立即打開
一位比特幣信徒的自白:從狂熱癡迷走向迷茫懷疑

一位比特幣信徒的自白:從狂熱癡迷走向迷茫懷疑

SHAWN TULLY 2021年02月09日
雖然價格飆升至新高,但原因并不是比特幣能夠投以實際用途,而是成為一種投機工具。

亞歷克斯?皮卡德曾是比特幣的終極信徒。27歲時,皮卡德辭去了南加州薪酬優渥的貿易工作,加入了這場比特幣革命。他遠赴華盛頓州中部一個小村莊,在電價便宜、果樹環抱的村莊里,他包下了多個車庫挖比特幣。隨著加密貨幣概念暴漲,皮卡德的這個由集成電路驅動的“主機農場”,每天的收益可達上千美元。

但是,在皮卡德看來,這場冒險不僅僅是為了賺錢,更是為了改變世界?!氨忍貛庞伞拗乒挠嬎銠C協議控制,而不是由‘創造供應’的政府控制——這就是它的吸引力所在?!彼嬖V《財富》雜志,“美元、歐元越印越多,通貨膨脹加劇,這些貨幣的價值越來越受侵蝕,而比特幣不會這樣。我相信,用比特幣錢包在亞馬遜上購買視頻游戲,在艾派迪(Expedia)上購買機票,而且直接支付,中間不用兌換美元,這才是未來的趨勢?!?/p>

巨大的電力需求使當地電網不堪重負,在2018年比特幣價格大幅回撤前,皮卡德停止了這場挖礦冒險。他被調到加州擔任銳聯資產管理公司(Research Affiliates)的副總裁,該公司監管著價值1450億美元的共同基金和交易所交易基金。在新的崗位上,皮卡德負責研究不同資產類別的回報,尋找最小化交易成本的策略。

站在主流金融領域的視角,皮卡德對比特幣背離最初愿景的程度感到震驚?!坝捎谒哪昵胺赶碌腻e誤極大地增加了交易成本,比特幣從未成為真正的線上現金系統?!逼たǖ抡f,“比特幣應當成為一種價值儲存手段,一種提供通脹保護的數字黃金。但現在,它的波動性太大,不適合作為價值儲存手段。支持者們完全忽略了數據的情況?!?/p>

Alex Pickard. 圖片來源:Courtesy of Alex Pickard

讓皮卡德感到震驚的是,從日常消費貨幣的最初使命開始,比特幣是如何一步步下墜、失敗的——雖然價格飆升至新高,但原因并不是比特幣能夠投以實際用途(連投資產品黃金都是珠寶制造的主要原料),而是成為一種投機工具?!耙粋€投機者確信他能以更高的價格把它賣給另一個投機者,這是比特幣現在唯一的價值?!逼たǖ抡f。

在皮卡德看來,比特幣從10月份的10500美元飆升至現在的40000美元,形成了一個“超乎以往的巨大泡沫”,和以往所有的泡沫一樣,“比特幣泡沫”終將破裂。皮卡德為銳聯資產管理公司網站寫了一篇文章,講述了他曾作為“比特幣斗士”的動蕩命運,他還與本文作者進行了詳細的交談。

比特幣101

皮卡德是一名訓練有素的機械工程師,曾在位于加州溫暖的新港海灘的一家量化投資公司工作。皮卡德從2013年開始交易比特幣,到2017年初,他決定把交易所得收入投入到挖掘價格飆升的加密貨幣的設備中。他花了30萬美元購買了大約100臺配備了專用ASIC芯片的電腦,這些芯片只有一個功能:挖比特幣。他在地圖上搜尋成本最低的地點——除了設備,電力是挖比特幣最大的成本。

最終他在華盛頓州的韋納奇找到了合適之地。這是一個約有3萬人口的飛地,坐落在一個盛產谷物的山谷中,距離西雅圖以東3小時車程。韋納奇自稱是“世界蘋果之都”和“大西北地區傳送帶的搭扣”——后者描述了它的位置,位于哥倫比亞河上的水力發電大壩“帶”的中間。

韋納奇擁有的大型水電站,以每千瓦時3美分的價格出售電力——這是全美最低的價格。他把裝著22臺大型機的臨時鋼絲架裝進自己的車庫里,開始了比特幣挖礦之旅。當時,每10分鐘就會向挖礦成功者發放12.5個比特幣的“區塊獎勵”,以2017年年中價格計算,一個比特幣的價值為2500美元至3000美元,每小時發放75個比特幣,也就是約20萬美元。皮卡德的主機每隔10分鐘就產生數百萬個“哈希函數”,這些函數是由字母和數字組成的長串,從不同數量的0開始。他加入了一群由其他挖礦者組成的隊伍,成員們將自己的計算能力集中起來。當隊伍通過在一個新區塊“求解哈希值”而擊敗其他挖礦者時,皮卡德將分到獎勵。

