The Future Of Crypto | Finance Technology | Cryptocurrencies | Documentary

The Future Of Crypto | Finance Technology | Cryptocurrencies | Documentary

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(upbeat music) - The story of Bitcoin began more than a decade ago when Satoshi Nakamoto released Bitcoin in response to the 2008 financial crisis. With more than a decade passed since then, in all these years, Bitcoin has given rise to a huge ecosystem of what we now know as cryptocurrencies that can be used as a medium of exchange and storage and potentially replace or augment fiat currency. Now, different industries are looking at implementing blockchain and potentially using cryptocurrencies to do many things. This includes paying vendors, receiving payments, creating efficiency within their industry. My name is Ian Khan.

My love of Bitcoin started almost five years ago when I directed my first documentary "Blockchain City". In "Blockchain City" I spoke about the emergence of blockchain as a viable technology to change how cities function. In my work as a futurist, I encounter a lot of different technologies and emerging ideas that can rapidly change the world we live in. In the Bitcoin dilemma, I'm bringing to you different perspectives from the cryptocurrency industry, investment community, well-known experts, inventors and influencers to help understand the role of cryptocurrency in our world today and its potential impact on all of us in the future.

You'll also learn a lot about the future of finance, asset management and a simple way of understanding decentralized finance and non-fungible tokens. This documentary is meant for everybody and is not a technical documentary where you need to have a huge background or knowledge about finance or cryptocurrencies or blockchain or technology. In fact, the less, you know, the better it is.

This documentary is suitable for school kids, university students, professionals, homemakers, business owners, employees, leaders in every industry you can think of that. We've approached this documentary with the simple fact that everybody will be impacted by cryptocurrency at some stage in the next few years. The more we understand this era of cryptocurrencies, the better decisions we will make about our lives. This in turn will benefit all of us collectively. I will introduce you to all the guests in the documentary as we encounter them.

And with that, let's begin with my friend Kim Komando, a Hall of Fame broadcaster radio host, whose show is America's largest radio show about technology and more. I ask Kim to help us understand what Bitcoin is. (upbeat music) - Let's say that you want to send your friend John $10. You could give him cash.

You could write John a check. You could send him the $10 using Venmo or Zelle, or you could use cryptocurrency. Now, cryptocurrency is the broad term that describes when two parties exchange currency over the internet. So you would send John the equivalent of $10 in United States dollars, but in virtual currency, that goes by these crazy names like Bitcoin and doge coin and Ethereum. And when you do the transaction, there's gonna be some small fees associated with it because after all nothing's free, not even when it comes to cryptocurrency. - Well, there we heard it from Kim.

To understand cryptocurrencies it's really important to have different perspectives and I couldn't think of anybody better than Leeman Baird, inventor and creator of a cryptocurrency called Hashgraph. Lehman is a globally recognized authority, mathematician and scientist who's working on the future of cryptocurrencies to his invention of Hashgraph. Let's hear about what distributed ledger technology is all about. (upbeat music) - [Leemon] Bitcoin was the first distributed ledger technology. The first DLT, the first ledger, it gave us the ability to have a kind of money that isn't run by a central bank. There is no single person controlling it.

It is distributed across a large number of people, running computers and as long as most of them are honest, in the case of Bitcoin, as long as you can estimate exactly how much computing power, then you can trust it. And so the whole idea of these ledgers are that we take things that were done by a central party, and we distribute them out over a group so that you can trust it. No one person can hurt it. So, you know, money right now is paper money, but most of the money in the world is not paper bills.

Most money in the world is just ones and zeros on a computer but it's the ones and zeros in a single computer. Your bank account is held by a single computer and the bank could cheat and change the numbers. But with a ledger it's ones and zeros, but it's distributed across many computers in a way that no one computer can cheat. Even a small group of them cannot cheat. And so you can trust it.

- So, ask anybody who knows anything about cryptocurrencies or blockchain or DLTs, trust is a fundamental pillar of what this entire technology stack is bringing to different industries. And in fact, to the entire world. Blockchain technology that forms the foundation of crypto is all about trust, eliminating mistrust and the challenges that we face with the current financial system. I spoke with Bobby Lee, a board member at the Bitcoin Foundation.

He's also author of "Promise of Bitcoin: The Future of Money and How it Can Work For You". Bobby is one of the earliest pioneers in the cryptocurrency space and has seen the rise of Bitcoin from its very, very early days. - [Bobby] Prior to Bitcoin, we never really had a tangible digital asset of value. Everything digital was belonging to some centralized entity or corporation, whether it's movies, music, artwork, photographs, and stuff like that. We never had a truly native asset class that was worth money. So even though today we've called Bitcoin digital currency, I'd much rather describe it in more technical terms as a decentralized digital asset.

What's an asset? An asset is a vessel, a container for value. And the idea that people hold assets is for two reasons. Number one is they want to preserve the value. This is what they call store value or store hold of value.

And the other reason to hold an asset is hopefully, maybe it might even appreciate in value relative to other assets. - As we get deeper into learning about Bitcoin and everything that goes on with it, I wanted to bring in more of an entrepreneur's perspective. I spoke with Ben Way.

Ben started his first company at the age of 15 and went on to raise 25 million pounds in his teens, making him one of the world's millionaires. Today, Ben is an entrepreneur, author and investor. - [Ben] Cryptocurrency revolution has been an incredible journey. I mean the only analogy I have or experience I have, anything like it in my life was the internet revolution.

