🎤 Interviews Igor Grigorenko

Crypto Trading Legend MasterLuc: “You Can Visit Cemetery of Dead Alts, Won’t Find Bitcoin There”

🎤 Interviews
The legendary trader MasterLuc is known in crypto community for his precise predictions. Here’s his exclusive interview
Crypto Trading Legend MasterLuc: “You Can Visit Cemetery of Dead Alts, Won’t Find Bitcoin There”

Bitcoin is experiencing tough times as it has suffered a severe correction of over 70 percent from the point of its peak value. Now is the time to worry about its future, so we decided it’s about time to turn to the anonymous trader MasterLuc, whose fantastic prediction skills made him a legend on Bitcointalk.

What made MasterLuc famous was his 2016 prediction of Bitcoin price all-time high at 20k, which was done at a time when no one could even imagine such figures.

MasterLuc shared with us his vision of the future of the crypto market, he explains why Bitcoin is strongly undervalued, and why most altcoins are going to die.

The interview was organized with the help of the blockchain scoring platform Prosphero.io.

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CryptoComes: Right now, we see a profound correction of the Bitcoin price. Are you going to give up on your famous prediction of Bitcoin continuing its significant rise in price?

ML: Are you interested in the technical answer to your question, or the emotional answer? From a technical point, everything is alright up until the 2,990 mark, any lower than that and you can start feeling strained. From an emotional side, the answer is no; bubbles don’t burst like that.

Enough of those bear traps need to pass so that the bulls сan principally lose their fear of a bitcoin dump.  

When the vast majority of bulls stop straining over a dump of Bitcoins, then you can expect trouble. However, at the time being people continue to be tense. This is merely a correction.

On the other hand, I expect a new strong bullish trend in Bitcoin not earlier than 2019.

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CC: How do you comment on the skeptics who are predicting the next death of Bitcoin… will it really survive under the pressure of these newer alts that are equipped with the latest modern technology “on steroids”?

ML: You can visit the cemetery of dead alts here.

But you won’t find Bitcoin there. Instead, there are hundreds of alts, and they will all eventually get there. Partly because no one yet has brought a revolutionary technology that resembles the scale of Bitcoin to the table. If we were to compare Bitcoin to the invention of the internal combustion engine (ICE) and cars, then yes, you could say that alts are attempting to improve something.

Like the car industry, they’re repainting the red to green, removing a piece from the edge, building up the wing of this new car, adding a liter to the tank, cramming in extra bells and whistles. But the ICE remains the only revolutionary invention that gave civilization a breakthrough.

And still, with so many alts, the next revolutionary step is for Bitcoin. I’m talking about Lightning Network. So why do we need these alts? I have many friends in the CryptoParty, and no matter whom I ask “why are you mining alts?”, the answer is always: “To sell them for Bitcoins.”

Alright, we’re pretty clear about altcoins, let’s say that they are an unnecessary part of the evolution of Bitcoin…

ML: … Hold on, I’m not saying that altcoins are unnecessary. It’s just that most alts are created and used for one goal—to get more Bitcoins.

There is also a quite functional form of alts, for example, Litecoin. It appeared at a time when people were tweaking some constant in Bitcoin’s source code to quickly release a new alt. Litecoin did precisely that, but it also changed the basic hashing algorithm from SHA2 to the experimental algorithm Scrypt.

In theory, Litecoin would have died just as the others had. But what makes it special? People are actively testing new features on it and then merging them into Bitcoin. The most significant achievement for Litecoin was its implementation of SegWit. Yes, this was a huge benefit, but again for Bitcoin.

Let’s face the truth, Litecoin is experimental, it’s like someone who voluntarily takes powerful medication for research purposes. After the testing and debugging are conducted on the experimental subject, it is added to Bitcoin. We are indeed in need of those types of altcoins.

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Alright, we’re going down the list– why do you have such revulsion toward Ether?

ML: The founder of Ether did something unacceptable—he has censored the network. He also does not hide his central role in the project, calling himself the “kind dictator.”

Understand that the revolution of Bitcoin consists of Blockchain technology, which helped eliminate the need for an intermediary institution, such as a bank, between Alice and Bob during exchanges of money. Blockchain is needed to exclude a central “dictator” who maintains the exclusive right to inspect coins, and who merely is granted this right because he is in the middle of every exchange.

The founder of Ether became that central entity. Ethereum is centralized, and it has one point of failure—the founder, who forks its chain left and right. Why? He just does what he wants, let’s not even discuss the motives of this nonsense. I don’t know why he uses Blockchain technology in this case since the technology was created to counter entities like himself.

Ether is centralized just like EOS. Both compete against other digital currencies like PayPal. However, the latter does not hide behind the mask of Blockchain. All of them love to block other accounts (even with the price of a hardfork), but this isn’t about Blockchain at all.

Again, the idea of Blockchain is simple: Blockchain is essential in places where no center or regulation is needed. If there is a center of any kind- like some office, leader, or something else that you can just close or fire- then there is no need for Blockchain. Ether and EOS (and some others) have a center, Blockchain, and even a project CEO. All of this put together is a project of insanity.

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You also don’t take ICO seriously, could you explain why?

