June 21, 2021

Is bitcoin the future of everything?

Is bitcoin the future of everything?

What do you need to know to predict the future of our global economy, our internet world, and the ways crypto is changing everything? Hit play and find out.

Today on Thinking Is Cool, we’re together taking on the sisyphean task of finding out. Here’s a spoiler: The answer is a big fat maybe. 


Because like all good things in life, the answer is simple—it depends. Cryptocurrencies, blockchain technology, and decentralization have the potential to be a lot of things: the future of global currency systems, the future of the internet, the future of wealth building, and more.


But it’ll take more than just adding laser eyes to your Twitter profile picture to bring those possibilities into the realm of reality. This week on Thinking Is Cool, we’re exploring what else we need to grasp to keep hold of the freer, fairer, and better future crypto has promised us.


Here’s who you’ll hear from. And sidenote—I love this episode’s guests. They’re the kind of people you get off the phone with and think, “yeah...I could definitely get a beer with that person.”

  • Joe Wiesenthal, the co-host of the Odd Lots podcast and “What'd You Miss?” on Bloomberg TV.
  • Aubrey Strobel, head of communications for the bitcoin rewards app Lolli.


Hit play, sit back, take a deep breath, and join me as I dig myself out of an internet rabbit hole to discover what the future of crypto, bitcoin, and the blockchain really are.


A note from our exclusive sponsor HMBradley: Deposit accounts are provided by Hatch Bank, Member FDIC. Interest rates are variable and may change after account opening. The minimum opening deposit required to open an HMBradley Deposit Account is $100. Go to www.hmbradley.com/apys to see current rates and the full Savings Tiers terms and conditions. This is a paid endorsement.


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*Roll intro music*


*Roll pull quote → “We’re not fucking selling! We’re not fucking selling, fuck Elon! Fuck Elon!”


How’s that for an enthusiastic start to this episode? What’s up everyone—I’m your host Kinsey Grant and this is Thinking Is Cool. If you’re new here, I’m a journalist and internet power user and this show is meant to make your next conversation better than your last.


So far, we’ve talked about generation-defining issues like porn, Barstool, climate change, and a whole lot more. If you ask me, it’s hard to make a list of generation-defining issues and not include today’s topic...cryptocurrency.


Join me as I dig myself out of an internet rabbit hole to discover what the future of crypto, bitcoin, and the blockchain really are. And...disclaimer before the tabloids run any false headlines...I’m not Satoshi Nakamoto. But I do think I know who is.


As always...thank you to our friends at HMBradley for making this episode possible. Nothing is off limits. Everything is on the table. Take it anywhere. And remember—thinking is cool, and so are you.


*Fade out intro music*


The first time I heard the word “bitcoin,” I was sitting in my aunt and uncle’s backyard in suburban New Jersey. I had just moved to Manhattan, and I stopped in for an afternoon visit the day before starting my first real job as a reporter. The year was 2017.


My very avant garde cousin explained to me what bitcoin and blockchain technology were. She said she’d just explored something called ether, and she was considering putting some money into it. I had just weeks before taken finals all about inflation and the Federal Reserve and global currency markets. The last thing I was interested in was learning about a new currency that would surely be nothing in no time.


Well, listener, I was so profoundly off base.


The very day after that afternoon chat in the beaming hot June sunshine, I started that first real job as a reporter. I was technically on the breaking news desk, but my editor asked within my first week if I’d ever heard of this cryptocurrency called bitcoin.


I said I had and that I’d done tons of research on it, because we all lie about our qualifications in our first job. Immediately, I was put on the crypto beat. That’s what happens when you’re the youngest reporter in the newsroom by a decade.


For much of the next year at that first job and into my time at Morning Brew after that, I devoted myself to covering crypto for a couple of reasons:

  1. Having a beat is always a good thing. It means more job security.
  2. I found the people who made their living in crypto to be singularly strange. Their passion was unmatched, and it made for some of the most incredibly interesting interviews.
  3. I like to learn about things that I don’t know much about. Cryptocurrency most certainly fell into that bucket in 2017.


And to be honest, it still falls into that bucket. I’ve been at this for over four years. I’ve been talking to crypto founders and going on dates with bitcoin bros and reading what I can stomach of twitter dot com...and I still have more questions than answers when it comes to bitcoin and the promise of cryptocurrencies.


Broadly speaking, the crypto community has promised us all a better, fairer, more equitable future. One with better power dynamics, one that can keep up with our pace of technological change. One that, simply put, rights the wrongs of the traditional systems that have for so many years failed us.


But…[really high voice] can it? I’m not so sure. I mean, you hear a sentence about bitcoin like this from a guest I’ll introduce in just a moment…


AUBREY: “I think people right now are very excited about the potential and what it can enable for the world and for capital and for freedom.”


