The New Era of Virtual Reality

 A Wild Duck guest editorial

Richelle Ross-sRichelle Ross is a sophomore at the University of Florida, focusing on statistics and data science. As a crypto consultant, she educates far beyond the campus. Her insight on the evolution and future of Bitcoin has been featured in national publications. Richelle writes for CoinDesk, LinkedIn, and Quora, providing analysis on Bitcoin’s evolving economy.


In 2003, I remember going to see my first IMAX 3D film,
Space Station . My family was touring NASA at Cape Canaveral Florida. The film was an inside view into life as an astronaut enters space. As the astronauts tossed M&Ms to each other in their new gravity-free domain, the other children and space_station_1I gleefully reached our hands out to try and touch the candy as it floated towards us. I had never experienced anything so mind-blowing in my 7 year life. The first 3D film was released in 1922. Yet, surprisingly, flat entertainment has dominated screens for in the 9½ decades that followed. Only a handful of films have been released in 3D—most of them are animated. But now, we are gradually seeing a shift in how people experience entertainment. As methods evolve and as market momentum builds, it promises to be one of the most groundbreaking technologies of the decade. I foresee Virtual Reality reaching a point where our perception of virtual and real-life experiences becomes blurred—and eventually—the two become integrated.

Ever since pen was put to paper, and camera to screen, audiences have enjoyed being swept into other worlds. For those of us “dreamers” being able to escape into these stories is one way we live through and expand our understanding of other times and places—even places space_station_2that may not be accessible in our lifetimes. Virtual reality is the logical progression and natural evolution of these experiences.

I caught the VR bug after one of my Facebook contacts was posting about it and sharing 360 degree videos that were of no use to me unless I too had the headset. Having been a Samsung user for the last several years, I purchased the Samsung VR headset to understand what all the hype was. Just as with my childhood experience visiting the space station, the VR Introduction video sent me floating across the universe. But this time, it was much more compelling. I could turn my head in any direction and experience a vast heavenly realm in 3D vision and tied to my own movements. Behind me was a large planet and in front were dozens of asteroids slowly moving by.

Similar to visiting the Grand Canyon, this is one of those novel experiences you really have to experience to appreciate. Within about ten seconds of trying it out, I had become hooked. I realized that I was experiencing something with far greater potential than an amusement park roller coaster, yet I also recognized that any applications I might imagine barely scratch the surface. This unexpected adrenaline rush is what leads tinkerers to the imaginative leaps that push new technologies into the next decades ahead.

Video games are probably the industry everyone thinks of being affected by this new paradigm. I immediately thought about the Star Wars franchise with its ever expanding universe. It will be a pretty exciting day when you can hold a lightsaber hilt that comes to life when you wear a headset and allows you to experience that universe from your living room. You could even wear a sensored body suit that allows you to feel little zaps or vibrations during gameplay. With more connected devices, the possibility of Li-Fi replacing Wi-Fi and so on, video games are just scratching the surface.

I discussed what the future of VR could offer with Collective Learning founder, Dan Barenboym. We explored various difficulties that impede market adoption. Barenboym was an early enthusiast of virtual reality, having worked with a startup that plans to deploy full-body scanners that give online life to gamers. The project began long before the film Avatar. Berenboym suggests ways that this dan_barenboym_5624swould improve online shopping by allowing people to see their avatar with their own personal measurements in various outfits. This doesn’t have to be limited to at-home experiences though. Dan suggests that instead of walking into the boutique changing room, you walk into one with mirrors connected to VR software. Your reflection ‘tries on’ different virtual outfits before you pull your favorite one off the store rack.

We also discussed the current obstacles of VR like the headset itself, which is a hindrance in some respects as it is a bit uncomfortable to wear for prolonged use. The other looming issue is money. There are many ideas similar to the ones we brainstormed, but startups may struggle to get off the ground without sufficient funding. The Oculus Rift is one great example of how crowdfunding can help entrepreneurs launch their ideas. It is easier than ever before to share and fund great ideas through social networking.