ML: Oh, this is just a dot-com. This is how Wall Street entertained themselves in 1999. They would create imitations of online stores, issue shares of stock, sell out for millions, then repeat the cycle. Only a few companies survived during the dot-com hysteria, and they have since become the current giants such as Google, eBay, Amazon, etc. The remaining 95 percent of projects were washed away by the wave following the collapse of this pyramid. History is repeating itself with ICO.

Alright, let’s return to Bitcoin proper. Many believe that it is an outdated technology, at least regarding its ability to scale.

ML: Those people are merely undervaluing what will someday become of Bitcoin. They don’t understand its essence. Concerning its ability to scale, there is a short answer—Lightning Network. Just find out how much this solution outweighs all of those pathetic attempts to only-increase-the-block.

Let’s take a closer look at the problem of scaling and the importance of Lightning since it is the real future of Bitcoin.

ML: There are two different points of view on the solution of the potential problem of scaling the network.

  1. Quantitative. You need to slowly increase the maximum size of the block, or make it adaptively float. But for this, you need a hardfork—a strict division of the network.
  2. Qualitative. You can go to a new level of developing the network where there will be no room for this problem. Similarly, there will be no place for several other issues.

The second option is Lightning Network. This is the next level of development akin to the OSI model. Here’s an analogy that is understandable to sysadmins: Bitcoin is the first physical layer (a cable), and Lightning is the data link layer (ethernet protocol). There are higher levels—network, transport, and application. They have not yet been developed, but that is the logic of the development.

Just so you know, in that same Ethernet, there are outrageous limitations on the size of the datagram– 1,500 bytes (with much difficulty, you can achieve 9,000).

In other words, within all our networks today, on any path from any website to you– there is a 1,500-byte limitation on the size of the transmission through the data link layer of OSI. Don’t believe it? Google the size of MTU. It’s true. How is it then possible that you can watch multi-megabyte videos on servers like YouTube?

It’s very simple. The limitation exists on the second layer of OSI, but when you like a video, that exists on the seventh layer. On the third layer, the limitation has already been handled quite elegantly. On the fourth layer, nobody even knows that it is there anymore.

On to the point of this… those who offer to change the size of the block are offering a quantitative solution, which could potentially lead to another similar obstruction in the future, and then someone will want another block that is even bigger in size. In option one we are merely pushing the problem into the future, not fundamentally solving it in any way. For example, this is the approach of BCash. They offer growth in one dimension, but they reject a complex multidimensional development of the network, as seen in the OSI model.

Therefore, while lamenting about “problems of scaling Bitcoin”, think about the MTU data link layer of 1,500 bytes. It exists in any network. It is terribly little for our times. This limitation was put in place 40 years ago, and to this day nobody wants to hardfork the Internet to change the limit. Everything works excellent because a complex adaptive network model was created. Lightning Network is exactly the next big step in the right direction.

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Finally, I would like to discuss your critique of PoS, the consensus algorithm that many believe is the future of crypt, outweighing PoW. What’s wrong with PoS?

ML: First, let’s answer the initial question of why PoW was invented (HashCash originally). And why has Satoshi implemented this into Bitcoin?

HashCash was invented for the fight against spam. When sending a message, the sender would have to include his hash in the header. In no way did this complicate the lives of regular users because they needed to calculate only one hash. It did, however, seriously complicate the lives of spammers, who needed a new unique hash for each message, and they sent millions of those messages.

In other words, this technology, which opposes the centralization and virtualization of resources, opposes one person doing the work that should be performed by many people under normal circumstances. For example, sending messages, or verifying transactions and so on. This technology, unfortunately, does not entirely prevent the adverse effects, but it does impede the occurrence of these problems rather well.

Now about PoS. Even a cursory glance at this technology reveals its significant drawbacks in the fight against centralization. The higher your initial balance, the higher your chances are at sealing a block and getting more money in return.

To understand the absurdity of this idea, imagine an analogous situation where a PoW-miner has extra video cards and ASICs materialize on their own out of thin air while working on a network. They configure themselves on the fly, connect to the server, and begin working. That is precisely what happens to those with quite a wealthy wallet under the PoS framework.

Besides that, I believe PoS is wild centralization and deflation in one bottle. If the concentration of a fixed amount of money generates new money on its own, then PoS-systems, if they ever become popular, will spawn an especially exaggerated breed of hodlers. PoS will maintain a strong deflationary motive by just sitting on bags of money. But how will a real economy work in such a system? After all, it is paralyzed by the lack of moving money. PoS is a system that generates a passive revenue from fixed money, in other words, money that is taken out of circulation.

Finally, separate from the centralization and virtualization of resources is PoW.

It is real work that creates a decent load on the system. You will not be able to properly mine Bitcoin and Litecoin from one computer, this idea is initially meaningless (it is intended to be that way).

On the other hand, with PoS you can unleash an entire zoo of different PoS-systems, making a profit from all of them immediately and simultaneously. Drawing a parallel, you can participate in 10 or 100 networks at the same time. Now return to the initial example about spam and the story of why PoW came to be for Bitcoin to understand why the situation of PoS is absurd.

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How to Prevent Attackers From Hacking Blockchain Nodes: Professor of Cryptography Opinion

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“It looks like no one really tackles this problem right now- but they should”
How to Prevent Attackers From Hacking Blockchain Nodes: Professor of Cryptography Opinion

Sebastian Gajek is Professor of Cryptography and Information Security and founder of Weeve, a startup in the Berlin ecosystem that brings IoT and Blockchain together. We talk with Mr. Gajek about cybersecurity and vulnerabilities in crypto industry and community.

