Monthly Archive November 2019

ByJayanthi

Will Bitcoin Ever Be Regulated?

Reading Time: 4 minutes

As Bitcoin and other digital assets continue to grow in adoption and popularity, a common topic for discussion is whether the U.S. government, or any government for that matter, can exert control of its use. 

There are two core issues that lay the foundation of the Bitcoin regulation debate:

The digital assets pose a macro-economic risk. Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies can act as surrogates for an international currency, which throws global economics a curveball. For example, countries such as RussiaChinaVenezuela, and Iran have all explored using digital currency to circumvent United States sanctions, which puts the US government at risk of losing its global authority.

Image source

International politics and economics are a very delicate issue, and often sanctions are used in place of military boots on the ground, arguably making the world a safer place. 

The micro risks enabled by cryptocurrency weigh heavily in aggregate. One of the most attractive features of Bitcoin and other digital assets is that one can send anywhere between a few pennies-worth to billions of dollars of Bitcoin anywhere in the world at any time for a negligible fee (currently around $0.04 to $0.20 depending on the urgency.) 

However, in the hands of malicious parties, this could be very dangerous. The illicit activities inherently supported by a global decentralized currency run the gamut: terrorist funding, selling and buying illegal drugs, ordering assassinations, dodging taxes, laundering money, and so on. 

Can Bitcoin Even Be Regulated?

Before diving deeper, it’s worth asking whether Bitcoin can be regulated in the first place. 

The cryptocurrency was built with the primary purpose of being decentralized and distributed– two very important qualities that could make or break Bitcoin’s regulation. 

By being decentralized, Bitcoin doesn’t have a single controlling entity. The control of Bitcoin is shared among several independent entities all over the world, making it nearly impossible for a single entity to wrangle full control over the network and manipulate it as they please. 

Image source

By being distributed, Bitcoin exists at many different locations at the same time. This makes it very difficult for a single regulatory power to enforce its will across borders. This means that a government or other third party can’t technically raid an office and shut anything down. 

That being said, there are several chokepoints that could severely hinder Bitcoin’s adoption and use.

1. Targeting centralized entities: exchanges and wallets 

A logical first move is to regulate the fiat onramps (exchanges) , which the United States government has finally been getting around to. In cryptocurrency’s nascent years, cryptocurrency exchanges didn’t require much input or approval from regulatory authorities to run. However, the government started stepping in when cryptocurrency starting hitting the mainstream. 

The SEC, FinCEN (Financial Crimes Enforcement Network), and CFTC have all played a role in pushing Know Your Customer (KYC) protocols and Anti-Money Laundering (AML) policies across all exchanges operating within U.S borders.  

Cryptocurrency exchanges have no options but to adhere to whatever the U.S. government wants. The vast majority of cryptocurrency users rely on some cryptocurrency exchange to utilize their cryptocurrency, so they will automatically bend to exchange-imposed regulation. 

Regulators might not be able to shut down the underlying technology that powers Bitcoin, but they can completely wreck the user experience for the great majority of cryptocurrency users, which serves as enough of an impediment to diminish the use of cryptocurrency for most.

2. Targeting users.

The government can also target individual cryptocurrency users. Contrary to popular opinion, Bitcoin (and even some privacy coins) aren’t anonymous. An argument can be made that Bitcoin is even easier to track than fiat because of its public, transparent ledger. 

Combined with every cryptocurrency exchange’s willingness to work with U.S. authorities, a federal task force could easily track money sent and received from certain addresses and pinpoint the actual individual with it. Companies such as Elliptic and Chainalysis have already created solid partnerships with law enforcement in many countries to track down illicit cryptocurrency uses and reveals the identities behind the transactions. 

Beyond that, we dive into the dark web and more professional illicit cryptocurrency usage. Although trickier, the government likely has enough cyber firepower to snipe out the majority of cryptocurrency-related cybercrime. In fact, coin mixers (cryptoMixer.io), coin swap services (ShapeShift) and P2P bitcoin transactions (localbitcoins.com) have been investigated for several years now and most of them have had to add KYC and adhere to strict AML laws. 

