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The  Crypto
Story 加密货币故事

Where it came from, what it all means, and why it still matters.

By Matt Levine 马特·莱文著

There was a moment not so long ago when I thought, “What if I’ve had this crypto thing all wrong?” I’m a doubting normie who, if I’m being honest, hasn’t always understood this alternate universe that’s been percolating and expanding for more than a decade now. If you’re a disciple, this new dimension is the future. If you’re a skeptic, this upside-down world is just a modern Ponzi scheme that’s going to end badly—and the recent “crypto winter” is evidence of its long-overdue ending. But crypto has dug itself into finance, into technology, and into our heads. And if crypto isn’t going away, we’d better attempt to understand it. Which is why we asked the finest finance writer around, Matt Levine of Bloomberg Opinion, to write a cover-to-cover issue of Bloomberg Businessweek, something a single author has done only one other time in the magazine’s 93-year history (“What Is Code?,” by Paul Ford). What follows is his brilliant explanation of what this maddening, often absurd, and always fascinating technology means, and where it might go. —Joel Weber, Editor, Bloomberg Businessweek
还记得不久前的一刻,我想:“如果我一直误解了加密货币这一切?”我是一个怀疑的普通人,老实说,我并不总是理解这个已经存在了十多年的另一个宇宙。如果你是一个信徒,这个新维度就是未来。如果你是一个怀疑者,这个颠倒的世界只是一个现代庞氏骗局,最近的“加密货币寒冬”是它即将结束的证据。但是,加密货币已经渗透到金融、技术和我们的思想中。如果加密货币不会消失,我们最好尝试理解它。这也是为什么我们邀请了 Bloomberg Opinion 的顶尖金融作家 Matt Levine 撰写了 Bloomberg Businessweek 的封面故事,这是该杂志 93 年历史中仅有的第二次由单一作者完成的(第一次是 Paul Ford 的“What Is Code?”)。以下是他对这个让人困惑、常常荒谬却总是迷人的技术的精彩解释,以及它可能的发展方向。—Joel Weber,Bloomberg Businessweek 编辑

Bloomberg Businessweek cover image
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登载于彭博商业周刊,2022 年 10 月 31 日。现在订阅。

Ledgers, Bitcoin, Blockchains

A. Please provide the text you want me to translate. I'll be happy to assist you.
Life in Databases 数据库中的生活
vintage photo of man typing on computer


If you have money, what you have is an entry in your bank’s database saying how much money you have. If you have a share of stock, what you have is generally an entry on a list—kept by the company or, more likely, some central intermediary1—of who owns stock.


If you own a house, things are slightly different. There’s a house involved. But your ownership of that house is probably written down in some database; in the US this often means there’s a record of you buying the house—your title—in a filing cabinet in the basement of some county clerk’s office. (It’s not a very good database.) In many ways the important thing here is the house: You have a key to the front door; your stuff is there; your neighbors will be unsurprised to see you leaving the house in the morning and would be surprised to see someone else coming back in. But in many other ways the important thing is the entry in the database. A bank will want to make sure you have the title before giving you a mortgage; a buyer will want to do the proper procedures to that record before paying you for the house. The key will not suffice.

Lots of other stuff. Much of modern life occurs online. It’s not quite true that your social life and your career and your reputation consist of entries in the databases of Meta Platforms and Google and Microsoft, but it’s not quite false, either.
还有许多其他事情。现代生活的大部分发生在网上。你的人际关系、职业生涯和名誉不完全是由 Meta Platforms、Google 和 Microsoft 的数据库条目所组成的,但也不能说完全不是这样。

Some of this stuff has to do with computers. It’s far more convenient for the money to be computer entries than sacks of gold or even paper bills. Some of it is deeper than that, though. What could it mean to own a house? One possibility is the state of nature: Owning a house means 1) you’re in the house, and 2) if someone else tries to move in, you’re bigger than them, so you can kick them out. But if they’re bigger than you, now they own the house.
有些事情与计算机有关。将钱存在计算机 entries 中比装在金袋或纸币中方便多了。然而有些事情比这更深刻。拥有一个房子是什么意思?一种可能性是自然状态:拥有一个房子意味着 1) 你在房子里,2) 如果其他人试图搬进来,你比他们强大,所以你可以把他们赶出去。但如果他们比你强大,现在他们就拥有了房子。

Another possibility is what you might think of as a village. Owning a house means you live there and your neighbors all know you live there, and if someone else tries to move in, then you and your neighbors combined are bigger than them. Homeownership is mediated socially by a high-trust network of peers.

photo of suburban neighborhood
Neighborhoods, where everybody knows your name.

A third possibility is what you might think of as a government. Owning a house means the government thinks you own the house, and if someone else tries to move in, then the government will kick them out.2 Homeownership is mediated socially by a government. The database is a way for the government to keep track. You don’t have to trust any particular person; you have to trust the rule of law.


Money is a bit like that, too. Sacks of gold are a fairly straightforward form of it, but they’re heavy. A system in which your trusted banker holds on to your sacks for you and writes you letters of credit, and you can draw on those letters at branches of the bank run by your banker’s cousin—that’s pretty good, though it relies on trust between you and the banker, as well as the banker and the banker’s cousin. A system of impersonal banking in which the tellers are strangers and you probably use an ATM anyway requires trust in the system, trust that the banks are constrained by government regulation or reputation or market forces and so will behave properly.

Saying that modern life is lived in databases means, most of all, that modern life involves a lot of trust.

Jamie Dimon


Sometimes this is because we know them and consider them to be trustworthy. More often it means we have an abstract sense of trust in the broader system, the system of laws and databases and trust itself. We assume that we can trust the systems we use, because doing so makes life much easier than not trusting them and because that assumption mostly works out. It’s a towering and underappreciated achievement of modernity that we mostly do trust the database-keepers,

Mark Zuckerberg, Sundar Pichai, Christine Lagarde, Cathie Wood

and that they mostly are trustworthy.

Bernie Madoff
B. B。
What If You Don’t Like It?
i. Distrust  不信任

But we don’t always trust them, and they’re not always trustworthy.

Sometimes they just aren’t. There are banks you can’t trust to hold your money for you and places where you can’t trust the rule of law to regulate them. There are governments you can’t trust not to seize your money from the banks, or falsify election results, or change the property registry and take your house. There are social media companies you can’t trust not to freeze your account arbitrarily. Most people in the US, most days, live in a high-trust world, where it’s easy and reasonable to trust that the intermediaries who run the databases that shape our lives will behave properly. But not everyone everywhere lives like that.

Even in the US, trust can be fragile. The 2008 financial crisis caused huge and lasting damage to a lot of people’s trust in the banking system. People trusted banks to do nice, safe, socially productive things, and it turned out they were doing wild, risky things that caused an economic crisis. After that it became harder for many people to trust banks to hold their savings.
即使在美国,信任也可能非常脆弱。2008 年的金融危机对许多人对银行系统的信任造成了巨大和持久的损害。人们原本信任银行会做些良好、安全、有社会效益的事情,但结果发现它们却在做些疯狂、冒险的事情,导致经济危机。从那以后,许多人更难以信任银行来存放自己的储蓄。

Also, though, you might have a philosophical objection to trust. Even if your bank has an absolutely unblemished record of keeping track of your money, that might not be good enough for you. Your bank is, to you, a black box. “How do I know you’ll give me my money back?” you could ask the bank. And the bank will say things like “Here are our audited financial statements” and “We are regulated by the Federal Reserve and insured by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp.” and “We have never not given back anyone’s money.” And you’ll say, “Yes, yes, that’s all fine, but how do I know?” You don’t. Trust is built into the system, a prerequisite. You might want proof.3

City skyline
Can you name this bank? Doesn’t matter, it’s still a black box!
ii. Composability  ii. 组合性

Even if you’re generally cool with trusting the keepers of modern databases, you might have a more technical objection. These databases aren’t always very good. Lots of the banking system is written in a very old computer language called Cobol; in the US people still frequently make payments—electronic transfers between electronic databases of money—by writing paper checks and putting them in the mail. US stock trades take two business days to settle: If I buy stock from you on a Monday, you deliver the stock (and I pay you) on Wednesday. This isn’t because your broker has to put stock certificates in a sack and bring them over to my broker’s office, while my broker puts dollar bills in a sack and brings them over to your broker’s office, but because the actual process is a descendant of that. It’s slow and manual and sometimes gets messed up; lots of stock trades “fail.”
即使你通常信任现代数据库的管理者,你也可能有技术上的异议。这些数据库并不总是很好。银行系统的大部分是用一种非常古老的计算机语言 Cobol 编写的;在美国,人们仍经常通过写纸质支票并邮寄来进行支付——电子数据库之间的电子转账。美国股票交易需要两天的结算期:如果我在星期一从你那里购买股票,你将在星期三交付股票(我付款给你)。这不是因为你的经纪人需要将股票证书装入袋子并带到我的经纪人办公室,而我的经纪人需要将美元钞票装入袋子并带到你的经纪人办公室,而是因为实际过程是从那时继承下来的。它缓慢、手动,有时会出问题;很多股票交易“失败”。

Subscribe to the Bloomberg Crypto podcast to listen to this story. New chapters every Sunday.

Don’t even get me started on the property registry. If you buy a house, you have to go to a ceremony—a “closing”—where a bunch of people with jobs like “title company lawyer” mutter incantations that let you own the house. It can take hours.

If your model of how a database should work comes from modern computers, the hours of incantations seem insane. “There should be an API,” you might think: There should be an application programming interface allowing each of these databases to interact with the others. If your bank is thinking about giving you a mortgage, it should be able to query the property database automatically and find out that you own your house, rather than send a lawyer to the county clerk’s office. And it should be able to query the Department of Motor Vehicles registry automatically and get your driver’s license for identification purposes, and query your brokerage account automatically and examine your assets.
如果你的数据库工作模型来自现代计算机,那么这些念念有词的小时数看起来简直疯狂。“应该有一个 API,”你可能会想:应该有一个应用程序编程接口,允许这些数据库相互交互。如果你的银行考虑给你一份抵押贷款,它应该能够自动查询房产数据库,查明你拥有这所房子,而不是派律师到县书记员办公室去。同时,它也应该能够自动查询机动车辆管理局登记册,获取你的驾驶执照,以便身份验证,并自动查询你的证券账户,检查你的资产。

Modern life 现代生活
consists of entries 由条目组成
in databases: 在数据库中:
filing cabinet
What if we 如果我们
updated 更新
them? 它们?

What if we rewrote all the databases from scratch, in modern computer languages using modern software engineering principles, with the goal of making them interact with one another seamlessly?

If you did that, it would be almost like having one database, the database of life: I could send you money in exchange for your house, or you could send me social reputation in exchange for my participation in an online class, or whatever, all in the same computer system.

That would be convenient and powerful, but it would also be scary. It would put even more pressure on trust. Whoever runs that one database would, in a sense, run the world. Whom could you trust to do that?

solar eclipse

What if there was one database, and everyone ran it?

C. C. 内容直译
Digital Cash 数字现金

In 2008, Satoshi Nakamoto published a method for everyone to run a database, thus inventing “crypto.”
2008 年,中本聪发布了一种让每个人都能运行数据库的方法,从而发明了“加密货币”。

Well, I’m not sure that’s what Satoshi thought he was doing. Most immediately he was inventing Bitcoin: A Peer-to-Peer Electronic Cash System, which is the title of his famous white paper.

What Satoshi said he’d invented was a sort of cash for internet transactions, “an electronic payment system based on cryptographic proof instead of trust, allowing any two willing parties to transact directly with each other without the need for a trusted third party.” If I want to buy something from you for digital cash—Bitcoin—I just send you the Bitcoin and you send me the thing; no “trusted third party” such as a bank is involved.

When I put it like that, it sounds as if Satoshi invented a system in which I can send you Bitcoin and nobody else is involved. What he actually invented was a system in which lots of other people are involved.

i. Digression: What are you even reading? Why are you reading it? Why am I writing it?

Hi! I’m Matt. I’m a former lawyer and investment banker. Now I’m a columnist at Bloomberg Opinion. In my day job, I write about finance. I like finance. It’s fun to write about. It’s a peculiar way of looking at the world, a series of puzzles, a set of structures that people have imposed on economic reality. Often those structures are arcane and off-putting, and it’s satisfying to understand what they’re up to. Everything in finance is accreted on top of a lot of other things in finance. Everything is weird and counterintuitive, and you often have to have a sense of financial history and market practice to understand why anyone is doing any of the things they’re doing.

