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OnChain Wizard

OnChain Wizard

2 years ago

How to make a >800 million dollars in crypto attacking the once 3rd largest stablecoin, Soros style

Everyone is talking about the $UST attack right now, including Janet Yellen. But no one is talking about how much money the attacker made (or how brilliant it was). Lets dig in.

Our story starts in late March, when the Luna Foundation Guard (or LFG) starts buying BTC to help back $UST. LFG started accumulating BTC on 3/22, and by March 26th had a $1bn+ BTC position. This is leg #1 that made this trade (or attack) brilliant.

The second leg comes in the form of the 4pool Frax announcement for $UST on April 1st. This added the second leg needed to help execute the strategy in a capital efficient way (liquidity will be lower and then the attack is on).

We don't know when the attacker borrowed 100k BTC to start the position, other than that it was sold into Kwon's buying (still speculation). LFG bought 15k BTC between March 27th and April 11th, so lets just take the average price between these dates ($42k).


So you have a ~$4.2bn short position built. Over the same time, the attacker builds a $1bn OTC position in $UST. The stage is now set to create a run on the bank and get paid on your BTC short. In anticipation of the 4pool, LFG initially removes $150mm from 3pool liquidity.

The liquidity was pulled on 5/8 and then the attacker uses $350mm of UST to drain curve liquidity (and LFG pulls another $100mm of liquidity).

But this only starts the de-pegging (down to 0.972 at the lows). LFG begins selling $BTC to defend the peg, causing downward pressure on BTC while the run on $UST was just getting started.

With the Curve liquidity drained, the attacker used the remainder of their $1b OTC $UST position ($650mm or so) to start offloading on Binance. As withdrawals from Anchor turned from concern into panic, this caused a real de-peg as people fled for the exits

So LFG is selling $BTC to restore the peg while the attacker is selling $UST on Binance. Eventually the chain gets congested and the CEXs suspend withdrawals of $UST, fueling the bank run panic. $UST de-pegs to 60c at the bottom, while $BTC bleeds out.


The crypto community panics as they wonder how much $BTC will be sold to keep the peg. There are liquidations across the board and LUNA pukes because of its redemption mechanism (the attacker very well could have shorted LUNA as well). BTC fell 25% from $42k on 4/11 to $31.3k

So how much did our attacker make? There aren't details on where they covered obviously, but if they are able to cover (or buy back) the entire position at ~$32k, that means they made $952mm on the short.

On the $350mm of $UST curve dumps I don't think they took much of a loss, lets assume 3% or just $11m. And lets assume that all the Binance dumps were done at 80c, thats another $125mm cost of doing business. For a grand total profit of $815mm (bf borrow cost).

BTC was the perfect playground for the trade, as the liquidity was there to pull it off. While having LFG involved in BTC, and foreseeing they would sell to keep the peg (and prevent LUNA from dying) was the kicker.

Lastly, the liquidity being low on 3pool in advance of 4pool allowed the attacker to drain it with only $350mm, causing the broader panic in both BTC and $UST. Any shorts on LUNA would've added a lot of P&L here as well, with it falling -65% since 5/7.

And for the reply guys, yes I know a lot of this involves some speculation & assumptions. But a lot of money was made here either way, and I thought it would be cool to dive into how they did it.

More on Web3 & Crypto

Nathan Reiff

Nathan Reiff

2 years ago

Howey Test and Cryptocurrencies: 'Every ICO Is a Security'

What Is the Howey Test?

To determine whether a transaction qualifies as a "investment contract" and thus qualifies as a security, the Howey Test refers to the U.S. Supreme Court cass: the Securities Act of 1933 and the Securities Exchange Act of 1934. According to the Howey Test, an investment contract exists when "money is invested in a common enterprise with a reasonable expectation of profits from others' efforts." 

The test applies to any contract, scheme, or transaction. The Howey Test helps investors and project backers understand blockchain and digital currency projects. ICOs and certain cryptocurrencies may be found to be "investment contracts" under the test.

