#49: The darker side of cryptocurrencies
Book notes - American Kingpin & the nefarious uses of cryptocurrency, and more
Mark Twain famously quoted —
Truth is stranger than fiction, but it is because fiction is obliged to stick to possibilities, truth isn’t.
In other words, fiction has to always make sense, but truth doesn’t. This is one of the biggest paradoxes in life. When we create stories, they have to be logical, otherwise, they don’t stick very well. But the truth is usually a series of random events.
Last week, I found a good example where actually a non-fiction book was just as good as a fiction book. While reading the book, I kept thinking about the quote above. I wondered whether the book was actually non-fiction or whether it was the truth!
But I was convinced that it was the truth when the author listed all his research materials and artifacts towards the end of the book.
The book I’m writing about is American Kingpin by Nick Bilton —
In the last decade, cryptocurrencies have been touted as the future of how currencies work. Their lack of dependence on governments, but on computers, makes them much more reliable.
Yet, there are some big problems with them (at least right now). The privacy makes it near impossible to trace who actually owns what, even though all the transactions that happened are available on a publically viewable ledger.
And thus, they can be used for any number of nefarious purposes.
Then there is the concept of The Dark Web, which basically means websites that are hidden from the view of search engines like Google. This portion of the web also keeps you hidden from governments and security agencies, which means you can be free to do what you want.
This is exactly what Ross Ulbricht, founder of The Silk Road did. He created an e-commerce portal for drugs and later expanded it to guns. People could easily buy and sell drugs, and pay each other using bitcoin. The site grew like anything, making Ross a millionaire within months of starting it.
Of course, wouldn’t the governmental agencies be irked?
The book follows the story of officers of different governmental agencies, the FBI, the DEA, and the US Customs department trying to nab Ross for operating the Silk Road.
Ultimately, what was thought to be impenetrable was given away by a series of errors made by Ross.
If you like reading Crime thrillers, do check the book out.
Other things I came across…
The Value of time: One of the biggest truths of adulthood is the need to manage your time. Between work, friendships, relationships, and our passions, we are trying to juggle a lot already. So, how do you allocate your time so that you reduce wastage? In this essay, James Clear suggests a technique to calculate the value of an hour you spend. Based on this, you can determine whether you should do it yourself, or pay someone to do the work. For example: if the value of your time is ₹1000, James suggests that you should pay ₹500 for something that takes more than half an hour.
Though I have my reservations about measuring time spent this way, this article is certainly thought-provoking. Do check it out!
Blogging his way to $9mn in cash — I recently heard this podcast episode, where a non-writer, non-blogger started a blog in a subject he had no expertise around: daily soaps on TV. He claims to have never seen a single daily soap episode. And guess what, not only he started it, but he was also able to sell it for nearly $9mn! This is another story that shows the power of the internet.
That’s it for today!
What did you think of this email? Do let me know if you like it, or even if you don’t.
Thanks for reading :)