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Opinion: Alphabet’s Eric Schmidt Sails Off Before the Storm

Eric Schmidt is sailing off before a storm. The Alphabet executive chairman is leaving his post as the $740 billion parent of search and advertising giant Google heads towards a showdown with European regulators. Hiring a strong, independent chairwoman would reflect well on co-founders and controlling shareholders Larry Page and Sergey Brin in more ways than one.

Schmidt is the former Sun Microsystems executive who joined Google in 2001 before it became a household verb for searching on the web. Page and Brin were greenhorns who wisely realized they needed an adult in the room to steer the firm toward public life. While Schmidt was their man, Page and Brin managed to keep an iron grip on Alphabet with super-voting shares, setting a new standard for Silicon Valley’s 21st century upstarts.

Alphabet today dominates search, digital advertising, and mobile through its Android operating system, to such an extent it has drawn the ire of the European Commission. Under Margrethe Vestager, the competition commissioner, watchdogs slapped Alphabet with a $2.8 billion fine in the summer for favoring its own shopping price comparison service over rivals.

More can be expected, especially as new rules concerning privacy come into effect next year that will hamstring Google, Facebook and others from using consumer data without consent. Similarly, Brussels is trying to determine whether Android is giving Google another portal to unfairly push its own businesses, squelching potential rivals.

Schmidt, who will continue to serve as an advisor, said he plans to spend more time on science and technology issues and philanthropy. Upcoming regulatory challenges, the elevation of Sundar Pichai as Google’s CEO – squeezing four into a triumvirate – could have been a factor. Still, the timing of the announcement in the early evening a few days before Christmas raised eyebrows.

Either way, Page and Brin now have an opportunity. There are few females in U.S. corporate leadership positions, especially at technology companies. Pichai sent out an awkward memo about gender stereotypes earlier this year. Nominating a woman to replace Schmidt would allow the Google founders to provide Silicon Valley with a new blueprint – and a formidable counterparty to Vestager.

On Twitter https://twitter.com/jennifersaba

 

CONTEXT NEWS

– Alphabet said on Dec. 21 that Eric Schmidt is stepping down as executive chairman at its next board meeting in January 2018. He will become a technical advisor to the company while continuing to serve on the board.

– “In recent years, I’ve been spending a lot of my time on science and technology issues, and philanthropy, and I plan to expand that work,” Schmidt said in a statement. He has been with the company since 2001.

– For previous columns by the author, Reuters customers can click on

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(Editing by Rob Cox and Katrina Hamlin)

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Robert Mueller just pulled an ace from his sleeve, and Donald Trump’s team just flinched

What, you thought Special Counsel Robert Mueller was just going to sit back and risk the possibility that Donald Trump might try to fire him? Mueller dropped a bomb on Trump’s entire team on Saturday night, and he did it in public. It came largely in the form of a warning: back off or you’re all immediately going down, because I have far more dirt on all of you than you know. Less than an hour later, the Trump team indeed predictably flinched in equally public fashion.

It all began around around 5pm on Saturday when Axios reported that Mueller has been sitting on fifty thousand emails from the Trump transition team all along (link). Mueller had kept this a secret, and had tricked Trump’s people into a false sense of security by requesting copies of the emails that he already had. Trump’s people only turned over the non-incriminating emails, and thought they were covered. This means he has a whole lot of people nailed for various crimes. If Trump tries to make a move, Mueller can begin arresting them all before Trump can complete the complicated process of trying to fire him.

Mueller was sending a message that if Trump tried to get him fired, he would immediately make a move on everyone involved in those emails. In the process, Mueller was also hinting that he’s been sitting on incriminating evidence against pretty much everyone involved, likely including Trump’s current White House advisers. It was a tacit demand that Trump’s people find a way to make sure he doesn’t fire Mueller. As Palmer Report explained at the time (link), this move left Trump’s team with only one option: back down, and quickly.

Sure enough, less than an hour later, Donald Trump’s team made an announcement that Trump has no intention of firing Robert Mueller, according to a CNN report (link). This reads like a clear attempt on the part of Trump’s team to signal to Mueller that they can indeed keep Trump under control, and that there’s no need for Mueller to release the proverbial kraken on them. If Trump and his people do end up making any further threatening gestures in Mueller’s direction, look for even more leaks about the other aces Mueller has up his sleeve. He’ll keep taking increasingly damaging warning shots until they back down and let him do his job.