暴漲發生

在2017年的繁榮期,比特幣的價格不斷上漲,獲勝的獎勵也越來越大。那一年,比特幣的價格飆升了20多倍,達到2萬美元。皮卡德回憶說,他的計算能力只占整個市場的1%,他的收益也與這一份額相當。這樣的規模之下,他一天能賺4000到5000美元,如果這種繁榮持續下去,一年的收入將達到180萬美元。那時開始,皮卡德擔心起投機狂熱的發生——這一漲幅遠遠超出了一個可靠貨幣的正常波動范圍。這也標志著,比特幣開始從粗具規模的消費者交換媒介,走向為大眾所廣泛接受的數字賭場。

最開始的時候,皮卡德認為,隨著比特幣在轉賬和購買商品方面越來越受歡迎,其美元價格將變得相對穩定。當時他想,隨著時間的推移,比特幣對美元會升值,因為比特幣不受通貨膨脹的影響。此外,比特幣還提供了一種更快、更便宜的匯款方式,還承諾將商戶為信用卡交易支付的3%費率降至幾美分。

皮卡德喜歡向朋友們展示比特幣是多么便宜且容易使用。皮卡德說:“在2013年、2014年期間,我去新港海灘的酒吧時,樂趣之一就是讓朋友請我喝一杯啤酒,告訴他們,我會用比特幣給他們付錢。我還向他們展示如何在iPhone上下載比特幣錢包,支付瞬間就能完成?!碑敃r,通過電子轉賬可能得花費50美元,還要等待幾天時間,而Venmo、Zelle、Cash App和Apple Cash這些網站還不存在,或者尚處起步階段。皮卡德這群人,就已經開始以毫秒為單位、以一美分一次的價格交易數字現金?!澳憧梢愿杏X到它的魔力?!彼@嘆道。

在最初幾年,比特幣確實有可能成為在線支付領域的巨頭。當時,它似乎正慢慢實現其創造者的愿景。比特幣的創造者以筆名中本聰撰寫了推出加密貨幣的著名論文,中本聰認為,這一構想的主要目的是“實現小額隨意交易”,并大幅降低購買成本。從2014年開始,包括戴爾(Dell)、艾派迪和視頻游戲銷售商Steam在內的一些零售商開始接受比特幣支付。

但在2017年12月到2018年夏天之間,比特幣玩家和其他入局者在其價格跳水后,大部分都放棄了這種加密貨幣。皮卡德說:“在2017年底比特幣貶值最瘋狂的時候,在Expedia等網站上用比特幣支付的費用已從20美分變成50美元?!?“即使到了現在,把比特幣從一個錢包轉到另一個錢包的成本也要大約10美元?!痹诮帽忍貛胖Ц稌r,Steam提到其“飆升”的交易成本及“通證”(token)極高的波動性。如今,Venmo和Zelle等新的付款工具又正在步入比特幣的后塵,以微薄的成本在互聯網上擠占現金的使用空間。

超負荷運轉

然而皮卡德從比特幣中得到的福利好景不長。2017年12月,當地公用事業公司因其電網超負荷運轉而將他的挖礦設備關閉。于是他離開那片荒野之地,前往加州,并緊守著他的比特幣,但2018年比特幣的暴跌又抹去了他大部分的身家。他虧本出售了自己的設備。

他如此信任的比特幣怎么會崩潰得如此之快?皮卡德指出,比特幣“需要大范圍的商用才能成為一種可流動的、穩定的貨幣?!钡?,對其架構進行的一場根本性的改革,實際上使其無法用來購買汽車,機票或牛奶。皮卡德說,2017年8月發生的一起關鍵事件使得比特幣發生了巨大的變化,以至于“亞馬遜和任何其他電商網站都無法將其用作交易貨幣?!?/p>

他說,挖礦社區擬定了這樣一項規則,即限制每十分鐘增加到“區塊”中的數據量,不得超過一兆字節。每個區塊包含約2200筆交易的數據。其中包括比特幣的買賣雙方交易、轉賬的數字地址。一個至關重要的部分是賣方的數字“簽名”,用以驗證他們對比特幣的所有權。但由于礦工和投機者在2017年比特幣風暴中的交易速度如此之快,顯然,一兆字節的限制會造成瓶頸。

因此,礦工們決定通過取消賣方簽名的方式來節省每個區塊的空間。這種對比特幣軟件提出的更新被稱為“隔離見證”(SegWit),即將賣方簽名與區塊中的其他數據分離的過程。并非所有交易都消除了簽名。此舉能有效地使每個區塊中允許的最大交易量增加一倍。