For the past few years the most polarizing thing in finance has been crypto. Crypto is a set of ideas and products and technologies that grew out of the Bitcoin white paper. But it’s also, let’s be clear, a set of lines on charts that went up. When Satoshi invented Bitcoin, one Bitcoin was worth zero dollars: It was just an idea he made up. At its peak last November, one Bitcoin was worth more than $67,000, and the total value of all the crypto in circulation was something like $3 trillion. Many people who got into crypto early got very rich very fast and were very annoying about it. They bought Lamborghinis and islands. They were pleased with themselves: They thought crypto was the future, and they were building the future and being properly and amply rewarded for it. They said things like “Have fun staying poor” and “NGMI” (“not gonna make it”) to people who didn’t own crypto. They were right and rich and wanted you to know it.
过去几年中,金融领域最具争议的事情就是加密货币。加密货币是一系列来自比特币白皮书的想法、产品和技术。但是,让我们明确一点,加密货币也是图表上的曲线不断上涨。当中本聪发明比特币时,一比特币的价值为零美元:它只是他的一个想法。去年十一月,一个比特币的价值超过了 67000 美元,全体加密货币的总价值约为 3 万亿美元。许多早期进入加密货币的人很快变得非常富有,也非常招人讨厌。他们购买兰博基尼和岛屿。他们对自己感到非常满意:他们认为加密货币是未来,并且他们正在建设未来,并因此获得了充分的回报。他们对不拥有加密货币的人说:“继续贫穷吧”和“NGMI”(“不可能成功”)。他们是正确的、富有的,并且想让你知道这一点。

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Many other people weren’t into crypto. They got the not-entirely unjustified impression that it was mostly useful for crime or for Ponzi schemes. They asked questions like “What is this for?” or “Where did all this money come from?” or “If you’re building the future, what is the actual work you’re doing?” or “If you’re building the future, why does it seem so grim and awful?” And the crypto people, often, replied: “Have fun staying poor.”
许多其他人不喜欢加密货币。他们获得了不完全不公平的印象,即加密货币主要用于犯罪或庞氏骗局。他们问了类似“What is this for?”或“What did all this money come from?”或“If you’re building the future, what is the actual work you’re doing?”或“If you’re building the future, why does it seem so grim and awful?”的问题。加密货币人士经常回答:“祝你贫穷快乐。”

And then, this year, those lines on charts went down. The price of one Bitcoin fell below $20,000; the total value of crypto fell from $3 trillion to $1 trillion; some big crypto companies failed. If you’re a crypto skeptic, this was very satisfying, not just as a matter of schadenfreude but also because maybe now everyone will shut up about crypto and you can go back to not paying attention to it. For crypto enthusiasts, this was just a reason to double down on grinding: The crash would shake out the casual fans and leave the true believers to build the future together.
然后,这一年,那些图表上的线条下降了。一个比特币的价格跌破了 20,000 美元;加密货币的总价值从 3 万亿美元降至 1 万亿美元;一些大型加密货币公司倒闭。如果你是加密货币怀疑论者,这非常令人满意,不仅仅是出于幸灾乐祸,也因为现在每个人都可以不再关注加密货币了。对于加密货币爱好者来说,这只是一个理由,让他们继续努力:崩溃将淘汰掉非真正的粉丝,留下真正的信仰者一起建设未来。

In a sense it’s a dumb time to be talking about crypto, because the lines went down. But really it’s a good time to be talking about crypto. There’s a pause; there’s some repose. Whatever is left in crypto is not just speculation and get-rich-quick schemes. We can think about what crypto means—divorced, a little bit, from the lines going up.

I don’t have strong feelings either way about the value of crypto. I like finance. I think it’s interesting. And if you like finance—if you like understanding the structures that people build to organize economic reality—crypto is amazing. It’s a laboratory for financial intuitions. In the past 14 years, crypto has built a whole financial system from scratch. Crypto constantly reinvented or rediscovered things that finance had been doing for centuries. Sometimes it found new and better ways to do things.
我对加密货币的价值并不持有强烈的看法。我喜欢金融。我认为金融很有趣。如果你喜欢金融——如果你喜欢理解人们建立的经济现实结构——加密货币简直令人惊叹。它是一个金融直觉的实验室。在过去的 14 年中,加密货币从零开始建立了一个完整的金融系统。加密货币不断地重新发明或重新发现了金融界几百年来的成果。有时它找到新的、更好的方法来做事。

Matt Damon at chalkboard in Good Will Hunting

Often it found worse ways, heading down dead ends that traditional finance tried decades ago, with hilarious results.

Matt Damon

Often it hit on more or less the same solutions that traditional finance figured out, but with new names and new explanations. You can look at some crypto thing and figure out which traditional finance thing it replicates. If you do that, you can learn something about the crypto financial system—you can, for instance, make an informed guess about how the crypto thing might go wrong—but you can also learn something about the traditional financial system: The crypto replication gives you a new insight into the financial original.

Also, I have to say, as someone who writes about finance, I have a soft spot for stories of fraud and market manipulation and smart people putting one over on slightly less smart people. Often those stories are interesting and illuminating and, especially, funny. Crypto has a very high density of stories like that.
此外,我必须说,我作为一名金融撰稿人,对欺诈和市场操纵的故事,以及聪明人欺骗稍微不那么聪明的人的故事有着特别的 weakness。这些故事通常既有趣又有启发性,尤其是非常幽默。加密货币领域中充满了这样故事。

And so, now, I write a lot about crypto. Including quite a lot right here.

I need to give you some warnings. First, I don’t write about crypto as a deeply embedded crypto expert. I’m not a true believer. I didn’t own any crypto until I started working on this article; now I own roughly $100 worth. I write about crypto as a person who enjoys human ingenuity and human folly and who finds a lot of both in crypto.
我需要提醒你一些事情。首先,我不是作为一个深入嵌入的加密货币专家来写关于加密货币的文章。我不是一个真正的信仰者。在开始写这篇文章之前,我不拥有任何加密货币,现在我拥有大约 100 美元的加密货币。我写关于加密货币的文章,是因为我喜欢人类的聪明才智和人类的愚蠢,并且在加密货币中发现了很多这两方面的内容。

Conversely, I didn’t sit down and write 40,000 words to tell you that crypto is dumb and worthless and will now vanish without a trace. That would be an odd use of time. My goal here is not to convince you that crypto is building the future and that if you don’t get on board you’ll stay poor. My goal is to convince you that crypto is interesting, that it has found some new things to say about some old problems, and that even when those things are wrong, they’re wrong in illuminating ways.
相反,我没有坐下来写 4 万字来告诉你加密货币是愚蠢的、毫无价值的,现在就会消失得无影无踪。那将是一个奇怪的时间使用方式。我的目标不是说服你加密货币正在建设未来,如果你不加入就会贫穷。我的目标是说服你,加密货币是有趣的,它发现了一些关于旧问题的新看法,即使这些看法是错误的,也是以启发的方式错误的。

Also, I’m a finance person. It seems to me that, 14 years on, crypto has a pretty well-developed financial system, and I’m going to talk about it a fair bit, because it’s pretty well-developed and because I like finance.

A crowd at a Bitcoin conference in Miami, April 2022


Riveted: A crowd at a Bitcoin conference in Miami, April 2022.
着迷:2022 年 4 月迈阿密比特币会议上的观众。

A financial system is, well, a series of databases. It’s a way to shuffle around claims on tangible stuff; it’s an adjunct to the real world. A financial system is good if it makes it easier for farmers to grow food and families to own houses and businesses to make awesome computer games, if it helps to create and distribute abundance in real life. A financial system is bad if it trades abstract claims in ways that enrich the people doing the trading but don’t help anyone else.

I … ehhh … uh. A salient question in crypto, for the past 14 years, has been: What is it good for? If you ask for an example of a business that actually uses crypto, the answers you’ll get are mostly financial businesses: “Well, we built a really great exchange for trading crypto.” Cool, OK. Sometimes these answers are plausibly about creating or distributing abundance: “Crypto lets emigrants send remittances cheaply and quickly.” That’s good. Often they’re about efficient gambling. Gambling is fun, nothing against it. But a financial system that was purely about gambling would be kind of limited.
过去 14 年来,密码学领域中一个突出的问题是:它有什么用途?如果你问哪些企业真正使用密码学,得到的答案大多是金融业务:“嗨,我们建立了一个非常棒的加密货币交易所。”好吧,OK。有时这些答案是关于创造或分配财富的:“密码学让移民能够快速廉价地汇款。”这很好。经常它们是关于高效赌博的。赌博是有趣的,我并不反对。但是一个纯粹以赌博为目的的金融系统将是相当有限的。

Meanwhile, crypto’s most ardent boosters say crypto is about building real, useful things. Crypto will redefine social relationships, and gaming, and computers. It will build the metaverse. Crypto is the vital component of the next leap in the internet; crypto will build “web3” to replace our current “web2.” Maybe? If you ask for an example of a business that actually uses crypto, you’ll get a ton of real, lucrative financial businesses, then some vague theoretical musings like “Well, maybe we could build a social media network on web3?”
同时,密码货币最坚定的支持者们称,密码货币是关于构建真正有用的东西的。密码货币将重新定义社交关系、游戏和计算机。它将构建元宇宙。密码货币是互联网下一个飞跃的关键组件;密码货币将构建“web3”,取代我们当前的“web2”。或者?如果你问哪些企业真正使用密码货币,你将得到一堆真正的、利润丰厚的金融业务,然后是一些模糊的理论猜测,例如“嗯,也许我们可以在 web3 上构建一个社交媒体网络?”

It’s still early. Maybe someone will build a really good social media network on web3. Maybe in 10 years, crypto and blockchains and tokens will be central to everything that’s done on the internet, and the internet will be (even more than it is now) central to everything that’s done in human life, and the crypto early adopters will all be right and rich while the rest of us will have fun staying poor, and schoolchildren will say, “I can’t believe anyone ever doubted the importance of Dogecoin.”
仍然为时尚早。也许有人会在 web3 上建立一个真正优秀的社交媒体网络。也许十年后,密码货币、区块链和代币将成为互联网上一切活动的核心,而互联网将(比现在更甚)成为人类生活中一切活动的核心,那时早期采用密码货币的人都会正确富有,而我们其他人将乐于贫穷,并且学校孩子们会说:“我不敢相信有人曾经怀疑过狗狗币的重要性。”

I don’t want to discount that possibility, and I do want to speculate about it a little bit, maybe sketch a picture of what that might mean. I’m not going to give you a road map for how we’ll get there. I’m not a tech person, and I’m not a true believer. But it is worth trying to understand what crypto could mean for the future of the internet, because the implications are sometimes utopian and sometimes dystopian and sometimes just a modestly more efficient base layer for stuff you do anyway. Plus the finance is cool, and it’s cool now.

ii. Digression: Names and people

Before we go on, let me say some things about some names. First, “crypto.” This thing I’m writing about here: There’s not a great name for it. The standard name, which I’ll use a lot, is crypto, which I guess is short for “cryptocurrency.” This is not a great name, because 1) it emphasizes currency, and a lot of crypto is not particularly about currency, and 2) it emphasizes cryptography, and while crypto is in some deep sense about cryptography, most people in crypto are not doing a ton of cryptography. You can be a crypto expert or a crypto billionaire or a leading figure in crypto without knowing much about cryptography, and people who are cryptography experts sometimes get a bit snippy about the crypto people stealing their prefix.
在我们继续之前,让我说说一些名字的事情。首先,“加密货币”(crypto)。我在这里写的这个东西:它没有一个很好的名字。标准名字是我将经常使用的“加密货币”,我猜是“加密货币”的缩写。这不是一个很好的名字,因为 1)它强调货币,而很多加密货币并不特别关心货币,2)它强调密码学,而加密货币在某种深层意义上是关于密码学的,但大多数加密货币人并不做很多密码学工作。你可以是加密货币专家、加密货币亿万富翁或加密货币领军人物,而不需要知道很多密码学知识,而密码学专家有时会对加密货币人“偷走”他们的前缀感到有点儿不高兴。

There are other names for various topics in crypto—

“blockchain” “DeFi” “web3” “tokens” “the metaverse”

—and they’re sometimes used broadly to refer to a lot of what’s going on in crypto, but it’s not like they’re great either. So I’ll mostly stick with “crypto” as the general term.