Final Thoughts

Ultimately, it’s going to take a lot to enforce any sort of significant global regulation on Bitcoin, with the most important factor being a centralization and consensus of opinion. The majority of the U.S. regulatory alphabet agencies fall into the same camp of “protect the good guys, stop the bad guys”, but there isn’t really a single individual piece of guidance to follow. Currently, cryptocurrencies are regulated in the US by several institutions: CFTC, SEC, IRS, making it difficult to create overarching regulatory guidelines.  

In short, yes– Bitcoin can be regulated. In fact, its regulation has already started with the fiat onramps and adherence to strict KYC & AML laws. While in countries such as Ecuador, Bolivia, Egypt and Morocco Bitcoin ownership is illegal, in the US, it would take some bending of the moral fabric of the Constitution in order for cryptocurrency ownership rights to be infringed.

However, it cannot be shut down. There are still ways to buy, sell, and trade Bitcoin P2P, without a centralized exchange. It would take an enormous effort by any government to completely uproot something as decentralized as Bitcoin, but that future seems more dystopian than tangible.

By Vandrei

This article originally appeared here

ByJayanthi

Mastodon

Reading Time: 2 minutes

It seems as though something new is always brewing on the technological front!  I have been hearing about “Mastodon” for quite a while and sought to find more things about it and here they are:

  1. ‘Mastodon’ is an open source decentralized network
  2. Each group is an “instance” (reminds me of my Java programming days :)) or “server”
  3. You can post messages, videos or images
  4. You can think of many such “servers” floating in the “Mastadon” space
  5. You can join any “server” of your interest
  6. You can join any “server” based on “Category” of your choice(Technology, General, Art, Journalism and more)
  7. You can create your own “server” too and lay your own rules
  8. All “servers” are ad-free and non-algorithmic
  9. Since it is decentralized, it is free from any sort of tapping or interference
  10. None of the data is monitored or collected. However, all data that you type will be visible to the “server” creator(obviously! :))
  11. All thoughts have a limit of 500 characters(which can be edited or deleted)
  12. You can interact with members from your own “server” or from other “servers”
  13. “Mastodon has stronger anti-harassment tools”

 

 

There are many smaller and finer features but the major ones are listed above… for more about “Mastodon” do visit this link..

Maybe, the most important and key take away from the “Mastodon” social network, is the ability to pass thoughts on social media without being observed by anybody thus bolstering the concept of “privacy”…

 

ByMani Prithiviraj

Habit 3: Put First Things First

Reading Time: 5 minutes

In the previous article we looked at the second habit, which is “Begin with the End in Mind”. The first habit (“Be Proactive”), says that we are the creator and we are in charge. Habit 2 (“Begin with the End in Mind”), is the first creation which is executed mentally and is based on our imagination.  In this post, we will look at the third habit which is “Put First Things First”. Habit 3 is the second creation or the “Physical Creation”. Habit 1 and Habit 2 are pre-requisites for Habit 3.

            “Put First Things First” is associated with prioritizing the important things that lead us to our goals.  In his essay “Common Denominator of Success”, E.M Gray states that a common characteristic found in successful people is “Putting First Things First”. This characteristic in addition to a combination of hard work, some good luck and development of good human relations are found in successful people. Gray further states that a successful person does things of high priority that others do not execute. Though successful people may not necessarily like to do the high priority tasks, they are able to subordinate their dislike to the strength of their purpose. Hence Covey states that the third habit is a strong function of independent will and self-discipline.

            Habit 3 is  linked to time management. According to Covey, Habit 3 focuses on organizing and executing around priorities. We need to understand that we are not prioritizing all the things that are on our plate, but identifying important activities that help us reach or goals.  Historically there are four generations of time management tools:

  • The first generation of time management tools were mainly notes and checklists. This method only works if all tasks have equal priority.
  • The second generation focused on calendars and appointments (looking ahead and scheduling activities)
  • The third generation includes focusing on short term and long term goals and linking them to scheduling of activities. The scheduling is done on a daily basis.
  • The fourth generation focuses on preserving and enhancing relationships and on accomplishing results. The 4th generation focuses on management of ourselves rather than time. The scheduling is done on a weekly basis. The schedule is also reviewed every day to make adjustments if required.

Most of the current generation time management techniques are focused on third generation tools. Third generation tools have made significant contributions to time management. However, efficient scheduling and control of time are often counter-productive.  For example when we are dealing with an important customer who is unhappy, it is not possible to setup a meeting for 30 minutes to resolve the issue. Since the goal is to address the problem and make the customer satisfied, we should be flexible enough to let the meeting take longer, if it leads to resolution of the problem.

