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Long Reads Sunday - Issue #10

As crypto winter settles in, there is growing competition to define the narrative within and across c
Long Reads Sunday - Issue #10
By Nathaniel Whittemore • Issue #10 • View online
As crypto winter settles in, there is growing competition to define the narrative within and across cryptoassets. How do we deal with the same, repeated arguments from Bitcoin skeptics? Do we believe that Ethereum will ever recover? Will crypto be an anti-authoritarian force or a tool for state power? This LRS seemed to be all about these narratives. 
In the world of Bitcoin, we saw: a systematic takedown of the most common critiques; a deep dive on who controls Bitcoin Core; two significant research reports; a look at the impact of Bitcoin on property rights; and a fungi analogy.
Meanwhile, in Ethereum land it was: conversations about incentives; the possibilities of non-money blockchain applications; dueling views of the strength of the non-price fundamentals; and even an argument that EOS was the best thing that happened to Ethereum all year (despite EOS getting its very own death spiral narrative). 
To me, all of this narrative competition brings up a more important underlying question, which is: why are we here in the first place?
One of the most interesting answers to that question, in my estimation, is the quest to drive crypto away from a tool for state power and towards its potential for individual liberty. 
This is by no means a foregone conclusion, exemplified in reports this week of Venezuela paying pensions in Petros instead of bolivares, and China thinking ahead to opportunities to surveil citizens through their transactions in a post-cash world. Efforts like the Venezuela airdrop and Coinbase’s GiveCrypto plan announced this week are directionally correct and deserve more consideration, critique and collaboration to live up to their full potential. Happy Long Reads.
1/ Long Reads Sunday #25. Crypto winter is settling in thick and cold and this week, it’s all about competition for the narrative. How to address Bitcoin skeptics? Can Ethereum recover? Is crypto a tool for freedom, state power, or both? And WTF is 2019 going to be? Buckle up!
2/ Let’s start with one of the most important threads you’ll read this bear market. @PeterMcCormack tells the tale of turning $32k to $1.2m and back to zero. In a week when so much is about narrative and spin, the unvarnished realness here is a breath of fresh air.
3/ Speaking of realness, @abztrdr really has a novelist’s eye for detail and a poet’s sense of beauty to his own understated thread about the markets. Read this whole thread - I promise you’ll come away with all the feels.
4/ Okay okay, now that you’ve recovered from that, let’s get back to Bitcoin. There was actually quite a bit this week. @Delphi_Digital released its first “State of Bitcoin” report, arguing that BTC’s great potential revolves in part on providing a check on government currencies
5/ Also just released is @CambridgeAltFin’s 2nd Global Cryptoasset Benchmarking Study by @ProfPieters @mrauchs & more. Highlights: +139m global “users” incl. 35m identity-verified users +Mining less concentrated than commonly perceived
6/ As prices across the industry fall, crypto skeptics are predictably piling on. In this thread, @danheld takes on the most common critiques - from volatility to manipulation to everyone’s seasonal favorite energy consumption
7/ Speaking of addressing skepticism, @hasufl and @zhusu are now three deep in their series explaining Bitcoin for those not bought in yet. This essay focuses on how “Bitcoin detaches property rights from the legal system and the monopoly on violence.”
8/ For people who are interested in numbers over narratives, the fine folks at @coinmetrics have added Realized Cap - first presented by @nic__carter at #BH2018, as well as Realized Value-Market Value ratio, introduced by @kenoshaking and @MustStopMurad
9/ One of the questions that can give those learning about Bitcoin pause has to do with control - specifically who controls Bitcoin core? In this piece, @lopp takes on exactly that question and reiterates why it’s so hard to bring a traditional organization perspective to BTC
10/ On the point about complexity and learning, here’s one for the “interesting analogy” files. @bquittem argues that, like mushrooms and other fungi, Bitcoin is a decentralized super organism.
11/ Many of the hopes of market recovery are caught up in the potential approval of a Bitcoin ETF. The SEC recently made the final delay possible on the most promising proposal from VanEck/SolidX. In this thread @jchervinsky gives his outlook for the decision
12/ Of course, Bitcoin isn’t the only crypto seeing a battle for the narrative. In part because of how the ERC20 standard enabled the ICO craze, Ethereum has been under intense scrutiny all year. In this thread, though, @econoar explores how it could unlock new incentive structures
