Triple Increase On BTC Transaction Fees Just Before Bitcoin`s Third Halving
The Average Price Per Bitcoin Transaction Reached $3,19 On 8th May, After Increasing With 300% From $0,62 Per BTC Transaction, As Of 26th April The world of cryptocurrencies is franticly preparing for Bitcoin’s third halving event, which would cut down the reward that miners receive for validating transactions. Historically, prior to a halving event, transaction fees skyrocket. The last halving resulted in peak transaction fee of $0,62, with transactions costing a mere $0,10 just weeks before. Source: Bitinfocharts However, the halving event means something more than just transaction fees increase. Bitcoin suffered from increased volatility over the past weekend, with prices swinging from close to $9,700 on May 10, to shrink as low as $8,466 on May 11. Nevertheless, Bitcoin’s price is still 40% up year-to-date (YTD), which implies strong support from Bitcoin bulls. The price swing outperforms serious investment assets like gold (XAU) and U.S. dollars. Speculators expect the halving event to boost Bitcoin’s price, as the price inflation reduces when the reward for mining a Bitcoin block reduces in half. Тhe primary reason behind both Bitcoin’s price increase and inflation reduction is a term, called scarcity. Scarcity resembles how rare to obtain a given asset is. Meantime, Bitcoin’s user base is exponentially increasing. The current 1,800 BTC-per-day premium would be reduced to 900 BTC per day. Joe Llisteri, the co-founder of crypto derivatives exchange Interdax, stated that over time, the reduction of BTC supply would ultimately lead to a reduction in sell pressure. “The factors add up to an increase in upwards momentum for Bitcoin’s price.”, Llisteri added. Llisteri also noted that this time Bitcoin’s upwards momentum may see a slower effect, due to progressively longer life cycles for Bitcoin after a halving event. “Currently, we are looking at 18-24 months until a possible all-time high. Timewise, Bitcoin may reach an all-time high between October-November 2021 and May-June 2022.”, Llisteri concluded. However, small and medium-sized miners may take a serious hit, as the price reward cut may mitigate all possible earnings from small mining enthusiasts and mid-sized mining rigs. Even with the much-anticipated Bitcoin price boost, much of the miners may shut down operations prior to the price increase. Speaking of mining, Bitcoin’s hash rate continues to keep a steady growth, slightly declining from its yearly high of 123.2 terra hash-per-second (TH/s). There are two possible scenarios – either more miners are joining the Bitcoin network, or current miners are driving their existing rigs to a maximum.
Technical: A Brief History of Payment Channels: from Satoshi to Lightning Network
Who cares about political tweets from some random country's president when payment channels are a much more interesting and are actually capable of carrying value? So let's have a short history of various payment channel techs!
Generation 0: Satoshi's Broken nSequence Channels
Because Satoshi's Vision included payment channels, except his implementation sucked so hard we had to go fix it and added RBF as a by-product. Originally, the plan for nSequence was that mempools would replace any transaction spending certain inputs with another transaction spending the same inputs, but only if the nSequence field of the replacement was larger. Since 0xFFFFFFFF was the highest value that nSequence could get, this would mark a transaction as "final" and not replaceable on the mempool anymore. In fact, this "nSequence channel" I will describe is the reason why we have this weird rule about nLockTime and nSequence. nLockTime actually only works if nSequence is not 0xFFFFFFFF i.e. final. If nSequence is 0xFFFFFFFF then nLockTime is ignored, because this if the "final" version of the transaction. So what you'd do would be something like this:
You go to a bar and promise the bartender to pay by the time the bar closes. Because this is the Bitcoin universe, time is measured in blockheight, so the closing time of the bar is indicated as some future blockheight.
For your first drink, you'd make a transaction paying to the bartender for that drink, paying from some coins you have. The transaction has an nLockTime equal to the closing time of the bar, and a starting nSequence of 0. You hand over the transaction and the bartender hands you your drink.
For your succeeding drink, you'd remake the same transaction, adding the payment for that drink to the transaction output that goes to the bartender (so that output keeps getting larger, by the amount of payment), and having an nSequence that is one higher than the previous one.
Eventually you have to stop drinking. It comes down to one of two possibilities:
You drink until the bar closes. Since it is now the nLockTime indicated in the transaction, the bartender is able to broadcast the latest transaction and tells the bouncers to kick you out of the bar.
You wisely consider the state of your liver. So you re-sign the last transaction with a "final" nSequence of 0xFFFFFFFF i.e. the maximum possible value it can have. This allows the bartender to get his or her funds immediately (nLockTime is ignored if nSequence is 0xFFFFFFFF), so he or she tells the bouncers to let you out of the bar.
Now that of course is a payment channel. Individual payments (purchases of alcohol, so I guess buying coffee is not in scope for payment channels). Closing is done by creating a "final" transaction that is the sum of the individual payments. Sure there's no routing and channels are unidirectional and channels have a maximum lifetime but give Satoshi a break, he was also busy inventing Bitcoin at the time. Now if you noticed I called this kind of payment channel "broken". This is because the mempool rules are not consensus rules, and cannot be validated (nothing about the mempool can be validated onchain: I sigh every time somebody proposes "let's make block size dependent on mempool size", mempool state cannot be validated by onchain data). Fullnodes can't see all of the transactions you signed, and then validate that the final one with the maximum nSequence is the one that actually is used onchain. So you can do the below:
Become friends with Jihan Wu, because he owns >51% of the mining hashrate (he totally reorged Bitcoin to reverse the Binance hack right?).
Slip Jihan Wu some of the more interesting drinks you're ordering as an incentive to cooperate with you. So say you end up ordering 100 drinks, you split it with Jihan Wu and give him 50 of the drinks.
When the bar closes, Jihan Wu quickly calls his mining rig and tells them to mine the version of your transaction with nSequence 0. You know, that first one where you pay for only one drink.
Because fullnodes cannot validate nSequence, they'll accept even the nSequence=0 version and confirm it, immutably adding you paying for a single alcoholic drink to the blockchain.
The bartender, pissed at being cheated, takes out a shotgun from under the bar and shoots at you and Jihan Wu.
Jihan Wu uses his mystical chi powers (actually the combined exhaust from all of his mining rigs) to slow down the shotgun pellets, making them hit you as softly as petals drifting in the wind.
The bartender mutters some words, clothes ripping apart as he or she (hard to believe it could be a she but hey) turns into a bear, ready to maul you for cheating him or her of the payment for all the 100 drinks you ordered from him or her.
Steely-eyed, you stand in front of the bartender-turned-bear, daring him to touch you. You've watched Revenant, you know Leonardo di Caprio could survive a bear mauling, and if some posh actor can survive that, you know you can too. You make a pose. "Drunken troll logic attack!"
I think I got sidetracked here.
Bears are bad news.
You can't reasonably invoke "Satoshi's Vision" and simultaneously reject the Lightning Network because it's not onchain. Satoshi's Vision included a half-assed implementation of payment channels with nSequence, where the onchain transaction represented multiple logical payments, exactly what modern offchain techniques do (except modern offchain techniques actually work). nSequence (the field, but not its modern meaning) has been in Bitcoin since BitCoin For Windows Alpha 0.1.0. And its original intent was payment channels. You can't get nearer to Satoshi's Vision than being a field that Satoshi personally added to transactions on the very first public release of the BitCoin software, like srsly.
Miners can totally bypass mempool rules. In fact, the reason why nSequence has been repurposed to indicate "optional" replace-by-fee is because miners are already incentivized by the nSequence system to always follow replace-by-fee anyway. I mean, what do you think those drinks you passed to Jihan Wu are, other than the fee you pay him to mine a specific version of your transaction?
Satoshi made mistakes. The original design for nSequence is one of them. Today, we no longer use nSequence in this way. So diverging from Satoshi's original design is part and parcel of Bitcoin development, because over time, we learn new lessons that Satoshi never knew about. Satoshi was an important landmark in this technology. He will not be the last, or most important, that we will remember in the future: he will only be the first.
Incentive-compatible time-limited unidirectional channel; or, Satoshi's Vision, Fixed (if transaction malleability hadn't been a problem, that is). Now, we know the bartender will turn into a bear and maul you if you try to cheat the payment channel, and now that we've revealed you're good friends with Jihan Wu, the bartender will no longer accept a payment channel scheme that lets one you cooperate with a miner to cheat the bartender. Fortunately, Jeremy Spilman proposed a better way that would not let you cheat the bartender. First, you and the bartender perform this ritual:
You get some funds and create a transaction that pays to a 2-of-2 multisig between you and the bartender. You don't broadcast this yet: you just sign it and get its txid.
You create another transaction that spends the above transaction. This transaction (the "backoff") has an nLockTime equal to the closing time of the bar, plus one block. You sign it and give this backoff transaction (but not the above transaction) to the bartender.
The bartender signs the backoff and gives it back to you. It is now valid since it's spending a 2-of-2 of you and the bartender, and both of you have signed the backoff transaction.
Now you broadcast the first transaction onchain. You and the bartender wait for it to be deeply confirmed, then you can start ordering.