Second, “Satoshi Nakamoto.” That’s a pseudonym, and whoever wrote his white paper has done a reasonably good job of keeping himself, herself, or themselves pseudonymous ever since. (There’s a lot of speculation about who the author might be. Some of the funnier suggestions include Elon Musk and a random computer engineer named, uh, Satoshi Nakamoto. I’m going to call Satoshi Nakamoto “Satoshi” and use he/him pronouns, because most people do.)

A related point. Other than (maybe?) Satoshi, basically everyone involved in cryptocurrency is a hilariously outsize personality. It’s a good bet that if you read an article about crypto, it will feature wild characters. (One story in Bloomberg Businessweek last year mentioned “sending billions of perfectly good US dollars to the Inspector Gadget co-creator’s Bahamian bank in exchange for digital tokens conjured by the Mighty Ducks guy and run by executives who are targets of a US criminal investigation.”) Except this one! There won’t be a single exciting person in this whole story. My goal here is to explain crypto, so that when you read about a duck guy doing crypto you can understand what it is that he’s doing.
相关一点是,除了(可能是)中本聪外,几乎所有参与加密货币的人都具有夸张的个性。如果你读到一篇关于加密货币的文章,很可能会遇到一些疯狂的人物。(去年《彭博商业周刊》的一篇报道提到,“将数十亿美元汇入《Inspector Gadget》创作者在巴哈马的银行,以换取由《 Mighty Ducks》人物创造的数字代币,而这些代币由受到美国刑事调查的高管管理。”)但是,这篇文章例外!这里不会出现任何激动人心的人物。我的目标是解释加密货币,以便当你读到关于鸭子哥哥做加密货币的事情时,你能理解他在做什么。

Anyone Seen Tether’s Billions? Bloomberg Businessweek cover
Anyone Seen Tether’s Billions?” by Zeke Faux.
《谁见过 Tether 的亿万资金?》作者:泽克·福克斯。
iii. Digression: The “crypto” in crypto

Cryptography is the study of secret messages, of coding and decoding. Most of what I talk about in this article won’t be about cryptography; it will be about, you know, Ponzis. But the base layer of crypto really is about cryptography, so it will be helpful to know a bit about it.

The basic thing that happens in cryptography is that you have an input (a number, a word, a string of text), and you run some function on it, and it produces a different number or word or whatever as an output. The function might be the Caesar cipher (shift each letter of a word by one or more spots in the alphabet, so “Caesar” becomes “Dbftbs”), or pig Latin (shift the first consonants of the word to the end and add “-ay,” so “Caesar” becomes “Aesar-say”), or something more complicated.

“pig latin”

A useful property in a cryptographic function is that it be “one-way.”4 This means it’s easy to turn the input string into the output string, but hard to do it in reverse; it’s easy to compute the function in one direction but impossible in the other. (The classic example is that multiplying two large prime numbers is quite straightforward; factoring an enormous number into two large primes is hard.) The Caesar cipher is easy to apply and easy to reverse, but some forms of encoding are easy to apply and much more difficult to reverse. That makes them better for secret codes.


One example of this is a “hashing” function, which takes some input text and turns it into a long number of a fixed size. So I could run a hashing function on this article—a popular one is called SHA-256, which was invented by the National Security Agency5—and generate a long, incomprehensible number from it. (To make it more incomprehensible, it’s customary to write this number in hexadecimal, so that it will have the digits zero through 9 but also “a” through “f.”) I could send you the number and say, “I wrote an article and ran it through a SHA-256 hashing algorithm, and this number was the result.” You’d have the number, but you wouldn’t be able to make heads or tails of it. In particular, you couldn’t plop it into a computer program and decode it, turning the hash back into this article.
这是一个“散列”函数的例子,它可以将某些输入文本转换为固定大小的长数字。因此,我可以将这篇文章输入到一个散列函数中——一个流行的例子是 SHA-256,它是由美国国家安全局开发的——并生成一个长的、无法理解的数字。(为了使这个数字更加难以理解,通常将其写成十六进制形式,这样它将包含从 0 到 9 的数字,以及从 “a” 到 “f” 的字母。)我可以将这个数字发送给你,并说:“我写了一篇文章,并将其输入到 SHA-256 散列算法中,结果就是这个数字。”你将拥有这个数字,但你无法理解它的含义。特别是,你不能将其输入到计算机程序中,并将其解码回这篇文章。


The hashing function is one-way; the hash tells you nothing about the article, even if you know the hashing function. The hashing function basically shuffles the data in the article: It takes each letter of the article, represented as a binary number (a series of bits, 0s and 1s), and then shuffles around the 0s and 1s lots of times, mashing them together until they are all jumbled up and unrecognizable. The hashing function gives clear step-by-step instructions for how to shuffle the bits together, but they don’t work in reverse.6 It’s like stirring cream into coffee: easy to do, hard to undo.
哈希函数是单向的;哈希值不会告诉你文章的任何信息,即使你知道哈希函数。哈希函数基本上是将文章中的数据混淆:它将文章中的每个字母表示为二进制数字(一系列的 0 和 1),然后将这些 0 和 1 混淆很多次,直到它们变得完全不可识别。哈希函数提供了明确的步骤指令来混淆这些位,但这些指令不能逆向工作。 6 这就像搅拌奶油入咖啡:容易做,但很难逆向。


Applying a SHA-256 algorithm will create a 64-digit number for data of any size you can imagine. Here’s a hash of the entire text of James Joyce’s 730-page novel Ulysses:
应用 SHA-256 算法将创建一个任意大小数据的 64 位数字。这里是詹姆斯·乔伊斯的 730 页小说《尤利西斯》的整个文本的哈希值:


It fits in the same space as the hash of “Hi! I’m Matt”:
它与“Hi I’m Matt”的哈希值占用相同的空间:


But what if I wrote “Hi, I’m Matt” with a comma? Then:
如果我写“Hi, I’m Matt”,加上一个逗号呢?那么:


There’s no apparent relationship between the numbers for “Hi! I’m Matt” and “Hi, I’m Matt.” The two original inputs were almost exactly identical; the hash outputs are wildly different. This is a critical part of the hashing function being one-way: If similar inputs mapped to similar outputs, then it would be too easy to reverse the function and decipher messages. But for practical purposes, each input maps to a random output.7
“Hi I’m Matt”和“Hi, I’m Matt.”这两个数字之间没有明显的关系。两个原始输入几乎相同,但哈希输出却截然不同。这是哈希函数单向性的关键部分:如果相似输入映射到相似输出,那么就太容易逆向函数并破译消息了。但从实际目的来说,每个输入都映射到一个随机输出。 7


What’s the point of a secret code that can’t be decoded? For one thing, it’s a way to verify. If I sent you a hash of this article, it wouldn’t give you the information you need to re-create the article.8 But if I then sent you the article, you could plop that into a computer program (the SHA-256 algorithm) and generate a hash. And the hash you generate will exactly match the number I sent you. And you’ll say, “Aha, yes, you hashed that article all right.” It’s impossible for you to decode the hash, but it’s easy for you to check that I had encoded it correctly.
一个不能被解密的秘密代码有什么用?一种用途是验证。如果我将这篇文章的哈希发送给你,它不会提供你重新创建文章所需的信息。 8 但是,如果我然后将文章发送给你,你可以将其输入计算机程序(SHA-256 算法)并生成哈希。然后,你生成的哈希将与我发送的数字完全匹配。你会说:“aha,yes,你确实对文章进行了哈希。”你无法解密哈希,但很容易检查我是否正确地编码了它。


This would be dumb to do with this article, but the principle has uses. A simple, everyday one is passwords. If I have a computer system and you have a password to log in to the system, I need to be able to check that your password is correct. One way to do this is for my system to store your password and check what you type against what I’ve stored: I have a little text file with all the passwords, and it has “Password123” written next to your username, and you type “Password123” on the login screen, and my system checks what you type against the file and sees that they match and lets you log in. But this is a dangerous system: If someone steals the file, they would have everyone’s password. It’s better practice for me to hash the passwords. You type “Password123” as your password when setting up the account, and I run it through a hash function and get back


and I store that on my list. When you try to log in, you type your password, and I hash it again, and if it matches the hash on my list, I let you in. If someone steals the list, they can’t decode your password from the hash, so they can’t log in to the system.9


There are other, more crypto-nerdy uses for hashing. One is a sort of time stamping. Let’s say you predict some future event, and you want to get credit when it does happen. But you don’t want to just go on Twitter now and say, “I predict that the Jets will win the Super Bowl in 2024,” to avoid being embarrassed or influencing the outcome or whatever. One thing you could do is write “the Jets will win the Super Bowl in 2024” on a piece of paper, put it in an envelope, seal the envelope, and ask me to keep it until the 2024 Super Bowl, after which you’ll tell me either to open the envelope or burn it. But this requires you and everyone else to trust me.
哈希还有其他更为“密码学 nerdy”的用途。其中一种是时间戳。假设你预测某个未来事件,并想在它发生时获得认可。但你不想现在就在 Twitter 上说“我预测 Jet 队将在 2024 年赢得超级碗”,以免感到尴尬或影响结果什么的。有一件事你可以做的是写下“Jet 队将在 2024 年赢得超级碗”,把它放在信封里,封好信封,然后请我保管到 2024 年超级碗后,你会告诉我是否打开信封或烧毁它。但这需要你和所有人信任我。

Another, trustless thing you could do is type “the Jets will win the Super Bowl in 2024” into a cryptographic hash generator, and it will spit out:
另一种不需要信任的方法是,你可以将“Jet 队将在 2024 年赢得超级碗”输入加密哈希生成器,它将生成:


and then you can tweet,

Matt Levine’s tweet “Here is a SHA-256 hash of a prediction I am making: 64b70b0494580b278d7f1f551d482a3fb952a4b018b43090ffeb87b662d34847.”
Not a real tweet! But you can follow me on Twitter at @matt_levine.
这不是真正的推特!但你可以在 Twitter 上关注我@matt_levine。

Everyone will say, “Well, aren’t you annoying,” but they won’t be able to decode your prediction. And then in a while, when the Jets win the Super Bowl, you can say, “See, I called it!” You retweet the hashed tweet and the plain text of your prediction. If anyone is so inclined, they can go to a hash calculator and check that the hash really matches your prediction. Then all the glory will accrue to you.
每个人都会说:“哇,你真烦人”,但是他们无法解密你的预测。然后,等 Jets 队赢得超级碗后,你可以说:“看,我早就预测到了!”你重新发布加密后的推文和你的预测原文。如果有人愿意,他们可以去哈希计算器那里检查哈希是否真的匹配你的预测。然后所有荣誉都会归于你。

a key

Aside from hashing, another important one-way function is public-key encryption. I have two numbers, called a “public key” and a “private key.” These numbers are long and random-looking, but they’re related to each other: Using a publicly available algorithm, one number can be used to lock a message, and the other can unlock it. The two-key system solves a classic problem with codes: If the key I use to encrypt a message is the same one you’ll need to decode it, at some point I’ll have to have sent you that key. Anyone who steals the key in transit can read our messages.

