From The Crypt To Crypto

It is another Good Friday today. It is fast approaching the two thousandth anniversary of Jesus Christ’s sacrifice, yet I can’t see any signs of mass atonement in the world. Is that because we urghhlings already know our sins are long forgiven and the promise of eternal life granted to us no matter what we do or not do? We are saved from our sins and we should celebrate. I would have been deservedly reprimanded by my own father had I taught my sons any crimes and misdemeanours they were to commit would have all already been forgiven, and an eternal reward awaited them no matter how they behaved. I could have told them the killing of Jesus ensured that. Recently, I practised this teaching of forgiveness and generosity in my business by offering my staff positive reinforcements of encouragement and re-training of the business procedures. I told them their mistakes will be forgiven and that there will be no punitive repercussions as long as they worked hard and followed the rules. Sadly, the incidence of costly mistakes has increased markedly since. Just yesterday, I reverted to the previous policy of “Thou shall pay for your mistakes (ones that are so basic they ought to be avoidable)”. We should be responsible for our own actions and take ownership of our bad behaviour. “You make a silly mistake, you shall pay for it”. It is no different to the sign in the shop that says “You break it, you buy it”.

In 2016, archaeologists opened a crypt they believed to be Jesus’ tomb at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. The marble shrine, the Edicule, which protects the tomb is apparently made from materials from the 4th century A.D. So, why would anyone build a tomb some 400 years after his death? For what purpose would they seal it, I ask? The Jews never cremated their dead. They believed in the resurrection of the body which was just as well for Jesus, otherwise he would have resurrected without his body. He rose from the dead on the third day, meaning his tomb has been empty ever since. Why use a big piece of marble to protect an empty tomb? Were tomb raiders so foolish to raid an empty tomb, I wondered?

In my internet-based business, we are looking at the development of blockchain technology and questioning how we can use its applications. We were slow to embrace technology and didn’t trade online until 2006. We decided we should not be derelict in our duty to keep up with technological progress. I can’t help but think how much the world has changed since Jesus was sacrificed by his father. One of his last words were “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” That still reverberates with me even today. That the Son of God felt forgotten, abandoned and left to suffer and die an agonising death just moments before his last breaths. How deeply disturbing and terribly sad. How cruel when it was so easily avoidable with his almighty father by his side. What has his death achieved? Was his suffering and despair necessary? The deep despair and nauseating feeling of abandonment when he was dying undoubtedly would traumatise many as it did me when I was a boy learning about his death on the cross. Why the sacrifice of a human being was permitted when the sacrifice of animals was riled at by him? When I went to catechism classes, I was taught that he died for our sins. And having been taught that, why did it not stop any of us from sinning? Yes, because we knew we have been saved already! I was 6 years old, but even then I had the nerve to ask why on earth would some strange-looking man die for my sins so long ago when I wasn’t even born then? He would have been as vague of my great-great-great-great-great-great grandfather’s distant descendants as I am ignorant of my not-so-distant ancestors. The Chinese may have had written records for many millennia but just a few generations ago, my ancestors were too poor and illiterate to have any records written down about their own family.

I feel like a blockhead whenever a conversation switches to blockchain technology. I understand that it is not very green as it consumes a lot of computer power running all the algorithms and we know computers are hungry for energy. So, what isn’t good for our environment will not last, right? If so, then why even worry about it? Wrong! We can bet it is just a matter of time before some clever people invent something else to fix a problem. And they already have. Just two days ago, I read that Ethereum co-founder Joe Lubin has created a 99% energy efficient blockchain! Blockchain 1.0 was about using the distributed ledger technology for cryptocurrency. Blockchain 2.0 saw a few high tech firms use it to add value to their businesses. China has already embarked on Blockchain 3.0, setting industry standards and building the underlying infrastructure for blockchain applications worldwide. Domestically, this will transform business models within the digital ecosystem across all major industries and drive innovation and improve collaboration with the government in China.

Recently, I was gobsmacked to hear that a piece of digital art went for $69.3 million. Bought by a syndicate from Singapore, it wasn’t a Picasso, or a van Gogh. Art that you can’t even hang on the wall and admire the brush strokes or knife strokes of the artist. You can’t smell the paint or feel the texture of the canvas. It isn’t 3D like a sculpture and you certainly cannot carry it in your arms. It is digital! Which means you can simply copy it and share it online. (for free!) My son explained to me it’s a NFT. “A what?” I asked with an incredulous gasp. I thought he had been watching too many episodes of The Wire or The Sopranos. Both miniseries contained a lot of the F word. “No, it means non-fungible token”, he replied impatiently. “Oh, you mean a token that fungi can’t grow on?” I feigned interest as I have never shown any interest in fungi or mushrooms. No, non-fungible means it is unique and can’t be replaced with something else. A bitcoin is fungible, one can trade it for another bitcoin, whereas digital art protected by blockchain, is non-fungible (apparently). This is where he lost me. Can’t a digital file be copied as many times as we want, including art that is embedded with an NFT? I suppose the same goes with traditional art. I have a print of one of Monet’s most iconic works in my office. Anyone can own a Monet print, but only one person or museum can own the original. The other major advantage of a NFT is it is not as easily stolen as say, an artwork in a museum. Having said that, it is not unknown for cryptos to be stolen or lost due to misplaced or forgotten passwords.

Monet’s famous piece, which I bought for $20 at the Metropolitan Art Museum.
Beeple’s The First 5000 Days, the first NFT I heard about

Visa announced three days ago they now accept cryptocurrency to settle transactions in their payment network. They will allow USD Coin, a crypto that is tied to the US dollar, giving it stability and avoiding the volatility that some cryptos are susceptible to. Stablecoins are cyptocurrencies that are pegged to fiat money, exchange-traded commodities such as industrial metals, i.e. some “stable” asset or basket of assets. At the same time, Paypal also came on board with crypto this week by announcing they will accept Bitcoin, Ethereum and Litecoin as a form of payment. I am guessing it is a matter of time before China’s Alipay and WeChat Pay reverse their decision to ban crypto-related transactions. There is a new coin called Dogecoin, a derivative of Luckycoin which got a lot of exposure from Elon Musk. For a coin to see a big spike in its value because of a person’s tweet sounds dodgy to me. Please excuse me if I mispronounce it as Dodgycoin.

It seems clear that the era of central banks’ issuance of digital currency is upon us. China is by far the most advanced, having been developing the digital yuan for over five years. Beijing recently distributed $1.5 million free digital money as part of a trial run during the Lunar New Year to see if the digital format could cope with the extra high turnover. The digital yuan is not a cryptocurrency according to the experts but they don’t seem to know how to classify it; safe to say it is highly secure and very low in volatility. Who will win the war of the currencies? The central bank or the big tech companies? Somehow, I can’t see governments relinquishing their grip on monetary sovereignty. I’ll bet on the central banks to win this war.