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.
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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.
More importantly, though, the Bitcoin and Ethereum networks are different with respect to their overall aims. While bitcoin was created as an alternative to national currencies and thus aspires to be a medium of exchange and a store of value, Ethereum was intended as a platform to facilitate immutable, programmatic contracts, and applications via its own currency.
This part of DeFi feels like a new form of market. Anyone can join and everyone is invited. It has no KYC/AML (know your customer/anti-money laundering) hurdles and lags, and if it looks like a duck, waddles like a duck and quacks like a duck, that duck is a shiny tech casino. Of course all markets are casinos but if you can come up with a new form of market and it’s fun, exciting, instant and can be used sensibly or in insanely risky, win big/lose big ways, you are going have a winner. And they do. And it’s all powered by Ethereum.
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Demeester, an analyst and co-founder of crypto investment fund Adamant Capital, announced last month that he’s scaling back his public involvement in Bitcoin. But his recent statement doesn’t mean he's shifting wholeheartedly from Bitcoin to Ethereum. He’s emphasized that he’s still a Bitcoin believer, and retains plenty of reservations about Ethereum.