Bitcoins and Gravy # 68 : Are Cryptocurrencies & Appcoins Doomed? (Transcript)

Episode notes and comments page :

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John Barrett (Announcer and Host): Welcome to Bitcoins and Gravy, Episode #68. At the time of this recording, Bitcoins are trading at $238.00 dollars each, and everybody’s favorite, LTBCoin, is trading at $0.000106 U.S. dollars. Mmm…Mmm…Mmm… Now THAT’S gravy!

[Intro music]

John : Welcome to "Bitcoins and Gravy", and thanks for joining me today as I podcast, once again, from East Nashville, Tennessee, with my trusty Siberian Husky, Maxwell, by my side. Say hello, Maxwell.

Maxwell : Grrrrr…..

John : We’re two Bitcoin enthusiasts who love talking about Bitcoins, and sharing what we learn with you, the listener. Long time listeners, thank you so much for joining us. New listeners, we hope you enjoy the show. On today's show I speak with Daniel Krawisz, one of the founders of the Satoshi Nakamoto Institute ( ). Daniel and I discuss the merits, and the pitfalls, of cryptocurrencies, altcoins and the cypherpunk movement.


And a special treat, listeners. Halfway through the interview we get to hear my new single, “Crypto (The Official Cryptocurrency Song)” as performed by our very own Rasta Mon Jon. This is a short, but very sweet, three minute concert that you will NOT want to miss.

[Segway music]

John : All right, listeners. Today I have a special treat. I am speaking with Daniel Krawisz, the founder of the Satoshi Nakamoto Institute, and Daniel is speaking with us today from Austin, Texas. Daniel, welcome to the show.

Daniel : Thank you, and I’m A founder, not THE founder.

John : Oh, okay. And how many founders ARE there.

Daniel : There’s three. There’s me, Michael Goldstein, and Pierre Rochard. We started the web site in 2013 because we saw a lack of interest – or less exposure - for the original cypherpunk ideas that Bitcoin grew out of. So we decided that we wanted to make sure these ideas were kept alive, and they had a nice place on the internet, and we’ve been publishing original cypherpunk articles SINCE then.


John : Okay.

Daniel : We also write commentary on the Bitcoin movement. And, of course, the anarchist wing of the Bitcoin movement has also been marginalized, so we wanted to keep THAT around.

John : Okay. Now when you use the term “cypherpunk” can you describe to people what the actually means?

Daniel : Sure. The cypherpunks were a movement in the last 80s and 90s – well, that’s when they were most active – based around the idea that cryptography can make people more free. We can use ideas like encryption, anonymity networks, and digital cash, to create a world that helps people to be more independent of government, and allows them to engage in communication and trade without government oversight – whether the government likes it or not. And their ideas have become REALITY today, and Bitcoin grew out of the cypherpunk movement.


We know Satoshi was a Cypherpunk, because of the works that he cited. Most of the citations in the original Bitcoin paper are cypherpunk papers that were originally published on the cypherpunk mailing list.

John : Very interesting. So the cypherpunks movement, you’re still part of that movement. Where do you stand when it comes to the crypto-anarchist movement?

Daniel : Well, I don’t think that there’s a big difference. I would say that that’s about the same. So Tim May – one of the founders of the cypherpunks mailing list – also invented the word “crypto-anarchy”. So cypherpunks might be the name of the movement, and crypto-anarchy might be the name of the ideology. But it’s the same thing. The idea is to build communities online that are resistant to government intervention through the use of cryptography.


John : Okay. You know, in my imaginings there’s always a lot going on that we don’t see. There are people working hard to build decentralized systems, and decentralized platforms, and working on decentralized projects that the rest of us don’t know anything about yet, because they haven’t come out and TOLD us yet. What do you think about that?

Daniel : Well, one of the strengths of the Bitcoin world is that it’s all open source. Anybody can build tools, and the ones that work will become widely adopted. I had a conversation with my mother last year, [where] she was saying, “What if China bans Bitcoin?” And I said, “Well, what matters is what the people are doing [who] are not known, [and] are programming in their basement somewhere.” Anyway, I told her we were more powerful than the Chinese government. So she thought I was a little bit crazy after that point. But let me also mention that I think “decentralized” is, kind of, a buzzword right now, and there aren’t necessarily reasons to decentralize everything.


Decentralization tends to be very costly, and it’s difficult to get it to work right. And it’s not necessarily the best thing to do in all applications. The reason that Bitcoin works well as a decentralized application is just that we can’t afford to have monetary institutions, because they all get corrupted.

John : Mmm…Hmm.

Daniel : But if we’re dealing with something that’s LESS corruptible it might be excessive to try to decentralize it.

John : So how do we, - for instance with banking and finance - I understand it IS much more difficult, and much more expensive, to decentralize. Everything decentralized is, kind of, unrealistic – especially RIGHT AWAY. You have this massive infrastructure, and hierarchical structure, built over hundreds – if not, thousands – of years, leading up to what we have today. So it would be hard to just bring that down, even though there are aspects of it that really are legitimately a house of cards ready to fall.


But how can we, right now, today, celebrate and work towards systems that are decentralized systems that don’t have the corruption that the centralized, hierarchical structures have that we are so used to. How can we work TOWARD decentralized in an AFFORDABLE way?

Daniel : Sure, Well, I guess the best thing that anybody can do is try to make Bitcoin itself more profitable to get into. Of course, we’re already seeing the big banks starting to show an interest in Bitcoin. Who knows what will come of that? But really, the more people that get drawn into the Bitcoin economy, the better. And if you’re not technically capable of writing your own peer-to-peer application, or whatever, the best thing is to find some economic niche that makes Bitcoin a more convenient place for everybody. The more profits available in the Bitcoin economy, the better.


And, of course, I don’t mean starting “startups”. That’s something you COULD do, but just ANY kind of profits. Like if you are a taxi driver, or a carpenter, or anybody who can get more of an edge by using Bitcoin rather than credit cards or the banking system.

John : Right. Or any business that’s online is an obvious candidate for accepting Bitcoins, right?

Daniel : Yeah. I don’t understand why it’s taking so long for Bitcoin to be incorporated into everything online. It’s so easy, they might as well just do it.