皮卡德說:“盡管如此,交易的需求依然很大,所以即使放開了部分限額,交易量也有限?!比∠灻姆绞皆究梢允贡忍貛诺慕灰琢吭黾?到4倍。但這其實沒能奏效。 皮卡德說:“隔離見證頒布后不久,需求增加了100倍?!彼忉尩?,這一變化破壞了比特幣的初始規則:“中本聰說,'我們將一種電子硬幣定義為一條數字簽名鏈。' “在2017年8月之后,簽名不再是交易的一部分,或者不再是區塊鏈上的一部分,簽名實際包含在單獨的文件中?!?/p>

這一變化對交易雙方造成了兩個負面影響。首先是他們對比特幣失去了信心。正是簽名顯示了比特幣的所有權鏈,確保賣方以通證形式支付的是比特幣、證明他們并非在洗錢或者從事其他非法行為。而取消簽名會增加交易者接手新的比特幣的風險。第二個缺點是費用大漲。隨著交易量的增加,超過了每個區塊的容量——現在仍然如此。因此,發往指定商戶或轉到買家錢包的款額排在一個稱為“礦池”(mempool)的隊列中,依次等待進入一個區塊。

然后,每筆交易都必須由礦工“認證”或“確認”,才能進入一個區塊,并使交易雙方獲得各自的報酬。賣方都想讓自己的交易進入下一個區塊盡快進行,因而展開激烈的競爭,迫使他們向礦工支付越來越高的費用,才能擠到隊伍的最前列。正是這個瓶頸使這項費用從2010年代中期的1美分增加到10美分,在高峰時期更是高達50美元——今天約為10美元。

皮卡德說:“這種轉變使比特幣脫離了日常的購買和轉讓,也改變了它的面貌?!彼f,今天,比特幣的新擁躉正在自欺欺人,將這種加密貨幣視為一種儲值和對沖通脹的手段:“他們稱其為'數字黃金'?!钡?,即使通貨膨脹,黃金的價值從長期來看也不會改變,因為它是一種具有實際用途的商品,其開采成本和價格往往會隨著整體價格波動而下降——盡管在此期間會有很多大起大落。但可以肯定的是,黃金也是投機者的最愛。而在最近的歷史上,其最大的波動是從2019年11月的每盎司1476美元漲至2020年8月的2067美元,漲幅為40%,此后一路下跌到目前的1857美元。從2013年中到2017年中,它的交易價格在1100美元到1300美元之間小幅波動。

越來越多的崩潰

如果說黃金的走勢還只是顛簸,比特幣就像坐上了最瘋狂的過山車。正如皮卡德所指出的,它的暴漲和暴跌完全與投資者對未來是通脹還是通縮的預期無關。他說,在2018年,盡管比特幣下跌了83%,但未來五年的預期通脹依然不變,為2%(以5年盈虧平衡通脹指數衡量)。然后,當比特幣從2018年底開始急劇飆升,至2020年底已是原來的七倍時,通脹指數再次表明,比特幣快速上漲的價格對通脹沒有構成任何風險,依然是2%。比特幣瘋狂起伏時,通脹的預期卻趨于平緩。

皮卡德總結說:“比特幣的極端波動性意味著,它并不是可靠的儲值手段。它不再被用作可流通的交易貨幣。在商業界,他們說這是一筆可以'穩持'('hodl',即不管價格漲跌,都堅持持有)的重要資產。但除了價格走勢圖外,投機者也拿不出什么證據來說明,這是一筆不錯的投資?!痹缙?,比特幣的支持者們希望,他們可以不用再先把比特幣兌換成美元,而可以直接用他們的比特幣購買一切物品。 “現在,要想用比特幣買什么東西,首先必須通過Coinbase或其他加密貨幣交易所,將其兌換成美元,還要在采礦費之上再支付一筆額外的交易費?!?/p>

正如皮卡德指出的那樣,比特幣市場的每一次繁榮都會以悲劇收場,他希望這次也是一樣。他說:“它不再有改變社會,改善人民生活的機會?!睅啄昵?,皮卡德在紐波特海灘酒吧交易時,他覺得這像“魔法”一樣神奇,而現在再回首,他依然覺得那像一種“魔法”——只不過是讓人瘋了的魔法。(財富中文網)

編譯:楊二一、陳聰聰

亞歷克斯?皮卡德曾是比特幣的終極信徒。27歲時,皮卡德辭去了南加州薪酬優渥的貿易工作,加入了這場比特幣革命。他遠赴華盛頓州中部一個小村莊,在電價便宜、果樹環抱的村莊里,他包下了多個車庫挖比特幣。隨著加密貨幣概念暴漲,皮卡德的這個由集成電路驅動的“主機農場”,每天的收益可達上千美元。

但是,在皮卡德看來,這場冒險不僅僅是為了賺錢,更是為了改變世界?!氨忍貛庞伞拗乒挠嬎銠C協議控制,而不是由‘創造供應’的政府控制——這就是它的吸引力所在?!彼嬖V《財富》雜志,“美元、歐元越印越多,通貨膨脹加劇,這些貨幣的價值越來越受侵蝕,而比特幣不會這樣。我相信,用比特幣錢包在亞馬遜上購買視頻游戲,在艾派迪(Expedia)上購買機票,而且直接支付,中間不用兌換美元,這才是未來的趨勢?!?/p>

