The Blockchain Gang Eradicates Poverty

This blog post will discuss a few important topics I’ve been ruminating on lately. Before I get into the big ticket items, let me first introduce the concept of “dreamtime.” I mentioned this idea in a previous YouTube video, and now I’d like to discuss it in greater detail. This concept famously originated with the Australian Aboriginals. They believed dreamtime was “the beginning of knowledge, from which came the laws of existence,” (aboriginalart.com.au, n.d.). Robin Hanson, an economics professor at George Mason University and holder of several degrees ranging from physics to social science, has taken this idea further. He believes that we are living in a time of immense discovery that is “dominated by consequential delusions: wildly false beliefs and non-adaptive values that matter,” (Hanson, 2009). Hanson imagines that we’re living in an era that can be related to the Aboriginal dreamtime, and I can see this correlation as well. The radical rates of change in the breadth of human knowledge creates an attitude of “anything goes,” which is so deeply ingrained in our psyche that to believe to the contrary would be social suicide. In The Age of Em: Work, Love, and Life when Robots Rule the Earth, Hanson states: “…social rates of change have outpaced the abilities of both genetic and cultural selection to adapt our behaviors well to our new environments,” (Hanson, 2016).

Although our “dreamtime” is characterized by unprecedented growth in human knowledge, we are also subjected to maladaptive, unsustainable behavior. We are in the “transitionary” phase of human evolution. The first phase of proto-humans involved a lack of knowledge, but generally adaptive, instinctual behavior. Hanson speculates that future humans will benefit from “breakout” intelligence which will result in a return to sustainable, adaptive behaviors. I believe the present era of maladaptive behavior is neither good nor bad, but rather, a necessary transition to get us where we want to go. Unstifled creativity is essential for progress.

That being said, I believe that living in this dreamtime gives us a certain responsibility to the future. We must mold the future into what we want it to be, rather than simply reacting to circumstance. There is one technology in particular that can help us do that: blockchain technology.

Blockchain Technology and Decentralization

Cryptocurrencies are decentralized digital currencies built on [virtually] hacker-proof blockchains. The keyword here is decentralized. This means that if I want to send you a Bitcoin, I don’t need a third-party intermediary (such as a bank, or money-transfer service) to send it to you. Wallets that use private keys are built-in to the blockchain and are designed to securely store your digital assets. Blockchains are secure because if you want to “hack” a transaction, not only do you need to hack into the block in which the transaction has occurred, but all previous blocks as well, since all new blocks are created from previous blocks. This is not only extraordinarily difficult to do, but it also has the added benefit of not being financially rewarding (Tapscott & Tapscott, 2016).

One concern that many people have about blockchain technology, specifically Bitcoin, is that it is anonymous. This, in theory, would enable the Dark Web to thrive. The fact that Bitcoin is anonymous is only partially true. Bitcoin is pseudonymous, which means that all transactions are available for viewing on the public ledger, but transactions are not linked to a specific person or entity. They can, however, be linked to IP addresses. If a criminal wants to use Bitcoin for illegal activities such as drug dealing or human trafficking, they would need to take special care to mask their IP address at all times. Significant amounts of digital sleuthing would still likely reveal their trail of breadcrumbs. There are cryptocurrencies designed to be totally anonymous, hiding transactions on the public ledger from view. Although this does have appeal to users of the Dark Web, it also appeals to people who simply want to be more careful with their financial data.

The Global Adoption of Bitcoin

Japan
Japan was hit by a devastating earthquake and tsunami back in 2011 and its economy is still in crisis as a result. It has the highest public debt in the world (Santiago, 2015). Recently, however, Japan has been taking measures to gradually incorporate Bitcoin into its economy, and it is doing so at a pace that seems to outshine the rest of the world. Is there a correlation between Japan’s financial crisis and its willingness to give Bitcoin legitimacy? I think there is a correlation. We’ll have to see how this plays out over the next couple of years, especially since the rest of the world is on the verge of financial meltdown as well thanks to the greed of centralized banks and the incompetency and corruption of governments. Japan is positioning itself to be a model of economic recovery thanks to Bitcoin.

  • In an effort to change the way people perceive Bitcoin following the Mt. Gox incident (Parker, 2016), electricity companies in Japan have been considering accepting Bitcoin as payment for energy services (Dhaliwal, 2016). The service was allegedly going to roll out in November of 2016, but I am having trouble obtaining confirmation, so if anyone can attest to this, I’d be grateful.
  • Some large retail stores in Japan will also start accepting Bitcoin by this summer (Das, 2017). It is relatively easy to obtain Bitcoin these days, but spending it is still challenging. Japan is set to host the 2020 Summer Olympics and they’re hoping Bitcoin will be widespread enough that tourists will use Bitcoin to pay for accommodations and activities during their stay (Das, 2017).
  • If you need further proof that Japan is serious about its Bitcoin adoption, Japan has officially started accepting Bitcoin as a method of payment as of April 1st (Helms, 2017). It is still not officially considered a currency, but the Japanese government has proclaimed that is has “asset-like” properties.

