Aleks Svetski of Amber on Crypto Clothesline
Don’t Be That Guy Dismissing Bitcoin
In our highly stimulating and f*ck-peppered chat with Aleks Svetski of GetAmber.io this week, we navigated the JPM coin recently issued by JP Morgan bank and the mass-adoption waters of Bitcoin and how best to get the people to even give a shit…
GetAmber is a micropayments’ system where, using a simple app installed on your phone connected to your bank account, you can opt to round up everyday payments like buying a coffee, or buying a beer or paying for your groceries, and elect to have the small change difference between your purchase and the nearest dollar, go into your Amber-based Bitcoin account.
In this way, people who otherwise may end up missing the Bitcoin boat, can still very much be a part of the crypto tidal wave, (with its market ebb and flow), without even really having to think about it. Put differently, just about everyone can participate in this historical wealth transfer without having to work too hard and do all the research.
If you could have had micro-investments in the internet when it was being rolled out in the 90s, would you have jumped in?
If you could have been a part of that fab electricity deal when Thomas Edison (and the actual guy who invented electricity), would you have bought shares? Would you have opted to be part of the early majority?
Well frankly those options weren’t even available to the average person… but this way, using the Amber app, you do have the opportunity to become part of the Bitcoin value exchange network.
Aleks did the basic math:
“Let’s say you bought a coffee for $3.50, we’ll round it up to four bucks. We’ll take the fifty cents, and we’ll convert it to bitcoin and we’ll throw it in your Amber account. If (the average person) used a normal daily transaction card and they were rounding up all of their transactions throughout the year, they’d save about 800 bucks. You take that out over five years, that’s $4,000.
“You’ve got a situation now where the average person will either in 10 or 15 years’ time, have that four thousand dollars be worth nothing if the entire bitcoin and blockchain experiment falls apart (and they wouldn’t have noticed) or alternatively they will have four thousand dollars (again that they didn’t notice) that is worth $400, 000, $800, 000, $1, 000,000 and they didn’t even notice the goddamn money that went into it.”
Dollar Cost Averaging Sounds Very Dull But Could It Change My Life?
Another notion worth noting is dollar cost averaging as discussed also a couple of episodes ago with Alex Saunders. (DCA: Dollar cost averaging simply involves investing the same amount of money into shares, managed funds, or crypto etc at regular intervals over a long period – whether market prices are up or down. … This averages the purchase prices over the total period that an investor keeps investing.)
Basically folks, DCA is all about keeping on keeping on buying little amounts (that you wouldn’t even have noticed leaking out of your wallet anyway), and seeing in due course those mini-contributions potentially reap amazing financial benefits to you in the future.
And in your children’s future.
And in your grandchildren’s future and so on… get the picture?
How The Hell Can Inflation Be Positive? (You Might Ask)
Another way of thinking about it is as a positive kind of inflation.
How the hell can inflation be positive you might ask, when prices keep going up, wages flatline at best, and the banks are skimming our bank accounts to pay for stuff?
Well one year you might be paying $3.50 for a coffee, and then one day, boom! It’s now $3.70 and perhaps a short while later, that same cappuccino might cost you $4.50 and without even particularly noticing it, the cost of that relaxing let’s-grab-a-bohemian-moment coffee is costing you a little less than a cheap meal at the markets. Shit, when did grabbing a quick coffee mean I need to lean on the other side of 5 bucks??? Inflation creeps up on you.
Using this example in a positive light, rounding up that $3.70 or $4.50 to the next dollar means that the small amounts are being charged to your account but in this case, it’s not serving an unrelenting government but it IS serving you.
This Is Why 99 Percent Of People Lose Money
Another overarching premise of Aleks’ work developing Amber together with dollar cost averaging, is the question:
“Which is the best format to hold or to acquire, to get exposure to a nascent, volatile asset class?”
The mass emotional response to a devilishly fluctuating market is to sell (flee) when the market is ‘down’ or correcting, and to buy (rush in) when the market is ‘up’ or spiking (aka FOMO).
Aleks claims that this market psychology behaviour is the:
“…complete opposite of what you should do in a market because you’re euphoric when things are really, really high in price and you’re down in the dumps when things really, really low in price, which is why 99 percent of people lose money.
“You actually have 100 percent probability over time to lose all of your money if you are a trader.
“[The] best format of getting exposure to this type of asset is dollar cost averaging.”
Here are some simple ways you can adapt using Amber to acquire Bitcoin to suit your personal purchasing preferences…
You can set it up to:
- simply round up to the nearest dollar
- to have $20 every week going in, for example
- contribute a lump sum like a tax pay-out of $500 for example
But What About Big Data Collection? (We Don’t Want Another Facebook.)
