We discuss my twitter avatar, if I am a bitcoiner, and whether or not Tether is a fraud.
If there is one thing that crypto can regularly provide it is drama. Today, the controversy (or at least one of them) centers around a token called Few. The token seems to have started when Sam Ratnakar decided to invite a small number of influential people from cryptocurrency to work on an “Experiment”. Each would receive an equal proportion of the tokens and a small proportion would be reserved for liquidity.
Many members of the telegram who received the token seem to have an honest desire to build something. However, the Telegram was also quickly filled with ‘jokes’ about pumping and dumping the token.
Now let’s give all of these people the benefit of the doubt and assume they were working honestly with the goal of building something important. Even still they are doing it in what seems to be an inexplicable manner.
Generally, tokens should be created in order to serve a purpose. You decide on a project, a protocol, something, that in order to function optimally requires a token. What happened instead here seems to be that the token was created, distributed to a list of people with influence in crypto, many of them started “jokingly” shilling it on Twitter, and there was still no reason for the token to exist.
My intuition, and I hope I am wrong, is that the earliest creators and shills of $FEW were not doing it entirely as a joke. I believe many of them were experiencing FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out) and in order to rectify that feeling settled on creating their own token, airdropping it to a small group of influencers, and then “influencing”, so that they too could share in the mania.
Even if it was all a “joke”, where’s the punchline? Is it a meta point that most tokens are worthless? Is it a commentary on the large amounts of wealth that generally accrue to the earliest and most connected in crypto? Is it supposed to be a mockery of the “great team” method of crypto investing? None of those feel convincing to me, and I am left with a sadness about the state of cryptocurrency.
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There is an obsession passing through crypto over ‘yield farming’. I have very little idea what yield farming is. In order to learn what it is I am going to look into a coin that recently launched that I saw people tweeting about called Kimchi. I chose this coin as it came out the same day that I made my first batch of kimchi. This post will be a log of my trying to understand this coin.
First, I need to figure out what is yield farming. As far as I can tell yield farming works by placing your token into a Uniswap (or similar auto market maker) contract that is against a dollar equivalent (often Tether or USDC). In order to understand the impact of this I have to zoom out again and refresh my memory of how Uniswap pools work.
[Aside I learned while researching this: Tether and Binance violate the ERC-20 standard by not returning an integer boolean when transfer() is called and both instead return nothing.]
Each pool consists of two ‘ERC-20’ tokens (as discussed above they do accommodate some non standard implementations) (this also means that the contract does not natively handle Eth and instead must use WEth which is ether wrapped in an ERC-20 compliant token). When you make a swap in this pool the token you transfer is exchanged for the proportional value of the other token in the pool. Say there is 1 Eth in the pool and 100 USDC and you swap 0.05 Eth then you will receive 4.747 USDC. This amount may seem odd at first glance, but Uniswap charges a 0.3% fee on the trade which is paid out to those who have contributed their assets to the pool. (Note: this examples ignore gas fees)
So now we need to zoom out slightly more and focus in on the liquidity providers. The way these pools work is that you deposit your tokens to the contract as a liquidity provider and then are paid a liquidity token which represents your proportional ownership of the fees for that contract. This token can be transferred, traded, and lent (this is where some of the more complex interactions come into play) and to receive your payout of the liquidity fee your liquidity token must be burned. On contracts with decent volume you can receive meaningful returns from contributing your tokens to the contract and thus people are incentivized to contribute to further liquidity.
Okay now I feel like I have a strong enough understanding of these systems to actually look at the token in question Kimchi. In the past when assessing new contracts my instinct has always been to read the whitepaper, however Kimchi and many other of the ‘new’ tokens do not have whitepapers. So that stymied somewhat, however Kimchi does tell us it was forked from Sushi and Yuno. I was optimistic that one of these would have a whitepaper. They do not. Sushi however does have a Medium post. Perhaps that will help us understand their system.
The first change is that the liquidity token provided in Uniswap is replaced with a Sushi token that gives an ONGOING right to fees deposited into the contract. I emphasized that in case any securities lawyers come across this article. The way this works is that the majority of the liquidity fee is distributed to active liquidity providers in the same way that it is with Uniswap, but a small portion of it (1/6) is converted to Sushi and issued proportionally to Sushi stakers. Every block Sushi are minted and 90% are distributed to Sushi stakers and the remainder go to the ‘Dev Fund’.
