Would You Trust The Winklevoss Twins with Your Money?

Bitcoin or Gold: Which Is More Bigly Yuge To Own?

Note: Ryan Wilday and I just co-wrote this crypto article, and we thought you may find it interesting.
Recently, the Winklevoss twins (who founded the Gemini crypto exchange) coined Bitcoin as ‘Gold 2.0.’ To support their perspective, they cited Bitcoin’s scarcity, its fungibility and its portability as meeting or exceeding that of the yellow metal.
Greyscale Investments, the company that has brought crypto based trusts to the US OTC market, recently ran ads urging investors to drop gold as a relic of the past in favor of cryptocurrency, which is ‘secure’, borderless, and in their direct words, ‘actually has utility’.
It seems that there are more and more comparisons between Bitcoin and gold, but is one better to hold more so than the other? Well, to be honest, each has a different ultimate purpose for which each is better suited.
With gold and crypto starting to launch on their next bull run, we thought it would be fun to explore these questions. At the end of the day, we find each asset worth owning. And, for the libertarian minded, both assets provide “insurance” from inflationary fiat and the centralized banking system. Yet, each asset has their die-hard investors who view each asset as “the” asset to own, while they simultaneously look down at the other camp.
For example, ‘gold bug’s’ such as Peter Schiff decry Bitcoin as ‘not viable as money’, ‘not a store of value’, and ‘fool’s gold’. And, Bitcoin fans simply consider gold a cumbersome hunk of metal with a value based on tradition rather than utility.
As far as we are concerned, each camp has a point, which is why we feel that one should diversify into both asset classes for the same types of protections. You see, gold and bitcoin share values which are sought after by both groups of investors: separation from the centralized financial system, scarcity, security, portability, and fungibility. However, whereas Bitcoin may better serve investors with certain of these benefits, gold will serve investors better with others.
Separation from the System
In regards to separation from the centralized finance system of the world, Bitcoin and Gold are comparable. Both assets allow the holder to remain in control of their holdings, effectively becoming the bank for themselves. In that regard, holding either asset removes counterparty risk. Moreover, both allow for exchange between parties without intermediaries. And, finally, both are immune from the inflationary efforts of central banks.
Scarcity
All the gold ever mined is estimated at 190,000 tonnes and there is expected to be 54,000 tonnes in the ground. The current supply of Bitcoin is approaching 18 million and will never exceed 21 million. Furthermore, untold numbers of bitcoin are lost due to misplaced keys. Therefore, it is quite clear that both assets are scarce and finite, though one could certainly argue that Bitcoin is more so.
Security
The holders of both assets need to pay attention to security. For the gold holder, of course, security involves keeping gold away from prying hands. However, storage does become an issue the larger the holding, and involves additional costs. So, clearly, this is certainly one of the drawbacks of holding gold.
Yet, theft of cryptocurrency has been one of the biggest deterrents from adoption of crypto as a common asset class. Yet, with appropriate cyber security protections, one can keep their crypto secure. Given that it is not held in a physical location, there are no additional costs of storage. Moreover, as long as one doesn’t expose how they maintain their private keys, one is unlikely to experience a physical robbery attempt. (We created a quick document on crypto security here).
However, the Achilles heel of Bitcoin is that it requires the internet and electric grids to run properly. Should electricity become compromised for whatever the reason, I think it would be clear to understand how gold would become the more desirable of the two assets in this event.
Portability
I don’t think there is much of a question that Bitcoin wins hands down with respect to portability. Bitcoin is weightless and gold is over 19 grams per cubic centimeter. This is why so many Venezuelans reportedly ran to Bitcon to take capital out of the country. Doing so with gold is nearly impossible during such times of crisis.
Fungibility
Bitcoin and Gold are both fungible. However, Bitcoin is much more easily divided into smaller units down to 8 decimal places. At current price, one could theoretically exchange Bitcoin worth 1 /100 of a cent. Try doing that with gold. Since units of gold generally need to be rated for investment level purity, it is quite hard to exchange less than a 1/10th ounce of gold, or roughly $140 at today’s price.
Conclusion
Perhaps gold and crypto investors can find some common ground, as they each have similar benefits. The benefits that have traditionally led gold investors to hoard the yellow metal are not too different from those driving today’s Bitcoin buyers. Nonetheless, as we’ve shared, both are expected to embark on their next bull run. And, a disadvantage to owning one asset is often an advantage of owning other. Therefore, we believe both deserve a place in your portfolio for at least insurance purposes.
submitted by avigilburt to StockMarket [link] [comments]

Beginner’s Guide to Exchanges – Part 1

Beginner’s Guide to Exchanges – Part 1

Hola Compadres! It is me u/poop_dragon here with another guide. Today I would like to run through a list of ETH exchanges. This is just Part 1 of this list, and it covers established exchanges. Soon I will post Part 2 and 3 which will go into some other types of exchanges (derivative markets, coin converters, decentralized, and foreign exchanges) Side note, I have given rating to these exchanges based on some comparisons, news, and information which I have found online. Recently, EVERY exchange has been slow/unresponsive in their customer service due to the huge influx of new users. My intention is to help educate new users about the exchanges available. I am not trying to discredit, advertise, pump up, or damage reputations. If you feel something is inaccurate, please respectfully bring it up in the comments. I will be editing as we go. Last thing of note, I have only included the lowest level trading tier to calculate trading fees, which assumes the highest rates. Most exchanges offer lower fees for bigger orders, but I have gone with the assumption that everyone here is not dropping whale amounts of cash.

00 – Concepts and Definitions

01 –Digital Exchanges

Poloniex

Exchange Type Maker Taker
All Currencies .15% .25%
Feature Details
2FA Google Authenticator Available
Wallet Security ‘Majority’ of Funds in cold storage
Personal Information Encrypted and Stored Off-Site
Tier Level Name Email DOB Phone Address Official ID Bank Info KYC Limits
Level 1 X X $2,000 USD Daily Withdrawal Limit
Level 2 X X X X X X $7,000 USD Daily Withdrawal Limit
Level 3 X X X X X X $25,000 USD Daily Withdrawal Limit
Level 4 X X X X X X X X >$25,000 USD Daily Withdrawal Limit
What is a KYC? It stands for Know Your Customer Documentation. This varies between exchanges. However, like most things, if you have to ask, you probably can’t afford it.

Bittrex

Exchange Type Maker Taker
All Currencies .25% .25%
Feature Details
2FA Google Authenticator Available
Wallet Security Multi-stage wallet Majority’ of Funds in cold storage
Personal Information IP Whitelisting restricts trading from new addresses
Tier Level Name Email DOB Phone Address Official ID Bank Info KYC Limits
Basic X X X 3 BTC or less daily
Enhanced X X X X X X 100 BTC or less daily

02– Fiat Exchanges - USA

Coinbase (GDAX)

Country Credit/Debit Linked Bank Account Wire Transfer
Australia 3.99% - -
Canada 3.99% - -
Europe 3.99% 1.49% SEPA- Free (€0.15)
Singapore 3.99% 1.49% -
UK 3.99% - SEPA Free (€0.15)
US 3.99% 1.49% $10 Deposit / $25 With / ACH Free
Exchange Type Maker Taker
ETH/FIAT 0% .30%
ETH/BTC 0% .30%
Tier Level Name Email DOB Phone Address Official ID Bank Info KYC Limits
Level 1 X X X
Level 2 X X X X X Crypto Only
Level 3 X X X X X X X Fiat Enabled
Level 4 X X X X X X X X Higher Fiat Limits
Feature Details
2FA Google Authenticator, Authy, SMS
Wallet Security 98% Assets in Cold Storage
Personal Information 3rd Party Verified, Secured, Stored Offline
Digital Currency Insurance Fully Insured by Lloyd’s of London
Fiat Insurance Up to $250,000 by FDIC
Bug Bounty Multiple bounties up to $10,000

Kraken

Country Linked Bank Account Wire Transfer
EUR Free SEPA €5-10 (€0.09 Withdrawal)
US Free SWIFT $10 ($60 Withdrawal)
UK Free SWIFT £10 (£60 Withdrawal)
CAN Free SWIFT Free ($10 Withdrawal)
Exchange Type Maker Taker
ETH/FIAT .16% .26%
ETH/BTC .16% .26%
Tier Level Name Email DOB Phone Address Official ID Bank Info KYC Limits
Level 0 X No Trading Allowed
Level 1 X X X X No Fiat, Unlimited Crypto
Level 2 X X X X Fiat $2,000Day/$10,000Mo
Level 3 X X X X X X Fiat $25,000Day/$200,000Mo
Level 4 X X X X X X X X Fiat $100,000Day/$500,000Mo
Feature Details
2FA Google Authenticator, Master Key Available
Wallet Security Majority Assets in Cold Storage
Personal Information PGP Encrypted Emails, Global Settings Lock
Digital Currency Insurance Maintain Full Reserves
Bug Bounty Multiple bounties

Gemini

Country Linked Bank Account Wire Transfer
USD Free Free
Exchange Type Maker Taker
ETH/ALL .10-.25% .25%
Tier Level Name Email DOB Phone Address Official ID Bank Info KYC Limits
Individual X X X X X X X None - Except for ACH
Feature Details
2FA Google Authenticator, Authy Available
Hot Wallet Security Hot Wallet Hosted by Amazon Web Services
Cold Wallet Stored in 2 tiers of cold and 'cryo' multi-sig storage
Personal Information Encrypted in Transit and Stored Offline
Digital Currency Insurance Fidelity bond by 'top-tier insurance company'
Fiat Insurance Up to $250,000 by FDIC

03– Fiat Exchanges - Hong Kong

Bitfinex

Country Credit/Debit Bank Transfer Express Bank Transfer
ALL - .1% ($20 Minimum) 1% ($20 Minimum)
Exchange Type Maker Taker
ETH/ALL .10% .20%
Tier Level Name Email DOB Phone Address Official ID Bank Info KYC Limits
Individual X X X X X X (2) X X No Stated Limits
Feature Details
2FA Google Authenticator, Twilio Available
Account Security New IP Addresses locked for 24 hours, require verification and detection
System Security Hosted and Backed-up on Linux, protection from DDoS
Personal Information Email encryption with OpenPGP
Wallet Security Only .5% of funds are stored in hot wallets
EDIT : Thank you to u/Ginger_Bearded_Man for the suggestion. Bittrex has been added.
submitted by poop_dragon to ethtrader [link] [comments]

Blockchain is a Lie — Just Another World Run by the Rich ???

