If you’re interested in crypto and even mildly supportive of it, chances are you’ve encountered more than a few negative statements about the space. For myself, these are a few ‘Oh, you’re interested in cryptocurrencies, aren’t they just used for buying drugs?’ or ‘It’s not even real,’ or my personal favourite, ‘At least I’ll soon be dead and won’t have to worry about these things.’
Why the general negativity towards cryptocurrency? Let’s break it down a little bit.
Millennials seem to get crypto, they may not invest in it, but they often have a decent idea what it is and where its’ potential value lies. Digitally adept and accustomed to game currencies as a norm, crypto is hardly a cognitive stretch for the young. As you journey up the age profile things start to become murkier until we arrive at Warren Buffett territory (87), who recently described Bitcoin as ‘Rat poison squared.’ While Warren Buffet has more than earned his right to an opinion, it’s the vociferousness of his reaction which is surprising. This general age correlated disdain for crypto is entirely understandable given the disruptive nature of the tech. Crypto acceptance and eventual widespread adoption will almost certainly flow up the generation ladder from Millennials to the rest of us.
Crypto has long been the bête noire of the mainstream media. Bitcoin alone has been declared ‘dead’ over 300 times. The volatile nature of cryptos is frequently highlighted, as are, the often questionable practices of crypto exchanges and ICO’s . The ongoing saga of Tether, whether it’s liquid and its relationship to Bitfinex being another current example of certain crypto’s opacity. Much of the negative press is indeed warranted, the issue is one of balance. How often have you seen an informed analysis of blockchain and cryptos in general from a mainstream outlet? The few positive stories tend to focus on the supposed separate benefits of blockchain and the possible investor returns from certain coins. A more involved reflection on the seismic shift offered by the confluence of blockchain and cryptocurrency technologies is rarely found.
There’s no doubt that Bitcoin was a favoured means of illegal dark web transactions in years past. The key word here is past, just a few years ago using a crypto to pay for some prohibited product or service made a great deal of sense. They were essentially entirely off the radar of state authorities. Websites such as the SilkRoad happily utilized Bitcoin as it offered an easy avenue to avoid legal oversight or surveillance. However, the state has long since caught up, public blockchains such as Bitcoin are in fact a terrible means with which to attempt to commit illegal transactions. The trades are there for all to see – forever. While it’s true that cryptos such as Monero offer robust anonymity, they comprise a fraction of the overall crypto market.
Getting into crypto means diving into a world of new jargon, concepts, and acronyms. It’s time-consuming and just as you get your head around PoW up pops PoS soon followed by DPoS (Delegated Proof-of-Stake). This techno-concept-term space can feel intimidating and this inevitable complexity is made much more alienating by the competing crypto camps, ever on the warpath and undermining each other at every turn (here’s looking at you BTC-BCH).
Crypto’s exciting, no doubt. It’s also a struggle to explain, and oft-times difficult to defend, but in the end worth the struggle!
Part 2 of this series will examine what early adopters can do to responsibly and ethically promote crypto adoption. As always, comments and critiques welcome.