I was there right at the beginning when people were telling me the internet was a fad and domain names would not exist in a few years. And my father laughed. I said to him, dad, one day people buy things on the internet and he was like, son you're definitely barking up the wrong tree. It's actually an interesting predictable path these revolutions take. They have a kind of beginning where everyone's just in the industry talking about it and then it starts to build into some kind of snowball effect and then it transitions into something dangerous which is the hype cycle.

And the hype cycle is very dangerous because it's generally where you have big crashes and because it's become general knowledge, that's also when moms and pops lose their money and people get really hurt. So having seen these cycles, the crypto cycle is very similar. - I wanted to also bring in a critical element to understanding the whole cryptocurrency world. And I spoke with my good friend, Daniel Roberts who's the editor-in-chief off a publication called Decrypt. He has spoken in covered cryptocurrencies since 2011 and is a highly recognized journalist and writer covering the crypto space. Let's talk to Dan about the realistic foresight on cryptocurrencies.

- At the very least, I think it has proven itself over the course of 10, 11, 12 years to the point where it's not going away. It's not going to collapse and disappear tomorrow. There are tens of thousands of other cryptocurrencies altcoins, what have you. Some of them have real projects and purposes behind them, some don't, many will disappear, but at the very least, I think Bitcoin and then also Ethereum which is a separate blockchain network are here to stay. And in the last year and a half or so, there was kind of a perfect storm of narratives that converged. The COVID-19 pandemic really reiterated for a lot of people the appeal of Bitcoin as an investment, as digital gold when governments are handing out stimulus checks and when the fed is pulling various levers, that's a reminder that Bitcoin has a capped supply and there will only ever be 21 million coins.

Even if you have no interest in it fine, even if you think it's stupid, fine. But I think that what the consensus has shown is that it's here to stay. It exists, it's gonna continue to exist. And in addition, amid the last year and a half or so, you had not just traditional wall street investors, but some publicly traded companies also buying it and showing that they believe it's here to stay.

PayPal, Square, Tesla. Of course the Tesla one has been very controversial due to Elon Musk, but sort of all at once, multiple parties embraced Bitcoin like never before. And the difference from 2017, which was the last mania, is that that was really a retail driven. That was just the regular folks. Now it's kind of multiple parties at once jumping in.

- Now, you may think of everything that's happening with crypto being really different from what we know about the financial world and how's the supply and demand really impacting how do we work with cryptocurrencies? Do you think this is stupid? Let's hear from a crypto analyst. Scott Melker is a cryptocurrency analyst and well known crypto advocate. Here's what he has to say.

- I think there was a grand awakening since COVID hit that the policies of central banks and governments were failing the people when you saw stocks continuing to rise and endless money and printing and quantitative easing. I believe people started to look for a solution to store their value in Bitcoin solves that. You know, in the cryptocurrency space, we're building an absolutely new global financial system that allow people who are unbanked and underbanked access like they'd never had before. - Multiple Time's author, Michael Casey is going to help us understand a lot more about the rise of cryptocurrencies. Michael works as an educator and advisor at the MIT Media Lab and the MIT Sloan School of Business Management. He is the acclaimed author of five books on finance, social media and cultural history.

His latest book, "The Truth Machine: The Blockchain and the Future of Everything" is a must read for anyone who wants to know more about the future of blockchain. - [Michael] It's an integral part of the way that we see the world now. That the crypto sort of, blockchain mindset, if you like, and therefore I'm gonna say it, I'm gonna pull it out and put a flag in the ground and say that this is the age of cryptocurrency. (upbeat music) - I also wanted us to talk to someone from a really strong financial background.

Someone who does this day in and day out. I could think of nobody else but Mark Yusko who heads Morgan Creek Capital Management and is an authority on anything related to investments. Here are Mark's initial comments. - [Mark] If we go back in time throughout most of history, assets were bare assets, right? If you go back to the history of money in the olden days, you had cows, I had chickens and we would bring our cows and chickens to market and we would trade.

And then that got to be too cumbersome so you printed little coins with cows on them and I printed little coins with chickens on them, and we would exchange those coins. Well then, carrying those sack of coins got to be really heavy so we deposited those coins at a bank and they gave us pieces of paper, currency that we could exchange. And that's how commerce and money was created. Now, there was a time when money actually had backing.

Like you could exchange a physical note for gold or silver. In fact, a pound note 380 years ago would get you a pound of Sterling silver. The problem is because we went away from the gold standard and the silver standard, today, it would take you 174 pounds of Sterling silver to get a pound note. So we've devalued currencies around the world, in the fiat that world.

So fiat means the government can issue currency at will, at fiat and we've untethered from backing. So quickly, currencies have never had anything behind them. Money is simply custom and belief. In the old days, you had your coins with cows and I had my coins with chickens and the only reason those had value is 'cause you and I were willing to exchange them, or you can go back to the Roman empire. They had the Denarius because people customarily accepted it in exchange for something of value.

Why are my dollars in the United States, green pieces of paper, in China they're red pieces of paper and in Israel, they're yellow pieces of paper. They're just pieces of paper but they aren't backed by anything, right? If I turn my green paper money into the US government, I get zip, zero, nada. I don't get gold. I don't get silver. I don't get a share of tax revenues.

And in fact, it's worse than that, currency actually is backed by debt. The only real money in the world is gold which has no associated liability, which is why for 5,000 years, one ounce has bought a fine person suit from a suit of armor to a Zoot suit in the 20s, to a fine man suit on Santoro today. And why Bitcoin as digital gold, all the properties of gold but digital form, has no liability associated with it. But all currencies, US dollars, renminbi, euros, all have government debt associated with them and that's why they are de-valuing.

