In my post on the Getting Started With Cryptocurrency, I laid out what I would recommend as a 101 curriculum from understanding Bitcoin and cryptocurrency technology.
Consider this the 201 list. I’ll start with long-form articles and series, then more academic papers and finish with project-specific whitepapers.
Fundamental Challenges With Public Blockchains
by Preethi Kasireddy
Excellent overview of the ways in which blockchain technology could fail.
“The reality is that it could be many years before trustless systems are ready for mainstream use at scale.”
Placeholder VC Thesis Summary
Joel Monegro & Chris Burniske
Ostensibly an investment thesis, Placeholder’s summary contextualizes crypto in the broader technological landscape and shows it’s development pace compared to prior technological paradigms.
“Cryptonetworks are less like companies and more like small emerging economies. A useful analogy is to think of a network as a country which produces a single exportable good”
The State of Cryptocurrency Mining
Very detailed piece and best thing I’ve read to date on the mining industry. TL;DR — It’s shady and economies of scale matter a lot.
“At this point, I think it’s safe to assume that every Proof-of-Work coin with a block reward of more than $20 million in the past year has at least one group of secret ASICs currently mining on it, or will have secret ASICs mining on it within a few months.”
Visions of Bitcoin
Hasu & Nic Carter
A look back at how the narratives surrounding Bitcoin have changed over time.
“Perhaps the most enduring source of conflict within the Bitcoin community derives from incompatible visions of what Bitcoin is and should become. Businesses building on Bitcoin, believing it a cheap global payments network, eventually became nonviable when blocks filled up in 2017. They weren’t necessarily wrong, they just had a vision of the world that ended up being a minority view within the Bitcoin community, and was ultimately not expressed by the protocol on their desired timeline.”
Bitcoin Data Science (Pt. 1, 2, and 3)
Part 1 offers a fascinating look at the history of UTXOs in Bitcoin and how different “HODL waves” emerge over time. Part 2 estimates how many bitcoins are lost forever and Part 3 looks at Bitcoin dust: containers (UTXOs) of bitcoin that cost more to spend in fees than they hold.
“It is not possible to make charts such as the one above for traditional asset classes. It’s only Bitcoin and other public blockchains that meticulously track these data throughout their whole histories. This enables post-hoc analyses of large-scale market behavior.”
Vitalik Buterin on Cryptoeconomics and Markets in Everything
Tyler Cowen & The Mercatus Center
Transcript of a discussion between Ethereum founder Vitalik Buterin and economist Tyler Cowen diving into the history and potential of crypto.
“If there’s a new crypto asset that comes along — let’s say it’s cleared some minimum threshold of interest — what theoretical apparatus from economics or elsewhere should we apply?”
Cryptocurrencies are money, not equity
One of the major topics of discussion in the cryptocurrency community over the last few years has been the distinction between value creation and value capture. It’s not clear yet to what extent, if any, many of the tokens will capture value, even if they prove widely adopted. This post lays out the arguments well, concluding that most, if not all, tokens will capture very little value as currently designed.
Unpacking Bitcoin’s Social Contract and Bitcoin and the Promise of Independent Property Rights
Su Zhu & Hasu
An in-depth look at Bitcoin from a political economics perspective.
“The key innovation of Bitcoin: It detaches the social institution of property rights from the institution of the legal system”
If you’re looking for more about blockchain and cryptocurrency for business, click here to access my personal resource lists of where I’ve found the best and most reliable information.
Formalizing and Securing Relationships on Public Networks — An essay on smart contracts written in the 1990s. Helpful for thinking about all the ways in which smart contracts could be used. My notes here.
The Decentralized Marketing Organization
“How will blockchains impact marketers?” and “How are they already impacting marketers?” As something with a marketing background, I found this thought-provoking.
A commodity-based history of money from Nick Szabo, an early cryptocurrency pioneer. For the counterargument advancing the credit theory of money, I recommend David Graeber’s book, Debt: The First 5,000 years.