Cyril Gilson: What can be done to prevent from happening someone hacking nodes in Blockchain, the problem similar to what happened with EOS?

Sebastian Gajek: The recent attack against EOS is about using vulnerabilities in their software that allows to hack the nodes. The consequence was that the attackers could extract secret key material and this allows them to fully control the nodes. It is the worst thing that can happen to any consensus protocol.

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We have developed a very special operation system called the WeeveOS. It is an open-source project available on our GitHub. The operating system leverages cutting-edge security and privacy technologies. So, for example, we use a technique in order to isolate the secret keys from the rest of the operating system. This means in the case of EOS if WeeveOS operating system had been in place when the attacker compromised the nodes, they had got control over the nodes but were unable to extract the secret keys.  

This way you have more security and more trust in the network. We are going to release our operating system officially at Ethereum Dev Conference. A pre-release of the WeeveOS is already available through our GitHub.

We believe a lot of Blockchain technologies like EOS, like Ethereum, like HyperLedger really need to secure the nodes. It looks like no one really tackles this problem right now. This is bad because consensus protocols only work when one can trust the nodes. But for this you really need some super strong security technologies, otherwise, you will not get the trust by the quorum.

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Other vulnerabilities

CG: What other vulnerabilities do you see lately?

Sebastian Gajek: It’s like the general problem with cybercrimes: nodes are just some kind of programs, programs are written by humans and humans make mistakes. It’s natural right? Otherwise, humans would be machines.

Making mistakes is part of our genes. It looks that programming, for example, smart contracts, is like a new art.

People are now trying to understand what it really takes in order to program a proper smart contract. This is one main source where I see a lot of attacks and where devs really have to do better due diligence, take more care and verify whether the smart contract makes sense.

For example, ICOs might have fragile smart contract tokens and could be subject to those attacks.

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False smart contracts

CG: Could you give some examples of this?

Sebastian Gajek: The number one running example is the DAO. That was the greatest example, showcasing what happens if you design the smart contract in a false way. The result was clear, a lot of coins have been shifted differently than expected.

This is a canonical example showcasing you have to put a lot of care in designing smart contracts, and the same holds now for designing the programs that implement nodes. The attack I described against EOS is based on a similar problem. One where developers develop just design some kind of code and have not been careful enough.

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CG: Is there a way for individual investors in crypto to find out how secure is the system? Some indicators?

The point is the whole Blockchain technology is still  young in comparison to other IT industries. I see now first consulting companies building up exactly a kind of business to figure out whether a smart contract is vulnerable. Similar services have to be applied, for example in order to verify whether the nodes are also free from vulnerabilities.

Again this is ongoing work because people first of all have to learn how to properly program and then other people will build up services on top of that in order to verify whether the programming was correct.

Blockchain will change the Internet. It’s just a matter of time until these consulting companies will figure out there’s a huge cake, so they will hire specialists that do have the right skills, in order to give you a better understanding of what’s good or bad.

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CG: Before deciding whether to take part of ICOs or not, investors check the team, go over some lists, but I don’t think security is even in the top three points to check. What shall they do?

Sebastian Gajek: You are totally right, if I were an investor, I would really go through the points you mentioned, but I would also look who designed the contract. Because in the end, it’s all about reputation.

You really need to choose a smart contract design team that has a lot of credibility. That was one of the reasons why we have chosen to work together with ConsenSys because they have the leading experts in Ethereum development.

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NEM Puts Coincheck Behind, Looks Forward to Industry-Changing Catapult Tech: Jeff McDonald

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In his exclusive interview, Jeff McDonald explains how NEM is going to get ahead of Ethereum
NEM Puts Coincheck Behind, Looks Forward to Industry-Changing Catapult Tech: Jeff McDonald

 

CryptoComes talks to NEM’s Jeff McDonald about his leaving the foundation, the Coincheck aftermath, the NEM’s future plans and why Ethereum will flip Bitcoin as premier Blockchain.

Katya Michaels: The news is that you are leaving NEM foundation as Vice President - is this true? What motivated this decision and what are your plans now?

Jeff McDonald: I've been working with NEM for four years. I started in February of 2014 and it's been a very awesome ride. I've done a lot of different things- the Apostille protocol, the voting protocol, I helped champion supernodes. I feel like I've been very successful and at the same time, I'm spread very thin right now.

I have two companies that I am invested in, Luxtag and KChain, and I want to focus a little bit more on them now. Both are being built on NEM Blockchain and they have been doing really well lately. We've got multiple contracts with really important names in Malaysia. Kchain in South Korea just recently released their first token- not on an ICO. They have great name recognition and connections in South Korea.

Both of these projects really need me right now, I want to help them and I need a little bit of time for that. I'm leaving the Vice Presidency, but I'm not leaving NEM at all. I continue to be very active speaking for NEM - here at CryptoBlockCon LA, in San Francisco tomorrow, next week in Philippines, at Consensus 2018 in May.

Everything's good with the foundation. I'm really proud of NEM China and the team they built, I'm really proud of NEM Philippines, really proud of NEM Malaysia. All of these have really good teams behind them.

As the new leadership comes in, our hope is that they're going to scale out more countries. NEM US for instance, build up NEM Europe more, NEM Russia. I really want to see all these regional countries grow and be a big part of NEM.