Understanding the Howey Test

The Howey Test comes from the 1946 Supreme Court case SEC v. W.J. Howey Co. The Howey Company sold citrus groves to Florida buyers who leased them back to Howey. The company would maintain the groves and sell the fruit for the owners. Both parties benefited. Most buyers had no farming experience and were not required to farm the land. 

The SEC intervened because Howey failed to register the transactions. The court ruled that the leaseback agreements were investment contracts.

This established four criteria for determining an investment contract. Investing contract:

  1. An investment of money
  2. n a common enterprise
  3. With the expectation of profit
  4. To be derived from the efforts of others

In the case of Howey, the buyers saw the transactions as valuable because others provided the labor and expertise. An income stream was obtained by only investing capital. As a result of the Howey Test, the transaction had to be registered with the SEC.

Howey Test and Cryptocurrencies

Bitcoin is notoriously difficult to categorize. Decentralized, they evade regulation in many ways. Regardless, the SEC is looking into digital assets and determining when their sale qualifies as an investment contract.

The SEC claims that selling digital assets meets the "investment of money" test because fiat money or other digital assets are being exchanged. Like the "common enterprise" test. 

Whether a digital asset qualifies as an investment contract depends on whether there is a "expectation of profit from others' efforts."

For example, buyers of digital assets may be relying on others' efforts if they expect the project's backers to build and maintain the digital network, rather than a dispersed community of unaffiliated users. Also, if the project's backers create scarcity by burning tokens, the test is met. Another way the "efforts of others" test is met is if the project's backers continue to act in a managerial role.

These are just a few examples given by the SEC. If a project's success is dependent on ongoing support from backers, the buyer of the digital asset is likely relying on "others' efforts."

Special Considerations

If the SEC determines a cryptocurrency token is a security, many issues arise. It means the SEC can decide whether a token can be sold to US investors and forces the project to register. 

In 2017, the SEC ruled that selling DAO tokens for Ether violated federal securities laws. Instead of enforcing securities laws, the SEC issued a warning to the cryptocurrency industry. 

Due to the Howey Test, most ICOs today are likely inaccessible to US investors. After a year of ICOs, then-SEC Chair Jay Clayton declared them all securities. 

SEC Chairman Gensler Agrees With Predecessor: 'Every ICO Is a Security'

Howey Test FAQs

How Do You Determine If Something Is a Security?

The Howey Test determines whether certain transactions are "investment contracts." Securities are transactions that qualify as "investment contracts" under the Securities Act of 1933 and the Securities Exchange Act of 1934.

The Howey Test looks for a "investment of money in a common enterprise with a reasonable expectation of profits from others' efforts." If so, the Securities Act of 1933 and the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 require disclosure and registration.

Why Is Bitcoin Not a Security?

Former SEC Chair Jay Clayton clarified in June 2018 that bitcoin is not a security: "Cryptocurrencies: Replace the dollar, euro, and yen with bitcoin. That type of currency is not a security," said Clayton.

Bitcoin, which has never sought public funding to develop its technology, fails the SEC's Howey Test. However, according to Clayton, ICO tokens are securities. 

A Security Defined by the SEC

In the public and private markets, securities are fungible and tradeable financial instruments. The SEC regulates public securities sales.

The Supreme Court defined a security offering in SEC v. W.J. Howey Co. In its judgment, the court defines a security using four criteria:

  • An investment contract's existence
  • The formation of a common enterprise
  • The issuer's profit promise
  • Third-party promotion of the offering

Read original post.

Scott Hickmann

Scott Hickmann

2 years ago

YouTube

This is a YouTube video:

Matt Ward

Matt Ward

1 year ago

Is Web3 nonsense?

Crypto and blockchain have rebranded as web3. They probably thought it sounded better and didn't want the baggage of scam ICOs, STOs, and skirted securities laws.

It was like Facebook becoming Meta. Crypto's biggest players wanted to change public (and regulator) perception away from pump-and-dump schemes.

