Since Bitcoin began attracting the world’s attention last year, the trend amongst the world’s financial establishments has been to react in a series of stages which can be very generally described as 1) derision, 2) worry, 3) grudging acceptance, and finally, 4) enthusiastic acceptance, but only of blockchain technology specifically.
Some popular cryptocurrency experts have now spoken against this final stage, likening it to gentrification.
The first was Andreas Antonopoulos, who teaches an M.Sc degree in digital cryptocurrencies at the University of Nicosia and runs a website called “The open blockchain expert”.
He is known for being an outspoken critic of Mt Gox, calling it “a death trap for traders and a business run by the clueless” as early as April 2013 (the exchange filed for bankruptcy in February 2014). He also addressed the Canadian Senate in October 2014 on the subject of Bitcoin regulation, recommending against premature restrictions.
At the Polish Bitcoin Conference in Warsaw earlier this month he gave a speech called “keeping digital communities weird”, during which he said:
“How do you gentrify a currency? How do you take something that is weird, dress it up in a suit, give it a haircut, and present it to the board of executives?
I remember the first few years I’d go to companies and they’d ask me to come and present. They’d say to me we want you to talk to our executives, but when you talk to them, please say blockchain, don’t say Bitcoin. Because Bitcoin is weird and blockchain is the future.
And I said – no. I won’t say blockchain. I will say Bitcoin because Bitcoin is the future and blockchain is bullshit.”
The reason that Bitcoin is interesting is because it’s not controlled, because it can’t censored, because its open, because a lot of the people involved are very very weird…weird computer geeks and weird cryptographers who have weird ideas about privacy and freedom, and these weird people are why I’m involved in Bitcoin – because I’m weird too, and that’s OK…
If you take all of that out, what you’re left with is this blockchain, a sterile, unexpressive, uninvented environment, a corporate plaything that has been sanitised of anything interesting, and you’re left with an empty shell.
“Its basically a very slow database.”
He added that establishments are “in love” with Ethereum, because they think that they have harnessed the usefulness of the technology without losing control – “But they don’t realize that all of the weirdness is still there.”
“If someone comes to you and says, ‘Do I need a blockchain for my business?’ Ask them, ‘Do you need something that is open, neutral, borderless, that no one controls and that resists censorship?’ If yes, then you need Bitcoin, Ethereum, Monero, ZCash – some open public Blockchain… that expresses these capabilities.”
His insinuation is that these companies in fact do not really want this.
His comments were echoed by Bobby Lee, who is the founder and CEO of BTCC, a Hong Kong-based cryptocurrency exchange. It employs around 150 people and handles approximately $56 million in cryptocurrency trading daily.
He used his Twitter account to say that 95 percent of ICO projects are actually databases, and to call them blockchain projects is dishonest.
“It’s willful ignorance at best & greedy hype marketing at the worst,” he said.
Backing this up, he said that the key characteristic of a blockchain is that all the data is independently and publicly verifiable. It is this system (proof-of-work) that makes Bitcoin what it is.
Because there are logistical issues with this system, other cryptocurrencies have been designed with more centralised networks as a way of overcoming these issues. However, by doing so they are losing what makes a blockchain a blockchain. Writes Lee:
“Otherwise, it’s just #PrivateData where you are the sole judge & author == Centralized Database.”
“People don’t realize that Blockchain should be distinct & different from Databases, invented decades ago!Bitcoin’s real Blockchain was only invented in 2009. Everyone using a digital ledger is calling it Blockchain, w/o regards to functionality.
Complete intellectual dishonesty!”