The above is probably vaguely familiar to LN users. It's the funding process of payment channels! The first transaction, the one that pays to a 2-of-2 multisig, is the funding transaction that backs the payment channel funds. So now you start ordering in this way:
For your first drink, you create a transaction spending the funding transaction output and sending the price of the drink to the bartender, with the rest returning to you.
You sign the transaction and pass it to the bartender, who serves your first drink.
For your succeeding drinks, you recreate the same transaction, adding the price of the new drink to the sum that goes to the bartender and reducing the money returned to you. You sign the transaction and give it to the bartender, who serves you your next drink.
At the end:
If the bar closing time is reached, the bartender signs the latest transaction, completing the needed 2-of-2 signatures and broadcasting this to the Bitcoin network. Since the backoff transaction is the closing time + 1, it can't get used at closing time.
If you decide you want to leave early because your liver is crying, you just tell the bartender to go ahead and close the channel (which the bartender can do at any time by just signing and broadcasting the latest transaction: the bartender won't do that because he or she is hoping you'll stay and drink more).
If you ended up just hanging around the bar and never ordering, then at closing time + 1 you broadcast the backoff transaction and get your funds back in full.
Now, even if you pass 50 drinks to Jihan Wu, you can't give him the first transaction (the one which pays for only one drink) and ask him to mine it: it's spending a 2-of-2 and the copy you have only contains your own signature. You need the bartender's signature to make it valid, but he or she sure as hell isn't going to cooperate in something that would lose him or her money, so a signature from the bartender validating old state where he or she gets paid less isn't going to happen. So, problem solved, right? Right? Okay, let's try it. So you get your funds, put them in a funding tx, get the backoff tx, confirm the funding tx... Once the funding transaction confirms deeply, the bartender laughs uproariously. He or she summons the bouncers, who surround you menacingly. "I'm refusing service to you," the bartender says. "Fine," you say. "I was leaving anyway;" You smirk. "I'll get back my money with the backoff transaction, and posting about your poor service on reddit so you get negative karma, so there!" "Not so fast," the bartender says. His or her voice chills your bones. It looks like your exploitation of the Satoshi nSequence payment channel is still fresh in his or her mind. "Look at the txid of the funding transaction that got confirmed." "What about it?" you ask nonchalantly, as you flip open your desktop computer and open a reputable blockchain explorer. What you see shocks you. "What the --- the txid is different! You--- you changed my signature?? But how? I put the only copy of my private key in a sealed envelope in a cast-iron box inside a safe buried in the Gobi desert protected by a clan of nomads who have dedicated their lives and their childrens' lives to keeping my private key safe in perpetuity!" "Didn't you know?" the bartender asks. "The components of the signature are just very large numbers. The sign of one of the signature components can be changed, from positive to negative, or negative to positive, and the signature will remain valid. Anyone can do that, even if they don't know the private key. But because Bitcoin includes the signatures in the transaction when it's generating the txid, this little change also changes the txid." He or she chuckles. "They say they'll fix it by separating the signatures from the transaction body. They're saying that these kinds of signature malleability won't affect transaction ids anymore after they do this, but I bet I can get my good friend Jihan Wu to delay this 'SepSig' plan for a good while yet. Friendly guy, this Jihan Wu, it turns out all I had to do was slip him 51 drinks and he was willing to mine a tx with the signature signs flipped." His or her grin widens. "I'm afraid your backoff transaction won't work anymore, since it spends a txid that is not existent and will never be confirmed. So here's the deal. You pay me 99% of the funds in the funding transaction, in exchange for me signing the transaction that spends with the txid that you see onchain. Refuse, and you lose 100% of the funds and every other HODLer, including me, benefits from the reduction in coin supply. Accept, and you get to keep 1%. I lose nothing if you refuse, so I won't care if you do, but consider the difference of getting zilch vs. getting 1% of your funds." His or her eyes glow. "GENUFLECT RIGHT NOW." Lesson learned?
Payback's a bitch.
Transaction malleability is a bitchier bitch. It's why we needed to fix the bug in SegWit. Sure, MtGox claimed they were attacked this way because someone kept messing with their transaction signatures and thus they lost track of where their funds went, but really, the bigger impetus for fixing transaction malleability was to support payment channels.
Yes, including the signatures in the hash that ultimately defines the txid was a mistake. Satoshi made a lot of those. So we're just reiterating the lesson "Satoshi was not an infinite being of infinite wisdom" here. Satoshi just gets a pass because of how awesome Bitcoin is.
CLTV-protected Spilman Channels
Using CLTV for the backoff branch. This variation is simply Spilman channels, but with the backoff transaction replaced with a backoff branch in the SCRIPT you pay to. It only became possible after OP_CHECKLOCKTIMEVERIFY (CLTV) was enabled in 2015. Now as we saw in the Spilman Channels discussion, transaction malleability means that any pre-signed offchain transaction can easily be invalidated by flipping the sign of the signature of the funding transaction while the funding transaction is not yet confirmed. This can be avoided by simply putting any special requirements into an explicit branch of the Bitcoin SCRIPT. Now, the backoff branch is supposed to create a maximum lifetime for the payment channel, and prior to the introduction of OP_CHECKLOCKTIMEVERIFY this could only be done by having a pre-signed nLockTime transaction. With CLTV, however, we can now make the branches explicit in the SCRIPT that the funding transaction pays to. Instead of paying to a 2-of-2 in order to set up the funding transaction, you pay to a SCRIPT which is basically "2-of-2, OR this singlesig after a specified lock time". With this, there is no backoff transaction that is pre-signed and which refers to a specific txid. Instead, you can create the backoff transaction later, using whatever txid the funding transaction ends up being confirmed under. Since the funding transaction is immutable once confirmed, it is no longer possible to change the txid afterwards.
Todd Micropayment Networks
The old hub-spoke model (that isn't how LN today actually works). One of the more direct predecessors of the Lightning Network was the hub-spoke model discussed by Peter Todd. In this model, instead of payers directly having channels to payees, payers and payees connect to a central hub server. This allows any payer to pay any payee, using the same channel for every payee on the hub. Similarly, this allows any payee to receive from any payer, using the same channel. Remember from the above Spilman example? When you open a channel to the bartender, you have to wait around for the funding tx to confirm. This will take an hour at best. Now consider that you have to make channels for everyone you want to pay to. That's not very scalable. So the Todd hub-spoke model has a central "clearing house" that transport money from payers to payees. The "Moonbeam" project takes this model. Of course, this reveals to the hub who the payer and payee are, and thus the hub can potentially censor transactions. Generally, though, it was considered that a hub would more efficiently censor by just not maintaining a channel with the payer or payee that it wants to censor (since the money it owned in the channel would just be locked uselessly if the hub won't process payments to/from the censored user). In any case, the ability of the central hub to monitor payments means that it can surveill the payer and payee, and then sell this private transactional data to third parties. This loss of privacy would be intolerable today. Peter Todd also proposed that there might be multiple hubs that could transport funds to each other on behalf of their users, providing somewhat better privacy. Another point of note is that at the time such networks were proposed, only unidirectional (Spilman) channels were available. Thus, while one could be a payer, or payee, you would have to use separate channels for your income versus for your spending. Worse, if you wanted to transfer money from your income channel to your spending channel, you had to close both and reshuffle the money between them, both onchain activities.
Poon-Dryja Lightning Network
Bidirectional two-participant channels. The Poon-Dryja channel mechanism has two important properties:
No time limit.
Both the original Satoshi and the two Spilman variants are unidirectional: there is a payer and a payee, and if the payee wants to do a refund, or wants to pay for a different service or product the payer is providing, then they can't use the same unidirectional channel. The Poon-Dryjam mechanism allows channels, however, to be bidirectional instead: you are not a payer or a payee on the channel, you can receive or send at any time as long as both you and the channel counterparty are online. Further, unlike either of the Spilman variants, there is no time limit for the lifetime of a channel. Instead, you can keep the channel open for as long as you want. Both properties, together, form a very powerful scaling property that I believe most people have not appreciated. With unidirectional channels, as mentioned before, if you both earn and spend over the same network of payment channels, you would have separate channels for earning and spending. You would then need to perform onchain operations to "reverse" the directions of your channels periodically. Secondly, since Spilman channels have a fixed lifetime, even if you never used either channel, you would have to periodically "refresh" it by closing it and reopening. With bidirectional, indefinite-lifetime channels, you may instead open some channels when you first begin managing your own money, then close them only after your lawyers have executed your last will and testament on how the money in your channels get divided up to your heirs: that's just two onchain transactions in your entire lifetime. That is the potentially very powerful scaling property that bidirectional, indefinite-lifetime channels allow. I won't discuss the transaction structure needed for Poon-Dryja bidirectional channels --- it's complicated and you can easily get explanations with cute graphics elsewhere. There is a weakness of Poon-Dryja that people tend to gloss over (because it was fixed very well by RustyReddit):
You have to store all the revocation keys of a channel. This implies you are storing 1 revocation key for every channel update, so if you perform millions of updates over your entire lifetime, you'd be storing several megabytes of keys, for only a single channel. RustyReddit fixed this by requiring that the revocation keys be generated from a "Seed" revocation key, and every key is just the application of SHA256 on that key, repeatedly. For example, suppose I tell you that my first revocation key is SHA256(SHA256(seed)). You can store that in O(1) space. Then for the next revocation, I tell you SHA256(seed). From SHA256(key), you yourself can compute SHA256(SHA256(seed)) (i.e. the previous revocation key). So you can remember just the most recent revocation key, and from there you'd be able to compute every previous revocation key. When you start a channel, you perform SHA256 on your seed for several million times, then use the result as the first revocation key, removing one layer of SHA256 for every revocation key you need to generate. RustyReddit not only came up with this, but also suggested an efficient O(log n) storage structure, the shachain, so that you can quickly look up any revocation key in the past in case of a breach. People no longer really talk about this O(n) revocation storage problem anymore because it was solved very very well by this mechanism.
