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Money, identity, and ownership

For those of you who are interested in crypto (and for those of you who aren’t but are open-minded), Vitalik has just published this post talking about what in the Ethereum application ecosystem currently excites him. A lot of it is pretty technical, but the 5 overarching categories he talks about are: (1) money, (2) decentralized finance, (3) identity, (4) decentralized autonomous organizations, and (5) hybrid applications.

Money has always been considered the first and most important application of crypto. But there is no shortage of people who will tell you that it’ll never work and that fiat currencies backed by a government will always be superior. Today I already think the answer is: it depends. So lately, I have been responding to this comment by asking: Would you rather own the Argentine Peso or would you rather own someting like ETH?

Here’s how Vitalik talks about this same point:

When I first visited Argentina in December last year, one of the experiences I remember well was walking around on Christmas Day, when almost everything is closed, looking for a coffee shop. After passing by about five closed ones, we finally found one that was open. When we walked in, the owner recognized me, and immediately showed me that he has ETH and other crypto-assets on his Binance account. We ordered tea and snacks, and we asked if we could pay in ETH. The coffee shop owner obliged, and showed me the QR code for his Binance deposit address, to which I sent about $20 of ETH from my Status wallet on my phone.

This was far from the most meaningful use of cryptocurrency that is taking place in the country. Others are using it to save money, transfer money internationally, make payments for large and important transactions, and much more. But even still, the fact that I randomly found a coffee shop and it happened to accept cryptocurrency showed the sheer reach of adoption. Unlike wealthy countries like the United States, where financial transactions are easy to make and 8% inflation is considered extreme, in Argentina and many other countries around the world, links to global financial systems are more limited and extreme inflation is a reality every day. Cryptocurrency often steps in as a lifeline.

The other category that I find very interesting is that of identity. And it relates to a post that Fred Wilson also happened to share today where he talks about the importance of identity and the coming need for us to start cryptographically signing everything. In my mind, what this comes down to is proving things like who is who, who is doing what, and who owns what.

This may sound counterintuitive since crypto is often held up by the media as a way to obfuscate identity and conceal nefarious activities. But the thing is, as soon as you link a real human to a blockchain, you can now have identity and ownership records that are institution-independent and fully interoperable. One use case that immediately comes to mind is property deeds, which is of course already being done in some places.

For Vitalik’s full post, click here.

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