In the last 12 months, the US government printed 40% of all... Actually they didn't print, they hit a button and now we have ones and zeros you know, have paper money anymore. it's all electronic, but 40% of the outstanding money supply in the history of the Republic, which goes all the way back to 1776 in 12 months, which means the value of that currency is going down in terms of purchasing power and that's unfortunately the nature of currency.

So what a real money, right? Gold or Bitcoin, the reason its prices rising is not necessarily that that asset is getting better, is that the cross, the dollar is getting worse. (upbeat music) - Now I'm sure you'll agree this is getting so exciting because we're looking at the history of money, where money actually started and the impact that it's been having on us. Let's hear more about what fiat means and get deep into the simplest explanation of money that I have ever encountered. - Yeah. There are two types of exchanges, fiat to crypto and crypto to crypto. And I know what you're thinking, hey, I thought a Fiat was a car.

Well, not in crypto land. Like most industries, crypto has its own lexicon. Fiat money is government issued currency.

So if you're in the United States, that means the US dollar and you have many exchanges to use. One of the easiest for beginners to use is something called Coinbase. You pick an exchange and you open an account. The rest of the process is really, really simple. You verify your identity, you deposit US dollars into the exchange, and then you can start sending and spending your crypto.

Most cryptocurrencies are created by something that's called mining. Computers mine coins by solving these complex math problems. The powerful the computer, the faster it can think. Now, if your computer is the fastest one to solve the problem, well, bingo, you're great.

You just won one unit of whatever cryptocurrency that you're mining. And in some cases that could be $500 or maybe even, I don't know, $50,000. Way back when around 2009, you could fire up your home computer and start mining. But today mining is run on specialized chips, known as an ASIC or an Application Specific Integrated Circuits. Yeah, anytime you talk about technology, there's always this acronym.

Anyway, they have up to a hundred billion times the capacity of PCs. These systems cost thousands and thousands of dollars. And mining's now big business, it's just a ton of competition. If you're thinking about getting into mining, only spend money that you are prepared to lose on the gear.

I mean, you could buy tens of thousands of dollars, worth of hard drives, graphic cards and processors and not get one coin. But in the meantime, your electric bill sores and those computer parts will wear out in no time at all. Now, remember these computers are working at full speed, 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

- [Mark] We have currencies, we have commodities and I think now we have digital currencies and digital commodities, eventually we'll also have digital stocks and digital bonds and those are the four asset classes, stocks, bonds, currencies and commodities and if we think of Bitcoin as potentially digital gold, and we think of other cryptocurrencies potentially as other forms of currency that are more easily used for transactions, take a dash, for example. - [Bobby] So Bitcoin, I actually liken it to a league of its own. There's been many other cryptocurrencies that have come up, the likes of Ethetium, Litecoin, Dogecoin is very hot, very popular. However, these other asset class are just copycat. Bitcoin is fundamental digital money whereas these other asset classes represent something different.

Even though you have a lot of people pumping all these other alternate coins or shit coins, if you will. What comes with Bitcoin is also the speculation. I see it. A lot of platforms on exchanges cater to the so-called investors.

Some of them are almost like degenerate gamblers, right? People liken them to unregulated, unlicensed online casinos. So that's the sort of ugly side of the Bitcoin speculation trading but legitimately I had looked at for people to invest, to hold Bitcoin as a long-term asset, that will appreciate many, many times in value because I think the world has yet to wrap its head around it. - Now that we have a foundation of finance, we know a little bit about the background of cryptocurrencies, let's talk about some more advanced and related concepts of cryptocurrency.

Some of these are tokens, non-fungible tokens, and other asset classes. Let's hear back from Mark and also Stephen Stoneberg who heads a cryptocurrency exchange and also my friend, Steven Ritter, a crypto security expert, all of whom will help us understand a lot more about the whole idea of trading crypto exchanges and tokenization. - We have digital commodities. You know, we have the NFT boom in digital art. - [Stephen] There's two kinds of tokens.

and there's what most people would refer to in the industry, a utility token. That just means it's not a security. So it's this new asset class which is called a token, which never really existed before. And so you have some of these tokens are called cryptocurrencies or utility tokens. I mean, there's lots of like lingo that's thrown out there.

I think if it is a two by two matrix to make the market make sense. So you have utility token or security token, the security token is just, it's just a token, but it's considered a security by like the SEC or somebody else. You know, it has to be sold that way even though it trades on a blockchain.

And then there's two kinds of those tokens in the other axes, it would be fungible token, that's a Bitcoin where you take a dollar bill. You don't care which one you have, they're all the same, and then there's non-fungible, token NFT, which is you care which one of those token you have. And you can have an NFT that's a utility token or a security token. The same thing with a fungible token. They can either be a utility token or a security token. Now, as an exchange, we have utility tokens.

That's what all cryptocurrency exchanges offer and then we are also offering security tokens on a limited basis. You're selling securities. So you have to do that under the right regulation.

Or maybe not, it depends on the exchange we follow, we follow the regulation. - NFTs right now, look like a cash trap. In many cases, they are a stunt or a celebrity or a pro athlete to make a quick dollar while also they would say strengthening their engagement with their fans. And that's okay, but that's not necessarily that exciting to crypto purists.

You also have to understand the politics and the context here, which is that most NFTs are built on the Ethereum blockchain separate from Bitcoin. So, you also have a lot of people who just want nothing to do with that space. The Bitcoin maximalist. They believe there's only one God, and that God is Bitcoin and they have no interest in all the other stuff.

