Humans of Crypto - Episode #1: Miguel Cuneta

A video series by Particl and BlockChats

The cryptocurrency movement is a temperamental thing. Born and thriving online, it has the curiously contrasting properties of being immediately available yet always somewhat detached.

We want to understand what is happening, what it’s all about, and we can access a plethora of information, anytime — but that’s where the confusion begins. Because there are as many opinions as there are voices on the internet, and they scar and scatter our confidence in this young industry.

In good times, we are seized by waves of energy and enthusiasm, and knowingly, willingly even, float with tides of hype and FOMO. Because being part of a disruptive industry, we feel we are on the right track, among early adopters, HODLing, BUIDLing, reaching out for what might be a once-in-a-lifetime chance at shaping an unseen vision of the future.

In bad times, before we even know it, we find ourselves on our own. Netizens throw their hands up in horror, haters throw told-you-so-tweets our way, media throw out headlines announcing the death of Bitcoin.

But as we throttle our naive dreams of perfect disruption and tumble into self-pity, sometimes we might just get lucky enough to catch a glimpse of these individuals that are different; the ones that seem to have missed the latest “cryptocalypse” news. They tirelessly work through every crash, they don’t grow weary of explaining themselves and their work. They stay true to their beliefs, and they seem to just know more than we do, because nothing can faze them, and nothing ever discourages them.

We meet the supporters that stick with their beliefs through any backlash, the creators that are constructing the first pillars of cutting-edge infrastructures in a society that seems far from ready, the thinkers that draw scenarios which have never been thought before. As we follow them through their everyday lives, talk with them in their favourite spots, and look over their shoulder at work, we attempt to understand a little bit more about them and their pursuits.

What gives them confidence? What kind of future do they see? What can we take away from their perspectives?

Humans of Crypto is our sneak peek at the industry beyond the hype.

Miguel Cuneta, Co-Founder and CCO of Satoshi Citadel Industries – Manila, Philippines

About The Author

The Founder
Lina

My name is Lina, I am a blockchain and fintech speaker, chief manager at a Kuala Lumpur Venture Capital and management company, and PR manager for a blockchain-powered asset management platform.


Unblock Party: the next news spot

Unblock the news

Christmas is always a very special time of the year for everyone in the world. Whether you believe in Jesus Christ or just follow the more commercial tradition, the month of December always fills our hearts with goodness and kindness and it fills our lives of Christmas decorations, coloured lights, carols, hot chocolate and more.

This year, we at BlockChats have a series of event to celebrate this special season together. From the BlockLab: Blockchain Engineered to our Manila’s Blockchain Christmas market, but we are happy also to share with you a new wonderful event that not only will fill your minds with knowledge and news but it will also fill your hearts and help you be kind, in real Christmas spirit.

Join us as we unblock the future at Unblock Party, an EDM party for a cause, that will launch the crypto news website, Unblock.news. Together with a discussion on the innovation of Blockchain Technology, you’ll be able to celebrate Christmas time with your friends, fellow crypto people and many others, drinks are free!

And since it’s Christmas time, and we are all better and kinder around this season, the event will also help unblock happiness as its proceeds will be donated to support the outreach programs done by the Queen of Hearts Foundation for less fortunate children.

Tickets are almost sold out so don’t miss the chance to give back to the community while enjoying a wonderful time together with us!

The Organisers

XIN Marketing is a marketing agency designed to disseminate knowledge of Blockchain technology to our fast-paced evolving world. They are smart and forward looking and they are here to conquer and to overcome impossibility by giving their best in bringing the latest technologies closer to our society.


I know what you bought last Summer

(or last Christmas)

Can Amazon be replaced by decentralised applications?

Starting the moment a guest at a BlockChats event in September walked up to me and wished me a Merry Christmas, I have been constantly baffled by the efforts made in Manila to celebrate the holiday season. Just visiting the shopping centres, I am regularly blown away by the extensive plays of illumination, live piano jingles, and fir forests blocking the hallways.

No matter if you’re into this kind of kitsch or not – Christmas lights, gingerbread houses, bright-red stockings, and holiday discounts do draw the people to the malls. Christmas season is a season of carefree indulgence, and in many countries a silver lining on a horizon of abandoned shopping malls.

According to a 2017 article by the Guardian, around half of the 1,200 malls in the U.S. are expected to go out of business by 2023; Deutsche Welle anticipated the closure of about 10,000 retail shops in the UK by the end of this year. The numbers, while unsettling, don’t come as much of a surprise. We all know what’s behind these developments: we’ve got more convenient options now.