And you have to wonder...is it possible? Can these abstract, intangible concepts like freedom really prosper through cryptocurrency? For all the enthusiasm...crypto still doesn’t make sense to the vast majority of people without laser eyes in their Twitter photos. Yes—laser eyes. Edited onto your Twitter profile photo. Because apparently that makes bitcoin go up?


And if we’re talking about completely upending our global financial system to usher in a new paradigm featuring new power brokers...we’re gonna need more people to get it.


So that’s what we’re thinking about today. If bitcoin and crypto really are the paradigm-shifting technologies we’ve been told they are...why hasn’t the paradigm shifted yet? What is the future of bitcoin, and why does it matter so much? What might our future look like under this new nirvana of the blockchain?


There’s only one way to find out. It’s time to have a conversation about crypto. 


*Roll some transition music here*


Before we get into the good shit, we have to do the scene-setting shit. Which is still good, but just less spicy. But we have to do it. Because context is key here and there’s a lot we collectively don’t know. 


First up: What is bitcoin?


Bitcoin is a digital, peer to peer currency that’s not regulated by any single entity like, say, the dollar is regulated by the US government. It started as an idea put forth by the mysterious and pseudonymous Satoshi Nakamoto in a white paper in 2008. By 2021, it had become the best-performing asset of the last decade with a 9,000,000% price increase at its high. That high, however, didn’t last.


Bitcoin is known for volatility. Price swings are part and parcel of the bitcoin experience. In 2021 alone, it’s traded as high as about $60,000 and as low as about $30,000. Most people I know only own fractions of coins, but still…$60k is $60k.


As far as I’m concerned, and by the way none of this is investment advice...Bitcoin is the person you date right after college who goes from telling you about the future they see with you to making out with your roommate in the span of one night. You can’t walk away because it’s too addicting, but you can’t count on them for anything stable.


I’ve heard it lauded as the future of transactions, the currency with which will pay for coffee in just a couple years. I’ve also heard that bitcoin is the new gold—that’s a common one these days. It’s the new store of value. It’s an appreciating asset. It’s a medium of exchange. It’s just the beginning.


Within a few years of bitcoin’s debut, other cryptocurrencies began to emerge across the internet using bitcoin’s open-source code as a blueprint. It was the first cryptocurrency and blockchain, but most certainly not the last.


The advent of so-called alt coins like fan favorite Dogecoin have come hard and fast in recent years. With them, the global market capitalization of the crypto space reached as high as $2.4 trillion this year. Trillion with a T.


Each of these cryptocurrencies has a different utility, or so we’re told. It’s hard to truly recognize inherent value in something that was created because of a meme in the case of Dogecoin, but I’ll give it the benefit of the doubt.


Blockchain technology is at the core of cryptos, but what is blockchain? In the simplest terms the internet could provide me, it’s the record-keeping technology behind bitcoin’s network. Now, if you’ve been listening to Thinking Is Cool, you know that I like to mic myself up when I’m about to Google something risky, like porn in episode 1 or how much time we have left before climate change is too far gone in episode 3. 


You’re about to get a live look at me googling “what is blockchain technology” which feels even riskier than the first two things I’ve live-Googled for this show. Here we go:


KINSEY: “All right, key takeaways for block chain technology, according to the fine folks at Investopedia, it differs from a typical database in the way it stores information block change store data in blocks that are then chained together, fitting enough as new data comes in. It is entered into a fresh block. Once the block is filled with data, it is change onto the previous block, which makes the data change together in chronological order, data or data going with data. Different types of information can be stored on a block chain. But the most common use so far has been as a has been as a ledger for transactions. In Bitcoin's case, block chain is used in a decentralized way so that no single person or group has control. Rather, all users collectively retain control. Decentralized block chains are immutable, which means that the data entered is irreversible for Bitcoin. This means that transactions are permanently recorded and viewable to anyone. That makes enough sense. I think it's a bunch of blocks that are chained together, obviously.”


Now, I know how simplistic this approach I’m taking is. Saying bitcoin is a peer to peer currency and the blockchain is a chain of blocks? It’s like calling Taylor Swift a singer. There’s so much more to the story, and I’m aware of that. But simple is better in this case.


Because what I’m about to do is complicated enough as it is. I’m going to figure out the future of bitcoin and crypto. Why? 1) I’m a natural born skeptic. And 2) if this technology really is the future for...all of us? We need to know what we’re dealing with. I’m not content to just fumble through life putting a couple bucks into bitcoin here and there—I want to know how this shit works so I can make it work for me and for those around me. And I don’t want to be scared doing that. 


Because the internet and the technology it’s wrought are changing all the time. Change is, as they say, the only constant in this new technofied world. Having a working knowledge of what technologies might own the future, though, will position you better.