Facebook creator, Mark Zuckerberg, shared his own vision in 2014 after acquiring the Oculus Rift. Zuckerberg eloquently summarized the status of where we’re headed:

Virtual reality was once the dream of science fiction. But the internet was also once a dream, and so were computers and smartphones. The future is coming and we oculus_rifthave a chance to build it together.”

What could this mean for the social networking that Zuckerberg pioneered? I’d venture to say the void of a long distance relationship may be eased with VR immersion that allows you to be with your family at the click of a button. You could be sitting down in your apartment in the U.S., but with the help of a 360 camera, look around at the garden that your mother is tending to in the U.K. The same scenario could be applied to a classroom or business meeting. We already have global and instant communication, so it will serve to add an enriched layer to these interactions.

The concept of reality itself is probably the biggest factor that makes virtual reality so captivating. Reality is not an objective experience. Each of us has a perspective of the world that is colored by our childhood experiences, personality, and culture. Our inner dialogues, fantasies of who we want to become, and areas of intelligence determine so much of what we’re able to accomplish and choose to commit to outside of ourselves. Michael Abrash describes how VR works with our unconscious brain perceptions to make us believe we’re standing on the edge of a building that isn’t really there. At a conscious level, we accept that we are staring at a screen, but our hearts still race—based on an unconscious perception of what is happening. Tapping into this perception-changing part of our brain allows us to experience reality in new ways.

As VR becomes more mainstreamed and incorporated into all areas of our lives such as online shopping, socializing, education, recreation, etc., the degrees of separation from the real world that society applies to it will lessen. Long-term, the goal for VR would be to allow us to use any of our senses and body parts. We should see continued improvements in the graphics and interaction capabilities of VR, allowing for these experiences to feel as real as they possibly can.

One can only imagine the new vistas this powerful technology will open—not just for entertainment, but for education, medicine, working in hazardous environments or controlling machines at a distance. Is every industry planning to incorporate the positive potential of virtual reality? If not, they certainly should think about the potential. As long as we pay attention to present day needs and issues, engineering virtual reality in the Internet of Things promises to be a fantastic venture.

Author’s Note:

Feedback from Wild Ducks is important. I’ll be back from time to time. Drop me a note on the comment form, or better yet, add your comment below. Until then, perhaps we will meet in the virtual world.

— RR

Puzzling Demographics of Trump Supporters

Who remembers the blue-or-gold dress of just a year ago? Who could forget?! For some, the photo clearly showed a blue & black dress, while others viewing the very same photo saw a dress that was plainly gold & white.

For the record, I see a dress that is sparkling gold and white. Although it appears to be shot under a harsh bluish-white spotlight, I can’t fathom that anyone with an eye and a brain perceives any blue in the material. blue_or_gold-sRevisiting this Internet phenomenon a year later, I just don’t see it. And black? Where is there any dark fabric? Is it the gold part or the white part? It’s just not there!

…And so it is for a presidential candidate. Who among us sees Donald Trump as anything short of a contemptuous, sexist, and bigoted buffoon—one who is incapable of keeping a dirty or hurtful thought to himself?

To be fair, I have no way to gauge Trump supporters, because I have never met one. Seriously—even with a sweeping lead in every presidential poll—I have yet to actually meet and talk with a real, live Trump supporter, or at least someone who admits it. But, I am not in denial. I listen to poll results. I read. I believe that the pollsters know their art. They can’t all be wrong. Clearly, a great many people want Trump to be our next president, and so—I assume—that many of these same people respect Mr. Trump.

But here, too, I see Mr. Trump differently. It’s a difference as stark as the different ways people view the dress. I imagine that Trump supporters revere his presence, his demeanor and his moral authority. They share his vision. I sense none of these things.

Anyone reading this Blog during the 2016 US presidential campaign hardly needs a Trump tutorial. I suspect that WildDucks have already made up their minds concerning The Don’s demeanor. But what about readers who come across this article in a century or two. In the interest of historical perspective, let’s review Mr. Trump’s recent comments about Mexicans, Senator John McCain, Carly Fiorina, Hillary Clinton, Rosie O’Donnell, Megyn Kelly and some of the female contestants on his former TV show.