Blockchain is a Lie — Just Another World Run by the Rich ???

Blockchain is a Lie — Just Another World Run by the Rich


https://preview.redd.it/iutln8o0g1j21.jpg?width=706&format=pjpg&auto=webp&s=09f1810ab6f679d61ec558dc1ef9089860cf8e52

Image: Bitcoin billionaires, The Winklevoss Twins

Follow the Money

More than just an alternative business model, blockchain represents ideology — a system in which the individual is no longer at the mercy of dominant institutions that control the flow of power, money, and data. If blockchain deteriorates into another world run by those who control the majority of the assets, it’s intent has been neglected and it has no reason to exist.

Within chains managed by Proof-of-Work and Delegated Proof-of-Stake consensus algorithms, this is the reality. Users tout decentralization, rights of the individual, abandoning banks and more, but then fall into a system promoting the very same values they are rebelling against.

PoW and DPoS are plutocracies in disguise. The former is at the mercy of firms that can afford the most hashing power, and the latter suppressed by those with the most currency.

Whoever can afford to mine the most controls the flow in PoW systems — there’s no room for the individual with a starter setup having a say. Either invest a years salary or get lost. In the DPoS system, the irony is even more baffling: the people with the most currency ultimately get to write history.

Is this still the blockchain world we want? Trading one system controlled by a ruling minority for another shouldn’t be in the discourse.

Steadying Blockchains Ideological Path

Blockchains growth will remain stunted unless the focus is shifted away from Proof-of-Work and Delegated Proof-of-Stake based consensus algorithms.

The November BCH hashing wars that produced two new chains via hard fork, BCHABC and BSV, left many speculating over governing issues within the PoW world. Differences in principles have made this side of the blockchain vulnerable — anyone with a large enough following is able to hold everyone else hostage. Chain sustainability isn’t guaranteed due to the ease in which conflicting parties can force a hard fork.

Those that preach DPoS put our future into the hands of 21 supernodes — corruption practically hard coded into the EOS genesis block. Everyone yearns for profit and power, making the have-nots pawns in the game controlled by those at the top.

https://preview.redd.it/rlr14523g1j21.png?width=990&format=png&auto=webp&s=7cf8205df04d39d94046c61b3fa942bf20689de7

A Blunt Account of Blockchain Management

Blockchain governance is defined as follows:

“The ways in which collective action can be achieved by public communities and key stakeholders — particularly those regarding the revision of past agreements. “

In view of the lack of a decentralized and de-identified digital platform supporting the “one person, one vote system”, the governance of the chain is often seen as a plutocracy — currency and computing power are king.

According to an article written by Vitalik Buterin, blockchain governance systems must be innately anti-plutocratic.

Not only is on-chain coin-based governance inconsistent with user interests, it is also antithetical to the ethos of public blockchains. The blockchain is for the public, to serve the public interest. It isn’t for cryptocurrency whales to get more rich. Cryptocurrency holdings (like wealth in global society) is highly concentrated in the hands of a very small number of people. The blockchain isn’t supposed to be owned by anyone… nevermind by a small group of super rich individuals. — Buterin

The interests of those who hold the wealth and those who actually use the blockchain are inherently different.

In theory, blockchain could provide an equal playing field where the world isn’t controlled by large institutions only acting for profit and belittling the rights of individuals. When power becomes concentrated by those holding the most currency or with the most hashing power, users who continue to praise these systems are working against their own interests.

The culture of blockchain implies egalitarian management. Anything else must be abandoned.

https://preview.redd.it/33cmf726g1j21.png?width=1170&format=png&auto=webp&s=6b013f14df05c987dedb4907b1f29fc338b1ecfc

Either we want it, or we don’t

The current state of blockchain is a farce. Either we want a new system where power is decentralized, or we don’t. Pushing the ethics of the centralized systems that have shaped our world for the worse within the blockchain space only perpetuates the virus that is elitism — sucking world of its resources and milking the chain for every satoshi it’s got.

The increased amount of ICOs in 2017 gave hope. Surely the competition would have promoted further developments — someone would have realised the bad traits trickling into blockchain- but only disappointment followed.

What should have been the start of a blockchain renaissance, turned into a money grabbing free-for-all, with scams, poorly designed products, and reckless teams becoming the norm.

But we do want it, we really do. We want the system as it was intended to be: quick, decentralized, egalitarian. A platform on which to build the next era of society.

This stepping stone comes in the form of Bitconch. Backed by Turing and Nobel laureates, offering 120,000TPS, anti-plutocratic governance, and an ecosystem based on egalitarian values, Bitconch has the speed, security, and morals needed warm the Crypto Winter.

Bitconch Solves the Issue of Governance

The Proof-of-Reputation (PoR) consensus algorithm developed by Bitconch creates a quantified reputation value (Bit-R) based on three dimensions: social behavior, currency holding time, and community contribution. Users with reputations within the top 5% then have an opportunity to take part in the consensus. This system more accurately mirrors the natural world — individuals who are more trustworthy, contribute to their communities, and build relationships with those around them are incentivised to continue doing so.

Money and the size of resources are no longer a consideration, which dissolves the power that the elite have over governing the chain and eliminates the possibility of bribery. Instead, there is room for devoted lower and middle class users to take part in the consensus, making the chain maintained by the people and for the people. The conflicting interests of currency holders and chain users, therefore, does not arise.

Reputation makes for a conscientious ecosystem and reduced conflicts of interest supports ecosystem sustainability.

https://preview.redd.it/2thjk0s7g1j21.png?width=2033&format=png&auto=webp&s=ea6d44f837959dd5bf57529ccc78d5a62699b731

Bitconch Solves the Speed Bottleneck

If the speed of the platform is not scaled to the needs of the users, usage will ultimately fall flat. A blockchain is meant to be used, and chains with slow speeds are simply not practical.

BLAZE (Bitconch Ledger Access Zero-delay Extension) allows for the simultaneous verification of multiple blocks through factoring the operation into five unique yet concurrent phases — fetching data, decoding, hashing, stating the change, and finally writing data. When BLAZE is coupled with PoR, the Bitconch platform offers 120,000TPS — making it a platform able to support extensive amounts of traffic.

https://preview.redd.it/1zgopb09g1j21.png?width=1064&format=png&auto=webp&s=311788e98e73dc56737f2c5be2a5dc89d30a749b

However, the current focus of the blockchain world should not be on pushing TPS speeds as high as possible. Developers and users alike have lost their way, once again falling victim to the very plutocracy that catalyzed the emergence of blockchain.

The ideology producing these platforms urges for the rights of the individual over the concentration of power in a few. It doesn’t matter if the flow of money is controlled by a few institutions in the current global economy or by a few mining firms in the blockchain world — once power is taken from the individual, we must dissolve the system.
submitted by dongchpp to BitConch [link] [comments]

02-27 04:53 - 'Blockchain is a Lie — Just Another World Run by the Rich ???' (self.Bitcoin) by /u/dongchpp removed from /r/Bitcoin within 0-6min

'''

Blockchain is a Lie — Just Another World Run by the Rich


[link]1

Image: Bitcoin billionaires, The Winklevoss Twins

Follow the Money

More than just an alternative business model, blockchain represents ideology — a system in which the individual is no longer at the mercy of dominant institutions that control the flow of power, money, and data. If blockchain deteriorates into another world run by those who control the majority of the assets, it’s intent has been neglected and it has no reason to exist.

Within chains managed by Proof-of-Work and Delegated Proof-of-Stake consensus algorithms, this is the reality. Users tout decentralization, rights of the individual, abandoning banks and more, but then fall into a system promoting the very same values they are rebelling against.

PoW and DPoS are plutocracies in disguise. The former is at the mercy of firms that can afford the most hashing power, and the latter suppressed by those with the most currency.

Whoever can afford to mine the most controls the flow in PoW systems — there’s no room for the individual with a starter setup having a say. Either invest a years salary or get lost. In the DPoS system, the irony is even more baffling: the people with the most currency ultimately get to write history.

Is this still the blockchain world we want? Trading one system controlled by a ruling minority for another shouldn’t be in the discourse.

Steadying Blockchains Ideological Path

Blockchains growth will remain stunted unless the focus is shifted away from Proof-of-Work and Delegated Proof-of-Stake based consensus algorithms.

The November BCH hashing wars that produced two new chains via hard fork, BCHABC and BSV, left many speculating over governing issues within the PoW world. Differences in principles have made this side of the blockchain vulnerable — anyone with a large enough following is able to hold everyone else hostage. Chain sustainability isn’t guaranteed due to the ease in which conflicting parties can force a hard fork.

