Safe deposit boxes aren't safe

On the roots of Bitcoin multi-signature wallets

When Jacob met Rachel at the well (Genesis), she was waiting for the rest of the shepherds to arrive. The shepherds didn’t trust each other, and didn’t want the others to take more water than necessary. They devised a solution: they would place a very heavy rock on the opening—too heavy for one person to lift by themselves. Then they would wait until all the shepherds arrived so they could remove the rock in unison, and water their flocks together.

This story reminds me of wise words that Jeff Bezos shared with Basecamp’s founders that personifies Amazon’s strategy,

“Focus on the things that don’t change.”

The brilliance of Amazon is that it’s identified timeless jobs-to-be-done, and figured out how to deliver them faster and cheaper to customers.

  • Need a dongle for your iPhone X? Push a button and have it delivered. Don’t get up.

  • Need to change a song? Tell Alexa. Don’t get up.

The jobs to be done framework is an excellent lens to view the world, especially for value-creators (arguably the only types of jobs that will exist in the next 10-20 years). JTBD focuses on the outcomes people want to achieve and the feelings they want to feel, enabling value-creators to grok what people want and illuminate a path to build products that address them.

The job-to-be-done of storing value and distributing trust is unchanging through time.

At the well, at the bank, and in your pocket.

People want their money to be absolutely safe, they want to feel secure, and feel confident that their money will have the same buying power tomorrow (otherwise what’s the point in keeping it).

For centuries, bankers have delivered and distributed this job to be done, because there weren’t viable alternatives (I don’t recommend keeping cash under your mattress). As such, the bankers have extracted an enormous amount of influence and financial benefit from being granted this power, with little recourse. Their compliance models actually factor in fines for mishandling user data and other flubs. It’s just business as usual and whoever has the gold makes the rules (until there’s new gold).

What bankers fail to realize is that software is eating the world, and just like the internet has made information free and borderless, software is disrupting The Internet of Money—how value is transfered, programmed, and stored. In other words, there are new methods of delivering and distributing this job to be done.

In banks we (used to) trust

Six days ago, the New York Times reported that safe deposit boxes aren’t safe!

Mr. Poniz, who rented out several different safety deposit boxes, was shocked to open them up and find nothing. 😱

So what happened?

Wells Fargo had apparently tried to evict another customer for not keeping up with payments, and bank employees had mistakenly removed his box instead. After drilling No. 105 open, the bank shipped its contents to a storage facility in North Carolina. After Mr. Poniz discovered the loss, Wells Fargo sent back everything it had in storage, but some items had vanished.

Mr. Poniz trusted the bank but alas it was security theater.

He and the bank each had a key, and both keys were needed to access the safety deposit box. Mr. Poniz felt safe—after all, his valuables were in a bank vault with a foot-thick steel door. And even though he had a key, they just drilled it open!

Related image

What can we learn from this?

  1. Distributing trust to 2 parties is not enough

  2. Your security is only as good as it’s weakest link; in this case a brute-force attack

  3. Banks are showing their weaknesses and trust is breaking down

  4. Distributing trust and value storage is ripe for disruption


Enter Bitcoin Multi-signature wallets

Multi-signature wallets, a.k.a. multisigs, are wallets that need more than one key to unlock spending rights of your Bitcoin. In other words, they are like accounts that need more than one password.

Again, we’ve seen this before:

This is a 3 of 3 “multisig” lock box from 1170 at the British Museum. Humans have always sought mechanisms to distribute trust for centuries and beyond.

Mulitsig wallets are one innovation Bitcoin employs that enables us to build some pretty useful things and little by little remove trust from third parties:

  • Single-party multisigs so you can physically distribute your keys to thwart in-person attacks (truly hold and own your own money)

  • Multiparty multisigs so you can recover your funds even if you lose your keys, without giving away control of funds

  • Lightning network and scaling solutions - sending money for almost nothing at instant speeds

  • Taproot - expanding Bitcoin’s programmability while increasing privacy

  • …any many more!


Takeaways

  • Distributing trust is a timeless job-to-be-done

  • Information was disrupted, now value is being disrupted

  • Software will replace and automate existing distributed trust mechanisms

  • Bitcoin multisigs are a mechanism for distributing trust via software, which further enable more use cases on top of the network and forge a path to a trust-minimized future.

In future articles, I’ll dive into the details of these multi-signature schemes and breakdown what they’re useful for. I’ll also share which products and services can help you set up these multisigs easily.


If you like these articles, sign up free to receive these directly in your inbox. Also, if you have any feedback, ideas, or questions, you can video/voice/text me directly:

Thanks,

Jacob from Rabbit Hole

The crackhead in the crack house

On printing money 💸

Welcome

Welcome to the first official post of Rabbit Hole! Before we kick things off, I want to share a few housekeeping items.