John : I agree. I think a big part of it is [that] while your average person doesn’t recognize it, people – the masses – ARE pretty well controlled. You know, these days, as long as your average person knows that the “big game” - whether it’s basketball, baseball, football, hockey, or whatever – the “big game” is going to be on this weekend. And, “I get to take work off – because I don’t have to work on the weekends – and I get to buy a 12-pack of beer and order a pizza. As long as I can do that, hey man, life is good.” So, if we happen to be invading another country during that football game, why do we care? We’re busy watching football.


So, I think that people are MUCH more CONTROLLED. Their thinking is much more controlled through the public education system. [Like] how they perceive the world, and how they perceive the world in relation to the United States. Those things have been formed by public education. In certain ways I don’t think people realize how controlled their minds are, when it comes to things like Bitcoins; when something NEW comes along. I think it’s really difficult for people to break away from the norm, because the norm is so comfortable. Even though they may hate their job, and their team may have lost last weekend, there’s always this COMING weekend. There’s always the chance that their team is going to win. There’s that concert they want to go to because they love Lady Gag, or whoever it is – she’s actually a pretty good singer. I heard her duet with Tony Bennett. [laughter] But anyway, I don’t want to digress into that.


So I think that’s one of the answers right there, of why its taking so long, because people are [under] the “”normalcy bias”. People are biased towards that which they consider to be the norm, and anything that ‘s outside of that norm just seems scary. You know? They’re biased towards that. It's not part of the norm, so they don’t want to know about it.

Daniel : Okay. Well, first of all, WE’RE not attacking some other country. I mean, I don’t consider myself to be personally involved in any attack, so don’t lay it on me.

John : Do you mean you personally?

Daniel : Yeah. Me personally. I’m not involved if the United States attacks anybody.

John : Well, if you’ve ever paid any money in taxes then your tax money has actually gone… Or, if you pay tax when you go buy a food item, theoretically, you’ve helped – and CONTINUE to help – fund these unjust wars.

Daniel : Yeah., well those are all coerced out of me.

John : I agree with that. But we are all responsible for our own actions, yes?


Daniel : As to your point about people being controlled, it’s all relative. The way we live now is so much better than any time in the past. Especially with the internet being available, it’s very easy for people to have access to ideas at the tip of their fingertips that would have been difficult for them to find earlier.

John : Sure. Even ten or twenty years ago. But when you talk about the masses, and opportunities, one thing that would give your average American, for instance, the OPPORTUNITY that you're speaking of - to surf the internet, and learn all of these things - would be [that] they would have to have the money to HAVE a computer. They would have to live in a community that ENCOURAGED that soft of behavior; encouraged internet behavior [and] had an internet connection, and encouraged education and seeking new knowledge. [But] not every community in the United States - impoverished areas in particular - there's not a lot of encouraging of that.


Children are born and they're taught that you either get a welfare check, or you go to work at a job that you don't like. So a lot of these people DON'T have access to internet and all of those things, but your point is still well taken.

Daniel : Sure. Well, and as to this normalcy bias, there's a way that [this] can work in our favor too. The fact that it's now POSSIBLE to buy and sell contraband online so easy, and to create an online store that's open to the public, and that anybody can access as long as they can download the Tor browser, that's really going to normalize the black market in a really big way. We're already starting to see this. It really is amazing to me to see articles in mainstream publications - not in the CRIMINAL section, but in the technology section - on Silk Road and other dark markets, and how they work and how they are improving.


And I'm actually thinking about doing all of my Christmas shopping this year over the dark market. I mean, there's plenty of LEGAL stuff that you can get there too, that my family might be interested in. I'm not sure if I can actually do all of my Christmas shopping that way, but we'll see what I can come up with.

John : What do you think of OpenBazaar ( )? Do you like those guys?

Daniel : Yeah. Well I really like their ideas and enthusiasm. I haven't looked at the code base, but I've heard it's a real mess. [So] if anybody is an experienced open source developer who would like to try to clean it up, they might need that. But yeah, I'm excited about the project. It could well turn out to be a big idea. And, of course, I know some of the people who are involved in working on it, so I'm biased.


Well it SEEMS like one of the more worthy projects out there. I am really looking forward to being a regular customer on OpenBazaar once it's up and running. So let's talk about cryptocurrencies, and "app currencies". You were the first person I heard use that phrase, "app currencies", in reference to a currency that is created in order to fund an app, or project, an "app-coin”, right? And I know that you're not a big fan of at-coins and cryptocurrencies, whereas in a lot of ways I really AM. I'm invested in some of them. Not a LOT. I'm invested in a LOT of them, but not a lot in EACH ONE, I should say. So yeah, let's talk about digital currencies. Let's talk about cryptocurrencies, because if I'm not mistaken, Daniel, this is how you and I first met. It was by way of the show notes on Let's Talk Bitcoin. After one of my shows you commented about alt-coins, and referred me to some articles you had written, and I READ those articles. That was MONTHS ago, and now we're finally interviewing.


John : So talk to us about cryptocurrencies, alt-coins and app-coins. We know that there are a TON of them out there - a new one every day - and we know that some of these coins cannot be trusted [laughter], right? As has been proven in the past. So talk to us about alt-coins, and app-coins.

Daniel : Sure. Well yeah, anytime somebody promises a guaranteed return that's always a good sign. So here's the basic problem; for any good to have value, people need to want to hold it over time. If people want to hold it for LESS time, then necessarily the value MUST go down, because you're having the same amount of the good being held by fewer people at a time.


So the reason that people hold stock or bonds over time is obvious. Stocks give dividends - or at least, theoretically, they MIGHT at some point in the future, and bonds give interest. So you HAVE to hold them over time in order to get that value. Currency does not provide value over time. If you hold a currency it just stays the same thing; and, of course, most currencies will LOSE value over time due to inflation. The reason that a person would want to hold a currency over a period of time -- well, I'm talking about the ULTIMATE reason that currencies have value; people can also speculate in currencies. But the underlying reason that a currency has value is the network effect between all the people using it.


So just think if you landed on a desert island, with a culture that was isolated from the rest of the world, and everybody was using beads, or something, as money; something you know could be easily manufactured in OUR society. For them it's DIFFICULT to manufacture, and everybody uses it as money. Well, you're going to want to HAVE some just because they're in demand everywhere, so it's easy to make trades with it. It's not anything about the beads THEMSELVES that makes them valuable. It's the fact that everybody is using them as money.


John : Mmm...Hmm. Everybody recognizes those as money. yes.