Those that preach DPoS put our future into the hands of 21 supernodes — corruption practically hard coded into the EOS genesis block. Everyone yearns for profit and power, making the have-nots pawns in the game controlled by those at the top.

[link]2

A Blunt Account of Blockchain Management

Blockchain governance is defined as follows:

“The ways in which collective action can be achieved by public communities and key stakeholders — particularly those regarding the revision of past agreements. “

In view of the lack of a decentralized and de-identified digital platform supporting the “one person, one vote system”, the governance of the chain is often seen as a plutocracy — currency and computing power are king.

According to an article written by Vitalik Buterin, blockchain governance systems must be innately anti-plutocratic.

Not only is on-chain coin-based governance inconsistent with user interests, it is also antithetical to the ethos of public blockchains. The blockchain is for the public, to serve the public interest. It isn’t for cryptocurrency whales to get more rich. Cryptocurrency holdings (like wealth in global society) is highly concentrated in the hands of a very small number of people. The blockchain isn’t supposed to be owned by anyone… nevermind by a small group of super rich individuals. — Buterin

The interests of those who hold the wealth and those who actually use the blockchain are inherently different.

In theory, blockchain could provide an equal playing field where the world isn’t controlled by large institutions only acting for profit and belittling the rights of individuals. When power becomes concentrated by those holding the most currency or with the most hashing power, users who continue to praise these systems are working against their own interests.

The culture of blockchain implies egalitarian management. Anything else must be abandoned.

[link]3

Either we want it, or we don’t

The current state of blockchain is a farce. Either we want a new system where power is decentralized, or we don’t. Pushing the ethics of the centralized systems that have shaped our world for the worse within the blockchain space only perpetuates the virus that is elitism — sucking world of its resources and milking the chain for every satoshi it’s got.

The increased amount of ICOs in 2017 gave hope. Surely the competition would have promoted further developments — someone would have realised the bad traits trickling into blockchain- but only disappointment followed.

What should have been the start of a blockchain renaissance, turned into a money grabbing free-for-all, with scams, poorly designed products, and reckless teams becoming the norm.

But we do want it, we really do. We want the system as it was intended to be: quick, decentralized, egalitarian. A platform on which to build the next era of society.

This stepping stone comes in the form of Bitconch. Backed by Turing and Nobel laureates, offering 120,000TPS, anti-plutocratic governance, and an ecosystem based on egalitarian values, Bitconch has the speed, security, and morals needed warm the Crypto Winter.

Bitconch Solves the Issue of Governance

The Proof-of-Reputation (PoR) consensus algorithm developed by Bitconch creates a quantified reputation value (Bit-R) based on three dimensions: social behavior, currency holding time, and community contribution. Users with reputations within the top 5% then have an opportunity to take part in the consensus. This system more accurately mirrors the natural world — individuals who are more trustworthy, contribute to their communities, and build relationships with those around them are incentivised to continue doing so.

Money and the size of resources are no longer a consideration, which dissolves the power that the elite have over governing the chain and eliminates the possibility of bribery. Instead, there is room for devoted lower and middle class users to take part in the consensus, making the chain maintained by the people and for the people. The conflicting interests of currency holders and chain users, therefore, does not arise.

Reputation makes for a conscientious ecosystem and reduced conflicts of interest supports ecosystem sustainability.

[link]4

Bitconch Solves the Speed Bottleneck

If the speed of the platform is not scaled to the needs of the users, usage will ultimately fall flat. A blockchain is meant to be used, and chains with slow speeds are simply not practical.

BLAZE (Bitconch Ledger Access Zero-delay Extension) allows for the simultaneous verification of multiple blocks through factoring the operation into five unique yet concurrent phases — fetching data, decoding, hashing, stating the change, and finally writing data. When BLAZE is coupled with PoR, the Bitconch platform offers 120,000TPS — making it a platform able to support extensive amounts of traffic.

[link]5

However, the current focus of the blockchain world should not be on pushing TPS speeds as high as possible. Developers and users alike have lost their way, once again falling victim to the very plutocracy that catalyzed the emergence of blockchain.

The ideology producing these platforms urges for the rights of the individual over the concentration of power in a few. It doesn’t matter if the flow of money is controlled by a few institutions in the current global economy or by a few mining firms in the blockchain world — once power is taken from the individual, we must dissolve the system.
'''
Blockchain is a Lie — Just Another World Run by the Rich ???
Go1dfish undelete link
unreddit undelete link
Author: dongchpp
1: i.redd**t/**lc*6ffg1j21*jp* 2: i**edd*it/l5cg*djjg*j*1.p*g 3: ****dd.it/ll**89kl*1j21.png 4: i.r***.it/92z*o21sg1*2*.p*g 5: i.*edd.*t*hsjrc0dtg1*21*p**
Unknown links are censored to prevent spreading illicit content.
submitted by removalbot to removalbot [link] [comments]