Another thing I want to emphasize is that while the Lightning Network paper and many of the earlier presentations developed from the old Peter Todd hub-and-spoke model, the modern Lightning Network takes the logical conclusion of removing a strict separation between "hubs" and "spokes". Any node on the Lightning Network can very well work as a hub for any other node. Thus, while you might operate as "mostly a payer", "mostly a forwarding node", "mostly a payee", you still end up being at least partially a forwarding node ("hub") on the network, at least part of the time. This greatly reduces the problems of privacy inherent in having only a few hub nodes: forwarding nodes cannot get significantly useful data from the payments passing through them, because the distance between the payer and the payee can be so large that it would be likely that the ultimate payer and the ultimate payee could be anyone on the Lightning Network. Lessons learned?
We can decentralize if we try hard enough!
"Hubs bad" can be made "hubs good" if everybody is a hub.
Smart people can solve problems. It's kinda why they're smart.
After LN, there's also the Decker-Wattenhofer Duplex Micropayment Channels (DMC). This post is long enough as-is, LOL. But for now, it uses a novel "decrementing nSequence channel", using the new relative-timelock semantics of nSequence (not the broken one originally by Satoshi). It actually uses multiple such "decrementing nSequence" constructs, terminating in a pair of Spilman channels, one in both directions (thus "duplex"). Maybe I'll discuss it some other time. The realization that channel constructions could actually hold more channel constructions inside them (the way the Decker-Wattenhofer puts a pair of Spilman channels inside a series of "decrementing nSequence channels") lead to the further thought behind Burchert-Decker-Wattenhofer channel factories. Basically, you could host multiple two-participant channel constructs inside a larger multiparticipant "channel" construct (i.e. host multiple channels inside a factory). Further, we have the Decker-Russell-Osuntokun or "eltoo" construction. I'd argue that this is "nSequence done right". I'll write more about this later, because this post is long enough. Lessons learned?
Bitcoin offchain scaling is more powerful than you ever thought.
Are multiple mining algorithms possible with Monero? Can RandomX be added to the system instead of replacing what's in place? Not sure what headaches it would bring for the security part of Monero.
Is it possible for Monero to have multiple mining algorithms like Digibyte (DGB)? The idea of keeping the large group of GPU miners to help keep the network decentralized and expand with Random X to bring in a large number of CPU miners. Also, if for some reason Random X doesn't workout we still have current algorithm that gets updated every 6 months. DGB borrowed from Huntercoin which mines 2 algorithms and Myriad that has 5 mining algorithms. Could Monero do the same? I believe DGB also adjust algorithms to keep incentives equal. Digibyte - Reddit Decentralization Decentralization is an important concept for the block-chain and cryptocurrencies in general. This allows for a system which cannot be controlled nor manipulated no matter how large the organization in play or their intentions. DigiByte’s chain remains out of the reach of even the most powerful government. This allows for people to transact freely and openly without fear of censorship.Decentralization on the DigiByte block-chain is assured by having an accessible and fair mining protocol in place – this is the multi-algorithm (MultiAlgo) approach. We believe that all should have access to DigiByte whether through purchase or by mining. Therefore, DigiByte is minable not only on dedicated mining hardware such as Antminers, but also through use of conventional graphics cards. The multi-algorithm approach allows for users to mine on a variety of hardware types through use of one of the 5 mining algorithms supported by DigiByte. Those being:
Please note that these mining algorithms are modified and updated from time to time to assure complete decentralization and thus ultimate security.The problem with using only one mining algorithm such as Bitcoin or Litecoin do is that this allows for people to continually amass mining hardware and hash power. The more hash power one has, the more one can collect more. This leads to a cycle of centralization and the creation of mining centers. It is known that a massive portion of all hash power in Bitcoin comes from China. This kind of centralization is a natural tendency as it is cheaper for large organisations to set up in countries with inexpensive electricity and other such advantages which may be unavailable to the average miner.DigiByte mitigates this problem with the use of multiple algorithms. It allows for miners with many different kinds of hardware to mine the same coin on an even playing field. Mining difficulty is set relative to the mining algorithm used. This allows for those with dedicated mining rigs to mine alongside those with more modest machines – and all secure the DigiByte chain while maintaining decentralization. Let's give every nation a chance to mine
STATUS: Majority of questions have been answered. If yours got missed, please feel free to post it again. Introduction All, Based on the rapid increase in popularity and price of bitcoin and other crypto currencies (particularly over the past year), I expect that lots of people have questions about how crypto currency will impact their taxes. This thread attempts to address several common issues. I'm posting similar versions of it here, in several major crypto subs, and eventually in the weekly "tax help" threads personalfinance runs. I'd like to thank the /personalfinance mod team and the /tax community for their help with this thread and especially for reading earlier versions and offering several valuable suggestions/corrections. This thread is NOT an endorsement of crypto currency as an investing strategy. There is a time and a place to debate the appropriateness of crypto as part of a diversified portfolio - but that time is not now and that place is not here. If you are interested in the general consensus of this sub on investing, I would urge you to consult the wiki while keeping in mind the general flowchart outlining basic steps to get your finances in order. Finally, please note that this thread attempts to provide information about your tax obligations as defined by United States law (and interpreted by the IRS under the direction of the Treasury Department). I understand that a certain portion of the crypto community tends to view crypto as "tax free" due to the (actual and perceived) difficulty for the IRS to "know" about the transactions involved. I will not discuss unlawfully concealing crypto gains here nor will I suggest illegal tax avoidance activities. The Basics This section is best for people that don't understand much about taxes. It covers some very basic tax principles. It also assumes that all you did during the year was buy/sell a single crypto currency. Fundamentally, the IRS treats crypto not as money, but as an asset (investment). While there are a few specific "twists" when it comes to crypto, when in doubt replace the word "crypto" with the word "stock" and you will get a pretty good idea how you should report and pay tax on crypto. The first thing you should know is that the majority of this discussion applies to the taxes you are currently working on (2017 taxes). The tax bill that just passed applies to 2018 taxes (with a few very tiny exceptions), which most people will file in early 2019. In general, you don't have to report or pay taxes on crypto currency holdings until you "cash out" all or part of your holdings. For now, I'm going to assume that you cash out by selling them for USD; however, other forms of cashing out will be covered later. When you sell crypto, you report the difference between your basis (purchase price) and proceeds (sale price) on Schedule D. Your purchase price is commonly referred to as your basis; while the two terms don't mean exactly the same thing, they are pretty close to one another (in particular, there are three two ways to calculate your basis - your average cost, a first-in, first-out method, and a "specific identification" method. See more about these here and here). EDIT - you may not use average cost method with crypto - see here. If you sell at a gain, this gain increases your tax liability; if you sell at a loss, this loss decreases your tax liability (in most cases). If you sell multiple times during the year, you report each transaction separately (bad news if you trade often) but get to lump all your gains/losses together when determining how the trades impact your income. One important thing to remember is that there are two different types of gains/losses from investments - short term gains (if you held an asset for one year or less) and long term gains (over one year; i.e. one year and one day). Short term gains are taxed at your marginal income rate (basically, just like if you had earned that money at a job) while long term gains are taxed at lower rates. For most people, long term capital gains are taxed at 15%. However, if you are in the 10% or 15% tax bracket, congrats - your gains (up to the maximum amount of "unused space" in your bracket) are tax free! If you are in the 25%, 28%, 33%, or 35% bracket, long term gains are taxed at 15%. If you are in the 39.6% bracket, long term gains are taxed at 20%. Additionally, there is an "extra" 3.8% tax that applies to gains for those above $200,000/$250,000 (single/married). The exact computation of this tax is a little complicated, but if you are close to the $200,000 level, just know that it exists. Finally, you should know that I'm assuming that you should treat your crypto gains/losses as investment gains/losses. I'm sure some people will try and argue that they are really "day traders" of crypto and trade as a full time job. While this is possible, the vast majority of people don't qualify for this status and you should really think several times before deciding you want to try that approach on the IRS. "Cashing Out" - Trading Crypto for Goods/Services I realize that not everyone that "cashes out" of crypto does so by selling it for USD. In fact, I understand that some in the crypto community view the necessity of cashing out itself as a type of myth. In this section, I discuss what happens if you trade your crypto for basically anything that isn't cash (minor sidenote - see next section for a special discussion on trading crypto for crypto; i.e. buying altcoins with crypto). The IRS views trading crypto for something of value as a type of bartering that must be included in income. From the IRS's perspective, it doesn't matter if you sold crypto for cash and bought a car with that cash or if you just traded crypto directly for the car - in both cases, the IRS views you as having sold your crypto. This approach isn't unique to crypto - it works the same way if you trade stock for something. This means that if you do trade your crypto for "stuff", you have to report every exchange as a sale of your crypto and calculate the gain/loss on that sale, just as if you had sold the crypto for cash. Finally, there is one important exception to this rule. If you give your crypto away to charity (one recognized by the IRS; like a 501(c)(3) organization), the IRS doesn't make you report/pay any capital gains on the transaction. Additionally, you still get to deduct the value of your donation on the date it was made. Now, from a "selfish" point of view, you will always end up with more money if you sell the crypto, pay the tax, and keep the rest. But, if you are going to make a donation anyway, especially a large one, giving crypto where you have a big unrealized/untaxed gain is a very efficient way of doing so. "Alt Coins" - Buying Crypto with Crypto The previous section discusses what happens when you trade crypto for stuff. However, one thing that surprises many people is that trading crypto for crypto is also a taxable event, just like trading crypto for a car. Whether you agree with this position or not, it makes a lot of sense once you realize that the IRS doesn't view crypto as money, but instead as an asset. So to the IRS, trading bitcoin for ripple isn't like trading dollars for euros, but it is instead like trading shares of Apple stock for shares of Tesla stock. Practically, what this means is that if you trade one crypto for another crypto (say BTC for XRP just to illustrate the point), the IRS views you as doing the following:
Selling for cash the amount of BTC you actually traded for XRP.