Now, Ethereum is really interesting because it's a blockchain that was specifically designed to support smart contracts. And there are all kinds of business applications that open up because of that, NFTs are one of them. There are multiple industries embracing them. I think right now the media has been interested in NFTs because of those eye-popping prices. In many cases, the most expensive NFTE sales have been to existing crypto VCs and rich people.

You know, MetaKovan who is an NFT person was the one who bought the $69 million Bitcoin FT. So does that one sale demonstrate that NFTs have gone mainstream? Not really. - Now, if you've been following cryptocurrencies at all, you probably would have heard that many celebrities and influential people talk about different types of cryptos.

The names of cryptocurrencies, including Dogecoin come to mind. In fact, celebrity CEOs, such as Elon Musk, who's a big advocate of some cryptocurrencies, I spoke with Chester Spatt who served as the Chief Economist at the US Securities and Exchange Commission, SEC, I asked Chester about the role of celebrity influencers and is this something that should really influence the price of crypto and the rates at which cryptocurrencies are traded? I guess this was my initial question on really the hype versus reality of cryptocurrencies and what is real and what is not? - [Chester] Elon Musk, he's a genius in the broad aspects of society across the political spectrum, they recognize him as a genius, but as a by-product of how the society doesn't expect the same types of norms and behaviors from him that the society expects from most individuals. I can bet Musk making misleading statements with little factual basis and taking those statements super seriously. And I would have thought he would have learned from his experience several years ago. I think unfortunately the SEC only slapped in on the risk.

They probably needed to slap on the wrist a little bit harder. And so he probably didn't learn so much, but you look at the recent events where first he's really taunting the Bitcoin and also Doge on the side, but (indistinct) those too, and he says, oh, we're gonna take this at Tesla. And he doesn't say, oh, and what are we gonna do with the Bitcoin? Well, we'll probably convert it. He doesn't say, well, we'll probably convert it into dollars. I presume that's what they would probably do because their costs after all are in dollars.

But then within a matter of weeks, he says, no, we're not gonna accept this because the Bitcoin is made from fossil fuels. Well, wake up, Mr. Musk, you know, the tech, this didn't change. This didn't change over a few weeks. Did you not do your due diligence? And obviously the market swings are dramatic.

Well, you have a responsibility... I mean, maybe not a legal responsibility, but you know, if people are gonna move on every word that you say, you need to be thoughtful about what you say. It would be different if suddenly the world discovered that fossil fuels were being used to mine the Bitcoin and people had no idea before but that's not the case. It was no change.

I think there was very little change at all on what people knew about. (upbeat music) - I also wanted to ask Chester about big tech companies, such as Amazon, Google, Microsoft, Facebook, and others that have gained a tremendous amount of power on our lives because of the amount of data they control. - Big tech is very, very big. The problem with that is that the decisions that it makes have such broad implications for society.

So is the answer to split them up? It's not clear that that serves society's interests. You know, ultimately the problem is how do they become so big? Well, because there's such a scale economy in forming networks. So the scale of economy in Facebook for example, is tremendous or even the scale of economy in Google in terms of the absorption of all the information and putting all the information together. The scale economies in these activities are humongous, but there were huge responsibilities that these companies have.

And there's issues on the one hand about competition. I mean, you look at Amazon and the impact of Amazon on all kinds of different endeavors, not all for the good, by the way, you look at the impact, arguably in suppressing free speech. Now, that's not to debate the merits of individual decision, but I think on at least some of the decisions, some of which have been shown to be wrong with the passage of time, you know, even in the broad domain associated with COVID-19, the vaccines seems to be incredibly important of course, but I also think that some of the kind of judgements and what's permitted to be said and what's not permitted, these are top issues, okay? But the question is who decides, and how does power vest in the society? There's too much smugness among the leadership in the high-tech community. - I guess one of the questions that arises is when it comes to digital currencies and crypto, is it really a good thing to invest in or should we all be very pessimistic and cautious? - Everything moves at the speed of technology and digital currency is the next natural step for money but that doesn't mean that's a good thing. That's a good thing if you're invested in Bitcoin, which is outside of those centralized systems. That does not mean a central bank digital currency is a good thing for the people.

If you believe that central banks are bad actors, and that governments don't have your best interest in mind then a central bank digital currency is actually their wet dream because it's a more defined control of the money supply which is not what your average person probably wants. But I believe as far as mass adoption, that we are extremely early, we're only seeing the beginning steps with institutions starting to adopt it as a treasury asset with the PayPals and Visas of the world starting to look at it as a legitimate payment and even seeing banks in the United States starting to look towards custodying Bitcoin and other crypto assets and to adopting stable coins as new payment rails. - [Michael] Really, it's not just about whether or not cryptocurrencies and blockchain technology have infiltrated the economy, but how much it is now driving policy decisions and a broader agenda around where the world is gone. And you've got central banks looking at central bank digital currencies. You cannot separate that, that change that shift.

And that is a very profound, potentially very disruptive approach to the way that our monetary system works from what Bitcoin and the rest of the sort of, crypto universe brought to bear in terms of the ideas and new ways of thinking about how we represent in trade value. Things like NFTs are now an element of the way that pretty much every media company is thinking about what that future holds for it. And even some sort of questions about, you know, data security in this environment that we live in with ransomware is being brought to bear on, you know, centralized honeypots of data and so forth. All of that is also something that I think is now being questioned in ways that weren't before. (upbeat music) - One of the things we all want to know is how safe is Bitcoin and how safe are other cryptocurrencies. What about exchanges? And what about the vulnerabilities when it comes to investing in crypto and feeling safe about it as well.