Venezuela
Venezuela has been dealing with crippling inflation; we’re talking a 93% inflation rate at the beginning of 2017 (Imbert, 2017). It has brought about violent clashes between desperate, hungry citizens and police, and the situation is only going to get worse. In this scenario, Bitcoin adoption could ultimately be out of necessity. To prevent capital flight, the government of Venezuela has implemented strict policies that not only attempt to control the money supply, but the entire population as well (Niño, 2016). This is the kind of problem that Bitcoin was designed to solve, and many Venezuelans are already beginning to see the value in using the digital currency. SurBitcoin, the first Venezuelan Bitcoin exchange, has been experiencing a surge in trading volumes as Venezuelan citizens attempt to hedge further devaluation of their assets by obtaining Bitcoin (Young, 2015). Could Bitcoin really be the answer to the rapid currency devaluation in Venezuela? It appears that many Venezuelans definitely think so.

Africa
Generally speaking, mobile phone adoption in Africa is very high, but the cost of operating such devices is also very high. In Nigeria, this is due to the government’s favor of banks over telecommunications companies (Helms, 2016). In other countries of Africa, the expensive cost of infrastructure certainly plays a role. In the near future, projects that attempt to give African nations less expensive telecommunications options, such as cheap “Internet satellites,” will definitely help to reduce the cost of operating Internet-connected devices (Gibbs, 2016).

Although the cost of Internet connectivity in Africa is decreasing, another main hurdle for Bitcoin adoption in Africa is education and awareness (d’Anconia, 2016). That’s where I see University of the People coming into play. The other day, I imagined African computer science graduates contributing to cryptocurrency projects that helped lift their countries out of poverty. What will eventually help Africa is Africans, not foreign aid, not the World Bank (certainly not the World Bank). I really see these two forces (“free” education and blockchain technology) coming together to solve problems that have plagued humanity, not only Africans, since the dawn of time. This idea is what inspired me to write this blog post and create the accompanying YouTube video. I was waiting for specific inspiration, and I’ve found it. Little did I know, that while researching blockchain technology for this article, I found that people were already talking about how blockchain technology can help eliminate poverty. This idea is already out there, and it is my goal to make my YouTube subscribers aware of it so they may also be inspired to tackle these technological challenges themselves. There will be a huge market for blockchain skills (Ayton, 2017). Will you become a member of the Blockchain Gang?

Another issue plaguing the poor and unbanked are the excessive costs associated with the simple act of sending and receiving money. Presently, it costs outrageous sums of money and substantial amounts of time for friends and relatives to send money to their contacts in Africa. Money transfer services take advantage of the poor because they have a virtual monopoly on sending money to the unbanked of the world, so they can charge high prices. Bitcoin eliminates the need for intermediaries, is much cheaper, and is instantaneous. Also, anyone with access to a smartphone can send and receive Bitcoin. There are huge opportunities for Bitcoin in Africa, and I can’t wait to see what happens when these opportunities are realized.

Russia
Trading cryptocurrencies in Russia used to mean jailtime, but now, the Russian government wants to legalize it (Colibasanu, 2017). As more and more people learn that Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies can help fend off corruption from the banking industry, the fears and doubts people had about Bitcoin are melting away. The hatred and anger people have towards centralized banks are reaching a head, and soon, cryptocurrencies will emerge as the most trusted form of currency in the world. Russian leaders are acknowledging this trend and have publicly stated a willingness to give Bitcoin legitimacy.

In fact, banning Bitcoin can help to spread awareness of the technology (Helms, 2017). Confused citizens will perform Google searches and may be inspired to purchase some digital currencies themselves. This has happened in a number of countries across the globe, including Russia.

India
Recently, India has banned 500- and 1,000-note rupees to crack down on corruption (Singh, 2016). India is a cash-based society, and banning these notes will have an extreme impact on India’s financial health. As a result of this ban, Indian citizens have turned to Bitcoin as a “safe-haven” asset (Buntinx, 2016). Traditional safe-haven assets like gold and silver are notorious for their rapid fluctuations, which makes them difficult to use as a regular form of currency, or even for them to be used as backing for national currencies. A criticism of Bitcoin is that it also has wild fluctuations; however, when any new technology is adopted, instability will almost certainly be present until full adoption is observed. For example, consider the mass adoption of the Internet. At first, many people were skeptical about it. Once the dot-com bubble began, new companies were emerging all the time, and the Internet was creating millionaires overnight as investors began throwing money at anything and everything. After the bubble burst, it became more difficult for Internet startups to gain traction, but the Internet became a permanent fixture in human civilization.

The Future of Bitcoin

Big banks are jumping on board the crypto train, but in doing so, it is my opinion that they’re only accelerating their eventual demise by helping to generate awareness. I won’t speculate much, but I suspect the blockchain development teams that are working with banks and governments have ulterior motives. Yes, blockchain technology can help banks reduce transaction settlement fees. However, overall, blockchain technology is inherently against centralization in any capacity. Therefore, it will be the people who will truly own their own wealth and not banks, regardless of whether the technology will be used by the banks or not.