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Coincheck hack aftermath

KM: I have to ask about Coincheck- what is the update on reimbursing victims and finding the perpetrators? Why has NEM foundation stopped tracking the stolen funds?

JM: The police are doing their investigation. We consider that a secular matter, to let the police do what they're doing. As far as tracking the accounts that had stolen funds, we've left a lot of evidence on chain for the police to do a chain analysis and catch the perpetrators.

As far as I know, Coincheck has allowed most everyone, if not everyone, to claim back their funds, which is a really good thing. They've held up their end of the bargain, I think and I'm very happy that they did that. I feel that it was a very sad incident.

We're just moving forward now- Coincheck is mostly in our past and we are looking forward to Catapult now, which is a huge deal.

Regulations: Japan vs. US

KM: Can you talk about regulators in Japan and describe your experience?

JM: Japan is actually a great example of regulation. They have been really bold in going out and making regulatory decisions. I think that overall that is great for the cryptocurrency industry. Other countries don't really know what to think about it, but because Japan is being so clear with its community, it opens the door for big business.

I mean if you look at cryptocurrency, why hasn't Apple made its coin? Why hasn't Google made a coin? Recently in Korea, Kakao, which has near a hundred percent market saturation, mentioned that they're getting into Blockchain. A lot of really big companies want to get into Blockchain, but for one thing, Blockchain technology is not quite good enough to handle the scalability at the levels that these big companies work.

Even if the Blockchain was good enough, though, the regulatory issues are not clear.

Japan has been awesome to say what is legal, what is not legal, and now the doors are open for big businesses in Japan to come in and really roll up Blockchain so that millions of people can be using it for something other than speculation.

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KM: How soon do you think the US will catch up to that kind of regulatory clarity?

JM: It'll still take a couple of years. The good news is that the conversation is happening and the US hasn't just said “It’s illegal!” The US has been very careful and very slow. Of course, I would want more clear and faster regulation, but I'm very satisfied with the happy medium in America right now.

I think that a lot of people won't like that I say this, but I think the SEC is doing a good job. They're going after scammers, and pumpers and dumpers. If you're an honest person and you're making a good project, following best practices, building something on the blockchain for real use - voting, or database security, or tickets- the SEC is totally fine with you.

Let's be realistic. There's only so much you can ask, for a government the size of America to move quickly with all these different agencies. They're all saying something a little bit different, but sooner or later they'll all get on board and become clear. I think that will happen in the next two or three years.

KM: Do you think ICOs will be greatly affected by regulatory activity in 2018 as compared to last year?

JM: ICOs are here to stay at least for another couple of years. ICOs in America might get cut back, but there will be a country somewhere - whether it's Japan or Belarus or Ukraine or Isle of Man- that will fully welcome Blockchain and ICOs and give clear and light regulation. Then, there will be another big boom of ICOs. The cat's out of the bag, the door is open, there is no stopping. There's too much money, it's too easy.

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Japanese investors

KM: What are your impressions of the Japanese investor community?

JM: The Japanese are great because they're actually really interested in the philosophy of the technology. It's really interesting, seeing the different countries and what people focus or don’t focus on.

One of the reasons why NEM is so big in Japan is because the Japanese have taken the time to actually read, study and understand the vision before they invested.

We have these die-hard Japanese fans that are just amazing. We have our own bar in Japan, with a special drink named after the Apostille protocol!

Dethroning Ethereum

KM: A lot of people believe that NEM can dethrone Ethereum as the premiere smart contracts platform. What do you think about that? What are the obstacles to that happening, if any?

JM: I think that our technology has been fundamentally designed as more stable and secure. Literally every day, there are projects leaving Ethereum and coming to NEM. We've lost one project from NEM to Ethereum, and that was for financial reasons. I think that the data on the ground is showing that people who are building applications prefer NEM over Ethereum. Now we need to build on that momentum and scale it out.

If the growth patterns of Bitcoin, Ethereum and NEM continue with the same trajectory, what will happen is Ethereum will flip Bitcoin as the premier Blockchain. That's going to happen later this year, maybe next year, but it’s really just a matter of time.

Ethereum is better than Bitcoin basically in every way you can imagine. It's faster, it has more utility, it’s just better. NEM turns out to be not in every way, but in a lot of important ways better than Ethereum. Sooner or later, people that are building will get this.

Ethereum's always had better marketing - they started off with marketing and then went to development. We started off with development, built a real product and then went to market. So we're still relatively unknown, but there's some technology coming out with Catapult that, for a lot of projects, will make NEM the only option.

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Catapult

KM: Is Catapult coming out soon?

JM: It will be open source next month. We've solved so many problems. For example, private key management, specifically losing your private key, which is a huge issue in Blockchain. We have a great contract coming up with Catapult. Whenever people are setting up an account, they can initiate this contract as an insurance mechanism to solve that.

Also, we have solved the gas problem. Let’s say CryptoComes makes a coin on Ethereum and you send it to all your readers. They say “thanks for the CryptoComes token,” and then they want to spend it, but they don't have any Ether for gas. Now, they have to sign up on an exchange, register and get an ID, send the money and then transfer Ether to the CryptoComes wallet. Only then, they can use CryptoComes to buy some advertising or send to their friends or whatever.