 

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Trump Administration Bans CDC Officials From Using Certain Words?

Policy analysts will be instructed to avoid using seven words in grant applications, including “fetus” and “transgender,” say reports.

Katherine Welles / Shutterstock.com

On 15 December 2017, the Washington Post first reported that a senior CDC leader instructed policy analysts at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention not to use certain words in documents “related to the budget and supporting materials that are to be given to the CDC’s partners and to Congress”, citing an unnamed policy analyst:

Policy analysts at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta were told of the list of forbidden words at a meeting Thursday with senior CDC officials who oversee the budget, according to an analyst who took part in the 90-minute briefing. […]

At the CDC, the meeting about the banned words was led by Alison Kelly, a senior leader in the agency’s Office of Financial Services, according to the CDC analyst, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the person was not authorized to speak publicly. Kelly did not say why the words are being banned, according to the analyst, and told the group that she was merely relaying the information. […]

Other CDC officials confirmed the existence of a list of forbidden words. It’s likely that other parts of HHS are operating under the same guidelines regarding the use of these words, the analyst said.

The story identified seven prohibited words:

  • Vulnerable
  • Entitlement
  • Diversity
  • Transgender
  • Fetus
  • Evidence-based
  • Science-based

The Post reported that Kelly did not tell the group why the words are being banned, and said that she was merely relaying the information.

This is not the first accusation of censorship at federal agencies leveled against the Trump administration. Watchdog groups have accused the Administration of deleting or altering language on the Environmental Protection Agency’s web site to downplay the role of global warming, for example. On 20 October 2017, The New York Times reported:

A new analysis made public on Friday found that an E.P.A. website has been scrubbed of scores of links to materials to help local officials prepare for a world of rising temperatures and more severe storms. […]

Among the now-missing pages are those detailing the risks of climate change and the different approaches states are taking to curb emissions. Also edited out were examples of statewide plans to adapt to weather extremes.

The CDC did not immediately return our request for comment. The Department of Health and Human Services, however, released a statement denying that the story is accurate:

The assertion that HHS has ‘banned words’ is a complete mischaracterization of discussions regarding the budget formulation process. HHS will continue to use the best scientific evidence available to improve the health of all Americans. HHS also strongly encourages the use of outcome and evidence data in program evaluations and budget decisions.

Later on 17 December 2017, CDC director Dr. Brenda Fitzgerald tweeted that no words are banned:

I want to assure you there are no banned words at CDC. We will continue to talk about all our important public health programs.

 

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The FCC just voted to repeal its net neutrality rules, in a sweeping act of deregulation

By Brian Fung –


Ajit Pai, chairman of the Federal Communications Commission is expected to kill net neutrality rules passed during the Obama era. (Zach Gibson/Bloomberg)

Federal regulators voted Thursday to allow Internet providers to speed up service for some apps and websites — and block or slow down others — in a decision repealing landmark, Obama-era regulations for broadband companies such as AT&T and Verizon.

The move to deregulate the telecom and cable industry is a major setback for tech companies, consumer groups and Democrats who lobbied heavily against the decision. And it marks a significant victory for Republicans who vowed to roll back the efforts of the prior administration, despite a recent survey showing that 83 percent of Americans — including 3 out of 4 Republicans — opposed the plan.

Led by Chairman Ajit Pai, the Federal Communications Commission and its two other GOP members on Thursday followed through on a promise to repeal the government’s 2015 net neutrality rules, which sought to force Internet providers to treat all online services, large and small, equally. The agency also went a step further, rejecting much of its own authority over broadband in a bid to stymie future FCC officials who might seek to regulate providers.

 

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College Football Playoff And Bowl Games 2017-18: Full Schedule

 

by Kurt Badenhausen –

The college football bowl season kicks off this week with a slate of six games on Saturday. Twenty-fifth-ranked Boise State is the only school ranked in the top 25 in action during the first day of games with most of the bigger names taking the field in two weeks. There are games almost daily with 40 games airing from Saturday through Jan. 1. The season concludes a week later with the fourth annual College Football Playoff National Championship on January 8 from the new $1.5 billion Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta.