A daily plan, makes flexibility hard to achieve. Daily planning compromises relationships, spontaneous actions and quality of life. This is the key reason why the 4th generation focuses on a weekly schedule. A weekly schedule provides us the flexibility to move activities around if required.

            The essence of the 4th generation time management can be captured in the time management matrix (adapted with some modifications from Covey’s book) shown below. Any activity is a function two factors:

  • Urgency (requires immediate attention)
  • Importance (contributes towards high priority goals)

 

  URGENT NOT URGENT
I

M

P

O

R

T

A

N

T

Quadrant I

 

1.      Crisis

2.      Pressing Problems

3.      Deadline Driven Tasks

4.      Medical Emergency

Quadrant II

 

1.      Prevention and Production Capacity activities

2.      Relationship Building

3.      Long Term Planning

4.      Learning new Skills

N

O

T

 

I

M

P

O

R

T

A

N

T

Quadrant III

 

1.      Some Phone calls

2.      Some Emails

3.      Tasks that can be delegated

4.      Popular Activities

5.      Some Meetings

Quadrant IV

 

1.      Time Wasters

2.      Pleasant activities which do not contribute to goals.

3.      Unimportant phone calls and emails.

 

We need to understand that all urgent tasks are not important. We sometimes execute urgent tasks, since they are pleasant, easy and fun. Execution of an urgent task gives us a sense of accomplishment. Important activities are focused on results and contribute towards achievement of high priority goals. Important activities often do not require immediate attention. Hence unless we are disciplined, we may inadvertently neglect the important activities. The key to successful time management is maximizing our time in Quadrant II. Numerous Quadrant II activities reduce the number of tasks that often move into Quadrant I. Since the total time available to us is fixed, spending time in Quadrant II is only possible if we minimize the time spent in Quadrants III and IV. People that end up spending most of their time in Quadrant I, end up getting stressed and burnt out. People who spend most of their time in Quadrants III and IV end up not being able to accomplish long term goals.

According to Covey, Quadrant II is the most important part of effective personal management. Quadrant II organization involves four key activities:

  • Identifying roles (e.g. Parent, student, manager at work etc)
  • Selecting goals for each role
  • Scheduling weekly activities
  • Reviewing the weekly schedule each day and adapting it if required.

 Here are a few examples of Quadrant II activities and the benefits they yield:

  • Regular exercise (key benefits: promotes a healthy life and minimizes medical problems during later stages of life)
  • A student studying regularly (Key benefits: retention of new concepts; reduced stress before exams; good performance)
  • Keeping up with on-going developments in our current work focus area (key benefit: alignment of our business with market needs; prevents our knowledge from getting outdated).
  • Spending time on a daily basis for a month end report (Key benefit: reduction of stress at the month end)

How can we reduce the time spent in Quadrant III and IV activities? Two powerful means are:

  • Saying “No” to unimportant activities.
  • Delegation

In order to be able to achieve our goals, we have to say no to at-least some of the Quadrant III and most of the Quadrant IV activities. Delegation of tasks (that can be delegated) is a powerful means of improving productivity and preventing burn out.

We either play the role of a producer or a manager in execution of a task. A producer can invest one hour of effort to produce one unit of results. If a manager has a team of 5 trained producers, delegation by work by the manger to his team can increase the hourly output to five units.  When we move up from being a producer at work to a manager we need to be able to identify and delegate appropriate activities to our team members.  This greatly enhances production capacity and prevents burn-out.

Covey recommends stewardship delegation which involves:

  • Creating a clear picture of desired results.
  • Define guidelines for achieving them
  • Identification of required resources
  • Defining accountability
  • Defining consequences (good and bad)

In summary, a Quadrant II focus (or paradigm) empowers us to remain principle centered and look through the lens of importance and not urgency. Effective people spend a significant amount of time in Quadrant II. They thus feed opportunities and starve problems according to Peter Drucker.

Hope you enjoyed this post. This post completes the Habits associated with the self. In the next post we will start looking into habits that involve Interdependence. The first in that list is Habit 4: “Think Win-Win”.

Reference: 25th Anniversary Edition “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People” by Stephen R. Covey.