The wilkelvoss are trying to make bitcoin legit according to esquire magazine

Every idea needs a face, even if the faces are illusory simplifications. The country you get is the president you get. The Yankees you get is the shortstop you get. Apple needed Jobs. ISIS needs al-Baghdadi. The moon shot belongs to Bezos. There's nothing under the Facebook sun that doesn't come back to Zuckerberg.
But there is, as yet, no face behind the bitcoin curtain. It's the currency you've heard about but haven't been able to understand. Still to this day nobody knows who created it. For most people, it has something to do with programmable cash and algorithms and the deep space of mathematics, but it also has something to do with heroin and barbiturates and the sex trade and bankruptcies, too. It has no face because it doesn't seem tangible or real. We might align it with an anarchist's riot mask or a highly conceptualized question mark, but those images truncate its reality. Certain economists say it's as important as the birth of the Internet, that it's like discovering ice. Others are sure that it's doomed to melt. In the political sphere, it is the darling of the cypherpunks and libertarians. When they're not busy ignoring it, it scares the living shit out of the big banks and credit-card companies.
ADVERTISEMENT - CONTINUE READING BELOW
It sparked to life in 2008—when all the financial world prepared for itself the articulate noose—and it knocked on the door like some inconvenient relative arriving at the dinner party in muddy shoes and a knit hat. Fierce ideological battles are currently being waged among the people who own and shepherd the currency. Some shout, Ponzi scheme. Some shout, Gold dust. Bitcoin alone is worth billions of dollars, but the computational structure behind it—its blockchain and its sidechains—could become the absolute underpinning of the world's financial structure for decades to come.
What bitcoin has needed for years is a face to legitimize it, sanitize it, make it palpable to all the naysayers. But it has no Larry Ellison, no Elon Musk, no noticeable visionaries either with or without the truth. There's a lot of ideology at stake. A lot of principle and dogma and creed. And an awful lot of cash, too.
At 6:00 on a Wednesday winter morning, three months after launching Gemini, their bitcoin exchange, Tyler and Cameron Winklevoss step out onto Broadway in New York, wearing the same make of sneakers, the same type of shorts, their baseball caps turned backward. They don't quite fall into the absolute caricature of twindom: They wear different-colored tops. Still, it's difficult to tell them apart, where Tyler ends and Cameron begins. Their faces are sculpted from another era, as if they had stepped from the ruin of one of Gatsby's parties. Their eyes are quick and seldom land on anything for long. Now thirty-four, there is something boyishly earnest about them as they jog down Prince Street, braiding in and out of each other, taking turns talking, as if they were working in shifts, drafting off each other.
Forget, for a moment, the four things the Winklevosses are most known for: suing Mark Zuckerberg, their portrayal in The Social Network, rowing in the Beijing Olympics, and their overwhelming public twinness. Because the Winklevoss brothers are betting just about everything—including their past—on a fifth thing: They want to shake the soul of money out.
At the deep end of their lives, they are athletes. Rowers. Full stop. And the thing about rowing—which might also be the thing about bitcoin—is that it's just about impossible to get your brain around its complexity. Everyone thinks you're going to a picnic. They have this notion you're out catching butterflies. They might ask you if you've got your little boater's hat ready. But it's not like that at all. You're fifteen years old. You rise in the dark. You drag your carcass along the railroad tracks before dawn. The boathouse keys are cold to the touch. You undo the ropes. You carry a shell down to the river. The carbon fiber rips at your hands. You place the boat in the water. You slip the oars in the locks. You wait for your coach. Nothing more than a thumb of light in the sky. It's still cold and the river stinks. That heron hasn't moved since yesterday. You hear Coach's voice before you see him. On you go, lads. You start at a dead sprint. The left rib's a little sore, but you don't say a thing. You are all power and no weight. The first push-to-pull in the water is a ripping surprise. From the legs first. Through the whole body. The arc. Atomic balance. A calm waiting for the burst. Your chest burns, your thighs scald, your brain blanks. It feels as if your rib cage might shatter. You are stillness exploding. You catch the water almost without breaking the surface. Coach says something about the pole vault. You like him. You really do. That brogue of his. Lads this, lads that. Fire. Stamina. Pain. After two dozen strokes, it already feels like you're hitting the wall. All that glycogen gone. Nobody knows. Nobody. They can't even pronounce it. Rowing. Ro-wing. Roh-ing. You push again, then pull. You feel as if you are breaking branch after branch off the bottom of your feet. You don't rock. You don't jolt. Keep it steady. Left, right, left, right. The heron stays still. This river. You see it every day. Nothing behind you. Everything in front. You cross the line. You know the exact tree. Your chest explodes. Your knees are trembling. This is the way the world will end, not with a whimper but a bang. You lean over the side of the boat. Up it comes, the breakfast you almost didn't have. A sign of respect to the river. You lay back. Ah, blue sky. Some cloud. Some gray. Do it again, lads. Yes, sir. You row so hard you puke it up once more. And here comes the heron, it's moving now, over the water, here it comes, look at that thing glide.
ADVERTISEMENT - CONTINUE READING BELOW
The Winklevoss twins in the men's pair final during the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games. GETTY There's plenty of gin and beer and whiskey in the Harrison Room in downtown Manhattan, but the Winklevoss brothers sip Coca-Cola. The room, one of many in the newly renovated Pier A restaurant, is all mahogany and lamplight. It is, in essence, a floating bar, jutting four hundred feet out into the Hudson River. From the window you can see the Statue of Liberty. It feels entirely like their sort of room, a Jazz Age expectation hovering around their initial appearance—tall, imposing, the hair mannered, the collars of their shirts slightly tilted—but then they just slide into their seats, tentative, polite, even introverted.
They came here by subway early on a Friday evening, and they lean back in their seats, a little wary, their eyes busy—as if they want to look beyond the rehearsal of their words.
They had the curse of privilege, but, as they're keen to note, a curse that was earned. Their father worked to pay his way at a tiny college in backwoods Pennsylvania coal country. He escaped the small mining town and made it all the way to a professorship at Wharton. He founded his own company and eventually created the comfortable upper-middle-class family that came with it. They were raised in Greenwich, Connecticut, the most housebroken town on the planet. They might have looked like the others in their ZIP code, and dressed like them, spoke like them, but they didn't quite feel like them. Some nagging feeling—close to anger, close to fear—lodged itself beneath their shoulders, not quite a chip but an ache. They wanted Harvard but weren't quite sure what could get them there. "You have to be basically the best in the world at something if you're coming from Greenwich," says Tyler. "Otherwise it's like, great, you have a 1600 SAT, you and ten thousand others, so what?"
The rowing was a means to an end, but there was also something about the boat that they felt allowed another balance between them. They pulled their way through high school, Cameron on the port-side oar, Tyler on the starboard. They got to Harvard. The Square was theirs. They rowed their way to the national championships—twice. They went to Oxford. They competed in the Beijing Olympics. They sucked up the smog. They came in sixth place. The cameras loved them. Girls, too. They were so American, sandy-haired, blue-eyed, they could have been cast in a John Cougar Mellencamp song.
It might all have been so clean-cut and whitebread except for the fact that—at one of the turns in the river—they got involved in the most public brawl in the whole of the Internet's nascent history.
They don't talk about it much anymore, but they know that it still defines them, not so much in their own minds but in the minds of others. The story seems simple on one level, but nothing is ever simple, not even simplification. Theirs was the original idea for the first social network, Harvard Connection. They hired Mark Zuckerberg to build it. Instead he went off and created Facebook. They sued him. They settled for $65 million. It was a world of public spats and private anguish. Rumors and recriminations. A few years later, dusty old pre-Facebook text messages were leaked online by Silicon Alley Insider: "Yeah, I'm going to fuck them," wrote Zuckerberg to a friend. "Probably in the ear." The twins got their money, but then they believed they were duped again by an unfairly low evaluation of their stock. They began a second round of lawsuits for $180 million. There was even talk about the Supreme Court. It reeked of opportunism. But they wouldn't let it go. In interviews, they came across as insolent and splenetic, tossing their rattles out of the pram. It wasn't about the money, they said at the time, it was about fairness, reality, justice. Most people thought it was about some further agile fuckery, this time in Zuckerberg's ear.
There are many ways to tell the story, but perhaps the most penetrating version is that they weren't screwed so much by Zuckerberg as they were by their eventual portrayal in the film version of their lives. They appeared querulous and sulky, exactly the type of characters that America, peeling off the third-degree burns of the great recession, needed to hate. While the rest of the country worried about mounting debt and vanishing jobs, they were out there drinking champagne from, at the very least, Manolo stilettos. The truth would never get in the way of a good story. In Aaron Sorkin's world, and on just about every Web site, the blueblood trust-fund boys got what was coming to them. And the best thing now was for them to take their Facebook money and turn the corner, quickly, away, down toward whatever river would whisk them away.
Armie Hammer brilliantly portrayed them as the bluest of bloods in The Social Network. When the twins are questioned about those times now, they lean back a little in their seats, as if they've just lost a long race, a little perplexed that they came off as the victims of Hollywood's ability to throw an image, while the whole rip-roaring regatta still goes on behind them. "They put us in a box," says Cameron, "caricatured to a point where we didn't really exist." He glances around the bar, drums his finger against the glass. "That's fair enough. I understand that impulse." They smart a little when they hear Zuckerberg's name. "I don't think Mark liked being called an asshole," says Tyler, with a flick of bluster in his eyes, but then he catches himself. "You know, maybe Mark doesn't care. He's a bit of a statesman now, out there connecting the world. I have nothing against him. He's a smart guy."
These are men who've been taught, or have finally taught themselves, to tell their story rather than be told by it. But underneath the calm—just like underneath the boat—one can sense the churn.
They say the word—ath-letes—as if it were a country where pain is the passport. One of the things the brothers mention over and over again is that you can spontaneously crack a rib while rowing, just from the sheer exertion of the muscles hauling on the rib cage.
Along came bitcoin.
At its most elemental, bitcoin is a virtual currency. It's the sort of thing a five-year-old can understand—It's just e-cash, Mom—until he reaches eighteen and he begins to question the deep future of what money really means. It is a currency without government. It doesn't need a banker. It doesn't need a bank. It doesn't even need a brick to be built upon. Its supporters say that it bypasses the Man. It is less than a decade old and it has already come through its own Wild West, a story rooted in uncharted digital territory, up from the dust, an evening redness in the arithmetical West.
These are men who've been taught, or have finally taught themselves, to tell their story rather than be told by it. Bitcoin appeared in 2008—westward ho!—a little dot on the horizon of the Internet. It was the brainchild of a computer scientist named Satoshi Nakamoto. The first sting in the tale is that—to this very day—nobody knows who Nakamoto is, where he lives, or how much of his own invention he actually owns. He could be Californian, he could be Australian, he could even be a European conglomerate, but it doesn't really matter, since what he created was a cryptographic system that is borderless and supposedly unbreakable.
