Bow To Your New God, Blockchain. Bow Down. 0 165

It’s pronounced ‘Zero Ex Omega’.

It’s the brainchild of two people who apparently have lots of time on their hands and a penchant for publicity stunts: artist Avery Singer, child of Ramona Singer, who seems to be someone on television, and Bay Area whiz kid slash former CEO of Augur Matt Liston.

Together at a conference at New York City’s New Museum, Singer and Liston unveiled 0xΩ. It’s a blockchain religion they invented.

Do we need a blockchain religion? Of course we do. Look at it this way: blockchain has always been a religion. Singer and Liston are just making it official—and, of course, decentralizing it.

Not a Critique of Capitalism, But…

“In our secular culture, we have sort of replaced religion with capitalism or, rather, this rampant consumerism,” Liston told Wired. “0xΩ isn’t a direct critique of that, but I think it’s definitely a clear point to make.”

Put that way, 0xΩ isn’t so different from the Church of the SubGenius, which satirizes everything on Earth to rough sketch a core dogma of meaninglessness and mayhem transcendable only by the attainment of ‘slack’. Or more recently, it resembles trends in chaos magick, which asserts that “nothing is true and everything is permissible.”

These anarchic belief systems (or anti-belief systems?) can be seen as responses to some of late capitalism’s gaping failures, namely the frenzied fervors of consumerism, epidemic feelings of void and alienation resulting from an absence of cultural roots, and the general collapse of institutional religion as a place to find any meaning or value.

From this climate emerges the great and terrible Dogewhal.

Yes, Dogewhal.

“We have this avatar I’ve created who is a narwhal with a doge head, a beret, tattoos, an infinity tail, an ethereum logo,” said Singer at the unveiling, while muffling laughter.

Is this a joke? Yes! Is there more to it than that? Also yes!

The rest of the crypto world takes itself so seriously, it can stand a little shake up from time to time. If nothing else, 0xΩ brings that relief. While ostensibly the meaningless antics of the clever, it could actually have some new ideas about how we approach belief systems, and some new applications of the block.

The Block X Religion

0xΩ is a custom religion, but it’s also a platform for existing religions. On 0xΩ, everyone in the religion has an equal say in which beliefs prevail, and what will be the content of sacred texts.

It’s a takedown of traditional hierarchies in which acolytes apply themselves to the instruction of a master who holds the keys to the kingdom, hierarchies which people are less and less interested in.

“We’re incentivizing mindsharing, and eventually mind upload to use consensus to form a structure of collective consciousness,” Liston said. This deliberate manufacturing of consensus reality, if it works, would make Peter J. Carroll proud.

Where Did This All Come From?

The name ‘0xΩ’ itself has gnostic overtones. The void, or the original nothingness, multiplied by the sum total of all material existence, signified by the character Ω. Nothing times everything. Whence comes the universe? From what void does it all spring? You could ask the same of Bitcoin, which spontaneously emerges from nothingness just as the universe did, or does, maybe.

Liston, who also previously worked with a decentralized prediction company called, ironically, Gnosis, says he “grew up Jewish.”

He was pushed out of his position as CEO of Augur in a series of legal battles surrounding one of the world’s first ICOs. Augur, a betting tool that rewards users for correct predictions on elections, markets, or even the weather, seems an apt place to start for someone whose business aspirations seem to revolve around the ethereal nature of belief.

Regarding his approach to blockchain, Liston says “I’m obsessed and very driven by what these technologies can do, but I’m bored with it being a space that’s dominated by engineers and finance people.”

Like What Does Religion Even Mean, Dude?

It raises questions like: Is a democratized religion even a religion? Do the people know best on matters concerning the secret laws of nature? What is the point of all this? The best answer to the latter is probably ‘well, what is the point of anything?’

Sure, 0xΩ may be dismissive of the cultural post that world religions occupy. It’s a bit like someone mouthing a bunch of gibberish and declaring they’ve just founded a language. But it disrupts the evangelical fervor of blockchain enthusiasts, and that, if nothing else, is a service to humanity.

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A tribal member of the Choctaw Nation, Brian grew up in the Silicon valley under the technological mentorship of Steve Wozniak. He's lived, worked and traveled all over the world, and now writes and makes films in the Pacific Northwest.

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Crypto is Big Now. How Do You Pay Your Taxes? 0 108

There are 2070 kinds of tokens in circulation, with a total market cap of $209.5 billion. Bitcoin tokens alone account for $112.4 billion of that.

And while it’s been a bearish year for Bitcoin, a recent survey of fintech leaders anticipates its value to rise 220 percent by the end of 2019. Research by Stasis also supports a promising future for cryptos, projecting a trade volume growth of 50 percent through next year.

Cryptos are more popular than ever. A survey of the intersection between crypto enthusiasts and reddit users found first timers have tended to adopt crypto in step with valuation booms. “The peaks unsurprisingly follow the growth of the cryptocurrency market,” the results read, “with the two biggest years being 2013 and 2017 by a significant margin. Within 2017 the same trend shows, with most people entering crypto May through to August which coincided with the end of Ethereum’s big bull run up to $400 and Bitcoin’s run up to $5000.”

Those surveyed, overwhelmingly college educated males with a median age between 26 and 30, are confident in their knowledge about blockchain and tend towards crypto evangelism. About 40 percent said they check the price of their coins over ten times per day, with 94 percent checking at least once daily.

