DApp users causing a significant outflow.
One probable solution to this issue is the use of DApp sidechains — DAppChains. Instead of running DApps on the main blockchain, decentralized apps can be executed on layer 2 protocols, which can provide efficiency and cost-saving advantages.
Alternatively, DApp creators can move the more computationally heavy activities to layer 2 platforms, leaving only smart contract updating protocols on the main chain. By doing so, only a hash of the DApp data is kept on the main blockchain with the bulk of the work happening on DAppChains.
Such protocols are already being employed by developers of gaming DApps. These hybrid-blockchain games have their core decentralized token economy residing within the main blockchain, while game assets that take up the main bulk of the computing potential are domiciled on sidechains.
Simon Schwerin, founder of fintech consultancy firm Scalewonder, identified some of the major challenges impacting user retention for DApps for Cointelegraph. Commenting on the major problems affecting DApp retention, Schwerin remarked:
“[The] largest problem is the challenge of providing true value to the users (look at apps that you use in your daily life and why you stay there) beyond monetary incentives that are often only possible for a limited time. Additionally, the users still have too often maneuver through a complex setup regarding their wallet and key management.”
Ease of use hampering mainstream adoption for DApps
Ease of use is thus a major issue that negatively affects user retention for DApps. Taking exchanges as examples, centralized platforms still see more users than their decentralized counterparts owing largely to the difficulty in navigating decentralized exchange (DEX) services.
The issues surrounding the ease of use not only affect user retention but also constitutes a roadblock to bringing DApps to the masses. DApp developers need to design user interfaces that do not contain unfamiliar and sometimes technical features, thereby making the learning curve for their programs even steeper than necessary.
DApps and web3 programs, in general, also have compatibility issues with smartphones whose browsers account for the greater percentage of web traffic. Unlike for desktops, smartphone browsers for Android and iOS do not readily have access to suitable web3 upgrades like extensions and plugins. In a conversation with Cointelegraph, Benjamin Cheng, a senior executive at algorithmic stablecoin issuer Timvi, highlighted the need for easier-to-use DApps. According to Cheng:
“Users deal with technology issues such as waiting for transaction processing, chain reorganization, etc. Blockchain technologies are at the ‘geek’ stage, still not for the mass user, hopefully, this will change with the advent of Level 2 solutions (Layer 2 solutions). Tools for interacting with blockchain are also not user-friendly. We need people like Steve Jobs to make the technology convenient and easy for the user.”
The user environment for DApps needs to become familiar for everyday people, which means focusing effort on simplifying the UIs of these decentralized apps. DApps cannot achieve scale if their user base consists of a micro-niche dominated only by blockchain and web3 enthusiasts.
The role of DeFi in the future of decentralized apps
DeFi became a major aspect of the DApps’s narrative in 2019. Simply put, DeFi is a decentralized monetary and financial system built on public blockchains. DeFi encompasses lending, payments, DEX and crypto derivatives, among others.
DeFi proponents say the system aims to create easy onramps for the economically disenfranchised and underbanked, for example, to have access to global financial services using censorship-resistant blockchain protocols.
DeFi DApps, in theory, should allow users to have plug-and-play access to a plethora of financial services using blockchain technology. By leveraging the advantages of decentralized technology, DeFi DApps should allow users to participate in the financial market as a fraction of the fees charged by mainstream actors like stockbrokers and mortgage providers.
According to Dapp.com’s report, DeFi-focused applications, like lending DApps, experienced significant user growth in 2019. Another excerpt from the Dapp.com report reads:
“Financial services (e.g. lending DApps) have the most impressive user growth in 2019. The number of financial DApp users has increased by 610%, and the transaction volume has increased by 251%.”
Data from DeFi Pulse, an analytics hub for DeFi-focused DApps, shows a 100% growth in the total value of locked funds within the DeFi market. In a blog post published earlier in January 2020, DeFi identified the expansion of lending markets and the emergence of interoperability as the major growth areas for DeFi in 2020. Schwerin echoed similar sentiments in private correspondence with Cointelegraph. According to him, the DeFi market will make significant strides in 2020, remarking:
“Most definitely, DeFi will be part of making DApps interoperable to exchange the unique values between DApps in a P2P fashion. Automated markets running in the backend, backed by collaterals of the DApps producers.”