In NEM, we have this new transaction type which is going to allow CryptoComes to sponsor the gas fees. This is a really beautiful transaction because it allows regular users to get the CryptoComes token airdropped into a downloaded wallet, send it to their friends, start sharing it and creating an economy - even if they don’t know anything about Blockchain or Ether.

With Catapult, somebody can make their own app, their own wallet, and have their users or their business using that token without ever having to join an exchange. It’s seamless, frictionless, integrated into the system.

So there's a lot of great technology that's coming with Catapult that's just going to make NEM the only option.

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Crypto Prices Can Be Predicted, Says Science

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Research shows that Reddit can predict crypto rates
Crypto Prices Can Be Predicted, Says Science

UCL stands for University College London, a highly regarded institution with a long history of academic excellence. Located in the UK’s capital, this university is considered to be one of the finest research facilities in the world; among its alumni are such household names as Mahatma Gandhi (Indian politician), Alexander Bell (inventor of the telephone), and Francis Crick (one of the discoverers of the DNA).

Last week, we published an article about social media and its effect on crypto prices, in which we briefly examined a scientific study titled “Cryptocurrency price drivers: Wavelet coherence analysis revisited” which had recently came out of UCL. Today, we welcome Ross Phillips, one of the authors of that study, for an exclusive interview.

Behind the study

UCL

U.Today: Both yourself and your colleague Denise Gorse work for Financial Computing and Analytics Group at University College London in England. Can you please tell our readers what sort of work you do there?

Ross: While my paper with Denise has focused specifically on cryptocurrency price prediction, UCL’s Financial Computing & Analytics Group has much broader research interests, including prediction and risk modelling in a range of financial markets. Some of the work of the group, including my own work, actually overlaps significantly with the interests of the UCL Centre for Blockchain Technologies (CBT). The CBT is an interdisciplinary research group which brings together researchers from eight separate UCL departments, whose work falls into three categories: science and technology, economics and finance, and regulation and law.

More specifically, the work that Denise and I do, which includes the paper you covered, has focused on investigating whether online indicators, especially those relating to social media activity, can be predictive of cryptocurrency price movements.

We have explored this hypothesis through a number of separate but related experiments, including:

  1. analysis of correlations between indicators, such as relevant posts/new authors on Reddit, and prices over different time durations;
  2. repurposing a model originally designed for another field and applying it to relevant social media data to track the formation of bubbles; 
  3. deciphering relationships between the occurrence of particular discussion topics and price movements.

Predictions

Graph

U.Today: What the scientific consensus was, pertaining to crypto rate predictions, prior to the study? What did you expect to prove or disprove?

Ross: Many previous academic studies had shown that online indicators, including social media activity, do exhibit relationships with cryptocurrency prices. However, these occasionally differed on their findings, depending usually on the particular data period analysed. We noticed an interesting study using a technique called wavelet coherence which demonstrated well that certain relationships (roughly, correlations) aren’t always uniform over time–they are, in fact, changing.

We set out to revisit the use of wavelet coherence and extend that study. We wanted to validate that relationships were still present and temporally dependent, i.e coming and going over time, when looking at a larger dataset (multiple cryptocurrencies, indicators, and a larger time period). Also, we wanted to check that relationships involving the new indicators were leading, as opposed to having changes in social media lag the price.

This laid the foundations for the main aim of our paper which was to provide an understanding as to why certain social media and crypto rate relationships were appearing when they were.   

U.Today: Can you please outline your study’s fundamental conclusions in layman’s terms to those who may not be familiar with statistical analysis? What are the possible ramifications of your findings for people involved in the crypto world?

Ross: The main finding was that medium term relationships (8 to 32 days) strengthen between the online indicators considered (Google trends, Reddit data, etc.) and cryptocurrency prices during bubble-like financial regimes. As well as explaining why relationships have been observed at certain past times, this observation also suggests these online indicators could potentially be used in a predictive model for bubbles, which are of obvious interest to those looking to understand and track their changes.

A secondary finding was that sudden spikes in online indicator values have different relationships with the price at different times: sometimes there is a positive relationship (when both the indicator and the price are increasing) and sometimes a negative relationship. An example of that latter would be a hack of a system occurring causing prices to fall but related online activity to rise.

This secondary finding could be useful for those analyzing, trading, and potentially training models based on daily fluctuations of online indicator data: don’t just trade on the spikes, use them to identify the causal event.

Platforms and cryptocurrency

Reddit

U.Today: How and why is Reddit different from other social media platforms as far as crypto rate predictions go? Does it really hold more promise than, say, Twitter for those who trade cryptocurrencies and monitor their prices?

Ross: That’s a great question.  I think every social media platform has its own advantages and disadvantages, especially when for data mining. The following are some of the reasons why we chose Reddit–and why it’s promising–for data mining:

First, one interesting aspect of Reddit is its topic based structure. Different topics have their own ‘subreddit’ (area). This results in distinct but possibly overlapping communities. This division into subreddits indicates user interests clearly and enables potential research on community characteristics, not readily available on other platforms.

Second, Twitter has been reported to have an issue with spam submissions. Whereas humans may be able to determine whether messages are spam, naive algorithms may be misled. Reddit currently has less spam for a couple of reasons: that subreddits are usually actively moderated, and that each submission can be upvoted and downvoted, affecting its visibility. Spam submissions get downvoted and low visibility discourages further spam.

Third, an important consideration for all research is how reproducible the research is. That’s another reason we chose to analyse Reddit data, as complete historical and real-time data can be accessed there for free.