Why spend hours moping through the endless corridors of a noisy retail jungle, fighting your way through overfilled clothes racks, and squeezing onto slow-motion escalators, when you could stay in the comfort of your home and munch on popcorn while you browse through Amazon? Key in your search, read some reviews, place your order, happy days.

Or not?

As we set up the agenda for our upcoming Christmas event this 14th of December, we quickly realised that e-commerce as such hasn’t been a very prominent topic this far. Conferences and community get-togethers discuss the wildest applications of blockchain technology, but the purchase of goods with what’s in your crypto wallet, possibly the most direct use case of cryptocurrency after straight-forward value transfers, hasn’t been paid much attention.

Why is that?

Imagine yourself cuddled up in bed with a glass of milk and a plate of cookies on your lap when your dad comes inside with a flyer from a furniture shop. He tells you that you could go right now and get a state-of-the-art waterbed with a built-in massage function and a cup holder – all you need to do is get out of bed, get dressed, get out into the traffic, drive there…

You’re actually quite comfortable right now, so why bother?

Decentralised marketplaces come into today’s e-commerce a bit like Bitcoin would come into a world before any financial crises.

“Never change a winning team.”

E-Commerce as we know it ...

… hasn’t actually been around for too long and is still in the midst of disrupting the traditional retail industry; it’s a constantly evolving space in itself. It’s not just browsing the web, filling your virtual shopping basket, and waiting for delivery anymore. It’s not even swiping through your phone and using your stored credit card details to buy a new PlayStation in less than ten minutes anymore. If you are the lucky (or unlucky, depending on your stance) owner of an Alexa device, you can place orders on Amazon without moving a single finger – simply by commanding Alexa with your voice. Today, we have a variety of online shopping options, all catered to making our consumer lives as efficient, effortless, and intuitive as possible.

We are partners in crime when it comes to the creation of our profiles in the databases of service providers. Every time we visit an e-commerce platform, we deepen our relationship and let them further into our personal space. And they give back to us – targeted advertisements that prompt us to make more purchases, helping them get to know us even more.

So what's the problem?

The Transparent Human

In Germany, we may affectionately call the likes of Amazon, eBay, and Co. “Datenkraken” – I looked up the English translation but found that there doesn’t seem to be one. Actually, the literal translation is simply “data octopus”; a term coined in recent discussions about data protection and privacy.

We like to take shortcuts by nature, and we go with convenience when we can. The leaders in e-commerce provide us with the highest level of convenience in our shopping experience, taking it so far that we may not even have to search, may not even have to think anymore – Amazon is there for us and suggests what to buy for our mother for Christmas.

The ultimate trade-off? We pay the price – not just the product price, but the privacy price. Even then, no news here; this is a long-known fact to all of us.

 

We have a lot of things to worry about. So we don’t really worry about “data” used by “third parties” to send us “targeted ads”. Something we can’t touch, and something we don’t feel. It doesn’t affect us.

So we use the same password across the board – until the day that info is stolen, and with it our credit card details on the pages that didn’t do enough to encrypt our payment data.

We connect our Twitter to our Amazon account and log into our food delivery app with our Facebook profile, we cross-post our dinner photos and spread news we find interesting, and who knows, maybe the last article we shared was intentionally placed on our feed in an act of political manipulation. We’re lucky if a whistle-blower shows up and we find out.

Dystopian sci-fi movies draw the disturbing future of a world subdued by large corporations, but it’s just movies, right?

Do we lack the urgency to address the issue? Or do we simply not believe in a future of transparent humans?

Is that the only problem?

The Gatekeeper Fees

If you’re interested in buying my headphones and I agree to selling them to you, there’s no problem as long as we’re in the same location. We agree on the price, meet at a nearby café, I bring the headphones, you bring the money, you check the quality, I count the banknotes, we’re good to go.

As soon as we’re in different locations, however, it’s not that easy anymore. I need to send you my headphones, and you need to send me the money. What if you receive a damaged product, a different product, or no product at all? I could always say I sent the headphones as you requested them. Or what if I ship them, but you never transfer the money?

We have no way of verifying that everything goes according to our agreement – we have no way of trusting each other. So online marketplaces act as the mediator making sure that our trade goes smoothly. They’re not here for charity, so they take a fee. Ultimately, they can take whatever fee they like – and not seldom, they do exactly that. Because what do you do if not use their services? Change platforms? The outcome will be similar.

Opt out? Not really, unless you want to limit yourself to in-person purchases from now on.

While we as consumers might not really care that much for the fees (partly because we know we have no alternative), and even large retailers can absorb those extra costs, the ones that suffer are small vendors; the sellers of low volumes that have no access to cost-efficient, large-scale infrastructures. They effectively earn a significantly lower income from their sales.

