Pi Network: The First Digital Currency You Can Mine On Your Phone

As the world becomes increasingly digital, cryptocurrency is a next natural step in the evolution of money. Pi is the first digital currency for everyday people, representing a major step forward in the adoption of cryptocurrency worldwide.

The Pi Network aims to build a cryptocurrency and smart contracts platform secured and operated by everyday people. It's vision is to build the world’s most inclusive peer-to-peer marketplace, fueled by Pi, the world’s most widely used cryptocurrency.

Why cryptocurrencies matter

Currently, our everyday financial transactions rely upon a trusted third party to maintain a record of transactions. For example, when you do a bank transaction, the banking system keeps a record and guarantees that the transaction is safe and reliable. Likewise, when Cindy transfers $5 to Steve using PayPal, PayPal maintains a central record of $5 dollars debited from Cindy’s account and $5 credited to Steve’s. Intermediaries like banks, PayPal, and other members of the current economic system play an important role in regulating the world’s financial transactions.

However, the role of these trusted intermediaries also has limitations:
  1. Unfair value capture. These intermediaries amass billions of dollars in wealth creation (PayPal market cap is ~$130B), but pass virtually nothing onto their customers - the everyday people on the ground, whose money drives a meaningful proportion of the global economy. More and more people are falling behind.
  2. Fees. Banks and companies charge large fees for facilitating transactions. These fees often disproportionately impact lower-income populations who have the fewest alternatives.
  3. Censorship. If a particular trusted intermediary decides that you should not be able to move your money, it can place restrictions on the movement of your money.
  4. Permissioned. The trusted intermediary serves as a gatekeeper who can arbitrarily prevent anybody from being part of the network.
  5. Pseudonymous. At a time when the issue of privacy is gaining greater urgency, these powerful gatekeepers can accidentally disclose -- or force you to disclose -- more financial information about yourself than you may want.
Bitcoin’s “peer-to-peer electronic cash system,” launched in 2009 by an anonymous programmer (or group) Satoshi Nakamoto, was a watershed moment for the freedom of money. For the first time in history, people could securely exchange value, without requiring a third party or trusted intermediary. Paying in Bitcoin meant that people like Steve and Cindy could pay each other directly, bypassing institutional fees, obstructions and intrusions. Bitcoin was truly a currency without boundaries, powering and connecting a new global economy.

Introduction To Distributed Ledgers

Bitcoin achieved this historical feat by using a distributed record. While the current financial system relies on the traditional central record of truth, the Bitcoin record is maintained by a distributed community of “validators,” who access and update this public ledger. Imagine the Bitcoin protocol as a globally shared “Google Sheet” that contains a record of transactions, validated and maintained by this distributed community.

The breakthrough of Bitcoin (and general blockchain technology) is that, even though the record is maintained by a community, the technology enables them to always reach consensus on truthful transactions, insuring that cheaters cannot record false transactions or overtake the system. This technological advancement allows for the removal of the centralized intermediary, without compromising transactional financial security.

Benefits Of Distributed Ledgers

In addition to decentralization, bitcoin, or cryptocurrencies in general, share a few nice properties that make money smarter and safer, although different cryptocurrencies may be stronger in some properties and weaker in others, based on different implementations of their protocols. Cryptocurrencies are held in cryptographic wallets identified by a publicly accessible address, and is secured by a very strong privately held password, called the private key. This private key cryptographically signs transaction and is virtually impossible to create fraudulent signatures. This provides security and unseizability. Unlike traditional bank accounts that can be seized by government authorities, the cryptocurrency in your wallet can never be taken away by anyone without your private key. Cryptocurrencies are censorship resistant due to the decentralized nature because anyone can submit transactions to any computer in the network to get recorded and validated. Cryptocurrency transactions are immutable because each block of transactions represents a cryptographic proof (a hash) of all the previous blocks that existed before that. Once someone sends you money, they cannot steal back their payment to you (i.e., no bouncing checks in blockchain). Some of the cryptocurrencies can even support atomic transactions. “Smart contracts” built atop these cryptocurrencies do not merely rely on law for enforcement, but directly enforced through publicly auditable code, which make them trustless and can potentially get rid of middlemen in many businesses, e.g. Escrow for real estate.

