Is Bitcoin a Currency?
Is the granddaddy of crypto actually a currency? That’s one heck of a question, especially since many have touted it as exactly that. Bitcoin was supposed to be this decentralized thing that would allow regular people to buy and sell independently of any government system and its fiat currency. However, the way things have developed have prompted many to ask what Bitcoin actually is. Is it a currency, a commodity, or an asset?
Well, it definitely is not a commodity. A commodity is a tangible good that can be used to actually make things. Its value comes from its usefulness and how much value society places on that use. Bitcoin by its nature is not tangible and can’t actually be used to make anything.
What about currency? It is called a cryptocurrency after all. Yet, what makes something a currency? It has to be easily transported and transferred to another party at little or no cost. In a sense, Bitcoin is easy to transport because it is strictly digital. You can carry the code or the password to your Bitcoin account around with you in your pocket. However, transferring it is difficult. It actually costs far too much money in electricity and fees to move it from your account to another to justify using it to make purchases. Imagine buying a $1.50 cup of coffee for two hundred dollars just because of all the transfer costs. Not that buying such a small item with it is even possible. Bitcoin can only be divided so much, and given the value of a single Bitcoin, even a Satoshi (the smallest Bitcoin unit) is worth over three dollars as of this writing.
That leaves its value as an asset. Anyone who bought Bitcoin ten years ago, or even two, and seen the value of their investment skyrocket in the time since will definitely attest to the currency’s value as an asset. If you dropped two hundred on it ten years ago and cashed out today, you would definitely be a millionaire several times over. In a way, it is even better than gold. This is because while that shiny rock does a great job storing value, it doesn’t really increase in value. What does that mean? Basically, you can use the same amount of gold to buy a suit today as you would have used fifty years ago. While it is worth more dollars than it was then, that’s only because the dollar is worth less. Yet, the value of gold remains the same, with minor fluctuations.
Bitcoin however is currently increasing in dollar value at a pace that far exceeds inflation, making it a better investment for growth. At least for now. It has proven exceptionally volatile, increasing or decreasing in value by tens of thousands based on tweets from certain high profile people, or a government policy change.
How did we get to that point? Why did Bitcoin reach a point where it isn’t a currency, and probably never will be? How did it become a valuable but volatile digital asset? Because it wound up being tied to the U.S. dollar. It didn’t necessarily need to be tied to the dollar but the investment behavior of many drove the public perception in that direction. As soon as people started talking about it in terms of dollars, the die was cast and now the coin that started it all is inextricably linked to a centralized fiat currency. Which in turn means that Bitcoin is now a centralized asset, though it is supported by a decentralized network.
Perhaps the people behind Bitcoin dreamed too big. Maybe they didn’t understand the dangers of putting it out for everyone right away. It might have been different if that had begun smaller, in a specific ecosystem.
TARTLEcoin for example is meant for use within the TARTLE ecosystem. It is something that anyone can earn through simple actions and can be easily transported and transferred in a matter of seconds at extremely low cost. It even has a specific value in that each one grants you priority when buyers are looking for data too. Everyone can access and use it and everyone knows exactly what it is for. Perhaps this will be a better way, one that avoids the dollar trap.
What’s your crypto worth? www.tartle.co
Crypto off the Chain
It has been a bumpy path over the last few years but cryptocurrency is finally starting to hit the mainstream. Crypto began as a bunch of nerdy looking people spending their time and energy “mining” something called “bitcoin”. People laughed at it. Now, it is able to be traded for tokenized stock fractions on major stock exchanges. This is a massive development and has implications far beyond the size of your digital wallet.
Before we get too much into crypto itself, let’s take a moment to understand the tokenized stock concept. When the stock market got started way back in the late 17th century there was the idea that nearly anyone would be able to participate in the ownership of a company. Over time, some of the biggest companies grew so valuable that they were priced well beyond the capability of most people to ever own more than a couple shares, if any at all. Tokenized stock ownership allows a person to buy a fraction of a stock (much how one can buy a portion of bitcoin), returning the stock market to its original, decentralized intent.