Heisman Trophy winner Baker Mayfield has the Oklahoma Sooners in the running for its first national championship since 2000. (Photo by Ron Jenkins/Getty Images)

The NCAA abandoned its disastrous plan to have the sport’s two marquee semifinal playoff games on New Year’s Eve. Total TV viewership plummeted from 28.3 million to 18.6 million in 2015, the first year with the semifinals on New Year’s Eve. TV numbers rebounded slightly in 2016, but the two games will take place on New Year’s Day this year with four college football blue bloods. The Rose Bowl matchup pits Georgia versus Oklahoma at 5:45, while Alabama and Clemson square off at 8:45 in the Sugar Bowl.

The bowl games feature the usual array of title sponsorships from all industries with games in the playoff system commanding as much as $20 million while lower-tier games can be had for less than $500,000 in some cases. The Cheribundi Tart Cherry Boca Raton Bowl and Bad Boy Mowers Gasparilla Bowl are both likely to command attention for the originality of their new sponsors this year.

A welcome reprieve this year: no teams with losing records in bowl games. The NCAA had to relax its requirements the past two years regarding qualifying for a bowl when enough teams didn’t make the cut. The result was six teams with losing records getting bowl invites compared to four teams total in the previous 45 years.

ESPN is broadcasting the vast majority of the 41 postseason games with rights to all but 10 of the games, although five of those 10 will appear on ESPN2 or ABC, both also owned by Walt Disney. ESPN signed a deal in 2012 for $470 million over 12 years to broadcast the college football playoffs.

 

The two semifinal playoff games are the two most expensive tickets on the secondary market. The median price for the Sugar Bowl is $375, while the Rose Bowl checks in at $295, according to Vivid Seats. The cheapest is the Foster Farms Bowl at $38.

Alabama is the favorite to win its fifth national title in nine years with the latest odds favoring the Crimson Tide at 17/10. Clemson is next at 11/4, followed by Georgia (3/1) and Oklahoma (13/4).

Here is the complete schedule of bowl games:

Celebration: North Carolina AT&T (11-0) vs. Grambling State (11-1)

Dec. 16 at 12:00 pm on ABC from Mercedes-Benz Stadium, Atlanta, GA

R+L Carriers New Orleans: Troy (10-2) vs. North Texas (9-4)

Dec. 16 at 1 pm on ESPN from Mercedes-Benz Superdome, New Orleans, LA

AutoNation Cure: Western Kentucky vs. (6-6) vs. Georgia State (6-5)

Dec. 16 at 2:30 pm on CBS Sports Network from Camping World Stadium, Orlando, FL

Las Vegas Bowl: #25 Boise State (10-3) vs. Oregon (7-5)

Dec. 16 at 3:30 pm on ABC from Sam Boyd Stadium, Las Vegas, NV

Gildan New Mexico: Marshall (7-5) vs. Colorado State (7-5)

Dec. 16 at 4:30 pm on ESPN from Dreamstyle Stadium, Albuquerque, NM

Raycom Media Camellia: Middle Tennessee (6-6) vs. Arkansas State (7-4)

Dec. 16 at 8 pm on ESPN from Cramton Bowl, Montgomery, AL

Cheribundi Tart Cherry Boca Raton: Akron (7-6) vs. Florida Atlantic (10-3)

Dec. 19 at 7 pm on ESPN from FAU Stadium, Boca Raton, FL

DXL Frisco: Louisiana Tech (6-6) vs. SMU (7-5)

Dec. 20 at 8 pm on ESPN from Toyota Stadium, Frisco, TX

Bad Boy Mowers Gasparilla: Temple (6-6) vs. Florida International (8-4)

Dec. 21 at 8 pm on ESPN from Tropicana Field, St. Petersburg, FL

Bahamas: UAB (8-4) vs. Ohio (8-4)

Dec. 22 at 12:30 pm on ESPN from Thomas A. Robinson National Stadium, Nassau, Bahamas

Famous Idaho Potato: Central Michigan (8-4) vs. Wyoming (7-5)

Dec. 22 at 4 pm on ESPN from Albertsons Stadium, Boise, ID

Birmingham: Texas Tech (6-6) vs. South Florida (9-2)

Dec. 23 at 12 pm on ESPN from Legion Field, Birmingham, AL

Lockheed Martin Armed Forces: San Diego State (10-2) vs. Army (9-3)

Dec. 23 at 3:30 pm on ESPN from Amon G. Carter Stadium, Fort Worth, TX

Dollar General: Appalachian State (8-4) vs. Toledo (11-2)

Dec. 23 at 7 pm on ESPN from Ladd-Peebles Stadium, Mobile, Ala.