Imagine putting your hard earned money into a crypto investment and the next day you hear that your exchange or your crypto wallet was hacked and that you've lost all your investment. Is that really possible? - [Leemon] We've all lived in a world where some people are not trustworthy and we've always lived in a world where you need trust. Part of the reason that it takes days to send someone a wire and you're charged $20 is because it has to go through so many intermediaries partially to try to build up trust and make sure that it's not being done incorrectly, no ends up stealing the money.

But it's just once the zeros in the computer. You can send it across the world in one second. Why does it take days? With ledgers you actually do it in a few seconds.

You can actually have finality and have your wire transfer in just a few seconds. So trust makes it more efficient. If you don't have this inherent trust, then you have to bring lots of other people into the equation to make it trustworthy. You have to have middlemen.

And if I wanted to sell you some property, maybe I hand this middleman the property, and you hand them the money, and then they swap and give you the property and give me the money. Just to make sure you and I don't steal from each other if we're strangers. With ledgers, you don't need that. You just had this instantaneous swap of my value for your money and it just works.

And so we've always had a trust problem. Ledgers are addressing this trust problem in a way that makes it more efficient and faster and cheaper. - [Bobby] Bitcoin itself has been very secure. Meaning the Bitcoin, the integrity of Bitcoin, meaning if Bitcoin is sent to an address, it's irrevocably in that new address, in the new account.

So that, in that sense, it's very secure. Bitcoin has not itself been hacked. The second thing you talk about is smart contracts. So smart contracts, decentralized finance smart contracts built on public Ethereum.

Now, unfortunately, these defy smart contracts are all new software programs. They've been out only for less than a year, for a year or so. Many of them are immature. Many of them are still buggy and we've seen many, many examples of BFI contracts themselves getting hacked, where projects and BFI sort of, fundings get diverted by hackers. So that's unfortunate, which is why I don't advocate for newcomers, for people who are not knowledgeable about this to touch any device stuff. I think it's way too risky.

It's not worth it. But that's a very different conversation than Bitcoin itself. So if you had an account on some exchange that purports to store your Bitcoins, I would say, don't leave it on a custodial platform.

You got to take it out because you have three different types of risks, right? Where one is the exchange can get hacked and you only get pennies on dollar. Number two is actually your account can get hacked because people steal your email address, they find out your password, they log in pretending to be you and steal all your cryptocurrency. The exchange might be insolvent to begin with.

They don't have the cryptocurrency, the Bitcoins that they claimed they do. So that what you see on your account balance is really just a figment of their imagination. - A cryptocurrency wallet is an app or a physical storage device that lets you store and use your digital currency. Wallets can hold multiple cryptocurrencies so you're not limited to just Bitcoin.

You can use an app or a physical wallet. The currency itself isn't stored there rather the wallet store, the location of your currency on the blockchain. And that's super important. Blockchain is the technology that stores the record of your crypto transactions from the day, the coin was mined to, get this, every trade sale or other moves that it makes. There are two different types of wallets, hot and cold. Now, a hot wallet it's connected to the internet.

You move your virtual coin and spend it wherever it's accepted. Hot wallets, they have big risks. They can get hacked. People forget their passwords, that sort of thing. So the most secure way to store your cryptocurrency is with a cold wallet.

It's not connected to the internet. These are usually specially designed USB drives that directly store your cryptocurrency. Physical wallets provide you the most protection from the hackers in the long run. Now, for beginners, a wallet app is a great place to start. If you bought into cryptocurrency using Robinhood or maybe PayPal, good news, those apps work as wallets do. (soft music) - Some of the things that come to mind when we talk about cryptocurrencies and crypto as an asset is monetary policy and regulations.

Today, we're seeing that across the world, many different countries have a different response towards crypto. Some countries are totally banning crypto mining, the usage of crypto, crypto investing and while others are fully adopting cryptocurrencies as a legal tender, El Salvador comes to mind. Let's understand where crypto adoption is and how regulations today can pave away to other economic aspects such as taxation, physical policy and the legality of crypto based rules. - [Chester] I think it's clear that many of the regulators are concerned about these currencies. Now, maybe part of it is that this reduces their control. It reduces the ability to do a traditional monetary policy.

You know, when countries announced much tighter regulations, you see that in the movements, in the price, even when our secretary of the treasury, you know, makes negative statements about the future regulatory environment, the market reacts. The tax issues I think also may prove to be important, and interesting. If somebody, in effect, invested in a cryptocurrency, and then they plan to use the money, so to speak, whether to buy a Tesla, when Tesla decides to take the cryptocurrency again, when they go to spend the money, they're gonna pay capital gains, they're gonna first have capital gains taxes upon their, their appreciation. - The biggest obstacle for Americans right now is the tax code. Cryptocurrencies are taxed very aggressively like property and not like money.

So anytime you transact in any digital currency in the United States you have a taxable sale of the asset that you just use to buy something. So if you own Bitcoin and you wanna buy a cup of coffee with it, then you've sold your Bitcoin to buy that cup of coffee and have a taxable transaction and capital gains based on that sale. So it effectively raises the price tremendously of anything you're doing and forces you to make a decision of whether it's worth taking the taxes. There's plenty of places in the world where Bitcoin can be used as money. Other cryptocurrencies can be used as money, and you don't have to be concerned with that.

But right now, anyone in America has to think twice before spending their cryptocurrency because of the tax implications. - [Mark] I think the regulators to this point, to their credit, have done a pretty nice job. They have been measured. They have been reasonable.