With public-key encryption, no one needs to share the secret key. The public key is public: I can send it to everyone, post it on my Twitter feed, whatever. The private key is private, and I don’t give it to anyone. You want to send me a secret message. You write the message and run it through the encryption algorithm, which uses 1) the message and 2) my public key (which you have) to generate an encrypted message that you send to me. Then I run the message through a decryption program that uses 1) the encrypted message and 2) my private key (which only I have) to generate the original message, which I can read. You can encrypt the message using my public key, but nobody can decrypt it using the public key. Only I can decrypt it using my private key. (The function is one-way as far as you’re concerned, but I can reverse it with my private key.)
在公钥加密中,没有人需要共享秘钥。公钥是公开的:我可以将其发送给每个人,发布在我的 Twitter 账户上,等等。私钥是私有的,我不将其给任何人。你想给我发送一条秘密信息。你写下信息,然后使用加密算法对其进行加密,该算法使用 1) 信息和 2) 我的公钥(你拥有)生成一个加密信息,然后将其发送给我。然后,我使用解密程序对信息进行解密,该程序使用 1) 加密信息和 2) 我的私钥(只有我拥有)生成原始信息,我可以阅读。你可以使用我的公钥对信息进行加密,但是没有人可以使用公钥对其进行解密。只有我可以使用私钥对其进行解密。(从你角度看,这个函数是一条单行道,但是我可以使用私钥将其逆转。)

mini keychain

A related idea is a “digital signature.” Again, I have a public key and a private key. My public key is posted in my Twitter bio. I want to send you a message, and I want you to know that I wrote it. I run the message through an encryption program that uses 1) the message and 2) my private key. Then I send you 1) the original message and 2) the encrypted message.
一个相关的想法是“数字签名”。同样,我拥有一个公钥和一个私钥。我的公钥发布在我的 Twitter 个人资料中。我想给你发送一条信息,并且我想让你知道是我写的。我使用加密程序对信息进行加密,该程序使用 1) 信息和 2) 我的私钥。然后,我将 1) 原始信息和 2) 加密信息发送给你。

You use a decryption program that uses 1) the encrypted message and 2) my public key to decrypt the message. The decrypted message matches the original message. This proves to you that I encrypted the message. So you know that I wrote it. I could’ve just sent you a Twitter DM instead, but this is more cryptographic.
你使用解密程序对信息进行解密,该程序使用 1) 加密信息和 2) 我的公钥对信息进行解密。解密后的信息与原始信息匹配。这证明了我加密了信息。所以你知道是我写的。我本可以直接给你发送一条 Twitter DM,但是这更加加密。

Imagine a simple banking system in which bank accounts are public: There’s a public list of accounts, and each one has a (public) balance and public key. I say to you: “I control account No. 00123456789, which has $250 in it, and I’m going to send you $50.” I send you a digitally signed message saying “here’s $50,” and you decode that message using the public key for the account, and then you know that I do in fact control that account and everything checks out. That’s the basic idea at the heart of Bitcoin, though there are also more complicated ideas.
想象一个简单的银行系统,其中银行账户是公开的:有一份公开的账户列表,每个账户都有一个(公开的)余额和公开密钥。我对你说:“我控制账户编号 00123456789,该账户有 250 美元,我将向你发送 50 美元。”我发送一条数字签名的消息,内容是“这里有 50 美元”,然后你使用该账户的公开密钥解码该消息,从而知道我确实控制该账户,一切都检查通过。这是比特币核心思想的基本概念,尽管还有更多复杂的想法。

big keychain
iv. How Bitcoin works

The simple form of Bitcoin goes like this. There’s a big public list of addresses, each with a unique label that looks like random numbers and letters, and some balance of Bitcoin in it. An address might have the label “1A1zP1eP5QGefi2DMPTfTL5SLmv7DivfNa”10 and a balance of 68.6 Bitcoin. The address acts as a public key.11 If I “own” those Bitcoin, what that means is I possess the private key corresponding to that address, effectively the password accessing the account.
比特币的简单形式是这样的:有一份大型公开的地址列表,每个地址都有一个独特的标签,看起来像随机数字和字母,并且有一定的比特币余额。一个地址可能有标签“1A1zP1eP5QGefi2DMPTfTL5SLmv7DivfNa” 10 ,余额为 68.6 比特币。该地址充当公开密钥 11 。如果我“拥有”这些比特币,那意味着我拥有该地址对应的私钥,实际上是账户的密码。


Because I have the private key, I can send you a Bitcoin by signing a message to you with my private key. You can check that signature against my public key and against the public list of addresses and Bitcoin balances. That information is enough for you to confirm that I control the Bitcoin that I’m sending you, but not enough for you to figure out my private key and steal the rest of my Bitcoin.

That kind of means I can send you a Bitcoin without you trusting me, or me trusting you, or either of us trusting a bank to verify that I have the money. “We define an electronic coin as a chain of digital signatures,” Satoshi wrote. The combination of public address and private key is enough to define a coin. Cryptocurrency is called cryptocurrency because it’s a currency derived from cryptography.

interdepartmental envelope
Satoshi said a Bitcoin is essentially a chain of signatures.

You’ll notice that all we’ve done here is exchange a message, and somehow called the result of that a currency. The traditional financial system isn’t so different: Banks don’t move around sacks of gold or even very many paper bills. They’re keepers of databases. What happens, roughly, when I make a $100 payment to you is my bank sends a message to your bank telling it to update its ledger.
你会注意到,我们这里所做的只是交换了一条消息,然后奇怪地将结果称为货币。传统金融系统也没什么不同:银行不搬运金砖或大量纸币。它们是数据库的管理者。当我向你支付 100 美元时,大致上是我的银行向你的银行发送一条消息,告诉它更新账簿。

Similarly, in Bitcoin the messages change a (public) ledger of who holds what. But who maintains that? The rough answer is that the Bitcoin network—thousands of people who use Bitcoin and run its software on their computers—keeps the ledger, collaboratively and redundantly. There are thousands of copies of the ledger; every node on the network has its own list of how many Bitcoin are in each address.

Then, when we do a transaction—when I send you a Bitcoin—we don’t just do it privately; we broadcast it to the entire network so everyone can update their lists. If I send you a Bitcoin from my address, and my signature on the transaction is valid, everyone will update their ledgers to add one Bitcoin to your address and subtract one from mine.

The ledger is not really just a list of addresses and their balances; it’s actually a record of every single transaction.12 The ledger is maintained by everyone on the network keeping track of every transaction for themselves.13
账本不仅仅是一个地址和余额的列表;它实际上是每笔交易的记录。 12 账本是由网络上的每个人自己跟踪每笔交易来维护的。 13


That’s nice! But now, instead of trusting a bank to keep the ledger of your money, you’re trusting thousands of anonymous strangers.

What have we accomplished?

Well it’s not quite as bad as that. Each transaction is provably correct: If I send a Bitcoin from my address to yours and sign it with my private key, the network will include the transaction; if I try to send a Bitcoin from someone else’s address to yours and don’t have the private key, everyone on the network can see that it’s fake and won’t include the transaction. Everyone runs open-source software to update the ledger for transactions that are verifiable. Everyone keeps the ledger, but you can prove that every transaction in the ledger is valid, so you don’t have to trust them too much.

Incidentally, I am saying that “everyone” keeps the ledger, and that was probably roughly true early in Bitcoin’s life, but no longer. There are thousands of people running “full nodes,” which download and maintain and verify the entire Bitcoin ledger themselves, using open-source official Bitcoin software. But there are millions more not doing that, just having some Bitcoin and trusting that everybody else will maintain the system correctly. Their basis for this trust, though, is slightly different from the basis for your trust in your bank. They could, in principle, verify that everyone verifying the transactions is verifying them correctly.

Notice, too, that there’s a financial incentive for everyone to be honest: If everyone is honest, then this is a working payment system that might be valuable. If lots of people are dishonest and put fake transactions in their ledgers, then no one will trust Bitcoin and it will be worthless. What’s the point of stealing Bitcoin if the value of Bitcoin is zero?

This is a standard approach in crypto: Crypto systems try to use economic incentives to make people act honestly, rather than trusting them to act honestly.

That’s most of the story, but it leaves some small problems. Where did all the Bitcoin come from? It’s fine to say that everyone on the network keeps a ledger of every Bitcoin transaction that ever happened, and your Bitcoin can be traced back through a series of previous transactions. But traced back to what? How do you start the ledger?

Another problem is that the order of transactions matters: If I have one Bitcoin in my account and I send it to you, and then I send it to someone else, who actually has the Bitcoin? This seems almost trivial, but it’s tricky. Bitcoin is a decentralized network that works by broadcasting transactions to thousands of nodes, and there’s no guarantee they’ll all arrive in the same order everywhere. And if everyone doesn’t agree on the order, bad things—“double spending,” or people sending the same Bitcoin to two different places—can happen. “Transactions must be publicly announced,” wrote Satoshi, “and we need a system for participants to agree on a single history of the order in which they were received.”

That system, I’m sorry to say, is the blockchain.

v. Oh, the blockchain
v. 哦,区块链

Every Bitcoin transaction is broadcast to the network. Some computers on the network—they’re called “miners”—compile the transactions as they arrive into a group called a “block.” At some point, a version of a block becomes, as it were, official: The list of transactions in that block, in the order in which they’re listed, becomes canonical, part of the official Bitcoin record. We say that the block has been “mined.”14 In Bitcoin, a new block is mined roughly every 10 minutes.15
比特币每笔交易都会被广播到网络上。一些网络上的计算机——它们被称为“矿工”——将到达的交易编译成一个称为“块”的组。某个时候,一个块的版本就会变得“官方”:该块中交易的列表,以它们被列出的顺序,变得规范化,成为比特币官方记录的一部分。我们说该块已经被“挖掘”。 14 在比特币中,大约每 10 分钟就会挖掘出一个新的块。 15


The miners then start compiling a new block, which will also eventually be mined and become official. Here’s where hashing becomes important. That new block will refer to the block before it by containing a hash of that block—this confirms that the block before it 1) is correct and accepted by the network and 2) came before it in time. Each block will refer to the previous block in a chain—oh, yes, a blockchain. The blockchain creates an official record of what transactions the network has agreed on and in what order. The hashes are time stamps; they create an agreed order of transactions.
矿工然后开始编译一个新的区块,该区块最终也将被挖掘并成为官方的。在这里,哈希变得非常重要。该新区块将通过包含前一个区块的哈希来引用前一个区块——这确认了前一个区块 1)是正确的并被网络接受的,2)是在时间上排在前面的。每个区块将通过链式引用前一个区块——哦,是的,一个区块链。区块链创建了网络上达成一致的交易记录及其顺序。哈希是时间戳;它们创建了交易的顺序。

You could imagine a simple system for doing this. Every 10 minutes a miner proposes a list of transactions, and all the computers on the Bitcoin network vote on it. If it gets a majority, it becomes official and is entered into the blockchain.
你可以想象一个简单的系统来实现这一点。每 10 分钟,矿工提出一份交易列表,然后比特币网络上的所有计算机投票。如果获得多数票,它将成为官方的并被记录到区块链中。

Unfortunately this is a bit too simple. There are no rules about who can join the Bitcoin network: Anyone who hooks up a computer and runs the open-source Bitcoin software can do it. You don’t have to prove you’re a good person, or even a person. You can hook up a thousand computers if you want.

What mining looks like, in Nadvoitsy, Russia
What mining looks like, in Nadvoitsy, Russia.

This creates a risk of what’s sometimes called a “Sybil attack,” named not after the ancient Greek prophetesses but, rather, after the 1973 book about a woman who claimed to have multiple personalities. The idea of a Sybil attack is that, in a system where the ledger is collectively maintained by the group and anyone can join the group without permission, you can spin up a bunch of computer nodes so that you look like thousands of people. Then you verify bad transactions to yourself, and everyone is like, “Ah, well, look at all of these people verifying the transactions,” and they accept your transactions as the majority consensus, and either you manage to steal some money or you at least throw the whole system into chaos.
这样做会带来一种所谓的“西比尔攻击”的风险,该名称并不是来自古希腊女预言家,而是来自 1973 年的一本关于一个女人声称拥有多重人格的书籍。西比尔攻击的想法是,在一个由集体维护的账本系统中,任何人都可以无需许可加入该系统,你可以启动一大批计算机节点,使自己看起来像成千上万的人。然后,你可以验证一些恶意交易,大家都会说:“哇,看看这些人都在验证交易”,然后他们会接受你的交易作为多数人的共识,或者你可以偷走一些钱,或者至少可以将整个系统扔进混乱中。

Sybil (1973)
Sybil (1973). 西比尔(1973)。

The solution to this is to make it expensive to verify transactions.