Now we can shift back to Kimchi and try to figure out how it differs from Sushi. First, they mint more tokens in each block. Second, they offer preferential rewards for some pairs. Looking around on Twitter it appears that YUNO the other token they forked from had a backdoor, and Kimchi preserved that backdoor but made it impossible to exploit by tying it to a non-functional contract. https://twitter.com/emilianobonassi/status/1300925536747876354
This also means that there is no real governance or changes that can happen with Kimchi, whereas Sushi claims to be working on governance.
Now we need to zoom out one more time and look at yield farming as a whole and why these tokens are popping up in the first place. Many different DeFi products like Compound issue governance tokens to users and this has incentivized a large amount of liquidity to flow into them. Furthermore, there are people who will contribute their token to liquidity on Compound, and then use the resulting token representing their lent token on Compound as liquidity on Uniswap (or Sushi or whatever). The ability for the same collateral to be used in multiple places, and producing yields in multiple places that can then also be used to generate yield seems to be the basis of yield farming.
My fundamental and deep seated issue with all of this is that this all seems to be happening with such speed that any kind of due diligence is skipped. There are no whitepapers. There are no security audits. There is no community due diligence before money starts pouring in. Many of these contracts have admin keys that allow for the creators to mint a large amount of tokens, to remove liquidity, to change the contract in other ways. This does not seem to be the future of money, but instead a mad cash grab built with the assumption that the black swan will never happen. That the stacked yields won’t eventually succumb to abnormally large withdrawals, or exploits, or extraordinary market conditions. Inevitably they will. I hope every single person with funds committed to them are fully aware of that risk.
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I have been told that I am prone to seeing plots in the mundane, and in trying to make mountains out of molehills when it comes to Tether. I have been told that I do not give them the benefit of the doubt or try to find charitable explanations for their behaviors. I am left wondering, why does Tether deserve the benefit of the doubt?
Tether was founded in 2014, and was almost immediately owned and controlled by the same principals as Bitfinex. This was not fully brought to light until the Panama Papers were leaked and it was also mentioned in Bitfinex’s lawsuit against Wells Fargo. Does this level of transparency deserve the benefit of the doubt?
Tether originally claimed to be backed solely by the currency represented. So USDT would be backed solely by USD. However, early on they also advertised exchanging Bitcoin for Tether through Tether. This was also advertised as a way to get Tethers without going through Know Your Customer regulations and processes. Does that also deserve the benefit of the doubt? Coincidentally, Tether’s lawyer said in the recent NYAG case that part of their reserves were invested in Bitcoin. I’m sure that is nothing though.
Tether loaned 100’s of millions of dollars to another business well knowing that the funds that business was going to give in return were currently not able to be withdrawn. Does that deserve the benefit of the doubt?
Tether was once hacked for ~$30m. Their response was to never explain what happened and force a hard fork of the Omni protocol to freeze those tokens. Does that deserve the benefit of the doubt? Luckily for Tether the Omni devs added in the ability for them to freeze any Tether at will.
Tether was supposed to be regularly audited for transparency. They eventually released monthly attestations from an accounting firm in Taiwan, and then those stopped. Then they released a statement from an auditing firm, and then there was nothing for a long time, and then they released a statement from a law firm, and since then nothing.
Perhaps the reason they are having so much trouble getting audited is because they’re incompetent at record keeping. They admitted during the proceedings of the NYAG case that they commingled corporate and client funds. Furthermore, Tether has a transparency page that has been incorrect for months. They claim that they have $31,304,655.00 Tether on Omni. Let’s go to the blockchain quick and check their math: $354,645.00 + $3,100,000.00 + $30,950,000.00 + $940,000.00 + $2,039,980.00 = $37,384,625. So they are unable to even add, yet we are supposed to give them the benefit of the doubt?
I had a good time with Michael and JJ recording this podcast. We touch on Crypto Capital, Tether, Bitfinex, Coinbase, Kraken, Jacob Kostecki and more in this podcast.
The following is a list of (to the best of my knowledge) facts, presented neutrally (or as neutrally as possible) for you to draw your own conclusions.
This story begins with a crypto conference that was supposed to happen in Memphis called Massive Adoption. It was planned and orchestrated by Jacob Kostecki and failed. Due to insufficient funds the conference was cancelled. During this same time Jacob was fundraising in a drive he called SatsForStudents that collected crypto to fund activities for underprivileged students. With that context I now present you facts that you may or may not find interesting.
Jacob Kostecki has a warrant out for his arrest in Poland.