[About Mexican Immigrants]
They’re bringing drugs, they’re bringing crime. They’re rapists…”

[About John McCain]: “He’s not a war hero. He’s a war hero because he was captured. I like people who weren’t captured.”

But, above all, Trump has serious issues with women. Perhaps a past wife cut off part of his manhood. After all, he has contempt for anyone with different plumbing. Here are some of his thoughts. I have verified each quotation below. If any of the links have expired, these Trump-isms can be verified with a Google search…

Megyn Kelly[About Megyn Kelly]:
“There’s blood coming out of her eyes. There’s blood coming out of her…wherever!”

(Confronted with this crude statement, Trump insisted that he was not referring to menstruation. He said that he meant to say blood was coming out of her ears).

He also called Ms. Kelly a bimbo, a 3rd rate reporter, a lightweight and “not good at what she does.” This week, Trump said that he “might be the best thing that ever happened to her,” because no one had ever heard of her before the August debate.

[About Carly Fiorina]: “Look at that face! Would anyone vote for that? Can you imagine that, the face of our next president?!…I mean, she’a a woman, and I’m not s’posedta say bad things—But really folks; Come on! Are we serious?!”

Fox & Friends confronted Trump about these particular remarks, in this follow up interview. Trump stated that he was talking about her persona and not her looks, but then he complained that no one stands up for him when someone crtisizes his hair

[About Hillary Clinton]: (after Mrs. Clinton used a bathroom during a break).

“I know where she went—it’s disgusting, I don’t want to talk about it. No, it’s too disgusting. Don’t say it. It’s disgusting.”

Seconds later, apparently practicing his Yiddish, Trump exclaimed that Mrs. Clinton doesn’t have a chance of beating him, because “She got schlonged by Barack Obama” (referring to Clinton’s defeat in the 2008 democratic primary). ‘Schlonged’ means ‘screwed’ (if you can turn an anatomical organ into a verb), but the word describes the literal act, rather than employed as a euphemism.

Rosie-O-Donnell-s[About Rosie O’Donnell]: “Rosie O’Donnell’s disgusting both inside and out. Take a look at her, she’s a slob. She talks like a truck driver; she doesn’t have her facts; she’ll say anything that comes to her mind.”

[About a contestant on his TV show]:
When Trump was told that Celebrity Apprentice contestant Brande Roderick had gotten down on her knees and begged not to be fired, Trump looked toward the young woman and said “Must be a pretty picture—you dropping to your knees.”

Do respected, national leaders ever use such language or hurl hurtful remarks? Perhaps. I suspect that most anyone has uttered a flippant remark, perhaps in the midst of anger, booze or emotional turmoil. But, if Ronald Reagan or Jimmy Carter ever used this type of language, you can bet that it was occasional, among a very small group of friends, and with an expression of profound regret soon after. But not Donald. Each time he opens his mouth, he inserts a foot, and then he doubles down and chews on the entire shoe.

Are these the words of an executive or a politician in public discourse? Are they the words of any adult with respect for others or any semblance of self-control? Of course not. They are the words of a hysterical donald_j_trump-schild who is trying hard to assert stature on a playground. It seems incomprehensible that an individual running for high office would spew such taunts and potty humor on live television. Does he have any brain? –any conscience? –any internal mechanism of guidance or control?

This leaves me with a rather obvious question: What are the demographics of Trump’s sweeping lead in the GOP primary polls? Did they forget to poll women or anyone who respects women? Perhaps women who support Trump don’t mind that their blood and stool are staples of his redneck political rallies . Honestly—I wish someone would explain this to me.

Today, Fox Media claimed that Corey Lewandowski, a Trump campaign manager, threatened Fox News anchor, Megyn Kelly. A “threat” would be unacceptable, of course, but I call it bullying. Bullying is worse, because a threat, in this case, would be hollow—a presidential candidate cannot really hurt a journalist—but, bullying shows Trump for what he is—a misogynistic jerk.                                Continue below image…

Trump Campaign Bullying

I am certain that Lewandowski is echoing his boss’ words. After all, Trump has attacked Megyn on camera. Why? Because he can’t control her questions. He wants control over content and spin, but most importantly, he wants an absence of powerful women in his field of view. He has stated it clearly: He is more comfortable with them on their knees.

