Cryptos Grim Worldview
A lot of ink has been spilled criticizing the technology and usefulness of crypto. Frankly, I agree with many, if not most, of the criticisms. I have myself been a vocal critic of cryptocurrency for some time now. But this post isn’t about that. Over the past few months, I have been thinking a lot about the bleak worldview and future crypto promises us, as if it’s a good thing. Hear me out.
They hate us for what we have
For anyone who has spent any significant amount of time in the various circles of the internet where cryptocurrency is discussed, the term FUD, will not be new to you: “Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt”. FUD is what the naysayers seed. It is the argument of those with no real argument. FUD is what they spread, those who are so jealous they aren’t part of our group, our group destined for success and riches, and so they are trying to take us down.
This is reflective of the larger culture of ‘us vs. them’ that is often found in crypto circles. It is us vs. the institutions/banks/the people out for us/etc. I have to imagine that this perception of the world would take great effort to maintain, and would likely be exhausting. If you live your life convinced that those who disagree with your technical vision of the future are therefore out to get you, one is stuck in a constant state of vigilance, because after all, you are constantly under siege by them. Personally, I find most often when people are voicing a difference of opinion on cryptocurrency, those opinions are voiced of good faith, genuine ideas, and without ulterior motives. Unfortunately, as it is true of all things and people, some will not come in good faith. Not many, but some, and yet despite those few I still strive to not let the fear of the occasionally malicious person place upon me an undue negative disposition of everyone who disagrees with me. Jane West, in her 1812 novel The Loyalists wrote “Let us not attribute to malice and cruelty what may be referred to less criminal motives”.
Recently I have seen the following concerns or arguments dismissed as FUD by their respective communities:
- Politicians being concerned about how some cryptocurrencies bill themselves as completely anonymous and how that might skirt regulations
- The fact that in many jurisdictions mining is no longer profitable due to energy costs
- Saying anything negative about the creators of a certain coin
- People warning that Celsius was on the verge of insolvency (it was)
- Users warning other users that a coin’s founders had been dishonest about airdrops
- Expressing concern at the downward spiral of crypto pricing
- Multiple detailed reports expressing well-founded concerns about Safemoon
As a reader, you might personally agree that some of those items are wrong/incorrect/what have you, but the concern isn’t whether or not the items are ultimately true, but instead whether they even deserve the light of day and consideration. Personally, I think that each of those points deserves a full throated response from their respective communities even if their ultimate answer is “we disagree”. The burden of proof lies on those who sell crypto as the next big thing. If someone disagrees with you, a proponent of crypto, then you must explain why you think they are wrong, because if the only response you can muster is that it's FUD, then you have failed to meet your burden of proof.
Everything is for sale
From the beginning, crypto, proponents have espoused a very egalitarian and libertarian world view. I agree with many of the things they say in principle: equal access, democratizing information, and the fundamental idea that information should be free (as in beer/freedom). Unfortunately, I think that the crypto landscape has not only failed to solve those problems, but in many cases, made them even worse.
The crypto landscape has fundamentally diverged from its stated goals. With the advent and popularization of NFTs and “Defi” applications, it presents a rather bleak worldview where absolutely everything should and will be owned and commoditized. In trying to break out of the traditional economic systems, they seem to have instead invented capitalism's final and worst stage.
I grew up in the corners of the internet Aaron Schwartz left behind. I was raised by artists and surrounded with the brilliant works they created. Every time I look at the modern crypto landscape, it makes me shiver a little bit. It feels like it’s maybe trying to kill pure art and expression and replace it with the version of capitalism its critics always warned of.
Often when I complain about the lack of concrete use cases for crypto I hear the explanation that what is really being built is a framework for the future of technology, a democratized future where technology is controlled by the masses, not a central authority. But what is that infrastructure, really? From where I sit it’s nothing more than smoke and mirrors set up in a ridiculous attempt to convince me that everything, ideas, thoughts, art, emotions, can and should be owned…