Sprinkled with fairy dust and lathered in memes, the Crypto industry is built on a foundation of extremely informationally intense subject matters.
Computer science, economics, finance, cryptography, psychology and a whole lot of in-betweens.
At the core of it, is distributed computing (a.k.a DLT’s).
The longer you spend in crypto, the more complex the issues you find that you can solve using distributed ledger technology, the more incredible and creative ideas you encounter.
So, let's not waste time talking about the hypothetical and just dive straight down the rabbit hole of technological genius & explore the wonderlust that is cryptocurrency.
These are in no specific order.
These are not all just cryptocurrency documents.
Flash Boys 2.0: Frontrunning, Transaction Reordering, and Consensus Instability in Decentralized Exchanges
📑 Link: https://arxiv.org/pdf/1904.05234v1.pdf
🤔 Difficulty: 6
⏰ Length: 23 pages
Why read this: Understand the dark art of on-chain extortion known as MEV. This is a document published years ago and the principles are timeless; you will learn about how consensus can be manipulated in order to benefit insiders. You will understand some of the deepest economic mechanics responsible for damaging the experience of end users by forcing them to pay higher fees than are actually required and slowing down the natural operations of blockchains. You will see that decentralized exchanges come at a cost higher than just the trade fees. There are some complex elements included in this document, but the authors did a great job explaining them in a comprehensive way. Worthwhile if you plan on using blockchains to conduct business or trade a lot on-chain.
Bitcoin: A Peer-to-Peer Electronic Cash System
📑 Link: https://bitcoin.org/bitcoin.pdf
🤔 Difficulty: 3
⏰ Length: 9 pages
Why read this: this is foundational. If you want to understand the frame of thought that gave birth to the entire crypto industry and have a sense of how it has evolved from its humble beginnings reading the original Bitcoin whitepaper will give you an inside look into the mind of one of the most influential people society has never met, Satoshi Nakamoto. Simply put, anybody who is serious about their involvement in the digital economy, must read this. It
Chainlink 2.0: Next Steps in the Evolution of Decentralized Oracle Networks
📑 Link: https://research.chain.link/whitepaper-v2.pdf?_ga=2.34160353.1593829573.1687235543-971500934.1682225182
🤔 Difficulty: 6
⏰ Length: 136 pages
Why read this: Oracles are crucial for on-chain data. As the crypto industry continues to swallow the legacy financial world, oracles will be the most important technology for the transference of information. Diving into Chainlinks thinking will shine a light on the industry beyond just the blockchain. You will understand the value of middleware. You will see how the most advanced Oracle network is thinking about closing the data gap of siloed systems and learn about a hybrid on-chain/off-chain architecture. I will also say with great confidence, that Chainlink is one of the VERY few projects with a true economic use case for its token and the tokenomic design of LINK is inspirational, the depth of thinking behind its value accrual, its brilliant security against extortion and the delicate balance between rewards and punishments.
📑 Link: https://ethereum.org/en/whitepaper/
🤔 Difficulty: 8
⏰ Length: ~201 (approximately)
Why read this: Ethereum was the first implementation of a Turing complete smart contract platform and the godfather of the EVM (Ethereum Virtual Machine). It paved the way for a tremendous amount of other Layer 1 projects, the vast majority of which are also EVM compatible. Understanding Ethereum’s architecture will allow you to understand nearly all smart contract platforms and see how they differentiate. This is a very, very, very, dense document with a lot of extremely technical detailing, and becomes mundane after the first three hours. Even though the information is priceless, as it addresses the key elements of DLT designs that power the industry today, this is definitely not beginner friendly. If you are up for a challenge and truly want to understand the core-most technical concepts of crypto, then this is the document you need to read.
📑 Link: https://www.avalabs.org/whitepapers
🤔 Difficulty: 7
⏰ Length: 66 pages (14 / 21 / 7 / 24)
Why read this: Avalanche is one of the most technologically intelligent smart contract platforms. They have actually attempted to solve the blockchain trilemma, potentially positioning their design as one that will go down in history as transformative for the industry. Understanding the core concepts of Avalanche will simultaneously enlighten you on interoperability and scalability principles that will be encountered repeatedly throughout all of the industry.