巨大的電力需求使當地電網不堪重負,在2018年比特幣價格大幅回撤前,皮卡德停止了這場挖礦冒險。他被調到加州擔任銳聯資產管理公司(Research Affiliates)的副總裁,該公司監管著價值1450億美元的共同基金和交易所交易基金。在新的崗位上,皮卡德負責研究不同資產類別的回報,尋找最小化交易成本的策略。

站在主流金融領域的視角,皮卡德對比特幣背離最初愿景的程度感到震驚?!坝捎谒哪昵胺赶碌腻e誤極大地增加了交易成本,比特幣從未成為真正的線上現金系統?!逼たǖ抡f,“比特幣應當成為一種價值儲存手段,一種提供通脹保護的數字黃金。但現在,它的波動性太大,不適合作為價值儲存手段。支持者們完全忽略了數據的情況?!?/p>

讓皮卡德感到震驚的是,從日常消費貨幣的最初使命開始,比特幣是如何一步步下墜、失敗的——雖然價格飆升至新高,但原因并不是比特幣能夠投以實際用途(連投資產品黃金都是珠寶制造的主要原料),而是成為一種投機工具?!耙粋€投機者確信他能以更高的價格把它賣給另一個投機者,這是比特幣現在唯一的價值?!逼たǖ抡f。

在皮卡德看來,比特幣從10月份的10500美元飆升至現在的40000美元,形成了一個“超乎以往的巨大泡沫”,和以往所有的泡沫一樣,“比特幣泡沫”終將破裂。皮卡德為銳聯資產管理公司網站寫了一篇文章,講述了他曾作為“比特幣斗士”的動蕩命運,他還與本文作者進行了詳細的交談。

比特幣101

皮卡德是一名訓練有素的機械工程師,曾在位于加州溫暖的新港海灘的一家量化投資公司工作。皮卡德從2013年開始交易比特幣,到2017年初,他決定把交易所得收入投入到挖掘價格飆升的加密貨幣的設備中。他花了30萬美元購買了大約100臺配備了專用ASIC芯片的電腦,這些芯片只有一個功能:挖比特幣。他在地圖上搜尋成本最低的地點——除了設備,電力是挖比特幣最大的成本。

最終他在華盛頓州的韋納奇找到了合適之地。這是一個約有3萬人口的飛地,坐落在一個盛產谷物的山谷中,距離西雅圖以東3小時車程。韋納奇自稱是“世界蘋果之都”和“大西北地區傳送帶的搭扣”——后者描述了它的位置,位于哥倫比亞河上的水力發電大壩“帶”的中間。

韋納奇擁有的大型水電站,以每千瓦時3美分的價格出售電力——這是全美最低的價格。他把裝著22臺大型機的臨時鋼絲架裝進自己的車庫里,開始了比特幣挖礦之旅。當時,每10分鐘就會向挖礦成功者發放12.5個比特幣的“區塊獎勵”,以2017年年中價格計算,一個比特幣的價值為2500美元至3000美元,每小時發放75個比特幣,也就是約20萬美元。皮卡德的主機每隔10分鐘就產生數百萬個“哈希函數”,這些函數是由字母和數字組成的長串,從不同數量的0開始。他加入了一群由其他挖礦者組成的隊伍,成員們將自己的計算能力集中起來。當隊伍通過在一個新區塊“求解哈希值”而擊敗其他挖礦者時,皮卡德將分到獎勵。

暴漲發生

在2017年的繁榮期,比特幣的價格不斷上漲,獲勝的獎勵也越來越大。那一年,比特幣的價格飆升了20多倍,達到2萬美元。皮卡德回憶說,他的計算能力只占整個市場的1%,他的收益也與這一份額相當。這樣的規模之下,他一天能賺4000到5000美元,如果這種繁榮持續下去,一年的收入將達到180萬美元。那時開始,皮卡德擔心起投機狂熱的發生——這一漲幅遠遠超出了一個可靠貨幣的正常波動范圍。這也標志著,比特幣開始從粗具規模的消費者交換媒介,走向為大眾所廣泛接受的數字賭場。

最開始的時候,皮卡德認為,隨著比特幣在轉賬和購買商品方面越來越受歡迎,其美元價格將變得相對穩定。當時他想,隨著時間的推移,比特幣對美元會升值,因為比特幣不受通貨膨脹的影響。此外,比特幣還提供了一種更快、更便宜的匯款方式,還承諾將商戶為信用卡交易支付的3%費率降至幾美分。