As Donald Trump said himself, “Seriously Folks. I mean C’mon! Are we serious?! We can’t continue to be nice, folks!”

Of course, that remark relates to his intentions for China and Mexico. Somehow, he believes that they will send a great deal of factories and jobs back to America and then help us to build a wall so that their drug peddlers and rapists can’t get in to steal those jobs. (This is the central tenant of his entire campaign).

But that statement about voters “getting serious” precisely expresses my sentiments about Trump’s popularity as a political candidate. I can only hope that it is a bad dream, a joke, or transient. Just as NBC and Univision dumped The Don after he spewed forth xenophobic venom toward Mexicans, I wonder when Republican voters will dump Donald for a more credible candidate—Marco Rubio or Chris Christie, perhaps? If Republicans don’t wake up to Donald, like they did to Sarah Palin, voters in the general election will do it for them. Hillary Clinton is a lot more credible that Donald Trump! She is smart, experienced, just as strong as Donald. Most importantly, she doesn’t assault detractors or insult voters.

Conclusion: More of a question than a conclusion

Concluding that Trump is sexist and a jerk isn’t just my opinion, it is the opinion of every mainstream media outlet, every independent pundit, every former contestant, most journalists and political analysts, and many of his friends.

Sure!—it’s fun to buck the expected and the mainstream; it’s fun to toss polite behavior to the wind…just to shake things up once in awhile. But when a grown man wallows in a world of potty humor and misogynistic rants, one eventually wonders just who are his proponents? trump_on_playgroundFrom where does he rally a commanding lead in every poll? Are they all dunces?!

_____________

More Trump TV insults

  • Trump hosted The Apprentice , a US television series for 14 seasons. During that long run, he threw a stream of invectives at at guest contestants—calling them, alternatively, slobs, pigs or just plain disgusting.
  • In a New York Post interview, contestant Mahsa Saeidi-Azcuy explained that Trump asked male contestants to rate female contestants based on their looks.
  • The Post also reported that Trump made one female contestant come around the board table and “twirl around”. Apparently, he wasn’t satisfied with boobs—and decided to gaze at her butt.
  • The Washington Post reports that Trump told one contestant “I bet you make a great wife.
  • Trump’s crudest remark was to a contestant after being fired from his show. When a producer explained to Trump that she begged on her knees to remain on the show. He said to her: “Must be a pretty picture—you dropping to your knees.”

Donald Trump exhibits a threat response to almost anything: people with less money or fewer votes, anyone who is educated, articulate, or who disagrees with his opinion, and especially confident or empowered females. He cannot keep his thoughts to himself, no matter how crass or off-topic. He attacks opponents based on any perceived slight.

 NBC and Univision decided not to air the Trump-owned Miss Universe Pageant. Macy’s dropped his signature clothing line. New York Democratic Mayor Bill de Blasio has ordered a review of Trump’s city contracts, and NASCAR moved an annual banquet from the Trump National Doral resort in Miami.

—All that backlash was the result of just one of Trumps off-color remarks.

Related:

Iran’s swift processing of US sailors. Why the outrage?

Last week, the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps [IRGC] captured, processed and returned two US Navy boats along with 10 sailors. Apparently, one boat had engine trouble and drifted into undisputed Iranian territorial waters, while sailors on the other boat were preparing to assist. The incident began just two hours before President Obama’s final State of the Union Address and just days before the lifting of US-led sanctions on Iran and the return of billions of dollars in frozen assets.

There has been an incredible outcry—especially from anyone who opposes the Iranian nuclear deal and Republican presidential hopefuls—all of them campaigning on an anti-Obama platform. sailors_on_knees-01These individuals insist that the US has nothing to apologize for and that Obama should have retaliated for the humiliation directed at the sailors. They were disarmed and briefly forced to kneel down with arms folded over their heads.

