Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Bitcoin? BlockChain? Hyperledger? Hashgraph?

I have noted here previously that trying to cover all the moving parts in terms of things that might impact the global monetary system has become much more complicated than I ever imagined when I started this blog. This post is going to be part tongue in cheek (for some comic relief) and part serious in trying to be educational. 

By now a majority of people you know have probably at least heard of Bitcoin because the the enormous move up in its price per coin in 2017. That has vaulted Bitcoin (and to a lesser extent blockchain ledger technology) into more mainstream media reports so that now both mainstream and alternative media cover it a lot.

But most people don't have much depth of understanding because the technologies behind all this are somewhat complex and require a lot of determined effort to learn in very much detail. One economist I hear from now and then whose views I value greatly sent me this video which I will use for the humorous part of this discussion. I suspect a lot of people can relate to it.

But seriously, all these terms can get confusing very quickly. First we have Bitcoin which is separate from the blockchain technology it runs on. But wait, all blockchain is not alike either. So, we have to figure how the different kinds of blockchain work. But wait, now we are being told in the very latest "next big thing" conversation that blockchain (all versions of it) are already obsolete because we have now have Hashgraph that will take care of everything that Bitcoin and blockchain cannot.

Let's take a breath. Is there some place where we can learn about Bitcoin, Blockchain, and Hashgraph basics that is at least possible to understand? Perhaps. Mike Maloney recently released this video on YouTube that tries to do that. It does have some good animations that can be helpful to try and understand these complex technologies.

In this video, Mike walks you through his 3 year long quest to try and understand all this. How he first thought Bitcoin/Blockchain would change the world, but then later learned of some problems they faced. Now he believes that Hashgraph might be what changes the world and explains why in the last half of this video presentation. He points out in this video that things are changing so quickly the Hashgraph technology emerged while he was in the process of making the video.

So where is all this going? I don't know and I believe we are at a point in time where no one knows where all this is going. I would encourage readers to learn as much as possible because I don't think anyone knows for sure where all this is going. 

When you dig into all this in any bit of detail and follow a variety of media sources that cover this, it becomes clear that the world is in a state of flux at this time. This new Fintech has disrupted existing paradigms and started the world on a discussion of new ideas. But there is no indication I can find that any kind of global consensus that would lead to any one new currency or technology emerging as dominant over the system we have now. I base that conclusion on the hundreds of news articles and discussions like the one in this video I try to follow and from input from people I trust as experts on these issues from around the world. One leading expert in global payment systems recently told me, "I don't think the monetary system is going to change a lot."

My conclusion at this time is that no one knows for sure how all this will turn out

First, we have to see if we get some kind of major new crisis that destabilizes the current monetary system. Without that, I believe any changes we get will be slow and incremental. If we do get a crisis, who knows who most people will believe or trust if the current system they have relied on doesn't work any more and they suffer significant personal financial loss in the process? It is clear that millions of people are already looking into a variety of alternatives (precious metals, Bitcoin, other cryptos, blockchain, hashgraph, etc).

Who they trust will be more important than what technology may or may not emerge or what kind of currency is proposed. That is the one thing I feel I have learned working on all this. The most critical thing a currency and monetary system must have is the trust of the end users. I have no idea who people are going to trust in the future, especially if a huge crisis does unfold. I suspect that whoever gets blamed for that crisis will not have much trust with the public and I don't know who they might blame for such a thing. 

Honestly, I just hope we don't have to find out. Right now, I don't think anything is really ready to step in quickly to replace our current monetary system on a global scale. Chaos seems more probable as different alternatives compete for public trust. Then again, perhaps the reality is that "the monetary system isn't going to change a lot".

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