In the beginning the currency was ridiculed and scorned. It was money created from ones and zeros. You either bought it or you had to "mine" for it. If you were mining, your computer was your shovel. Any nerd could do it. You keyed your way in. By using your computer to help check and confirm the bitcoin transactions of others, you made coin. Everyone in this together. The computer heated up and mined, down down down, into the mathematical ground, lifting up numbers, making and breaking camp every hour or so until you had your saddlebags full of virtual coin. It all seemed a bit of a lark at first. No sheriff, no deputy, no central bank. The only saloon was a geeky chat room where a few dozen bitcoiners gathered to chew data.
Lest we forget, money was filthy in 2008.
The collapse was coming. The banks were shorting out. The real estate market was a confederacy of dunces. Bernie Madoff's shadow loomed. Occupy was on the horizon. And all those Wall Street yahoos were beginning to squirm.
Along came bitcoin like some Jesse James of the financial imagination. It was the biggest disruption of money since coins. Here was an idea that could revolutionize the financial world. A communal articulation of a new era. Fuck American Express. Fuck Western Union. Fuck Visa. Fuck the Fed. Fuck the Treasury. Fuck the deregulated thievery of the twenty-first century.
To the earliest settlers, bitcoin suggested a moral way out. It was a money created from the ground up, a currency of the people, by the people, for the people, with all government control extinguished. It was built on a solid base of blockchain technology where everyone participated in the protection of the code. It attracted anarchists, libertarians, whistle-blowers, cypherpunks, economists, extropians, geeks, upstairs, downstairs, left-wing, right-wing. Sure, it could be used by businesses and corporations, but it could also be used by poor people and immigrants to send money home, instantly, honestly, anonymously, without charge, with a click of the keyboard. Everyone in the world had access to your transaction, but nobody had to know your name. It bypassed the suits. All you needed to move money was a phone or a computer. It was freedom of economic action, a sort of anarchy at its democratic best, no rulers, just rules.
Bitcoin, to the original explorers, was a safe pass through the government-occupied valleys: Those assholes were up there in the hills, but they didn't have any scopes on their rifles, and besides, bitcoin went through in communal wagons at night.
Ordinary punters took a shot. Businesses, too. You could buy silk ties in Paris without any extra bank charges. You could protect your money in Buenos Aires without fear of a government grab.
The Winklevoss twins leave the U.S. Court of Appeals in 2011, after appearing in court to ask that the previous settlement case against Facebook be voided. GETTY But freedom can corrupt as surely as power. It was soon the currency that paid for everything illegal under the sun, the go-to money of the darknet. The westward ho! became the outlaw territory of Silk Road and beyond. Heroin through the mail. Cocaine at your doorstep. Child porn at a click. What better way for terrorists to ship money across the world than through a network of anonymous computers? Hezbollah, the Taliban, the Mexican cartels. In Central America, kidnappers began demanding ransom in bitcoin—there was no need for the cash to be stashed under a park bench anymore. Now everything could travel down the wire. Grab, gag, and collect. Uranium could be paid for in bitcoin. People, too. The sex trade was turned on: It was a perfect currency for Madame X. For the online gambling sites, bitcoin was pure jackpot.
For a while, things got very shady indeed. Over a couple years, the rate pinballed between $10 and $1,200 per bitcoin, causing massive waves and troughs of online panic and greed. (In recent times, it has begun to stabilize between $350 and $450.) In 2014, it was revealed that hackers had gotten into the hot wallet of Mt. Gox, a bitcoin exchange based in Tokyo. A total of 850,000 coins were "lost," at an estimated value of almost half a billion dollars. The founder of Silk Road, Ross William Ulbricht (known as "Dread Pirate Roberts"), got himself a four-by-six room in a federal penitentiary for life, not to mention pending charges for murder-for-hire in Maryland.
Everyone thought that bitcoin was the problem. The fact of the matter was, as it so often is, human nature was the problem. Money means desire. Desire means temptation. Temptation means that people get hurt.
During the first Gold Rush in the late 1840s, the belief was that all you needed was a pan and a decent pair of boots and a good dose of nerve and you could go out and make yourself a riverbed millionaire. Even Jack London later fell for the lure of it alongside thousands of others: the western test of manhood and the promise of wealth. What they soon found out was that a single egg could cost twenty-five of today's dollars, a pound of coffee went for a hundred, and a night in a whorehouse could set you back $6,000.
A few miners hit pay dirt, but what most ended up with for their troubles was a busted body and a nasty dose of syphilis.
The gold was discovered on the property of John Sutter in Sacramento, but the one who made the real cash was a neighboring merchant, Samuel Brannan. When Brannan heard the news of the gold nuggets, he bought up all the pickaxes and shovels he could find, filled a quinine bottle with gold dust, and went to San Francisco. Word went around like a prayer in a flash flood: gold gold gold. Brannan didn't wildcat for gold himself, but at the peak of the rush he was flogging $5,000 worth of shovels a day—that's $155,000 today—and went on to become the wealthiest man in California, alongside the Wells Fargo crew, Levi Strauss, and the Studebaker family, who sold wheelbarrows.
If you comb back through the Winklevoss family, you will find a great-grandfather and a great-great-grandfather who knew a thing or two about digging: They worked side by side in the coal mines of Pennsylvania. They didn't go west and they didn't get rich, but maybe the lesson became part of their DNA: Sometimes it's the man who sells the shovels who ends up hitting gold.
Like it or not—and many people don't like it—the Winklevoss brothers are shaping up to be the Samuel Brannans of the bitcoin world.
Nine months after being portrayed in The Social Network, the Winklevoss twins were back out on the water at the World Rowing Cup. CHRISTOPHER LEE/GETTY They heard about it first poolside in Ibiza, Spain. Later it would play into the idea of ease and privilege: umbrella drinks and girls in bikinis. But if the creation myth was going to be flippant, the talk was serious. "I'd say we were cautious, but we were definitely intrigued," says Cameron. They went back home to New York and began to read. There was something about it that got under their skin. "We knew that money had been so broken and inefficient for years," says Tyler, "so bitcoin appealed to us right away."
They speak in braided sentences, catching each other, reassuring themselves, tightening each other's ideas. They don't quite want to say that bitcoin looked like something that might be redemptive—after all, they, like everyone else, were looking to make money, lots of it, Olympic-sized amounts—but they say that it did strike an idealistic chord inside them. They certainly wouldn't be cozying up to the anarchists anytime soon, but this was a global currency that, despite its uncertainties, seemed to present a solution to some of the world's more pressing problems. "It was borderless, instantaneous, irreversible, decentralized, with virtually no transaction costs," says Tyler. It could possibly cut the banks out, and it might even take the knees out from under the credit-card companies. Not only that, but the price, at just under ten dollars per coin, was in their estimation low, very low. They began to snap it up.
They were aware, even at the beginning, that they might, once again, be called Johnny-come-latelys, just hopping blithely on the bandwagon—it was 2012, already four years into the birth of the currency—but they went ahead anyway, power ten. Within a short time they'd spent $11 million buying up a whopping 1 percent of the world's bitcoin, a position they kept up as more bitcoins were mined, making their 1 percent holding today worth about $66 million.
But bitcoin was flammable. The brothers felt the burn quickly. Their next significant investment came later that year, when they gave $1.5 million in venture funding to a nascent exchange called BitInstant. Within a year the CEO was arrested for laundering drug money through the exchange.
So what were a pair of smart, clean-cut Olympic rowers doing hanging around the edges of something so apparently shady, and what, if anything, were they going to do about it?
They mightn't have thought of it this way, but there was something of the sheriff striding into town, the one with the swagger and the scar, glancing up at the balconies as he comes down Main Street, all tumbleweeds and broken pianos. This place was a dump in most people's eyes, but the sheriff glimpsed his last best shot at finally getting the respect he thinks he deserves.
The money shot: A good stroke will catch the water almost without breaking its seal. You stir without rippling. Your silence is sinewy. There's muscle in that calm. The violence catches underneath, thrusts the boat along. Stroke after stroke. Just keep going. Today's truth dies tomorrow. What you have to do is elemental enough. You row without looking behind you. You keep the others in front of you. As long as you can see what they're doing, it's all in your hands. You are there to out-pain them. Doesn't matter who they are, where they come from, how they got here. Know your enemy through yourself. Push through toward pull. Find the still point of this pain. Cut a melody in the disk of your flesh. The only terror comes when they pass you—if they ever pass you.
There are no suits or ties, but there is a white hum in the offices of Gemini in the Flatiron District. The air feels as if it has been brushed clean. There is something so everywhereabout the place. Ergonomic chairs. iPhone portals. Rows of flickering computers. Not so much a hush around the room as a quiet expectation. Eight, nine people. Programmers, analysts, assistants. Other employees—teammates, they call them—dialing in from Portland, Oregon, and beyond.
The brothers fire up the room when they walk inside. A fist-pump here, a shoulder touch there. At the same time, there is something almost shy about them. Apart, they seem like casual visitors to the space they inhabit. It is when they're together that they feel fully shaped. One can't imagine them being apart from each other for very long.
The Winklevoss twins speak onstage at Bitcoin! Let's Cut Through the Noise Already at SXSW in 2016. GETTY They move from desk to desk. The price goes up, the price goes down. The phones ring. The e-mails beep. Customer-service calls. Questions about fees. Inquiries about tax structures.
Gemini was started in late 2015 as a next-generation bitcoin exchange. It is not the first such exchange in the world by any means, but it is one of the most watched. The company is designed with ordinary investors in mind, maybe a hedge fund, maybe a bank: all those people who used to be confused or even terrified by the word bitcoin. It is insured. It is clean. What's so fascinating about this venture is that the brothers are risking themselves by trying to eliminate risk: keeping the boat steady and exploding through it at the same time.
It is when they're together that they feel fully shaped. One can't imagine them being apart from each other for very long. For the past couple years, the Winklevosses have worked closely with just about every compliance agency imaginable. They ticked off all the regulatory boxes. Essentially they wanted to ease all the Debting Thomases. They put regulatory frameworks in place. Security and bankability and insurance were their highest objectives. Nobody was going to be able to blow open the safe. They wanted to soothe all the appetites for risk. They told Bitcoin Magazine they were asking for "permission, not forgiveness."
This is where bitcoin can become normal—that is, if you want bitcoin to be normal.
Just a mile or two down the road, in Soho, a half dozen bitcoiners gather at a meetup. The room is scruffy, small, boxy. A half mannequin is propped on a table, a scarf draped around it. It's the sort of place that twenty years ago would have been full of cigarette smoke. There's a bit of Allen Ginsberg here, a touch of Emma Goldman, a lot of Zuccotti Park. The wine is free and the talk is loose. These are the true believers. They see bitcoin in its clearest possible philosophical terms—the frictionless currency of the people, changing the way people move money around the world, bypassing the banks, disrupting the status quo.