Others have pointed out that airing videos of the sailors in a submissive posture and broadcasting one sailor explaining that their treatment was excellent and that the territorial incursion was accidental—including the words “We apologize for that”—was a further sign of a weak and ineffective president.

Like anyone viewing the Iranian video, I cringe at seeing US service personnel in a submissive posture. But, I wonder on what planet the disarming of soldiers illegally entering a territory on the military boat of a foreign power constitutes an unreasonable response? sailors_on_knees-02With the exception of the video broadcast (it likely violates the Geneva Convention), there is absolutely no evidence that the Iranians were harsh or that the American response bears evidence of a weak US president.

Sure. The sailor’s apology should have been issued or cleared through his military command. It may have been coerced or a tacit condition for his release. But, let’s face it…If the Navy boat was truly adrift (that is, it was not on a mission to gather intelligence or to land and disembark), then it is fairly obvious that the staff would be sorry for the incursion, even if it was an accident or unavoidable.

I get that we are in the midst of a presidential campaign and I get that the Republican candidates are jumping over each other to demonstrate which among them is the supreme Anti-Obama. But c’mon guys! This isn’t rocket science…

  • These sailors drifted into hostile waters
  • Whether or not it was intentional, they certainly didn’t intend to be intercepted
  • Interception by an adversary is a reasonable procedure. It is expected!
  • Using a show of force to disarm foreign sailors and requiring them to sit still is a reasonable way to ensure everyone’s safety
  • Iran neither demanded nor expected concessions or payment for the release of these abu-ghraib-sservicemen
  • The sailors were believed and they were not forced to divulge military information
  • At no time were the sailors treated like we have occasionally treated prisoners at Abu Ghraib
  • The sailors were fed, processed and released within 14 hours to a foreign power; one with which Iran has grave misunderstandings and a hostile relationship.

How often does an enemy treat the military personnel of a foreign antagonizer with such deference and respect. especially after a suspicious incursion? (Yes! respect—even though they were made to briefly kneel down and surrender their weapons). Again, I ask: On what planet is this a bad outcome? On what planet would the initial event be unworthy of an apology?

This is not a partisan analysis nor a pro-Iranian perspective. My request to the US presidential candidates: Please grow up! I realize that Donald Trump cannot suddenly become mature, but to the other Republican candidates, I humbly request a semblance of truth and balance. Please suppress the urge to assert American exceptionalism or to characterize reasonable events as if they are the result of poor leadership.

Ellery Davies is editor at A Wild Duck and an occasional political wonk.

Ex-NSA Boss says FBI is Wrong on Encryption

What happens if the National Park Service fences off scenic lookout points at the Grand Canyon’s south rim near the head of the Bright Angel trail? Would it prevent the occasional suicide jumper? Not a chance. (The National Park Service tried this in the mid 1980s). People will either gore themselves on fences and posts or they will end their lives on the road in a high speed automobile, putting others at risk. Either way, tourists will be stuck with looking at the North Rim and the Colorado River through prison bars.

Let’s move from analogy to reality. What happens if you jam cell phone signals on tunnels and bridges. Will it stop a terrorist from remotely detonating a bomb? No. But it will certainly thwart efforts to get rescue and pursuit underway. And what about personal encryption?…

Gadgets and apps are finally building encryption into their wares by default. Does a locked-down iPhone or the technology that businesses use to secure trade secrets and plan strategy among colleagues enable criminals. Not even close. But if the FBI criminalizes encryption, they cripple the entire American economy. After all, the Genie is already out of the lamp.

Bear with me for just one more analogy (I’m still reaching for the right one): Criminalizing kitchen knives will make cooking impossible and the criminals will still have knives.

A Wild Duck has not previously linked to a media article. I am proud of our all-original content and clear statement of opinions. But in this case, I could not have said it better myself. (Actually, I have said this this all along: End-to-end encryption is a good thing for government, businesses and individuals alike. It is communications and storage empowerment.

With this article, you will see that the former NSA director gets it. The current FBI director hasn’t a clue. Ah, well…That’s OK. Some concepts are subtle. For some politicians, an understanding of the practical, personal and sociological implications requires decades of exposure and post-facto reflection.

