May 17, 2018
Grandpa was a cranky old bastard. Crazy-looking old sucker, thick beard, bushy eyebrows; I always thought he was a werewolf. There weren't enough hours in a day for him to get all his barking and complaining in. Seems like the entire world was hell-bent to violate every tenet of common sense he'd ever known. "What's yer defect?!", he'd always howl at us as grandkids, like kids themselves had changed since his days as a perfect child.
I remember as a young man, trying to explain a computer to him. His insightful response was, "You going to be sec'tary boy?? That's not the way we feed our families. You need a man's job, so get yerself into dem mines and dig, like your granpappy, and your granpappy's pappy before him, and your granpappy's granpappy before that. An honest living brings an honest meal..."
I suppose I could've gotten into the subject of how the mines had largely been automated by machinery, and bought out by large foreign conglomerates that brought over their own cheap labor and that everyone else was fired; but there was no getting past that frothing, self-righteous man's perception of the world.
I challenge anyone to point out something that was pure genius that wasn't entirely initially rejected by society. Pythagoras (and later Aristotle) theorizing the Earth was round. Copernicus and his central Sun theory. Don't even get me started with Einstein's theory of relativity, whoo boy, was that an uphill battle against obstinance for that to surface as fact. And I will strangle a flat-Earther on sight.
Truth is, new ideas are always met with mass cognitive dissonance. We are creatures of habit, and once we accept something and incorporate it into our lives, we fiercely defend its legitimacy. It's the built-in territorialism instincts deeply embedded in our primordial brain that make us so ornery. Show me something new, and I'll bite your face off, I don't care what evidence you have.
Almost 10 years of battling through misperceptions, biases, outright slander, and manipulation, Bitcoin has gone from literally a pyramid scheme, to a viable replacement for gold. Incredible. I've been lucky enough to watch it mature through all these phases and it has surmounted every challenge beyond even my wildest expectations. Truly, a global phenomenon unlike anything in history.
The great things about Bitcoin are:
- Pseudo-anonymous - allowing people to conduct their finances in as much privacy as they are careful enough to administer
- Deflationary - once all the coins are mined, usable coins will perpetually get scarcer due to lost keys, statistically increasing the value of remaining coins
- Ubiquitous - as available as the Internet is
- Value transfer complexity and distance shrinks to zero
- Secure - nobody, no criminals, not even the government, can remotely take your coins. They would literally have to force you to reveal the keys
Ahem.. ok, so it's not perfect. The bad things about Bitcoin are:
- Slow transfers - minimum 20 mins, usually an hour or even much longer. So much for being useful as a currency.
- Getting expensive - fees keep climbing, not usable for small remittance payments
- Mining is becoming very centralized - China receives the lion's share of newly-mined bitcoins
- Profoundly wasteful - Mining bitcoin uses more energy than some countries
- Unknown major holders - Considerable wealth rests in the hands of unknown people, possibly criminal elements, that have little motivation to save the overall coin valuation if they have an opportunity to save themselves, meaning Bitcoin is perptually poised to endure large dumps with no warning and no culpability.
- Exposure to government intervention - Due to Bitcoin's current value being largely dependent upon uptake in the real world, if governments decided to outlaw bitcoin, no more exchanges, no more companies, no more pizza; Bitcoin would be cast back to the dark ages where only the underground could use it. How much would it be worth then? (answer: very little). The security of your immutable blockchain coins has little meaning if your coins are worthless.
So, the elusive dream of a one-world currency, the "people's" currency, unfortunately falls short on many points, most notably: scaling, speed, cost-effectiveness, efficiency, decentralization, and security.
It doesn't matter how successful Bitcoin is today because its future is more or less destined to failure. It make take years, it may take 100 years, but the laws of statistics will continue to chip away at its market dominance, and once it falls into second place, the spell will be broken, and all hell will break loose. Bitcoin will implode like the Hindenburg.