A comedy show is being run out in the backyard. A scruffy young man wanders in and out, announcing over and over again that he is half-baked. A well-dressed Asian girl sidles up to the bar. She looks like she's just stepped out of an NYU business class. She's interested in discovering what bitcoin is. She is regaled by a series of convivial answers. The bartender tells her that bitcoin is a remaking of the prevailing power structures. The girl asks for another glass of wine. The bartender adds that bitcoin is democracy, pure and straight. She nods and tells him that the wine tastes like cooking oil. He laughs and says it wasn't bought with bitcoin. "I don't get it," she says. And so the evening goes, presided over by Margaux Avedisian, who describes herself as the queen of bitcoin. Avedisian, a digital-currency consultant of Armenian descent, is involved in several high-level bitcoin projects. She has appeared in documentaries and on numerous panels. She is smart, sassy, articulate.
When the talk turns to the Winklevoss brothers, the bar turns dark. Someone, somewhere, reaches up to take all the oxygen out of the air. Avedisian leans forward on the counter, her eyes shining, delightful, raged.
"The Winklevii are not the face of bitcoin," she says. "They're jokes. They don't know what they're saying. Nobody in our community respects them. They're so one-note. If you look at their exchange, they have no real volume, they never will. They keep throwing money at different things. Nobody cares. They're not part of us. They're just hangers-on."
"Ah, they're just assholes," the bartender chimes in.
"What they want to do," says Avedisian, "is lobotomize bitcoin, make it into something entirely vapid. They have no clue."
The Asian girl leaves without drinking her third glass of free wine. She's got a totter in her step. She doesn't quite get the future of money, but then again maybe very few in the world do.
Giving testimony on bitcoin licensing before the New York State Department of Financial Services in 2014. LUCAS JACKSON/REUTERS The future of money might look like this: You're standing on Oxford Street in London in winter. You think about how you want to get to Charing Cross Road. The thought triggers itself through electrical signals into the chip embedded in your wrist. Within a moment, a driverless car pulls up on the sensor-equipped road. The door opens. You hop in. The car says hello. You tell it to shut up. It does. It already knows where you want to go. It turns onto Regent Street. You think,A little more air-conditioning, please. The vents blow. You think, Go a little faster, please. The pace picks up. You think, This traffic is too heavy, use Quick(TM). The car swings down Glasshouse Street. You think, Pay the car in front to get out of my way. It does. You think, Unlock access to a shortcut. The car turns down Sherwood Street to Shaftsbury Avenue. You pull in to Charing Cross. You hop out. The car says goodbye. You tell it to shut up again. You run for the train and the computer chip in your wrist pays for the quiet-car ticket for the way home.
All of these transactions—the air-conditioning, the pace, the shortcut, the bribe to get out of the way, the quick lanes, the ride itself, the train, maybe even the "shut up"—will cost money. As far as crypto-currency enthusiasts think, it will be paid for without coins, without phones, without glass screens, just the money coming in and going out of your preprogrammed wallet embedded beneath your skin.
The Winklevosses are betting that the money will be bitcoin. And that those coins will flow through high-end, corporate-run exchanges like Gemini rather than smoky SoHo dives.
Cameron leans across a table in a New York diner, the sort of place where you might want to polish your fork just in case, and says: "The future is here, it's just not evenly distributed yet." He can't remember whom the quote belongs to, but he freely acknowledges that it's not his own. Theirs is a truculent but generous intelligence, capable of surprise and turn at the oddest of moments. They talk meditation, they talk economics, they talk Van Halen, they talk, yes, William Gibson, but everything comes around again to bitcoin.
"The key to all this is that people aren't even going to know that they're using bitcoin," says Tyler. "It's going to be there, but it's not going to be exposed to the end user. Bitcoin is going to be the rails that underpin our payment systems. It's just like an IP address. We don't log on to a series of numbers, 115.425.5 or whatever. No, we log on to Google.com. In the same way, bitcoin is going to be disguised. There will be a body kit that makes it user-friendly. That's what makes bitcoin a kick-ass currency."
Any fool can send a billion dollars across the world—as long as they have it, of course—but it's virtually impossible to send a quarter unless you stick it in an envelope and pay forty-nine cents for a stamp. It's one of the great ironies of our antiquated money system. And yet the quark of the financial world is essentially the small denomination. What bitcoin promises is that it will enable people and businesses to send money in just about any denomination to one another, anywhere in the world, for next to nothing. A public address, a private key, a click of the mouse, and the money is gone.
A Bitcoin conference in New York City in 2014. GETTY This matters. This matters a lot. Credit-card companies can't do this. Neither can the big banks under their current systems. But Marie-Louise on the corner of Libertador Avenue can. And so can Pat Murphy in his Limerick housing estate. So can Mark Andreessen and Bill Gates and Laurene Powell Jobs. Anyone can do it, anywhere in the world, at virtually no charge.
You can do it, in fact, from your phone in a diner in New York. But the whole time they are there—over identical California omelettes that they order with an ironic shrug—they never once open their phones. They come across more like the talkative guys who might buy you a drink at the sports bar than the petulants ordering bottle service in the VIP corner. The older they get, the more comfortable they seem in their contradictions: the competition, the ease; the fame, the quiet; the gamble, the sure thing.
Bitcoin is what might eventually make them among the richest men in America. And yet. There is always a yet. What seems indisputable about the future of money, to the Winklevosses and other bitcoin adherents, is that the technology that underpins bitcoin—the blockchain—will become one of the fundamental tenets of how we deal with the world of finance. Blockchain is the core computer code. It's open source and peer to peer—in other words, it's free and open to you and me. Every single bitcoin transaction ever made goes to an open public ledger. It would take an unprecedented 51 percent attack—where one entity would come to control more than half of the computing power used to mine bitcoin—for hackers to undo it. The blockchain is maintained by computers all around the world, and its future sidechains will create systems that deal with contracts and stock and other payments. These sidechains could very well be the foundation of the new global economy for the big banks, the credit-card companies, and even government itself.
"It's boundless," says Cameron.
This is what the brothers are counting on—and what might eventually make them among the richest men in America.
And yet. There is always a yet.
When you delve into the world of bitcoin, it gets deeper, darker, more mysterious all the time. Why has its creator remained anonymous? Why did he drop off the face of the earth? How much of it does he own himself? Will banks and corporations try to bring the currency down? Why are there really only five developers with full "commit access" to the code (not the Winklevosses, by the way)? Who is really in charge of the currency's governance?
Perhaps the most pressing issue at hand is that of scaling, which has caused what amounts to a civil war among followers. A maximum block size of one megabyte has been imposed on the chain, sort of like a built-in artificial dampener to keep bitcoin punk rock. That's not nearly enough capacity for the number of transactions that would take place in future visions. In years to come, there could be massive backlogs and outages that could create instant financial panic. Bitcoin's most influential leaders are haggling over what will happen. Will bitcoin maintain its decentralized status, or will it go legit and open up to infinite transactions? And if it goes legit, where's the punk?
The issues are ongoing—and they might very well take bitcoin down, but the Winklevosses don't think so. They have seen internal disputes before. They've refrained from taking a public stance mostly because they know that there are a lot of other very smart people in bitcoin who are aware that crisis often builds consensus. "We're in this for the long haul," says Tyler. "We're the first batter in the first inning."
GILLIAN LAUB The waiter comes across and asks them, bizarrely, if they're twins. They nod politely. Who was born first? They've heard it a million times and their answer is always the same: Neither of them—they were born cesarean. Cameron looks older, says the waiter. Tyler grins. Normally it's the other way around, says Cameron, grinning back. Do you ever fight? asks the waiter. Every now and then, they say. But not over this, not over the future.
Heraclitus was wrong. You can, in fact, step in the same river twice. In the beginning you went to the shed. No electricity there, no heat, just a giant tub where you simulated the river. You could only do eleven strokes. But there was something about the repetition, the difference, even the monotony, that hooked you. After a while it wasn't an abandoned shed anymore. College gyms, national training centers. Bigger buildings. High ceilings. AC. Doctors and trainers. Monitors hooked up to your heart, your head, your blood. Six foot five, but even then you were not as tall as the other guys. You liked the notion of underdog. Everyone called you the opposite. The rich kids. The privileged ones. To hell with that. They don't know us, who we are, where we came from. Some of the biggest chips rest on the shoulders of those with the least to lose. Six foot five times two makes just about thirteen feet. You sit in the erg and you stare ahead. Day in, day out. One thousand strokes, two thousand. You work with the very best. You even train with the Navy SEALs. It touches that American part of you. The sentiment, the false optimism. When the oil fields are burning, you even think, I'll go there with them. But you stay in the boat. You want that other flag rising. That's what you aim for. You don't win but you get close. Afterward there are planes, galas, regattas, magazine spreads, but you always come back to that early river. The cold. The fierceness. The heron. Like it or not, you're never going to get off the water—that's just the fact of the matter, it's always going to be there. Hard to admit it, but once you were wrong. You got out of the boat and you haggled over who made it. You lost that one, hard. You might lose this one, too, but then again it just might be the original arc that you're stepping toward. So you return, then. You rise before dark. You drag your carcass along Broadway before dawn.
All the rich men in the world want to get shot into outer space. Richard Branson. Jeff Bezos. Elon Musk. The new explorers. To get the hell out of here and see if they—and maybe we—can exist somewhere else for a while. It's the story of the century. We want to know if the pocket of the universe can be turned inside out. We're either going to bring all the detritus of the world upward with us or we're going to find a brand-new way to exist. The cynical say that it's just another form of colonization—they're probably right, but then again maybe it's our only way out.
The Winklevosses have booked their tickets—numbers 700 and 701—on Branson's Virgin Galactic. Although they go virtually everywhere together, the twins want to go on different flights because of the risk involved: Now that they're in their mid-thirties, they can finally see death, or at least its rumor. It's a boy's adventure, but it's also the outer edge of possibility. It cost a quarter of a million dollars per seat, and they paid for it, yes, in bitcoin.
Of course, up until recently, the original space flights all splashed down into the sea. One of the ships that hauled the Gemini space capsule out of the water in 1965 was the Intrepid aircraft carrier.
The Winklevosses no longer pull their boat up the river. Instead they often run five miles along the Hudson to the Intrepid and back. The destroyer has been parked along Manhattan's West Side for almost as long as they have been alive. It's now a museum. The brothers like the boat, its presence, its symbolism: Intrepid, Gemini, the space shot.
They ease into the run.
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[Table] IAmA: Hey, Alex Winter of Bill & Ted here. Directing a new movie called "Deep Web: The Untold Story of Bitcoin and Silk Road." Ask me anything!