After the 2018 ICO gold rush, it's understandable. Every project that raised millions (or billions) never shipped a meaningful product.

Like many crazes, charlatans took the money and ran.

Despite its grifter past, web3 is THE hot topic today as more founders, venture firms, and larger institutions look to build the future decentralized internet.

Supposedly.

How often have you heard: This will change the world, fix the internet, and give people power?

Why are most of web3's biggest proponents (and beneficiaries) the same rich, powerful players who built and invested in the modern internet? It's like they want to remake and own the internet.

Something seems off about that.

Why are insiders getting preferential presale terms before the public, allowing early investors and proponents to flip dirt cheap tokens and advisors shares almost immediately after the public sale?

It's a good gig with guaranteed markups, no risk or progress.

If it sounds like insider trading, it is, at least practically. This is clear when people talk about blockchain/web3 launches and tokens.

Fast money, quick flips, and guaranteed markups/returns are common.

Incentives-wise, it's hard to blame them. Who can blame someone for following the rules to win? Is it their fault or regulators' for not leveling the playing field?

It's similar to oil companies polluting for profit, Instagram depressing you into buying a new dress, or pharma pushing an unnecessary pill.

All of that is fair game, at least until we change the playbook, because people (and corporations) change for pain or love. Who doesn't love money?

belief based on money gain

Sinclair:

“It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends upon his not understanding it.”

Bitcoin, blockchain, and web3 analogies?

Most blockchain and web3 proponents are true believers, not cynical capitalists. They believe blockchain's inherent transparency and permissionless trust allow humanity to evolve beyond our reptilian ways and build a better decentralized and democratic world.

They highlight issues with the modern internet and monopoly players like Google, Facebook, and Apple. Decentralization fixes everything

If we could give power back to the people and get governments/corporations/individuals out of the way, we'd fix everything.

Blockchain solves supply chain and child labor issues in China.

To meet Paris climate goals, reduce emissions. Create a carbon token.

Fixing online hatred and polarization Web3 Twitter and Facebook replacement.

Web3 must just be the answer for everything… your “perfect” silver bullet.

Nothing fits everyone. Blockchain has pros and cons like everything else.

Blockchain's viral, ponzi-like nature has an MLM (mid level marketing) feel. If you bought Taylor Swift's NFT, your investment is tied to her popularity.

Probably makes you promote Swift more. Play music loudly.

Here's another example:

Imagine if Jehovah’s Witnesses (or evangelical preachers…) got paid for every single person they converted to their cause.

It becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy as their faith and wealth grow.

Which breeds extremism? Ultra-Orthodox Jews are an example. maximalists

Bitcoin and blockchain are causes, religions. It's a money-making movement and ideal.

We're good at convincing ourselves of things we want to believe, hence filter bubbles.

I ignore anything that doesn't fit my worldview and seek out like-minded people, which algorithms amplify.

Then what?

Is web3 merely a new scam?

No, never!

Blockchain has many crucial uses.

Sending money home/abroad without bank fees;

Like fleeing a war-torn country and converting savings to Bitcoin;

Like preventing Twitter from silencing dissidents.

Permissionless, trustless databases could benefit society and humanity. There are, however, many limitations.

Lost password?

What if you're cheated?

What if Trump/Putin/your favorite dictator incites a coup d'état?

What-ifs abound. Decentralization's openness brings good and bad.

No gatekeepers or firefighters to rescue you.

ISIS's fundraising is also frictionless.

Community-owned apps with bad interfaces and service.

Trade-offs rule.

So what compromises does web3 make?

What are your trade-offs? Decentralization has many strengths and flaws. Like Bitcoin's wasteful proof-of-work or Ethereum's political/wealth-based proof-of-stake.

To ensure the survival and veracity of the network/blockchain and to safeguard its nodes, extreme measures have been designed/put in place to prevent hostile takeovers aimed at altering the blockchain, i.e., adding money to your own wallet (account), etc.