This easy accessibility of information on Reddit could also help those wishing to analyse social media data for their own cryptocurrency trading.

U.Today: Generally speaking, as a computer scientist, do you think cryptocurrency is here to stay and its grasp on the world is only to tighten, or is it merely a financial fad? If you believe the former, what new developments may soon come about?

Ross: I feel that both cryptocurrencies and blockchain technology are definitely here to stay. While prices and trading volumes may have peaked as part of a speculative bubble last December and January, much of that speculation was separate from actual technology progress. Aside from prices and online indicators, there are other important indicators for tracking the health of the ecosystem. For example, developer interest and attendance at developer/technology focused conferences hasn’t stopped increasing, and that is a good indicator that the technology will keep progressing.  

Although I feel the ecosystem is here to stay, I do feel that certain cryptocurrency projects may not be. There are now thousands of cryptocurrencies, and I feel that some projects may not necessarily need their own cryptocurrency, or even blockchain-related solution.  

The current bear market is not only a good opportunity for projects to focus on building their products, but I think the market conditions, all bubble-related euphoria aside, can also allow people to take a step back and work out what is truly needed.

Looking into the future

Crypto

U.Today: Are there any more studies in the pipeline at UCL that may give us more answers? In fact, what is the next big crypto question in the financial science?

Ross: There are so many projects going on right now, especially via the CBT, so it’s hard to keep track of all of them. One of the projects I’m excited to see the results of is UCL’s multiyear partnership with Ripple. In terms of the next big crypto question, I feel any research enabling increased user adoption is especially important, for example exploring the causes of cryptocurrency volatility and ensuring greater stability. Some adopters may be wary of using cryptocurrencies due to the reasonably high current volatility, and national governments would need to find a way to ensure stability before considering central bank involvement with cryptocurrencies.

Thus, I would view research into stablecoins, and research in the wider area of cryptoeconomics, as one of the most important areas of ongoing fintech research.

U.Today: Finally, while all scientists agree that making predictions is very hard indeed, and this endeavor can often backfire, based on the data you’ve got on your hands right now, what possible price fluctuations do you foresee over the next couple of months as this crypto year is about to come to a close?

Ross: You’re right, it’s a hard endeavor to make accurate far-reaching price predictions, and it’s a minefield to answer. What I can say is that cryptocurrency market dynamics have been seen to change frequently. A number of regimes have occurred over a short period of time this year, including bubble, bull market, and bear market states. Identifying trends within the ecosystem and understanding their implications can help predict these regimes, which is the key to foreseeing longer term price changes.

For instance, maybe the boom of the ICO market in 2017 caused the larger cryptocurrencies to more strongly exhibit one of the properties of a currency, i.e. they became a ‘medium of exchange’ allowing access to ICOs. This, with several other causes, contributed to the rising price of Bitcoin and Ethereum.

For me, actual user adoption of the cryptocurrency ecosystem, or even individual projects, is one of the most important longer term impactors from now on.

It’s not just important for those looking to speculate, but also important for the success of the ecosystem. Admittedly, widespread user adoption may not happen over the next few months, but hopefully over the next few years.

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Crypto Commerce and Its Future: Interview with Uphold’s CEO, J.P. Thieriot

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With the world of Blockchain ever evolving and changing pace, a top level executive lays out his vision for what the future has in store for the crypto market
Crypto Commerce and Its Future: Interview with Uphold’s CEO, J.P. Thieriot

J.P. Thieriot is the CEO of Uphold, a cryptocurrency platform offering a multitude of services, which was launched in 2015. A graduate of Yale University, before going crypto, J.P. Thieriot managed a number of companies in the tech sector, as well as real-estate and agriculture, including Estancia Beef, one of the largest grass-fed beef companies in the United States. Today he agreed to sit down with us to discuss where the crypto business is at, as we’re approaching the New Year.

Why Crypto?

U.Today: Mr Thieriot, tell us a bit about yourself please. You have a substantial amount of experience in many business sectors. How did you find yourself doing what you do today?

J.P. Thieriot: My first exposure to Bitcoin came as a result of having investors’ funds trapped in Argentina in 2013. Despite statements from PWC stating that a given LP’s account was worth $X, attempting to take the money out of the country meant the LP would receive $.5X. It was a perfect example of how a third world country can use monetary games in pursuit of short-term gains, while ultimately thwarting real value creation and holding a populace hostage to incompetence. We tried every conceivable (US legal) way of getting the funds out. That’s when I came across Bitcoin. Unfortunately, we didn’t take the plunge. Seemed too precarious. BTC was at around $15 at the time!

U.Today: Tell us about the company you are currently heading. What services does it offer exactly?

J.P. Thieriot: Uphold is a global digital money platform. We have about 1m users. In some respects, this side of our business could be compared with Coinbase, i.e. not exactly an ‘exchange’, with direct links to legacy money networks like US and EU banking through rails like ACH and SEPA. Where we’re very differentiated is in having a big lead over everyone in the context of our open APIs for third party digital money applications. We do not just ‘list’ tokens like an exchange, we are deeply integrated into some of the ecosystems of the companies behind the tokens, like Brave-BAT, DASH and Cred-LBA. 2019 will be the year that some amazing utility tokens emerge from the rubble of hundreds of silly ICOs. I’d like to think Uphold will be an integral part of those likely to be the most successful.