2020 DApp outlook
For DApp proponents, decentralized app developers should focus efforts on solving usability and interoperability issues, like developing frameworks, that would allow values already existing from previous setups to be imported to a new DApp platform. For Schwerin, such frameworks could even lead to the emergence of “killer DApps” — decentralized apps that gain widespread adoption:
“Using a unique way of interoperable infrastructure in the backend will allow you to swap value and KYC/AML Credentials in the background without having to worry about it. Imagine you set yourself up once and then never have to worry about sign ins/ SSO again.”
According to Schwerin, the existence of such a framework will enable cross-platform transactions, on which, for example, gamers can exchange items in one game for desired items in another game directly from their smartphones. Cross-platform interoperability also creates avenues for further financialization of DApps, especially those not directly related to activities in the financial market.
Commentators like Schwerin say DeFi appears primed to drive the actualization of such goals. The expansion of the DeFi market could see robust payment gateways for a wide variety of DApps. Delivering his 2020 DApp market outlook, Schwerin predicted:
“My forecast would be that we will see the first DApps with large user numbers on Blockstacks or other new blockchains that will then eventually move to Ethereum. These DApps will be mostly gaming related with probably DAUs of up to 100,000 if we are lucky.”
Timvi’s Cheng also tips DeFi to lead the charge for DApps in 2020, predicting a major capital flow into the market. DeFi proponents will be hoping that such inflows will positively impact the scale and scope of the market.
14 Must-Read Blockchain Books for 2020, as Picked by Industry Pros | Built In
Lots of emerging technology spins through the hype cycle, ricocheting from buzz to backlash to fatigue to, maybe, real-world application. Blockchain is certainly no exception.
Even now, a decade after its arrival and long after gaining some adoption in the corporate world, blockchain remains dogged by cautionary tales of course correction (see cryptocurrency’s burst bubble circa 2018). And it can still seem opaque to outsiders, including those who share the persistent misconception that the technology is always synonymous with crypto.
Nonetheless, blockchain’s genuine use value has led to steady adoption in a disparate array of industries, including media (where it aids trademarking), healthcare (where it keeps patient records secure) and, of course, finance. All of which means that while ignoring the hype and clearing the high technical bar may seem challenging, doing so is a must.
14 Recommended Blockchain Books
- “Mastering Bitcoin” by Andreas Antonopoulos
- “The Internet of Money, Volumes 1 – 3” by Andreas Antonopoulos
- “The Bitcoin Standard” by Saifedean Ammous
- “Blockchain Revolution” by Don and Alex Tapscott
- “The Truth Machine” by Paul Vigna and Michael J. Casey
- “Bitcoin Money” by Michael Caras and Marina Yakubivska
- “Inventing Bitcoin” by Yan Pritzker
- “The Starfish and the Spider” by Ori Brafman and Rod A. Beckstrom
- “The Three-Body Problem” by Liu Cixin
- “The Basics of Bitcoins and Blockchains” by Antony Lewis
- “The Blockchain Developer” by Elad Elrom
- “Satoshi’s Vision: The Art of Bitcoin” by Craig Wright
- “Complex Social Networks” by Fernando Vega-Redondo
- “The Handicap Principle” by Amotz and Avishag Zahavi
Built In asked four blockchain experts to recommend books about the technology in general or aspects of it. We spoke with:
- Hannah Rosenberg, managing director of Blockchain Institute Chicago and founder of blockchain/crypto consulting and training firm Velas Commerce. She also organizes the BOB Chicago meetup and co-teaches a blockchain course at UIC’s business and finance department
- Joe Hernandez (aka “Disruption Joe”), founder of Voice of Blockchain and Chicago Blockchain Project. He’s also an independent consultant who gives blockchain and crypto talks
- Charles Stack, CEO and co-founder of startup accelerator Flashstarts and a committee member of Blockland, a Cleveland, Ohio-based blockchain initiative
- Brendan Lee, head of technology at Singapore-based Bitcoin consultancy Faiā, and training and development manager of Bitcoin Association
From blockchain-meets-macroeconomics texts to explorations of key concepts like decentralization and asset distribution, here are their picks.