When asked what Amber will do as an entity with people’s buying information data, and how will they guarantee to people that this information is not going to be sort of used at some level without their permission, Aleks responded that currently Amber has zero analytics:
“All I care about is swapping spare change for Bitcoin. Right now, we don’t actually store any of the transactional data so we don’t even have a place to look at it internally.
“In the future we might look at building some sort of infrastructure where we can analyse that data further but we’ll have to build it with proper security…
“That’s a big project and to be able to take that on, we would actually want to do something meaningful with the data that adds some value back to the users of the service.”
Is Amber A Get-Rich-Quick Scheme?
There are those of us who think about our futures, and there are those of us who can barely cope with the onslaught of information and demands of daily life, let alone how we’re going to become ‘financially free’…
GetAmber isn’t about making a quick buck or getting that house/ boat/ Lamborghini (fill in the blank) overnight, it’s about quietly, thoughtlessly almost, contributing small amounts of Bitcoin to an account that one day may just pleasantly surprise you (at best). At worst it may crash and disintegrate into a meaningless digital cash never-never land, and you may have lost that spare change into nothingness.
In the immaculate words of Jimmy Barnes (recovering alcoholic and son of an alcoholic) in the Cold Chisel song:
“You pissed all your money up against the damn wall…”
Most of us would have mindlessly spent that spare cash on items and experiences that wouldn’t have rendered a return or an income in the future anyway, so it’s pretty much a low-risk option.
“Those of us who are able to operate on a slightly more long-term basis are able to appreciate and will benefit from the power of things that are accumulative and compounding.
“And that’s what this is: it allows people to compound and allows people to have that cumulative mindset or cumulative practice, whether they had the mindset or not… that concept, that essence is what’s really important.”
Translated: don’t miss out!
Jeff Bezos popularised this term in relation to the internet and riding the digital wave rather than sitting watching, hypothesising (criticising) from the shore. It’s way too easy to say it’s all going to go to nothing when there are billions of dollars daily being exchanged in Bitcoin and other cryptocurrency markets.
In his article Don’t Be That Guy Dismissing Bitcoin, Aleks makes reference to a host of disruptive technology which the naysayers naysaid on: from the advent of electricity to the internet, to email and iPhones, each of these networks have transformed our world dramatically even though a quick Google search will result in once-upon-a-time Big Thinkers saying they wouldn’t come to shit.
“So-called experts throughout the years, starting from the days of electricity to the Telegraph, to the telephone, to email, to the internet, to iPhones, to all of these incredible networks that have been transformed, have said it would come to nothing.
“Society has always been an expert, or people that are at the helm of whatever industry that is potentially being disrupted or changed, have said: This will never work.”
So…don’t be that guy or gal dismissing bitcoin!
What Is Bitcoin Anyway?
Bitcoin is largely conceived as a form of digital currency backed up by a technology called blockchain. With its continued adoption, Bitcoin is seen as a decentralised means of exchanging value.
You give me this, I pay you in Bitcoin.
You now have more Bitcoin to then buy whatever it is you want.
It simply operates from me to you (peer-to-peer), and vice-versa, without all those other suit-ish guys in between.
The notion of decentralisation means pretty much that the big middle players, are no longer in the game. In a Bitcoin utopia, the banks don’t get to manipulate fees, reinvest your dollars to their benefit, issue loans and other forms of ‘credit’ with the end result of making massive fortunes to line their own corporate pockets. Profits which are ‘parked’ in special ‘vehicles’ enabling them to operate monumental incomes virtually tax-free…
Bitcoin is a response to the perceived sleazy actions of the banks, their lack of transparency and lack of integrity: the 2008 worldwide crash-and-burn of irresponsible mortgages resulting in so many people losing their homes, their livelihoods, even their lives and the rest…
“I think the best way to help people understand what the hell is going on here is to position Bitcoin as basically a cheap option on the potential of a much brighter future.
“I don’t even like to call it a technology. I think it’s a cheap description of Bitcoin.
“…it’s such a blend of so many different things: it’s money, it’s social engineering, it’s game theory, it’s fault tolerance, it’s proof of work, it’s cryptography, it’s a segmented database which people like to call the blockchain.
“It’s such an organic and mishmash of so many disparate fields.”
Bankers or W*nkers?
Interestingly, Aleks points out that not all banks are out to rip us off.
“I think the problem with banks, is banks.
“They just sit there and they f*cking leech.”
While he colourfully acknowledges that banks are largely responsible for the Global Financial Crisis and the ensuing international financial bloodbath, he also states there are local banks that really do function to serve people.
“You’ve also got different banks, right? You’ve got your Goldman Sachs investment banks that basically inflate rape, pillage and do whatever they do and just rent-seek.
“And you’ve got local banks which a lot of Germany’s built on, and they’re extremely functional important institutions and they keep the financial and economic system inside of jurisdiction liquid, functional and operational.”