So, how does the concept of partial ownership relate to cryptocurrency? They both contribute to a decentralized economy. How? First, the simple act of allowing more people to own more things puts more money and more freedom into the hands of more people. Secondly, cryptocurrency operates without a central bank. That means that it is much harder if not impossible for anyone to control or manipulate. The only fluctuations in the worth of the currency are based on the market, just as it should be. And with cryptocurrency becoming more mainstream, it will be able to be used for more and more purchases. Imagine a world where you don’t need a bank to make major purchases like a car or a house? The payments and the records of ownership are all kept in the blockchain, cutting out middle men like banks and title companies, even the filing system at city hall.
Of course, some will raise security concerns. That’s understandable. However, the nature of blockchain is such that you have to fool every node at once in order to steal or manipulate someone’s crypto. This is something that is only possible in theory as the computer power necessary is more than anything out there. Of course technology will continue to develop but that means the blockchain and its security will also.
Ah, but what about things like a solar flare or emp that could destroy enough of the nodes to make a difference? Honestly, what do you think is more likely, that city hall with all of its records burns down or a massive solar flare wipes out half the computers on the planet?
The real question is why has it taken so long to gain traction? Why has it taken this long to move out of its mom’s basement and into the real world? For that answer, you really only need to look at who is opposing it. That would be the Warren Buffets, and the big banks, the major governments and organizations that thrive on regulation, on control. These entities are too used to the way things have been done since the early 20th century. And hey, who can blame them? They’ve made a ton of money in that older system. That success does two things. One, you can easily dismiss crypto advocates as people jumping onto a fad, as people just looking to make a quick dollar, or as people who have been duped. Second, success can easily block a person’s ability to see another way of doing things. Pride gets in the way and makes people blind to what should be obvious.
What should be obvious is that people are wanting to decentralize, to break away from the major systems that need us to interact in a certain way, and keep us tied to one place. TARTLE is a major part of that, and not just because we use bitcoin. TARTLE is the first company to seriously take on the task of returning control over data to the individuals generating it. That power is placed not in the hands of world-spanning companies but in you. If your data is shared or traded, it’s because that’s what you want and it’s you that gets rewarded in the process.
What’s your data worth?
MS Money Moves
You know what’s fun? Sitting down to talk with amazing people doing amazing things. Recently, Alex and Jason had the chance to do just that. This time, the amazing person was one Zion Miller, the CEO of MS Money Moves. What is MS Money Moves? It’s a trading team that helps subscribers learn the ins and outs of the biotech industry so they can buy and sell stocks and make a profit doing so. As one can imagine, that involves a lot of data, which of course catches our interest here at TARTLE.
One of the things that a person might notice about Zion is that he’s young, which begs the question, how does someone so young get to be the CEO of a successful stock trading team in a hyper-specialized field? As Zion puts it, it started with him wanting to avoid getting caught up in a mountain of student debt so he was looking to find ways to fund his education. After doing a bit of research into what approach would have the best risk to reward ratio, he took his savings from working double shifts at a restaurant and invested it all into the biotech field. He quickly learned how the field operates and developed a system that has a good track record of predicting the ups and downs of biotech stocks. He has since built up a team of people with PhDs and others to help analyze these companies so they can see where things are going before anyone else. It’s that approach, talking with experts in the field who really understand what those companies are doing and how likely it is to succeed that really sets Zion apart from other investors. He goes as close to the source as SEC law allows. His team then takes all the information they get and break it down into a digestible format that can be understood by his subscribers.
Yet, they don’t just provide a summary report. The Money Moves team also provides all the data backing up their report, making it possible for members to do their own due diligence. This makes Miller’s company an incredibly transparent and efficient investment firm as compared to most who don’t even provide their data and are likely just reacting to whatever goes on in the market. Zion’s team can actually predict what is going to happen. Miller also is committed to being open and honest with his subscribers in that he doesn’t sell any of their data to third parties. This is in contrast to popular trading apps such as Robin Hood. After all, he’s there to trade and so are the subscribers. Therefore he only makes money from trades that are made.
Yes, MS Money Moves doesn’t do free trades. Yes, others offer free trading. Yet, we know that there is no such thing as a free lunch. The cost of using those platforms is you allow them to sell all your data. That’s not a game Zion is willing to play. That’s just another reflection of Zion’s altruistic approach to investing. He recognizes that these companies he and his subscribers are investing in are trying to help solve major health issues. Because of this, Miller believes it is the responsibility of investors to not just try to make money but to also accelerate the development of the companies that are doing the best work to help improve the lot of people around the world.