It takes a lot of software/mathematical acumen, and little bit of experience with crypto to really understand how the tech works, and once that level of aptitude is reached, the marked distinctions between the underlying technologies of these differing coins really becomes apparent. They are no longer just different symbols and colors, they are magnificently different vehicles, like a lamborghini stands out from a volkwagen. Sure, both can get you groceries, but you never go home alone in a Lambo.
Try to imagine having that clarity of understanding just a few years after Bitcoin surfaced. A specially-talented group of people found themselves trying to address the very issues they foresaw Bitcoin currently suffering from. They wanted a solution, a new coin, a REAL currency that could be used for everyday purchases, that wouldn't fall into these traps.
The traps learned from Bitcoin that they wanted to avoid:
- Requiring mining to secure the network - because any type of mining (PoW, PoS) slows down confirmation of payments.
- Scaling issues - should scale to any transaction rate
- Cost - should be nearly free, thus incentivization to support the network can't come from transactions fees
- Biased coin distribution method - mining just sends all the coins to those with the best hardware. China is kicking our asses. Leaving distribution to the outcome of these mining competitions has proven a dismal failure in terms of meaningful equitable deployment.
- Decentralization - shouldn't be possible for a single entity to have control of the ledger like we see the possibility of with a few Bitcoin mining pools potentially colluding to use their > 51% hashrate to double-spend. 3-4 people represent that threat. This should never be possible.
XRP is their answer to these challenges.
- Uses consensus instead of mining. In a nutshell, this means transactions are validated by a trusted super-majority, allowing for 1-4 second confirmations, making it practical as a currency. This method also guarantees that a large number of validators oversee every transaction, making collusion or tampering nearly impossible; far far safer than Bitcoin
- Scaling architecture is designed such that full hardware resources can be exploited to enable as fast as possible transactions. Currently 1500 tps, moving to 50k soon. Should be possible to continue scaling with even further evolution. This will make it possible for everyone in the world to use it at the same time.
- Transfer fees are the barest minimum possible. This will allow for low-value remittances and even smaller micro-payments to become practical, an incredibly large untapped market; possibly the biggest as the Internet of things evolves.
- Coin distribution is intentionally manual and intelligently directed, such that systemic infiltration can most significantly be accomplished. Sure, this manifests initially as big banks get XRP, but so do schoolchildren, XPring projects, and Snoop Dogg. It's not all about big banks. Point is, XRP is getting into the hands of those in need, and those that can move it into the ecosystem. It's NOT going into the hands of criminals, nor anonymous whales, and this is the single-most important aspect of distribution, keeping it as clean as possible so the widest infiltration is possible, something Bitcoin will never achieve because it's downright dirty. Filthy! You think a bank will ever play in the mud?
- Decentralization - Working on it (EDIT: Since writing the article, XRP has become officially decentralized)
Tada! The perfect coin!
What's that you say? I kinda glossed over the decentralized part? Ok, you asked for it..
What would you rather trust, a thousand drug cartels with large Bitcoin holdings that they won't randomly dump Bitcoin when they start thinking Bitcoin is really losing dominance? Would you rather trust the 3-4 dominant Chinese mining pools that they won't collude to double spend?
Would you rather trust a multi-national corporation with every founder and manager identified by name. Do you really think they would be able to get away with scamming everyone? Where would they hide? It's not even a rational idea that they could get away with it.
This is the decision you need to make.
It's not about decentralization any more, people, that's a Bitcoin maximalist, anarchist fundamental. That fundamental has failed, I repeat, FAILED, to propagate Bitcoin to a usable world currency. Bitcoin has failed to fulfill its promise as a panacea to the woes of the world. Bitcoin's steadfast hold on prioritizing for being fully decentralized over speed, efficiency, cheap fees, meaningful distribution, and appeal to regulated industries, etc.; has cost it its viability for anything useful outside of the vanilla "store of value"; and most ironically, it's now teetering over the precipice of centralization into the wrong hands!! Complete and dismal FAILURE!