Another very interesting thing about Avalanche's documentation is how they segmented the information. They have split the architecture into four (4) separate documents that are domain-specific, Platform, Conesnus, Token, and Stablecoins; giving the readers an ability to not be overwhelmed by an onslaught of information and allowing them to be selective in what portion of the project they actually want to learn more about.
📑 Link: https://harmony.one/whitepaper.pdf
🤔 Difficulty: 3
⏰ Length: 22 pages
Why read this: When compared to other crypto-specific white papers, Harmony did a phenomenal job providing comprehensive visual explanations throughout their documentation. This will serve you as a perfect template/diving board into other documents by priming your mind with technical concepts while not overloading you with mathematical nuances that are not necessary for investors. Many other projects either overcomplicate their documentation and load them with information only a developer/scholar would understand — which dissuades many people from actually learning; Harmony did a great job succinctly covering every element in a digestible format.
📑 Link: Decentralized Finance (Sept, 2020) OxFord
🤔 Difficulty: 3
⏰ Length: 32 pages
Why read this: Decentralized finance is the future of all finance. This document in particular addresses the critical ideologies that are floating around DEFI on the regulatory, enterprise, and individual levels. The authors manage to so illustriously touch on the outer regions of where it intersects with another lesser talked about, but equally as important, subject matter, regtech (regulatory technology). Reading this will clarify how DEFI is thought about and where the pain points in traditional finance that hinder a seamless transition exist. Concepts of scalability, sustainability, interoperability, and composability are neatly compacted into a fluid technical conversation about regulation and where the evolution of distributed ledger technology stems from. After reading this you will also understand how the world’s largest institutions (namely BlackRock) have been approaching the inevitable convergence of digital finance and decentralization and even get a powerful look at its Aladdin platform. Moreover, there is no other document that so acutely defines the multilateral involvement of participants from such a genuinely unbiased (still some bias) approach. Complete this document and you will have a concrete understanding of the benefits and shortcomings from both inside the technological world, as well as, the legacy world.
Towards A First Step to Understand Flash Loan and Its Applications in DeFi Ecosystem
📑 Link: https://arxiv.org/pdf/2010.12252.pdf
🤔 Difficulty: 3
⏰ Length: 6 pages
Why read this: The perfect introduction to Flash loans and understanding how they are applied within DEFI. Flash loans are a cornerstone of efficient digital markets that are only possible in the presence of a decentralized environment. This is the perfect document to get a bird's eye view and build a fundamental appreciation for how and where in the economic supply chain flash loans can be utilized. Reading this, you will be able to grasp the core concept without getting overwhelmed with technological implementations. This should be an introductory document on flash loans for everybody that wants to understand the subtle internal mechanisms that drive the complex, ultra-profitable, systems of value extrapolation on-chain.
FlashSyn: Flash Loan Attack Synthesis via Counter Example Driven Approximation
📑 Link: https://harmony.one/whitepaper.pdf
🤔 Difficulty: 8
⏰ Length: 38 pages
Why read this: Loaded with code simulations and mathematical formulas relating to the real-world implementations of Flash loans will give you an intimate, deep understanding of exactly how they interact with DEFI applications. This is definitely a technically demanding document that should not be a person's first foray into trying to understand flash loans. However, anybody that has a fundamental understanding of them and has not been able to see them in action, must read this. You will see step-by-step how Flash loans are executed, what vectors they are executed through, the positive/negative externalities of them, and (for the daring coders among us) how to implement this yourself.
The Bitcoin Lightning Network: Scalable Off-Chain Instant Payments
📑 Link: https://lightning.network/lightning-network-paper.pdf
🤔 Difficulty: 6
⏰ Length: 59 pages
Why read this: Scalability has been the Achilles heel of Bitcoin for as long as Bitcoin has been around. The energy consumption, prolonged transaction times, probabilistic finality, and limited throughput have given Bitcoin a point of contention from many industry participants. Second-layer solutions are the technology that allows for expanding operational efficiencies and bringing Bitcoin to the global stage as a payments network. The Lighting network is the most effective design of a scalability solution that has been proposed because of the security guarantees in emergency events. Read this to understand the beauty of its fail-safe mechanism that does not custody BTC natively in the network, effectively whenever/if ever a critical system failure arises, the Lightning network just releases all assets back to the main chain; never putting the user assets at risk of some perpetual cyber attack. Moreover, Lightning Network has been the only solution that has received support for the early Bitcoin cypherpunk because, after their due diligence assessments of the technology, it does not violate Bitcoin's original promise of self-sovereignty.
