You will laugh, but in the backward, dictatorial Venezuela, which is in deep economic crisis, today the main contours of the world economy of the 21st century are being formed. It is, of course, an experiment to pull the country out of a deep depression with the help of cryptocurrency.
Despite the resistance of its parliament and external opponents, the El Petro project continues, and, according to official data, it is quite successful as billions of dollars have been raised during the presale, and the official ICO has recently started, and applications for participation were submitted by investors from 127 countries.
Of course, it is hard to believe in such figures, so it is more important to pay attention to another fact. At the end of December 2017, the Venezuelan government created the online register Observatorio Blockchain, in which all citizens of the country who want to engage in mining are required to register. Within a month, 90,000 people were added to the register.
In other words, the cryptocurrency project allowed to create 90 thousand official jobs without any budgetary expenses. According to the superintendent of Venezuelan Cryptocurrency Carlos Vargas, the monthly amount of mining in the country is about $80 — 100 million. Thus, on average, about one thousand dollars of monthly income falls on one miner. For a Latin American country experiencing an acute crisis with inflation of more than 2,000% per year, the figure is quite considerable.
In fact, mining is already becoming one of the most important means of survival and welfare in underdeveloped countries. The Bitcoin fever was most severe in African countries, such as Zimbabwe, South Africa, Nigeria, and Uganda. For residents of these countries, Bitcoin proved to be a much more profitable asset than local currencies subject to hyperinflation. Therefore, all willingly buy a cryptocurrency and are very reluctant to sell it, and as a result, the price of Bitcoin on the largest African exchange Golix.com turns out to be one and a half times higher than the world average rate. When at Coinmarketcap Bitcoin stormed the mark of $20,000, rates on Golix reached $32,000. Today, when the Bitcoin rate on Japanese, Korean, and American exchanges is around $8,000, on the African market, it costs $13,000. Therefore, the Africans persistently mine Bitcoin, despite constant interruptions of electricity, including those for whom this occupation was the only source of income and professionals who want to improve their wellbeing.
It is already obvious today that Bitcoin is not the best cryptocurrency for miners in poor countries as the calculation of blockchains is too complex and energy-intensive, and the profitability of mining has fallen sharply due to the winter collapse of rates, which are not yet ready for new growth.
In this regard, state cryptocurrencies are much more attractive. First, governments can themselves establish the complexity and energy intensity of computations. Secondly, they can provide cryptocurrency with liquidity by allowing people to pay for public services and taxes in crypto. Venezuela went even further as President Maduro decided to create four “exclusive economic zones” in the country, where El Petro can be used to buy and sell any goods and services. Another plus of state protection for cryptocurrencies is protection against monopolization of networks by large miners.
How acute this problem becomes today is seen in the example of a growing conflict between cryptocurrency developers and manufacturers of mining equipment. The developers have made an unprecedented statement. Leading developer of one of the most popular cryptocurrencies, Monero, Riccardo Spagni last week said that the coin’s own protocol will change every six months to make the cryptocurrency less interesting for ASIC miners.
The reason for the announcement was the development by Bitmain of a new super powerful (220 kH/s) Antminer X3 miner based on an ASIC chip designed specifically for calculations based on the CryptoNight algorithm. It is the high performance of the new device that caused the developers of Monero to take retaliatory measures. “Any newly developed ASIC will receive a significant portion of the network hash and make it centralized,” the team members behind the cryptocurrency explain. “Because they are created to perform certain tasks, they usually have a performance advantage over general purpose hardware, such as CPUs, GPUs, and even FPGAs.” Now Bitmain is preparing to enter the market with a super powerful ASIC for mining Ether, and it will be interesting to see how Vitalik Buterin’s team reacts to this.
All these advantages of state cryptocurrency do not mean that the Venezuelan experiment with El Petro will certainly succeed. Rather, on the contrary like any new experience, it may well be unsuccessful. Later, based on the mistakes and successful finds of Venezuela, it will be possible to implement truly effective state-owned cryptocurrency projects.
And, judging by everything, this experience will be in demand first of all in highly developed countries. Today, no one doubts that a new technological revolution, based on the use of modern robotics and artificial intelligence, will leave a huge number of people out of work. So far, the only solution to this problem is seen in the introduction of universal basic income (UBI) and guaranteed lifetime benefits, regardless of whether a person works or leads an idle lifestyle.
