The Personal Thesis of Launching Your Own Cryptocurrency

I was recently (virtually) introduced to Simon de la Rouviere after reading his recent article, "In the Future, Everyone Will Have Their Own Cryptocurrency." Simon makes a bold prediction: personal cryptocurrencies will be the norm in the next 10 to 20 years.


Having your own coin isn’t so different from my current practice of selling “shares” of myself. The difference is in the technology, which should be pretty invisible to the average user. What the user cares about is the value of the person, and in order to determine that, a person needs a clear plan or thesis for how they will live.

Imagine I sold shares of myself but never allowed shareholders to vote on how I live my life. Without my thesis about the wisdom of crowd-based investing, it’s just an ask for money: people give me money and I get to do whatever I want. That’s not very interesting or valuable to any potential investors. By adding a thesis about collective decision-making and backing that belief up with technology, the experiment in selling my shares gains meaning.

Simon points out that personal coins will develop gradually: "We will start seeing (mostly tech) people slowly but surely minting their own coins...until a platform exists for anyone to easily create one, and allowing easier and quicker exchange between them.” I don’t completely disagree, but think this is nonetheless a grand understatement. Practically speaking, obtaining cryptocurrencies, let alone creating them, is nearly impossible for most of us.

Consider the most well known cryptocurrency of them all, Bitcoin. The first Google result for “how to buy bitcoins” starts by pointing out that that “the existing Buying bitcoins page is too complex” and then warns, “Bitcoin services are not highly regulated. A service can continue operating even when it is widely believed that it is insecure or dishonest.” If that doesn’t scare you off, you then run into the problem of dollars and Bitcoin being like oil and water: “You can't directly buy Bitcoins using PayPal.” More confusing still, there is a service that “accepts credit cards via PayPal (or Skrill) but you have to buy SLL which you can then trade for Bitcoin.”

The process for Bitcoin is neither simple nor safe, prompting user2197 of Stack Exchange to ask, “Why don't I have any @#$%^&*&^% bitcoins two #$%^&* hours ago? Why is the process so $$%^&^& difficult?” Simon de la Rouviere's point that we still have 10 to 20 years to figure all that out. But I’m just pointing out the difficulty of acquiring an existing coin. Launching your own will be even more difficult.

Let’s jump 10 or 20 years into the future when Simon says it will be easy to launch a personal coin. The next question is, why will someone buy your coin? Simon presents the idea of a personal coin as a way to monetize reputation. Cory Doctotow explored one way this might play out in  Down and Out In The Magic Kingdom, though the book sketched a world with only reputational currency. The reality is going to be a currency for every person, plus national currencies, and it is going to be very messy.

Scenario A: FameCoin

If you have a coin, the value of it will be based on not just your success but on how many people know about your success. A coin's value will come from attention; it will be a form of monetizing fame. We’ll eliminate the idea of "famous for being famous" and instead have "rich for being famous." Oh… right, we have that already.

Scenario B: Same As It Ever Was

If enough people have personal coins and famous people's coins are all really expensive, then the real money making opportunity will be in discovering the pre-famous people -- in other words, value investing in people instead of companies. The finance industry will look at a person’s tangible book value, price-to-earning multiples, and price-to-book ratios. Those that invest well will also be great investments, which is the equivalent of investing in a holding company like Berkshire Hathaway.

In either scenario, having a personal thesis is important. To invest in a company or a person one needs to understand what they are about. Even a company with as many subsidiaries as Berkshire Hathaway has a mission statement. The personal philosophy of anyone issuing a personal coin will be an important public filing.

So to build on Simon’s prediction, in 10 to 20 years everyone will have their own publicly stated thesis. Books like The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People and What Color Is Your Parachute will have a new life as they guide people on a journey of self-discovery so that they can better state what they are about. Should such a world come about, we’ll see capitalism become a catalyst for self-knowledge and an incentive for self-awareness.

