Monat: Oktober 2020

Review of „Blockland“: Half gonzo, half Bitcoin-thriller, 100% recommended

„Blockland: 21 Stories of Bitcoin, Blockchain and Cryptocurrency“ is not your typical book on cryptanalysis. It reads like a mixture of a sacred text and a rock’n’roll biography.

The first hint that „Blockland: 21 Stories of Bitcoin, Blockchain and Cryptocurrency“ may not be the same as the average book on the subject of cryptomontages appears in bold type all over the cover.

Avoiding the usual signs of serious design, it instead features Trevor Jones‘ artwork, „The Ecstasy (Bitcoin Angel)“. The religious iconography of the image is striking, to say the least.

And it carries over into the language of several of the chapters (or stories), conveying both the almost mythical nature of Bitcoin’s origin story and the devout faith of the many different flavours of crypto-belief.

So can Blockland be the first sacred text of Bitcoin?

A Less Ordinary Life

Before we get to that, I must confess that I could easily have taken an instant dislike to this book.

In the foreword, the author, Elias Ahonen, describes a journey around the world full of cryptomonies and an almost biblical excess, which brought to mind Cal Evans‘ truly abominable The Little Book of Crypto.

But while Evans‘ equally incredible travel anecdotes seemed designed purely to express how much cooler than the self-styled reader, Ahonen makes us feel like we’re drinking drinks on the stage of a big Shanghai rap concert alongside him.

He captures the intensity and madness that can manifest itself in what remains essentially a prepubescent industry that is bathed in more money than it knows what to do with.

So maybe Blockland is actually the first biography of cryptomoney rock’n’roll?

Once upon a time

The book tells 21 (often dramatised) stories of „Blockland“, the space of the cryptomonnage for you and me, starting with the creation of the first „Golden City of Bit“ and the settlers who initially chose to inhabit it.

It tells of the pioneers who later decided to attack and establish new communities, and the many ordinary people who were attracted to the expanding world of Blockland.

The themes of the chapters range from the quasi-spiritual (Satoshi’s Will, The Sects of Satoshism), to the pioneering spirit (The Searchers, Computer Frontiers), and even the spirit of excess (Mining Madness, Tulip Hangover)

While all of the underlying stories are true, the use of metaphor and allegory really does bring home the magical and unlikely path that cryptomongery has taken to get here.

A complete story of…

The fact that these seemingly disparate chapters come together to tell a coherent (and fairly complete) story of the journey of the cryptomonies to date is a great credit to Ahonen.

The author offers a uniform and unbiased view of space in a way that is easily accessible and absolutely charming. There is no wallpaper of the darker elements of cryptomontage, but the benevolent nature of the community is also given substantial page time.

Ahonen’s previous book was the infinitely more direct Encyclopedia of Physical Bitcoins and Crypto-Currencies, published in 2016, which led to him being described as „one of the first Bitcoin historians“.

While both books are technically reference works, Blockland feels more like a fiction thriller in its rhythm and style.

A fascinating read

So … part sacred scripture, part Gonzo journalism and 100% roller coaster, Blockland manages to amazingly mythicize and explain the current state of the cryptomoney industry.

This is the crypto coin book for people who are too cool to read crypto coin books. Buy it for yourself, then lend it to that friend who knows he is a potential cryptoevangelist, if only he would take the time to learn about it.

Bitcoin Mixer Helix in need of explanation: $ 60 million fine imposed

Bad news for lovers of financial privacy: The US authorities want to regulate the crypto market. Now the operator of the Bitcoin mixer Helix has been sentenced to a hefty fine.

In an official press release on October 19, FinCEN (short for Financial Crimes Enforcement Network) reported a fine of $ 60 million and ongoing criminal proceedings against the Bitcoin mixer Helix

With the Arbismart wallet and arbitrage trading platform, thousands of investors earn passive income (10.8-45% per year). The fully automated crypto arbitrage platform offers low risk, high return investments. ArbiSmart is EU licensed and regulated.

The founder, administrator and main operator of the platform, Larry Dean Harmon, is accused of money laundering and running an unlicensed money business. His projects Helix (2014-2017) and Coin Ninja (2017-2020) anonymized over 311 million US dollars through more than a million different Bitcoin transactions and thus violated the so-called Bank Secrecy Act (BSA for short), among other things.

This states that financial institutions are forced to support US authorities in detecting and preventing money laundering. This includes legally compliant customer identification checks, recording transactions and reporting suspicious activities. None of this was possible due to the lack of a license from Helix and Coin Ninja.

Order in the Wild Crypto West

Mixers are also known by names such as tumblers or blenders. These make it possible to disguise the traces of money flows and thus increase privacy. Services like Helix collect Bitcoin transfers from different addresses and mix them up. These are then divided into small amounts and sent to addresses that the payer specified beforehand.

That is not illegal per se. But if you get involved with criminals and promote or facilitate money laundering, the situation changes very quickly. Because American authorities decide that all services that do money laundering transactions are illegal. Allegations made by Larry Dean Harmon and which are still under investigation in the current criminal proceedings.

Darknet advertising creates a need for explanation

His aggressive PR strategy can be fatal for him. In the darknet, the American presented his services as an anonymous payment method for the purchase of weapons, drugs and even child pornography. It is therefore not without reason that some crypto exchanges block all addresses associated with Bitcoin mixers.

Above all, however, any authorities are listening carefully. They are more and more determined to introduce law and order into the wild crypto west. Just recently, the IRS (short for Internal Revenue Service) hired Chainalysis to crack the code of private cryptocurrencies like Monero. A contract that cost the IRS $ 625,000.

In 2020, the first penalties against illegal activities in connection with the ICO boom of 2017 also rolled in. Celebrities like Steven Seagal and rapper TI were sentenced to fines here. It also hit some companies. Due to a lack of ICO registrations, companies like Salt and BitClave have been instructed to issue refunds to their investors.