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Date: 2013-11-25
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Questions Answers
As someone who creates content, do you think there's a solution for middle class content creators? It seems that they're the most hurt by piracy, yet free-culture proponents almost exclusively focus on large corporations. Kickstarter, Indie Go-Go, and their brethren aren't picking up that slack- tales of success seem to be the outliers, and many of the poster-children (Radiohead, Amanda Palmer, etc.) rely on past success and marketing dollars. So, will this pick up, and will there be a middle class of creators? Or are we now living in a world of (sometimes skilled, but still) amateurs? This is a smart question and demands a much longer answer than i can give here. but the short of it in my opinion is that it's a misunderstanding to assume it's harder for 'middle class artists' in this climate. it's always been very very hard. there have always been obstacles and gatekeepers. the digital landscape has opened many many doors and closed some doors. it's in many ways easier, but you still need that magic combo of talent, tenacity and luck.
Man I'm sorry but I've gotta ask...what happened to you man? Why did Keanu make it out and why did you disappear into obscurity? Haha. not an offensive question at all. I quit acting professionally in 94, after Freaked to focus on writing and directing. I'd been acting professionally since I was 10 years old and I wanted out of the public eye. It's really only been in the last couple of years that i've intentionally been slipping back in front of the camera. But I think it's important for child actors to spend time away from constant exposure. I tell a lot of kids this in that field.
Be honest…has Keanu admitted his immortality to you? I could tell you but then I'd have to kill you. And then he would drink your blood and live for another millenia...
Did you buy any Bitcoins before they blew up in value recently? Haha, I did not. The Winklevoss twins got them all :)
Since George Carlin has died, will there be some new character coming in to replace Rufus in helping the Wyld Stallyns? We've spent a lot of time and thought on making this work. all i can say right now :)
On a scale of 1 to 10, how likely is it that B&T 3 will be financed and actually get made? I'd say 10 but it's Hollywood... so 9.9?
Did you ever use the SR before it went down? I honestly did not. I am a dull family man and most of what i need to purchase online can be found in the toddler section of Amazon :)
Your stepmom is cute. Remember when she was a senior and you were a freshman? Do You get BnT references constantly and do they annoy you? No, thankfully I like the movies a lot. I have some friends who acted in movies that they can't shake that they hated. that is an existential nightmare from which one can never awaken!
Thanks for doing this AMA, and for being part of one of my all-time favorite films. You've been quoted as saying "[Bill and Ted] was a happy accident. No one thought it would ever see the light of day." Could you expand on that? Both BnT movies were made independently. The first one was really low budget and kind of under the radar when we made it. then it sat on a shelf for a year after being made, when the producing company went belly up. So we kind of gave up on it. Then it was bought up and released and was a big hit :)
What was it like working with Mr. T? Is his public persona accurate as to who he really is? It is! Exactly! He's a really great person, into community outreach and helping people. A wonderful guy.
When will we have a new Bill and Ted to watch any plot details You can share? What got You so interested in Bitcoin? Also, Thank You for being so Excellent! Party On! I first got interested in Bitcoin in '09, when it magically appeared out of the ether. Much like Napster appeared out of nowhere 10 years prior. I recognized that Bitcoin felt like the next big thing to come out of peer-to-peer.
What can I do to get into the Bitcoin World. I don't know much about it. Start at blockchain.info. that will lead the way.
Do you think the Tor network is forever tainted due to the Silk Road takedown, or does it still remain a viable method of obtaining true anonymity on the Internet? Absolutely not. SR accounts for a tiny fraction of TOR use and is not going to impact Bitcoin much either in the long run. As Wozniak so perfectly put it, you don't shut down the whole highway when one car is speeding.
What was the funnest thing about making The Lost Boys? Having dirt kicked into my eyes by the two Coreys in my death scene. Actually it wasn't funny at the time; i had full eye contacts in and my cornea got scratched. had to go the hospital. Loved those guys tho...
Any cool memorabilia you kept from Bill and Ted? I had my evil robot head from BnT 2, but it eventually rotted. I used it as a doorstep. My kids loved it :)
What motivated you to be one of the first films to educate those about the online blackmarket? why exactly do you need the funding from the kickstarter? Because, like the Napster story, there is a lot of noise but not a lot of context. I think we need some context and our film will be one form of providing that. We are using Kickstarter for some of the funding in order to begin to build our community for the film. We want people's input, the changes occurring through the Web are part of a global movement.
Are you actually going to provide any information we don't already know from all that's been written about this? Is this just a movie version of a bunch of news articles? Our doc is an expansive examination of a movement that began decades ago and is now hitting a peak of global impact. we are interviewing the core players in this story. It's not the kind of thing news articles do in any capacity. join our kickstarter, be part of the process and of the movie's community :)
How did you do research for the script? How did you get a script just a few weeks after SR was busted? It's a documentary :)
Alex, as someone who studied Napster so much for Downloaded, what would Bill & Ted have thought of it: Most Excellent or Non-Triumphant? They would have said 'huh???'
Is a melvin a synonym for wedgie, or a completely different maneuver executed from the front? You answered your own question :))
Is there any fond memory that stands out from making The Lost Boys? Honestly the most fun i ever had 'working'. Joel Schumacher knows how to create an amazing environment to work in. It's one of my fondest memories of my crazy youth! :)
On the kickstarter page, under the "Silk Road" header, the phrase "trading mostly in drugs and weapons" is used. Don't you feel that claiming that weapon sales were a large part of the silk road's operations is misleading? especially since weapon sales were specifically banned from the site shortly after its creation? Certainly the part about mostly trading in drugs is spot on, but also weapons? Come on, that's just untrue. Sorry if that seems misleading. As the Armory only lasted a year. But SR was built for that purpose wherever it ultimately landed.
I don't know if you remember me, but I went to school with your son in LA, me and my brother stayed at your house a few times. Kinda funny how I never got to thank you for being so excellent in Bill and Ted back then, so I figured I'd do it now! Hey Dante! Hope you guys are well!
I suppose I should ask a question, so what drew you to the idea of the deep web? What made you want to make this movie? The Deep Web lies at the heart of the digital revolution, that has impacted every corner of our lives. There are huge changes that have occurred in the last decade, and many more around the corner. Examining the Deep Web in detail allows us to closely examine this revolution and its implications.
Do you think that the high prices that bitcoins are experiencing right now is actually a bad sign, since it indicates instability? Where do you think the value of Bitcoins will ultimately fall once the bubble bursts? No one knows where it will settle. It's not unlike gold in this regard. But once it's been around a bit longer and more people are taking it, the value will increase within that framework but not in such a wild manner. this form of currency is here to stay, of that there is no question.
How did people find silk road online? That always boggled my mind, because I assume it wasn't as easy as googling it haha Did you have to like, "know" someone in the business to gain membership? It's not hard to find these sites, it's just dangerous. don't go hunting for scorpions unless you are prepared to get stung.
So Deep Web... Do you have a script already? Are you dealing with the actual events, or fictionalizing them? If the former, are you worried about having to pay folks for rights? If you have a script, how does it toe the line between being too simplified to please the target demo/actually tell the story and too esoteric for the mass market? It's a feature documentary. please join our kickstarter :)
I don't think the story is too esoteric at all, just as the details of the Napster story weren't. These are universal stories about global communities.
How much about the deep web did you investigate? I have done some looking into it recently and there is some pretty disgusting stuff out there. To be honest I kind of wish I never heard about it. Silk road is only the tip of the iceberg and to me doesnt seem like that big of a deal compared to some of the other stuff out there like the hitmen websites and human dolls for sale etc. What is your take on the rest of it outside of silk road? There is a lot of dark and horrible stuff in the Dark Web. The Deep Web is a much broader world, and in my view needs to be understood as separate from the much smaller Dark Web, and in need of protection.
When did you get into directing? I realize I could easily find this out on IMDB but it's just cooler to ask the source! Hah, thanks for asking! I actually went to NYU film school to study directing before I acted in all the movies. It's always been one of my passions. I started directing professionally in about 86. Shooting music videos and commercials and then our show on MTV, The Idiot Box.
So I'm guessing MTV/Viacom or somesuch own the DVD rights to The Idiot Box? There was a fair amount of comedy from that era of MTV that I'd love to be able to watch again… MTV owns it... why no DVD... yet...
What was it like working with a big star like Larry "bud" Melman? He was awesome of course. RIP.
Wait, does Satoshi = Stations??? Ahhh you cracked the code!!!
Excellent job on Downloaded! I enjoyed remembering a time in the not so distant past when 'regular people' could not envision a world in which their music lived on a computer. Today, regular people cannot envision a world in which their money lives on a computer. I was also surprised to learn about your early connection with the world of MP3s. Could you elaborate on what you think we can learn about Bitcoin based on your experiences with Napster and the MP3 scene in the late 90's? The world is responding to Bitcoin and a new awareness of the Deep Web much like they responded to Napster, with fear and demonizing. Our film aims to put these things in some context.
What made you want to do this documentary? I've been following the story myself and it's certainly one worth following but how did you yourself first get interested in the topic? I have been interested in global web-based communities and emerging technologies since the mid 80's. There is a revolution occurring in global culture at the moment, that will change everything. and it's only just beginning. what's not interesting about that?? :)
I don't have a question but Excellent Adventure made me who I am today. Thank you. Fuck it, uh. Do you agree that Cinnamon Toast Crunch is hands down the best cereal? My kids do. it's evil.
off, I want to thank you for posting my Rasta Eyeball with a machine gun tattoo on your blog. It made getting it completely worth it. I just want to know which of the characters from Freaked is your favourite? Stuey Gluck!!