To mine a block, Bitcoin miners do an absurd and costly thing. Again, it involves hashing. Each miner takes a summary of the list of transactions in the block, along with a hash of the previous block. Then the miner sticks another arbitrary number—called a “nonce”—on the end of the list. The miner runs the whole thing (list plus nonce) through a SHA-256 hashing algorithm. This generates a 64-digit hexadecimal number. If that number is small enough, then the miner has mined the block. If not, the miner tries again with a different nonce.
在挖掘一个区块时,比特币矿工会做一些荒谬而昂贵的事情。再次,这涉及到哈希运算。每个矿工都会将区块中的交易列表摘要与前一个区块的哈希值结合起来,然后矿工会在列表末尾添加一个任意数字——称为“nonce”。矿工会将整个列表(包括 nonce)通过 SHA-256 哈希算法运行。这将生成一个 64 位十六进制数字。如果该数字足够小,那么矿工就挖掘了该区块。如果不够小,矿工就会尝试使用不同的 nonce。

What “small enough” means is set by the Bitcoin software and can be adjusted to make it easier or harder to mine a block. (The goal is an average of one block every 10 minutes; the more miners there are and the faster their computers are, the harder it gets.) Right now, “small enough” means that the hash has to start with 19 zeros. A recent successful one looked like this:
比特币软件定义了什么是“足够小”,可以调整以使挖矿变得更容易或更难。目标是每 10 分钟平均挖出一个块;矿工越多、计算机越快,挖矿就越难。目前,“足够小”意味着哈希值必须以 19 个零开头。最近一个成功的哈希值看起来像这样:

It’s like a game of 20 questions where you’re constantly guessing a number that will work. Except you get no clues, and it’s many, many, many times more than 20 guesses. It is vanishingly, vanishingly unlikely that any particular input—any list of transactions plus a nonce—will hash to a number that starts with 19 zeros. The odds are roughly 75 sextillion-to-1 against. So the miners run the hash algorithm over and over again, trillions of times, guessing a different nonce each time, until they get a hash with the right number of zeros.16 The total hash rate of the Bitcoin network is something north of 200 million terahashes per second—that is, 200 quintillion hash calculations per second, which is 1) a lot but 2) a lot fewer than 75 sextillion. It takes many seconds—600 on average—at 200 quintillion hashes per second to guess the right nonce and mine a block.
这就像玩 20 个问题的游戏,你不断猜测一个有效的数字。只是你没有任何线索,而猜测的次数远远超过 20 次。任何特定的输入——任何交易列表加上一个随机数——哈希到以 19 个零开头的可能性微乎其微。概率大约是 75 sextillion 比 1。因此,矿工不断运行哈希算法,猜测不同的随机数,直到他们得到一个正确的哈希值。 16 比特币网络的总哈希率超过 200 万 terahashes 每秒——即每秒 200 quintillion 次哈希计算,这是一个很大的数字,但远远小于 75 sextillion。平均需要 600 秒,在 200 quintillion 次哈希计算每秒的情况下,猜测正确的随机数并挖出一个块。


This is a race. Only one miner gets to mine a block, and that miner gets rewarded with Bitcoin. To mine a block is also to “mine” new coins—to pry them out of the system after much computational work, like finding a seam of gold after picking through rock. Hence the metaphor.

An old-fashioned prospector, circa 1860
An old-fashioned prospector, circa 1860.
一位老式的矿工,大约 1860 年。

When miners find the right number of zeros, they publish the block and its hash to the Bitcoin network. Everyone else reviews the block and decides if it’s valid. (“Valid” means all the transactions on the list are valid, the hash is correct, it has the right number of zeros, etc.) If they do, then they start work on the next block: They take the hash of the previous block, plus the transactions that have come in since then, plus a new nonce, and try to find a new hash. Each block builds on the one before.

vi. Mining  vi. 挖矿

All of this is incredibly costly: Miners need special hardware to do all of these hashing calculations over and over again, and these days run huge farms of always-on computers. Mining Bitcoin uses as much electricity as various medium-size countries. This is not great for the environment. The most famous description of Bitcoin, attributed to a Twitter poster, might be:
所有这些都是非常昂贵的:矿工需要特殊的硬件来进行这些哈希计算,并且这些天他们运行着巨大的、始终在线的计算机群。挖掘比特币使用的电力相当于一些中等规模国家的电力。这对环境不是很友好。比特币最著名的描述,来自一位 Twitter 用户,可能是:

“Imagine if keeping your car idling 24/7 produced solved Sudokus you could trade for heroin.”

And it is in some sense purely wasteful. People sometimes say Bitcoin miners are, like, solving difficult math problems to do their mining, but they aren’t, really. They’re brute-force guessing quintillions of numbers per second to try to get the right hash. No math problems are being solved, and nothing is added to the world’s knowledge, by those quintillions of guesses.

But the miners are solving an important problem for Bitcoin, which is the problem of keeping its network and its ledger of transactions secure. It’s demonstrably costly to confirm Bitcoin transactions, so it’s hard to fake, hard to run a Sybil attack. That’s why Satoshi, and everyone else, calls this method of confirming transactions “proof of work.” If you produce the right hash for a block, it proves you did a lot of costly computer work. You wouldn’t do that lightly.
但是矿工们正在解决比特币的一个重要问题,即保持其网络和交易记录的安全。确认比特币交易的成本是明显的,因此很难伪造,很难实施 Sybil 攻击。这就是为什么中本聪和其他人将这种确认交易的方法称为“工作量证明”。如果你为一个块生成了正确的哈希值,那就证明你进行了大量昂贵的计算工作。你不会轻易地做这种事情。

Proof-of-work mining is a mechanism for creating consensus among people with an economic stake in a system, without knowing anything else about them. You’d never mine Bitcoin if you didn’t want Bitcoin to be valuable. If you’re a Bitcoin miner, you’re invested in Bitcoin in some way; you’ve bought computers and paid for electricity and made an expensive, exhausting bet on Bitcoin. You have proven that you care, so you get a say in verifying the Bitcoin ledger. And you get paid. You get paid Bitcoin, which gives you even more of a stake in the system.

These Bitcoin come out of nowhere; they’re generated by this mining, by the core Bitcoin software. In fact, all Bitcoin are generated by mining; there was never an initial allocation of Bitcoin to Satoshi Nakamoto or to early investors or anyone else. This is the answer to the question of where Bitcoin come from: They were all mined.

Originally the mining reward, which is set by the software, was 50 Bitcoin per block; currently it’s 6.25 Bitcoin. One important point about these mining rewards is that they cost Bitcoin users money. Every block—roughly every 10 minutes—6.25 new Bitcoin are produced out of nowhere and paid to miners for providing security to the network. That works out to more than $6 billion per year.17 This cost is indirect: It is a form of inflation, and as the supply of Bitcoin grows,18 each coin in theory becomes worth a little less, all else being equal. Right now, the Bitcoin network is paying around 1.5% of its value per year to miners.
最初,矿工奖励是由软件设置的,每个区块 50 比特币;目前是 6.25 比特币。关于这些矿工奖励的一个重要点是,它们会花费比特币用户的钱。每个区块——大约每 10 分钟——6.25 个新的比特币会被创造出来,并支付给矿工,以换取他们为网络提供的安全保障。这相当于每年超过 60 亿美元。这笔费用是间接的:它是一种通货膨胀,当比特币供应增加时,每枚币的理论价值就会减少,其他条件不变。目前,比特币网络每年支付给矿工的价值约为其总价值的 1.5%。


That’s lower than the inflation rate of the US dollar. Still, it’s worth noting. Every year, the miners who keep the Bitcoin system secure capture a small but meaningful chunk of the total value of Bitcoin. Bitcoin users get something for that $6 billion:19
这甚至低于美元的通胀率。然而,这仍然值得注意。每年,保护比特币系统安全的矿工们都会获得比特币总价值的一小部分。为那 60 亿美元,比特币用户们得到了什么: 19

Security and decentralization

If you can make a lot of money mining Bitcoin, a lot of people will want to mine Bitcoin. This will make it harder for one person to accumulate most of the mining power in Bitcoin. If one person or group got a majority of the mining power, they could do bad things: They could mine a bad block—double-spending coins, reversing recent transactions, etc. (This is called a “51% attack.”) When there are billions of dollars up for grabs for miners, people will invest a lot of money in mining, and it will be expensive to compete with them. And if you invested billions of dollars to accumulate a majority of the mining power in Bitcoin, you would probably care a lot about maintaining the value of Bitcoin, and so you’d be unlikely to use your powers for evil.


What Does It Mean? 这是什么意思?

So, huh, that’s neat. OK, then. I’ve described in some detail the workings of the thing, Bitcoin, that Satoshi Nakamoto invented. But let’s take a step back: What exactly is it that he invented?
哦,嗯,这很有趣。好吧,那么。我已经详细描述了比特币的工作原理,这是 Satoshi Nakamoto 发明的东西。但是,让我们退一步:他到底发明了什么?

The simplest answer is that he invented Bitcoin.

photo of Mount Everest


At its peak, the total value of Bitcoin in the world was more than $1 trillion. There are thousands of articles about it; it has lots of investors and fans and believers. Some of these people are called “Bitcoin maximalists”; they believe that the only really interesting and valuable thing in the world of crypto is Bitcoin. Those people could stop here, I guess. There it is, Bitcoin.
在其巅峰时,比特币在全球的总价值超过了 1 万亿美元。有成千上万篇关于它的文章;它有很多投资者、粉丝和信仰者。其中一些人被称为“比特币最大主义者”;他们认为,crypto 世界中唯一真正有趣和有价值的东西就是比特币。那些人可能可以停下来了。那里就是比特币。

Here, though, I want to keep going. I want to talk about different ways that you might generalize Satoshi’s invention. There are different ways to interpret what Satoshi was up to and what he accomplished, and each interpretation points you to a different direction for crypto.
不过,我想继续下去。我想讨论 Satoshi 的发明可以被泛化的不同方式。有不同的方式来解释 Satoshi 在做什么和他所取得的成果,每种解释都会指向 crypto 的不同方向。

A. Please provide the text you want me to translate. I'll be happy to assist you.
A Store of Value

A minimal generalization of Bitcoin is something like: Satoshi invented a technology for people to send numbers to one another. That’s not nothing. Before Satoshi, I could’ve written you an email that said “132.51,” but you’d have no way of knowing whether I had the 132.51 on my computer or whether I’d already sent the 132.51 to someone else, and you’d have no way of proving to other people that you now had the 132.51 on your computer and could send it to them.
比特币的一个最小泛化是这样的:萨托西发明了一种技术,让人们可以互相发送数字。这不是什么都没有。在萨托西之前,我可以给你发一封电子邮件,说“132.51”,但是你不知道我是否已经在电脑上拥有了 132.51,或者我是否已经将其发送给了其他人,你也无法证明你现在拥有了电脑上的 132.51 并可以将其发送给其他人。

I realize that paragraph sounds very stupid, because it is. You definitely have 132.51 on your computer, as well as every other conceivable number; computers can generate numbers arbitrarily and more or less for free. Open a spreadsheet, type “132.51,” and there you go. In a sense, the technological accomplishment of Bitcoin is that it invented a decentralized way to create scarcity on computers. Bitcoin demonstrated a way for me to send you a computer message so that you’d have it and I wouldn’t, to move items of computer information between us in a way that limited their supply and transferred possession.
我意识到上一段话听起来很愚蠢,因为它确实如此。你肯定拥有电脑上的 132.51,以及其他任何可能的数字;计算机可以任意生成数字,几乎不花费任何成本。打开电子表格,输入“132.51”,就这样了。在某种意义上,比特币的技术成就是它发明了一种去中心化的方式来在计算机上创造稀缺性。比特币展示了一种方式,让我可以将电脑信息发送给你,使你拥有它,而我不再拥有,将信息从我们之间转移,限制供应并转移所有权。

But the technological accomplishment is not the whole story, arguably not even the most important part. The wild thing about Bitcoin is not that Satoshi invented a particular way for people to send numbers to one another and call them payments. It’s that people accepted the numbers as payments.

There’s nothing inherent in the technology that would make that happen. People might have read the Bitcoin white paper and said, “Huh, this is a cool way to send payments, but your problem is that you aren’t sending dollars, you’re sending this thing you just made up, and who wants that?” Well, most of them did say that, initially. But lots of people eventually decided that Bitcoin was valuable.

That’s weird! Satoshi was like,

cartoon illustration: I have invented a payment system that works great, the only problem is that instead of getting paid in dollars, you get paid in this thing I just made up, is that cool?

And enough people were like,

cartoon illustration: Yeah, that’s cool.
Illustration: C.W. Moss
插图:C.W. Moss

that now crypto is a trillion-dollar business. That social fact, that Bitcoin was accepted by many millions of people as having a lot of value, might be the most impressive thing about Bitcoin, much more than the stuff about hashing.

i. Shitcoins  垃圾币

Here’s another extremely simple generalization of Bitcoin:

  1. You can make up an arbitrary token that trades electronically.
  2. If you do that, people might pay a nonzero amount of money for it.
  3. Worth a shot, no?