Daniel : Right. So that's the value of money; that if provides for random, unknown opportunities. If you have a high cash balance - you're liquid - you're prepared to take advantage of any potential trade that might come up. Whereas if you have your value stored in something less liquid - like a house or a bunch of gold bars buried in your yard, or something - then if a really good opportunity comes along, you might not have the opportunity to take advantage of it. Money is for RANDOM opportunities, and the more as society as a whole keeps in it's cash balance, the better prepared it is for random opportunities, and also random problems. If everybody had a high cash balance there couldn't be a stock market crash, because there would be lots of people ready to buy into it. Now this strategy works best when people are all using the same money, because if there are TWO kinds of money in use at the same time, then that makes more friction for people to take advantage of these random opportunities.


So there's always a tendency for a society to use one money; for one form of money to emerge as the STANDARD. And the way that this relates to alt-coins, or app-coins, is that say you create some distributed system with some app-coin attached to it - like MaidSafe or Etherium, or something - first of all, the app-coin doesn't earn dividends or interest. So there isn't actually any real relationship between the success of the app and the value of the app-coin. There isn't any real reason that a successful app should mean that the value of the app-coin goes up, or anything. There isn't any necessary relationship there, as there is with a company issuing stock, because if the company succeeds then eventually they may start to issue dividends.


John : I know what you're saying, but two things. One, people like to hold onto things. Certain people DO like to hoard. Some people call that "saving for a rainy day”. Some people call that "hoarding". And saving and hoarding, in certain instances, of course, is subjective. I may have money in my bank account, and someone else may say, "What are you doing hoarding that money?" and I can say, "No. I'm SAVING it, because I may have an emergency, or I may NEED it someday." This is all fantasy, because I don't have any money in the bank, and I don't live that way. It's, kind of, a hand-to-mouth situation over here. That's why you guys need to send me your tips [laughter] , to keep coffee in the kettle, and the light on, remember?

But anyway. that's ONE thing; people like to hold onto things. And the other thing is that people get excited when everybody else is doing something...


Daniel : Yeah.

John : So you can look at an alt-coin right now -or even Bitcoin - and say, "The price has been just sitting there. It's, kind of, stagnant." But what if something happens, and all of a sudden you have a MASS movement TOWARD this digital currency, and you have, all of a sudden, not just a slow progression of more and more people adopting and using it, but something that looks like exponential growth towards that. All of a sudden you could have one of the digital currencies, OVERNIGHT, be in the news, and everybody talking about it and buying it, right? As the price went up and skyrocketed, a lot of people who had BEEN holding, previously, would be selling [laughter], right? They'd be selling high, and a lot of people would be buying in high. We've seen this before, but I think we cannot discount human nature, and the potential for humans to do stupid things, and the potential for fear and greed to take over when it comes to digital assets, digital tokens, alt-coins, app-coins, [and] Bitcoin.


Daniel : Yeah.

John : I think we're going ot continue to see this, and I think we're going to continue to see new alt-coins that really have nothing of substance backing them, [but] I still think we're going to see new alt-coins that people get excited about, start trading and hoarding them, and I think we'll see prices go up and down and people make money all along the way. If everybody saw, "Wow! This coin..." - let's call it the "JohnCoin" - because that's my name. I like the idea of a JohnCoin, by the way. I'm joking. Everybody saw the JohnCoin, "Man, everybody is using he JohnCoin". Well, there are always going to be people who say, "Hey wow, if everyone is using it, and there's a limited supply - let's say there's only a billion - that means that if everybody in the WORLD eventually is using this, the value could go up, just by virtue of the fact that theres a limited supply, right? And if five billion people are eventually using this, "Wow. Certainly it's going to go up in value."


So that's a speculator talking. A speculator maybe has no interest in tipping people; no interest in using it ever. But it seems to me that just speculation alone - even if that alt-coin never comes to anything - that we could see the value of that coin go up substantially over time. Now, of course, it may just CRASH at some point, because like we're talking [about], there is no real INTRINSIC value to it, you know? Or no real true use case value for a lot of these coins. But it just seems to me that the speculation aspect alone could cause a coin -- well, we've seen it - it has coins to go up, and people have been able to profit from that.

Daniel : Yeah. We've definitely seen that. But yeah, as you said, if it's just speculation driving the value up that's not a sustainable source of value.

John : Right.

Daniel : So I would say that it COULD go up, but it will crash back down eventually. [So] if people understood the economic principles that I was talking about just now, then that wouldn't happen anymore, because people WOULDN'T start to think, "Well, maybe I should hold onto something because maybe it will go up." Because if it was widely understood that the value of money is the network effect, then there would be fewer people expecting there to be a lot of speculators.


So the more that I teach people that the value of money is the network effect, the less that alt-coins will go up when somebody creates a new one. And people ARE learning. You have to create a much more elaborate kind of alt-coin now in order to attract anybody's attention. There's much FEWER of them going around, and they all have all kinds of bells and whistles attached to them. But my argument is always that you can't just tell me that an alt-coin has some interesting feature to convince me to get some. You would have to convince me that it will overtake Bitcoin in popularity, because that's the only way that it can ultimate;ly succeed. If it doesn't overtake Bitcoin then it will lose the battle for the network effect.


John : It's hard to say, because like if we look at elementary schools - back when I was in elementary school we traded "Now And Laters", these little square shaped candies. They still make them, right? We had them in these long packs, and you'd trade one color for the other color, and then maybe you'd trade for a baseball card, or something like that. So this really was our CURRENCY, and I think that people would even occasionally trade them for money. You'd buy one for a nickel from somebody. So we considered that our OWN currency, because we were elementary school kids. But it seems to me that if there are people who are into gaming, and they know that - for, for instance, if you and I knew that you could buy this currency from me, and that would allow you to get two hours on a specific game. So you buy that currency from me - let's just say for US dollars, or for tokens from ANOTHER game, or Bitcoin - and that allows you to go, let's say, onto the Darknet and play this weird game that your parents wouldn't want you to play, but you can only play it if you have this special currency.


Well, you are going to really want that currency. And the kids who get "addicted" - as I call it - to these games, [are] going to HAVE to have that currency, and they'll do anything to get it; paying in Doge ( ), Litecoin - whatever it takes to get this currency so they can play that specific game. We could see a future - people like Andreas Antonopoulos believes that there could be, down the road, THOUSANDS of digital currencies - [sp] that maybe someone is having a party and they send out digital currencies to the people they want to show up, and in order to be allowed into the party you have to show on your phone that you have some of this digital currency - digital token. You know, you start out the evening with $50 of it - because you've paid for it - and that allows you to get beers from the keg all evening, as it chips away. You go up to the guy who's running the keg - or the bartender - and you hold up your phone, and it debits off of that.


