x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 24 January 2018

Reports praising bitcoins raise many questions

A reader raises questions about the bitcoin's rising popularity. Other letter topics: Nepal, Dubai Greens, Mars mission, US mercenary business boom

A reader wonders how bitcoins, which neither have any intrinsic value nor legal acceptance in any country, can be considered a safe investment option. Chris Ratcliffe / Bloomberg News via Getty Images
A reader wonders how bitcoins, which neither have any intrinsic value nor legal acceptance in any country, can be considered a safe investment option. Chris Ratcliffe / Bloomberg News via Getty Images

Over the past few months, a lot of “hopeful” and praise-heaping reports have been describing the emergence of the so-called bitcoin. It is hailed as a possible new world currency and superlatives abound.

I won’t go into my doubts about its technical set-up other than to say that, just like the electronic signature, it is a computer/electronic record (a file) and as such, it is just as easily decoded, copied and more significantly, deleted.

What also makes me wary about it is the fact that neither the US nor the European Union have made any effort to regulate it or quash it.

There are two points. First, how are they going to collect it, since all “sales” take place on the internet? More importantly, how is the bitcoin (currency) created? Who issues it and who has been entrusted with authenticating it? Obviously, there is neither a mint, nor a printing press, but somebody is creating those “files” on a computer and releasing them into the “market”. This would also imply that the same somebody is selling these “coins” to people who are buying them with real money, or worse, exchanging them for something of value.

Secondly, the bitcoin “advertising” claims – as one of the positives – that there is no centralised control, which clearly doesn’t make sense, because any currency without intrinsic value needs to have at least a plausible guarantor. And even if I could overlook the fakeness of the whole idea, there would still be a need for some transaction accounting and also a way to verify the validity and ownership of bitcoins being accepted as payment.

Fred Nicholson, UK

Article on Nepal refreshing

I refer to the Opinion article By underpricing its scenery, Nepal sells itself short, (November 7) by Tion Kwa. The article was really moving. I hope you’ll have deeper insight about my country in coming days.

Arun Budhathoki, Canada

Where are the mercenaries now?

The article US mercenary business booms, as expert warns UN over ‘dogs of war’ activity (November 5) is an important one.

The Blackwater team had to leave the US in past years. I wonder if there are still mercenaries somewhere in the world. If so, where?

Name withheld by request

Sky is the limit for India, but...

I am commenting on the news report of the successful launch of the Mars mission by India (India Mars mission lifts off, November 6).

India is a developing country and all Indians want to see it progress. Such missions will boost the morale of the public and raise hopes of the younger generation. Space missions like these should be hailed, but then India needs to focus equally on other areas. For instance, it needs to first stabilise its economy, control corruption and ensure that all the basic facilities are available to its citizens.

Cyrus M, Abu Dhabi

It’s true that it is difficult to justify expenditure on prestige projects while poverty exists, but as the saying goes: “The poor will always be with you.”

The only possible justification must be further advances in the scientific exploration of space and a commitment to furthering human knowledge, something that Nasa has been doing magnificently for several decades.

Until we see detailed descriptions of the scientific objectives and assertions of their quality in India’s press releases, instead of mere bragging about having got a rocket off the ground, India’s poor will be justified in viewing the launch as the moral equivalent of having a Lamborghini on the driveway.

Nick Capri, Abu Dhabi

Why my son can’t play on the grass

I refer to the article Residents’ plea to developer over ‘sewage stench’ in Dubai neighbourhood (November 5).

I live in the Gardens and do not allow my son to play outside, especially on the grass, because judging by the smell, the waste water being used to irrigate the greenery is probably just barely treated before being used for irrigation.

It can’t possibly be a healthy environment for kids and families, which is a shame because the community and the landscaping are one of the most beautiful in Dubai.

Name withheld by request