Hawaii: Fresno State (9-4) vs. Houston (7-4)

Dec. 24 at 8:30 pm on ESPN from Aloha Stadium, Honolulu, HI

Zaxby’s Heart of Dallas: Utah (6-6) vs. West Virginia (7-5)

Dec. 26 at 1:30 pm on ESPN from Cotton Bowl, Dallas, TX

Quick Lane: Duke (6-6) vs. Northern Illinois (8-4)

Dec. 26 at 5:15 pm on ESPN from Ford Field, Detroit, MI

Cactus: Kansas State (7-5) vs. UCLA (6-6)

Dec. 26 at 9 pm on ESPN from Chase Field, Phoenix, AZ

Walk-On’s Independence: Southern Miss (8-4) vs. Florida State (6-6)

Dec. 27 at 1:30 pm on ESPN from Independence Stadium, Shreveport, LA

New Era Pinstripe: Iowa (7-5) vs. Boston College (7-5)

Dec. 27 at 5:15 pm on ESPN from Yankee Stadium, New York, NY

Foster Farms: Arizona (7-5) vs. Purdue (6-6)

Dec. 27 at 8:30 pm on FOX from Levi’s Stadium, Santa Clara, CA

Academy Sports + Outdoors Texas: Texas (6-6) vs. Missouri (7-5)

Dec. 27 at 9 pm on ESPN from NRG Stadium, Houston, TX

Military Bowl presented by Northrop Grumman: Virginia (6-6) vs. Navy (6-6)

Dec. 28 at 1:30 pm on ESPN from Navy-Marine Corps Stadium, Annapolis, MD

Camping World: #22 Virginia Tech (9-3) vs. #19 Oklahoma State (9-3)

Dec. 28 at 5:15 pm on ESPN from Camping World Stadium, Orlando, FL

Valero Alamo: #13 Stanford (9-4) vs. #15 TCU (10-3)

Dec. 28 at 9 pm on ESPN from Alamodome, San Antonio, TX

S.D. County Credit Union Holiday: #18 Washington State (9-3) vs. #16 Michigan State (9-3)

Dec. 28 at 9 pm on FOX from SDCCU Stadium, San Diego, CA

Belk: Wake Forest (7-5) vs. Texas A&M (7-5)

Dec. 29 at 1 pm on ESPN from Bank of America Stadium, Charlotte, NC

Hyundai Sun: #24 NC State (8-4) vs. Arizona State (7-5)

Dec. 29 at 3 pm on CBS from Sun Bowl, El Paso, TX

Franklin American Mortgage Music City: Kentucky (7-5) vs. #21 Northwestern (9-3)

Dec. 29 at 4:30 pm on ESPN from Nissan Stadium, Nashville, TN

Nova Home Loans Arizona: Utah State (6-6) vs. New Mexico State (6-6)

Dec. 29 at 5:30 pm on CBS Sports Network from Arizona Stadium, Tucson, AZ

Goodyear Cotton: #8 USC (-) vs. #5 Ohio State (11-2)

Dec. 29 at 8:30 pm on ESPN from AT&T Stadium, Arlington, TX

TaxSlayer: Louisville (8-4) vs. #23 Mississippi State (8-4)

Dec. 30 at 12 pm on ESPN from Everbank Field, Jacksonville, FL

AutoZone Liberty: Iowa State (7-5) vs. #20 Memphis (10-2)

Dec. 30 at 12:30 pm on ABC from Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium, Memphis, TN

PlayStation Fiesta: #11 Washington (10-2) vs. #9 Penn State (10-2)

Dec. 30 at 4 pm on ESPN from U. of Phoenix Stadium, Glendale, AZ

Capital One Orange: #10 Miami (10-2) vs. #6 Wisconsin (12-1)