So that’s the scene setting shit. Let’s get to the good shit.


As we dive in, I could set the tone myself, or I could recruit someone really smart to help me do it. I think you probably know which option I’m taking. Here’s my first guest, Joe Wiesenthal—Co-host of the Odd Lots podcast and 'What'd You Miss?' on Bloomberg TV.


JOE: “I think that there are some really fascinating things going on in this space. I think that there's like some genuinely interesting experiments happening, experiments with business models, experiments with rethinking the nature of money. We think computing, potentially rethinking the architecture of the Internet, decentralized systems are really exciting. And I think they're the space is just riven with charlatans and scammers and people engaging in pump and dump schemes, et cetera. And so it's like this weird thing where like to pay to take this very seriously, you have to, like, really tune out a lot of, like, complete garbage. And I think it's really hard to do that. There are so many, I think, like bad actors in this space where people have no idea what they're talking about or people who oversell what the technology could do. It is very easy to look at all those people and say, oh, this is just a scam. It's all going to collapse. And so I do think, though, like people should challenge themselves to look deeper because the surface level has a lot of bad stuff. But if you challenge yourself to look deeper and study more, there are some genuinely interesting things going on.”


So let’s get going with the first idea of what bitcoin might become—our new global currency tailor made for all 8 billion of us.


*Roll some transition music here*


Picture this: The year is 2035. I look surprisingly hot for 40. Thinking Is Cool Media has taken over the world. And instead of our IPO being priced in dollars, it’s priced in bitcoin. Because, in this version of the future, bitcoin is the currency for all the world.


Welcome to Possibility Number One: Bitcoin overcomes traditional government-backed, fiat currencies to win billing as the de facto money of the world. It’s a possibility bitcoin bulls have long espoused. 


For some background, here’s what the crypto exchange Gemini wrote about the difference between bitcoin and fiat, or government-issued money:

  • “Any effective form of money must act as a medium of exchange, store of value, and unit of account. Both fiat money and cryptocurrency deliver this utility, but are different in a number of key ways. Fiat money is legal tender whose value is tied to a government-issued currency, like the U.S. dollar, while cryptocurrency is a digital asset that derives its value from the native blockchain. The issuance and governance of fiat currency are dictated by central banks, while blockchain protocols, code, and communities govern cryptocurrency. The distribution of fiat requires intermediaries, while cryptocurrency relies on distributed and decentralized networks to enable “trustless” transactions.”


Shockingly fair assessment from an exchange started by bitcoin billionaire twins Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss. Now, traditional currencies have ample shortcomings in those bitcoin bulls’ view, but the biggest tend to be inflation and the possession of power.


On inflation, they say this: Because there is no cap on how many dollars our government can introduce into the global economy, inflation can run rampant. Your money will eventually get you less and less. Since bitcoin is finite—there can only ever be 21 million mined—it’s far less susceptible to inflation than an infinite supply of dollars.


On power, they say this: Bitcoin is at its very center decentralized. No one governs bitcoin. No one even knows who Satoshi really is aside from Gossip Girl and maybe me. That removes the outdated power structures from the equation—power structures like those that have long governed our currency markets. The closer you are to institutions like the Fed, logic suggests, the better off you are. And if you’re not invited to the annual Yellen-Bernanke Summer Barbeque every year? You’re playing by their rules, like it or not.


That’s why what happened in El Salvador recently is so astounding. What happened? I’m so glad you asked.


El Salvador became the first country in the world to pass legislation allowing use of bitcoin in any transaction as legal tender. El Salvador started using the US dollar as its currency more than 20 years back. That’s a lot of history and shared experiences. So what happens to the dollar now?


Well...nothing. And therein lies the biggest learning from possibility one: The ascent of bitcoin and other cryptos to the ranks of reserve currency and legal tender won’t completely obfuscate the dollar or any other fiat. 


See, it’s more likely that the two learn to coexist. Julian Sawyer, chief executive officer of Bitstamp, one of the world’s longest-running crypto exchanges, told Bloomberg this:

  • “There’s been a lot of people who have sat in the crypto world who’ve said, ‘Oh, crypto is going to take over the world and traditional banks and central banks will go away. That’s not going to happen.”


Bitcoin is by many measures still too volatile to overcome currencies like the US dollar as the backbone of global financial services. That doesn’t mean it can’t improve some processes, like remittances and cross-border payments. Bitstamp’s Sawyer put it well: “Will there still be the dollar? Yes,” he said. “Will there still be Visa and Mastercard? Absolutely. It will just be we’ll have alternatives for using plastic, or paper, or coins or checks.”