So it seems to me that we COULD, in the future, have many, many different currencies that allow people to do things - both legal and ILLEGAL - but that it would always go back to, "What do you need to pay your taxes." You know. the sad truth. Or to pay your rent, or mortgage - the other sad truth - and food. It may always have to go back to something akin to a federal currency - whether it's digital or paper, or what-have-you; a debit system that's based on a tattoo, or a QR code, or an implant that you have - that sounds really sad. But we could see that kind of a future, where [there are] many, many different currencies, but when all is said and done you may have a million of those - whatever they're called; "JohnCoins" - [but] still, when it comes time to pay your rent, or mortgage, or taxes, or to buy some food, you've got to convert it into that currency - whether it's Bitcoin or US dollars, in order to pay. So it DOES seem to me that we COULD have many different currencies that people are playing with that would only be limited by the human imagination.


Daniel : Okay. So there are three points I want to make on that. You talked a long time, [so] let me make sure I get through all of them. So the first thing is [that] you were talking about using this particular currency to play some game online over the Darknet. Well, that STILL doesn't mean that anybody is holding the currency over time. If you're saving in Bitcoin, you can buy your special game currency for playing, and then spend it a fraction of a second later. There isn't anything to stop people from doing that. That means that the value of the currency is not being driven up just because people want to play the game. Ad once again, there is an incentive for exchanges to work that way, and to allow people to hold these extra currencies for the shortest amount of time possible.

John : Okay. But what happens if that game gets more and more popular, and then people realize, "Wow! I can't find that currency!" You call or email me and [you're like], "Hey, I can't find this currency, Daniel! Do you know where I can get this currency?" I don't know. Finally I find out where I can get it so I can play my game, and theres just...


Daniel : Well it still doesn't matter. I mean, if lots of people want to play the game that doesn't mean that any of them are holding the currency over an extended period of time. They all have the incentive to try to hold it for the LEAST amount of time. That isn't a good reason to expect the value of the currency to go up. Okay, so the second point is [that] you talked about somebody issuing a currency that was worth stuff at a party [where] they would exchange it for beer. Well, if I issue tokens with some sort of guarantee attached to them, and I said that like, "One JohnCoin can be exchanged for one beer, or something." then that IS a sustainable value, but NOT because it's a currency. It's because it's a beer substitute, and it's basically like a banknote that says it's exchangeable for a certain amount of gold. It's not the note ITSELF that has value, it's the CONTRACT that you have with the issuer, that it can be exchanged for gold.


None of these alt-coins have that kind of contract attached to them. So if you're talking about something like MaidSafe ( ) you have to use the SafeCoins to interact with the Maidsafe system, but they're also not guaranteed to be valued for any particular kind of service, or any amount, or anything. People can exchange it for ANYTHING. So there isn't any sustainable value there. So finally, you were talking about having to exchange back to pay taxes. There is this argument that the dollar can maintain value because you have to pay taxes in it. But that's backwards for the same reason as the app-coin argument, It's saying that you have to use the currency for a particular service, therefore it should maintain value. But that's an incorrect conclusion, and of course, if the dollar DOES start to lose value significantly, and it starts to look like it may NOT survive, then OF COURSE the US government is going to stop asking for taxes to be paid in dollars. They'll ask for something else. Well anyway, those are my three points.


John : Yeah, I think those are good points, but I still would have to go back to the idea of, let's say, an online game, or just something that people really want to have. And again, if that coin - let's say it's the "GameCoin", for gaming - becomes really popular; people start really using it, and the exchanges are offering it, so you can exchange GameCoins for US dollars, or for Bitcoin, or for anything. And the GameCoin becomes THE coin kids are using to play games, somebody out there, immediately - me, you, [or] somebody down the street - [is] going to think, "I'm going to hoard this." Period. I'm going to hoard this.


Because if they know there is a limited supply of i, right? And there IS a limited supply; let's say there's only a hundred million GameCoins ever, [and] maybe they can only be divided into a TENTH of a coin you can use - whatever. Somebody out there IS going to - whether rightly or wrongly; whether they're doing it intelligently or not - they're going to be hoarding that. They're going to be holding onto that. Then, if it becomes difficult to find - for any reason at all - the value of that is going to go up, period. Theres no way to STOP that, right? So the value of that COULD go up over time, it could go down, it could go back up; it could be the roller coaster ride.

Daniel : Yeah. Well, I said earlier that these currencies are subject to speculative bubbles. And you mentioned this hypothetical person who's hoarding the currency, possibly for irrational reasons. Well, yeah, people are irrational all the time. But it's an economic fact that people also learn, and that the more successful behavior tends to win out, and that more people tend to IMITATE a behavior once it becomes successful.


So there STILL is this inexorable tendency for one currency to WIN OUT over others, and even if a currency is ATTACHED to some service that people want, there is the incentive for people to try to hold it for as little time as possible. So, I mean, yeah, it may take some time for this effect to play out, but eventually it WILL. So what I would like is to see more people understand the economics of currency - especially people in the Bitcoin world - because that will make these alt-coin speculative bubbles a lot less SEVERE, and people will be a lot less prone to being scammed by the many app-coins going around. And people ARE learning. It's becoming more and more difficult to just issue some random currency and make a profit off of it.


John : Yeah. That's true. And there are so many of them right now. Do you feel the same way about alt-coins that aren't necessarily even TIED to an app?

Daniel : Yeah. They keep changing the argument. Originally nobody thought about app-coins. I think David Johnston came up with that term. So I keep having to update my articles based on whatever the new thing is that they're trying to use to wiggle out of the argument. But yeah, I don't think that for ANY alternative cryptocurrency people need to argue not just that it has some special feature, they have to argue that it's going to DEFEAT Bitcoin in order to make it a viable investment. You can't expect it to be an investment if it's just going to satisfy some NICHE market, because there AREN'T niches in currencies. There's always an incentive for ONE to survive and to take over as much as is possible.