皮卡德喜歡向朋友們展示比特幣是多么便宜且容易使用。皮卡德說:“在2013年、2014年期間,我去新港海灘的酒吧時,樂趣之一就是讓朋友請我喝一杯啤酒,告訴他們,我會用比特幣給他們付錢。我還向他們展示如何在iPhone上下載比特幣錢包,支付瞬間就能完成?!碑敃r,通過電子轉賬可能得花費50美元,還要等待幾天時間,而Venmo、Zelle、Cash App和Apple Cash這些網站還不存在,或者尚處起步階段。皮卡德這群人,就已經開始以毫秒為單位、以一美分一次的價格交易數字現金?!澳憧梢愿杏X到它的魔力?!彼@嘆道。

在最初幾年,比特幣確實有可能成為在線支付領域的巨頭。當時,它似乎正慢慢實現其創造者的愿景。比特幣的創造者以筆名中本聰撰寫了推出加密貨幣的著名論文,中本聰認為,這一構想的主要目的是“實現小額隨意交易”,并大幅降低購買成本。從2014年開始,包括戴爾(Dell)、艾派迪和視頻游戲銷售商Steam在內的一些零售商開始接受比特幣支付。

但在2017年12月到2018年夏天之間,比特幣玩家和其他入局者在其價格跳水后,大部分都放棄了這種加密貨幣。皮卡德說:“在2017年底比特幣貶值最瘋狂的時候,在Expedia等網站上用比特幣支付的費用已從20美分變成50美元?!?“即使到了現在,把比特幣從一個錢包轉到另一個錢包的成本也要大約10美元?!痹诮帽忍貛胖Ц稌r,Steam提到其“飆升”的交易成本及“通證”(token)極高的波動性。如今,Venmo和Zelle等新的付款工具又正在步入比特幣的后塵,以微薄的成本在互聯網上擠占現金的使用空間。

超負荷運轉

然而皮卡德從比特幣中得到的福利好景不長。2017年12月,當地公用事業公司因其電網超負荷運轉而將他的挖礦設備關閉。于是他離開那片荒野之地,前往加州,并緊守著他的比特幣,但2018年比特幣的暴跌又抹去了他大部分的身家。他虧本出售了自己的設備。

他如此信任的比特幣怎么會崩潰得如此之快?皮卡德指出,比特幣“需要大范圍的商用才能成為一種可流動的、穩定的貨幣?!钡?,對其架構進行的一場根本性的改革,實際上使其無法用來購買汽車,機票或牛奶。皮卡德說,2017年8月發生的一起關鍵事件使得比特幣發生了巨大的變化,以至于“亞馬遜和任何其他電商網站都無法將其用作交易貨幣?!?/p>

他說,挖礦社區擬定了這樣一項規則,即限制每十分鐘增加到“區塊”中的數據量,不得超過一兆字節。每個區塊包含約2200筆交易的數據。其中包括比特幣的買賣雙方交易、轉賬的數字地址。一個至關重要的部分是賣方的數字“簽名”,用以驗證他們對比特幣的所有權。但由于礦工和投機者在2017年比特幣風暴中的交易速度如此之快,顯然,一兆字節的限制會造成瓶頸。

因此,礦工們決定通過取消賣方簽名的方式來節省每個區塊的空間。這種對比特幣軟件提出的更新被稱為“隔離見證”(SegWit),即將賣方簽名與區塊中的其他數據分離的過程。并非所有交易都消除了簽名。此舉能有效地使每個區塊中允許的最大交易量增加一倍。

皮卡德說:“盡管如此,交易的需求依然很大,所以即使放開了部分限額,交易量也有限?!比∠灻姆绞皆究梢允贡忍貛诺慕灰琢吭黾?到4倍。但這其實沒能奏效。 皮卡德說:“隔離見證頒布后不久,需求增加了100倍?!彼忉尩?,這一變化破壞了比特幣的初始規則:“中本聰說,'我們將一種電子硬幣定義為一條數字簽名鏈。' “在2017年8月之后,簽名不再是交易的一部分,或者不再是區塊鏈上的一部分,簽名實際包含在單獨的文件中?!?/p>

這一變化對交易雙方造成了兩個負面影響。首先是他們對比特幣失去了信心。正是簽名顯示了比特幣的所有權鏈,確保賣方以通證形式支付的是比特幣、證明他們并非在洗錢或者從事其他非法行為。而取消簽名會增加交易者接手新的比特幣的風險。第二個缺點是費用大漲。隨著交易量的增加,超過了每個區塊的容量——現在仍然如此。因此,發往指定商戶或轉到買家錢包的款額排在一個稱為“礦池”(mempool)的隊列中,依次等待進入一個區塊。

然后,每筆交易都必須由礦工“認證”或“確認”,才能進入一個區塊,并使交易雙方獲得各自的報酬。賣方都想讓自己的交易進入下一個區塊盡快進行,因而展開激烈的競爭,迫使他們向礦工支付越來越高的費用,才能擠到隊伍的最前列。正是這個瓶頸使這項費用從2010年代中期的1美分增加到10美分,在高峰時期更是高達50美元——今天約為10美元。