Experiments with universal income are now conducted in several developed countries. In the United States, all Alaska residents receive payments each year from a special fund that invests funds derived from the production of oil and other raw materials in the state. In Dutch Utrecht from January 2016, several dozen people receive a universal basic income of 900 euros per person (1,300 euros for a married couple).
In Finland, since early 2017, there is a pilot program for basic income payments, which involves 2,000 people aged 25 to 58 years, randomly selected from among the unemployed. As part of the experiment, participants receive from the state 560 euros per month. This amount is equal to the amount of the unemployment benefit, but the participants in the experiment are not required to look for work, and in the case of employment, they continue to receive UBI.
The attitude toward universal income is still ambiguous. In Finland, the severe criticism of the experiment came from trade unions, which position themselves as the main defenders of workers, because with the introduction of UBI, they will simply become redundant. Employers do not like the experiment either because employees have more opportunities to bargain for the most favorable working conditions.
The main reason for resisting the introduction of UBI, however, is that universal income is now paid at the expense of the budget, that is, from the taxpayers’ funds. For people who have jobs and want to work, this causes natural resistance as they begin to question why they should pay higher taxes so that some idler lives for their own pleasure. That is why at the referendum on the introduction of universal income held in Switzerland last year, the vast majority of citizens voted against it.
Mining cryptocurrency is the ideal solution to this problem. If citizens do not just receive money from the budget (no matter whether this payment is called universal income or unemployment benefits), they can create money themselves in the form of cryptocurrency mining and solve a whole range of economic, social, and psychological issues related to unemployment. It seems that these prospects are realized most clearly in Japan, where Bitcoin is recognized as legal tender and is accepted in thousands of stores throughout the country.
Who Is Satoshi?
Possible economic and social transformations associated with the widespread use of cryptocurrency are not to everyone’s liking. Today, the rejection of change is expressed in talks about the possibility of use of “cryptos” by criminal circles for money laundering and by “wrong” political regimes to bypass international sanctions. The problem, however, is much broader than the creation of national cryptocurrencies and the decentralization of the issuance of money, as even digital ones destroy vertical monetary systems, at the top of which are central banks. Including the “world central bank,” the World Bank (WB) with the International Monetary Fund (IMF). Officially, the purpose of these organizations is financial assistance to developing countries, but this assistance is due to a number of points provided for by the so-called “Washington Consensus.” This is a list of ten requirements, including a minimum budget deficit, liberalization of financial markets, a free exchange rate of the national currency, no restrictions on foreign direct investment, protection of the rights of foreign investors, and the general deregulation of the economy. In short, national governments are required to transfer the management of the country’s economy to foreign investors.
Since the distribution of cryptocurrency promises to leave the WB and the IMF out of work (why get into bondage with foreign investors if it is possible to solve economic problems by issuing a national digital coin), it is no wonder that liberal American economists are the main critics of digital money today. Among them are, for example, economics professor at Harvard University and former IMF chief economist Kenneth Rogoff, who regularly promises that Bitcoin will cost a hundred dollars in ten years. In fact, Rogoff may well be right specifically about Bitcoin. But the first cryptocurrency will inevitably be replaced by new and more effective ones.
Confidence in this development of events is caused not only by current technological trends in the financial and production sectors, but also the cyclical nature of the economy and, accordingly, economic doctrines. Keynesianism came in the thirties of the last century to replace the classical economic theory, based on the principle of non-interference of the state in the economy and relying on the “invisible hand” of the market. The author of this theory, John Maynard Keynes, proved that the market itself is not able to cope with crises and the state should intervene in the economy so that people have money to buy goods. Because the main thing is the availability of effective demand, without which the “economic bicycle” simply stops and falls.
The “New Deal” of U.S. President Franklin Roosevelt was founded on the ideas of Keynes, which helped pull the American economy out of the strongest in the history depression. Moreover, Keynesianism, having become the basis of the economic policy of all developed countries, ensured a thirty-year period of prosperity that entered economic history as a “new golden age,” and into political life as a “welfare state.”
But in the seventies, the pendulum swung back, and the dominant position was occupied by the doctrine of monetarism — the liberal theory, again requiring non-interference of the state in the economy, ensuring the lack of deficit of the budget and subordination to the “invisible hand” of the market.