U.Today: Uphold recently received close to 60 million USD from Greg Kidd, a former Ripple executive. Are you now partners with XRP?

J.P. Thieriot: We have a large XRP community on Uphold. They are passionate and active. We try to make them happy. Certainly, there are a number of possibilities with Ripple down the road.

The DLT Business Today

U.Today: In addition to yours, there are many companies based in San Francisco, among them Kraken, Coinbase, and Blockchain Capital. Has Silicon Valley now conquered the crypto world as well?

J.P. Thieriot: Digital money is an Internet phenomenon. It stands to reason that ‘Internet’ geographies would concentrate Blockchain companies in the early going. Ultimately, I imagine regulatory regimes will skew the array. Hopefully, the US will be able to maintain a light hand and perpetuate its early advantage over other regimes.

U.Today: What do you think it takes to “make it” in the DLT world as an entrepreneur? Is it about the savviness, i.e. the know-how, or simply the right attitude, i.e. being the go-getter type?

J.P. Thieriot:

Perseverance first. Execution second. Blazing insights a distant third. Building the right team is also critical... I have a pretty dim view of humanity :), specifically in that I’d choose to work again with perhaps 10% of the people I’ve worked with.

After four years at Uphold and many purges and reorganizations, we’ve arrived where that number is, for the first time in my work experience, inverted. 90% of the people working at Uphold today are rock stars. Work hours don’t exist; the creativity, initiative, and energy thrown at every problem is unbelievable. It feels more like (an ideal) family than a workplace. We all believe we are doing something important and exciting, and we’re unlikely to come across a similar opportunity in our lifetimes.

U.Today: Are you a believer in decentralization? It seems that this is how the Blockchain got started in the first instance. Yet, according to some, this domain has now become very centralized, from pegging to market dominance by a select few. What are your thoughts?

J.P. Thieriot: ‘Decentralization’ has become the buzzword du jour. Yesterday it was ‘Blockchain’. Obviously, these are novel and important facets of our burgeoning ecosystem, but it’s funny to me how people can get religious and sanctimonious around these banners. The idea here is that an Internet of Money has become possible… ne inevitable.

Decentralized and Blockchain technologies, methods and protocols will likely have a lot to do with the evolution and outcome; however, being theologically absolute, really about anything, strikes me as ridiculous. The Internet is decentralized; Amazon, Google and Apple are not. For this industry to jump the rails into the mainstream, particularly given how money is regulated, is going to require clusterings of human beings doing things like support and marketing for quite some time.

I’m not sure a pure peer-to-peer network, serviced by a distributed automaton is either possible or desirable. In the meantime, the more distributed, less concentrated, more collaborative things become, the better, i.e. less risk, higher output.

U.Today: While some networks openly attack one another, Ethereum and EOS being the prime example, others prefer to unite instead. Uphold is part of Universal Protocol which attempts to do just that. Is it a union created simply in order to increase profits, or is it more than that?

J.P. Thieriot: The UPP is an industry utility, the purpose of which is to mitigate a number of the current restraints on the growth of our ecosystem. We’ve identified those restraints as: 1) the lack of a common language, 2) the lack of conventional user safeguards, and 3) the lack of products built for mass adoption.

The question about Ethereum and EOS goes to the first of the above factors. It does nothing for the benefit of the ecosystem when competing protocols throw mud at each other. It debases outside opinion, puts a grin on the faces of the ossified naysayers—the Dimons and Buffetts of the world—and perpetuates confusion and uncertainty among potential new entrants.

UPP’s purpose is to usher in the next 100 million users of crypto. We can do this by disrupting a hidebound legacy financial system that has been a festering backwater in terms of innovation, soundness, fairness, equal access, and transparency. Bickering amongst ourselves is a destructive waste of time.

Ongoing Crisis and Predictions

U.Today: We simply cannot not ask about the current Bitcoin crisis. Does it complicate business, or can this low tide be treated as an opportunity to dig out whatever gold was left buried in the sand?

J.P. Thieriot: Speculative bubbles always form around the advent of revolutionary technologies. This technology happens to relate directly to money, and it has benefitted from significant Asian participation on the trading front; ergo, the ups and downs are likely to be super-charged.

We’ve been expecting a shakeout. There’ll be a lot less noise in the market. Meanwhile, nothing will deter the inexorable march of the coming Internet of Money.

U.Today: With so much on the market today, what is it that the customers are after exactly?

J.P. Thieriot: Quite simply, quantumly wider and more convenient access to better financial products and services.

U.Today: Can you make any predictions for the future? How is the market going to be different in, say, five or ten years from now?

J.P. Thieriot: 2019 will be the year of “The ICO is dead, long live the STO”. The first real utility tokens will start to show their stuff, foremost Brave’s BAT token. The general market will remain below the $200b mark as the weaker offerings perish and very few strong projects accumulate value. In five years, we will be well into the process of tokenizing/digitizing every single traditional asset class in existence.

In ten years, the use of banknote cash will at least have diminished by 50% from today’s levels… And my guess is―because one way to look at BTC is as a shorting of the monetary system’s status quo―BTC will be above $25k.

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Linda Zeilina of Re-Define on Who is Blockchain’s Worst Enemy

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Linda Zeilina of Re-Define on Who is Blockchain’s Worst Enemy

As governments and financial institutions grapple with the task of regulating digital currencies, they seem to be embracing Blockchain, the underlying digital ledger technology which powers the world’s most profitable cryptocurrency Bitcoin.