Memo to FBI director, Jim Comey: Get your head out of the sand and surround yourself with advisers who can explain cause and effect.


, Jan 13, 2016)encryption

Encryption protects everyone’s communications, including terrorists. The FBI director wants to undermine that. The ex-NSA director says that’s a terrible idea.

The FBI director wants the keys to your private conversations on your smartphone to keep terrorists from plotting secret attacks.

But on Tuesday, the former head of the U.S. National Security Agency…

Read the full article at CNN Money
http://money.cnn.com/2016/01/13/technology/nsa-michael-hayden-encryption/

Bitcoin Primer: Don’t start with miners

In my role at Quora, I was asked “How can I understand Bitcoin in its simplest terms?”

Other writers offer answers that are anything but simple. Most focus on mining and the blockchain. In this primer, I will take an approach that is both familiar and accurate…

Terms/Concepts:    Miners     Blockchain     Double-Spend

 

First, forget about everything you have heard about ‘mining’ Bitcoin. That’s just a temporary mechanism to smooth out the initial distribution and make it fair, while also playing a critical role in validating the transactions between individuals. Starting with this mechanism is a bad way to understand Bitcoin, because its role in establishing value, influencing trust or stabilizing value is greatly overrated.

The other two terms are important to a basic understanding of Bitcoin and why it is different, but let’s put aside jargon and begin with the familiar. Here are three common analogies for Bitcoin. #1 is the most typical impression pushed by the media, but it is least accurate. Analogy #3 is surprisingly on target.

1. Bitcoin as Gold

You can think of Bitcoin as a natural asset, but with a firm, capped supply. Like gold, the asset is a limited commodity that a great many people covet. But unlike gold, the supply is completely understood and no one organization or country has the potential to suddenly discover a rich vein and extract it from the ground.

2. Bitcoin as a Debit or Gift Card

Bitcoin is also a little like a prepaid debit card, you can exchange cash for it and then use it to buy things—either locally (subject to growing recognition and acceptance) or across the Internet. But here, too, there is a difference. A debit card must be loaded with a prepaid balance. That is, it must be backed by something else, whereas Bitcoin has an intrinsic value based on pure market supply and demand. A debit card is a vehicle to transmit or pay money—but Bitcoin is the money itself.

3. Bitcoin as a Foreign Currency

Perhaps the most accurate analogy for Bitcoin (or at least where it is headed), is as a fungible, convertible, bankable foreign currency.

Like a foreign currency, Bitcoin can be…

  • Easily exchanged with cash
  • Easily transmitted for purchases, sales, loans or gifts
  • Stored & saved in an online account or in your mattress (Advantage: It can also be stored in a smart phone or in the cloud—and it can backed up!)
  • Has a value that floats with market conditions
  • Is backed by something even more trustworthy than a national government

Unlike the cash in your pocket or bank account, Your Bitcoin wallet can be backed up with a mouse click. And, with proper attention to best practices, it will survive the failure of any exchange, bank or custodian. That is with proper key management and the use of multisig, no one need lose money when a Bitcoin exchange fails. The trauma of past failures was exacerbated by a lack of tools, practices and user understanding. These things are all improving with each month.

So, Whats the Big Deal?

So, Bitcoin is a lot like cash or a debit card. Why is this news? Bitcoin is a significant development, because the creator has devised a way to account for moving money between buyer and seller (or any two parties) that does not require any central bank, bookkeeper or authority to keep tabs. Instead, the bookkeeping is crowd sourced.

For example, let’s say that Alice wants to purchase a $4 item from Bob, an Internet merchant in another country.

a) Purchase and settlement with a credit card

With a credit card, wire transfer or check, Alice can pay $4 easily. But many things occur in the background and they represent an enormous transaction overhead. Alice must have an account at an internationally recognized bank. The bank must vouch for Alice’s balance or credit in real time and it must then substitute its own credit for hers. After the transaction, two separate banks at opposite ends of the world must not only adjust their client account balances, they must also settle their own affairs through an interbank-settlement process.