We took this excursion into economic history in order to emphasize that the time is approaching when the pendulum must again swing in the direction of Keynesianism, with its emphasis on solvent demand and concern for the growth of incomes of ordinary citizens. Many economists, by the way, have been reiterating the inevitability of such a change of trend from the beginning of the crisis of 2007. So far, however, no one has been able to understand what will cause the revolutionary changes. Now the answer is clear — it’s the distribution of cryptocurrency.
And now, to the most interesting. Each change of dominant economic theory is associated with a specific person. The classical theories are those of Adam Smith, Keynesianism is Keynes, monetarism by Milton Friedman. Apparently, the new economic cycle will be connected with the name of Satoshi Nakamoto, the inventor of Bitcoin. Note that Keynes did not live up to the Nobel prize, but two of his followers John Hicks (in 1972) and Paul Samuelson (1970) received this highest scientific award. Milton Friedman was awarded the Nobel prize in 1976. Will Satoshi Nakamoto receive the Nobel prize?
There is no doubt that the inventor of blockchain and cryptocurrency is quite worthy of such a reward. The problem is that it is not known who is hiding under the pseudonym of Satoshi Nakamoto. Moreover, since 2012, he practically did not surface. With one exception.
In 2015, a professor at the University of California, Bhagwan Chaudhry, nominated Satoshi Nakamoto for a Nobel prize in economics, noting that the invention of Bitcoin will change not only our perception of money but also the role of central banks in monetary policy. “Expensive money transfer services, such as, for example, Western Union, will disappear into oblivion, commissions from 2 to 4% for intermediaries in transactions such as Visa, MasterCard, and PayPal will be liquidated. Long and expensive notarial and escrow services will become the property of history, the whole landscape of legal contracts will completely change,” Chaudhry asserted.
The Swedish Royal Academy of Sciences then rejected this initiative, saying that it will not consider Nakamoto’s candidacy until he reveals his identity. But what is more interesting is that shortly afterward, the editors of Cointelegraph received an email, signed by Satoshi Nakamoto. The author stated that the receipt of the Nobel prize for inventing Bitcoin and blockchain is not his goal and among other things he mentioned that Ted Nelson had already offered to nominate Nakamoto for this award, but was refused.
Ted Nelson is a person well known in the computer world. It was he who came up with the basic principles of hypertext and even the term “hypertext” itself. Nelson for a long time was developing his own hypertext system Xanadu, which, however, could not compete with HTML. Most notably, he lived for many years in Japan, where he worked in a private research laboratory and taught at the Japanese University of Keio. Given that Satoshi Nakamoto, most likely, is Japanese, it is logical to assume that he was one of the students or colleagues of Ted Nelson. Moreover, they are very similar in character as Nelson is a typical “rebel from the seventies” and a fighter against the system, constantly criticizing large corporations, and Nakamoto is a fighter against the dominance of banks.
Nelson runs his channel on YouTube, and to test his guesses, we wrote to him in the comments and asked to talk about getting to know Satoshi Nakamoto. In response, we received a video published in May 2013, long before the world Bitcoin boom began.
This video is perfect for two reasons. First of all, Ted Nelson himself is great, who, by the way, turned 80 last year. And secondly, in it, Nelson names the inventor of Bitcoin (approximately at 8:10). This is the Japanese mathematician Shinichi Mochizuki.
The name of Mochizuki had thundered all over the world when in August 2012, he published a series of four works in which he proved the famous “ABC hypothesis,” one of the most important statements in number theory. The total volume of those publications exceeded 500 pages, and for several years the mathematicians of the whole world have tried to understand the motivations of Mochizuki without much success. In the summer of 2016, four years after the announcement of his discovery, “the Japanese Perelman,” as Mochizuki is called, agreed to read a lecture to colleagues explaining their calculations. After that, they recognized that the Japanese works contain “revolutionary new ideas” and are an unprecedented breakthrough in the number theory.
If Satoshi Nakamoto is really Mochizuki, then it is understandable why he stopped communicating with the crypto community in 2012 as he had more interesting problems to solve. It is also clear through his indifference to the Nobel prize, as he, like Grigori Perelman, who refused the European Mathematical Society Prize and the Fields Medal, is not worried about world fame and recognition. And the inventor of the cryptocurrency should not be experiencing any financial difficulties, as, according to the estimates of analysts, his wallet should contain more than a million Bitcoins.