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A unique digital asset.  The definition of a nonfungible token (NFT) may be simple in writing, but its applications stem to far-reaching uses that encompass a plethora of opportunities.  In its essence, nonfungible means the token can’t be exchanged for another thing of equal value and each token is an entirely original and unique piece.  An NFT could be an entirely blockchain-originating image.  This same image could have an exact duplicate that is a completely different NFT because of its varied blockchain code.  On April 16th, 2021, a single NFT created by the infamous whistleblower, Edward Snowden, sold for 5.4 million dollars.  So what are these new digital assets, and how are they being used in the global business world?

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As technology continues to advance and phase itself into many aspects of our lives, the discussion of digital currencies being used by central governments has been brought to the table time and time again. With countries like China already deciding to implement a digital currency through their central government, pressure has been brought on to other large forces of the global financial sector as to whether or not they will do the same.

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Bitcoin, the digital currency created in 2009 by the mysterious pseudonym Satoshi Nakomoto, was known by few people on earth at its inception and was priced at less than a thousandth of a cent. It has grown to a current price of around $36,000 and is now debated as either the future of money or a worthless asset. It is an extremely unique currency in the way that it is an entirely digital token with no physical backing. It was created with the intention and ability to be a peer-to-peer technology, meaning no central authority or government can control it, making it entirely decentralized. This aspect of decentralization, along with many other unique features, have led many to believe that bitcoin could revolutionize the global financial system.

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At the most recent U.S. Federal Reserve meeting, chairman Jerome Powell announced that the Fed would be experimenting with the implementation of a “digital dollar.”  This news comes as an astounding 80% of central banks across the globe have already begun on the research, experimentation, and implementation of central bank digital currencies (CBDCs). 

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This is the second post in a three-part series featuring our blog competition winners from Michigan State University. The author of today's post is Xiyou Xu.

The emergence of cryptocurrencies has shaken up the economic establishments around the world. In fact, the phenomenon of such virtual currencies is thoroughly studied by the economists to understand how they impact the global financial system. As a result, such cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin have been examined regarding contrast to existing physical alternatives, and various experts have responded to its uprising.

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Venezuela is in the midst of a political and economic disaster and has faced hyperinflation, an increasingly worthless physical currency, and heightening food and medicine shortages. Recently, Venezuela has turned to blockchain, and the cryptocurrency boom as a potential method to fund its debt and develop a stable currency. The Petro and Petro Gold have the potential to replace the bolivar, which was the countries primary currency in the past.

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Blockchain is a platform where transactions are recorded.  It is an open source available for all parties involved. Participants in each transaction generally have their own ledger; however, Blockchain serves as a shared ledger. It eliminates the need for intermediaries in transactions and reduces the paper process, increasing efficiencies and lowering costs. Blockchain is known for being a platform on which Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies trade, however, it is not limited to that.It can track all sorts of data in a structured format.

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Initial Coin Offerings, or ICO’s, are a new and quickly growing way for startups to raise capital. Despite being a relatively new phenomenon the total value of ICO’s has been proliferating with nearly $1.5 billion dollars being raised since the start of the year. That value seems outlandish when compared to the mere $256 million of funding that was raised in the entirety of 2016.

While the value of ICO’s has grown nearly six-fold in the past year, many people are still in the dark regarding the new trend that is sweeping investors and startups across the globe. Essentially, ICO’s are a cross between more traditional IPO’s and crowdfunding. During and ICO a company issues “coins”, or digital tokens, similar to the popular cryptocurrencies bitcoin and Ethereum. Investors can then purchase these coins and conceivably can use them to purchase a good or service from the company at some point in the future. The value of these coins will theoretically increase in value, as long as others continue to invest. An important distinction between IPO’s and ICO’s is that investors in an ICO do not receive equity in the company and don’t really have anything tangible behind their investment besides a promise for the ability to be able to purchase a good or service from the company in the future. A second differentiator between traditional methods of raising capital and ICO’s is the amount of regulation. Given that the concept of an ICO is so new, the space is largely unregulated allowing companies to prepare for and launch in ICO in a matter of weeks as compared to the months it takes for companies to clear regulatory approval for IPO’s.

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Let’s start with a quick overview of what a cryptocurrency is.  It is a digital currency and is known for its unique feature, in that it is not issued by any central authority, therefore, cannot be controlled and manipulated by any government. Bitcoin is one of the oldest and most popular cryptocurrencies. It, as well as the other cryptocurrencies, are stored and transferred on Blockchain – a peer-to-peer network that validates and records all transaction and is considered to be the ledger for all cryptocurrency transactions. This network eliminates the need for a middle man (financial institutions), however, there are miners who validate the transactions through a process called “mining” and are rewarded free bitcoins for their work. It is important to know that Blockchain’s uses are not limited to just cryptocurrencies and many industries are discovering how they could take advantage of this ledger system. For the sake of simplicity, I will be focusing primarily on one cryptocurrency, Bitcoin, as there are more than 900.