Dec. 30 at 8 pm on ESPN from Hard Rock Stadium, Miami Gardens, FL

Outback: Michigan (8-4) vs. South Carolina (8-4)

Jan. 1 at 12 pm on ESPN2 from Raymond James Stadium, Tampa, FL

Chick-fil-A Peach: #12 UCF (12-0) vs. #7 Auburn (10-3)

Jan. 1 at 12:30 pm on ESPN from Mercedes-Benz Stadium, Atlanta, GA

Citrus Bowl presented by Overton’s: #14 Notre Dame (9-3) vs. #17 LSU (9-3)

Jan. 1 at 1 pm on ABC from Camping World Stadium, Orlando, FL

CFP Playoff Semifinal-Rose Bowl presented by Northwestern Mutual: #3 Georgia (12-1) vs. #2 Oklahoma (12-1)

Jan. 1 at 5 pm on ESPN from Rose Bowl, Pasadena, CA

CFP Playoff Semifinal-Allstate Sugar: #4 Alabama (11-1) vs. #1 Clemson (12-1)

Jan. 1 at 8:45 pm on ESPN from Mercedes-Benz Superdome, New Orleans, LA

CFP National Championship: Semifinal winners

Jan. 8 at 8 pm on ESPN from Mercedes-Benz Stadium, Atlanta, GA

 

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Bitcoin Futures Deliver Wild Ride as Debut Brings Rally, Halts

Futures on the world’s most popular cryptocurrency surged as much as 26 percent in their debut session on Cboe Global Markets Inc.’s exchange, triggering two temporary trading halts designed to calm the market. Initial volume exceeded dealers’ expectations, while traffic on Cboe’s website was so heavy that it caused delays and temporary outages. The website’s problems had no impact on trading systems, Cboe said. Bitcoin’s spot price rose.

“It is rare that you see something more volatile than bitcoin, but we found it: bitcoin futures,” said Zennon Kapron, managing director of Shanghai-based consulting firm Kapronasia.

The launch of futures on a regulated exchange is a watershed for bitcoin, whose surge this year has captivated everyone from mom-and-pop speculators to Wall Street trading firms. The Cboe contracts, soon to be followed by similar offerings from CME Group Inc. and Nasdaq Inc., should make it easier for mainstream investors to bet on the cryptocurrency’s rise or fall.

Bitcoin wagers have until now been mostly limited to venues with little or no oversight, deterring institutional money managers and exposing some users to the risk of hacks and market breakdowns. About 20 trading firms actively participated, Cboe Chairman Ed Tilly said in a Bloomberg Television interview.

QuickTake: You Can Trade Bitcoin Futures. But Should You?

Bitcoin futures expiring in January were 18 percent higher at $17,710 as of 12:25 p.m. in New York from an opening level of $15,000, on 3,561 contracts traded.

“It was smooth, and bitcoin traders don’t seem to be put off by futures,” said Craig Erlam, senior market analyst in London at online trading firm Oanda. “There was a fear that short selling would have an adverse impact on price, but we haven’t seen that yet.”

The spot price climbed 4.7 percent to $16,383 from the Friday 5 p.m. close in New York, according to the composite price on Bloomberg.

The roughly $1,300 difference reflects not only the novelty of the asset but also the difficulty of using the cash-settled futures to trade against the spot, strategists said.

“In a normal, functioning market, good old arbitrage would settle this,” Ole Hansen, head of commodity strategy at Saxo Bank A/S in Hellerup, Denmark, said by email. “If they were deliverable you could arbitrage the life out of it.”

Proponents of regulated bitcoin derivatives say the contracts will increase market transparency and boost liquidity, but skeptics abound. JPMorgan Chase & Co. Chief Executive Officer Jamie Dimon has called bitcoin a “fraud,” while China’s government has cracked down on cryptocurrency exchanges this year. The Futures Industry Association — a group of major banks, brokers and traders — said this month that contracts in the U.S. were rushed without enough consideration of the risks.

So far though, trading has kicked off without any major hiccups.

Dealers said volume was high for a new contract, even though it was tiny relative to more established futures. And the trading halts took effect just as Cboe had outlined in its rules. Transactions stopped for two minutes after a 10 percent gain from the opening price, and for five minutes after a 20 percent jump. Another five-minute halt will take effect if the rally extends to 30 percent, Cboe said in a notice on its website.

