Tuesday, May 31, 2022

Generally Accepted Accounting Principles

One thing that has been true since the first GPU hit the market is that a better one is close behind. The same has been true since the first mining ASIC hit the market. I first wrote about this in 2018's ASICs and Mining Centralization. Recently, Alex de Vries and Christian Stoll estimated that:
The average time to become unprofitable sums up to less than 1.29 years.
This of course causes Bitcoin's massive e-waste problem. But David Gerard links to a fascinating blog post entitled The problem with bitcoin miners in which Paul Butler describes a more immediate problem it causes. The explanation is below the fold.

Thursday, May 26, 2022

Cryptocurrency Catch-22

A major criticism of Bitcoin is that its blockchain processes only around 230K transactions/day, of which only about 10% are "economically meaningful. That is less than 5 "economically meaningful" transactions between individuals' wallets per minute. 90% are wash trades, and 7.5% transactions between exchanges.

As I described in Fixed Supply, Variable Demand, when the limited supply of Bitcoin and Ethereum transactions meets spikes in demand, the result is huge spikes in fees. This has made cryptocurrency boosters such as Vitalik Buterin unhappy:
Buterin didn’t predict the rise of NFTs, and has watched the phenomenon with a mixture of interest and anxiety. ... their volume has overwhelmed the network, leading to a steep rise in congestion fees, in which, for instance, bidders trying to secure a rare NFT pay hundreds of dollars extra to make sure their transactions are expedited.
The solution is obvious, greatly increase the rate at which the system can process transactions. Ethereum 2 is proposed to implement sharding, allowing parallelism. Avalanche claims 3400 transactions/sec with 1.35sec finality. Problem solved! Not so fast. Follow me below the fold.

Tuesday, May 24, 2022

More Metastablecoins

My most recent post was on the metastability of "algorithmic stablecoins", as amply demonstrated by the UST/LUNA pair on May 8th. This post is about the other kind of stablecoin, ones like Tether that claim to be backed by reserves at least as valuable as their "market cap". For different reasons, these also turn out to be metastable. Below the fold, I explain.

Thursday, May 19, 2022


Ever since the Global Financial Crisis (GFC) in late 2008, central banks have kept real interest rates close to, and for much of the time below, zero. Around the beginning of this year it started to become obvious that the end of the era of "free money" was approaching, and that interest rates were going to go up. That real interest rates haven't yet risen much above zero is because of the rampant monopolization of the US economy; companies with market power have seized on the supply chain crisis and the Russian invasion of Ukraine to raise prices and thus the inflation rate.

Given this flood of "free money" since the GFC, investors bid up the price of assets such as the technology stocks in the NASDAQ index. In The tech sector teardown is more catharsis than crisis by John Thornhill writes:
There is certainly a strong argument that the extraordinary boom in tech stocks over the past decade was largely fueled by the unprecedented low-interest-rate policies in response to the global financial crisis of 2008. With capital becoming a commodity, it made sense for opportunistic companies such as Uber to grab as much cash as VC firms would give them to “blitzscale” their way to market domination.

This madcap expansion was accelerated by funding provided by a new class of non-traditional, or tourist, investors, including Masayoshi Son’s SoftBank and “crossover” hedge funds such as Tiger Global.
Below the fold, I look at how this is now all unwinding.

Tuesday, May 17, 2022

Storage Update: Part 3

This is part 3 of my storage update; see Part 1, on DNA storage, and Part 2, on SSD reliability. This is Part 3, on the 2022 Library of Congress "Designing Storage Architectures" meeting. The agenda with links to the presentations is here. Below the fold I have comments on some of them.

Tuesday, May 10, 2022

A "Blockchain Certificate of Deposit"

Thanks to cryptocurrencies being decentralized they can eliminate the middleman, which leads to the fabulous offer from middleman Hex.com to revolutionize my finances that arrived unsolicited in my US mailbox last Wednesday.

How could I refuse to not just "earn up to 38% APY" but also receive "significant price appreciation" from the "fastest-appreciating digital asset in history"? It is a "blockchain Certificate of Deposit" and I know that Certificates of Deposit are issued by banks and are:
a safer and more conservative investment than stocks and bonds, offering lower opportunity for growth, but with a non-volatile, guaranteed rate of return.
Middleman Hex.com says:
This common investment tool is used by hundreds of millions of people worldwide with a market value in the trillions.

HEX uses blockchain technology to offer the same concept without the middleman.
The top national guaranteed rate for a 5-year bank CD is currently 3.15%, so clearly eliminating the bank middleman who seems to be taking a 35% cut means a blockchain CD guaranteed by middleman Hex.com is a winner with no additional risk!

Below the fold I look this gift horse in the mouth.

Thursday, May 5, 2022

Probabilistic Fault Tolerance

In our 2003 SOSP "Best Paper" Preserving Peer Replicas By Rate-Limited Sampled Voting (also here, expanded version here) we introduced a number of concepts. The most important was consensus based on sampling the electorate at random, in contrast to the traditional Byzantine Fault Tolerance (BFT), which at every step solicits votes from the entire electorate. The advantages of this mechanism are so significant that, a decade and a half later, it was re-discovered and improved upon in the context of a blockchain protocol. Below the fold I explain our original consensus system, and describe how the basic idea has been adopted and enhanced.

Tuesday, May 3, 2022

Fixed Supply, Variable Demand

BTC transaction fees
As I've been writing for a long time, because there is an auction for inclusion in the fixed supply of transactions, when no-one wants to transact they are cheap, but when everyone wants to transact they get very expensive. Vitalik Buterin is unhappy about this:
Buterin didn’t predict the rise of NFTs, and has watched the phenomenon with a mixture of interest and anxiety. ... their volume has overwhelmed the network, leading to a steep rise in congestion fees, in which, for instance, bidders trying to secure a rare NFT pay hundreds of dollars extra to make sure their transactions are expedited.
Last Saturday evening I looked at Molly White's invaluable timeline Web3 is going just great and saw that the top two entries summed up this problem to a tee. Below the fold, I explain