Like we said at the beginning of this piece, we like to talk to amazing people doing amazing things. Zion Miller and MS Money Moves exemplify the best of what people can do when they really make data work for them. When they do that, the data doesn’t just work for them, it works for everyone.
What’s your data worth?
The Census and TARTLE
You know what is inefficient? The US census. In the modern age, why are we trying to print out a form for everyone in the United States to fill out, put it in an envelope, slap a stamp on it and then send it to every single address? And then, as a backup measure, send someone driving around door to door to make sure people fill out the form (often carrying another copy with them), only to have huge numbers of people still not participate? Why on earth would we spend so many resources in paper, people, time, gas, and money when this kind of thing could be done in other ways?
What’s more, the data quality is remarkably low. How low? So low that the Census Bureau felt it necessary to point out that there is “little” evidence of falsified data in the census. They say only about 0.4% of respondents likely falsified data. One wonders how that gets verified or what is meant by falsified data. The word “falsified” implies intent. Yet, how does that account for unintentional inaccuracies? Or people filling out their forms either just before or after they moved?
Regardless, the Census Bureau was concerned enough about data inaccuracy that they did follow up interviews with over 300,000 households. That’s a pretty big response requiring yet more resources, all in the hopes of achieving greater accuracy.
Why does accuracy in the census matter so much? The biggest reason is that it directly affects representation in the state and federal legislatures. The amount of seats in the House of Representatives is directly affected by population. Population numbers, demographics and other data are also important to the distribution of 1.5 trillion dollars in federal funds as well. Or to put it another way, how your tax dollars are distributed and who makes those decisions are directly affected by the accuracy of the census data. Needless to say, it’s important to find the best, most accurate methods of gathering that data possible.
So, what reasons do we have to assume that the data is inaccurate beyond mere accusations? We know that they will sometimes rely on data from landlords, friends and family members if some people don’t respond directly. Some census agents have even been directed to make guesses based on the number of cars and bikes out in the driveway, or even by looking through people’s windows. There are so many problems with that, it’s hard to even know where to begin. A family could be on vacation so no one is around for a while, or they could have friends over for dinner, meaning there are extra cars parked out front. And are we seriously okay with the idea of government employees lurking around our yards peeking into the kitchen windows. It doesn’t take a lot of imagination to figure out all sorts of ways that could go wrong.
Sadly, this is often the case with data gathering overall. The census is just the archaic dinosaur version of data skimming, cookies, and selling your data to third parties without your consent. There are inaccuracies, falsifications, guesses and deceptions everywhere that some motive other than accurately representing people is present. Whether those other motives are profit or getting your manager off your back, it all leads to poor data quality.
What if the Census Bureau took a different approach? Rather than spending all sorts of money and effort to get people to take the time to fill out a form and send it back when there is no immediate reward for doing so they worked with TARTLE? They could offer a financial incentive to people to respond to all the same questions from their phone and get a financial reward in the process? It would be faster, more efficient, and almost certainly more accurate, especially if people could choose to send pre-existing data packets that already reflect exactly the kind of information the Census Bureau is after. By making use of the TARTLE data marketplace, the government would get a better understanding of the population and better represent it in Congress and in funding.
What’s your data worth?
Coming out of Massachusetts is a new antitrust lawsuit against Google. This is hardly an unheard of situation. However, this one is pretty interesting. The plaintiff is alleging that Google is unfairly using unpaid labor for its own profit. How? It’s really quite ingenious. You know those captcha/recaptcha things we all deal with from time to time so we can convince the algorithm that we aren’t bots? If you’ve noticed, they tend to be some form of distorted text. Letters that are blurry, poorly written or with extra lines through them for some reason. Sometimes you even need to do that twice.
Well, the lawsuit is alleging that at least that second captcha text is being used by Google to train its text recognition AI. That matters because Google Books scans in thousands upon thousands of books, digitizes them and uploads them to the internet for free. Those scans though, are often from rough copies that might have pen marks on them, suffer from damage due to age or just have artifacts from the original printing. By making use of the captcha system, Google is teaching its AI to better deal with those problems and thus create more accurate digital versions of the work.
So what’s the big deal? Sure, they’re sort of tricking people into doing work for them but at least they are doing it for the end of making more knowledge available to more people. Obviously that’s a good thing in itself. It’s a little shady that they didn’t really tell people about it, but if that was all it was, no harm no foul. Yet, as often happens, Google goes right ahead and takes it to the next step, eating up some of that good will that we would otherwise have. How so?