They've been diligent. All the things that you would want in a regulator, they haven't been brash, they haven't been reactive. Perhaps you could argue that they're a little behind in the sense that maybe they could have got out ahead of some of the things that happened in the ICO world.

But I think they've done a very good job retrospectively going back and saying, yep, you guys broke some rules, so we'll be coming after you. And Hey, you didn't break the rules so you're good. Unfortunately, incumbents try to use regulation to slow the speed of competitors. And that's been true throughout history and I think it's true again today. So you know, about this time in the bull market, in the previous cycles in 2013 and 2017, you heard rumors and this FUD, this fear, uncertainty and doubt about banning Bitcoin or banning cryptocurrencies.

And the reality is you can't ban a decentralized asset. It's like squeezing the air in a balloon, it just pops up someplace else. And what the internet did to media and telecommunications and commerce, blockchain technology is gonna do to financial services and clearly there needs to be regulation around that.

- [Stephen] Just because you're creating a new technology and you have these tokens, et cetera, on a blockchain, they're still subject to laws. So I think it's a bit gray and people are subjecting these to interpretation or assuming there's a whole camp of people that just think these don't apply to them. And I would say they absolutely do. If you're trading a security token, you know, then those definitely and derivatives of security. So if you're doing a derivative of a Bitcoin, if a Bitcoin is considered a utility token, a derivative of Bitcoin, so like 10 times levered Bitcoin, or just outright like futures or options on Bitcoin, those are securities by definition and then fall under the securities laws even if it's just another variation of a token on your exchange. And I think that's where the technology can move much faster.

The regulations are there, not everyone is sort of following them or understanding that the rules apply to them. Unfortunately, that's not how it works with the regulator. They'll say, well, lack of knowledge of the law doesn't justify breaking a law. This happens in any sort of new industry. I think the stakes are a bit higher and I always make the analogy, you look back to the 90s when the internet just got going and Amazon was just selling books and they wouldn't charge sales tax. You know, you sort of evaded them and everyone knew they were doing that and eventually they imposed, you know, they figured it out and there weren't these horrible penalties.

But if you're breaking securities laws, that's a much more severe type of infraction than the type of stuff that went on in the early days of the internet. - Over the past few years, one of the things that has really increased in frequency and in fact, in precision as well is hacking. Hackers have been really active at holding organizations hostage, stealing data and selling information on the dark web. What role does cryptocurrency play in all of this? And does crypto create a way for cyber criminals to get away with crime? - One of the big, I think consumer features of cryptocurrency is that it is anonymous, right? That you don't have to share as much information about yourself with the business or the person that you're doing business with. On the flip side of that, that is also a very powerful characteristic for criminals and fraudsters.

We have seen this, I think throughout history where criminals will use the newest technology trends to help with the scale and reduce the risk of their attacks. The general, you know, pattern of attack and the general theme of the scams, those get recycled quite a bit, right? And, but what changes is the technology used to deliver them and the platform and environments in which they attack. So moving away from, you know, email-heavy and text-heavy things like discord and telegram and Instagram, that general nature of the scams themselves, hasn't changed but what really has changed is the scale at which attackers can attack and the relative impunity with which they can perpetrate these attacks.

The centralizing entities in the world today, the governments and the big businesses and the banks, they provide a certain safety net, right? 'Cause they provide certain insurances that things are gonna be done on the up and up. So when you're going in and deciding to use a certain crypto exchange, I still think the reputation of that exchange is incredibly important, especially when you consider that they're going to be installing digital wallet technology typically on your mobile device or maybe on your desktop. And because they put the software there, you're putting your faith in them that the software is legitimate and doesn't have back doors and that sort of thing. But I think some of the biggest losses we've seen have just been because, hey, if you lose your wallet or if you lose your private keys, then there really is no recovering that. And I don't know what the current status is, but I know there's an awful lot of, for example, Bitcoin out there, that's essentially not claimable.

(upbeat music) - [Leemon] Bitcoin was revolutionary. It really did start a new thing that hadn't existed before, but it was, you know, the version, one of how to do it. And so they said, well, to stop people from cheating, we'll force them to use locks of electricity on these huge supercomputers. And so, you know, Bitcoin uses more energy than Ireland does right now. You know, every year, it's using more energy than Ireland. And it's slow, you can only do a half dozen transactions each second across the entire world put together.

You can only do just a handful of transactions each second. It's also insecure in various ways and slow in various ways. You never really know for sure that your transaction has gone through maybe after six different computers have confirmed it, you would believe it, that takes an hour. And even then, there are rare occasions when one hour wasn't enough, you really needed to wait a little bit more than an hour before you really knew that it went through and you never know for sure, it's just, your probability goes higher and higher. And so there's a way of doing it, where you get the same kind of trust, but you get finality.

Where you actually know the transaction's gone through, for sure. And instead of taking an hour to be pretty sure, in four seconds, you know, for sure. 100% guaranteed you reach finality in just a few seconds. And instead of maybe doing six transactions each second, right now we've slowed ourselves down to 10,000 per second. So, you know, you go from six to 10,000 that helps.

And 10,000 is just what we're currently slowing it down to, inherently can go far faster than that. So the whole point here was that we wanted to use less electricity. We use about 1/5 millionth according to one published report I saw.

Those are good things, even have fairness for markets, but it's still just taking that original idea and bringing it to the world to be able to use. And the original idea is continuing to build momentum over time. And Bitcoin itself is building momentum over time.

So not only are cryptocurrencies becoming more and more like fiat, there's also a lot of talk about fiat turning into a cryptocurrency. These are central bank digital currency cities, whole countries are talking about, hey, we're gonna create a cryptocurrency of our own and our actual fiat will be a cryptocurrency just because it makes so much sense. You can have so much more trust.