After the research I’ve conducted, I’m certain that this technology will help clean up the mess that centralized banking operations have left. It will be a long and difficult process, to be sure, but I believe there’s no stopping the crypto train, built by the Blockchain Gang.

If you’re interested in learning more about Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies, I urge you to take a look at some of my sources, listed below. Thanks for reading!

Sources

Aboriginal Art, Culture, and Tourism – Australia. (n.d.) Retrieved 28 May, 2017, from http://aboriginalart.com.au/culture/dreamtime2.html

Ayton, N. (26 January, 2017). What Blockchain Skills Are In High Demand: Digital Headhunter. Retrieved 29 May, 2017, from https://cointelegraph.com/news/what-blockchain-skills-are-in-high-demand-digital-headhunter

Buntinx, J. (26 November, 2016). India’s Currency Ban Will Push Fintech and Bitcoin Adoption. Retrieved 29 May, 2017, from http://www.livebitcoinnews.com/indias-currency-ban-will-push-fintech-bitcoin-adoption/

Chwierut, M. (30 March, 2016). Blockchains and Poverty: can Bitcoin Empower without Institutions? Retrieved 29 May, 2017, from https://www.smithandcrown.com/blockchains-and-poverty-a-relationship-with-institutions/

Colibasanu, A. (2 May, 2017). Here’s why Russia is opening the door to cryptocurrencies. Retrieved 29 May, 2017, from http://www.businessinsider.com/why-russia-legalized-cryptocurrencies-2017-5

d’Anconia, F. (20 October, 2016). What Stands in the Way of Bitcoin Mass Adoption in Africa. Retrieved 29 May, 2017, from https://cointelegraph.com/news/what-stands-in-the-way-of-bitcoin-mass-adoption-in-africa

Das, S. (4 May, 2017). Bitcoin Could Soon Be Accepted at 260,000 Stores in Japan. Retrieved 29 May, 2017, from https://www.cryptocoinsnews.com/bitcoin-accepted-260000-stores-japan/

Dhaliwal, S. (26 September, 2016). Bitcoin Users Can Now Pay Electricity Bills with Bitcoin in Japan. Retreived 29 May, 2017, from https://cointelegraph.com/news/bitcoin-users-can-now-pay-electricity-bills-with-bitcoin-in-japan

Gibbs, S. (17 November, 2016). Elon Musk wants to cover the world with internet from space. Retrieved 29 May, 2017, from https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2016/nov/17/elon-musk-satellites-internet-spacex

Hanson, R. (2016). The Age of Em: Work, Love, and Life when Robots Rule the Earth. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.

Hanson, R. (28 September, 2009). This is the Dream Time. Retrieved 28 May, 2017, from http://www.overcomingbias.com/2009/09/this-is-the-dream-time.html

Helms, K. (20 January, 2017). Needham: Banning Does Not Prevent Bitcoin Adoption. Retrieved 29 May, 2017, from https://news.bitcoin.com/needham-banning-not-prevent-bitcoin-adoption/

Helms, K. (28 December, 2016). One of These 5 Hyperinflating Economies Could Adopt Bitcoin in 2017. Retrieved 29 May, 2017, from https://news.bitcoin.com/one-of-these-5-hyperinflating-economies-could-adopt-bitcoin-in-2017/

Helms, K. (30 March, 2017). How Japan Prepares to Recognize Bitcoin as Method of Payment on April 1. Retrieved 29 May, 2017, from https://news.bitcoin.com/japan-bitcoin-method-payment-april-1/

Imbert, F. (15 May, 2017). Spiking inflation, spiraling violence bring Venezuela ‘close to the bottom’. Retrieved 29 May, 2017, from http://www.cnbc.com/2017/05/15/spiking-inflation-and-violence-bring-venezuela-close-to-the-bottom.html

Niño, J. (17 February, 2016). The Human Cost of Venezuela’s Capital Control Nightmare. Retrieved 29 May, 2017, from https://panampost.com/jose-nino/2016/02/17/the-human-cost-of-venezuelas-capital-control-nightmare/

Parker, L. (29 September, 2016). Japanese exchanges launch initiatives to drive bitcoin adoption. Retrieved 29 May, 2017, from https://bravenewcoin.com/news/japanese-exchanges-launch-initiatives-to-drive-bitcoin-adoption-in-japan/

Santiago, J. (16 July, 2015). The 20 Countries with the Greatest Public Debt. Retrieved 29 May, 2017, from https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2015/07/the-20-countries-with-the-greatest-public-debt/

Singh, R. (9 November, 2016). India Abolishes 500 and 1,000 Rupee Notes to Fight Corruption. Retrieved 29 May, 2017, from https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2016-11-08/india-abolishes-inr500-1-000-rupee-notes-to-fight-corruption

Tapscott, D. & Tapscott, A. (2016). Blockchain Revolution: How the Technology Behind Bitcoin is Changing Money, Business, and the World. New York, NY: Penguin Random House, LLC.

Young, J. (12 June, 2015). Hyperinflation Leads the Number of Venezuelan Bitcoin Users to Double. Retrieved 29 May, 2017, from https://cointelegraph.com/news/hyperrinflationleads-the-number-of-venezuelan-bitcoin-users-to-double

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