As Bitcoin became more visible and valuable, people just … did … that? There was a rash of cryptocurrencies that were sometimes subtle variations on Bitcoin and sometimes just lazy knockoffs. “Shitcoins” is the mean name for them.

Bloomberg Businessweek cover
See what we did there?

In 2013 two software engineers threw together a cryptocurrency and gave it a logo of Doge, the talking shiba inu meme. They called it Dogecoin, and it was a parody of the coin boom. It’s worth about $8 billion today. I’m not going to explain that to you. Nobody is going to explain that to you. Certainly the guys who invented Dogecoin don’t understand it; one of them has taken to Twitter to say he hates it. It’s just, like, if you’re making up an arbitrary token that trades electronically, and you hope people will buy it for no particular reason, you might as well make it fun. Slap a talking dog on it; give people stuff to make jokes about online.
2013 年,两名软件工程师匆忙创造了一种加密货币,并将其标志设为会说话的柴犬 meme Doge。他们将其命名为狗狗币,是对币圈热潮的讽刺。今天它的价值约为 80 亿美元。我不想向你解释这件事。没人会向你解释这件事。狗狗币的创造者们也不理解它;其中一人甚至在 Twitter 上说他讨厌它。这只是,如果你创造了一个任意的电子交易 token,希望人们无缘无故地购买它,你可能会让它变得有趣。给它贴上一个会说话的狗的标志,让人们在线上开玩笑。

Shiba Inu dog

Incidentally, here’s a fun argument that was made against Bitcoin early in its life:

  1. There’s a limited supply of Bitcoin.
  2. But the Bitcoin software is open-source and can be cloned trivially.
  3. So if the price of Bitcoin gets above, you know, $100, someone will just invent Blitcoin, which will be an exact copy of Bitcoin.
    所以,如果比特币的价格超过 100 美元,某人就会发明 Blitcoin,它将是比特币的 exact 副本。
  4. Bitcoin is arbitrary, and Blitcoin is arbitrary, so there’s no reason that Blitcoin should trade at much of a discount to Bitcoin.
    比特币是任意的,Blitcoin 也是任意的,所以 Blitcoin 不应该相比比特币折扣太多。
  5. This will dilute the value of Bitcoin: any sensible person would rather pay $90 for Blitcoin than $105 for Bitcoin, since they’re the same thing but one is cheaper.
    这将稀释比特币的价值:任何明智的人宁愿花 90 美元买 Blitcoin,而不是花 105 美元买比特币,因为它们是同样的事情,但一个更便宜。
  6. Therefore, there’s an infinite supply of Bitcoin or things that are exactly like it, so the value of Bitcoin cannot get too high.

This argument turned out to be mostly wrong. Socially, cryptocurrency is a coordination game; people want to have the coin that other people want to have, and some sort of abstract technical equivalence doesn’t make one cryptocurrency a good substitute for another. Social acceptance—legitimacy—is what makes a cryptocurrency valuable, and you can’t just copy the code for that.
这个论点证明大部分是错误的。从社会角度看, cryptocurrency 是一个协调游戏;人们想要拥有其他人想要拥有的币,而某种抽象的技术等同性并不使一个 cryptocurrency 成为另一个的良好替代。社会接受——合法性——是使 cryptocurrency 有价值的东西,你不能只是复制代码来获得它。

That’s a revealing fact: What makes Bitcoin valuable isn’t the elegance of its code, but its social acceptance.20 A thing that worked exactly like Bitcoin but didn’t have Bitcoin’s lineage—didn’t descend from Satoshi’s genesis block and was just made up by some copycat—would have the same technology but none of the value.
这是一个启示的事实:使比特币有价值的不是代码的优雅,而是社会接受。 20 一件东西如果像比特币一样工作,但没有比特币的血统——没有来自萨托西的创世区块,而只是某个抄袭者编造的——就会拥有相同的技术,但没有价值。

ii. An uncorrelated asset
ii. 不相关资产

Here’s another generalization of Bitcoin:

  1. Satoshi made up an arbitrary token that trades electronically for some price.

  2. The price turns out to be high and volatile.

  3. The price of an arbitrary token is … arbitrary?

This may not sound that great to you. But it’s very interesting as a matter of finance theory. Modern portfolio theory demonstrates that adding an uncorrelated asset to a portfolio can improve returns and reduce risk. Big institutions will invest in timberland or highway tolls or hurricane insurance, because they think that those things won’t act just like stocks or bonds, that they’ll diversify their portfolios, that they’ll hold up even in a world where stocks go down.

To the extent that the price of Bitcoin 1) mostly goes up, though with lots of ups and downs along the way, and 2) goes up and down for reasons that are arbitrary and mysterious and not tied to, like, corporate earnings or the global economy, then Bitcoin is interesting to institutional investors.

Adena Friedman and Larry Fink

There are variations. For instance:

  1. Bitcoin is not just uncorrelated to regular financial stuff—it’s a hedge to inflation. If the Federal Reserve is printing money recklessly, the dollar will lose value, but Bitcoin is in limited supply and will maintain its value even as the dollar is inflated away.

  2. Bitcoin is like gold but more convenient. The value of gold is also somewhat arbitrary and mysterious, but it’s a store of value that’s not tied to corporate earnings and central bank policy. Investors who like gold should buy Bitcoin.

Well, those are some things that people said. In practice, it turns out that the price of Bitcoin is pretty correlated with the stock market, especially tech stocks. Bitcoin hasn’t been a particularly effective inflation hedge: Its price rose during years when US inflation was low, and it’s fallen this year as inflation has increased. The right model of crypto prices might be that they go up during broad speculative bubbles when stock prices go up, and then they go down when those bubbles pop. That’s not a particularly appealing story for investors looking to diversify. You want stuff that goes up when the broad bubbles pop!

iii. GameStop
Shiba Inu dog with GameStop gear
The simple story of GameStop is that some people on the internet liked the stock.
GameStop 的简单故事是,一些互联网用户喜欢这只股票。

I’m not going to dwell on the meme-stock phenomenon here—I dwelt on it in this publication last December. But one important possibility is that the first generalization of Bitcoin, that an arbitrary tradeable electronic token can become valuable just because people want it to, permanently broke everyone’s brains about all of finance.
我不想在这里详细讨论 meme 股票现象——我去年十二月在这本出版物中已经讨论过了。但有一种重要可能性是,Bitcoin 的第一次泛化,即任意可交易的电子 token 只因为人们想要它就变得有价值,永久地改变了所有人对金融的看法。

Before the rise of Bitcoin, the conventional thing to say about a share of stock was that its price represented the market’s expectation of the present value of the future cash flows of the business. But Bitcoin has no cash flows; its price represents what people are willing to pay for it. Still, it has a high and fluctuating market price; people have gotten rich buying Bitcoin. So people copied that model, and the creation of and speculation on pure, abstract, scarce electronic tokens became a big business.
在 Bitcoin 崛起之前,对股票的传统看法是,其价格代表了市场对业务未来现金流的预期价值。但 Bitcoin 没有现金流;其价格代表了人们愿意为它支付的金额。然而,它具有高且波动的市场价格;人们通过购买 Bitcoin 变得富有。于是,人们复制了这个模式,纯粹抽象的稀缺电子 token 的创造和投机变成了一个大业务。

A share of stock is a scarce electronic token. It’s also something else! A claim on cash flows or whatever. But one thing that it is is an electronic token that’s in more or less limited supply. If you and your friends online want to make jokes and invest based on those jokes, then, depending on your sense of humor and which online chat group you’re in, you might buy either Dogecoin or GameStop Corp. stock, and for your purposes those things are not that different.
一只股票是一种稀缺的电子 token。它也是其他东西!对现金流的索赔或其他什么。但是,它确实是一种电子 token,供应量大致有限。如果你和你的在线朋友想根据幽默感和所在的在线聊天群来投资,那么,你可能会购买 Dogecoin 或 GameStop Corp. 的股票,对你来说,这两种东西没什么不同。

B. B。
A Distributed Computer 分布式计算机

Here’s another, very different generalization of Bitcoin. In its sharpest form, it’s mostly attributed to programmer Vitalik Buterin, another colorful character whom we won’t discuss.21 It goes like this:

  1. Look, this thing you made is a big, sprawling computer. The blockchain is doing the functions of a computer. Specifically, it’s keeping a database of Bitcoin transactions.

  2. This computer has some fascinating properties. It’s distributed: The computer’s data aren’t kept on any one particular machine but spread out among lots of nodes. The blockchain creates a mechanism to make sure they all agree on what the database says. It’s decentralized: Different people run the database on their own separate machines. It’s secure and final: Because of how transactions are encoded into blocks, it’s more or less impossible for someone to reach back into the database and change a transaction from last week. And it’s trustless and permissionless: Anyone who wants to can download the blockchain or mine Bitcoin. The mining mechanism gives people incentives to collaborate and compete with one another to keep the database secure and up to date.

  3. But it’s not a very good computer. Mostly it just keeps a list of payments.

Vitalik Buterin at ETHDenver in February

4. 让我们做同样的事情,但制造一台好的计算机。

   Vitalik at ETHDenver in February. Told you he was colorful!
2 月份的 ETHDenver 大会上,维塔利克真的很有个性!
i. Ethereum  i. 以太坊

The computer that Vitalik22 invented is generally called Ethereum, or the Ethereum Virtual Machine: It’s a virtual computer, distributed among thousands of redundant nodes. Each node knows the “state” of the computer—what’s in its memory—and each transaction on the system updates that state.


Ethereum works a lot like Bitcoin: People create transactions, they broadcast them to the network, the transactions are included in a block, the blocks get chained together, everyone can see every transaction, etc. The currency of the Ethereum blockchain is called … I dunno, it’s common to call it “Ether,” though sometimes people say “Ethereum,” and often they just write “ETH.” (Similarly, Bitcoin is sometimes written “BTC.”) In conversation it’s mostly shortened to “Eth,” pronounced “Eeth.”

But whereas Bitcoin transactions are mostly about sending payments,23 actions on Ethereum are conceived of more generally: Ethereum is a big virtual computer, and you send it instructions to do stuff on the computer. Some of those instructions are “Send 10 Ether from Address X to Address Y”: One thing in the computer’s memory is a database of Ethereum addresses and how much Ether is in each of them, and you can tell the computer to update the database.
但是,以太坊上的 23 操作与比特币交易不同,以太坊是一个大型虚拟计算机,你可以向其发送指令来执行任务。其中的一些指令是“从地址 X 向地址 Y 发送 10 个以太”:计算机的内存中有一份以太坊地址和每个地址中以太数量的数据库,你可以告诉计算机更新数据库。


But you can also write programs to run on the computer to do things automatically. One sort of program might be: Send 10 Ether to Address Y if something happens. Alice and Bob might want to bet on a football game, or on a presidential election, or on the price of Ether.24 They might write a computer program on the Ethereum Virtual Machine to do that. The program would have its own Ethereum account where it could keep Ether, and its programming logic would say something like “if the Jets win on Sunday”—or “if Joe Biden wins the election,” or “if Ether trades above $1,500 on November 1”—“then send the money in this account to Alice; otherwise send it to Bob.” Alice and Bob might then each send one Ether to the account, and it would whir along for a bit checking the football scores or the election results or the Ether price,25 and then when it had an answer to its question—who won the game or the election or is Ether above $1,500—it would automatically resolve the bet and send two Ether to the winner.
但是你也可以编写程序在计算机上自动执行任务。一种程序可能是:如果某事发生,则将 10 个以太币发送到地址 Y。Alice 和 Bob 可能想赌足球比赛、总统选举或以太币的价格。他们可能会编写一个在以太坊虚拟机上运行的计算机程序来实现这一点。该程序将拥有自己的以太坊账户,可以存储以太币,其编程逻辑将说些类似于“如果 Jet 队周日赢了”—或“如果 Joe 赢了选举”,或“如果以太币在 11 月 1 日交易价格超过 1500 美元”—“那么将账户中的钱发送给 Alice;否则将发送给 Bob。” Alice 和 Bob 可能然后各自将一个以太币发送到账户,然后它将检查足球比赛的结果、选举结果或以太币的价格,直到它找到问题的答案——谁赢了比赛或选举,或者以太币是否超过 1500 美元,然后自动解决赌注并将两个以太币发送给赢家。


Or you could have a program that says: “If anyone sends one Ether to this program, the program will send them back something nice.” “Something nice” is pretty hazy there, and frankly it’s pretty hazy in actual practice, but in concept anything that you can put into a computer program could be the reward here. So “send me one Ether and I will send you back a digital picture of a monkey” would be one possible program, and I guess it sounds like I’m joking, but for a while digital pictures of monkeys were selling for millions of dollars on Ethereum. Or there’s a thing called the Ethereum Name Service, or ENS, which allows people to register domain names like “matthewlevine.eth” and use them across various Ethereum functions. You send Ether to the ENS program, and it registers that name to you—you send in money, and it sends you back a domain.
或者你可以编写一个程序,说:“如果有人向这个程序发送一个以太币,这个程序将回馈一些好东西。”这里的“好东西”非常模糊,实际上也非常模糊,但从概念上讲,任何可以编入计算机程序的东西都可以作为回馈。因此,“发送我一个以太币,我将回馈一张数字猴子图片”就是一个可能的程序,我猜这听起来像是在开玩笑,但有一段时间数字猴子图片在以太坊上卖出了数百万美元。或者还有一个叫以太坊命名服务(ENS)的东西,它允许人们注册像“matthewlevine.eth”这样的域名,并在各种以太坊功能中使用它们。你向 ENS 程序发送以太币,它就会将该名称注册给你——你付钱,它回馈一个域名。

Vending machine
Funny, that doesn’t look like a contract.