皮卡德說:“這種轉變使比特幣脫離了日常的購買和轉讓,也改變了它的面貌?!彼f,今天,比特幣的新擁躉正在自欺欺人,將這種加密貨幣視為一種儲值和對沖通脹的手段:“他們稱其為'數字黃金'?!钡?,即使通貨膨脹,黃金的價值從長期來看也不會改變,因為它是一種具有實際用途的商品,其開采成本和價格往往會隨著整體價格波動而下降——盡管在此期間會有很多大起大落。但可以肯定的是,黃金也是投機者的最愛。而在最近的歷史上,其最大的波動是從2019年11月的每盎司1476美元漲至2020年8月的2067美元,漲幅為40%,此后一路下跌到目前的1857美元。從2013年中到2017年中,它的交易價格在1100美元到1300美元之間小幅波動。

越來越多的崩潰

如果說黃金的走勢還只是顛簸,比特幣就像坐上了最瘋狂的過山車。正如皮卡德所指出的,它的暴漲和暴跌完全與投資者對未來是通脹還是通縮的預期無關。他說,在2018年,盡管比特幣下跌了83%,但未來五年的預期通脹依然不變,為2%(以5年盈虧平衡通脹指數衡量)。然后,當比特幣從2018年底開始急劇飆升,至2020年底已是原來的七倍時,通脹指數再次表明,比特幣快速上漲的價格對通脹沒有構成任何風險,依然是2%。比特幣瘋狂起伏時,通脹的預期卻趨于平緩。

皮卡德總結說:“比特幣的極端波動性意味著,它并不是可靠的儲值手段。它不再被用作可流通的交易貨幣。在商業界,他們說這是一筆可以'穩持'('hodl',即不管價格漲跌,都堅持持有)的重要資產。但除了價格走勢圖外,投機者也拿不出什么證據來說明,這是一筆不錯的投資?!痹缙?,比特幣的支持者們希望,他們可以不用再先把比特幣兌換成美元,而可以直接用他們的比特幣購買一切物品。 “現在,要想用比特幣買什么東西,首先必須通過Coinbase或其他加密貨幣交易所,將其兌換成美元,還要在采礦費之上再支付一筆額外的交易費?!?/p>

正如皮卡德指出的那樣,比特幣市場的每一次繁榮都會以悲劇收場,他希望這次也是一樣。他說:“它不再有改變社會,改善人民生活的機會?!睅啄昵?,皮卡德在紐波特海灘酒吧交易時,他覺得這像“魔法”一樣神奇,而現在再回首,他依然覺得那像一種“魔法”——只不過是讓人瘋了的魔法。(財富中文網)

編譯:楊二一、陳聰聰

Alex Pickard was the ultimate Bitcoin believer. At age 27, he joined the revolution, quitting a lucrative trading job in Southern California to mine Bitcoin from multiple garages in a central Washington state hamlet best known for its cheap electricity and plentiful apple orchards. As the cryptocurrency soared on the promise it would evolve into digital cash for everyday purchases, Pickard's farm of ASIC-driven mainframes was harvesting several thousand dollars a day.

But his adventure was as much about changing the world as making money. "Bitcoin was controlled by a computer protocol that limited its supply, not by a government that could create more, that was the appeal," he told Fortune. "Its value couldn't be eroded the way printing more dollars or Euros causes inflation. I believed opening a Bitcoin wallet to buy video games at Amazon and airline tickets on Expedia at pennies in fees––directly, no dollars in-between–– was the future."

A huge appetite for electricity overwhelmed the local grid, closing Pickard's mining operation just before the 2018 crash. He's relocated to the Golden State as a Vice President at Research Affiliates, a firm that oversees methodologies for $145 billion in mutual funds and ETFs. In his new role, he undertakes such tasks as researching returns on different asset classes, and strategies that minimize trading costs. From his vantage point in mainstream finance, Pickard is shocked by how far Bitcoin has strayed from the original vision. "Bitcoin never became an online cash system because of mistakes made four years ago that hugely increased transactions costs," he says. "Now, it's supposed to be a store of value, a digital gold that provides inflation protection. But it's much too volatile to be a store of value. Proponents of that theory are completely ignoring the data."

What astounds Pickard is how Bitcoin could flop at its original mission as a currency for every day spending, yet soar to fresh heights not for anything it can be used for––even gold is a staple in jewelry manufacturing––but as a vehicle for speculators. "Bitcoin's only value is one speculator's conviction he can sell it to another speculator at higher price," he says. For Pickard, Bitcoin's current jump from $10,500 to as high as $40,000 since October constitutes a "bubble that's bound to explode like all the past bubbles, only worse 'cause this one's been the biggest by far." Pickard wrote an excellent piece recounting his careening fortunes as a Bitcoin crusader for the Research Affiliates website, and he also talked at length with this writer.