Mastering Bitcoin: Programming the Open Blockchain (Second Edition)
The Internet of Money, Volumes 1 – 3 by Andreas Antonopoulos
I oversee the educational content at the Blockchain Institute and write a lot of the Bitcoin content. I’ve written two courses on Bitcoin, specifically for developers or just a technical overview of Bitcoin. And so I did a lot of reading on that. My favorite technical, practical-application book on Bitcoin is “Mastering Bitcoin” by Andreas Antonopoulos. That book is just stacked. It’s sitting on my desk right now. It’s been there since it came out a couple of years ago, and I’ve relied on it heavily.
If I’m trying to just get someone to grasp why blockchain technology is important, then I’m probably going to send them back to one of Andreas Antonopoulos’s three “Internet of Money” books. They’re essentially transcripts of his talks. Andreas has a fantastic technical understanding of Bitcoin. He also does a really good job of communicating the importance of the technology in a very easily absorbable way.
I also co-teach a blockchain course at a university in Chicago, and some of his talks — especially some that are included in volume three — are ones that I play for business students. I specifically love the one where he talks about the best blockchain. He does a really good job of driving home the point that it depends on what you’re trying to do and that there is no best blockchain. Those sorts of things are also very practical for business students thinking about using blockchain tech.
The Bitcoin Standard: The Decentralized Alternative to Central Banking by Saifedean Ammous
I really like the first half of “The Bitcoin Standard” because it does a good job of explaining some of the monetary theory behind Bitcoin — so the difference between what he calls hard money and easy money, or deflationary and inflationary money.
It also does a very good job of describing how different types of money, along with our own financial behavior, impact the economy: Does it encourage spending or does it encourage savings and investments? So I like that explanation, which is mostly in the first half. The second half of the book takes it too far. Saifedean — who did a book talk for my meetup — is a very smart guy, but I kind of blame him for causing some of these ridiculous hashtags that go around in the Bitcoin world — like #BitcoinFixesEverything.
Bitcoin does not fix everything. It fixes a lot of things, but it’s not going to fix your marriage; you have to do that one yourself. It’s just hyperbole, and I blame Saifedean for some of that. I think he sort of kicked that off with his book, applying monetary theory to, like, everything. Actually, the world’s a bit more complicated than that.
Blockchain Revolution: How the Technology Behind Bitcoin and Other Cryptocurrencies Is Changing the World by Don and Alex Tapscott
The Truth Machine: The Blockchain and the Future of Everything by Paul Vigna and Michael J. Casey
There are a couple of decent books for when you’re trying to get across how this [technology] is going to impact different industries and segments of the economy: “Blockchain Revolution” and “The Truth Machine.” “The Truth Machine” is pretty good, even if it gets a little bit too excited. I’m such a Bitcoin cheerleader and have been in love with this tech for seven years now, so when I see something even I can’t stomach, you’ve just gone way too far. “The Truth Machine” does that a little bit.
You’re not helping Bitcoin when you deny it has problems. We need to address and work on them, not just ignore them. If I remember correctly, there’s a chapter called the “God protocol.” I was like, You just lost me there. But the book still does a pretty good job of explaining blockchain’s potential.
“Blockchain Revolution,” on the other hand, has a whole section about the problems with blockchain tech. So, yes, it covers all the amazing, fantastic things it’s going to do, and the revolution it’s going to bring in. And then it says, Okay, but there are problems. This tech isn’t perfect, it’s not magic. Here are the specific issues. So I respect the book a lot for that, and it’s why I prefer it of the two.
Bitcoin Money: A Tale of Bitville Discovering Good Money by Michael Caras (Author) and Marina Yakubivska (Illustrator)
“Bitcoin Money” is a kids’ book that explains the basics of monetary theory, like inflation. I brought it home and gave it to my daughter, who loves to read. She read the whole thing, and then asked me all kinds of questions. And then I was walking her to school one day, and she started talking about inflation! I thought, Awesome! “Bitcoin Money” made my daughter sound like a monetary theory expert, so I’ll give it two thumbs up for that. And most of us are pretty visual when it comes to learning; we still like narratives and pictures.