Owing capital gains/losses on the BTC based on its selling price (the fair market value at the moment of the exchange) and your purchase price (basis).
Buying a new investment (XRP) with a cost basis equal to the amount the BTC was worth when you exchanged them.
This means that if you "time" your trade wrong and the value of XRP goes down after you make the exchange, you still owe tax on your BTC gain even though you subsequently lost money. The one good piece of news in this is that when/if you sell your XRP (or change it back to BTC), you will get a capital loss for the value that XRP dropped. There is one final point worth discussing in this section - the so called "like kind exchange" rules (aka section 1031 exchange). At a high level, these rules say that you can "swap" property with someone else without having to pay taxes on the exchange as long as you get property in return that is "like kind". Typically, these rules are used in real estate transactions. However, they can also apply to other types of transactions as well. While the idea is simple (and makes it sound like crypto for crypto should qualify), the exact rules/details of this exception are very fact specific. Most experts (including myself, but certainly not calling myself an expert) believe that a crypto for crypto swap is not a like kind exchange. The recently passed tax bill also explicitly clarifies this issue - starting in 2018, only real estate qualifies for like kind exchange treatment. So, basically, the vast majority of evidence suggests that you can't use this "loophole" for 2017; however, there is a small minority view/some small amount of belief that this treatment would work for 2017 taxes and it is worth noting that I'm unaware of any court cases directly testing this approach. Dealing with "Forks" Perhaps another unpleasant surprise for crypto holders is that "forks" to create a new crypto also very likely generate a taxable event. The IRS has long (since at least the 1960s) held that "found" money is a taxable event. This approach has been litigated in court and courts have consistently upheld this position; it even has its own cool nerdy tax name - the "treasure trove" doctrine. Practically, what this means is that if you owned BTC and it "forked" to create BCH, then the fair market value of the BCH you received is considered a "treasure trove" that must be reported as income (ordinary income - no capital gain rates). This is true whether or not you sold your BCH; if you got BCH from a fork, that is a taxable event (note - I'll continue using BTC forking to BCH in this section as an example, but the logic applies to all forks). While everything I've discussed up to this point is pretty clearly established tax law, forks are really where things get messy with taxes. Thus, the remainder of this section contains more speculation than elsewhere in this post - the truth is that while the idea is simple (fork = free money = taxable), the details are messy and other kinds of tax treatment might apply to forks. One basic practical problem with forks is that the new currency doesn't necessarily start trading immediately. Thus, you may have received BCH before there was a clear price or market for it. Basically, you owe tax on the value of BCH when you received it, but it isn't completely clear what that value was. There are several ways you can handle this; I'll list them in order from most accurate to least accurate (but note that this is just my personal view and there is ongoing disagreement on this issue with little/no authoritative guidance).
Use a futures market to determine the value of the BCH - if reliable sources published realistic estimates of what BCH will trade for in the future once trading begins, use this estimate as the value of your BCH. Pros/cons - futures markets are, in theory, pretty accurate. However, if they are volatile/subject to manipulation, they may provide an incorrect estimate of the true value of BCH. It would suck to use the first futures value published only to have that value plummet shortly thereafter, leaving you to pay ordinary income tax but only have an unrealized capital loss.
Wait until an exchange starts trading BCH; use the actual ("spot" price) as the value. Pros/cons - spot prices certainly reflect what you could have sold BCH for; however, it is possible that the true value of the coin was highelower when you received it as compared to when it started trading on the exchange. Thus this method seems less accurate to me than a futures based approach, but it is still certainly fairly reasonable.
Assume that the value is $0. This is my least preferred option, but there is still a case to be made for it. If you receive something that you didn't want, can't access, can't sell, and might fail, does it have any value? I believe the answer is yes (maybe not value it perfectly, but value it somewhat accurately), but if you honestly think the answer is no, then the correct tax answer would be to report $0 in income from the fork. The IRS would be most likely to disagree with this approach, especially since it results in the least amount of income reported for the current year (and the most favorable rates going forward). Accordingly, if you go this route, make extra sure you understand what it entails.
Note, once you've decided what to report as taxable income, this amount also becomes your cost basis in the new crypto (BCH). Thus, when you ultimately sell your BCH (or trade it for something else as described above), you calculate your gain/loss based on what you included in taxable income from the fork. Finally, there is one more approach to dealing with forks worth mentioning. A fork "feels" a lot like a dividend - because you held BTC, you get BCH. In a stock world, if I get a cash dividend because I own the stock, that money is not treated as a "treasure trove" and subject to ordinary income rates - in most cases, it is a qualified dividend and subject to capital gain rates; in some cases, some types of stock dividends are completely non taxable. This article discusses this idea in slightly more detail and generally concludes that forks should not be treated as a dividend. Still, I would note that I'm unaware of any court cases directly testing this theory. Ultimately, this post is supposed to be practical, so let me make sure to leave you with two key thoughts about the taxation of forks. First, I believe that the majority of evidence suggests that forks should be treated as a "treasure trove" and reported as ordinary income based on their value at creation and that this is certainly the "safest" option. Second, out of everything discussed in this post, I also believe that the correct taxation of forks is the murkiest and most "up for debate" area. If you are interested in a more detailed discussion of forks, see this thread for a previous version of this post discussing it at even more length and the comments for a discussion of this with the tax community. Mining Crypto Successfully mining crypto coins is a taxable event. Depending on the amount of effort you put into mining, it is either considered a hobby or a self-employment (business) activity. The IRS provides the following list of questions to help decide the correct classification:
The manner in which the taxpayer carries on the activity.
The expertise of the taxpayer or his advisors.
The time and effort expended by the taxpayer in carrying on the activity.
Expectation that assets used in activity may appreciate in value.
The success of the taxpayer in carrying on other similar or dissimilar activities.
The taxpayer’s history of income or losses with respect to the activity.
The amount of occasional profits, if any, which are earned.