The two banks use different national currencies and are subject to different laws, oversight and reporting requirements. Over the course of the next few days, the ownership of gold, oil or reserve currencies is transferred between large institutions to complete the affairs of Alice’s $4 purchase.

b) Now, consider the same transaction with Bitcoin

Suppose that Alice has a Bitcoin wallet with a balance equal to $10. Let’s say that these characters represent $10 in value: 5E 7A 44 1B. (Bitcoin value is expressed as a much longer character string, but for this illustration we are keeping it short). Alice wants to buy a $4 item from Bob. Since she has only this one string representing $10, she must somehow get $6 in change.

Bitcoin Transaction

With Bitcoin, there is no bank or broker at the center of a transaction. The transaction is effected directly between Alice and Bob. But there is a massive, distributed, global network of bookkeepers standing ready to help Alice and Bob to complete the transaction. They don’t even know the identities of Alice or Bob, but they are like a bank and independent auditor at the same time…

If Alice were to give Bob her secret string (worth $10), and if Bob gives her a string of characters worth $6 as change, one wonders what prevents Alice from double-spending her original $10 secret? But this can’t happen, because the miners and their distributed blockchain are the background fabric of the ecosystem. In the Bitcoin world, Alice is left with a brand new secret string that represents her new bank balance. It can be easily tested by anyone, anywhere. It is worth exactly $6.

This example is simplified and without underlying detail. But the facts, as stated, are accurate.

Conclusion

For Geeks, Bitcoin is the original implementation of a blockchain distributed ledger. Miners uncover a finite reserve of hidden coins while validating the transactions of strangers. As such, Bitcoin solves the double spend problem and enables person-to-person transactions without the possibility of seizure or choke points.

But for the rest of us, Bitcoin offers a very low cost transaction network that will quickly replace checks and debit cards and may eventually replace cash, central banks, and regional monetary authorities. The safeties, laws and refund mechanisms offered by banks and governments can still be applied to Bitcoin for selected transactions (whenever both parties agree to oversight), but the actual movement of value will be easier, less expensive and less susceptible to 3rd party meddling.

  • Bitcoin is a distributed, decentralized and low cost payment network
  • It is adapted to a digital economy in a connected world: fluid, low friction, trusted, secure
  • More zealous proponents (like me) believe that is gradually becoming the value itself (i.e. it needn’t be backed by assets, a promise of redemption, or a national government. In this sense, it is like a very stable, foreign currency

Additional Reading:

Ellery Davies sits on Lifeboat’s New Money Systems Board and administers Bitcoin P2P, a LinkedIN community.
He is co-chair of CRYPSA and host of The Bitcoin Event. He writes for Lifeboat, Quora, Sophos and Wild Duck.

Can Governments Ban Bitcoin?

Recently, I became Most Viewed Writer on Bitcoin and cryptocurrency at Quora.com. I don’t typically mirror these posts at A Wild Duck. After all, the sites are linked and my articles at both sites Quora_Most_Viewed_splashrank highly in an organic search. But a question posed today is highly relevant to this Blog. Here, then, is my reply to the question
“How can governments ban Bitcoin?”


Governments can enact legislation that applies to any behavior or activity. That’s what governments do—at least the legislative arm of a government. Such edicts distinguish activities that are legal from those that are banned or regulated.

You asked: “How can governments ban Bitcoin?” But you didn’t really mean to ask in this way. After all, legislators ban whatever they wish by meeting in a congress or committee and promoting a bill into law. In the case of a monarchy or dictatorship, the leader simply issues an edict.

So perhaps, the real question is “Can a government ban on Bitcoin be effective?”

Some people will follow the law, no matter how nonsensical, irrelevant, or contrary to the human condition. These are good people who have respect for authority and a drive toward obedience. Others will follow laws, because they fear the cost of breaking the rules and getting caught. I suppose that these are good people too. But, overall, for a law to be effective, it must address a genuine public need (something that cries out for regulation), it must not contradict human nature, and it must address an activity that is reasonably open to observation, audit or measurement.

Banning Bitcoin fails all three test of a rational and enforceable law.