The standard analogy here is a vending machine: A vending machine is a computer in the real world, where you put in a dollar and you get back something that you want. You don’t negotiate with the vending machine, or make small talk about the weather while it rings you up. The vending machine’s side of the transaction is entirely automated. Its programming makes it respond deterministically to you putting in money and pressing buttons.

In the crypto world, these programs are called “smart contracts.” The name is a bit unfortunate. A smart contract is a computer program that runs on the blockchain. Some smart contracts look like contracts: Alice and Bob’s bet on the price of Ethereum looks a lot like a financial derivative, which is definitely a contract. Some smart contracts look like vending machines: They sit around in public waiting for people to put money in, and then they spit out goods. A vending machine is not exactly a normal contract, but it is a transaction, and people who are into philosophizing about contracts like thinking about vending machines.
在加密世界中,这些程序被称为“智能合约”。这个名字有点不幸。智能合约是一种在区块链上运行的计算机程序。一些智能合约看起来像合约:Alice 和 Bob 对以太坊价格的赌注看起来很像金融衍生品,这当然是一个合约。一些智能合约看起来像自动售货机:它们公开等待人们投入钱,然后吐出商品。自动售货机不是正常的合约,但它是一个交易,而哲学家们喜欢思考自动售货机。

But some smart contracts just look like, you know, computer programs. The concept is more general than the name. In the Ethereum white paper, Vitalik Buterin wrote:
但是,一些智能合约只是看起来像计算机程序。这个概念比名字更广泛。在以太坊白皮书中,Vitalik Buterin 写道:

Note that “contracts” in Ethereum should not be seen as something that should be “fulfilled” or “complied with”; rather, they are more like “autonomous agents” that live inside of the Ethereum execution environment, always executing a specific piece of code when “poked” by a message or transaction, and having direct control over their own ether balance and their own key/value store to keep track of persistent variables.

There are limits: Ethereum is a distributed computer, but it doesn’t have a keyboard and a monitor. It would be hard to play Call of Duty on the Ethereum Virtual Machine. But Ethereum’s blockchain and smart contracts can serve as sort of a back end to other types of programs. Developers build

“dapps,” “去中心化应用”,

or decentralized apps, on Ethereum and other blockchains. These are computer programs that mostly run on the web (perhaps on some centralized or cloud server) but keep some of their essential data on the blockchain. You play a computer game, and your character’s attributes are stored on the blockchain. A normal program on the game company’s servers renders the character’s sword on your screen, but the fact that she has the sword is stored on the blockchain.

One other limit is that it’s a slow computer. The way Ethereum executes programs is that you broadcast the instructions to thousands of nodes on the network, and they each execute the instructions and reach consensus on the results of the instructions. That all takes time. Your program needs to run thousands of times on thousands of computers.

Computers and network connections are pretty fast these days, and the Ethereum computer is fast enough for many purposes (such as transferring Ether, or keeping a database of computer game characters). But you wouldn’t want to use this sort of computer architecture for extremely time-sensitive, computation-intensive applications. You wouldn’t want, like, a self-driving car running on the Ethereum Virtual Machine. You wouldn’t want thousands of computers around the world redundantly calculating how far you are from hitting someone before you could brake.

ii. Proof of stake
ii. 权益证明

This distributed computer, the Ethereum Virtual Machine, takes its basic design from Bitcoin. There are blocks, everyone can see them, they are chained together, transactions are signed with private keys, everything is hashed, etc. It’s just that, in addition to sending money to people, you can send computer instructions to the blockchain, and the blockchain will execute them.

What that means is that there are thousands of computers each running nodes of the Ethereum network, and all those computers will agree about what happens on that network, who sent money to whom, and what computer instructions executed when. The fact that Ethereum is a distributed, virtual computer means that all those actual computers can come to a consensus about what operations executed when. And the reason this was possible is that Bitcoin showed how a decentralized computer network could reach consensus. The stuff with the hashing and the mining and the nonces and the electricity: That is Bitcoin’s consensus mechanism, proof of work (or PoW).
这意味着有成千上万台计算机,每台计算机都在运行以太坊网络的节点,而所有这些计算机都会就网络上的事件达成一致,谁向谁发送了钱款,以及什么时候执行了计算机指令。以太坊是一台分布式虚拟计算机,这意味着所有这些实际计算机可以就执行的操作达成一致。这之所以可能,是因为比特币展示了如何让一个去中心化的计算机网络达成一致。那关于哈希、挖矿、随机数和电力等东西:那是比特币的共识机制,工作量证明(或 PoW)。

Until last month, it was also Ethereum’s. There were some technical differences, but the basic mechanics were pretty similar. Miners did a bunch of hashes of block data, and whoever found the right hash first mined the block and got a reward. Because this was expensive and wasted a lot of resources, it demonstrated a commitment to the Ethereum ecosystem. But the waste itself was bad.

And so, on Sept. 15, after years of planning, Ethereum switched to a new consensus mechanism: Ethereum now uses something called proof of stake (or PoS). The basic ideas remain the same. People do transactions and broadcast them to the Ethereum network. A bunch of computers—in PoW they’re called “miners,” in PoS they’re called “validators”—work to compile these transactions into an official ordered list, called the blockchain. Anyone with a computer can be a miner/validator; the protocol is open to everyone. But the miners/validators have to prove their commitment to the system to mine/validate blocks. In PoW, the way you prove that is by using a lot of electricity to do hashes. In PoS, the way you prove that is by having a lot of Ether.
于 9 月 15 日,在多年的规划后,Ethereum 转换到了一个新的共识机制:Ethereum 现在使用所谓的权益证明机制(或 PoS)。基本思想保持不变。人们进行交易并将其广播到 Ethereum 网络。一群计算机——在 PoW 中称为“矿工”,在 PoS 中称为“验证者”——工作将这些交易编译成一个官方的有序列表,称为区块链。任何人都可以使用计算机成为矿工/验证者;协议对所有人开放。但是,矿工/验证者需要证明他们对系统的承诺,以挖掘/验证区块。在 PoW 中,证明的方式是使用大量电力进行哈希运算。在 PoS 中,证明的方式是拥有大量以太币。

Oversimplifying a bit, the general mechanics are:

    任何人都可以通过“质押”一些网络货币,将其存入特殊的智能合约来成为验证者。质押的货币在一段时间内不能被提取。在 Ethereum 上,你需要质押 32 个以太币——目前约为 40,000 美元——来成为验证者。


    在固定的时间间隔(例如每 12 秒),一个验证者将被随机选中提出一个区块,而其他一些验证者将被选中审查提出的区块并投票。





I mean, that’s the concept, but when I write it out like that, it sounds more manual than it is. Nobody is sitting around reviewing every transaction and agonizing over whether it’s legitimate. The validators are just running the official open-source Ethereum software. It is all pretty automatic, and you can run it on a laptop with good backup power and a solid internet connection. The big outlay may be the $40,000 to buy Ether. It’s not hard to contribute to the consensus. It’s hard to override it. But being an honest validator is pretty easy.
我的意思是,这的确是概念,但当我把它写出来时,听起来比实际情况更手动。没有人会坐在那里逐一审核每笔交易,苦恼于它是否合法。验证者只是运行官方的开源以太坊软件。这一切都非常自动化,你可以在一台配有良好备用电源和稳定互联网连接的笔记本电脑上运行。唯一的高昂开销可能是花费 4 万美元购买以太币。加入共识并不难。难的是推翻它。但是,作为一个诚实的验证者非常容易。

When we discussed proof-of-work mining, I said that crypto systems are designed to operate on consensus among people with an economic stake in the system. PoW systems demonstrate economic stake in a cleverly indirect way: You buy a bunch of computer hardware and pay for a lot of electricity and do a bunch of calculations to prove you really care about Bitcoin. PoS systems demonstrate the economic stake directly: You just invest a lot of money in Ethereum and post it as a bond, which proves you care.

historical illustration
Making coins is a lot of work.

This is more efficient, in two ways. First, it uses less electricity. Burning lots of electricity to do trillions of pointless math calculations a second, in a warming world, seems dumb. Proof of stake uses, to a first approximation, no electricity. You’re simply keeping a list of transactions, and you just have to compile the list once, not 200 quintillion times. The transition to PoS cut Ethereum’s energy usage by something like 99.95%.
这种方式更高效,原因有二。首先,它使用的电力更少。在这个温暖的世界中,烧掉大量电力来进行数万亿次无用的数学计算,每秒钟都很愚蠢。权益证明几乎不使用电力。你只是维护一份交易列表,只需要编译一次列表,而不是 200 万亿次。以太坊转换到权益证明后,能源使用率降低了约 99.95%。

Second, PoS more directly measures your stake in the system. You demonstrate your stake in Ethereum by 1) owning Ether and 2) putting it at risk28 to validate transactions. To take control of the PoS system and abuse it for your own nefarious purposes, you need to own a lot of Ether, and the more you own, the less nefarious you’ll want to be. “Proof of stake can buy something like 20 times more security for the same cost,” Vitalik has argued.
其次,权益证明(PoS)更直接地衡量您在系统中的权益。在以太坊中,您可以通过两种方式证明自己的权益:1)拥有以太币(Ether),2)将其风险用于验证交易。要控制 PoS 系统并将其用于自己的不正当目的,您需要拥有大量以太币,而您拥有的以太币越多,您就越不想做不正当的事情。维塔利克曾经论证说:“权益证明可以以相同的成本获得大约 20 倍的安全性。”

Staking  • 权益质押

Here’s how a Bitcoin miner makes money:

  1. Spend dollars to buy computers and electricity.

  2. Use the computers and electricity to generate Bitcoin.

  3. Sell the Bitcoin, or hold them and hope they go up.

photo of closet

Here’s how an Ethereum validator makes money:

  1. Buy Ether. 买以太币。
  2. Lock it up. 把它们锁定起来。
  3. Get paid fees in Ether that are, roughly, a percentage of the Ether you’ve locked up. Currently the fees are around 4%.
    你可以获得以以太币为单位的费用,这些费用大致是你锁定的以太币的一部分。目前,费用约为 4%。
hammock on beach

There’s still some computer hardware involved—you have to run software to compile and check transactions—but not much of it; again, it can be a laptop. The capital investment isn’t in computers but in the relevant cryptocurrency. The transaction is very close to: “Invest a lot of cryptocurrency and then get paid interest on that cryptocurrency.”

