On February 24th, 2022, Russia invaded Ukraine. Among the several sanctions imposed by several countries, a SWIFT ban was being discussed. For the majority of people, that might have been the first and also the last time in their entire lives that they read about SWIFT. Maybe it sparked something in a curious mind that then went down the rabbit hole of computer science. However, for the majority of mankind, SWIFT is some kind of system that controls money transfers between countries, providing some kind of identifier number, and if you start engaging in bad behavior, the system blacklists that identifier and you can’t access banks anymore.
For most people, Traditional Finance (TradFi) is just another big system on the internet doing things that they don’t care about. There are places in the world where revealing what actually happens behind the curtain is like magic or science fiction. Systems, processes, and the user experience, in general, are often taken for granted.
Then you have decentralized finance. DeFi.
Born with Satoshi’s white paper on Bitcoin, the idea of decentralization is pretty clear when you read the first sentence in the ‘abstract’ section of the document published on October 31, 2008: “A purely peer-to-peer version of electronic cash would allow online payments to be sent directly from one party to another without going through a financial institution.”
That’s it. You don’t need to read anything else. When you pay for your groceries with cash, the guy at the counter is not a financial institution, is a cashier. But Satoshi said ‘electronic cash’. That’s the magic part, but it doesn’t feel exactly like magic, right? Today you use a credit or debit card, even contactless cards or QR codes. That’s electronic. Like electronic cash. And if you can get out of the store with your groceries, that means it works. Was that peer-to-peer though? It felt that way, but there’s a lot happening in milliseconds.
That’s the key difference.
Ironically, we are honoring the Bitcoin idea by the date of the whitepaper (yeah, Halloween), and that’s because dealing with Decentralized Finance (DeFi) is like a horror movie for a non-tech-savvy user.
And that’s because we still don’t have “the killer app” (another scary coincidence with October 31/Halloween, calling it “the KILLER app”).
You might have heard about “the killer app”. Is like the One Ring, “One Ring to rule them all”, one app to rule them all (actually kill all the other apps). Maybe you thought it was the Luna/Terra ecosystem as a whole because a friend told you about that juicy 19% APY, which at the time meant “This has to be like finding out about Bitcoin in 2009”.
Maybe that is what Binance is becoming.
Or maybe, just maybe, one day, China will lift the ban on cryptocurrencies and integrate blockchain payments into WeChat, and that will be the end of it.
There’s no democratization of nothing if everyone in the world needs to know about RPC, Golang, Zero-Trust, SegWit, etc, or be forgotten in a sea of ignorance.
The reality is that this “Michael Myers app” isn’t even close (well, maybe crypto + WeChat, with GPT-6 and Elon’s robots and implants is a realistic Blade Runner scenario today more than ever, one where we all speak Mandarin). Today, dealing with DeFi is not only a nightmarish scenario for non-technical humans, but it is also one where mass adoption becomes a Utopia.
Let’s make some ugly comparisons:
- Compare losing access to your bank account with losing your cardboard card that contains the 24 words mnemonic for your Ledger wallet.
- Go and pay for your groceries with Trust Wallet, we’d love to hear the cashier’s response (if the place has a sign that says “Bitcoin accepted here”, we also would love to hear the response when you ask if USDT over TRC-20 is ok).
- Go to your online banking platform of choice and schedule a money transfer for next week. Then google how to do that with a Trezor hardware wallet. You’re gonna need a lot of Googling skills.
And we can keep listing comparisons, use cases, and scenarios that highlight how DeFi is still an experiment (yeah we know, we are early adopters, we are at the early stages) and TradFi is the only option.
With the killer app, this won’t matter. But there’s no chance we get there if we continue to market the idea the way we are selling it. There’s no democratization of nothing if everyone in the world needs to know about RPC, Golang, Zero-Trust, SegWit, etc, or be forgotten in a sea of ignorance.
This is a series of posts that attempts to shed some light on these issues and open the debate a little bit, so maybe, just maybe, we can change things. Never forget that the good thing about living in the dark makes it easier to see the light. Mass adoption of DeFi, Blockchain, and crypto is darker than dark. But we can move some pieces and find a way to actually integrate into the real world without leaving behind the ones and zeroes.