Securing Distributed Ledgers (Mining)

One of challenges of maintaining a distributed record of transactions is security -- specifically, how to have an open and editable ledger while preventing fraudulent activity. To address this challenge, Bitcoin introduced a novel process called Mining (using the consensus algorithm “Proof of Work”) to determine who is “trusted” to make updates to the shared record of transactions.

You can think of mining as a type of economic game that forces “Validators” to prove their merit when trying to add transactions to the record. To qualify, Validators must solve a series of complex computational puzzles. The Validator who solves the puzzle first is rewarded by being allowed to post the latest block of transactions. Posting the latest block of transactions allows Validators to “mine” a Block Reward - currently 12.5 bitcoin (or ~$40,000 at the time of writing).

This process is very secure, but it demands enormous computing power and energy consumption as users essentially “burn money” to solve the computational puzzle that earns them more Bitcoin. The burn-to-reward ratio is so punitive that it is always in Validators’ self-interest to post honest transactions to the Bitcoin record.

Problem: Centralization of power and money put 1st Generation Cryptocurrencies out of reach

In the early days of Bitcoin, when only a few people were working to validate transactions and mining the first blocks, anyone could earn 50 BTC by simply running Bitcoin mining software on their personal computer. As the currency began to gain in popularity, clever miners realized that they could earn more if they had more than one computer working to mine.

As Bitcoin continued to increase in value, entire companies began to spring up to mine. These companies developed specialized chips (“ASICs”) and constructed huge farms of servers using these ASIC chips to mine Bitcoin. The emergence of these enormous mining corporations, known drove the Bitcoin Gold Rush, making it very difficult for everyday people to contribute to the network and get rewarded. Their efforts also began consuming increasingly large amounts of computing energy, contributing to mounting environmental issues around the world.

The ease of mining Bitcoin and the subsequent rise of Bitcoin mining farms quickly produced a massive centralization of production power and wealth in Bitcoin’s network. To provide some context, 87% of all Bitcoins are now owned by 1% of their network, many of these coins were mined virtually free in their early days. As another example, Bitmain, one of Bitcoin’s biggest mining operations has earned billions in revenue and profits.

The centralization of power in Bitcoin’s network makes it very difficult and expensive for the average person. If you want to acquire Bitcoin, your easiest options are to:
  1. Mine It Yourself. Just hook up the specialized hardware (here’s a rig on Amazon, if you’re interested!) and go to town. Just know that since you’ll be competing against massive server farms from across the world, consuming as much energy as the country of Switzerland, you won’t be able to mine much 
  2. Buy Bitcoin on an exchange. Today, you can buy Bitcoin at a unit price of $3,500 / coin at the time of writing (note: you can buy fractional amount of Bitcoin!) Of course, you would also be taking on substantial risk in doing so as the price of Bitcoin is quite volatile.
Bitcoin was the first to show how cryptocurrency could disrupt the current financial model, giving people the ability to make transactions without having a third party in the way. The increase in freedom, flexibility, and privacy continues to drive the inevitable march toward digital currencies as a new norm. Despite its benefits, Bitcoin’s (likely unintended) concentration of money and power present a meaningful barrier to mainstream adoption. As Pi’s core team has conducted research to try to understand why people are reluctant to enter the cryptocurrency space. People consistently cited the risk of investing/mining as a key barrier to entry.

Solution: Pi - Enabling mining on mobile phones

After identifying these key barriers to adoption, the Pi Core Team set out to find a way that would allow everyday people to mine (or earn cryptocurrency rewards for validating transactions on a distributed record of transactions). As a refresher, one of the major challenges that arises with maintaining a distributed record of transactions is ensuring that updates to this open record are not fraudulent. While Bitcoin’s process for updating its record is proven (burning energy / money to prove trustworthiness), it is not very user (or planet!) friendly. For Pi, we introduced the additional design requirement of employing a consensus algorithm that would also be extremely user friendly and ideally enable mining on personal computers and mobile phones.

To learn more, read the official Frequently Asked Questions.

To claim your Pi, follow this link https://minepi.com/saibaworld and use my username (saibaworld) as your invitation code.

You can also download the Pi Network from Google Play or the App Store.

Author
This article is written by Saibaworld but adapted from an original by the Pi Network.

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