These protective measures require significant resources and pose challenges. Reduced speed and throughput, high gas fees (cost to submit/write a transaction to the blockchain), and delayed development times, not to mention forked blockchain chains oops, web3 projects.

Protecting dissidents or rogue regimes makes sense. You need safety, privacy, and calm.

First-world life?

What if you assumed EVERYONE you saw was out to rob/attack you? You'd never travel, trust anyone, accomplish much, or live fully. The economy would collapse.

It's like an ant colony where half the ants do nothing but wait to be attacked.

Waste of time and money.

11% of the US budget goes to the military. Imagine what we could do with the $766B+ we spend on what-ifs annually.

Is so much hypothetical security needed?

Blockchain and web3 are similar.

Does your app need permissionless decentralization? Does your scooter-sharing company really need a proof-of-stake system and 1000s of nodes to avoid Russian hackers? Why?

Worst-case scenario? It's not life or death, unless you overstate the what-ifs. Web3 proponents find improbable scenarios to justify decentralization and tokenization.

Do I need a token to prove ownership of my painting? Unless I'm a master thief, I probably bought it.

despite losing the receipt.

I do, however, love Web 3.

Enough Web3 bashing for now. Understand? Decentralization isn't perfect, but it has huge potential when applied to the right problems.

I see many of the right problems as disrupting big tech's ruthless monopolies. I wrote several years ago about how tokenized blockchains could be used to break big tech's stranglehold on platforms, marketplaces, and social media.

Tokenomics schemes can be used for good and are powerful. Here’s how.

Before the ICO boom, I made a series of predictions about blockchain/crypto's future. It's still true.

Here's where I was then and where I see web3 going:

My 11 Big & Bold Predictions for Blockchain

In the near future, people may wear crypto cash rings or bracelets.

  1. While some governments repress cryptocurrency, others will start to embrace it.

  2. Blockchain will fundamentally alter voting and governance, resulting in a more open election process.

  3. Money freedom will lead to a more geographically open world where people will be more able to leave when there is unrest.

  4. Blockchain will make record keeping significantly easier, eliminating the need for a significant portion of government workers whose sole responsibility is paperwork.

  5. Overrated are smart contracts.

6. Tokens will replace company stocks.

7. Blockchain increases real estate's liquidity, value, and volatility.

8. Healthcare may be most affected.

9. Crypto could end privacy and lead to Minority Report.

10. New companies with network effects will displace incumbents.

11. Soon, people will wear rings or bracelets with crypto cash.

Some have already happened, while others are still possible.

Time will tell if they happen.

And finally:

What will web3 be?

Who will be in charge?

Closing remarks

Hope you enjoyed this web3 dive. There's much more to say, but that's for another day.

We're writing history as we go.

Tech regulation, mergers, Bitcoin surge How will history remember us?

What about web3 and blockchain?

Is this a revolution or a tulip craze?

Remember, actions speak louder than words (share them in the comments).

Your turn.

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Cory Doctorow

Cory Doctorow

1 year ago

The downfall of the Big Four accounting companies is just one (more) controversy away.

Economic mutual destruction.

Multibillion-dollar corporations never bothered with an independent audit, and they all lied about their balance sheets.

It's easy to forget that the Big Four accounting firms are lousy fraud enablers. Just because they sign off on your books doesn't mean you're not a hoax waiting to erupt.

This is *crazy* Capitalism depends on independent auditors. Rich folks need to know their financial advisers aren't lying. Rich folks usually succeed.

No accounting. EY, KPMG, PWC, and Deloitte make more money consulting firms than signing off on their accounts.

The Big Four sign off on phony books because failing to make friends with unscrupulous corporations may cost them consulting contracts.

The Big Four are the only firms big enough to oversee bankruptcy when they sign off on fraudulent books, as they did for Carillion in 2018. All four profited from Carillion's bankruptcy.

The Big Four are corrupt without any consequences for misconduct. Who can forget when KPMG's top management was fined millions for helping auditors cheat on ethics exams?