Most governments, including China and Italy, realize that a government ban on the possession of bits and bytes can be no more effective than banning feral cats from mating in the wild or legislating that basements shall remain dry by banning ground  water from seeking its level.

So, the answer to the implied question is: A ban on Bitcoin could never be effective.

For this reason, astute governments avoid the folly of enacting legislation to ban Bitcoin. Instead, if they perceive a threat to domestic policy, tax compliance, monetary supply controls or special interests, they discourage trading by discrediting Bitcoin or raising concerns over safety, security, and criminal activity. In effect, a little education, misinformation or FUD (fear, uncertainty and doubt) can sometimes achieve what legislation cannot.

Reasons to Ban Bitcoin … a perceived threat to either:

  • domestic policy
  • tax compliance
  • monetary supply controls
  • special interests

Methods to Discourage Trading (rather than a ban)

  • Discredit Bitcoin (It’s not real money)
  • Raise concerns over safety & security
  • Tie its use to criminal activity

Avoiding both a ban—and even official discouragement

There is good news on the horizon. In a few countries—including the USA—central bankers, monetary czars and individual legislators are beginning to view Bitcoin as an opportunity rather than a threat. Prescient legislators are coming to the conclusion that a distributed, decentralized trading platform, like Bitcoin, does not threaten domestic policy and tax compliance—even if citizens begin to treat it as cash rather than a payment instrument. While a cash-like transition might ultimately undermine the federal reserve monetary regime and some special interests, this is not necessarily a bad thing—not even for the affected “interests”.

If Bitcoin graduates from a debit/transmission vehicle (backed by cash) to the cash itself, citizens will develop more trust and respect for their governments. Why? Because their governments will no longer be able to water down citizen wealth by running the printing press, nor borrow against unborn generations. Instead, they will need to collect every dollar that they spend or convince bond holders that they can repay their debts. They will need to balance their checkbooks, spend more transparently and wear their books on their sleeves. All good things.

Naturally, this type of change frightens entrenched lawmakers. The idea of separating a government from its monetary policy seems—well—radical! But this only because we have not previously encountered a technology that placed government accountability and transparency on par with the private sector requirement to keep records and balance the books.                                       [continue below image]…

What backs your currency? Is it immune from hyperinflation?

What backs your currency? Is it immune from hyperinflation?

Seven sovereign countries use the US Dollar as their main currency. Why? Because the government of these countries were addicted to spending which leads to out-of-control inflation. They could not convince citizens that they could wean themselves of the urge to print bank notes with ever increasing zeros. And so, by switching to the world’s reserve currency, they demonstrate a willingness to settle debts with an instrument that cannot be inflated by edict, graft or sloppy bookkeeping.

But here’s the problem: Although the US dollar is more stable than the Zimbabwe dollar, this is a contest in relative trust and beating the clock. The US has a staggering debt that is sustained only by our creditors’ willingness to bear the float. Like Zimbabwe, Argentina, Greece and Germany between the wars, our lawmakers raise the debt ceiling with a lot of bluster, but nary a thought.

Is there a way to instill confidence in a way that is both trustworthy and durable? Yes! —And it is increasingly likely that Bitcoin is the way to the trust and confidence that is so sorely needed.

Ellery Davies is a frequent contributor to Quora. He is also co-chair of Cryptocurrency Standards Association and editor at A Wild Duck.

Wild Duck Adds Quora Answers

I have posted as AWildDuck for 4½ years. I have also written for Lifeboat, Yahoo, Engadget & Sophos NakedSecurity. But in just the past 3 months, Quora.com has published more of my answers than all other venues combined. More than half of Quora posts were solicited by editors or members.

This month, I became Most Viewed Writer for 7 Quora topics, and among the top 50 writers in many others.                   [Continue below]…Quora_Most_Viewed_splashWriting as “Ellery Davies”, I am a top contributor for Bitcoin, Virtual Currency, Cryptocurrencies, Routers, Local Area Networks, Gravity and Digital Currency. Since these are topics discussed here, my Quora posts are now linked at top right   »
—with the latest post on top.