John : I also think, though, that in terms of gambling and in terms playing the stock market, it's SO appealing to people. That's part of human nature, you know? We know that in Asia THEY like to gamble more than WE do. At least that's what statistics tell us. The Chinese like to gamble EVEN MORE than Americans, and there are a lot of Americans who really DO love to gamble. And part of that gambling is playing markets. So as long as we have that part of human [nature] that [likes] to gamble [and likes] that risk [and] the "promise" of a good return for very little work, I think that we're going to CONTINUE to see exchanges that, let's say, have LiteCoin [and] DogeCoin. We can have those for the next 20 or 200 years. DogeCoin could be around, and [it] could have NO utility. It could fund a bobsledding team, [or] a race car driver. It can be used to fund the basketball player that gets hurt, or what HAVE YOU.


[It] can have no other utility at all, except that it's used to fund things in sports, occasionally - it's the sports funding coin, right? - AND it's always there in the exchanges, and that part of human nature that LOVES to gamble continues to buy and sell, right? You buy a little bit of Doge low, you wait until it goes up, you sell, and make a little profit - and back and forth, right? It seems to me that as these exchanges continue to have alt-coins -- let's just name a few; PeerCoin, LiteCoin, DogeCoin and Bitcoin. Just those four let's talk about. For the next 20, 30, 40, [or] 50 years those four could ALL be on an exchange, and the people who like to gamble; buy low and sell high - just on their DogeCoin; let's say that's all they ever buy. [They] buy and sell, buy and sell, and they always make $10 a day, buying and selling DogeCoin. And there ARE people [who] do that.


So how could we EVER get rid of that part of human nature that likes to gamble [and] play the markets? If we CAN'T get rid of that part of human nature then people are always going to be buying and selling alt-coins. Whether those alt-coins are used for anything AT ALL outside of that buying and selling - the exchange - may not matter. But the coins STILL may be around, AND they still theoretically could go up in value, NOT because of anything that makes sense in terms of ECONOMICS, but because of what DOESN'T mske sense in terms of human nature.

[music for "Crypto (The Official Cryptocurrency Song)" : ]

Rasta Mon Jon : Ayaaney! It's so CRYPTO, mon. The official cryptocurrency song. I hope all my brothers and sisters around the world will sing along...

Look at the Cryptocurrency, man it’s such a blur and see A new one every day They got the pump and dump They’ll try to make you a chump You better watch your back I say I hear the troll box singing till my ears are ringin I’m afraid just to go to bed And I’m not feeling so well Tell me should I buy or sell


Whoa no. I'm afraid to buy cause it may be too high, man And I'm afraid to sell, you know, because it may be too low.

We got the Android’s tokin And the Dopecoin smokin It’s a thing mamma you should see We got the Potcoin, man it’s such a hot coin All the way from Denver to DC We got the Hashcoin, now we need a Stash coin Or we’ll lose it all and that’s a drag And I say blockchain schmockchain I’d just like to get a bag

[musical interlude with bong smoking sound effect]

     I think I’m gonna fly to Denver
     I think I’m gonna get real high up on a bender
     Maybe find a heart that’s tender
     Help me to lay down and night


You know it’s So-ho strange when another exchange is Creepin in like another bad sin It’s a legitimate fear that they will disappear And you will never see your money again You tell me it’s the right coin but it’s just a Litecoin Maybe I’ll have tea with Charlie Lee

Oh baby and it’s blowin my mind Cause I don’t know which one to buy

Blowin my mind Cause I don’t know which one to buy

Blowing my mind I don’t know which one to buy

Oh Lord! Makes me want to cry

Oh Lord, I don't know which one to buy.

Oh, whoa Help me won't you Ayaaney Cause I don't know which one to buy.

Good Lord I got my feet on the ground But man my head is spinning round

And all the world is Crypto oh oh oh oh Cryp tip tip tip tip tip toe

[end of "Crypto (The Official Cryptocurrency Song)" music]

Daniel : Okay. Well, it's still not something that's sustainable. Like, I could INVEST in a casino, because I would expect that it could continually turn out profits for a long time. But I don't think that the alt-coin is going to have a sustainable value. And if you're saying that they might go up because people like to gamble, I think that really just PROVES my POINT that they're basically scams, and that they don't have sustainable value, because I would call out a casino as a scam ALSO.


John : Sure.

Daniel : But no. I'm not saying that an app-coin or alt-coin COULDN'T go up, and that you couldn't end up making a bunch of money off of it. But I WOULD like people to realize that the only reason it would go up is because of a speculative bubble. And if people are saying [that] like, "Litecoin uses a different hashing algorithm, therefore the value is going ot go up." Or somebody says, "MaidSafeCoin is attached to he MaidSafe network, therefore the value is going to go up." Those are invalid arguments. If they go up, that's not the reason that they're going up. It's because people have been fooled, or because they're just speculating for no reason.

John : Right. It DOES seem to me, though, that there could be some examples. For instance, Dogecoin - to use the example of funding a race car driver, or the Jamaican bobsled team. They were actually funded by people sending in millions and millions of Dogecoins, and helping to fund that.


Now they came in dead last in the Olympics in China a few years back, right? But it doesn't matter. It, kind of, proved that you could take this ridiculous coin that started out as a joke, and you can show it to people and say, "Hey, if you think this is, kind of, a cool idea - to be able to FUND a race car driver, or a Jamaican bobsled team - and you can do it really quickly over your computer, without involving Paypal, or your credit card, or anything like that; you can fund it with Dogecoin. That's something that's, kind of, fun because within certain people - I would say within ALL of us in certain instances - there is a little bit of philanthropy. There is a little bit of us that likes to help, let's say, the underdog. Right? We'll throw a dollar toward the underdog if we think that that might help the underdog win over the bid dog - the top dog.

So you COULD have a coin - like Dogecoin - that could end up being a coin that funds underdogs for the next one hundred years, and someone would say, "Dogecoin has no intrinsic value, or no real utility." And someone would say, "Are you crazy? This thing has funded 50,000 different little league sports teams, and bought them jerseys and equipment. You know?


And it's funded all kinds of race car drivers. So someone could look back and [ask], "When did it start?" Well, it started in 2012, or whatever. They could look back and say, "Wow! From the beginning, and all the way through to the present - a hundred years - this coin has actually been really VALUABLE for what people want to do, and we know there's a limited supply, and people WANT to take part in that. So the value of Dogecoin has gone up and up, NOT because of something that makes sense, but because of something that DOESN'T makes sense; something that's unexpected, [and] something that just has to do with what humans do. What do you think of that? Is that crazy?