And your tat is amazing!
Hello there, thanks for doing this! I just wanted to ask if by making a movie that sheds light on the dark web/bitcoins etc. It will shed more light on an area of the web that generally dislikes the attention. In other words could it create a misaprehension of the mission and possible positive effects the darkweb community tries to provide? I think the current media spin has that effect; in that it tends to paint the entire deep web and bitcoins and cryptography with a negative brush. this is both inaccurate and destructive. Our movie does not paint dark things in a positive light, it gives context to the entire arena.
Will the Silk Road be back? Also, can you say hi to my smokin hot babe Sherry? It is back.
Hey Alex, A quick glance at your wikipedia page has made me realise you directed Knock Me Down by RHCP! Did you have much contact with the band? How was it working with them? Thanks for the AMA; Looking forward to B&T3! I love the chili's and have known them for decades. they are still great, but in the mid 80's when I had the fortune of doing some work with them, it is hard to quantify how amazing they were. the best live act on the road, by far!!
So when are you planning to bless the world with Bill & Ted 3? Soon as we get it up and running!
If you could star in any movie from any time, what movie would it be and what role would you have and why? Buster Keaton in anything probably. No one in the movies ever had a better time.
So what is the "untold" story of Bitcoin/Silk road? Isn't most of it public knowledge by now? Or we'll we have to wait and see the movie? You don't have to wait if you join our Kickstarter and become part of the making of the movie! It is hardly public knowledge as no one has framed this story up yet in one film, and the story itself is unfolding every day. :)
What was the most surprising thing you found out about the Silk Road? That's in the movie :)
Hey Alex, What will Deep Web be like? Sort of a CNN special or does it have a bigger ambition, i.e. are you making it on a scale for wide distribution in movie theaters? If the latter, what documentaries would you compare it to in terms of style and storytelling? Our doc has a broader ambition than reportage. We are making a film about a technological revolution that has been brewing for decades.
Hm, don't know you but this does sound interesting. When can we expect this movie to come out? Anything interesting about these topics you learned? Every day I learn something new and fascinating. We hope to finish within the next year. Join our kickstarter and be part of our community :)
What ''good'' is there in the deep web? I only hear stories about horrific things like drugs, black market stuff, assassins, etc. Also, were you fortunate enough to had invested in bitcoin in it's early stages? The Deep Web is being demonized somewhat in the press, which is a misunderstanding of what it is. DW represents all content on the web that is not indexed. this doesn't mean people are doing bad things. it means they are unseen. the Dark Web is a term that has come to characterize people who use the web for illicit means. the dark web represents a fraction of the Deep Web.
On your Kickstarter campaign, you say, "Bitcoin has the potential to create a level of global disruption that will make Napster look like child's play." Can you expand on that? BitCoin is a peer to peer crypto-currency. Like any peer to peer technology it is decentralized and operated by a wide user base spread across the net. As such it is here to stay, and being an unregulated currency that exists outside the control of banks and governments, it is poised to have a massive impact on the world. That's what I mean :)
Why are you focusing on the darker side of the deep web instead of the good side? Its virtues clearly outweigh the illegal stuff. As someone who appreciates the privacy benefits of Bitcoin, TOR and the Deep Web, I am concerned about the public's disproportionate focus on its negative and illegal uses. Do you plan to address this bias at all? Question 1: I am absolutely not only focusing on the dark side of the Deep Web. In fact one of my key points is that the Deep Web is misrepresented, and inaccurately represented. It is mostly just a reference to all the content on the web that is not indexed. Most of which is not dark and a lot of which is frankly boring private data :)
Are you accepting Bitcoin for the financing of this film? If not, why not? Again, thanks for doing this, but I am concerned that your focus on the negative side of TOR will continue to twist the public's perception in the wrong direction. 2: We will absolutely be accepting BTC for the movie. But Kickstarter does not accept BTC so we are doing that separately. Stay tuned!
3: Yes the bias is a big problem and we will debunk the myths, just as I did with Downloaded. People like to hold onto their preconceptions tho, so I have no illusions about turning the world around :) A lot of people loved my Napster movie, but there were many in the mainstream press who were outraged that I didn't spend more time castigating the Napster architects for being thieves who created piracy software, when clearly that is not the truth, just the well-spun myth. but myths die hard.
How concerned are you with getting all the details right? You plan to talk about things happening in the more obscure and less legal parts of the Internet. The people who use those parts of the Internet are often pretty knowledgeable about the fine technical details, and are annoyed when people get them wrong. Even the term "Deep Web" has a whiff of "Information Superhighway" or "Series of Tubes" about it. Aside from just wanting to get the details right for the sake of having an informative and accurate documentary, are you concerned at all with upsetting the wrong kinds of people by doing this? After all, the guy behind Silk Road is rumoured to have tried(?) to have people killed. Our film isn't a Silk Road movie but an exploration of the history and evolution of the Deep Web, as told by its architects. That is the story that I believe matters most :)
Are you covering other crypto currencies? Also, I didn't think porn hid on the internet. I am yes. This movie is largely about the crypto-revolution.
What are your thoughts on the rather dubious "hired a hitman" charges against DPR (Ross Ulbricht)? Do you think law enforcement used parallel construction to identify the SR server or otherwise make the case against SDPR? Looking forward to this documentary, and I'm a huge fan of Bill and Ted! It's a really fascinating case that is unfolding and changing constantly. No one knows the full story at the moment outside of the Feds, and I'm sure they're chasing some crazy leads trying to iron it all out!
Hey Alex I was just wondering if you used Silk Road for movie research and what the movie is gonna be about? The site used to pride themselves on anonymity so is it a lot of speculation about what goes on behind the curtain or were you able to actually talk to and interview the people behind the scenes of the website? I didn't use SR for research but am in contact with many people close to the world and story.
Can I donate to the Deep Web movie via Bitcoin? I loved the Napster doc, and am super excited for this one, since judging by your prior work I think it will be very high quality. There was no bitcoin address listed on the kickstarter page! Yes Kickstarter does not allow BitCoin pledges. We will have a BitCoin option soon!
Bitcoin is seen as a "dirty" term by the media as it usually relates to illicit activities, what could make it a more clean and friendly method of payment to Joe Smith who runs a small florist in a mid size town in Washington? Time. people need to get used to crypto-currency. it's here to stay and perfectly legitimate unto itself.
I've always been a fan of Bill and Ted, however this question does not related to your career. You actually grew up next to my Dad (His name is Nick) in St. Louis/Clayton. He said your family loved television, and that he always joked your television might blow up one day. As ridiculous as that sounds apparently it actually happened to you guys one day. So did this actually happen? Is my father a liar? How much television does it take before it explodes? Wow that is some ancient history! Yes when I was five my brother and I got into a fight and someone hit the tv with their body, hard (such is the way of fraternal skirmishes, my bro and I have actually always been super close). We didn't know we had blown some of the electricals inside the TV and the next time it was turned on it exploded into flames (for real!) and burned the whole house down (totally true story!!)
What are your thoughts on other cryptocurrencies like Litecoin? I think it is early days for crypto-currency and eventually one will rule the roost. Whichever proves to be the most stable, trustworthy and provides the best ease of use.
I just hope that it's objective and that it doesn't needlessly throw BitCoin into dis-appeal. I mean, there have been other digital currencies which had been used for drugs, hitmen, child porn, whatever else. Sigh. Just don't slander it, k? <3 I totally agree with you, that's the movie :)
Are you worried about how Deep Web will portray bitcoin? Us bitcoin folks are already rather irritated about how much people make the point that bitcoin is used for illegal things, without pointing out that cash is used for the same thing. Oh we are making very very clear all the legitimate uses for Bitcoin.
Alex, do you think that Satoshi Nakamoto has any sort of link or relationship to Ross Ulbricht? Yes some people have been saying that. There are other people believed to have created Bitcoin that we are talking to.
What are your personal thoughts on the deep web and how it operates? Do you think the bit coin business model is the future of personal commerce? I do yes.
Don't you think it is a little early to start writing a story before the truth is completely released? I've been following the take down since day one and there are still so many things that haven't been answered. Absolutely. Our movie is about the Deep Web, it's not a Silk Road movie.
What do you think about Silk Road 2.0 being open? Inevitable.
Have you been able to get any key actors in Bitcoin, Silk Road etc to go on the record unanonymously? BTW...San Dimas HS football rules! Yes we have :)
I live in San Dimas. Do you know what you've done to me any time I meet people from out of town? Sorry. truly. We didn't shoot there, we shot it in Phoenix, so I never thought about San Dimas one way or the other. Until many years later I made the mistake of taking my kids to the water park there without thinking about it. Very very very VERY big mistake for "Bill" to waltz into a water park in San Dimas...
What do you think George Carlin would have said about Bitcoin and Silk Road? Link to www.youtube.com
Can you please make sure that bitcoin ends up not getting the image of "crack dollars"? I'd like if people didn't associate bitcoins with just silk road. Agree!!
Bill& Ted 3: elaborate please! We have the script and our producing team on board, in finance mode now... :)
What is socrates like in real life. A windbag.
New Idiot Box sketches on YouTube please. Burrowing Bishop, If I Had My Way, etc.etc. I think everything we shot has made its way up there :)
I have yet to ever have a question answered in an AMA, not a question but a simple acknowledgment of my existence would be fantastic. Love BnT BTW. You exist!!!
We demand a sequel to Freaked. That is all. Me too! One day... many many eons from now... it will happen...
Can you give me 3 words that will best describe the movie to me. Join our Kickstarter! :)
Last updated: 2013-11-29 19:11 UTC
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The Winklevoss Twins Have Lost Nearly $1 Billion in the Bitcoin Meltdown

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