The Inyang Effiong Show

The PodCast About People and Events around Nigeria and West Africa

Tag: blockchain

Card Paper and Coin Money

How Crytocurrencies really work (and what you can do with them)

In this 3rd part of the series on money and cryptocurrencies, we dive deeper into the mechanism of cryptocurrencies.

At the very core, a cryptocurrency is basically a token that is created and maintained on top of a blockchain, the blockchain is a distributed digital database with no centralized control. Any change on the blockchain has to be agreed upon by the majority of users, what this actually means in practice is that changes to the blockchain will follow the rules set up during the creation of the blockchain.

Various Money Types

To use the old banking vs cryptocurrency example once more, your bank can change your banking records at will, but that should not happen on a blockchain since there is no central body like your bank in charge.

Getting a Bitcoin
So, how do you get a cryptocurrency like Bitcoin or Ethereum, you can walk down to the nearest bureau de change or bank and ask for some, you will not get it though (as of February 2018), so that option is out. There are only two ways you can get a cryptocurrency now,
  1.  You can be a miner and produce some, be prepared to invest in hardware and the power to run in or
  2.  You can buy Bitcoin or your preferred cryptocurrency on a cryptocurrency exchange.

Using a cryptocurrency
And how do you spend them? No practical way at the moment, you can go back to the same exchange and trade your Bitcoin back into regular money, outside converting Bitcoin and her sisters back into regular currencies, there  a few places available to actually spend them, it was – and still is – a popular method for underground payments for things the buyers will rather not have traced back to them.

Miners are at the heart of the blockchain and one of the reasons blockchain applications are currently limited to money applications, miners run the software that builds the blockchain. Miners check that transactions are legitimate and aggregate transactions into a block, their reward is being given a newly created currency as their reward.

What does it take to be a miner?
Power, as much power as you can get.
Kainji Dam looking downstream
Computing Power- The mining process is like a fixed lottery, every miner is given the chance to build a block, the first miner to solve a puzzle wins, the puzzle is a mathematical problem that needs a lot of computing resources to solve and the more powerful your hardware – read the faster your compute engine- the more faster you can solve the puzzle and be the chosen one.
Electrical Power – One side effect of computing is power consumption and dissipation in the form of heat. You will need power your computers and also keep them cool, the faster and more powerful the computer, the hotter they run and the more cooling you will need, which translate to you guess it, more power. Some mining operations are located near dams to get cheap electricity.
But do not be discouraged, there are ways to be a miner without running a warehouse full of specialized computing hardware.
  • use your present hardware and join a distributed mining combine, this is a decentralized group of people/computing resources that took together their processing power to solve the puzzles and the rewards are distributed back to members in accordance with their contribution.
  • build a specialized mining rig and join a mining combine to pool together your computing resources.
  • run mining software on other peoples machine over the net either with their knowledge or without their knowledge.

How are Cryptocurrencies valued?
The key question.  Just like any medium of exchange, the cryptocurrencies are valued based on what people will pay for it. Right now, cryptocurrencies are treated more like assets/commodities than money.
1000 naira note

Nigerian Naira

Their current value is based mostly on what people think they will be worth in the future or will do in the future, not on the present usage. If you are buying a cryptocurrency, a little research helps.

There is even a cryptocurrency -DogeCoin-  that was set up as a joke by Jackson Palmer and now has a market capitalisation of over 1.2 billion dollars, you can listen to the story on NPR PlanetMoney
 Why does the value of crytocurrencies appear to only going up and keep going up?  FOMO – Fear of missing out and it may be a bubble, then again, it may now. Caveat Emptor 

Current Challenges
What generation is the underlying blockchain the currency is based on? Bitcoin is generation 1, Ethereum is generation 2, some generation 3 blockchains are coming up. The main differences are transaction speed. One of the shortfalls of Bitcoin and even Ethereum is the slow transaction speed. Bitcoin is maxed out at 7 transactions per second, compared to say Visa which handles 2,000 transactions per second and can hit 50,000 tps

The Bubble issue
Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies can go all the way up, or crash, it depends on so many factors and if you are going into cryptocurrencies, do as much research as you can. There are predictions for 60,000 USD per bitcoin and also 5,000 USD dollar per bitcoin, sometimes coming from the same source ().

Our last article in the series will focus on other uses of the blockchain apart from cryptocurrencies. Do keep the comments coming in.

Understanding Money and Cryptocurrencies (Blockchain applications part 2)

Bundle of Money

A cryptocurrency is simply currency/money that is based on strong cryptography to secure its use for transactions, to control the creation of additional units and to verify any operations done with it. Most definitions like to add that cryptocurrencies operate independently of a central bank, but there is no intrinsic reason for it to be so.

In part one, we defined cryptography as a way of encoding or hiding information so that only the person with the correct key can have access to it. No one else can access your encrypted information without the key. Now, this single way of accessing your information is very important to keep in mind. In a traditional banking system, you can access and recover your account even if you lose your bank account details, as far as you can satisfactorily show proof of identity. But the very nature of cryptocurrency means that proof of identity is not required. The only way to show you own your cryptocurrency is to have the digital key!

With currently available technology, the present cryptographic systems are for all intent and purposes immune to hacking and other methods of compromises. This makes cryptocurrencies a very secure way of keeping your valuables safe and secured!

What is the link between cryptocurrency and the blockchain? The validity of the cryptocurrency coin is provided by the blockchain. Currency creation, management, issuance and control is all done on the blockchain. Since there is no central bank managing the cryptocurrency coins (for now), the blockchain provides the security and database that any form of currency needs to satisfy the users that it is actually worth using as a means of exchange and store of value.

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A simple explanation of blockchains and crypto currencies

Chained to a bank?, not anymore.

What is the blockchain?
Say you have an account with Union Bank of Nigeria, every time you pay in money, the bank records it on your account sheet (ledger), every time you do a transfer to another account, it is recorded too. At any point in time, your account statement has a record of all the money inflow and money outflow which then gives your bank balance.
What happens if your record of inflow and outflow does not match with what the bank has? Well, you have to bring all your payment receipts and as much evidence as you can get, the bank looks at this and decides if it should change your balance or not. If you do not agree with their figure, your options are quite limited

 

The bank has a single database keeping all your transaction records and that of millions of other customers money too. The integrity of the data depends solely on the bank (and the competence of its IT department)

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