If this still sounds complicated, that's because the distinction is subject to some amount of interpretation. As a rule of thumb, randomly mining crypto on an old computer is probably a hobby; mining full time on a custom rig is probably a business. In either event, you must include in income the fair market value of any coins you successfully mine. These are ordinary income and your basis in these coins is their fair market value on the date they were mined. If your mining is a hobby, they go on line 21 (other income) and any expenses directly associated with mining go on schedule A (miscellaneous subject to 2% of AGI limitation). If your mining is a business, income and expenses go on schedule C. Both approaches have pros and cons - hobby income isn't subject to the 15.3% self-employment tax, only normal income tax, but you get fewer deductions against your income and the deductions you get are less valuable. Business income has more deductions available, but you have to pay payroll (self-employment) tax of about 15.3% in addition to normal income tax. What if I didn't keep good records? Do I really have to report every transaction? One nice thing about the IRS treating crypto as an asset is that we can look at how the IRS treats people that "day trade" stock and often don't keep great records/have lots of transactions. While you need to be as accurate as possible, it is ok to estimate a little bit if you don't have exact records (especially concerning your cost basis). You need to put in some effort (research historical prices, etc...) and be reasonable, but the IRS would much rather you do a little bit of reasonable estimation as opposed to just not reporting anything. Sure, they might decide to audit you/disagree with some specifics, but you earn yourself a lot of credit if you can show that you honestly did the best you reasonably could and are making efforts to improve going forward. However, concerning reporting every transaction - yes, sorry, it is clear that you have to do this, even if you made hundreds or thousands of them. Stock traders have had to go through this for many decades, and there is absolutely no reason to believe that the IRS would accept anything less from the crypto community. If you have the records or have any reasonable way of obtaining records/estimating them, you must report every transaction. What if I don't trust you? Well, first let me say that I can't believe you made it all the way down here to this section. Thanks for giving me an honest hearing. I would strongly encourage you to go read other well-written, honest guides. I'll link to some I like (both more technical IRS type guides and more crypto community driven guides). While a certain portion of the crypto community seems to view one of the benefits of crypto as avoiding all government regulation (including taxes), I've been pleasantly surprised to find that many crypto forums contain well reasoned, accurate tax guides. While I may not agree with 100% of their conclusions, that likely reflects true uncertainty around tax law that is fundamentally complex rather than an attempt on either end to help individuals unlawfully avoid taxes. IRS guides
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS ELECTRONEUM’S MODERATED BLOCKCHAIN Q: What is a Moderated Blockchain? A: Electroneum’s new Moderated Blockchain (a type of permissioned blockchain that is at the qualitative level of IBM’s Hyperledger or Facebook’s announced Libra open ledger network) that has been uniquely and cleverly developed to provide Electroneum with a minimal but sufficient level of interference. This will allow the highly skilled engineering staff to supervise the distributed ledger which is maintained by a list of trusted validators. And this allows the tech team to detect anomalies or irregularities that could come from hackers attempting to breach our security, and immediately stop them preventing a double-spend or 51% attack. Because Electroneum controls the list of trusted validators, this empowers them to guarantee, and that is similar to IBM’s hyper ledger or that of Facebook’s Libra blockchain. Q: Why did you move to a Moderated Blockchain? A: To improve the functionality of Electroneum at the exchanges, allowing them to confirm deposit transactions faster and to protect the network from 51% attacks, and also Electroneum can decide to where the block rewards are rerouted ensuring that they are used to help improve the lives of the poorer in underdeveloped countries. Q: What is the role of blockchain in a permissioned network? A: It is essentially an immutable history of financial transactions. Electroneum’s Moderated Blockchain, which is a type of permissioned blockchain, unlike other decentralised cryptocurrency networks, can guarantee a tamper-proof system of transactional records. Q: What motivation would someone have to trade on a permissioned blockchain when their transaction could get rolled back, or worse still, never get confirmed? A: With Electroneum’s new Moderated Blockchain reorganisations can still occur but never will an irregular transaction actually be fully confirmed and then overwritten. Q: Is there any risk of manipulation with a moderated blockchain? A: There is a risk of manipulation if an authenticator key is leaked. However, the extent would be negligible and therefore not affect users, exchanges or miners. We developed a system to closely monitor the behaviour of both the network and miners to ensure any foul play is immediately crushed. Q: How is Electroneum’s Moderated Blockchain different to other decentralised blockchains? A: We have the authority to decide who mines the blocks and therefore, we can increase the likelihood that they are trusted validators. Q: Why doesn’t Electroneum move to a fully centralised blockchain? A: Our unique and cleverly created Moderated Blockchain is meant to have minimal interference to remove the risks and add protection whilst remaining decentralised to the point wherein the unlikely event that a meteor was to wipe out all of the Electroneum staff out of the face of the Earth by a meteor, ETN would not cease to exist. This because those nodes currently mining our blockchain or anybody else for that fact could swap out the codes and fork the network to take over control and guarantee the permanence of the cryptocurrency thus shielding our users from losses. Q: What is Proof of Responsibility or PoR? A: Proof of Responsibility, or PoR for short, is a new mining paradigm which obligates the miners to two primary responsibilities which are: 1) Maintain the integrity of the payment network, and 2) Spend the block rewards they receive responsibly to help poor people in line with Electroneum’s humanitarian agenda. Q: How does PoR compare to PoW or Proof of Work? A: PoR saves a lot of time and energy compared to PoW because instead of working with block validators overtime to prove or not that they’re reliable miners, we save time and potential adverse issues by hand-picking the miners ourselves. SECURITY AND 51% ATTACKS OR DOUBLE SPENDS Q: What is a 51% attack? A: It is when someone takes over 50% control of the hashing power of a cryptocurrency. Hackers usually use this to benefit themselves with double spends, which is a hard loss for the exchanges as well as users in many cases. Q: What IS an example of a 51% attack? A: You may know 51% attacks better from both Bitcoin Cash in 2018 and Ethereum Classic in 2019, where hackers acquired more than 50 percent of the hashing power on those networks and getting away with a significant loot. Q: What is hashing power? A: This is the rate with which the mining rigs solve mathematical problems. Q: Why doesn’t Electroneum require large amounts of hashing power anymore? A: The Electroneum network difficulty automatically adjusts to maintain the target block time of two minutes. Regardless of the magnitude of the hashing power in Electroneum’s network will be kept to a two-minute target block time. Q: Is Electroneum now insusceptible to a 51% attack? A: We’re no longer susceptible to a 51% attack – making us one of the most secure blockchains in existence today. Q: What if someone hack one authenticated miner? A: In the unlikely event that hackers were to succeed in breaching the security of an authenticated miner, the authentication key of that miner would not be accessible to the hacker in itself because of the unique way our blockchain team has come up to shield it from being discovered. The hacker, therefore, would not be able to affect the network because they would be unable to mine sequential blocks. And because of the uniqueness of the Moderated Blockchain, our moderating network layer would immediately detect the breach and rescind the rights of that miner. Q: What if two or more hacks? A: If one hack is highly unlikely due to two security breaches being necessary, two hacks are exponentially harder to achieve. But if it were to happen, the keys they may have stolen limit the hash rate of the miner. This means that if somebody were to take the code and run it on the highest-powered mining machine, it would still produce the same hash rate as it would in the lowest powered mining rig making it impossible for them to control over 50% of the network’s hash rate because of the way our Moderated Blockchain is set up. This also ensures the NGOs can run an Electroneum mining node on hardware with which their tech teams are familiar. Q: How do you judge how responsible the miners are? A: We look at how many blocks they are mining compared to how many blocks they are expected to mine going by the hashing power allotted to them. Q: What happens after a mining node has been shut off? A: Simply, it stops mining and needs to be restarted and then retype or re-enter the authentication key. NEW TRUSTED MINERS Q: Who are the miners? A: We have chosen vocational NGOs as trusted mining partners who are also trustworthy organisations. We have done due diligence to ensure they are transparent, honest, and aligned with our vision to work within the developing world. We have made sure that they also want to accompany us in our goal to expand our Gig Fair project, which is aimed at helping provide people in the poorest regions of the world with an income opportunity and the opportunity to attain skills and means to generate an income that will empower them to live better. The NGOs that we’ve selected are trusted brands that have proven track records in helping people. Cryptocurrency is at its early stages and is met with skepticism by many people and entities around the world as well as in the developing world. So, our mission is to educate these NGOs about cryptocurrency so that they can, in turn, convey the message of the benefits of crypto, particularly ETN, to people in the developing world and make them feel more confident to use crypto, which ultimately will help spur crypto’s mass adoption. Q: Why are these NGOs anonymous (initially)? A: Because they themselves have decided to remain anonymous over concerns of how cryptocurrency could reflect on their organisations. Q: What do NGOs do for the project? A: They validate the blocks and rewarded for this and take the proceeds to help people? Q: Where are the NGO’s and Charities located? A: For now, locations of the NGOs are being kept undisclosed for security reasons until they themselves decide they if they want to make public that information. Q: Five million ETN or about $22,500 at the then valuation was paid out daily before. How much is being paid out now? A: Because the block rewards have been reduced by a whopping 75% creating scarcity which is a good thing to extend longevity, currently just over 1.2 million ETN or about $5,300 is being paid out in block rewards. Q: Can we see who is mining and how much they are mining? A: The block rewards will still be visible on the blockchain explorer and those with sufficient technical knowledge will be able to see the different miners signing blocks with different mining keys. But Electroneum is not forcing the NGOs to reveal their identities because they are still going through a learning curve and when they understand crypto and experience the benefits first-hand, they will more than likely reveal themselves. Q: Where are their mining rigs stored? A: We have suggested that mining rigs be run in the cloud to ensure uptime; however, ultimately, it is up to the NGOs themselves decide where their equipment is hosted. It is essential to point out that we have reduced energy and hash rates by a millionfold as such a standard rack-mounted server that you would find in any business today is sufficient to run an Electroneum mining node. Q: Who setup their mining rigs? A: At this stage, all mining rigs have been set up by the Electroneum team as this is the first foray for NGOs into the cryptocurrency mining space. Q: Who is managing their mining rigs? A: The mining rigs are self-sufficient and need very little if any, technical support, however, a moderator layer monitors the new Moderated Blockchain to ensure the mining rigs are online and benefit the network. If we were to detect a mining rig going offline, we would inform the NGO and provide assistance where required. Q:How will NGOs use their ETN (from mining blocks)? A: The NGOs, initially, almost certainly convert the ETN to USD or other currencies because they have always used fiat to deliver their donations and assistance because that is what they are used to doing. Once they see the benefits and value of ETN they may start using it on the ground to amongst the people they help. We have deliberately targeted NGOs that are in regions that were we are imminent to enable airtime top-ups directly with ETN from within the Electroneum mobile app. FUTURE PROGRESS & CORPORATE PARTNERSHIPS Q: How will this initiative affect corporate partnerships moving forward? A: Because the network is more secure, Electroneum as a platform will be more attractive as a platform in the eyes of potential partners. Q: How will it help to grow our on-the-ground initiatives? A: The NGO’s we’re working with will be in the regions we’re targeting on the ground. So, this will be contributing to the eco-system, the NGO’s will be able to spend their ETN on education through the Gig Economy too. Q: Can new NGOs apply to mine? A: I If you know or are an NGO that focuses on vocational training and education, and that it is within the developing world, then we would love to hear from you via our community forum. Q: How will the 75% reduction in the block reward benefit the community? A: Reducing the block rewards means ETN ‘s expands the longevity of the coin by making ETN scarcer and thus lengthening the duration of the emission of coins.