Consulting and auditing conflict. Consultants help a firm cover its evil activities, such as tax fraud or wage theft, whereas auditors add clarity to a company's finances. The Big Four make more money from cooking books than from uncooking them, thus they are constantly embroiled in scandals.

If a major scandal breaks, it may bring down the entire sector and substantial parts of the economy. Jim Peterson explains system risk for The Dig.

The Big Four are voluntary private partnerships where accountants invest their time, reputations, and money. If a controversy threatens the business, partners who depart may avoid scandal and financial disaster.

When disaster looms, each partner should bolt for the door, even if a disciplined stay-and-hold posture could weather the storm. This happened to Arthur Andersen during Enron's collapse, and a 2006 EU report recognized the risk to other corporations.

Each partner at a huge firm knows how much dirty laundry they've buried in the company's garden, and they have well-founded suspicions about what other partners have buried, too. When someone digs, everyone runs.

If a firm confronts substantial litigation damages or enforcement penalties, it could trigger the collapse of one of the Big Four. That would be bad news for the firm's clients, who would have trouble finding another big auditor.

Most of the world's auditing capacity is concentrated in four enormous, brittle, opaque, compromised organizations. If one of them goes bankrupt, the other three won't be able to take on its clients.

Peterson: Another collapse would strand many of the world's large public businesses, leaving them unable to obtain audit views for their securities listings and regulatory compliance.

Count Down: The Past, Present, and Uncertain Future of the Big Four Accounting Firms is in its second edition.

https://www.emerald.com/insight/publication/doi/10.1108/9781787147003

Michael Salim

Michael Salim

1 year ago

300 Signups, 1 Landing Page, 0 Products

I placed a link on HackerNews and got 300 signups in a week. This post explains what happened.

Product Concept

The product is DbSchemaLibrary. A library of Database Schema.

I'm not sure where this idea originated from. Very fast. Build fast, fail fast, test many ideas, and one will be a hit. I tried it. Let's try it anyway, even though it'll probably fail. I finished The Lean Startup book and wanted to use it.

Database job bores me. Important! I get drowsy working on it. Someone must do it. I remember this happening once. I needed examples at the time. Something similar to Recall (my other project) that I can copy — or at least use as a reference.

Frequently googled. Many tabs open. The results were useless. I raised my hand and agreed to construct the database myself.

It resurfaced. I decided to do something.

Due Diligence

Lean Startup emphasizes validated learning. Everything the startup does should result in learning. I may build something nobody wants otherwise. That's what happened to Recall.

So, I wrote a business plan document. This happens before I code. What am I solving? What is my proposed solution? What is the leap of faith between the problem and solution? Who would be my target audience?

My note:

Note of the exact problem and solutions I’m trying to solve

In my previous project, I did the opposite!

I wrote my expectations after reading the book's advice.

“Failure is a prerequisite to learning. The problem with the notion of shipping a product and then seeing what happens is that you are guaranteed to succeed — at seeing what happens.” — The Lean Startup book

These are successful metrics. If I don't reach them, I'll drop the idea and try another. I didn't understand numbers then. Below are guesses. But it’s a start!

Metrics I set before starting anything

I then wrote the project's What and Why. I'll use this everywhere. Before, I wrote a different pitch each time. I thought certain words would be better. I felt the audience might want something unusual.

Occasionally, this works. I'm unsure if it's a good idea. No stats, just my writing-time opinion. Writing every time is time-consuming and sometimes hazardous. Having a copy saved me duplication.

I can measure and learn from performance.

Copy of the product’s What and Why’s

Last, I identified communities that might demand the product. This became an exercise in creativity.

List of potential marketing channels

The MVP

So now it’s time to build.

A MVP can test my assumptions. Business may learn from it. Not low-quality. We should learn from the tiniest thing.

I like the example of how Dropbox did theirs. They assumed that if the product works, people will utilize it. How can this be tested without a quality product? They made a movie demonstrating the software's functionality. Who knows how much functionality existed?