Jacob Kostecki named a company that he used to collect payments for Massive Adoption, “Integrity Front LLC.” The company is now delinquent.
Jacob Kostecki has claimed to have been involved in real estate for the last 14 years.
Jacob Kostecki formed a [presumably] real estate focused company called Off Market Today LLC in February 2020.
Jacob Kostecki created a new Twitter account to focus on real estate in February 2020.
Many startups that have chosen to work with Jacob have felt cheated by him.
Jacob claims to have been in the US since mid 2014.
The tickets for Massive Adoption were often promised to include various valuable benefits including hotel rooms, and even at one point more crypto than the cost of the ticket.
During this same period Jacob was fundraising for an initiative that he called SatsForStudents that was meant to help underprivileged kids.
Jacob has failed to provide a complete accounting of where the SatsForStudents funds went and there is evidence that the funds went through mixers and to exchanges.
Jacob has made a variety of comments suggesting that he may pursue legal action against critics.
Jacob Kostecki has insinuated that people pointing out problems makes it more difficult for him to do refunds, and some statements could be interpreted as him saying he may not refund or may delay refunds to people who point out problems.
Jacob Kostecki has promised to update his website at massiveadoption.com.
Currently, the website is hosting a domain parking service.
Specifically this domain parking service: https://www.parkingcrew.com/
Parking services are a way for domain owners to profit from traffic to their domain.
Delays with refunds have been a continual pattern with regards to this conference. The conference was originally scheduled for November and then delayed. After that delay Jacob fell behind on refunds.
Addendum 4/1/20: Jacob Kostecki claims to be a real estate wholesaler, and that real estate wholesalers make so much.
Addendum 5/8/20: Jacob Kostecki is currently being sued for his failure to provide timely refunds for Massive Adoption
These are to the best of my ability fully accurate facts about Jacob Kostecki.
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Disclaimer: I am not a lawyer, this is not legal advice or financial advice or life advice or medical advice or romance advice. Especially not romance.
The fundamental tension between the NYAG has become less a dispute about facts and more frequently a dispute about service, jurisdiction, precedents, and language. Tether especially was much more creative in this filing than previous ones.
Let’s start by outlining the broad strokes of the NYAG argument. Their primary thrust seems to be that Tether’s claim of improper service is invalid, due to existing precedence and their failure to bring it up in an earlier motion. They also find themselves frustrated by the lack of documents that have been provided by the merry men of Digfinex.
Listen if I am going to be blunt I think all of this posturing around jurisdiction is a load of shit. The Block reported [paywalled] that it was relatively easy for a NY resident who was moderately comfortable with lying to get an account there. Now based on the New Yorkers I have seen on the national stage recently I have reason to believe at least some New York residents are comfortable lying. Also it appears that the requirements for Martin Act jurisdiction are relatively light and we also know that an accounting firm they hired, a PR firm they hired, were also in New York. Oh also they helped onboard a New York based trading outfit and loaned them Tethers. Now you can argue that the Martin Act provides too much jurisdiction, but if that is the thrust of your argument you’re going to struggle.
Now looking more in detail at the Tether response we see some excitement from their lawyers for once. One of their primary thrusts seems to be that they were improperly served, and thus everything from then is bunk. It really comes down to whether serving the outside counsel of Bitfinex who was communicating with NYAG was appropriate or not. I am not qualified to assess the law, but it seems to me that they are unlikely to win this service argument.
The second thrust of their argument is jurisdictional. Namely the New Yorkers we worked with either were technically international or we did not know they were New Yorkers. This argument would hold a little more impact if they did you know anything except asking a single question to determine if someone was from New York.
Then they try to argue that Tether is not a security or a commodity and thus not subject to Martin Act. This is their most creative argument, but it seems the reach of the Martin act will still bring them to heel here.
Overall, my assessment of these two responses together is that Tether and Bitfinex are in a pickle and are taking steps to lengthen the proceedings and win in the court of public opinion.
n.b.: This is more rant and less article. If you expect structure or coherence perhaps this will not be the experience you want tonight.
I believe I must have gotten dumber, for the machines seem to now be smarter. Before they had no ability to recommend, sort, tag, and partition. Now, they Just Work (TM). This simplicity and clarity allows for many to create, consume, and engage. However, I find myself frustrated beyond what can be considered reasonable.