Legal Determinants of External Finance
A Paper on the impact of legal systems on a country’s financial system. If you view Bitcoin and other public blockchains as a new legal system, you can see the potential for how it might remake aspects of the existing financial system.
Bitcoin’s Academic Pedigree
An academic background of the different technologies used by Bitcoin and how they have evolved over time.
Smart Contracts: Building Blocks for Digital Markets and Formalizing and Securing Relationships on Public Networks — Nick Szabo
Both of these papers were published by cryptocurrency pioneer Nick Szabo in the 1990’s and outlined what he saw as the potential for smart contracts. A great overview for thinking about how and where smart contracts will matter.
The Use of Knowledge in Society by Friedrick Hayek
A landmark paper in economics published in 1945. Hayek argues against the top-down planning that many countries engage in for managing their economies in favor of a bottom-up approach. Much of the architecture and cryptosystems embodies Hayek’s principles.
Liberal Radicalism: Formal Rules for a Society Neutral among Communities
Glen Weyl, author of Radical Markets, co-authored a paper with Ethereum founder Vitalik Buterin and Zoe Hitzig that extended ideas proposed in the book on quadratic voting, a proposal for how voting could be changed to be more effective. Section 7 on the tension between traditional liberalism and communities was the best part.
The Agoric Papers
Originally published in 1988, this series of papers looks at computers and software through the lens of markets. We design computer networks like totalitarian regimes. A central planner, the programmer, sits down and decides the rules which the software must follow. This central planning system doesn’t work very well for human actors, so why do we think it’s optimal for software? Why can’t different processes bid on computing power in a more market like way?
Distributed Systems for Fun and Profit
A helpful primer on how distributed computing systems work. Distributed systems computing is a bit of a $4 word that just means “lots of computers working together.” It is a fundamental building block of “the cloud” as well as blockchain technology.
The Bitcoin Whitepaper (annotated)
If you’ve been wanting to re-read (or just read) the Bitcoin whitepaper, but haven’t wanted to slog through the technical jargon, this annotated version is a great reading aid that unpacks many parts of the paper that can be confusing.
Named after a curse in the Harry Potter books, MimbleWimble is a protocol works to improve privacy and scalability for its users.
MimbleWimble takes the main architecture of Bitcoin, removes script, adds Confidential Transactions and the idea of cut-through which creates a highly compressible and opaque blockchain. Here are my notes on MimbleWimble.
Augur is a decentralized protocol that allows for peer to peer decentralized prediction markets. Users can create a market for a real-life event (e.g. The World Cup, Superbowl or a political election), bet on an outcome, report on results, and win (or lose) money based on the actual outcome of the event.
Prediction markets are one of the most interesting use cases for crypto after currency and Augur’s whitepaper gives you an idea for how they may work.
Dharma Protocol White Paper
After prediction markets, another compelling use case for crypto networks is decentralizing existing parts of finance.
Dharma is part of a broader ecosystem of what is now being called Defi (decentralized finance). The idea that blockchains will allow us to rebuild a financial system based on open protocols rather than trusted their parties which end up not always being, well, very trustworthy.
Dharma is a project trying to build a decentralized protocol for debt. The basic idea being that it would be possible to have a standard protocol to engage in peer to peer lending so that any two parties could agree to a debtor/creditor relationship.
dYdX is also part of the DeFi movement but focused on allowing the creation of decentralized derivatives instead of debt.
Cosmos Whitepaper and Tendermint
Tendermint is an alternative consensus protocol based on academic research on Byzantine fault tolerance (BFT). The theory of BFT is decades old, but software implementations have only became popular recently, due largely to the success of blockchain technology.
Cosmos is an implementation of the Tendermint blockchain that aims at connecting all other blockchains into an “internet of blockchains.”(My tweetstorm summary of the Cosmos Paper)
Tezos billed itself on Ethereum with better governance and raised the largest ICO in history (at the time). Governance is a hot topic in the blockchain space and the Tezos Whitepaper looks at one approach to governance and why it may (or may not) be important.
Last Updated on August 16, 2022 by Taylor Pearson