There are newspapers (yes, they still exist) and magazines that are interested in digitizing their archives. Universities and governments are also trying to get their documents, books and research converted to a digital format. Along comes Google, offering their scanning and conversion software to take care of that. For a substantial price of course. That is where problems arise. Because now Google is profiting off the software that you (and everyone else) helped develop. It’s pretty understandable why that might bother someone. And in all honesty, if Google were upfront about what they were doing with the data gleaned from the captcha system, then it would be fine. People would have the opportunity at least to know what they were doing and why. But again, Google doesn’t tell people about that. It seems only fair that since Google is making a profit, they should offer at least a shekel or two for the trouble.
In fact, if they were willing to both be upfront about how they are using the data and offer something to the people helping them with it, it would be great if Google expanded the program. They could scan documents not just individually but as part of a searchable and cross-referenced database that would be a massive benefit to researchers everywhere, making it easy to find not just the one item you’re looking for but several related documents that could then be compared and contrasted. It would make Wikipedia look like LiveJournal. Hopefully, Google or someone else gets to work providing something like that in the near future.
In the meantime, this kind of situation is exactly why TARTLE exists. For a long time now, businesses have been benefiting from data generated by others. We’re offering people the ability to take control of their data again by signing up with us and funneling all of your data through TARTLE, which allows you to actually be rewarded when you share it. If you even want to share it. The choice is yours.
What’s your data worth?
It has been suggested recently that bitcoin needs a philosophy. All money has natural ties to the culture that it was developed in. That’s why money is almost always stamped or printed with presidents, kings, and queens from the past or in some cases, the present. Even commemorative coins are stamped with an image of a location or national figure, like Amelia Earhart or Mozart. That in turn ties them in a way to the philosophy of whatever nation they come from.
Bitcoin of course is different. It has no nation that it is tied to. Nor does it have a physical form. It’s utterly intangible in that way. However, does that mean it doesn’t have a philosophy?
When Satoshi Nakamoto first invented Bitcoin and blockchain back in the early 2000s he started a revolution. Deploying a decentralized and anonymized financial system allows people to operate independently of governments and central banks. Like many revolutions it began with the idea of putting power back in the hands of the people, of letting them look after themselves.
The Bitcoin revolution differs quite a bit from other revolutions of the past though. While most revolutions at least began with the notion of securing rights for the people, all too quickly that revolution becomes something else. It often happens that the would-be revolutionaries turn the power they just won over to the government they just toppled. Or, even more common, they forget their own principles when they become the ones in charge. Instead of using their new power and freedom to secure rights for everyone, they use it to punish their enemies. So, how is bitcoin different?
Bitcoin does have a philosophy and it is that philosophy that differentiates from most revolutions. That philosophy is to encourage individuals to take responsibility for themselves and their own well-being. Bitcoin and blockchain give people the tools they need to break away from the manipulated and volatile currencies controlled by the FED and other central banks. What’s more, it is a lot harder to corrupt the Bitcoin system. That’s because it has no real leader, no centralized power structure. Because its transactions are verified by separate nodes around the globe, it can’t really be co-opted either. Its philosophy of encouraging personal responsibility remains intact regardless of what is going on in the rest of the world.
A skeptic might be thinking “yeah, that’s great, but Bitcoin is still very volatile”. That depends on your measure. When people point that out, they are usually referring to Bitcoin’s value against the US dollar. That has definitely gone up and down but it only really matters to people who are interested in getting rich by buying and selling currencies. Well, good for them but the point of Bitcoin and blockchain isn’t to get rich. It’s to make the world better by empowering individuals and giving them the tools to improve their own lives.
That’s why TARTLE uses Bitcoin. The cryptocurrency’s philosophy of encourage personal responsibility is fully compatible with our own. While we focus on empowering people by giving them control over their own data to sell or not based on what they think is best for them, Bitcoin gives people the chance to buy, sell, and trade without being tracked and taxed for everything. By putting these too different systems with similar philosophies together in our marketplace, we are doing more than just creating a new data management tool. We, TARTLE and those who join us, are joining a revolution, one that promises to change the way we look at data, money, and our own responsibility over ourselves.
What’s your data worth?