Annotated Bibliography

Barber, Simon, et al. “Bitter to better—how to make bitcoin a better currency.”Financial Cryptography and Data Security. Springer Berlin Heidelberg, 2012. 399-414.

Bernes, Richard. “ Digital Currencies Will Endure.” Bitcoin Vox. N.p., 9 Mar. 2014. Web. 17 Mar. 2014.

  • A commentary on the Bitcoin skeptics who question something that seems so bizarre on the surface, and something that contradicts the assumption that credible currencies have to be controlled by a centralized bank. The collapses of Bitcoin exchanges, Mt. Gox and Silk Road, have prompted an ‘I told you so’ mentality by these skeptics. But the mere fact that Bitcoin represents a more efficient medium of exchange (cheaper and easier), leads the author to assert that the ideas behind Bitcoin will endure, even if Bitcoin itself does not.

Dougherty, Carter. 2013. “Bankers Balking at Bitcoin in U.S. as Real-World Obstacles Mount.” Bloomberg Personal Finance. N.p., 5 Dec. 2013. Web. 24 Mar 3.  

  • Good overview of what needs to happen for Bitcoin to become widely accepted, largely focusing on government adoption and regulation, merchant acceptance, and especially bank acceptance. Banks are both eager to get involved on a new revenue stream, but also wary of being implicated in money laundering schemes accidentally. More proof that the powers that be are afraid to let Bitcoin grow too wildly, and that a slow growth might be best for users.

Gruber, John and Fleishman, Glenn. “Heart of a Gambler.” 23:25– The Talk Show. March 7, 2014. Mule Radio Syndicate.

  • Gruber, one of the most well-known tech journalists around, discusses the “rising tide” of Bitcoin with Jeopardy champion, strategist, and editor of The Magazine, Glenn Fleishman. Beginning at 27:19, Glenn gives a clear, understandable definition of the technology behind Bitcoin. Most helpfully, Fleishman outlines how Bitcoin is not exactly comparable to money as we know it. The main point here is that Bitcoin transfers are one-way, rather than a deficit/credit exchange. Understanding this major difference will be instrumental in understanding (and deconstructing) many of the metaphorical or comparative analyses we’re seeing about the system.

Kaplanov, Nikolei. “Nerdy money: Bitcoin, the private digital currency, and the case against its regulation.” (2012).

King, Richie S. and Williams, Sam and Yanofsky, David. “By Reading This Page, You Are Mining Bitcoin.” Quartz Top News. 17 Dec. 2013.

Kondor, Daniel, Marton Posfai, Istvan Csabai, and Gabor Vattay. “Do the rich get richer? An empirical analysis of the Bitcoin transaction network.”  PLoS One 9.2 (2014): 1-10.

  • This article uses Bitcoin as a tool to analyse money in general, but there is some great data here. The authors show that there is such thing as a Matthew Effect (rich get richer). Nodes (people) who are bigger (have more money and make more transactions), are more likely to get bigger (make more money and conduct more transactions), relative to the average node. The social network analysis is cool, but the reason we could find this interesting is because they use Bitcoin.

    The authors recognize that Bitcoin is the first universal ledger system. That means that all transactions and money movements are visible in a way that has never been possible in a non-experimental environment. They go back and parse the entire transaction block chain, finding 13 million nodes (users all-time) and 44 million edges (transactions), as of May 2013. Using this data, they confirm the above-stated hypothesis that wealthy people make more money. However, that they use Bitcoin data means that their discussion is based on the Bitcoin economy. They discuss the potential effects of anonymous trading on behavior and Bitcoin, the nature of transactions, inequality, and how Bitcoin creates a network.

Lemieux, Pierre. “Who is Satoshi Nakamoto?” Regulation 3 (2013): 14-15.

  • Brief and basic rundown of Bitcoin. Not much here, but there is an intriguing question about the definition of money and currency. Otherwise, move along.

Nakamoto, Satoshi. N.d. “Bitcoin: A Peer-to-Peer Electronic Cash System.” Web. 24 Mar 2014. 

  • The holy grail article of Bitcoin: the founding paper. Nine page document outlining how Bitcoin is supposed to work. Includes a very brief “why we need Bitcoin,” and a few more pages on how it works. Very technical, but obviously very influential.

Ober, Micha, Stefan Katzenbeisser, and Kay Hamacher. “Structure and Anonymity of the Bitcoin Transaction Graph.” Future Internet 5 (2013): 237-250.

