BIS Plans New Central Banking Fintech Research Hubs in Europe, North America. The Bank of International Settlements – the central bank to the world’s central banks – is getting serious about its money tech R&D centers, opening innovation hubs in Toronto, Stockholm, London, Paris and Frankfurt. A coordinated, standardized approach to developing central bank digital currencies? Danny Nelson reports.
That’s not to say there aren’t risks in DeFi. Many are worried that the frenzy around speculative activities such as “yield farming” and interconnected leverage could set off a systemic crisis. If that happens, maybe Bitcoin can offer an alternative, more stable architecture for it. Either way, ideas to improve DeFi are coming all the time – whether for better system-wide data or for a more trustworthy legal framework. Out of this hurly burly, something transformative will emerge. Whether it’s dominated by Ethereum or spread across different blockchains, the end result will show more cross-protocol synergy than the chains’ warring communities would suggest.
And while Ethereum fans crow about there being 12 times more wrapped bitcoin on their platform than the mere $9 million locked in the Lightning Network’s payment channels, the latter is making inroads in developing nations as a payment network for small, low-cost bitcoin transactions. Unlike WBTC, which requires a professional custodian to hold the original locked bitcoin, Lightning users need not rely on a third party to open up a channel. It’s arguably more decentralized.
Though it’s too early to know who the eventual winners will be, I believe this trend captures the early beginnings of a new, decentralized global financial system. So to describe it, an analogy for the existing one is useful: bitcoin is the dollar, and Ethereum is SWIFT, the international network that coordinates cross-border payments among banks. (Since Ethereum is trying to do much more than payments, we could also cite a number of other organizations in this analogy, such as the International Swaps and Derivatives Association (ISDA) or the Depository Trust and Clearing Corporation (DTCC).)
Gold has had at least three millennia to establish itself as a store of value people turn to when social systems are in stress. Bitcoin has only existed for 11 years. While plenty of investors are willing to speculate on the possibility bitcoin might supplant or compete with gold, the idea is far from ingrained across society. When will it be more widely accepted? Perhaps when the international crisis of global leadership unleashed by COVID-19 undermines the capacity of institutions like the Federal Reserve to sustain economic and social confidence. Whatever new institutions and systems we create going forward will need to address how the internet has upended society’s centralized systems of governance. When that happens, we’ll need a decentralized, digital reserve asset as the base value layer. As I said, it will take time. Meanwhile, the developers will keep building.
Bitcoin might be a reserve asset for the crypto community but its recent price trajectory, with gains and losses tracking equities, suggest the non-crypto “normies” don’t (yet) see it that way. Given the COVID-19 crisis’ extreme test of the global financial system and central banks’ massive “quantitative easing” response to it, that price performance poses a challenge to those of us who see bitcoin’s core use case as an internet era hedge against centralized monetary instability. Far from complying with that “digital gold” narrative, bitcoin has performed like any other “risk-off” asset. Meanwhile, actual gold has shaken off its own early-crisis stock market correlation to chart an upward course. While bitcoin has repeatedly failed to sustainably break through $10,000, bullion has rallied sharply to close in on $1,800, levels it hasn’t seen since September 2012. Some analysts are predicting it will breach its all-time intraday high of $1,917, hit in the aftermath of the last global financial crisis in 2011. To add insult to injury, one Forbes contributor even stole from the crypto lexicon to describe the state of play, telling his readers that gold prices are “soaring to the moon.”
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