Inventing Bitcoin: The Technology Behind The First Truly Scarce and Decentralized Money Explained by Yan Pritzker
Written by the former CTO of Reverb.com, “Inventing Bitcoin” will help you understand Bitcoin — and people need to understand Bitcoin in order to understand blockchain. Often, when enterprises put blockchain into their systems, it’s actually just a data structure of blocking transactions together and then having a consensus that everything in that box, before you pack it away, is what you say it is. Then you fill the next box, block again [and continue the cycle].
That technology has been around since the ‘70s and widely used since the early ‘90s. It’s not particularly new; there was just a new focus on it when people started talking about blockchain. Bitcoin did something different: it found a mechanism that actually aligns a self-organizing system. What I mean by that is, there’s an asset or a unit of account that keeps track of people’s input into this collective public infrastructure.
It’s like a public good, if you’re speaking economically. The individuals who contribute get rewarded in this unit of account, this equity — the Bitcoin units. And as the price of those go up, more people want to contribute. And as more people contribute, the security of the system gets distributed more broadly [and is therefore strengthened]. So fundamentally, when the price of it goes up, it actually makes the system better because it attracts more people and [increases value]. So there’s this positive feedback loop back-and-forth between a secure unit of account and this underlying asset. Ethereum works the same way, allowing compute power on a distributed machine. Inventing Bitcoin outlines these concepts very well.
The Starfish and the Spider: The Unstoppable Power of Leaderless Organizations by Ori Brafman and Rod A. Beckstrom
My other picks help readers understand decentralization and multiplayer game theory, which need to be addressed to create systems like Bitcoin or Ethereum.
The fundamental concept of “The Starfish and the Spider” is that if you cut off a spider’s head, it dies, but if you cut off a starfish’s leg, it grows a new one. That leg grows into an entirely new starfish. So traditional top-down organizations are like spiders, but starfish organizations are changing the face of business. That’s what Bitcoin and Ethereum are.
It’s a business book about leaderless organizations, [focusing on the] decentralization aspect, which is what most people don’t fully understand. This one’s kind of a cult favorite within the blockchain community, written the year before Bitcoin came out. There’s an unstoppable power to leaderless organizations, because when you cut off the arm, the arm can grow a whole new body.
In around 2012 and 2013, corporations had already started to research and get excited about Bitcoin, but when Silk Road was discovered and covered in the media, every CIO and CTO out there who was dealing with Bitcoin at all, as soon as those articles started coming out, had to walk backwards and say, well, I didn’t mean Bitcoin itself. I meant the technology behind it.
But the technology behind it is really amazing. Bitcoin’s feedback loop can be used in many different ways. And we’re starting to see that in other products, like Etherium.
The Three-Body Problem by Liu Cixin
“The Three-Body Problem” is another one that people in the blockchain space definitely know. It’s important to understand the divide between people who understand the disruptive part of blockchain — which is game theory meets cryptography meets open source software — versus the non-disruptive, but still innovative for business, aspect, which is a new approach to cryptography security that was created by Bitcoin. That’s cool. It’s innovative. But the disruptive side is encapsulated by the multiplayer game theory, which is what the show Billions is about. But this is one of the best fiction versions of it.
In the book, there’s a game in which participants have to understand the patterns of the planet they’re on. And if they look at it like it’s earth with one moon, it makes a lot of sense that the seasons last a certain time. But then that pattern is thrown off by a black swan event. And they realize there’s actually a second moon, which they think is the first moon. But every once in a while they come close enough together that it creates a super long winter, and everybody dies off in the game and they’re trying to figure out what this phenomenon is, while never being able to see it. And it explains the black swan events. But also it explains, [in a simplified fashion], the math of understanding multiplayer game theory
Most people aren’t going to truly understand game theory right away, but if you’re given a visual, you can understand things easily. This book explains it in a very visual way that makes the multivariate game theory aspects more digestible.
