Having watched the emergence of cryptocurrencies, digital currencies, blockchain and Distributed Ledger Technology (DLT) for a decade, I have made a firm view.
Most of the people involved in this space are deluded and naïve; most of the people involved in this space don’t understand the system or how things work in the world; and, for those reasons, most of the people involved in this space are creating something new and very exciting.
I read people regularly saying bitcoin is worthless and has no future. Bankers have said it for a decade or more, and many – including myself, on occasion – have questioned its viability. But it keeps coming back, keeps growing, keeps a fan base and keeps gaining in value and support. Why? Because it is creating a global exchange of value through the network.
I talked about this in-depth in the white paper produced in April, but I do have a word of caution. In that white paper, there is a debate around proof-of-work versus proof-of-stake, and this is the core of the argument between the main factions who support bitcoin versus Ethereum.
bitcoin’s supporters want a democratised network where the mining of coins is based on proof-of-work, as in you can prove you did the effort to mine the coin. Ethereum’s supporters want a smart network where the value is backed by an actual proof of backing of the asset, as in the stake. The system is backed by real assets versus the network, in other words. This is a critical difference between democratised and permissionless networks versus permissioned and centralised network currencies.
Both ideas have different pros and cons, and this is the reason why bitcoin (BTC) and Ethereum (ETH) are the most viable and popular cryptocurrencies. There are over 2,000 other ones, each of which are variations on this theme.
The real issue therefore is which one to focus upon for the long-term, and here’s where I have some issues. My bet is that ETH will survive long-term, as corporations and governments are buying into its smart contract concepts. BTC might survive, as there are enough people who want decentralised finance (DeFi) to make it a construct. But what about the over 2,000 other variations? And what about NFTs, Non-Fungible Tokens?
A news network picked up my recent blog about the case against NFTs (they missed the counter-blog that was for NFTs). And yet, reflecting on that debate, I do have one question. If 100 years from now ETC, BTC and the other currencies are no longer around, how do you authenticate your NFT?
This question crops up with me quite often as I have documents and presentations from the 1990s in Microsoft Word and PowerPoint that Microsoft Word and PowerPoint cannot open today. Will this be true of NFTs a century from now?
At least if I buy the Mona Lisa – although it’s not for sale – I still have the Mona Lisa in 2121. What will Vignesh Sundaresan's descendants have in 2121 when no one recognises their entitlement to a Beeple digital file? When the smart contract for their NFT is no longer readable, what do they have?
-$69 million + interest?
Chris M Skinner
Chris Skinner is best known as an independent commentator on the financial markets through his blog, TheFinanser.com, as author of the bestselling book Digital Bank, and Chair of the European networking forum the Financial Services Club. He has been voted one of the most influential people in banking by The Financial Brand (as well as one of the best blogs), a FinTech Titan (Next Bank), one of the Fintech Leaders you need to follow (City AM, Deluxe and Jax Finance), as well as one of the Top 40 most influential people in financial technology by the Wall Street Journal's Financial News. To learn more click here...