Daniel : Well, yeah. In the long term things have value because of things that make sense. In the short term they can have value for reasons that DON'T make sense. And I don't think that Dogecoin has been doing very well lately.


It makes a lot MORE sense to have a goofy currency movement funding race car drivers and Jamaican bobsled teams, and so on, [which] just makes more sense to do that with Bitcoin. I mean, you can have a goofy subculture that's attached to Bitcoin, and that's probably going to be a lot more economically beneficial to everybody.

John : I agree with you, although I DO know that certain people THRIVE on being NOT in the mainstream. If everybody's doing Bitcoin, "Hey, we want to do our own thing over here. It's called JohnCoin. It's called Dogecoin. Nobody else is doing this. We have our own community. We talk our own talk on our forums." People like being on a team that's not THAT team, or THAT team. It's OUR OWN team. Again, that's part of human nature that doesn't necessarily make sense. It's like, "Guys! Guys! Please. Just use Bitcoin." They're like, "No. No. No. We have our OWN thing."


I think it's part of the unpredictable nature of human beings that might actually be the reason why down the road in the future we see many different cryptocurrencies, [and] many different alt-coins, for the next one hundred years. Again, I don't know that it's going to make sense economically, but if you look at your average person and you ask them about money, or economics, or finance. I mean, people really don't know anything. You know? I was taught NOTHING in high school. Nothing. Zero, about finance. I didn't even know how to write a check. I was in college before a girlfriend of mine taught me how to write a check. How pathetic is that?

In other words, your average American - let's just talk about America - [doesn't] know ANYTHING about finance. We don't know anything about money. Your average American, when it comes to politics, they know nothing REALLY about the structure of our government, or what a corporatocracy is, or an oligarchy. Or what anarchy is. You ask your average person and they'll say, "Uh, I don't know. Molotov cocktails, ski masks, breaking windows. Isn't that anarchy? A complete breakdown of society? Isn't THAT what anarchy means?"


That's what your average American thinks that anarchy is. Why? Because they were poorly educated. Or, they were well-educated to believe specific things through misinformation. /// /// /// Daniel : All that I've said is that it's not a valid argument to say that an alt-coin will go up because of some feature it has, or because of some niche market that it might serve. There isn't a causal connection there. It could STILL go up, because people are fooled, but that's my only point, is that that isn't a valid argument. And also that people DO learn over time. If you're not taking the long view it may seem like nothing is happening, but people's behaviors definitely IMPROVE as they get used to a situation. So I don't know if the alt-coin thing is ever going to die down completely, but I really think that my predictions from 2013 and 2014, that the movement would decline and dissipate quite a bit, are being borne out.


Yeah. I think that makes sense. I think I TEND to agree with you about that, although the Solarcoin [is a] coin which actually incentivizes people to use solar energy. Individuals and companies can earn Solarcoin by putting a solar panel on their roof. They can then convert that Solarcoin into Bitcoin, or US dollars, or whatever they want to, if they can find an exchange that deals in Solarcoin - and there ARE some out there. So I think an alt-coin, a cryptocurrency, could have utility that could make it stand out from these other app-coins, and these other ones that are exactly like what you are saying; basically a high-risk endeavor, and really not worth - for most of them - putting your money into. You're, kind of, throwing your money down a hole. But when it comes to something like Solarcoin, I don't know man. It's such a great CONCEPT. It would just be a matter of getting it really off the ground, and getting more people involved in it, then you'd see great utility in this coin.


Daniel : Okay. Well I haven't investigated Solarcoin, so I can't address the claims that you've made about it. But I am so cynical about alt-coins that I would GUESS that it doesn't work the way that you THINK it does, because I've seen this so many times. However, as I mentioned earlier, you COULD have a coin that is contractually related to some other product or good - like a coin that is exchangeable for beer - and if you had the issuer, by contract, say that the coin could be exchanged for something or other then it COULD maintain value. But, of course, in that case it is no longer a distributed system, because its value depends on the promise of the issuer.


John : Right. Some of the ones I saw coming up early on, I know they're gone now, and exchanges will drop these coins. There's hundreds of them now, right?It just seems crazy. What seems crazy, too, is that there are tens of thousands of people - mostly YOUNG people - who continue to trade these digital currencies - these cryptocurrencies - and make a little bit of money. Some of these traders make $5 a day, because they bought low and sold high, and they do the same thing the OPPOSITE way, or the same thing the SAME way the next day. They make a little money off of this. So it's a way for this new subculture to do something on the computer besides just surfing, and gaming, right? They can actually really be a TRADER - a day trader. They can spend their days doing whatever else they do in the summertime, when they're not in school; I don't know - smoking pot, sitting around in their underwear, nuking Hot-Pockets in the microwave, drinking tall glasses of cold ilk from mom and dad's [fridge]. And they can make a little bit of money. They can make $5 a day. It seems to me that that keeps them off the streets.


Daniel : Okay. Well, if you're making $5 a day I'm not too impressed with that. Instead of day trading, maybe they can read a cryptography book and learn how to program.

John : [laughter] Exactly. Maybe they're doing that at the same time, and maybe their weekly allowance from their parents is only $10. So if they're making $5 a day this is huge! But there are PLENTY of people out there who are day trading who are making more than $5 a day. I knew a gal who, just through trading - this is going back a year; she was helping people trade too. She was an HONEST person, which is HUGE, if you can get people to trust you, and show that return. She was trading, using other people's Bitcoins AND her own, [and] she was making about a Bitcoin a day - day after day after day after day. That's HUGE!


And she wasn't just dealing in Bitcoin She was dealing in other digital currencies. So there really IS money to be made. I also read an article by a guy who was a day trader - A REAL day trader in the REAL markets - if we can differentiate. And this guy said [that] when he went over to the Bitcoin markets it was so easy, right? He said, "A day there was like a MONTH in the REAL market." Because he could make SO MUCH money. He said,"I don't WANT to be doing this anymore. I'm TIRED of it.“ But the guy was making like $10,000 a week, because it was so easy for him, because he understood trading so well, and he had entered into a child's version of trading that to him was just so easy.

So yeah, there is definitely money to be made. I think that [alone] - if for no other reason - could keep digital currencies alive for a long, long time. Whether they have any utility or not, just the fact that they do go up and down. You can take Dogecoin, and it can stay basically the exact same price for the next hundred years, but if it fluctuated just enough - up and down, up and down, up and down - every single day or week, that equals an opportunity to make a little bit of money. And that could be the ONLY reason that Dogecoin continues on, [or] lives, is that opportunity to make a little bit of money every single day.