Bitcoin 101

A mechanical engineer by training, Pickard started trading Bitcoin in 2013 while working at a quant investment firm in balmy Newport Beach, California. By early 2017, he decided to roll his windfall into equipment for mining the surging cryptocurrency. He spent $300,000 on around 100 computers equipped with specialized ASIC chips that served one function, mining Bitcoin. He scoured the map for the locale offering the lowest rates for the item that, other than equipment, accounts for a miner's biggest costs, electricity. He found a great deal in Wenatchee, Washington, an enclave of around 30,000 nestled in a crop-rich valley that's a three hour drive east of Seattle. Wenatchee bills itself both as "The Apple Capital of the World" and "The Buckle of the Power Belt of the Great Northwest." The latter title describes its location in the middle of the "belt" of hydroelectric dams on the Columbia River.

Wenatchee's giant hydro plant was selling electricity at 3 cents per kilowatt hour, the lowest rates in the nation. He packed makeshift wire racks holding 22 mainframes each into his garages, and started mining. At the time, 12.5 bitcoin in were being released "block rewards" to the winning miner every ten minutes, valued at the mid-2017 price of $2500 to $3000 at around $200,000 per hour. Pickard's computers were generating millions of "hash functions" every ten minutes consisting of long strings of letters and numbers, starting with a varying number of zeros. He joined a group of other miners who pooled their computing power. When the pool beat rival miners by "solving for the hash" on a new block, Pickard would share in the rewards.

The great boom

Those wins got bigger and bigger as the coins relentlessly rose in price during the great boom of 2017. That year, Bitcoin went on a moonshot, vaulting more than 20-fold to $20,000. Pickard recalls that his computing power was a fraction of 1% of the overall market, and his gains, as usual with miners, mirrored that share. Still, he was making $4000 to $5000 a day, or what would have been $1.8 million on an annual basis, had the boom continued. It was then that Pickard began worrying about a speculative craze. The run-up was far outside the normal fluctuations of a reliable currency. It was the start of Bitcoin's transformation from a fledging medium of exchange for consumers en route to widespread acceptance, into a digital casino.

Early on, Pickard believed that as Bitcoin became more and more popular for transferring money and buying everything from smartphones to groceries, its price in dollars would become relatively stable. The idea was that over time, Bitcoin would actually appreciate versus the greenback because it's impervious to inflation. Bitcoin also provided a faster, cheaper way of sending money, and promised to lower the 3% merchants paid on credit card transactions to pennies.

Pickard loved showing buddies just how cheap and easy Bitcoin was to use. "In 2013 and 2014, when I'd go to a bar in Newport Beach part of the fun was asking friends to buy me a round of beers, and say I'd pay them with Bitcoin," he says. "I could even show them how to download the Bitcoin wallet right there on their iPhones, and the payment would show up in seconds." At the time, it could cost $50 send money by a wire transfer that could take days, and such sites as Venmo, Zelle, Cash App, and Apple Cash didn't exist or were in their infancy. Pickard's happy hour crowd were swapping digital cash in milliseconds at one cent a zap. "You could feel the magic," he marvels.

In the early years, it indeed looked as though Bitcoin could become a titan in online payments. It appeared en route to fulfilling the vision of its creator, who famously wrote the treatise that launched the cryptocurrency under the pseudonym Satoshi Nakamoto. The main purpose of his brainchild, Nakamoto allowed, was to "enable small casual transactions," and greatly lower the costs of those purchases. Starting in 2014, a number of retailers including Dell, Expedia and video game-seller Steam began accepting payments in Bitcoin.

But between the December of 2017 and the summer of 2018, those players and most others that took the plunge dropped the cryptocurrency. "At the height of the craze at the end of 2017, the fees for paying on sites like Expedia with Bitcoin had gone from 20 cents to $50," says Pickard. "Even now, the cost of transferring money from wallet to wallet is around $10." In scrapping Bitcoin, Steam cited "skyrocketing" transactions costs and the token's extreme volatility. And new payment tools such as Venmo and Zelle were doing what Bitcoin used to do, zipping cash over the internet at minuscule fees.

Overload

Pickard's Bitcoin bounty didn't last long. In December of 2017, the local utility shut him down for overloading the grid. He left the wilds for California, and held onto his Bitcoin, but the collapse in 2018 mostly erased his winnings. He sold his equipment at a loss.

How did the Bitcoin he so revered go so wrong, so fast? Bitcoin, notes Pickard, "needed huge commercial adoption to become a liquid and stable currency." But a fundamental overhaul to its architecture effectively rendered it unusable for buying cars, airline tickets or cartons of milk. A pivotal event in August of 2017, says Pickard, so transformed Bitcoin that "Neither Amazon nor any other online merchant could adopt it as medium of exchange."