“It was pretty easy to trade,” Joe Van Hecke, managing partner at Chicago-based Grace Hall Trading LLC, said in a telephone interview from Charlotte, North Carolina. “I think you’ll see a robust market as time plays out.”

For now, Cboe futures account for a tiny slice of the world’s bitcoin-related bets. The notional value of contracts traded in the first eight hours totaled about $40 million. Globally, about $1.1 billion of bitcoin traded against the U.S. dollar during the same period, according to Cryptocompare.com.

Some people who would like to trade futures are having a hard time accessing the market because not all brokers are supporting it initially, said Garrett See, chief executive officer of DV Chain. Participation may also be limited because of higher capital requirements and tighter risk limits, See said.

“We’re in the early stages here, and there’s not enough professional liquidity from the big market makers who can provide depth and hold in the movements,” said Stephen Innes, head of trading for Asia Pacific at Oanda Corp. “It’s going to be a learning curve.”

It’s been painful for investors stuck on the sidelines. This year alone, bitcoin is up more than 17-fold. The surge has been driven largely by demand from individuals, with technical obstacles keeping out most big money managers like mutual funds.

The new derivatives contracts should thrust bitcoin more squarely into the realm of regulators, banks and institutional investors. Both Cboe and CME on Dec. 1 got permission to offer the contracts after pledging to the U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission that the products don’t run afoul of the law, in a process called self-certification.

QuickTake: All about bitcoin, blockchain and the crypto world

Not everyone is happy with the roll out. Exchanges failed to get enough feedback from market participants on margin levels, trading limits, stress tests and clearing, the Futures Industry Association said this month. In November, Thomas Peterffy, the billionaire chairman of Interactive Brokers Group Inc., wrote an open letter to CFTC Chairman J. Christopher Giancarlo, arguing that bitcoin’s large price swings mean its futures contracts shouldn’t be allowed on platforms that clear other derivatives.

Still, Interactive Brokers is offering its customers access to the futures, with greater restrictions. The firm’s clients won’t be able to go short, and Interactive’s margin requirement, or how much investors have to set aside as collateral, will be at least 50 percent. That’s a stricter threshold than both Cboe’s and CME’s.

QuickTake Q&A: Understanding bitcoin’s rapid price rise

The start of futures trading is an important milestone for bitcoin’s shift from the fringes of finance toward the mainstream, but it could be some time before the cryptocurrency becomes a key part of investor portfolios — if it ever does.

“You never say never,” David Riley, who helps oversee $57 billion as head of credit strategy at BlueBay Asset Management LLP in London, said in an interview on Bloomberg Television. “But I do think we’re quite some way from making cryptocurrencies even a relatively small part of some of the funds we manage at the moment.”

— With assistance by Matthew Leising, Annie Massa, Brian Louis, Andrea Tan, Eddie Van Der Walt, and Todd White

 

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10 Predictions For The Next 5 Years Of Crypto

 

Bitcoin price prediction is just the start.

2017 has been a breakout year for crypto — with Bitcoin surpassing $10,000 and more than $3.8 billion raised this year in ICOs. We’ve seen truly mind-bending appreciation (like Ethereum’s 50X gains YTD) and witnessed the beginnings of countless new projects. In all the funding frenzy, we’ve also likely sown the seeds of some of the larger calamities that will befall the space.

One thing is certain: this technology has been distilled to practice and open sourced to world. It’s out of (Pandora’s?) box, and there’s no putting it back.

Pundits are quick to argue, given wild asset appreciation, that we are in something that looks like the internet bubble. Even if this is true, the question is whether this is the year 1994 or the very twilight of 1999. So without further ado, let’s make our way to 2022, and see what world we may be inheriting.

  1. Bitcoin Price Will Surpass $100,000 per Bitcoin

The champagnes were popped, balance screenshots commemorated and last-minute Vegas trips planned while Bitcoin price soared past $10,000 this week.

Short of entire system failure, Bitcoin is currently the most battle-tested crypto asset — and we are still early in the exponential curve. Many along the sidelines may call tulip bubble, our society has never had an element so global and so artificially scarce before. [Disclosure: this is not investment advice; author invests in and holds crypto assets.]