So I tested my biggest assumption. Users want schema references. How can I test if users want to reference another schema? I'd love this. Recall taught me that wanting something doesn't mean others do.

I made an email-collection landing page. Describe it briefly. Reference library. Each email sender wants a reference. They're interested in the product. Few other reasons exist.

Header and footer were skipped. No name or logo. DbSchemaLibrary is a name I thought of after the fact. 5-minute logo. I expected a flop. Recall has no users after months of labor. What could happen to a 2-day project?

I didn't compromise learning validation. How many visitors sign up? To draw a conclusion, I must track these results.

Landing page

Posting Time

Now that the job is done, gauge interest. The next morning, I posted on all my channels. I didn't want to be spammy, therefore it required more time.

I made sure each channel had at least one fan of this product. I also answer people's inquiries in the channel.

My list stinks. Several channels wouldn't work. The product's target market isn't there. Posting there would waste our time. This taught me to create marketing channels depending on my persona.

Statistics! What actually happened

My favorite part! 23 channels received the link.

Results across the marketing channels

I stopped posting to Discord despite its high conversion rate. I eliminated some channels because they didn't fit. According to the numbers, some users like it. Most users think it's spam.

I was skeptical. And 12 people viewed it.

I didn't expect much attention on a startup subreddit. I'll likely examine Reddit further in the future. As I have enough info, I didn't post much. Time for the next validated learning

No comment. The post had few views, therefore the numbers are low.

The targeted people come next.

I'm a Toptal freelancer. There's a member-only Slack channel. Most people can't use this marketing channel, but you should! It's not as spectacular as discord's 27% conversion rate. But I think the users here are better.

I don’t really have a following anywhere so this isn’t something I can leverage.

The best yet. 10% is converted. With more data, I expect to attain a 10% conversion rate from other channels. Stable number.

This number required some work. Did you know that people use many different clients to read HN?

Unknowns

Untrackable views and signups abound. 1136 views and 135 signups are untraceable. It's 11%. I bet much of that came from Hackernews.

Overall Statistics

The 7-day signup-to-visit ratio was 17%. (Hourly data points)

Signup to Views percentageSignup to Views count

First-day percentages were lower, which is noteworthy. Initially, it was little above 10%. The HN post started getting views then.

Percentage of signups to views for the first 2 days

When traffic drops, the number reaches just around 20%. More individuals are interested in the connection. hn.algolia.com sent 2 visitors. This means people are searching and finding my post.

Percentage of signups after the initial traffic

Interesting discoveries

1. HN post struggled till the US woke up.

11am UTC. After an hour, it lost popularity. It seemed over. 7 signups converted 13%. Not amazing, but I would've thought ahead.

After 4pm UTC, traffic grew again. 4pm UTC is 9am PDT. US awakened. 10am PDT saw 512 views.

Signup to views count during the first few hours

2. The product was highlighted in a newsletter.

I found Revue references when gathering data. Newsletter platform. Someone posted the newsletter link. 37 views and 3 registrations.

3. HN numbers are extremely reliable

I don't have a time-lapse graph (yet). The statistics were constant all day.

  • 2717 views later 272 new users, or 10.1%

  • With 293 signups at 2856 views, 10.25%

  • At 306 signups at 2965 views, 10.32%

Learnings

1. My initial estimations were wildly inaccurate

I wrote 30% conversion. Reading some articles, looks like 10% is a good number to aim for.

2. Paying attention to what matters rather than vain metrics

The Lean Startup discourages vanity metrics. Feel-good metrics that don't measure growth or traction. Considering the proportion instead of the total visitors made me realize there was something here.

What’s next?

There are lots of work to do. Data aggregation, display, website development, marketing, legal issues. Fun! It's satisfying to solve an issue rather than investigate its cause.

In the meantime, I’ve already written the first project update in another post. Continue reading it if you’d like to know more about the project itself! Shifting from Quantity to Quality — DbSchemaLibrary

Tomas Pueyo

Tomas Pueyo

1 year ago

Soon, a Starship Will Transform Humanity

SpaceX's Starship.