  1. This is a conversation: If you have any thoughts, questions, concerns, just hit that reply button.

  2. If something isn’t working or could be better, let me know: Just like Bitcoin is an experiment, so is this newsletter.

Why we’re here: Bitcoin can be confusing and a lot of folks have asked me where to start. This newsletter aims to answer this question.

Thanks and please enjoy the first issue,

Jacob Rogelberg

July 22, 2019


What is Bitcoin?

If you ask 10 different people, you’ll get 13 different answers.

  • An open source protocol

  • A decentralized currency

  • An immutable ledger

  • A store of value

  • A medium of exchange

  • A unit of account

  • The Internet of Value

  • The automation of finance

  • Free speech money

  • A safe haven asset

  • A way to buy illicit drugs on the internet

  • …many, many more

And my favorite answer of all:

Clearly, Bitcoin can be a bit confusing. (Don’t worry, Rabbit Hole is here to fix that).

Before we can understand the idea of Bitcoin, let’s understand how we got here.

A good place to start is the business of printing money by governments—and business is booming! 💥


An unsustainable future

Can you picture 22T dollars? Take a glance at the US Debt Clock. A bit unnerving, right?

But it’s still hard to visualize how much debt this really is. Let’s work backwards and visualize what $100,000,000 dollars looks like.

$100 million visualized in $100 bills

That’s a nice couch.

How about $1 Billion? Seems a bit bigger, right?

Now let’s try 20+ Trillion Dollars.

Can you spot our first money couch?

And this is only US debt and we’re showing no signs of slowing down this train. 😱


An insurance policy

Debt is borrowing money from the future.

Governments are addicted to printing money. Let’s face it, they are a like a crackhead in a crack house.

The only way to be wealthy is by holding assets instead of cash, otherwise inflation will catch up to you. Since fiat is backed up by trust-your-government instead of a hard asset such as gold or silver, the government utilizes these tools to manipulate the money supply. But this power is a slippery slope, and oftentimes leads to inflation. Since 1913, the US Dollar has lost 93% of its value!

Bitcoin is an insurance policy against the largest monetary and fiscal policy experiment in human history. (h/t to Travis Kling)

  • The world is in the midst of the largest monetary and fiscal policy experiment in human history

  • That ‘experiment’ is now 10 years old and facing daunting challenges, because risk assets are now entirely reliant on cheap money

  • Every fiat currency in history has completely failed in its ability to maintain purchasing power

  • It would be naïve to think this ‘experiment’ is going to end without significant market stress. A bet on Bitcoin is opting out of this experiment

  • Bitcoin is a better long term store of value than both fiat currency and gold


Conclusion

So we’ve kicked off Issue 1 of Rabbit Hole by setting the stage.

  • We’re printing money like crazy

  • You can’t hold cash, else you opt in to “invisible” taxation over time

  • You need an insurance policy for this crazy experiment

I’ll leave you with this

Chancellor on Brink of Second Bailout for Banks

This comment was left by Satoshi Nakamoto in 2009 and permanently embedded on the first Bitcoin block ever mined. It laments the poor monetary policy and the lack of accountability of governments and banks that distribute money.

Satoshi implied that we have the opportunity for a new way forward—the opportunity to decouple government from our monetary policy and pave the way for a new financial freedom.


Requests for you! 💬

What did you think of this first issue?

What questions do you have about Bitcoin?


Picture credit goes to the Visual Capitalist

Bitcoin for nocoiners

Getting started

Welcome to Rabbit Hole!

You’ve heard about Bitcoin, but you still don’t get it. I’ve been there. I’m starting Rabbit Hole specifically for people who are interested in learning more about Bitcoin—from the history, to the tech stack, to the philosophical, to the practical.

If you want to learn more, but haven’t found a linear learning path, then Rabbit Hole is for you.

Why ‘Rabbit Hole?’

Rabbit hole is a metaphor for something that transports someone into a wonderfully (or troublingly) surreal state or situation.

This is exactly what Bitcoin does. It makes you question the systems we live in, both monetary and socially. It makes you question policy and what really makes “money” valuable. It’s an exploration into pushing technical boundaries with open source software, and a startup with no CEO.

But most of all, Bitcoin is an idea that can’t be killed. And as you know, the pen is mightier than the sword.

So join me, and we’ll start from the beginning! You don’t need any prior knowledge of Bitcoin to get started. This newsletter is aimed at “nocoiners”—people who don’t hold any Bitcoin yet but are interested in why it’s still around. After all, Bitcoin’s “death” has already been called 371 times by the press (at the time of writing).

Sign up now, follow me down the rabbit hole, and don’t miss the first issue!

- J

In the mean time, please tell your friends!

Loading more posts…