In the short and medium-term, technology and inequality seemed to be positively correlated. In the long term, however, things are not as clear-cut. With the right policies and democratic institutions in place, technology could become a catalyst to reduce income and wealth inequality. Historical evidence from the last century clearly supports this claim. Will digital technologies of the 21st Century follow the same path?
The long-term is still quite a few years away for digital technologies such as AI and blockchains. In this post, I will look at the world of Bitcoin and explore its links to income and wealth inequality. I will assume the Bitcoin network is a country on its own with defined financial ties to the rest of the world, mostly via crypto exchanges and miners.
Last May, the Bitcoin
In a previous post, I pushed the idea that mining is part of the blockchain economy’s real sector. Unlike financial speculation, mining requires investment in hardware, electricity, space, human resources, etc. This also applies to small miners who will undoubtedly have to defray a lower investment amount but can join a mining pool to share mining revenues. Also, miners face intense competition, which reflects the high level of profitability in the sector.
Mining calculators seem to proliferate on the web. Such sites offer potential mining investors a rough idea of how much they can make daily and/or monthly, given the crypto’s current price being mined and the hashing the investors are willing to purchase. For example, I am told that if I buy Bitcoin mining hardware that can compute 100
It has already been three months since I last checked the ICO scene. At the time, I suggested ICOs were probably slowing down. New data seems to confirm this but all points to other trends not detected before. Figure 1 presents the latest data
ending on 31 May. 159 ICOs were successfully completed between March and May raising over 4 billion dollars. The data includes the Telegram wh.ich collected over 1.7 billion dollars in spite of not holding a public ICO phase. Telegram can indeed be seen as a statistical “outlier” making last April the most successful month ever. Note that the number of successful ICOs did not increase overall. March matched February with 57 ICO but was much more skinny regarding resources. April and May are fatter but do not exceed the number of ICOs of the previous
Most cryptocurrencies are now over 60% down from their December 2017 peak. While prices are still quite volatile, the trend for the last five months is decidedly downwards. While some still expect a recovery to the glorious days of last year, others see overvaluation all around accompanied by a financial bubble about to burst. Comparisons to the good old dot-com boom and subsequent crash of 20 years ago are cited as empirical evidence of what is coming.
Indeed, the current blockchain boom has similarities with the previous one. But there are also some fundamental differences springing from the very nature of what we can call the blockchain economy. The first one is the marriage between technology and finance. Note that in the past, the financial sector refused to use new technologies. Not
Blockchain mining cannot catch a break when it comes to environmental sustainability. This is especially true for Bitcoin mining that seemingly has an insatiable appetite for electricity. A recent paper suggests that by 2020 Bitcoin mining will consume as much energy as Australia. While these estimates are not exempt from criticism, mining does not appear to be best friends with sustainable development, at least not for now. An alternative way to look at this issue is to compare Bitcoin’s mining power use to cloud-based providers who have now become well-established tech corporations. Such comparison should be made not only in absolute terms (gigawatts) but also in relative fashion by considering, for example, the total population being served by these platforms and networks.
In a previous
The post-WWII era can be arguably defined as the golden age of democratic capitalism – at least from the perspective of developed or industrialized countries. Rebuilding Europe and pumping capital into Japan triggered a long economic boom that lasted until the 1980s – notwithstanding the infamous 1973 oil crisis. The fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 opened new markets to capital investment and recruited new members to the democracy club thus providing a much needed second wind to the then declining golden age. During that same period, democracy, defined narrowly, continuously expanded in developing countries, including those that became independent nations in the 1960/70s. By the end of the last Millennium analysts and observers were openly speaking about the third wave of democratization,
ICO data for last February is now available and shown in Figure 1 below.
We can immediately see that both the number of ICOs and the total investment volume has decreased. The latter, which amounted to 1.2 billion USD for the month, is 20 percent less than the total for January this year. The same goes for completed ICOs which decreased 21 percent. Among them, only one ICO surpassed 100 million dollars, reaching 150 million. And it managed to distance itself from the runner-up by a cool 100 million.
Figure 2 confirms the decline in total monthly investment but shows that the median declined only slightly or about 1.2%.
Even so, the median investment per ICO is still above 16 million dollars.((The average is much higher but probably not significant as the statistical distribution
Recent events seem to suggest the cryptocurrency bubble is finally starting to deflate. Bitcoin, Ethereum and most of their crypto cousins are significantly down while regulators in several countries are finally beginning to take action on the ground. Nobel laureate economists are also speaking up against the digital currency, arguing that the new currency cannot fulfill the three core functions that define money.
Does this mean that ICOs are on the way out?
If we look at the latest ICO data,((Data was obtained from tokendata.io. The sample size includes 1032 ICOs completed by the end of 31 January 2018. 485 or 47% percent did not report any funding. The total number of successful ICOs is thus 547. The DAO ICO is omitted as it is considered a failure. Hdac, quoted by some as the top ICO,
While not the only cryptocurrency around, Bitcoin was the first to solve the well-known double-spending problem that characterizes digital currencies. Tackling the issue demanded the creation of blockchain technology (BCT) combined with a brute force algorithm known as proof of work.
Created in 2009, Bitcoin is now one of the largest (and most unstable) currencies in the world (Says & Says, 2017). Launched in the Internet’s fringes and initially used only by computer geeks, the cryptocurrency has now become a hot financial asset attracting both traditional and new investors. Word out there is that Bitcoin billionaires do not spend because they fear losing money as Bitcoin rapidly appreciates over time and ad infinitum (Tucker, 2017).
Bitcoin and its crypto-cousins have been able to
The weather forecast indicated that heavy rain will commence overnight, lasting close to 36 hours and, in the process, dumping from 1 to 3 inches (2.5 to 7.5 centimeters) on the ground. Yes, a lot of rain was expected. But I had to find a break in the rain to be able to go out and complete my planned running session.
The night before the local weather person told the audience a two-hour rain break in the early morning was in the works. With this in mind, the first thing I did when I woke up the next morning was to check the cool radar option on the mobile app that shows the future path of the incoming rain. Indeed, the radar showed that between 7:45am and 9:15, more or less, the storm will be missing in action in my location.
I started my session at around 7:55am. It was drizzling. Fifteen