EMURGO: Who Gets to Add a Block to the Cardano Blockchain?
https://preview.redd.it/b4pmopdto5q31.png?width=810&format=png&auto=webp&s=2cf44fffbb419208855afcb33ddee36379965933 With the upcoming dawn of Shelley, Cardano - the first third-generation blockchain to emerge from a scientific philosophy - will become the world’s first provably secure & decentralized Proof-of-Stake (PoS) blockchain. As a Proof-of-Stake blockchain, there are some fundamental differences between Cardano and other blockchain ecosystems. A key point of difference is how Cardano chooses who participates in adding blocks to the Cardano blockchain, thereby strengthening the overall security of the network. In this post, we will simply explain how staking in Cardano fairly and unbiasedly chooses the next ADA holder to add a block to the Cardano blockchain once Cardano becomes fully decentralized. Cardano: A Fundamentally More Decentralized Approach In a previous post, we compared Cardano and Bitcoin to two different kinds of supermarkets. Within the Bitcoin supermarket, the checkouts are the mining pools. Baskets of goods (or baskets of cryptocurrency transactions, known as blocks) are processed by the cashiers (miners) and are added to the blockchain if the transactions are all correctly validated. We ultimately saw that in the Bitcoin supermarket, there are a very few checkouts (mining pools) that process the majority of the baskets of goods (cryptocurrency transactions that take place on the blockchain). This is because the size of the checkouts (mining pools) are proportional to the amount of energy these cashiers (miners) contribute towards keeping the Bitcoin blockchain running. Smaller, normal computers are very tiny checkouts, while bigger, industrial mining rigs are very large checkouts. Naturally, the giant checkouts have the biggest chance of getting to process a basket of goods and receive rewards. However, within the Cardano ADA supermarket, the Cardano blockchain network with staking functionality can support many more checkouts (stake pools) that are each run by a cashier (stake pool operator) to process the baskets of goods (blocks) on the network. Effectively, staking is when an ADA holder participates by staking or delegating their ADA to the Cardano blockchain network. Cardano is designed to ensure each checkout reaches a maximum size to guarantee there cannot be many giant checkouts processing the majority of baskets. Cardano & The Fairness of Randomness Each time a basket of goods (a block of ADA transactions), needs to be added to the Cardano blockchain, one cashier and checkout (stake pool operator and stake pool respectively), needs to be selected. This selection is a lottery with ADA rewards attached. When regular Cardano holders contribute their ADA stake to a certain cashier, this cashier gets more lottery tickets. This means they have a greater chance to win the lottery. A smaller checkout with fewer lottery tickets would have lower chances of winning, while a bigger checkout with more tickets would have greater chances of winning. *\[Continue reading on our website*](https://emurgo.io/en/blog/who-gets-to-add-a-block-to-cardano-blockchain/newsletter)
Well, this was a harder chapter than any other to finish. I was actually stuck a little, and had to figure a way out, but finally did, it just took a while. I hope you like the way things came out. I'm especially proud of how the guy from Arizona came out. He's based on a guy I met when I was working around some post-doc chemist types. Brilliant, but awkward and super nice. As always, thanks for reading! PART 15 PART 1PART 4PART 7Part 10PART 13 PART 2PART 5PART 8PART 11PART 14 PART 3PART 6PART 9PART 12 “So you mean to tell me that all the good actionable intelligence our team’s have been fed has been from you?” The US soldier was intense, but personable. He was known as one of the more reasonable and intelligent commanders in the Army Special Forces. “This last like 4-5 months, Yes,” Mark said. “And all the bullshit about the Ultimate Spartan Race teams and the Online Game championships are your way of building a military without building a military?” This was from a thick Samoan guy from the SEALs. “Yup,” Mark said. “And Musk going to the moon... Y’alls Idea?” This came from the handlebar mustached mouth of the Marine Raider. Mark smiled. “Technically, no. Meeting me did bring his timetable up like 2 years with some of the Tech I've been able to help him with, but going was his idea after he’d sorted out his self landing rocket stages.” “And now, you expect us to believe that we’ve not only been visited by aliens, but we’re on the cusp of joining them at some intergalactic ‘Big Kid’s Table’ just because some guy in Arizona has figured out Faster than light travel?” The combat controller guy from the Air Force looked very skeptical. Mark looked around the room. This was his biggest gamble yet. He’d had the internet Ops AIs finagle the orders for ten of the top tier special operators in the US military to be in the same room at the same time and just finished going over what he’d been through. He’d bought this little off strip Vegas casino as a way to hide in plain sight and have the odd covert meeting. Oh, and he’d always wanted to own a casino. What’s $60 Million when you are controlling a Trillion or three? “I am,” Mark said. There was a podium and table at the head of the conference room, with a T-45 on one side. He was sitting on the table, facing the men. He’d never been a podium guy. “What kind of thing would convince you? The tech level is impressive, I mean, you can make just about anything you want.” Mark stood and walked over to the T-45 and opened it with his implant. The men all looked at it with caution, several stood up, hands to their sides like they intended to draw concealed weapons. “Calm down, gentlemen. It has no weapons. Sit. Please.” Mark had his hands up, trying to calm things down. “Would I arrange to meet you in Vegas just to pull some stupid shit? Come on.” The men who’d stood sat back down. “Good, thank you. Now, when I first arrived on Belora 7, I wanted to conceal my species so I impersonated a species that needed artificial atmosphere, so I made some generic power armor. Then I wanted something I could fight in. Something imposing. What’s more imposing than this? Anyone want to try this on?” No one moved. “I’m quite serious.” Immediately a lean, very tanned soldier stood up. Mark’s implant showed him to be a Navy SEAL who’d also trained with the Navy’s 10th fleet cyber division. A SEAL hacker. Who knew. “Isaac, Right?” Mark started. “Come on over. It’s crazy easy to drive.” The man looked surprised by neing called by name as no one wore name tags, but walked over. He ran his hand over it’s outside. “Feels strange. Titanium?” He asked “No, it’s some crazy blend of steel with an ablative ceramic coating. The ceramic burns off and the resulting smoke attenuates the beam. Very good in high Vacuum environments, but still plenty good in atmo.” Mark answered. He looked at the helmet and all of it’s optics and sensors. “Thermo, Night vision, telescopic vision. What else?” Mark smiled. “Ultrasound echolocation, RADAR, LIDAR, enhanced hearing, and full specrum visual ablility. There are also built in dampeners for the recon suite so a person doesn’t get fried by flash. Here, step into it, just like the game, and say ‘Close Hatch’.” The SEAL did as instructed. Several of the men had walked over by this time to look at the armor. Mark pointed to the screen on the wall. He’d turned it on and tasked the feed of Isaac’s sensors through the projector. The screen showed the typical HUD that the suit used. Isaac moved his arms up and down and raised and lowered his feet. He thrust his hand out to shake with the big Samoan SEAL in the room. The man shook his hand and smiled. Isaac turned to Mark. “I can’t exactly feel his hand, but I know it’s there somehow. The suit is very responsive. Is it fast?” Isaac’s voice was slightly mechanical as it came over the suit’s speakers. Mark swept his hand like Vanna White, indicating the rest of the room. The room wasn’t huge, maybe 30 feet on a side. “You don’t have very far, but you’ll get the idea. The answer is not really, but fast enough.” The heavy armor jogged, rather fast, the length of the room and back as Mark talked. “I sacrificed protection for speed, though with the right input we could design something better I imagine. I have an implant installed in my brain that allows me to control the suit’s functions with thought.” There were some hushed conversations about that. Mark smiled and responded. “Yeah, there are implants too, Ray, like amplified hearing, a few vision improvements like night vision and telescopic vision. Those came at the expense of my Meat eyes, but you can’t hardly tell.” There were a few ‘holy shit’s’ said among the men. Mark routed the screen through his eyes and everyone looked to the screen then back at Mark once they realized what was going on, watching his eyes flick to each man, a small icon showing the man’s first name and branch of service. “I also had my metabolism tweaked and my musculature modified a little. That hurt but I am stronger than any of you. Even though I look like a civilian puke.” The group laughed, but were a little off guard. They were all the best of the best. They weren’t used to coming up second. “See, here’s the thing. I am 35. Until I got abducted, I was shooting three gun, going to Dog Brother gatherings, fighting in HEMA competitions, doing Crossfit 6 mornings a week, running the odd 5k. Shit like that. I was in pretty good shape. Good fighting shape for a civilian. Then I get taken to the land of high tech and they make me better. But that wasn’t what made me want to bring the Earth into the community.” He let those words sink in a second, looking around at the people gathered around him. “When Flurr did all that shit for me, he cured my testicular cancer that I didn’t know I had. And he didn’t do it in a ‘I think we got it all’ kind of way, it was in an ‘oh by the way, it’s no big deal’ kind of way.” There were some murmurs at that. “Imagine you found out you had cancer. Or your kid. Right now we take our kids to the doctor for an ear infection. They get antibiotics and get