You can have so much more speed. You can have so much lower costs. All of those reasons are reasons why the whole world is moving towards this thing. - We looked at some really important aspects of cryptocurrency. Right from the basics of what crypto is, to implications on finance, investing and other areas of impact. One of the most promising sites off cryptocurrencies and fast gaining traction are tokens.

We learned about tokens just a few minutes ago, and there's more to them than we can understand in this documentary alone. The idea of non-fungible tokens as an asset class or an investment can help other industries flourish, including digital art, creative economy and intellectual property in general. Let's hear a little bit more about the tokenization revolution that's powered by cryptocurrencies. I asked our guests, Mark Yusko, Chester Spatt, Dan Roberts, about this emerging area of tokenization and the possibilities that it holds. - Every stock, every bond, every currency, every commodity, every piece of art, every piece of real estate, every private business, every fine wine, every collectible car, every asset in the world, will be tokenized.

It will all be digital. And this is a natural progression that has been going on for decades. From analog, right? We used to have physical pieces of paper, money, that we exchange for physical pieces of paper, stock certificates.

Then we turned them into electronic form. We trade QSIPs with ones and zeros from our bank account. and eventually we will trade them on digital blockchains where we have a public open source record, and we don't need trusted third parties, financial services, in the middle charging fees.

So every asset, and art is a great example. Digital art is just a digital commodity and NFTs are a way of creating scarce assets in digital form. And Eric Schmidt had the best line about this. He said, what Satoshi Nakamoto, whoever he, she, they are, did back in the gold financial crisis is basically found a way to create a unique asset in the digital world. I think that's pretty valuable.

I think some really big businesses will be built on that. And, but it says, oh no, it's a bubble. Can't you see, you know, the Beeple sold for $60 million. Well, let's be fair, I'm not a big fan of Beeple's art. I don't really like it.

No accounting for taste, that's not the point. I respect the fact that he did something every day for 13 years. I'm pretty sure even I haven't brushed my teeth every day for the last 13 years, but he created a piece of art every day for 13 years, put it into one unit, could never be replicated and sold it. Yeah, I think that's really valuable. - [Chester] So, in art work, we often have these numbered lithographs.

and so, you know, often you have the situation where a painter paints his original painting and obviously the original, the one that has the (indistinct) that has the big value, but then there's something in between the original and a poster. Now, in some cases, the numbered edition might involve the artist actually filling in the colors on the individual piece. So that is really kind of in between because been there in fact, the artist actually worked on your piece but in some cases it's not that.

In some cases, it's just that the artists committed that we're only gonna make, let's say 300 reproductions of this and they number them and that's it. And in a way, NFP strikes me as a little bit of a cousin of that. - There are interesting examples now of decentralized blogging platforms and publishing, writers are tokenizing novels.

The idea being, I'd rather write or create directly for people who I know are interested in my stuff. And here's a way for them to buy in to what I'm creating and demonstrate their fandom and then maybe even they'll gain financially from buying into what I'm creating. Really the tokenize all the things movement is the same value proposition and idealism of crypto, and really a Bitcoin since the beginning, since 2009, which is no one person or entity in control, no one central bank of Bitcoin, no company that you have to go through that gets a cut of the deals. Now, of course, there are a number of leading players that do get a cut. There are centralized exchanges like Coinbase that charge high fees but that's why crypto purists are so excited by decentralized exchanges, Dexis, and other forms of players and protocols where it's all just about the code.

So that's what we really mean when we talk about tokenizing things, is just put a digital, put it on the blockchain, NFTs are the same way where a lot of people look at people who have paid a lot of money for an NFT and they say, I just can't understand that because I can't even hang the thing on my wall, but everyone by now understands how to use online banking. And you log in and you see here's how much money I have, even though you can't touch and hold it but you trust that it's there and in many ways, that is simply now translating to memorabilia, digital collectibles, art and music. I mean, if you look at Spotify and streaming, it hasn't actually been great for musicians.

I mean, they earn pennies for their streams on Spotify. If you ask some musicians or some artists, they see some real potential to give back a bigger cut of royalties to original creators. And that really is interesting. So you just kind of have to get your mind over that hurdle of understanding that in many, many cases, value is digital.

- In this documentary, we've seen a lot of different things about cryptocurrencies and one of the things I wanted to talk about is crypto as a solution to challenges the world is facing right now. On a daily basis, we see economic instability, war, inequality, and many social political and economic events that are shaping the lives of people and communities across the world. The question is what role can cryptocurrency play in a world full of turmoil and unstability? Is crypto able to bring peace and prosperity to nations that are torn by war, or is crypto away for the dark industries to keep on functioning? - I believe that we're very near where we have a full global financial system based in cryptocurrency, not that replaces the current system, but that runs parallel that will allow people who are underbanked or unbanked, which is most of the world, people don't realize, to have access to the same kind of systems that people in first world countries and who have acquired wealth will have access to. - [Michael] The smaller economies, tend to get buffeted by the effects of what's happening in the United States. It's an inherent misalignment between the interests of those smaller countries and those of United States where the US is pursuing its own monetary policy for its own mandate (indistinct) So, and that's perfectly legitimate, but because the dollar is the currency that basically sits on the assets of all of these different banks that use it as the means to then lend against, whether it's in a smaller economy or in Europe or anywhere, what happens to the dollar and what happens to interest rates in United States profoundly affects those places. And this has been a problem now for 20 years because of the quantitative easing that came out of the financial crisis, had huge buffeting impacts on emerging markets.