The mining community, he says, was determined to stick to the rule that limited the amount of data stored on the "blocks" added every ten minutes to one megabyte. Each block contained data on around 2200 transactions. Included in that data were the digital addresses of the seller and of the buyer to whose wallet the Bitcoin was being sent. A crucial component was the digital "signature" of the seller that verified his or her ownership of the coins. But because miners and speculators were trading at such a rapid rate in the 2017 explosion, it was clear that the one megabyte limit would cause a bottleneck.

So the miners decided to save space in each block by eliminating the sellers' signatures. That shift is known as "SegWit," for Segregated Witness, the process of separating the seller's signature from the data in the block. Not all transactions eliminate the signature. That helped to effectively double the maximum allowable transactions per block.

"Nevertheless, there was a large demand to transact, and a limited amount that can occur given even those expanded limits," says Pickard. Eliminating the signature was supposed to increase Bitcoin's capacity for transactions by a factor of 3 or 4. It didn't work. "Shortly after SegWit was enacted, demand increased by a factor of 100," says Pickard. The change, he says, undermined the founding rules for Bitcoin. "Nakamoto said, 'We define an electronic coin as a chain of digital signatures,'" he explains. "After August of 2017, the signature was no longer part of the transaction, or on the blockchain, it was effectively in a separate file."

The change posed two negatives for retailers. The first was a loss of confidence. The signatures showed the chain of ownership of the Bitcoin, assuring those being paid in the tokens, for example, that the seller wasn't fronting for a money-launderer. Scrapping the signatures raised a retailer's risks in accepting the rookie currency. The second downer was a huge jump in fees. As the number of transactions rose, the volumes exceeded, and still exceed, the capacity in each block. So payments addressed to stores or transfers destined for a contractor's wallet sat a queue called a "mempool," waiting to be entered into a block.

Each transaction then had to be "authenticated" or "confirmed" by a miner so it could join a block, and so that the retailer or contractor to get paid. The sellers competed to get their transactions into the next block, forcing them to pay the miners higher and higher fees to get to the front of the line. It's that bottleneck that's driven fees from one to ten cents in the mid-2010s to as much as $50 in peak periods, and about $10 today.

"That shift changed the face of Bitcoin by taking it out of everyday purchases and transfers," says Pickard. Today, he says that Bitcoin's new fans are deluding themselves in casting the cryptocurrency as a store of value and hedge against inflation. "They claim it's 'digital gold,'" he says. But gold's value over long periods does stay even with inflation, because it's a commodity with real uses, and the cost of mining it, and hence the price, tends to wax and wane with overall prices––though with lots of jumping and cratering in-between. To be sure, gold's also a favorite of speculators. But in recent history, its largest move was the 40% spike from $1476 an ounce in November of 2019 to $2067 in August of 2020, since moderating to the current $1857. From mid-2013 to mid-2017 it traded in a narrow band from approximately $1100 to $1300.

A growing disconnect

While gold's trajectory is bumpy, Bitcoin is riding the craziest of roller-coasters. As Pickard points out, its spikes and collapses are totally unrelated to investors' view of a future surge or fall in inflation. In 2018, notes Pickard, while Bitcoin dropped 83%, expected inflation over the next half-decade (as measured by the 5-year Breakeven Inflation Index) remained anchored at 2%. Then, when Bitcoin surged seven-fold from the depths of year-end 2018 to the close of 2020, the BEI was once again signaling no danger from fast-rising prices, finishing at the same 2%. Inflation expectations flatlined while Bitcoin went crazy.

"Bitcoin's extreme volatility means it's not a reliable store of value," concludes Pickard. "It no longer has a use as a medium of exchange. In the biz, they say it's a great asset to 'hodl,' meaning 'hold.' Speculators have nothing to point as proof it's a good investment but the price chart." In the early, supporters hoped that they would no longer have to exchange Bitcoin for dollars, but could buy everything directly with their Bitcoin. "Now, in order to buy anything with your Bitcoin, you first have to exchange it for dollars via Coinbase or another exchange, and pay trading fees on top of the mining fees."

As Pickard points out, every other Bitcoin boom has ended in grief, just where this one, he expects, will finish as well. "It no longer has a chance of transforming society and improving peoples' lives," he says. The magic Pickard felt years ago in that swapping coins that Newport Beach bar has morphed into another kind of "magic" that will be looked back on as madness.

最新:
  • 熱讀文章
  • 熱門視頻
活動
掃碼打開財富Plus App
东北麻将大全下载 捕鱼游戏排名 互联网彩票政策最新消息 甘肃快3奖金 加拿大快乐8数据 百家乐平玩法_Welcome 河北11选5彩票控 快乐10分复式3任选兑奖多少倍 彩金捕鱼2015 篮彩分析 重庆时时彩投注下载 陕西快乐十分走势图 双色球杀号 vr赛车游戏哪个好 2012年股票交易日 我爱棋牌评测网 麻将手游哪个最好玩