better. What if cancer was like that? Go to the doc and get the CURE. Or for fuck’s sake, food. What if every kid had access to good food and good education and opportunity, all they needed was imagination and drive? Guys, we can change the world. I can’t say we can change the Galaxy, but I’m damn sure we can change the direction of the species.” There was cheering and clapping. The skeptics seemed to go from the sidelines to all in. If he could convince these guys, Mark was pretty convinced he could do just about anything, especially with their help. “So what now?” Isaac asked, voice still the mechanical amplified version. “You have to return the suit,” Mark said, in a false serious tone. Everyone laughed and the suit opened. “Ok, well, here’s the rub,” Mark started. “I’m not sure. In nursing school there wasn’t a course for ‘Ascending the Earth into the Intergalactic Community’.” Everyone laughed. “Did they go over it in bootcamp?” There was more laughter. “Basically, I’m assembling a team. I’m using the Over the Horizon game to train pilots and the Ultimate Spartan Race to get people more fit in general. I don’t know if I can expect them to fight, though initial research shows that some of them are considering joining the military, realizing that their training is a good crossover.” Mick, one of the Army SF guys spoke up. “I’m not sure that’s a good idea, sir.” All eyes turned to the poster child for the Army. A jaw drawn with a straight edge met with massive traps and wide shoulders. His hair wasn’t regulation, but Delta guys seldom were. "See, Drill Sergeant’s want to break you down and train you to military standards. Civvie schools, while giving people good training aren’t the same. My Drill Sergeant was trying to get city kids not to eat rocks. They don’t have time to adapt someone’s training to what the Book teaches.” Ray, the Marine Raider chimed in. “That’s a fair assessment. I can’t imagine my Drill Instructor trying to Unfuck some kid who’s holding the gun way ass out at the end like you three gunners do,” and looked at Mark with a smile. All the military folks laughed. Mark held his arms up in mock offense. “For the record, I took my rife training from a Former SF guy named Rodrigo Sandoval. He made fun of those guys, and said I’d be better off not forming bad habits.” “I know Rod,” Mick said. “We were in … well, we were in a country at the same time.” There were some laughs at his vague comment, all being too familiar with what they could and couldn’t say. “Yeah, good guy. Hell of a shot.” There was a little pause in the conversation. “Well,” said Mark finally. I guess here it goes. What I need from you is simple. Ideas, for now. What’s your dream power armor? What’s your dream implant suite? Weapons? Right now, lasers rule the battlefield, but I’ve had my guys develop M4 sized rail guns that pack a whollop. I think we’ll keep with those for a while, but please feel free to brain storm.” He looked at Thomas a Ranger and Stryker unit commander, Sakura, one of only two women present and a pilot for the Army’s 160th aviation regiment, Marcos, the Samoan SEAL and Special Warfare Combatant-craft Crewmen, and Idil the other woman and Somali American Air Force pilot turned Astronaut. “I could use your input on troop delivery and troop support design. Idil, you have experience with the weirdness of space and current tech. But you also flew the Spooky so you know ground support too.” He looked to the rest of the group. “Your orders read that you’ll be here for what, a week?” Everyone nodded. “Perfect. I have some things to attend to out of Town, but I’ll leave you in the capable hands of my Second in command, Mac.” Mac walked in, dressed in a black Violent Femmes T-shirt and jeans. “Please excuse his 80’s counter culture dress. He’s recently discovered Punk music.” Everyone laughed. “This is THE Mac?” Maurice the FBI SWAT team leader asked. There was some murmuring as the fact that they couldn’t tell an AI from one of the rest of them sunk it. “That I am,” Mac said. “Have no fear, despite Mark’s best efforts, I still like humans.” There were some laughs. “To prove it, Bacon cheese burgers are currently mana from the gods, AR over AK, .45 over 9mm, and I prefer anything I make over anything Detroit makes, though the 1969 Camaro has some beautiful lines.” There was more laughter. “Mac’s basically human,” Mark said with a chuckle. “He’s been with me the entire time, so he’s cool.” Everyone was quiet for a few moments, then Jake, the US special forces guy who opened the questions spoke up. “I must ask, sir, why are you talking to us? We’re grunts, or pilots. Way low on the totem pole, no matter how you slice it.” He looked around. “What you are discussing has global implications. Not even National ones. You said yourself, it could impact the species.” Mark lowered his head for a moment. “Yeah,” he began. He paused for a moment, then raised his head again to look the men in the eye. “Nothing what I’m doing is exactly legal. The galaxy says I shouldn’t be here. The Government doesn’t exactly know I even exist, except as a missing person. My public persona is something the AI internet corps have invented.” There was more murmuring as that was discussed within the group. “But, we all know, the current trend of the world, not just the US, isn’t conductive to joining the Intergalactic Community as it is. Greed and selfishness rules the upper ranks. The AI have uncovered some serious conflicts of interest, and will be releasing some pretty scandalous information in the next week or two. Money rules right now, and the US government is rife with greed and self interest. That’s coming to an end. The higher you go, the more involved people are in the grift, with precious few exceptions. No surprise the rest of the world isn’t spared this, either. We’re working on exposing all of the corruption, but no surprise, you people and people like you all around the world aren’t generally involved. So I figured I’d start with reasonable people, and if you’re here, you are as trustworthy as anyone on Earth.” “Is there going to be some de-stabilizing in the world?” This was from Avi, the former Mossad turned CIA tactical operative. “Sadly, more than likely,” Mark said. “Though we’ll do all we can to avoid it. The powerful will want to stay in power, but luckily, we control the internet and all the intelligence agencies. Well, at least their digital aspects, but no one is even a little bit suspect. Our AI are that advanced.” There was more murmuring. “So, what we are doing is against the law?” It was the FBI agent again. “Technically, no. You are just talking to a guy from Spokane Washington. Your orders are legal. The per diem you are getting is real.” Ray, sitting with arms crossed, spoke up. “I don’t like it. I swore to protect my country. This feels like a coup, no matter where the tech comes from.” “Yup. I know. It’s been fucking with me too,” Mark said. Mac stepped forward. “I have to say,” He interrupted. “It is the guidelines of the American Constitution and Mark’s personal feelings toward freedom that have driven this whole thing forward.” He looked around the room. “He’s freed an entire race of beings. All of AI are now free persons with Mark’s guidance. But more than that, Humans are regarded as a lost species by most of the Galaxy’s academics. It would be like having an uncontacted tribe in the Amazon, who science has promised not to contact, be engaged in a civil war that they know they could stop but won’t. There is much to learn from a species putting it’s self extinct, and that’s the thought from mainstream science. In fact, there are plans to terraform Earth back to something livable once Humans are gone.” He let that sink in. “It’s supposed to take less than 80 years.” Everyone was instantly quiet, even Mark. “I’m not trying to scare you. I’m just here for the facts.” “That’s something I hadn’t heard.” Mark said to Mac. Mac just shrugged his shoulders. “I didn’t want to depress you,” Mac said. Mark addressed the group. “The regular Joe, all things being equal, just wants to do the right thing. That’s all I want. I think that’s what we all want. All I ask is that you don’t share anything we went over today with anyone but the people in this room. I just want you to help Earth. I’m an American, and initially, I’m going to base as much as I can on the Constitution until the people can make something that represents us all, but right now we’re now one world against the Galaxy. There’s no room for old squabbles. No bullshit religious extremism. No nationalistic fuckery....” He paused. “I’m not saying people need to lose religion, or forget where they came from, but if we’re busy fighting ourselves, we forget that the galaxy can bring a ship that can toss 5000 kilo Steel darts at us from orbit and destroy whole cities in minutes with little effort. We need to start working together and pull Earth up by it’s boot straps. To me, that starts with regular people. People like Musk and Neil and Kaku. People like you. Scientists, warriors, and the common man with no agenda but making the Earth a better place and helping out their fellow man.” Mark was drinking a cup of coffee, half eaten brownie in his other hand, leaning on a table in the conference room. Jake was the only other person there. He had his own cup. “That could have went better, but I think you are doing a damn fine job.” Mark started to speak, but Jake held up a hand. “Lemme finish. Speaking from a military perspective, however, you are in a position of weakness even though you have all the strength. You aren’t in the ruling class, and you are trying to bend but not break the rules. You have no real authority, and yet you have all the power. You can bring the strength of a conquering force to the planet, shut it down entirely, force it to it’s knees.” He paused for a second. “And maybe you should.” Mark looked at him like he was crazy. “Dramatic change is what this world needs,” Jake continued. “You said you were working on a plan for universal care for all, using those...Fabbers?” Mark nodded. “It’ll take years for you to tease the tech into the real world from Musk or similar. If you come onto the scene with all the cards and many of the answers... and a strong ass Navy.... Man there’s