It's all hot money inflows and outwards. And this is a constant thing, right? That as the backdrop gives us, I think, the motivation for a lot of these smaller countries to start exploring some of these options, especially right now, when there is a legitimate concern that US monetary policy is going to have yet, again, that sort of impact on the world. We've already seen obviously a massive amount of expansion, dollar issuance, but as we move into a period where people are starting to get worried about US inflation, where there is a massive debt overhang, both at the governmental and or the corporate level, the prospect that the US will just go even deeper down this path of essentially inflating its way out of its problems, creates real problems for these small countries who are caught up in the big waves that are set by that.

So the idea that you would then seek out some other alternative is actually I think, a legitimate, certainly a legitimate option to explore. Let's put it that way. You're seeing these smaller countries saying, you know what, maybe I can opt out. Here are these options. I'm not using a crystal ball here no matter how many of you go, there'll be a lot of pressure brought to bear on the not to do so by those who have interest in them not doing so. But I think that there's certainly a trend that is worth here - [Chester] And there's interesting issues too, about traceability, accountability.

Is this gonna facilitate bad behaviors, you know, in the extreme terroristic activities, because payments can be easily made? And it's not clear to me which way that cuts, because on the one hand, you know, it's always struck me that cash is inherently not very traceable, Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies are kind of interesting in a way, because on the one hand, they're viewed as anonymous but on the other hand, there's a whole record keeping trail. - [Bobby] So we are now 50 years into the chaos of money. What I mean by that is in 1971, President Nixon actually took the US dollar off of the gold standard. And this is something that happened.

People know about it, but people don't realize the impact. By taking the US dollar off the gold standard, we're now unhinged. The printing press is just going full speed. It's happening in the US, it's happening in China, it's happening in Europe, it's happening in many, many countries. The central governments are almost in a unspoken race of seeing who can print their money faster because with more money printed, the more the currency is devalued, the more the economic growth. This is convoluted, right? Think about that.

The more you have your currency de-based and de-valued relative to the other countries, the more competitive your exports are and the more the growth, and you have better GDP numbers, you have better stock earnings and that's where we're entering. - [Mark] All governments in the history of mankind have had inflationary fiat currencies because it's the nature of governments to overspend, right? That's what governments do. That's what empires do. And the only way out when you get overly indebted, right? Once you have all the debt, you got four choices, you can pay it back, you can restructure it, you can default on it or you can inflate it away. There's not enough taxation power once you get to a certain level to pay it back so you can't do that.

You can't restructure it because to restructure, you'd have to have somebody accept the deal. No one's gonna accept a deal on a bad asset. You can default, but then you get kicked out of office and politicians don't like that. So the only choice is to inflate it away. And in the history of mankind, there've been 775 paper currencies. Three quarters of them disappeared off the face of the planet because they were inflated to zero.

Now, we've done a pretty good job with the dollar from 1776 to 1913, a dollar was worth a dollar. A couple of wiggles around two wars, but it's basically worth a dollar. There was no myth of inflation. Inflation is just theft. Inflation is theft by the government on the masses and the middle-class to make the rich richer.

It's all it is. (upbeat music) - We are almost headed towards the end of our journey together today. We're now on the brink and a really larger evolution.

that's not just financial, but also social and economic. We're also headed towards an era where money, as we know it, is changing its nature and becoming decentralized. We're looking at technology becoming a dominant player and the role of big tech and innovative companies that can create new offerings and solutions become prominent.

Is it time for a new revolution? - [Michael] Ultimately we are at this moment where climate change is the biggest threat facing the world. And contrary to the kind of rather shrill particular Bitcoin that it is sort of on destined to fry the planet and also contrary, by the way, to the rather naive perspective with lots of Bitcoiners, who think if we just let it all go away, it will naturally become green, there's a middle path here that I think is a strategy option for these smaller countries to actually use Bitcoin as a funding mechanism for the development of green infrastructure. And that is a really powerful concept, not only from the perspective of how do you get renewable energy system laid out, but actually how you empower local communities.

Because if you've got not only a local source of energy through, say, a solar micro grid built into a community, but also a local source of funding through the Bitcoin mines that would be attached to those, you get this really interesting new way of thinking about sovereignty. Sovereignty is as access to energy and money. We can create mechanisms with these powerful new means of essentially creating value that are attached to energy sources. And that becomes a form of sovereignty, a form of empowerment. (soft music) - [Mark] So I was sitting at lunch today and there was this big, giant armored car, big diesel engine, black smoke sitting out in front of the grocery store and it was out there for 10 minutes while they collected the money. I think the lesion of those trucks around the world collecting physical coins, is probably worse for the environment than Bitcoin.

I can't prove that yet, but I probably will. But here's the thing, is it more efficient to do a money market with code than with lots of bodies at a banking network system around the world? Of course it is. (upbeat music) - [Leemon] In the first-generation Bitcoin said, hey, we could make money be something that you can trust 'cause it's distributed. And then after a while people realized, well, the record of the money could actually be a record that stores other information.

You can have things like NFTs being stored, which is just a way in the computer of representing value in the real world. So you can have tokens that represent houses and dollars and gold and anything else you can imagine, you can turn it into NFTs to represent it. Even weird things like your time or your future income.

You could turn into NFTs and sell them today. It's just amazing. Stocks in companies can be turned it into NFTs. And so the second generation was realizing if we're gonna have this ledger remembering money, well, it could also remember everything else of value. That was kind of the second generation.

And then the third generation was, well, no, wait a second. If we have money and we have things of

2023-10-16 15:02

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