Consider for example the brilliant product Apple Music. It seamlessly combines your existing library with a massive streaming library which allows you to have the best of both worlds. At some point it decided for some of my files that its version was better than my own and replaced it in my library. Now they were likely right! Their file was likely a higher bitrate and probably sounded better, but when you replace an explicit song with a clean one it can be jarring. Especially when the album is Eminem and half the words are gone. However, this was likely my fault as I probably selected the wrong option during setup, or perhaps my file was labeled “wrong.”
Have you ever tried to put a picture in a Word document? It goes exactly where you put it, but later you realize that you should have put it somewhere else. Be careful moving it or your entire document structure may go upside-down. There’s an easy way to fix it by changing the text wrapping of course.
I code for my day job and for fun. However, I will admit that I do not always use the appropriate PEP-8 formatting, however, we are in luck because my IDE has an autopep8 extension that takes care of it for me. Except for the day that it moved an import statement, created an import loop, and it took me hours to find and fix. But hey that was my fault, I should have known I was not following PEP-8 formatting with that import statement moved down like that.
I have found that Netflix gives me a new sense of urgency to watch the shows and movies that I love, because I always have a sense that they are short for this world. Weirdly enough many of them are on DVD right across the room and could be watched whenever.
For some reason this blog now struggles to hold my attention, while my Tweet volume has remained incredible. Luckily I hope I have learned from Shakespeare and kept my wit despite the brevity.
I carry around a slab of glass and metal that is more powerful than machines I once dreamed of owning. It keeps me informed of exactly what I have told it I want to be informed about. I find myself needing to shut it off.
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A fascinating look at how the microbiome may affect drug metabolism. Important to remember that the game does not end at pharmacogenomics and we need to be paying attention to the complex interplay of numerous complex systems to understand drug action.
Thanks to the ‘magic’ of deep learning we may be able to better predict which patients are going to respond to immunotherapy in gastrointestinal cancer with cheaper tests. More people treating their cancer certainly sounds good to me.
The gene that was CRISPR-ed in those Chinese babies makes it more likely you die. This isn’t even accounting for the potential off-target effects. Turns out the thing we all knew was unethical is in fact unethical. Who da thunk?
Following in the same vein as the previous article we take a theoretical look at the potential for these germline therapies.
Interesting Substack post about the increasing stratification of society through the lens of boutique businesses.
From one, many. Our bodies are a huge mess of different mutations each of which could or could not be maybe contributing to diseases. Thinking of yourself as having one genetic identity is flawed.
A fun article taking a look at some of the numerous scams in the cryptocurrency ecosystem. I am partial to the disaster that is EOS.
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Google did that thing they do again where they make vast steps in artificial intelligence and machine learning. Efficiency of these image recognition networks is up to 10* greater. Most of this gain is because they try to use “scaling coefficients” so that the network scales in a predictable way. I’m just mad because it’s a TensorFlow model and not PyTorch so I can’t drop it into any of my existing image recognition notebooks.
Another Google blog post about how they are doing incredible things. Man what I wouldn’t do to work for Google Brain. (This research is also being done at the same university I am doing my capstone with, so hey maybe they can sneak me in) Okay so in this article they describe a state of the art result for predicting lung cancer using improved volumetric predictions of CT scans. They instead of looking at individual slices in the image are instead reconstructing 3-d structures to improve the accuracy. This both is and is not a crazy step forward. Being able to use the 3-d structure seems to be truly revolutionary, but some of the radiologists performed equally as well as it. Seems that it will be a useful assistance tool for now.
I promise this won’t be all Google, but again what they are doing right here is incredibly cool and a little bit scary. They have found a way to approximate the 3-d size, shape, and depth of moving people even when the camera is moving. This work has really cool implications for AR and VR and a little bit terrifying uses for a potential police state. There are many places where face recognition has been banned or people are considering banning it, however, combining a 3-d map of a person with existing effective identification techniques like gait tracking can serve as a proxy for facial recognition in those areas. Combined with facial recognition it could provide an even stronger match limiting false positives, and avoiding false negatives.
Okay we are finally away from Google, but into something even more terrifying. This neural network when fed a small sample of speech is able to generate a qualitatively accurate facial guess. The model seems quite adept at identifying both race and gender. Scary stuff.
This fun parody site created by Joshua Davis, Kyle Gibson, and the pseudonymous Cas Piancey mercilessly lampoons the tomfoolery of Kik’s attempt to challenge the SEC. For the record, I do not think promising an Ethereum public DApp and delivering a one node Stellar fork is a good thing.
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