The Basics of Bitcoins and Blockchains: An Introduction to Cryptocurrencies and the Technology that Powers Them by Antony Lewis
“The Basics of Bitcoins and Blockchains” covers a lot of ground and is fairly comprehensive. I think it’s the best introductory book available. It’s the best overview — without being over the top.
The firm I co-founded, Flashstarts, is moving to corporate consulting, and this was the book I picked to recommend to our clients. I think any manager in a corporation should have enough understanding of a new technology so that it doesn’t seem like magic. If they’re going to figure out appropriate strategic or tactical uses of a new technology, they have to look under the cover at least a little bit in order to see what claims are stupid and what claims are legitimate. This lays out the use cases pretty well.
The Internet of Money by Andreas Antonopoulos
“The Internet of Money” is one that I just adore, and probably the first Bitcoin book I read. It’s wildly enthusiastic — Bitcoin will save the universe — but he’s not wrong half the time. He’s a great speaker, a great writer. If you want to understand why people are excited about Bitcoin and blockchain, this is the book to go to.
Most of the Bitcoin maximalists, like Andreas, are focused on the fact that there will only ever be 21 million Bitcoins, so therefore the price has to go up. And that’s a little bit disingenuous, because government regulation could impact that rather negatively if it ever comes to pass.
Sometimes books aren’t the best medium for learning about blockchain, since emerging technologies change so rapidly. But he stays on the theoretical side. Bitcoin could do this and blockchain could do that. And he’s not wrong. Because he stays somewhat theoretical and less topical, they wear pretty well.
The Blockchain Developer by Elad Elrom
There hadn’t been a good blockchain technical book, I don’t think, until “The Blockchain Developer” arrived. I know there are some that many people in the community like, but this one, published by Apress, is the best application book for developers.
Satoshi’s Vision: The Art of Bitcoin by Craig Wright
“Satoshi’s Vision” is a compilation of writings from Craig Wright over the last several years covering all aspects of Bitcoin, including in-depth technical points, legal and moral quandaries and more. I believe without a doubt that Craig was Satoshi [Nakamoto] and created Bitcoin. And through my own interactions with him, I have learned far more about it than from just about any other source. He’s a prolific sharer and never hesitates to answer questions of all types from inquisitive minds. Just don’t ask him what he’s doing with his own personal things! Most of the content is available at craigwright.net in the form of over 800 blog posts, but the book collects some of the best and most poignant. Highly recommended.
Complex Social Networks by Fernando Vega-Redondo
“Complex Social Networks” explores the theory of complex social networks. With the creation of the world wide web, we have become a connected species, and I don’t believe there is a technology that can accelerate the advent of human hyper-connectivity faster, or more safely than Bitcoin. The book covers basic forms of networks that develop in social contexts, including (importantly) the small world network that we already see forming in Bitcoin. Understanding how networks form is important knowledge when designing a project and is a key point when deciding how to engineer a product. This book helped me to understand that there are multiple social networks at play in Bitcoin, and that they operate in fundamentally different ways.
The Handicap Principle: A Missing Piece of Darwin’s Puzzle by Amotz and Avishag Zahavi
“The Handicap Principle” explores the concept of costly signals in nature, which had been heretofore misunderstood by evolutionary scientists. Costly signals such as a heavy tail and vibrant plumage serve a purpose beyond adding to an animal’s fitness, by demonstrating that even with the handicap of carrying a heavy weight of feathers, or being highly visible to predators that the animal has maintained its fitness over and above the others in its species. The handicap principle is ever present in Bitcoin, with one of the most prescient examples being the migration of the Bitcoin Ledger from the BTC network to the BCH network, and then again to the BSV network. Miners incurred significant cost to undertake this action yet it has served to demonstrate that Bitcoin is a robust protocol distinctly separate from a ticker symbol or codebase. Costly signals are everywhere in human society and being able to see them and understand them for what they are is a key skill for people wanting to predict the next steps that technology and markets will take.
Interviews edited for length and clarity.
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