  • An extremely math-y paper ferreting the actual level of anonymity present in Bitcoin transactions. Discusses ways for users to increase their anonymity and ways for “adversaries” (law enforcement) to better link transactions. Depending on the level of depth we pursue in anonymity, this may be worthy of a re-read.

Bitcoin’s COO Explains What Bitcoin Is” Prod. Conan O’Brien. Conan. 11 Mar. 2014. TBS Network.

  • Though merely a scripted comedy bit, this sketch from Conan rings true to many people who find Bitcoin impossible to understand. Comedy is most often funny because it’s true; the general public is baffled by the system enough that it fits to throw in a ridiculous phrase like “synergistic flow-matrix” with an otherwise accurate explanation. On another level, the entire sketch speaks of the mysterious nature of digital technologies from the perspective of uninformed people. It’s this type of popular opinion that must be addressed as part of our target audience.

Plassaras, Nicholas. “Regulating Digital Currencies: Bringing Bitcoin within the Reach of the IMF.” Chicago Journal of International Law 14.1 (2014): 377 – 407.

  • Short version: Explains how Bitcoins work, gives pros and cons, explains the role of the IMF and currencies, what happens when Bitcoin is unregulated, and how the IMF should consider regulating it.

  • Long version: One of the advantages of Bitcoin is reduced banking costs, estimating savings of up to 50% relative to physical currency. The author explains that increased interaction with software-based finances is an externality, teaching users computer skills. Finally, digital currencies are a more efficient currency, in that they are a medium of exchange, a unit of measure of worth, and a store of value, just like physical currency but with lower costs.

    However, digital currencies are uncertain and volatile because they have no physical or fiat backing. In addition, there is no significant regulation to protect users. Externalities go both ways; digital currencies benefit from increased returns of scale. Without sufficient scale, they lose their efficiency advantages.

    Digital currencies counter part of the mission of the IMF, stabilizing exchange rates. Because it is unregulated, it is prone to a speculative attack by a significantly wealthy individual, particularly because no organization can keep a large enough reserve of Bitcoin. The IMF is well-situated to outlast these attacks, but needs to have functions added to its charter. Direct and indirect methods of control are discussed.

Ramzan, Zulfikar. 2013. “Bitcoin: What is it? Khan Academy N.p., 3 May 2013. Online course. 18 Mar. 2014. 

  • About 90 minutes of YouTube videos about Bitcoin, including 25 minutes on digital signatures and hash encoding. These videos include how Bitcoin works at a conceptual and technical level, what miners do, how the Bitcoin economy is controlled, examples of bitcoin transactions, and how the decentralized nature ensures anonymity and prevents fraud though open mining and transaction block chains. Illustrations are crude but effective at conveying the protocol of Bitcoin.

Rose, Scott. “Current Criticisms of Bitcoin Are at Least 10 Years Too Early.CoinDesk RSS. N.p., 9 Mar. 2014. Web. 17 Mar. 2014.

  • Criticizing Bitcoin now is premature and is comparable to criticizing the early stages of email, which was incomprehensible to most people at its infancy in the 1980s.  And even if you did understand the concept of email, it didn’t make sense to use it because it wasn’t mainstream – who would you email since no one had it?  There are still many kinks to be worked out with Bitcoin, but the author asserts that the genie is out of the bottle and there’s no turning back now.  Following the Cyprus banking crisis in 2013, the author saw Bitcoin as a freedom from the control of a central authority that can act arbitrarily.  Bitcoin is one of those disruptive technologies that make you question all assumed protocols. [ER]

Rotman, Sarah. 2014. “Bitcoin vs Electronic Money.” CGAP Publications N.p., 23 Jan. 2014. Web. 8 Mar. 2014. 

  • Quick comparison of virtual currency and e-money, including infographic. Focuses on the ability to e-money to reach the “unbanked,” or people who do not have access to traditional banking services. In essence, argues that Bitcoin is an advanced currency for those who already have access to banking services, while e-money is for access to financial services.

Shieber, Jonathan. “Goldman Sachs: Bitcoin Is Not A Currency.” TechCrunch. N.p., 12 Mar. 2012. Web. 17 Mar. 2014. 