So, markets have a property called "anti-inductivity", which means that the more you try to learn about them, the more obscure they become, because your process of investigating them means that OTHER people will learn to be more sophisticated traders, and their strategies will be less discernible and more complicated. And we've seen this with Bitcoin over time. So I know what you're talking about about trading with Bitcoin, because I remember when I first read about stock market patterns I was like, "This is so weird." because I saw these weird patterns in the pages that explain technical analysis, [but] I never saw them in real life.


Then when I first got interested in Bitcoin I was like, "Oh yeah. There are those technical patterns that I've read about. They're very obvious." But that's becoming less and less so over time, as the traders in Bitcoin are becoming more and more sophisticated. And the same thing will happen with ALL markets. Eventually they'll become more and more obscure. This ALSO isn't a sustainable source of value. As a market matures, only the best traders are going to be capable of making money off of it as time goes on, and the bar will be set higher and higher.


John : Yeah. I think we'll look back to these days, and we'll look at how EASY things were; how easy it was to get on an exchange, here in 2015 and 2016, and to swap some coins. Now we also have Shapeshift ( ), which allows you to just put your Bitcoin in there, and turn it into anything else you want to, just magically, right? And we have people who are heading up that company who have a GREAT reputation in the Bitcoin world. So yeah, I think we'll look back on these days as, "Ah! The good old days, when Doge was funding bobsled teams, and it was easy to shift THIS alt-coin into THAT alt-coin, and back to Bitcoin if you wanted to. And I think these will be looked at as simpler times when people were still having a lot of fun with it. [But] I think it's going to get a lot more business-oriented, and a lot more competitive down the road.

I don't know. What do you think about the whole POLITICAL side of it? Because, you know, Bitcoin started out with a bang, and you had crypto-anarchists - and you STILL do - saying, "Look, this COULD be a major wrecking ball for the financial system." Right? For the international banking CARTEL, if you will. But it's looking like it's starting to turn into a New York Stock Exchange type of game, where the Bitcoin price may very well be controlled. What do you think about that?


Daniel : Well, first of all, Shapeshift is actually an example of something that I was talking about earlier; about this tendency to make it easier for people to switch between different currencies, and that this will make it EASIER for people to hold the marginal currencies for shorter periods of time, and thereby drive the value down. And as to Bitcoin's price, for most of Bitcoin's history the price of Bitcoin followed, very closely, the “Metcalf value”.


There's this idea called "Metcalf's Law", which says that the value of a network should be related to the square of the number of participants, and this is because the number of connections in the network is proportional to the square of the number of participants. So if there are FOUR people in a network [then] there are SIX potential connections, and if there are FIVE people there are TEN potential connections, and so on. But for the last year or so - not quite - Bitcoin has diverged quite a bit from the Metcalf value, and the price of Bitcoin has trended DOWNWARD, decaying exponentially, whereas the Metcalf value has continued to go UP.


So Bitcoin still seems to be growing as far as the trade within it is concerned, but the value has not reflective this growth, as it would have in the past. So I don't really know how to explain that, but I think the most plausible explanation I have heard proposed so far has to do with the fact that the exchanges can operate on a fractional reserve basis without anybody being able to PROVE that they're behaving properly. So effectively, it becomes possible to create Bitcoin substitutes out of thin air - which is your balance IN the exchange.


If you have an account at an exchange you have a certain balance, which is how much the exchange owes you, but you don't know if the exchange actually has in its possession the same number of Bitcoins as the sum of all the balances of the people holding accounts.

John : Right.

Daniel : And, of course, we know that Mount Gox was NEVER operating on a full reserve basis, at least not since very early in its history. And because there's no way to prove that the OTHER exchanges are solvent, I would ASSUME that most of them are probably NOT. So I think what we are seeing is an increase in the effective SUPPLY of Bitcoins as a result of the fact that the exchanges can create substitutes. And some people are working on ways of proving an exchange's balance.


I think Peter Todd came up with some prescription like this. Nobody is using it yet, but eventually, once it becomes more normal for exchanges to attempt to prove their balance - which will HOPEFULLY happen - then we'll be able to test this theory. And if it's right then we could see some period, at some point, when suddenly a ton of exchanges are put out of business, because too many people are trying to withdraw from them. Or if there is some OTHER cause, then I don't know WHAT we'll see.

John : Or we could see two different STYLES of managing an exchange; one, in a "shadow banking" sort of a way, and one in a completely transparent way. I guess that's possible in the same way that we have charities that are completely transparent, and other charities that are completely opaque.


So, before we go, tell me a little bit about the Satoshi Nakamoto Institute, and what you all are aiming to do moving forward.

Daniel : Well, we wanted to make sure that the anarchist wing of the Bitcoin movement would not be silenced - well, it's not like people are out silencing people...

John : Not yet. Not yet they aren't [laughter].

Daniel : But there's definitely an attempt to try to marginalize the anarchist wing. We want to keep THAT alive, and we want to keep the cypherpunk intellectual tradition alive. And a third goal - that I didn't mention earlier -is to try to incorporate the ideas of Austrian Economics as well. So the Austrians have been pretty hostile to Bitcoin in the past - although that has been changing quite a bit. It's, kind of, annoying because we keep reading articles by Austrians that say things that we've written about a while ago.


The Austrians are gradually coming around to Bitcoin. So those are basically our goals; keep the cypherpunk intellectual tradition alive, give the anarchist wing of the Bitcoin movement a voice, and bring in Austrian Economics ideas, and keep those current in Bitcoin as well.

John : I think those are ALL important goals you guys have, and I applaud the Satoshi Nakamoto Institute.

Daniel : Oh, and also let me mention [that] PIerre is working on a Bitcoin accounting software, which is something that has been lacking from Bitcoin since the beginning. So we might have THAT to contrbute pretty soon, too. I mean, it's mostly his project, but we'll promote it through the Nakamoto Institute too.

John : So, final question. And thank you so much, Daniel, for taking time to interview today. What do you see as the future for Bitcoin the currency, in terms of price?

Daniel : Well, either infinity or zero. I don't think that I can specify it more concretely than that. If it fails, it will REALLY fail. And if it succeeds it will REALLY succeed.


John : If you had to put your money on infinity or zero, which one would you put your money on?