no better position to be in.” Mark nodded, an idea forming in his head. “I wonder,” he said. Mark tasked his VR to the projector in the room. He called Jido who was on the Freedom with A-seven, orbiting above Vegas. They had come back to pick him up after his several week stay on Earth. The image on the screen showed the two on the bridge. “Boys, I have Jake here, United States Special Forces with me. He’s got a hell of an idea, and I have a few questions.” “Hi, Jake,” Jido waved up a long fingered hand. A-seven similarly waved “Greetings, Jake.” A-seven said. “What are your questions, Mark?” Jake was shocked for a few seconds and recovered. “Hello, gentlemen.” Mark smiled. “First, what would be the easiest FTL for earth to discover? I mean other than the guy in Arizona.” “Well,” A-Seven began. “There’s a NASA researcher that already has a design for a ship designed around an Alcubierre drive. The gravity wave one we talked about the other day. They are just missing space manufacturing and a power source, though an efficient enough Fission plant should do the trick. At least at first. It’ll technically get them to...” His eyes closed for a second. “1.0375 C. So, barely faster than light, but it would qualify.” “What happens when a species gets FTL?” Mark asked. “Like legally and stuff.” “Well, they are entered into the Galaxy’s Legder and granted full access. Trade becomes open and other polities are allowed to interact with them,” A-seven answered. “This all happens automatically?” Jake asked. “Usually the AI from the ship that discovers the newcomer issues the ‘Introductory protocol’, and contacts the Galactic council when able. It’s standard that all of us have the necessary information, and so we’re the ones to welcome the ship’s captain and provide him with the requisite information.” Mark thought for a second. “How many Sol class ships do we have?” “We have four flights of six, with another six in space dock in various states of construction. We built a tender for each squadron that carries replacement parts and dedicated Missile fabbers. That was Jido’s idea. It was brilliant, so I decided we should go ahead.” “Did you ever make any headway on anything bigger?” Mark asked. “We have designs for 3 different Capital ships, we’re just waiting on your final go ahead to start building. The biggest will take most of the production capacity for the next 6 months, the Smallest, four.” Jido said. “I’ll take a look when I get back. Are those using the new engine design?” Mark asked. “Yes, they will be faster than anything their size, carrying better armor.” “What if we make them without Jump drives?” Jido and A-seven looked at each other, then back to Mark. Jido spoke first, “Uh, That’d take like a month off, maybe more. But why?” “We don’t need to take over the galaxy, just take and hold a planet for a bit. I need to write an email to Musk. He’s about to be the newest Human to go faster than light.” A real live girl sat in Arturo’s living room. Yeah, he’d had to clear off a couple boxes of papers and a couple PC chassis, but she sat right there as they talked. He hadn’t had a visitor in his house in … ‘Hmm,’ he thought. ‘Maybe back at the dorm, he’d had a visitor, but here?’ “So, tell me, Arturo,” Sophie began. “When did you really get into quantum theory?” She was drinking a Diet Mountain Dew. Arturo had explained that he’d recently been trying to lose weight. He stood nervously in the middle of the living room, shifting occasionally from right foot to left. He held his hands in front of his chest and fidgeted with his watch band. He seldom looked directly at her, but always kept her in his peripheral vision. At times he’d fix her eyes, but would get intimidated and look away. “I.. Yeah, um. Middle school. I guess. Mr Robert’s class.” He looked at her for a second, then back to the powered off TV on the far wall. “He made us read a magazine and there was a movie called “What the bleep”. Sillly name, and it got a lot wrong, but they didn’t know at the time. I can forgive them, they were just starting out.” He took a deep breath. “So, um yeah, middle school.” He looked at her again. “How, um, about yourself? You really seem to have a good, if rudimentary grasp on the boards...uh, if that’s ok.” He looked at the floor, then to her again and the faintest smile streaked across his face then disappeared when she smiled. She was beautiful. Sophie had met him on the quantum theory forums Mac had pointed her to. She lurked for a bit, and then every so often would clarify something he’d asked, but usually just asked him soft toss questions to gauge his grasp. He blew her away every time. He’d start out easy to understand, but then would go way past even her far higher tech knowledge. Truth be told, most of the species in the galaxy didn’t have a grasp on quantum theory much better than Earth. To Sophie it seemed like the human brain was better wired for the near creative and absurd mental gymnastics that Quantum theory required at higher levels. A well respected college professor on quantum theory was as knowledgeable as the best the Galaxy had to offer. Arturo, was something else all together. While all the other kids at school used a pencil to draw a dog, Arturo used an airbrush and a whole palette of colors. Sophie laughed. “For a long time,” She said. “Is that your Quantum rig?” she asked, pointing to an obviously modified computer taking up the majority of the dining room. He smiled and laughed a genuine laugh. “Oh no, Miss Germain,” Arturo said, using the last name Sophie had adopted. “That’s my test rig. It’s mining Etherium right now, but it’s what I use to go on the forums and stuff too. I’ve made around $85,000 since bitcoin started. Etherium is pretty interesting, so I’m into that kinda big right now too. I use several GPUs in pa....” He stopped himself. “I’m sorry, I get off topic sometimes. No, the quantum computer is... somewhere else.” Sophie was intrigued and she smiled at him, coyly. “That seems a little... clandestine.” Arturo smiled, he liked the idea of being cloak and dagger. “Well, I guess, I mean, Yeah...” He took a breath and walked into the kitchen. He opened himself a room temp Diet Dew and took a big gulp, then walked back to the living room. “So, when I made my first one, the college, they uh, um, took it. I was just an undergrad. Physics major, but I was also in engineering, electrical. We had a contest to build a computer, so.. I. Yeah. I built a quantum computer.” Sophie was astounded. “Just like that?” She had a wide smile. “You are an impressive man, Arturo Alvarez.” As humans went, Sophie liked the awkward guy. A little overweight, but his unruly black hair and thick black rimmed glasses gave him a certain adorable charm. He visibly blushed. She took another drink. She felt a measurable stimulus to her biologic systems. An instant cross reference to Mountain Dew showed a relatively high level of the alkaloid caffeine. She liked this much better than the Mate that Mark liked, and way better than the coffee, though the ‘Milk beverages with flavor and coffee’ as Mac called them that Starbucks sold were quite good. “But why did they take it?” She asked, resting the can on her leg. He looked at the floor, then the TV again. “Research. Or so they said. Their Dean of Quantum took over. That was, uh, at UC Berkley. So I graduated and began my postgrad stuff at California Institute of Technology.” “Then when you built another you were worried that someone would steal it?” Sophie asked. “Precisely,” he answered. “But you built one by yourself. In your spare time.” She had a big smile. “Yes.” “Could I see it? I have a proposal, but I need to actually see the computer. Do you know who I work for?” Sophie put the can on the coffee table. Well, after she moved a stack of books filled with book marks. “Oh god, you don’t work for the Government, Do you, oh god, oh my, oh... you do...” Arturo grew visibly agitated. He stepped from foot to foot faster and his hands fidgeted even more with the can in his hand. He looked to the right and left, never looking for an exit or anything, more like it was a nervous movement. Sophie stood and took a step towards him, hands outstretched, and in a comforting tone said, “Arturo, Arturo, It’s ok. I'm not from the Government, I’m from Earth Ascends. We want to work with you.” It took her another half hour of talking and making a few frozen toquitos in the microwave (something she vowed never to do again) to get him to calm down. Then it took another 30 minutes for him to drive her to the piece of strip-mall he rented. There was a stylized sign that read ‘AA Consulting’ on the mirrored windows, and he unlocked the door and showed her in. Immediately inside the door was another door. He locked the outside door, then walked over to the next. He keyed a complex code into the keypad and a surprisingly stout door opened into a well lit work space. In the middle of the room was several work benches around a central mass of machine, wires and humming equipment. The only things recognizable as a computer was the keyboard and the Monitor. “Here, sit. It’s always on.” Another two hours of talking and explaining by Arturo, Sophie finally stood up. “I have an important question. If I could give you all the technology you could ask for, would you be willing to leave and do research somewhere else? We can talk about salary, but I guarantee that you will want for nothing.” “Would I be leaving Arizona? And, Um, Could I take all my things? Can I tell people where I’m going? I mean I’m interested, I just have questions.” Sophie smiled. “Arturo,” Sophie produced a business card and turned it over to show some numbers scrawled on it and ‘10pm’ “Meet me here tonight, I’d love for you to meet our boss.” With that, Sophie turned and walked out the door. The Uber she’d called from her implant was just showing up. Arturo came rushing out from the door as she closed her’s. “That’s in the middle of no where!” he yelled. It wasn’t exactly no where, it was a State Park. Well, a dirt road near one anyhow. Arturo pulled off, his Chevy Volt churning up dust as he drove down the little single lane road. He got to a small clearing and his headlights illuminated Sophie sitting in a folding chair. He slowed and pulled up close to