 

  • This article is deeper than it looks, and provides some excellent definitions. On the surface, Goldman Sachs is saying that Bitcoin is not a currency. They go further, though, to say that Bitcoin is a mix of currency (unit of exchange), commodity (desired store of value), and financial asset (thing to transfer and develop value).  GS says that Bitcoin will likely have its biggest impact in providing technology and ideas to improve on current, accepted currencies. Defines commodity, like gold, and currency, like the USD. Compares the price fluctuations of Bitcoin with those of silver at the start of the recent silver rush (2005-2011). Admits that the network and startups developed by Bitcoin are going to be useful to society, even if Bitcoin changes. Calls for banking leaders, like GS, to lead regulatory efforts for Bitcoin and Bticoin services, like wallets and exchanges.

Shrem, Charlie. “Nothing New Under The Sun, Bitcoin Edition.Falkvinge & Co. on Infopolicy. N.p., 5 Mar. 2014. Web. 17 Mar. 2014.

  • A speech given by Charlie Shrem, a Bitcoin pioneer and advocate, at the 2014 Texas Bitcoin Conference.  Shrem gave the speech while under house arrest for alleged involvement with Silk Road, an online market found to be used for illegal drug trafficking.  He starts with historical context of 400 years ago when the church had control of the popular culture and knowledge – what was preached was automatically accepted; citizens need not have a mind of their own.  Then the printing press technology emerged and people were reading and writing, and acquiring knowledge from a variety of sources.  But despite the development of freedom of the press, there was an underlying assumption that if you didn’t publish a popular belief, you would suffer the repercussions.  Today’s decentralized Internet culture has changed all of this, from which Bitcoin has emerged.  Bitcoin, lacking a central point of control, is one of the largest socio-economic experiments humankind has ever seen, asserts Shrem. [ER]

Southurst, Jon. “Bitcoin helps Iranian shoe store overcome international trade sanctions.CoinDesk. N.p., 5 Nov. 2013. Web. 18 Mar. 2014. 

  • An Iranian retailer subverting sanctions by trading in Bitcoin and an accompanying article.

Stokes, Robert. “Virtual money laundering: the case of Bitcoin and the Linden dollar.” Information & Communications Technology Law 21.3 (2012): 221-236.

  • Short version: Money laundering through Bitcoin and Linden dollar are possible in theory, but are prohibitive in the amount that can be done quickly and the cost of laundering the money.

  • Long version: Laundering is possible in any area where value can fluctuate, whether from gambling, currency trade, human labor, or many others. Laundering has evolved with technology. As technology gets better at identifying and stopping laundering, criminals use technology to better hide their transactions. The Financial Action Task Force publishes reports that discuss many types of financial maneuvers, including laundering in digital currencies.

    Bitcoin (and Linden dollar) are attractive for laundering because they are accessible at all times in all places. No central body is made aware of transactions, so no one overseer can watch and block transactions. Further, all transactors are anonymous in trading. Some characteristics can be divined, but a professional laundering may be able to obscure these enough to prevent tracking.

    However, they are not good tools right now because of the low amount of currency in the economy. Large laundering operations would be immediately identified because they would use large amounts of the available currency.

    Digital currencies fall under the purview of many countries’ laws because they are used in physical transactions, giving governments purview over their use. Because governments can regulate transactions, the type of currency is irrelevant. Governments can participate in the Bitcoin economy, and as participants they can watch transactions with their own currencies to some extent. A government also has the power to set the rate at which a currency trades. If the Pound is worth zero Bitcoins according to the government, they lose part of their relative value. Exchanges into the Pound would be difficult and relatively expensive if restricted as such.

Wallace, Benjamin. “The rise and fall of Bitcoin.” Wired Magazine.[Online]. Available (2011).

Winklevoss, Cameron. “What May Have Happened At Mt.Gox.Winklevoss Capital. N.p., 14 Mar. 2014. Web. 17 Mar. 2014.

  • Technical rundown of some of the possible reasons Mt. Gox’s Bitcoins are MIA. The article outlines several possibilities: transaction malleability, various hacks, inaccessible cold storage (Bitcoins stored behind a password that was forgotten, for example), a combination of the above, or an inside job. Winklevoss does a good job of reading between the lines of past statements by Mt. Gox and its staff to guess that a combination of transaction malleability, hacks, and especially inaccessible cold storage are to blame. (All of which may have been abetted by managerial incompetence and inexperience.) While noting that any of the above options means that the Bitcoin are probably gone forever, the inaccessible cold storage could, theoretically, be restored at some point. Still, it is unlikely and probably more infuriating knowing that all of those missing Bitcoin are locked in some present code, literally akin to having a few million dollars in a box with no key. Although Winklevoss does not speculate on the lessons that this can provide for other exchanges, it is clear that all of these possibilities are weaknesses for Bitcoin in its current form.
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