13/ @VitalikButerin zoomed out and looked at the implications of improved UX and reduced fees to enable new categories of non-financial blockchain based applications. The point below seems particularly pertinent:
14/ When the CFTC (and cryptodad @giancarloCFTC himself) requested public comments on crypto-asset mechanics, the Ethereum community went HAM with this GitHub repository of answers
15/ Looking at transactions and network activity on both Ethereum and Bitcoin, @cburniske argues that the market price of each is down quite a bit more than is their utilization.
16/ @Crypto_Macro has a different take on the fundamentals of Ethereum, arguing that for investors considering getting back in, they have to ask themselves first, will ICOs make a comeback (and how) and second, is there a new wave of Ethereum-based Dapps on the way?
17/ @KyleSamani takes the Ethereum conversation in a different direction, arguing that the best thing to happen to it this year was the emergence of EOS as a viable competitor - putting pressure on the Ethereum community to evolve and ship more quickly.
18/ EOS wasn’t immune to its own set of narratives this week either. In fact, it joined Bitcoin mining and Ethereum ICO project withdrawals in the “death spiral” narrative club. With no difficulty adjustment equivalent in PoS systems, it’s possible that this one may be a little more on the nose.
19/ Maybe the most important narrative to pick up steam this week was ICO refunds. When the Basis stablecoin project announced it would be shutting down and returning funds to investors, it set off a wave of speculation about whether this would be the fate of every ICO project.
20/ Especially as we consider the possibility that nearly every project that raised through an ICO could be wiped from existence through settlements, lawsuits, and simple social pressure, it’s worth asking ourselves: what’s the fucking point? 
21/ One raison d’être that I find particularly compelling is the idea that cryptocurrencies can represent economic opportunity for those underserved by today’s institutions. This speech from @astrange, for examples, argues why its too expensive to be poor.
22/ Even more than just providing resources for the underserved, however, crypto can provide a bulwark against tyranny. I’ve been glad to see more and more in the crypto thought space from @gladstein of @hrf, including this interview on @WhatBitcoinDid
23/ Crypto as an anti-authoritarian force is not something we can take for granted. In fact, there is evidence of the opposite, as states recognize it creates opportunities for control. See, for example, the Venezuelan government shifting pension payments from bolivares to Petros
24/ Indeed, State Power Crypto is sadly poised to be a major narrative in the coming years, as states begin to recognize that cash is the most anonymous currency there is, and a digital central bank currency creates incredible opportunities to monitor citizens
25/ All of this makes me glad that one of the quiet, non-price stories of crypto2018 was advancements in privacy tech. To catch up on all of that, I highly recommend @shaughnessy119 new research report on the subject
26/ It also makes me glad to see - despite critique - more efforts to actually do something to get crypto in the hands of more people. @TheAirTM has been airdropping crypto in Venezuela and this week Coinbase announced its own initiative through @givecrypto
27/ There is some concern that Venezuela has been reduced to a virtue meme or marketing campaign. Critique matters, esp. when it comes to global impact. I will say, however, that this space is already ahead of the curve compared to most industries by giving money directly rather than loading up shitty foundations.
28/ @nic__carter goes further in exploring just how tricky it is to figure out how to bring crypto to the places that could stand to benefit the most from it. Again, having spent a big chunk of my life in the impact world, these are the types of conversations we need to be having
29/ All of that said, we should also keep in mind, it’s not just the developing world who are at edge with the relationship of money and power. @hasufl surfaced this interview with a Yellow Vest in France about money and sovereignty. 
30/ The point is this: there will never be a better moment than today to deciding why we’re involved in this industry and with this technology, and what type of world we want to leverage it to build.
31/ Okay, speaking of where we’re headed, two fun prediction threads to round things out. +@Ragnarly asks what will happen next year and promises to RT then +@zaoyang zooms out ever farther and shares some (maybe not so) wild predictions. Must read
32/ Finally, RIP to Tim May, author of the Crypto Anarchist Manifesto and cypherpunk pioneer.


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Nathaniel Whittemore

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