This is what the XRP creators foresaw, and it's coming to fruition. More and more people are seeing it, and that's reflected by the continuing decline in Bitcoin market dominance. The XRP creators realized early on that not every shortcoming could be addressed right out of the gate. In order to bootstrap XRP, they knew they'd have to be hands-on, they'd have to babysit XRP the entire way through until the day finally comes when XRP will officially be decentralized, fully autonomous, independent of further stewardship. It will take an ENORMOUS effort at even more ENORMOUS cost to get it there, but there's no other way. This means only one thing, it means that in order for XRP, or ANY coin for that matter, to be successful as a global currency, it will require a long period of....
And here we are today, pissing all over each other, throwing holy books in each other's faces, venomous hatred flowing like blood flows in my blogs. It's all so ridiculous, and wasteful. For example, I see lots of attempts to say, "oh look, the top 100 accounts are blah blah blah". No, it means nothing; like trying to determine the character of someone by examining a lock of their hair. Stupid. All because of the single notion that 100% trustless is the only way forward; a mantra so fervently endorsed, that anything less is sacrilegious and needs to be burned at the stake. This manner of stupid tunnel-vision thinking, my friends, is precisely what has stymied innovation all throughout history.
For someone to believe that Ripple is a scam coin, is for them to not understand everything I've just outlined. The overarching lesson learned from Bitcoin is that in order for a one-world currency to ever surface, it simply must be coddled the entire way. There is no known autonomous mechanism that can accomplish what XRP has already and will still accomplish. It's the attention to curating FI interest, targeting key injection points, selecting trustworthy validators, and building out all the ancillary software that complements XRP usage in the real world. THIS, is what Bitcoin failed to provide, and this is why Bitcoin remains a steampunk project.
So, YES, XRP IS CENTRALIZED, AUGH!!! FINE FINE FINE FINE. (EDIT: Again, since writing the article, XRP has become officially decentralized) If you need to see it written across the skies, so fucking be it. That's TODAY!! It was planned from the beginning that XRP MUST be centralized to get it to the top. It is rapidly climbing to the top. What that means is you must trust that the multinational company named Ripple is going to continue doing what's best for the XRP ecosystem. When you make a decision about XRP, you are actually making a bet whether Ripple will be successful or not. And from what I've seen: the top talent they have, and continue to hire, and the global penetration with offices springing up in many countries, countless new clients including central banks and large multinational corps, mind-blowing charitable donations, XRP-incubator programs, etc., etc. Ask yourself, when was the last time you heard of a cartel buying a tablet for a young kid.
To me, it's an order of magnitude easier decision to trust Ripple and XRP, than to trust the BTC cartel. The more important aspect though, is that we are headed towards decentralization! We will have a decentralized XRP some day! When that day comes, finally, finally, FINALLY, you will see why it was necessary to do things the way they are being done. Everybody will get what they want in the end.
Frankly, I'm sick and tired of people comparing XRP to Bitcoin. There's no meaningful comparison between coins by any metric that gives Bitcoin value. Bitcoin is a jalopy trying to hide from the government. The attributes that make that possible are IRRELEVANT to XRP. Would you care how fast Stephen Hawking could car jack his neighbor?? NO, because he wasn't a fucking criminal! XRP was meant to SOLVE the problems and assumptions OF Bitcoin, not COMPETE with it on its nefarious traits and shortcomings. XRP is Gen 2, not Litecoin!
If you're still out there preaching from your Bitcoin bible about how XRP is not a crypto, or how it is centralized, or it's a banker's coin; please continue to do so at your leisure, for no matter how much you perpetuate these flat-Earth stigmas within your ever-shrinking circle of Bitcoin maximalists, it has zero effect on XRP's destiny in a game you obviously don't understand, because..
You're just howling at the moon.
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