UK-based think tank Re-Define’s Linda Zeilina special advisor on sustainability strategies talks about the prevalence of groupthink, the lack of diversity and limitations of Blockchain in an interview with Cyril Gilson, Editor-in-Chief of CryptoComes.

Cyril Gilson: Could you tell me about your think tank and your audience?

Linda Zeilina: I work with Re-Define, an international think tank that helps corporations and governments implement sustainability strategies to become more environmentally friendly. I work with asset managers and government officials to integrate Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) factors into their institutions.

Re-Define operates as an academic and consulting body.  We have visiting fellows and a large team of people who work internationally. Our visiting fellow’s program brings together tech pioneers from France, Silicon Valley and other parts of our world to serve as a brain trust. We challenge people to think outside of the box and invite a diversity of opinion.

In the tech industry, there is a strong tendency to have “groupthink.” Tech entrepreneurs passionately believe in their product this mindset sometimes results in overlooking issues and blind spots.

CG: So would you agree that the biggest enemy of the crypto community is the community itself?

LZ: We are all our own worst enemies to an extent. But I think diversity can bring new perspectives to the industry. Corporations are increasing diversity because they have woken up to the fact that women, minorities, people from different regions have a different way of looking at things. Alternative perspectives can be useful to identify opportunities and risks that one may have missed because of a sharp focus in one’s particular area.

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What is essential

CG: How do we change the dialogue? We hear many negative things about cryptocurrencies and comments that Bitcoin is a bubble. It makes people in the industry very defensive.

LZ: Educating the public is essential. The crypto community has been using a top-heavy approach which may not work as well as bottom-up approaches. When you get people involved, you put pressure on governments. It’s been pressure from bottom up that has influenced governments to address climate change. People suffering from direct implications of climate change are going out there, talking about it and bringing attention to the issue. Similarly, you have to think about digital currency as an advocacy and information campaign.

The issues that fire up

CG: But addressing climate change is a matter of life and death while adopting digital currencies is a question of paying a seven or three percent fee. Do you think it’s an issue that will fire people up?

LZ: People can be mobilized;  it’s how you communicate to the public. If you explain to them that healthcare will be cheaper, taxes won’t be as complicated, and they can be more secure from identity theft; then you can fire people up.  People like convenience, the rise of Amazon has been about making things quick and easy. Who doesn’t like quick and easy?

CG: Debates in cryptocurrency community get quite heated. Do you think the community could improve the way in which they communicate?

LZ: Definitely.  Communication is everything.  In a way, this is how technological advancement has always worked. Something gets invented, and then others improve it, and everyone has an opinion. I think that the community needs to solve its own issues because they are the best equipped to address them.  People remain protective because everyone wants to maintain their competitive edge.

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Role of governance

CG: What about the role of governance in Blockchain technology?

LZ: Everybody hopes that governance will change the status quo, but there are inherent limitations. We have examples of failed projects due to lack of underlying infrastructure, like Honduras.  Without decent governance, accurate record keeping, Blockchain may not work.  In some cases, governments can corrupt the system. The whole 51 percent aspect of the nodes is something no one seems to be talking about, and we have heard very little about the weaknesses of Blockchain.

Weaknesses of Blockchain

CG: So what are the weaknesses of Blockchain?

LZ: Well there are several. It is the 51 percent that can change the Blockchain outcome. If you do have a government that creates a land registry, but it’s an unequal society where not everybody will have the computing power or the ability to participate, Blockchain may not work. Moreover, stakeholders can use the technology to protect their interests.

Another major challenge is the amount of energy consumed by Blockchain. If Bitcoin used nearly 160 countries worth of power last year, that is hardly sustainable under the Paris Agreement, and people are not going to be happy.

CG: That’s their algorithm, and it cannot be changed.

LZ: Exactly! We need to invest more in green energy. The majority of Blockchain businesses will probably fail. But I have a firm belief these limitations can be solved through technological advancements in all areas.

Women’s role

CG: Do you think women are under-represented in this community?

LZ: Absolutely.  I also find it kind of funny because women are associated with the softer issues. Every time you go into a crypto conference people always start talking about the technical aspects.  Everybody knows how the technical aspects work; it’s far more interesting to see how the technology will interact with society and what the potential backlash might be.

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CG: Have gender differences played a role in the advancement of agendas because men are about achievement, advancing their agenda and women care more about society?

LZ: I don’t think that’s the division. The community needs an excellent communicator who can translate the message well to the public. Both men and women can be excellent communicators; it is a matter of who has the charisma to get them thinking.

Learn from the East

CG: Do you expect a greater advancement in the use of Blockchain technologies in developed countries or emerging economies?

LZ:  While much of the brain trust exists in the US and Switzerland, it’s important for institutional investors to know that there are real opportunities in the East.  Cities like Vizag, India, can leapfrog more easily because they don’t have massive institutional entrenchment which makes them more open to technology and the benefits it can bring.


Blockchain if appropriately used can reduce the know your customer issue of investing in startups in the East. A lot of sustainable energy startups are emerging in the East that solve everyday problems using a bottom-up approach. There is a lot to learn from that area and I hope Western startups and tech communities wouldn’t be too arrogant to learn from the East.

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