Despite this year’s appreciation, usage is outpacing Bitcoin’s price. Daily transaction volumes (in USD) for Bitcoin are currently around 100X what they were at the beginning of this year, when the price was hovering closer to $1,000 per Bitcoin. This volume growth is while most institutional managers are still sitting on the sidelines, waiting for custodianship technology to mature.

Even the corruption use cases alone still have orders of magnitude more growth for total market capitalization of Bitcoin. If just one country’s worth alleged corruption confiscations were moved to Bitcoin to escape seizure, it would nearly 5X the total amount of value trusted to the currency today.

Some in the financial community are already calling for the $40,000 price mark in 2018 alone.

  1. Commodity Markets for Everything Digital

One of the biggest areas facing disruption will be electronically deliverable (and verifiable) services: compute, bandwidth, and similar. Advances in blockchain technology will make it easier for marketplaces to form — and bring a huge amount of supply online. Why have every hosting company compete for user acquisition and retention, set up billing accounts, etc. when you can simply hook your equipment into a standardized service that has payments baked in?

We expect to see one or more major digital commodities traded readily. We may even see miners for hire — who will provide their hash power to secure a particular coin with a contractual bounty — above and beyond the transaction and block rewards the protocols offer natively.

Still uncertain are which protocols, existing or yet to be created, will be the winners. The winners will naturally bring the speculators (both purely financial and node providers) required to make a market. Also in question today is how much these markets will eat into Amazon’s AWS or Google’s cloud businesses — or whether many speculative operators will run their businesses on top of these platforms.

  1. Fully Decentralized Exchanges

Many are quick to note the challenges of building a liquid and deep market in a decentralized fashion. Current centralized exchanges — while currently minting a huge amount of profit — are eager to see how their business will evolve. Market forces will drive all decentralized order books to share and interconnect — but once the entire market is completely connected, exchanges become completely, well, exchangeable.

A major driver spurring decentralization will likely be regulation — as certain currencies or exchange of currencies becomes more heavily regulated, it will drive behavior either to institutions that have proper compliance (for institutional investors) or underground.

For instance, even if a token offering is deemed an illegal equity offering, there still may exist a market of buyers and speculators. As a historical example, look back to penny stock spamming pump and dump schemes of 10 years ago. Brokerages would block trading of equities suspected of being manipulated in their UI, but buyers would still call their brokers to manually override and ride the pump (either up or down).

There is a lot of underlying infrastructure yet to be built — to help decentralized exchanges discover and share order volume, split economics — as well as the consumer and professional trading infrastructure to make this easier and more approachable.

In 2022, many trades may not actually be settled on chain. Additional layers of abstraction off-chain is currently a very ripe area for R&D. (Consider the Lightning Network andRootstock projects.) These kinds of projects, while still in their infancy, suggest an even braver new world: where assets can be traded instantly without any public trace of their movement. The very first public cross chain swap, a trade between Litecoin and Bitcoin, just happened weeks ago. This is an area to watch closely.

  1. New Organizations: Profits OK, Not Necessary  

The increase of liquidity — both for employees and supply of risk capital — will drive more and more savvy entrepreneurs to skip registering their company in a local domain. Or cause the creation of value to happen outside of this standard corporate formula.

The “vanilla” terms that investors typically look for — and the importance of stock options for employee compensation — may no longer be the dominant way of organizing for companies. The Delaware C. Corporation itself may fall out of favor for new innovation that takes advantage of blockchain technology.

Furthermore, we will see more and more organizations created without profit as an explicit purpose. Economic activity may well be arranged more around organizations that look like public benefit or mutual corporations — and have for-profit activities take place around the fringes.

We can look to the original in-person financial exchanges as another example — one “seat” (token) was membership with equal rights and equal benefits. Profits were expected from an individual member’s own trading activity, not from ownership of the “house.”

  1. Crypto Equities Emerge: Registered Equity Tokens

Just as more new projects will organize around a token-economy, look for more businesses to tie their ownership or value to a legal tokenized equity structure.

Easy trading, liquidity, and ability for any exchange to list the assets — these aren’t just benefits for token economies. More regulation will have to take place, but look for private equity investors and other trapped value to seek liquidity without listing on the NYSE or Nasdaq.