Source

Launched last week.

Four minutes in:

SpaceX will succeed. When it does, its massiveness will matter.

Source

Its payload will revolutionize space economics.

Civilization will shift.

We don't yet understand how this will affect space and Earth culture. Grab it.

The Cost of Space Transportation Has Decreased Exponentially

Space launches have increased dramatically in recent years.

We mostly send items to LEO, the green area below:

I always had a hard time remembering that LEO stands for Low-Earth Orbit. Now I imagine a lion orbiting the Earth, and that did the trick.

SpaceX's reusable rockets can send these things to LEO. Each may launch dozens of payloads into space.

With all these launches, we're sending more than simply things to space. Volume and mass. Since the 1980s, launching a kilogram of payload to LEO has become cheaper:

Falcon Heavy is the heavy rocket from SpaceX. Notice this is a logarithmic scale! The Falcon Heavy was SpaceX’s biggest rocket yet. It will soon be superseded by Starship.

One kilogram in a large rocket cost over $75,000 in the 1980s. Carrying one astronaut cost nearly $5M! Falcon Heavy's $1,500/kg price is 50 times lower. SpaceX's larger, reusable rockets are amazing.

SpaceX's Starship rocket will continue. It can carry over 100 tons to LEO, 50% more than the current Falcon heavy. Thousands of launches per year. Elon Musk predicts Falcon Heavy's $1,500/kg cost will plummet to $100 in 23 years.

In context:

Angara was the rocket that previously held the record for cheapest transportation to LEO.

People underestimate this.

2. The Benefits of Affordable Transportation

Compare Earth's transportation costs:

Source: US Department of Transportation.

It's no surprise that the US and Northern Europe are the wealthiest and have the most navigable interior waterways.

The Mississippi River is one of the biggest systems of navigable waterways on Earth. And on top of that, navigation along the US’s Mexican Gulf and East Coast is protected by a series of islands, making sea shipping easier than in the open ocean.European navigable waterways

So what? since sea transportation is cheaper than land. Inland waterways are even better than sea transportation since weather is less of an issue, currents can be controlled, and rivers serve two banks instead of one for coastal transportation.

In France, because population density follows river systems, rivers are valuable. Cheap transportation brought people and money to rivers, especially their confluences.

Look at the population. Can you see dark red lines? Those are people living close to rivers. You can guess where the rivers are by looking at the map. Also, you can see the bigger cities are always at the confluence between rivers.

How come? Why were humans surrounding rivers?

Imagine selling meat for $10 per kilogram. Transporting one kg one kilometer costs $1. Your margin decreases $1 each kilometer. You can only ship 10 kilometers. For example, you can only trade with four cities:

If instead, your cost of transportation is half, what happens? It costs you $0.5 per km. You now have higher margins with each city you traded with. More importantly, you can reach 20-km markets.

However, 2x distance 4x surface! You can now trade with sixteen cities instead of four! Metcalfe's law states that a network's value increases with its nodes squared. Since now sixteen cities can connect to yours. Each city now has sixteen connections! They get affluent and can afford more meat.

Rivers lower travel costs, connecting many cities, which can trade more, get wealthy, and buy more.

The right network is worth at least an order of magnitude more than the left! The cheaper the transport, the more trade at a lower cost, the more income generated, the more that wealth can be reinvested in better canals, bridges, and roads, and the wealth grows even more.

Throughout history. Rome was established around cheap Mediterranean transit and preoccupied with cutting overland transportation costs with their famous roadways. Communications restricted their empire.

This map shows the distance from Rome in terms of days of travel. The size of the Roman Empire was about five weeks of travel. This is not a coincidence. Source: Orbis, the Stanford Geospatial Network Model of the Roman World

The Egyptians lived around the Nile, the Vikings around the North Sea, early Japan around the Seto Inland Sea, and China started canals in the 5th century BC.