Daniel : Well, I definitely have some Bitcoin, so I guess that means that I'm putting my money on infinity.

John : [laughter] Nice. Yeah, I'm also putting my money on infinitely. I'm not sure what's going to happen when the New York Stock Exchange and the powers that be get a hold of Bitcoin. There could be a lot of horseplay there. I have no idea. That doesn't mean [that] any of the UTILITY goes out of Bitcoin. That's what I think some people fail to understand. You know, Bitcoin is what it is, in terms of the protocol, and it's really unstoppable at this point, but there are lots of tricks that the banksters could play if they decided to play their cards as it seems like they always do.


Daniel : As to the point you just made, one of the nice things about cyrptography is that it's definitely easier to prove your Bitcoin balance than it would be to, say, prove that you have all of the gold that you're supposed to. And eventually there WILL be systems that people can use to prove they have what they claim to. Once those become current it's going to be much more difficult for Bitcoin to operate on a fractional reserve basis. Manipulating credit - well, just creating credit - [is] really the only trick the bankers have, and if they can't do it without people noticing, then they don't really have much of a trick anymore.

So eventually, once an independent accounting system becomes possible - that people can use to prove their balances - then we can start demanding that people USE it, and that they show they have what they claim. When that happens [it] will be a big improvement.


John : Yeah. I think so, absolutely. I look forward to transparency in ALL of those arenas, and I hope that it happens. Can you tell our listeners an easy way for them to get a hold of you if they want to continue the conversation with you?

Daniel : My Twitter handle is @DanielKrawisz ( ).

John : All right. Listeners, you have been listening to Daniel Krawisz, one of the founders of the Satoshi Nakamoto Institute. Daniel, thank you so much for taking time to be on the show, and for sharing with us your ideas about finance, and Bitcoin, and all of that. Great stuff, man. Thank you so much.

Daniel : Thank YOU. I enjoyed my time on your show. It was nice to meet you.

John : You too. Take care, and I will talk to you some time down the road.

Daniel : Okay. Bye.

[musical interlude]


John : I know that it may sound absurd, but I have for you a magic word. Today the magic word is “CRYPTO”, as in the sentence, "I hope everyone enjoyed my new song "Crypto : The Official Cryptocurrency Song".

I'd like to thank my guests on today's show, Daniel Krawisz, one of the founders of the Satoshi Nakamoto Institute, for his insight into the value of Bitcoin versus the value of cryptocurrencies. AND I would like to thank Johnny Mon, the extraordinary reggae singer who was featured on my incredible new single "Crypto : The Official Cryptocurrency Song".

And as a final note, ladies and gentlemen, I have to apologize for not being here last week. I hate to do that. I hated to miss a show. Really, really, I truly, I did. I have problems with my hands - my right hand. I had surgery on it 30 years ago. All of my metacarpels are fused together, so [laughter] many, many years of using power tools, woodworking tools, shovels, hoes, rakes, lawnmowers, and now lots of typing and audio editing - using ProTools - my hands are thrashed. So in the song “Crypto” you 'll hear the line in the bridge, "I think I'm gonna fly to Denver.", and my idea is that maybe there is some medicinal something there that I can either take as a tonic, or smoke possibly, that would ease my pain. The left have is now experiencing something that;'s kind of like carpel tunnel syndrome, but it's not. In case anyone is curious about why I had my surgery on my right hand 30 years ago you can look it up. It's called "Keinbocks disease". It's not a disease you can catch, but it's called kKeinbocks. You can find it, anyway. It has something to do with one of the bones in the forearm being too short.


Anyway, those are MY problems, not yours. But that is all to say that doing this show for over a year, and doing all of the editing and everything, for very, very little money [laughter] is very taxing. If I were making $100 per episode it would feel so good, like, "Hey, I'm doing something that I love AND I'm making money at it!" Right? Something we would ALL love to be doing. Well, some of you guys out there ARE actually working jobs that you actually really love, and you're making good money. So imagine if a hundred of the three to four thousand listeners each week sent me a dollar each week in tips. I mean, honest to God, think about it. I'm working my ass off over here. It's really difficult for me, AND I have two other full-time jobs. Think about it guys. I'm putting out a LOT of content every week - with the exception of last week, I admit it; I skipped a week, okay? I'm putting out a TON of content every week, working my butt off, and working my hands and fingers down to the bone - almost literally - and I could use some tips.


Again, if just 100 or 200 of you would sent me 50 cents. Now at this point I sound like I'm begging, and I'll tell you the reason why. It's because I AM begging! [laughter] Okay. That's enough. Over and out. Talk to you guys later. Send me some tips, please.

[music and lyrics to “Ode to Satoshi” song]

John Barrett : Now climb aboard y’all! This train is bound for glory… and there’s plenty of room for all…

“Well Satoshi Nakamoto, that's a name I love to say, And we don't know much about him, but he came to save the day. When he wrote about the way things are, And the way things ought to be, He gave us all a protocol this world had never seen.

Oh Bitcoin! As you're going into the old blockchain, Oh Bitcoin! I know you're going to reign, gonna’ reign, Till everybody knows, everybody knows, Till everybody knows your name.

[guitar instrumental]


Down the road it will be told about the Death of Old Mount Gox, About traders trading alter coins, and miners mining blocks. But them good old boys back in Illinois, And on down through Tennessee, See they don't care to be a millionaire, They're just wanting to be free.

Oh Bitcoin! As you're going into the old Blockchain, Oh Bitcoin! I know you're going to reign, gonna’ reign, Till everybody knows, everybody knows, Till everybody knows your name.

[instrumental interlude]

From the ghettos of Calcutta, to the halls of Parliament, While the bankers count our money out for every government. Oh, Bitcoin flies on through the skies of virtuality, A promise to deliver us from age-old tyranny.


Oh Bitcoin! As you're going into the old blockchain, Oh Bitcoin! I know you're going to reign, gonna’ reign, Till everybody knows, everybody knows, Till everybody knows your name. Till everybody knows, everybody knows, Till everybody knows your -- "Give me some exposure" -- Everybody knows your name.

Singing, Oh Lord, pass me some more, Oh Lord, before I have to go. Oh Lord, pass me some more, Oh Lord . . . before I have to . . . Go . . .

[instrumental finale]



John : Oh-ho! Thank you East Nashville! Y’all be good to each other out there, ya’ hear?

Maxwell : Grrrr......