  1. Consumer Experiences Won’t Be The Largest Early Battlefield

The changes in the consumer landscape will be far more macro than simply iterating and updating the platforms of the Web 2.0 and Mobile eras. When folks first deeply consider the crypto space, many will look at a decentralized system as a possible threat to existing players. “Decentralized rider-driver matching could displace Uber!” enthusiasts may note. Critics, often smug with their understanding of the current blockchain tech often quip, “there’s no way the transaction rate will be fast enough for that many rides.”

This won’t be where the changes take place. Uber is a “shaped” marketplace — which is to say, Uber the Delaware-for-profit-corporation works very hard behind the scenes to predict and wed supply and demand. It’s a lot harder for an entirely decentralized protocol to recruit non-tech-savvy drivers in a greater supply in time for Salesforce’s San Francisco Dreamforce event (a shock to the normal SF’s rideshare demand).

If crypto has a large effect on consumer experiences, the most interesting applications will likely be new models that simply weren’t possible before — rather than just eliminating existing middlemen. The early profound impacts will likely be tucked away from most consumers view — helping companies outsource infrastructure, replace many of their financial systems, and eventually outsource labor.

Just as Amazon’s Mechanical Turk has made microtasks near commodity, expect crypto systems for payment and work validation to climb up the value chain in the labor markets. Why worry about foreign exchange rates and local taxes when everything is powered through an arbitrary token of both parties choosing?

  1. Nations Struggle With Tax Collection

Governments are currently sitting by — learning, watching, and waiting. But they don’t yet realize how existential of a thread the crypto ecosystem represents to their business of governance.

This isn’t about regulation of scammy ICOs. This is about small nations being able to collect taxes from their citizens and maintain their operations on any scale like the present.

This also isn’t about crypto being used by bad actors to launder money, avoid taxes or similar.

When everyone has a completely international, unseizable asset system at their disposal — the question becomes not if one pays taxes but where. Why repatriate value to a country that overcharges relative to the value provided?

It has never been easier to to run a massively lucrative multi-national empire from the comfort of home, and only convert a tiny fraction of one’s wealth to local currency. (Maybe save the largest expenditures take place in a lower tax jurisdiction.)

Just as Apple shelters billions in Ireland as payment for IP of products sold around the EU, expect far more corporate innovation in keeping value far away from the tax collectors.

  1. Government Issued Crypto is Real

As more and more reserves are moved into crypto assets (the “digital gold” use case), nations will see their own currencies less viable or valued to other nations looking for safe reserves. Just this week, the US Federal Reserve publicly announced that this is an approach they are considering.

Wise nations (likely small) will launch their own crypto fiat currencies — digital currencies on a ledger with the creation and distortion controlled by the government (and presumed parity between the governments own currency).

While this misses the large point of digital currencies — and may be a short-lived “tweener” state — it will create short-term demand for that nation’s currency as an easy-to-hold, easy-to-move money that’s backed by a government.

  1. Emergence Of Bitcoin-Denominated Yield Curve

Many countries issue USD-denominated debt, to lock in a lower interest rate than if they issued it in their own currencies — and open their debt to a wider set of investors. Crypto appreciation and volatility will be challenging to account for, but expect to see a crypto yield curve emerge as governments attempt to lock in favorable rates and reach the international investment community.

There will be many bumps along the road. History is rife with crises caused by the borrower’s domestic currency weakening beyond their expectations (or hedges). This time may not end differently, but the scope will be more international (and liquid) than ever before.

  1. Nations Stockpile Crypto Weapons

As crypto becomes critical infrastructure, replacing much of the existing banking system, governments will seek to regain control.

Crypto weapons could have many forms: mining attacks to reduce transaction throughput and cause chaos. Attempts to break and discredit individual currencies. Backdoors to control mining infrastructure. Secretly launching their own crypto with backdoors built in. Or simple quantum computing to brute force existing monetary supply before maintainers could react.

What’s clear at this moment is just as “cyber space” became a new battle front, so too will battles be waged for control of, and access to, distributed value technologies.

Disclosure: Author invests (both personally and through Founder Collective) in crypto assets and startups.

 

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