Opt out? Not really, unless you want to limit yourself to selling your products to your neighbours from now on.

So where does cryptocurrency come in? What is a decentralised marketplace, and what is its proposal to fix the faults in existing e-commerce systems?

I am really happy with our panel for the upcoming event. We’ve got representatives from backgrounds in finance, technology, but also traditional e-commerce, and we will try to leverage their combined expertise to discuss not only the technical aspects, but also the social and ethical sides to the proposal of decentralised shopping.

How do decentralised marketplaces tackle the existing issues in today’s e-commerce, and where are their compromises in doing so?

What does trustless shopping mean?

What about the possibility of another Silk Road experience?

Join Manila’s Blockchain Christmas Fair this 14th of December at BlockchainSPACE in Makati to discuss with our panellists about the future of e-commerce and decentralised shopping and try out the real-life application of a decentralised marketplace, in between holiday jingles and loads of good food on our free onsite Christmas market.

To meet our panellists and read up on the event, click here, and to join the community on Telegram, click here.

 

Bye!

Lina

About The Author

The Founder
Lina

My name is Lina. Originally form the land of bread and beer and long confusing words, today I am a homeless tech evangelist, or digital nomad, whichever term you prefer.


The Scrooges of the future

The other night I was having dinner with my family, just the usual, and if you know how Italian minds work, you should understand that dinner with the family is actually a very important moment (not to sound too much like Don Corleone, but it’s true). In my case, we often tend to engage in very serious conversation after dinner and topics can range from ethics, to politics, and to the economy as well.

I have never actually been all that interested in the economy until I launched my own startup. It was only then that I started educating myself and discovered a whole new world to it: cryptocurrencies. You’d think that it’s about time that I did, and yes, I say that to myself too.
So, as I was saying, at that very much Italian dinner, I was trying to explain to my mother how cryptocurrencies work.

If we think about money and the economy, we always think about it as something physical, tangible, something we can actually hold in our hands. It’s funny how we have this image of Uncle Scrooge diving into a pool of gold coins, and this, for us, is the apotheosis of money. When 80% of the population (maybe even more) think about money, like I said before, they think of something material, and often cryptocurrencies are still being written off as something malignant, something we should all stay away from. All because it’s not tangible.

So here I was, having my Italian dinner with my Italian family, asking them a simple question: can you actually touch the money you have in your bank account?
Obviously, the answer was no. Most of the time, they are mere numbers on a piece of paper or on your screen. So my next question to them was, “how is that any different from owning Bitcoin or other similar cryptocurrencies?”. I believe that this disconnect is one of the main causes of distrust towards cryptocurrency.

If we really do stop and think a little more deeply about it, the answer to my last question is “there is no difference”. We can’t actually touch the money we have in our bank accounts because there is no physical money. We imagine these big vaults, filled with gold coins just like Uncle Scrooge’, and while that may have been true just a decade ago, in the 21st century, all those gold ingots have turned into numbers.

So how are these numbers that define the values of the US dollar and Euro any different from the ones that define Bitcoin, Ethereum, and so many other cryptocurrencies? Wouldn’t you say that they’re pretty much the same?
If we had a time machine and we were able to travel back to the 18th century or even further, and if we were to bring a person to the future and make him or her see how our banks are working now, they would be extremely shocked by the fact that there is nothing tangible.

Since the beginning of time, humanity has always lived on economy and some sort of money. First there was bartering, the most tangible currency. We knew that a cow was worth 3 sheeps and 2 chickens, so this is how transactions were made long time ago. Then our necessities evolved, so in 600BC the first currency was actually invented by King Alyattes in what today we call Turkey. This created a roar that is still aching today. Coins became cash, cash became credit cards and in 1946, when the first credit card was invented, it was the first moment when the actual money started not being tangible anymore. With just a swipe, we were able to pay sums that we weren’t actually physically owning anywhere.

We are no longer just reasoning on silver and gold, we no longer have ingots in our banks and this might sound like the weirdest thing for someone from 1740. And I can bet, that if we take the same time machine and we jump 100 years in the future, we would maybe be surprised to see that every transaction needs to be done not in USD, not in Euro but in cryptocurrency. Truth be told, we already are in the midst of entering that future.

The future is scary. It’s not easy to just jump into the unknown, not without fear. Once upon a time there was Star Trek and they had phones in their hands, something that was completely unthinkable for us in the 80s… and then Steve Jobs invented the iPhone. The rest, as we say, is history.

About The Author

Europe Executive
Erika

I’ve just turned 32, and my name is Erika, with a ‘K’. I’ve always loved communication, both in its digital and traditional forms. Everyday relationships, work partnerships, and even simply contacting someone else, all of this is communication.