All This Interest in Crypto Has Alerted the Old Guard

With crypto values rising, and public interest along with it, the federal government has lumbered to life and started investigating cryptospace to the best of their ability. Which apparently means paying others to do it for them. Paying a lot. According to research by Diar, public records show US government agencies like the FBI, ICE, the SEC, and of course the IRS, have cumulatively spent $5.7 million hiring blockchain analysis companies. Two thirds of that spending has been in the last year, since Bitcoin’s big surge.

Perhaps all that analysis will help the IRS to finally clarify how they intend to tax cryptocurrencies. As of now, the only information they’ve released is a brief notice from 2014 mumbling to the public that the IRS is “aware” of “virtual currency,” and they consider it “property.” It’s very little to go on, but their silence and their heavy spending on analysis suggests they’re trying to catch up.

Investors Are Wondering How to Fulfill Their Tax Obligations

Meanwhile, we’re in the fourth quarter of crypto’s most popular year yet, and investors are looking back at the fiscal year wondering what they can do to stay in good standing. But bookkeeping gets complicated with crypto, because transaction data isn’t standardized.

With thousands of cryptos being traded across many different exchanges and every exchange reporting differently, not to mention wallet-to-wallet transactions that don’t involve an exchange, there’s no consistency in how to keep crypto books. If there were industry standards for recording and reporting transactions, that would be another story. But crypto is still young, and let’s be honest, nobody really knows what they’re doing.

So squaring up with tax responsibilities is no simple task. In fact, it’s a bit of a mystery at this point.

Who’s Solving the Problem?

While the fed scratches its noggin, champions of the private sector are stepping in to deliver solutions for companies and investors who need crypto bookkeeping. Libra is one that offers real time blockchain auditing tools “to automate and optimize middle and back office processes and reporting, while improving operational and financial analysis and control.”

Another SaaS to look into, one that’s optimized for the single investor while still useful to a company or a fund, is Profitstance. Their tools are designed to keep you up to speed on the tax consequences of every crypto transaction, again in real time. They say they guarantee the 100 percent accuracy of their calculations, and they’ll pay your IRS fines and interest if they’re wrong. With someone else taking on that much responsibility for your numbers, hopefully you can sleep (and trade) a little bit easier.

Alternatively, you can hire a team of CPAs who know crypto, like those at Camuso, and just let them handle everything for you. For the DIY types, you can use utilities like CryptoTrader.Tax to autofill your 8949 (it’s under development, but you can sign up to get the latest release when it’s ready).

So don’t stress about taxes, even if you’re among the many newcomers to the ever-expanding crypto game. We’re making this up as we fly forward into it, but there are plenty of people offering support to make sure you don’t get caught in a wrestling match with the IRS.

Kenya Looks to Blockchain for Affordable Housing Project 0 93

The “Silicon Savannah” is moving deeper in direction of tech. The Kenyan government has announced a plan to manage the property allocation and funding of 500,000 affordable housing units with blockchain technology.

The units, which the government aims to build by 2022, will be set aside for households with an annual income below 100,000 Kenyan Shillings, about $990 USD. The World Bank estimates Kenya’s gross national income per capita at $1,290, according to Business Daily.

Blockchain will help ensure that the affordable housing is in fact going to those who fall below the average income bracket. Land title fraud has caused problems for Kenyans, as land grabbers target homes and even schools for illegal sales and development. Blockchain’s ability to store verifiable proof of title could help safeguard against fraudsters.

“Kenya will use blockchain technology to ensure the rightful owners live in government funded housing projects,” said Principal Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Charles Hinga, speaking with the World Bank on Monday.

Hinga said the plan will be financed by the National Housing Fund, which will raise over $59.5 million per month to get the project underway. But Cabinet Secretary for Transport, Infrastructure, Housing and Urban Development James Macharia said it will take $31.7 billion to build a million homes, each of which will cost between $3,000 and $30,000. Macharia called for support from private sector financing.

Under the financing plan, working Kenyans will contribute 1.5 percent of their salary, which will be matched by their employers. “On affordable housing one should not spend more than 30% of their disposable income for housing,” Hinga tweeted yesterday. “Anything above 30% is not affordable.”

A Trustless Relationship Between People and Government

The initiative represents a considerable push to solve housing and title problems for the nation’s lower income families. But how will the government decide to whom the housing units will go? With so much talk about financing underway, people are already calling on the government to outline a plan for how they’ll distribute the affordable housing units.

The government will need to deliver the housing projects in a time when, Hinga acknowledges, the public is skeptical. Earlier this year $78 million went missing in a corruption scandal involving the National Youth Services. Where there is little trust between the people and their government, Kenya hopes to establish transparency through the blockchain’s distributed ledger system.

Kenya’s Move Toward Tech

In March, Kenya’s Ministry of Information, Communications and Technology appointed a blockchain taskforce to explore the ways the nation could use blockchain technology in the public and private sectors. They called it the Distributed Ledgers and Artificial Intelligence taskforce, and by September its chairman, Bitange Ndemo, was calling on the government to tokenize the economy.

Ndemo also proposed government implementation of blockchain to certify the authenticity of retail goods, so consumers can be sure of where their food is coming from, for example.

Governor of Kenya’s central bank Patrick Njoroge has also voiced support for the use of blockchain technology to strengthen service delivery, although he’s opposed the use of tokens and digital currencies.

But the affordable housing initiative could be the Kenyan government’s first real world implementation of the blockchain.

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