The Maker Protocol: MakerDAO’s Multi-Collateral Dai (MCD) System
📑 Link: https://makerdao.com/en/whitepaper/
🤔 Difficulty: 4
⏰ Length: ~25 pages (approximately)
Why read this: MakerDAO is the OG on-chain collateral protocol that introduced collateralization and the industry’s first truly decentralized stablecoin. The vast majority of market participants only have a high-level assumption about how decentralized stablecoins actually work and what the process of their creation looks like. If you are serious about bringing your life on-chain and want to maximize your DEFI involvement this is a cornerstone document to help shape not just a technical understanding, but a philosophical one about risk management and system architecture. The Maker Protocol is the seed that has inspired countless new generation DEFI protocols, being able to understand Maker will give you the ability to understand the foundations of every collateral protocol and disambiguate how decentralized stablecoins are actually created.
Stablecoins: Coinbase Whitepaper
📑 Link: Stablecoins: Coinbase Whitepaper
🤔 Difficulty: 5
⏰ Length: 39 pages
UniSwap V2 / UniSwap V3
Why read this: DEX’s (Decentralized Exchanges) are critical to developing a robust natively Web3 economy/token marketplace. Uniswap pioneered the AMM (automated market maker) model and has become the base building block that is plugging into nearly every other decentralized financial application to provide exchange services. It is necessary to understand how the mechanisms that power trading and swapping tokens, how the concepts of a bonding curve, and liquidity pools relate to value accrual. These are not beginner friendly, but if you are comfortable with mathematics or are able to deal with the possibility of not understanding them while still retaining the core principles underlying the technology, I highly recommend setting aside a little time to read these babies. There are two versions that need to be understood; the V2 mechanism is the most common model for the provision of liquidity and what is used by the vast majority of projects. The V3 model is slightly more nuanced and introduces the concept of concentrated liquidity; something that has confused the vast majority of non-programmers.
Shelling Out: The Origins of Money
📑 Link: https://nakamotoinstitute.org/shelling-out/
🤔 Difficulty: 4
⏰ Length: ~34 pages (approximately)
Why read this: Nick Szabo (the author of this publication) is a legend in the crypto communities so much so that he has even been considered to be Satoshi Nakamoto himself (not proven). His genuinely unique worldview and interests in technology and money have given him an extremely unorthodox perspective on the world. In this document, you will quite literally, have a crash course on the behavioral, economic, and technological evolution of money in society. You will develop a keen understanding of what drives trade, how different cultures have approached money over the course of time, and even how other creatures (bats) use blood as a focal point of value to build communities. It’s truly a masterpiece that after reading will forever transform your worldview into something more elegant and sophisticated than ever before. Personally, after reading this, I was literally inspired so much that I sat in silence considering how much of life I do not yet know and what a fascinating world we live in. Worth every moment.
AAVE V1 / AAVE V2
Why read this: AAVE is a legendary protocol in the eyes of many Crypto OGs. The project started from a humble beginning under the brand ETHLEND way back in 2017. Always focused on the lending/borrowing space, AAVE evolved into the leading protocol for crypto money markets. It is the original project that first introduced truly decentralized on-chain lending via a pooled collateral model. First and foremost, if you read this article, you will be well versed in the origination of modern-day crypto-based lending platforms and understand how exactly the logic works under the hood. This documentation is one of the DEFI foundations and therefore is must read (even for non-technical people) for a genuine comprehension of the industry.
I hope this serves you well on your journey.
Read these documents and you will be ahead of 99% of all the people in terms of academic industry expertise.
Live long and prosper 🥂