Transportation costs shaped empires.Starship is lowering new-world transit expenses. What's possible?

3. Change Organizations, Change Companies, Change the World

Starship is a conveyor belt to LEO. A new world of opportunity opens up as transportation prices drop 100x in a decade.

Satellite engineers have spent decades shedding milligrams. Weight influenced every decision: pricing structure, volumes to be sent, material selections, power sources, thermal protection, guiding, navigation, and control software. Weight was everything in the mission. To pack as much science into every millimeter, NASA missions had to be miniaturized. Engineers were indoctrinated against mass.

No way.

Starship is not constrained by any space mission, robotic or crewed.

Starship obliterates the mass constraint and every last vestige of cultural baggage it has gouged into the minds of spacecraft designers. A dollar spent on mass optimization no longer buys a dollar saved on launch cost. It buys nothing. It is time to raise the scope of our ambition and think much bigger. — Casey Handmer, Starship is still not understood

A Tesla Roadster in space makes more sense.

Starman, the roadster, and the Earth. Source.

It went beyond bad PR. It told the industry: Did you care about every microgram? No more. My rockets are big enough to send a Tesla without noticing. Industry watchers should have noticed.

Most didn’t. Artemis is a global mission to send astronauts to the Moon and build a base. Artemis uses disposable Space Launch System rockets. Instead of sending two or three dinky 10-ton crew habitats over the next decade, Starship might deliver 100x as much cargo and create a base for 1,000 astronauts in a year or two. Why not? Because Artemis remains in a pre-Starship paradigm where each kilogram costs a million dollars and we must aggressively descope our objective.

An overengineer at work

Space agencies can deliver 100x more payload to space for the same budget with 100x lower costs and 100x higher transportation volumes. How can space economy saturate this new supply?

Before Starship, NASA supplied heavy equipment for Moon base construction. After Starship, Caterpillar and Deere may space-qualify their products with little alterations. Instead than waiting decades for NASA engineers to catch up, we could send people to build a space outpost with John Deere equipment in a few years.

History is littered with the wreckage of former industrial titans that underestimated the impact of new technology and overestimated their ability to adapt: Blockbuster, Motorola, Kodak, Nokia, RIM, Xerox, Yahoo, IBM, Atari, Sears, Hitachi, Polaroid, Toshiba, HP, Palm, Sony, PanAm, Sega, Netscape, Compaq, GM… — Casey Handmer, Starship is still not understood

Everyone saw it coming, but senior management failed to realize that adaption would involve moving beyond their established business practice. Others will if they don't.

4. The Starship Possibilities

It's Starlink.

SpaceX invented affordable cargo space and grasped its implications first. How can we use all this inexpensive cargo nobody knows how to use?

Satellite communications seemed like the best way to capitalize on it. They tried. Starlink, designed by SpaceX, provides fast, dependable Internet worldwide. Beaming information down is often cheaper than cable. Already profitable.

Starlink is one use for all this cheap cargo space. Many more. The longer firms ignore the opportunity, the more SpaceX will acquire.

What are these chances?

Satellite imagery is outdated and lacks detail. We can improve greatly. Synthetic aperture radar can take beautiful shots like this:

This radar image acquired by the SIR-C/X-SAR radar on board the Space Shuttle Endeavour shows the Teide volcano. The city of Santa Cruz de Tenerife is visible as the purple and white area on the lower right edge of the island. Lava flows at the summit crater appear in shades of green and brown, while vegetation zones appear as areas of purple, green and yellow on the volcano’s flanks. Source.

Have you ever used Google Maps and thought, "I want to see this in more detail"? What if I could view Earth live? What if we could livestream an infrared image of Earth?

The fall of Kabul. Source: Maxar

We could launch hundreds of satellites with such mind-blowing visual precision of the Earth that we would dramatically improve the accuracy of our meteorological models; our agriculture; where crime is happening; where poachers are operating in the savannah; climate change; and who is moving military personnel where. Is that useful?

What if we could see Earth in real time? That affects businesses? That changes society?