You can make it even easier on yourself. Instead of downloading the software to run a full Ethereum validator node, and depositing 32 Ether, you can hand your Ether over to someone else and let them be a validator. It doesn’t need to be 32 Ether: If you have 1 Ether, and 31 other people each have 1 Ether, and you all pool your Ether together, then you have enough to stake, validate transactions, and earn fees. And then you each can have a cut of the fees. The work of validating transactions can be completely separated from the actual staking of Ether.
你可以让事情变得更容易。 Instead of 下载软件来运行完整的以太坊验证节点,并存入 32 个以太币,你可以将以太币交给别人,让他们成为验证者。这不需要 32 个以太币:如果你有 1 个以太币,另外 31 个人各有 1 个以太币,你们都可以将以太币汇集在一起,然后你就有足够的以太币来赌注、验证交易和赚取费用。然后,你每个人都可以获得一部分费用。验证交易的工作可以完全与实际的以太币赌注分开。

And in fact a lot of Ethereum validation runs through crypto exchanges such as Coinbase, Kraken, and Binance, which offer staking as a product to their customers. (The biggest is a thing called Lido Finance, which isn’t an exchange but a sort of decentralized staking pool.) The customers keep their Ether with the exchange anyway, so they might as well let the exchange stake it for them and earn some interest.
事实上,大量以太坊验证都是通过像 Coinbase、Kraken 和 Binance 这样的加密货币交易所进行的,这些交易所为客户提供赌注产品。(最大的一个是叫 Lido Finance 的东西,它不是交易所,而是一种去中心化的赌注池。)客户本来就将以太币存放在交易所中,所以他们可能会让交易所为他们赌注并赚取一些利息。

Yes: interest. If you’re putting crypto into a staking pool, what it looks like to you is simply earning interest on your crypto: You have 100 tokens, you lock them up for a bit, you get back 103 tokens. The stuff about validating transactions occurs in the background, and you don’t really have to worry about it. You just get a percentage return on your money—around 4% now, but maybe less after fees—from locking it up. (Before you compare that to the passive income you might earn on, say, a bond, remember this is paid in volatile Ether.)
是的:利息。如果你将加密货币投入质押池,看起来你只是在加密货币上赚取利息:你有 100 个令牌,锁定它们一段时间,然后你将获得 103 个令牌。验证交易的过程发生在背景中,你不需要太担心。你只是从锁定中获得了一定的回报——现在大约是 4%,但可能会因为费用而减少——(在你将其与债券等的被动收入进行比较时,请记住这是以易变的以太币支付的)。

Crypto has found a novel way to create yield. We’ll talk about others later—crypto has a whole business of “yield farming”—but this is one. You can deposit your crypto into an account, and it will pay you interest. It will pay you interest not for the reason banks generally do—because they’re lending your money to some other customer who will make use of it—but because you are, in your small way, helping to maintain the security of the transaction ledger.

iii. Gas

Another difference between Ethereum and Bitcoin is that transaction fees are much more important in Ethereum.
Ethereum 和比特币之间的另一个区别是交易费用在 Ethereum 中更加重要。

The basic reason is that every transaction in Bitcoin is more or less the same: “X sends Y Bitcoin to Z.” In Ethereum, though, there are transactions like “Run this complicated computer program with 10,000 steps.” That takes longer. Thousands of nodes on the Ethereum network have to run and validate each computational step of each contract. If a contract requires a lot of steps, then it will use a lot more of validators’ time and computer resources. If it requires infinite steps, it would crash the whole thing.
基本原因是比特币中的每笔交易基本相同:“X 将 Y 比特币发送给 Z”。然而,在 Ethereum 中,有像“运行这个复杂的计算程序,需要 10,000 步骤”的交易。那需要更长时间。Ethereum 网络上的成千上万个节点需要运行和验证每个合约的每个计算步骤。如果合约需要很多步骤,那么它将使用更多的验证者时间和计算资源。如果它需要无限步骤,那么它将崩溃整个系统。

To address this issue, Ethereum has “gas,” which is a fee that people and smart contracts pay for computation. Each transaction specifies 1) a maximum gas limit (basically a number of computational steps) and 2) a price per unit of gas. If the transaction uses up all its gas—if it takes more steps to execute than the gas limit—it fails (and still pays the gas fee). This deters people from sending superlong transactions that clog the network, and it absolutely prevents them from clogging the network forever.
为了解决这个问题,Ethereum 引入了“gas”机制,即人们和智能合约为计算付费的费用。每笔交易都指定了 1) 最大 gas 限额(基本上是计算步骤的数量)和 2) 每单位 gas 的价格。如果交易使用了所有的 gas——如果执行交易需要的步骤超过 gas 限额——那么交易将失败(仍然需要支付 gas 费用)。这阻止了人们发送超长交易,从而阻塞网络,并且绝对防止了网络被永久阻塞。

Vintage image of gas station pump

In early Ethereum, the gas fees, as well as built-in mining rewards, were paid to the miner who mined a block. Since the move to PoS, the built-in rewards are lower (because it’s much less expensive to be a validator than a miner, so you don’t need to get paid as much). And now some of the gas fees are “burned” (the Ether just vanishes) instead of being paid to validators. The basic result is that Ether as a whole is paying less for security under PoS than it used to.
在早期的 Ethereum 中,gas 费用以及内置的挖矿奖励都是支付给挖矿者谁挖掘了一个块。自从转移到 PoS 后,内置的奖励降低了(因为成为验证者比挖矿者更便宜,所以不需要支付那么多)。现在,一些 gas 费用被“烧毁”(以太币直接消失),而不是支付给验证者。基本结果是,以太币整体为安全支付的费用在 PoS 下降低了。

There are still gas fees, though, and some of them still go to validators. And generally speaking, the more you offer to pay for gas, the faster your transaction will be executed: If Ethereum is busy, paying more for gas gets you priority for executing your transactions. It is a shared computer where you can pay more to go first.
尽管如此,仍然存在 gas 费用,一些仍然支付给验证者。一般来说,你为 gas 支付的越多,交易执行的速度就越快:如果 Ethereum 很忙,为 gas 支付更多可以让你的交易优先执行。这是一个共享计算机,你可以支付更多来优先执行。

iv. Tokens  iv. 代币

One thing a smart contract can do in Ethereum is create new cryptocurrencies. These cryptocurrencies are generally called “tokens.”

Why would you want to do this? One reason we already talked about:

  1. You can make up an arbitrary token that trades electronically.

  2. If you do that, people might pay a nonzero amount of money for it.

  3. Worth a shot, no?

This is extremely easy to do in Ethereum. (The Ethereum white paper includes a four-line code snippet “for implementing a token system” on Ethereum.) And so there’s the Shiba token, which calls itself “a decentralized meme token that evolved into a vibrant ecosystem.” It’s Dogecoin but on Ethereum, easy. It has a “Woof Paper.”
以太坊上做这件事非常容易。(以太坊白皮书包括一个四行代码片段,用于在以太坊上实现令牌系统。)于是,有了 Shiba 令牌,它自称为“一个去中心化的 meme 令牌,演变成一个繁荣的生态系统。”它就像 Dogecoin,但是在以太坊上,非常容易。它有一个“ Woof Paper”。

But there are lots of other reasons to create cryptocurrencies. If you set up some sort of app that does a thing on the Ethereum system and you want to charge people money for doing that thing, what sort of money should you charge them? Or if you set up a two-sided marketplace that connects people who do a thing with people who want the thing done, what sort of money should the people who want the thing use to pay the people who do the thing?

Dollars are a possible answer, though an oddly hard one: US dollars don’t live on the blockchain, but in bank accounts. Ether is the most obvious answer: You’ve set up an app in Ethereum, so you should take payment in the currency of Ethereum. But a persistently popular answer is: You should take payment in your own currency. People who add value to your service should be paid in your own special token; people who make use of the service should pay for it in that token. And then if the service takes off, the token might become more valuable.

An asset class? 资产类别?

We’ll discuss this idea in more detail later. For now, I’ll just say that Ethereum has a standard for how these sorts of tokens should be implemented, and it’s called ERC-20. And when there are decentralized apps on the Ethereum blockchain, there’s a good chance that they’ll say they have an ERC-20 token.
我们将在后面详细讨论这个想法。现在,我只想说,以太坊有一个标准,用于实现这种令牌的方式,称为 ERC-20。当以太坊区块链上有去中心化应用程序时,他们很可能会说他们拥有 ERC-20 令牌。

One essential property of an ERC-20 token is that it’s fungible—like dollars, or Bitcoin, or Ether. If I create an ERC-20 token called Mattcoin and mint a billion Mattcoins, each of those billion tokens works exactly the same and is exactly interchangeable. They all trade at the same price, and nobody wants, or gets, any particular identified Mattcoin.
ERC-20 代币的一个基本属性是它可以互换——像美元、比特币或以太坊。如果我创建一个名为 Mattcoin 的 ERC-20 代币,并铸造十亿个 Mattcoin,每个 Mattcoin 都完全相同,完全可以互换。它们都以相同的价格交易,没有人想要或获取特定的 Mattcoin。


There’s another way to do a token, though. You could have a series of tokens, each with a number. Token No. 1 in the series is different from Token No. 99, in the sense that Token No. 1 has the number 1 and Token No. 99 has the number 99. This is generally referred to as a nonfungible token, or NFT. The most popular Ethereum standard for NFTs is called ERC-721, and you’ll see that name sometimes.
虽然还有另一种方式来创建代币。你可以创建一系列代币,每个代币都有一个编号。系列中的第 1 个代币不同于第 99 个代币,因为第 1 个代币有编号 1,而第 99 个代币有编号 99。这通常被称为非互换代币或 NFT。以太坊最流行的 NFT 标准被称为 ERC-721,你可能会看到这个名称。

Let me quote a bit of the ERC-721 standard:
让我引用 ERC-721 标准的一部分:

The ERC-721 introduces a standard for NFT, in other words, this type of Token is unique and can have different value than another Token from the same Smart Contract, maybe due to its age, rarity or even something else like its visual. Wait, visual?
ERC-721 引入了 NFT 的标准,也就是说,这种代币是独特的,可以比同一智能合约下的其他代币具有不同的价值,这可能是由于其年龄、稀有性或其他因素,如视觉。等等,视觉?

Yes! All NFTs have a [numerical] variable called tokenId, so for any ERC-721 Contract, the pair contract address, [numerical] tokenId must be globally unique. That said, a dapp can have a “converter” that uses the tokenId as input and outputs an image of something cool, like zombies, weapons, skills or amazing kitties!
是的!所有 NFT 都有一个名为 tokenId 的数字变量,因此对于任何 ERC-721 合约,合约地址和 tokenId 的组合必须在全球范围内是唯一的。话说回来,一个 dapp 可以拥有一个“转换器”,它使用 tokenId 作为输入,并输出一些很酷的图像,例如僵尸、武器、技能或惊人的小猫!

Look how minimal this standard is, despite the zombies and kitties. An NFT consists of a series of numbered tokens, and the thing that makes it an NFT is that it has a different number in its tokenId field from the other tokens in its series.
看看这个标准有多么简单,即使有僵尸和小猫。NFT 由一系列编号的令牌组成,而使其成为 NFT 的是它在 tokenId 字段中的数字不同于系列中的其他令牌。

If you’d like to imagine that this different number makes it something cool, like a zombie, or a kitty, you can! Go right ahead! Or if there’s a computer program—or an Ethereum dapp—that looks at your number and says, “Ah, right, this number corresponds to a zombie with green hair and a fetching scar on his right cheek,” then the computer program is free to say that—and even serve you up a picture of that zombie—and you are free to believe it.
如果你想象这个不同的数字使其变得很酷,例如僵尸或小猫,你可以!请随意!或者,如果有一台计算机程序——或一个以太坊 dapp——它查看你的数字并说:“啊,对,这个数字对应一个绿发僵尸,右脸颊上有一道吸引人的疤痕”,那么计算机程序可以说那样——甚至提供一个僵尸的图片——你可以相信它。

We’ll come back to this.

Apefest billboard: It gets weird.

IT GETS WEIRD. 事情变得很奇怪。

v. An ICO  与 ICO 的区别

Here’s another important difference between Ethereum and Bitcoin. Bitcoin never raised money; Ethereum did.

You can think of Bitcoin as more or less the open-source passion product of one anonymous guy who really likes cryptography. The cost of building the basic system of Bitcoin was Satoshi’s time, which he donated. Then he mined the first Bitcoins and got super rich, probably, but that came later.

Ethereum was a bit more complicated to build. Vitalik Buterin is the intellectual leader of Ethereum, but there were a bunch of co-founders. There were legal entities. There were programmers. They spent a lot of time on it. They had to pay for food deliveries.<