In 1994, I was working for HBO at a low-level programming job. I had begged for the job and I wasn’t qualified but they gave it to me anyway because my boss’s boss’s boss was a fan of chess and he accidentally saw me playing in the park after I failed the interview.
My job was to get HBO streaming interactively on cable lines. Don’t ask.
I said to my boss, “The technology to do this is already done. It’s called the web. Why do I have to invent an entire new way to stream content?”
He said, “James. Calm down. The cable guys know what they are doing. This Internet thing is popular with academics but is just a fad.”
And that was that.
A) Cryptocurrencies are not a fad
Cryptocurrencies benefit from two 5000 year old trends.
1) Theism ==> Humanism ==> Dataism in every industry. For instance, 2000 years ago if you got ill, you assumed you had sinned, or you would pray to get better, or you would assume a god was punishing you. 20 years ago, you’d go to a doctor and take two aspirin. And now, you get EEGs, fMRIs, genetic testing, etc to diagnose and determine best solution.
Money is “In God We Trust” ==> Benjamin Franklin we trust ==> Cryptocurrencies (we trust data)
2) Barter ==> Physical store of value (gold, silver, etc) ==> Money backed by metal ==> Paper money ==> Bank money ==> Pure data money (cryptos)
These trends are not going away. They solve massive problems created by the scenario before them and crypto is front and center for both of these 5000 year old trends.
B) Cryptocurrencies are not crypto
I hate the word “crypto”.
If someone asks me, “What is Amazon?” I would answer, “A store”.
I wouldn’t say, “It’s a software application that sits on top of the TCP/IP protocol.” Nobody would say that. But, in fact, that’s a valid way to describe what Amazon.com is.
“Crypto” refers to the aspect of Bitcoin that makes it secure. It uses a branch of math called “public key cryptography”. But knowing this provides basically zero value in understanding of cryptocurrencies other than it is secure in a way confirmed by mathematicians.
Better to call it “data currencies” or simply “currencies”.
C) Cryptocurrencies are not currencies
A currency is two things:
– a store of value: e.g. One can say, “I have $1,000,000”. That’s a number stored in the bank. It’s the value of net worth the person saying it has.
– a transaction mechanism. e.g. with $1 I can go into a deli and buy a cup of coffee.
Bitcoin is the first but not the second (unless you want to wait ten minutes every time you buy a cup of coffee).
And many other crypto-currencies are the second and not necessarily the first.
And some are both and THEN…they are more.
D) Cryptocurrencies are contracts and will eventually replace all contract
The rise of ICOs (Initial Coin Offerings) are because you can program functionality similar to contracts into a coin.
For instance, a coin called “Filecoin” has an implicit contract that whoever owns a file coin is also allowing (by the contract embedded in the coin) that people can share files on that coin. It creates a decentralized dropbox.
Cryptocurrencies can be used now to replace escrows, wills, and many other types of basic contracts. The entire field of contract law is a $400 billion market or more and will be completely replaced (and lead to the rise of) by legitimate cryptocurrencies.
E) 95% of cryptocurrencies are scams or will go to zero
Like any field that is “hot” the scammers have arrived. Ponzi schemes. Fake currencies. hacked exchanges, etc.
But, like in every field of life, this will get regulated, criminals will get caught, and the legitimate coins will thrive. This is exactly like the Internet in the late 90s. You didn’t want to avoid the Internet then because of the enormous gains. But you did want to avoid the scams.
F) The US Government secretly loves cryptocurrencies
How else will they transport millions of dollar into war-torn countries to pay off war lords and terrorists. If you think this is conspiracy theory, think again.
G) Cryptocurrencies are not “fiat.
There is explicit value backing a crypto currency, unlike a dollar bill, or even a bar of gold (which gold bugs will hate to hear).
A dollar bill has value because we believe it does and we trust that the US government will take care of the value of the dollar by not printing too many of them.
A piece of gold has value because for years we have used gold and other precious metals as money. They also have value because you have to work to mine a piece of gold and there is only a limited amount of gold in the world.
But there are a limited number of any rocks in the world so this is not special.
Cryptocurrencies actually solve enormous problems that have a definite value associated with them.
H) Jamie Dimon is wrong. Here’s the obvious reason why
Jamie Dimon runs a bank with dollars in it. If people stopped using dollars, they would stop using Jamie Dimon’s bank. So of course he’s going to say “bitcoin is a fad”. He doesn’t want his bank to go out of business.
Always look for agendas, even with me.
What is my agenda? I want to make a lot of money by identifying which cryptocurrencies are legit and which are not. I’ve built the team and network to do that. I also am happy to always be the first in trends. Cryptocurrency is the most exciting thing I’ve seen since I first used the world wide web in 1992.
[This post by James Altucher first appeared on LinkedIn, and has been reproduced by permission.]