But at the end of the proverbial day, Aleks isn’t convinced that banks will become defunct with the advent and mass adoption of Bitcoin and other crypto. He claims that on the contrary, it’ll the very institution of the bank and other big player corporations that will create the social proof, and the trust (oh the irony!) that is needed for Mrs Jane Average or Mr Joe Blogs to take on Bitcoin with any seriousness.
“I actually think a big part of Bitcoin’s adoption is going to be as banks and sovereign nations [accumulate Bitcoin].
“This thing seems to function like gold and just like a lot of the major banks and a lot of the major sovereigns hold gold, they’re going to start allocating some proportion of the money they hold into Bitcoin. Simple as that.”
He sees Bitcoin as being an ethical tempering force creating more transparency, accountability and honest behaviour in banks.
“It’s going to create banks that are more robust as opposed to being the fragile type of entity they are now, where you have a Lehmann Brothers of 2008 [which] happened because of some unquantified risk because everything’s in the dark…”
You Can’t Get Rid Of Trust
As humans, we function on trust. Take it away and we regress to the primitive cave-dwelling behaviour of the primal brain: we slink about with spears, wondering if every new encounter is friend or foe. We simply can’t function and create effective communities without trust.
Aleks sees this system of trust being built on layers.
You trust me, I trust him, he trusts the guy who wants to sell him the car because they know the same mechanic (who they both trust) – and he says it’s a great car, so… let’s buy it!
“The very existence of our entire species is predicated on the concept of trust.
Note: * trustless: in cryptocurrency ‘trustless’ relates to not needing an understanding or transaction to be based on mutual trust as the information of each block on the blockchain (the technology backing up Bitcoin and cryptocurrencies) is verified by various independent miners so that it’s virtually impossible to create a transaction that is fraudulent.
“All of this stuff about Bitcoin and crypto as being a trustless system because it’s all transparent is a load of shit because the only reason you trust Bitcoin is secure, or that there’s not a 51 percent attack happening now, is because you trust somebody with slightly more technical understanding, say like me, and I trust somebody with a more technical understanding like Andreas Antonopolous, and Antonopolous trusts the core developers and so on.
“We trust, and trust always comes in layers.
“For the large majority of the populous, they’re not going to trust this until either sovereign nations hold Bitcoin or banks start to view it as an asset that they hold as well.”
It Just Rang Alarm Bells For Me In My Head And I Was Like, Holy Crap, What Have I Been Doing?
We all know someone who heard about Bitcoin and then ignored it. They’re probably living that regret in full swing.
That someone might even be you. I certainly was that person.
I meet people now who were ‘early adopters’ and don’t work, they don’t need to. They ‘bought $100 worth of Bitcoin when it was 10c each’ and now it’s levelled at $3K per coin, and they’re meaningfully engaged in:
- studying their navels,
- travelling the planet,
- developing creative pursuits,
- choosing to remain anonymous,
- enjoying the view from their beautiful homes and
- not worrying too much about what the crypto market’s doing
“I’d heard about it years ago. It didn’t do shit. And then the next time I heard about it, I was like, holy crap, it’s still around!”
You see, we see the market go up and down. We listen to the media paint the crypto scene with shit-coloured glasses, we get influenced by mass-culture’s FUD (Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt) and we don’t take action. When it peaks and the price is ‘mooning’ we all rush in and try to buy up…
“The same thing’s going to happen here is each time, each couple of years there’s going to be a boom-bust cycle. Particularly whilst it’s early days (and we’re going to be early days for another five, ten, fifteen years).
“People are going to come in, they’re gonna be like, this is gonna change the world! and then they’re all gonna run away. It’s going to crash. And it’s going to go through a period of a winter and then the next cohort of people are gonna be like, hey, I heard about this thing last time!
“As opposed to trying to educate people about this new technology, the blockchain or cryptocurrencies, the best way to teach somebody is to have some skin in the game. If we can make this process as simple, easy and as low risk as possible, you’ll find that people will buy by design or by self-preservation or through self-interest…”
Aleks Svetski, founder of GetAmber is actually giving people the gift of simplicity, of ease of use and a sort of kind of mindless mindfulness. They don’t have to think about it, they can easily acquire Bitcoin using the GetAmber app and micropayments related to their everyday spending. At the same time, they know drip, drip, drip, like the dropping of water into a glass, eventually it’s going to overflow.
Head to www.getamber.io to find out more.
Where can you find Aleks? Twitter & Linkedin: @AleksSvetski Medium & hacker Noon: @AleksandarSvetski
The awesome articles that Aleks wrote can be found here:
Twitter & Linkedin: @AleksSvetski
Medium & hacker Noon: @AleksandarSvetski