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The migration of birds — and we didn't even used to know that birds migrated; we assumed they hibernated; the modern understanding of bird migration was established when a white stork landed in a German village with an arrow from Central Africa through its neck in 1822 — draws us in the direction of having an understanding of the world. A bird is here and then travels somewhere else. Where does it go? It's a variation on the poetic refrain from The Catcher in the Rye. Where do the ducks go? How many are out there? What might it encounter along the way?

While there is a yearly bird count conducted every Christmas by amateur bird watchers across the country done in conjunction with The Audubon Society, the Cornell Lab of Ornithology recently released the results of a study that actually go some way towards answering heretofore abstract questions: every fall, as per cloud computing and 143 weather radar stations, four billion birds migrate into the United States from Canada and four billion more head south to the tropics.

In other words: the birds who went three to four times further than the birds staying in the U.S. faired better than the birds who stayed in the U.S. Why?

Part of the answer could be very well be what you might hear from a conservationist — only with numbers to back it up: the U.S. isn't built for birds. As Ken Rosenberg, the other co-author of the study, notes: "Birds wintering in the U.S. may have more habitat disturbances and more buildings to crash into, and they might not be adapted for that."

The other option is that birds lay more offspring in the U.S. than those who fly south for the winter.

What does observing eight billion birds mean in practice? To give myself a counterpoint to those numbers, I drove out to the Joppa Flats Education Center in Northern Massachusetts. The Center is a building that sits at the entrance to the Parker River National Wildlife Refuge and overlooks the Merrimack River, which is what I climbed the stairs up to the observation deck to see.

Once there, I paused. I took a breath. I listened. I looked out into the distance. Tiny flecks Of Bonaparte's Gulls drew small white lines across the length of the river and the wave of the grass toward a nearby city. What appeared to be flecks of double-crested cormorants made their way to the sea. A telescope downstairs enabled me to watch small gull-like birds make their way along the edges of the river, quietly pecking away at food just beneath the surface of the water. This was the experience of watching maybe half a dozen birds over fifteen-to-twenty minutes, which only served to drive home the scale of birds studied.

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If you want to know what makes a Canadian lynx a Canadian lynx, I can now—as of this month—point you directly to the DNA of a Canadian lynx, and say, "That's what makes a lynx a lynx." The genome was sequenced by a team at UMass Amherst, and it's one of 15 animals whose genomes have been sequenced by the Vertebrate Genomes Project, whose stated goal is to sequence the genome of all 66,000 vertebrate species in the world.

Sequencing the genome of a particular species of an animal is important in terms of preserving genetic diversity. Future generations don't necessarily have to worry about our memory of the Canadian Lynx warping the way hearsay warped perception a long time ago.

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It is easy to see how one can look at 66,000 genomic sequences stored away as being the analogous equivalent of the Svalbard Global Seed Vault. It is a potential tool for future conservationists.

But what are the practicalities of sequencing the genome of a lynx beyond engaging with broad bioethical questions? As the animal's habitat shrinks and Earth warms, the Canadian lynx is demonstrating less genetic diversity. Cross-breeding with bobcats in some portions of the lynx's habitat also represents a challenge to the lynx's genetic makeup. The two themselves are also linked: warming climates could drive Canadian lynxes to cross-breed with bobcats.

John Organ, chief of the U.S. Geological Survey's Cooperative Fish and Wildlife units, said to MassLive that the results of the sequencing "can help us look at land conservation strategies to help maintain lynx on the landscape."

What does DNA have to do with land conservation strategies? Consider the fact that the food found in a landscape, the toxins found in a landscape, or the exposure to drugs can have an impact on genetic activity. That potential change can be transmitted down the generative line. If you know exactly how a lynx's DNA is impacted by something, then the environment they occupy can be fine-tuned to meet the needs of the lynx and any other creature that happens to inhabit that particular portion of the earth.

Given that the Trump administration is considering withdrawing protection for the Canadian lynx, a move that caught scientists by surprise, it is worth having as much information on hand as possible for those who have an interest in preserving the health of this creature—all the way down to the building blocks of a lynx's life.