In an effort to assuage that natural skepticism I mentioned earlier, I asked around. Here’s how one of crypto Twitter’s rising stars put it to me when I asked her about the ways bitcoin specifically might impact traditional currency systems:


KINSEY: “Do you see it, though, completely supplanting our traditional fiat currency system, at least in the United States? Like I have to imagine it would be more of a coexistence than a complete, I don't know, like takeover. And suddenly the dollar becomes completely obsolete overnight.”


AUBREY: “Exactly, I don't think the dollar is going away. I think it'll be something that will be used to basically communicate sort of the the money of the Internet. The Internet needs its own native currency, and it'll be a way for people around the world to basically send payments if they want to with one another.”


That was Aubrey Strobel, head of communications for Lolli, the app that gives you free bitcoin or cash when you shop at over 1,000 top stores. 


I think she’s right—there will always be a place in our wallets and bank accounts and hearts for the Federal Reserve and Treasury Department, at least during this lifetime. They have an important purpose to serve, and they’ve served it pretty effectively for a pretty long time.


In fact, we’d likely be lost without those suits. It’s a question several of you posed in my inbox: What happens when we need the tools of institutions like the Fed if they have no power? With no capacity to enact their tools for monetary policy like quantitative easing or setting interest rates...how can we ensure that we’ll remain capable of avoiding financial doomsday as we’ve done time and again for as long as there’s been a Fed to track?


The answer is...we don’t need an answer. Doesn’t seem that those tools or the people who utilize them will suddenly be out of a job.


Aubrey made another really important point about the fiat vs. crypto conversation...it’s not one to be had everywhere.


AUBREY: “So starting with Bitcoin and understanding what it can enable for not just populations like the United States, where people sort of look at it as a way to get rich quick or they're trying to just, you know, make a buck off of this asset. But for places like El Salvador who just adopted it as legal tender this week, so places like that where it could potentially change the lives of other people is really where I see the value going. And so I think you'll see adoption happening in Central America, Latin America, places with hyperinflated money that need an alternative to be able to transact, to get their businesses off the ground as sort of an escape out of the system. But that's not going to be an easy process, because I think right now with comments from Elizabeth Warren in the past week and just different bits spreading around, you're going to see Bitcoin being highly politicized for a while because any threat to the traditional systems is not going to be received positively, as is Bitcoin is truly freedom. And freedom has not historically been received well by institutions, governments, whatever that may be.”


So if there even is a battle between fiat and crypto? It looks uphill for the former. At least...for now. But forever? Who knows. Here’s Joe Wiesenthal again.


JOE: “I am personally very skeptical that it's going to be the world's future reserve currency for all kinds of reasons that I could list out. Then I tweeted a bunch of times. I don't I think there's all kinds of reasons to think that will never happen. On the other hand, I've been part of the reason Bitcoin has made it so far and captured so much imagination and mindshare. And as big as it is, is because it has the sort of like army of like true believers. And so on the one hand, like, I don't really think it's going to happen. But on the other hand, I think that the existence of the true believers, the existence of the Bitcoin faithful explains why and why it's done so well over all these years and why it's been, you know, Bitcoin should have died a thousand times, probably, but it never really seems to go away. And it's because of this a core group of hardcore believers that continue to like build out in search of the project.”


*Roll transition music*


At the core of what those believers see for our shared future is the idea that we’re on the precipice of a brand new internet. A new way to interconnect the world, one that works better for more people. At least...that’s what we think might happen. 


Let’s take a short break to hear from HMBradley and when I get back...it’s on to possibility number two for the future of crypto. Back in a sec.


*Roll HMB ad*

Thanks, HMBradley. If bitcoin isn’t for you, smart and intuitive savings sure are, right? Okay...


Picture this: The year is 2035. I still look really hot for 40. We’ve evolved past Twitter and Facebook and Instagram to a new version of the internet, one over which the Mark Zuckerbergs of the world don’t reign supreme. We’re not products of giant advertising machines, but rather people communicating ideas openly and freely. Sounds pretty good, huh?


Welcome to Possibility Number Two: Bitcoin is simply the first domino to fall on our way to an entirely new internet.


Now, I have to admit—this one is confusing to me. I came of age almost entirely online. It’s hard to remember life before the AOL dial-up tone. So reimagining that internet that’s incrementally evolved in a very much not incremental way? Not easy.


And it’s made harder when you consider the trajectory bitcoin has been on for most of its existence...a backwards one. Here’s Joe Wiesenthal again.


JOE: “One of the weird things about crypto, too, is like it is it starts with money. And so, you know, like when the Internet first took off, like in the mid 90s, you know, people like, oh, I got an email, maybe they got on well. And then they started learning how to use the Netscape browser, etc. and then the money side came later when, you know, late 90s with the dot com bubble. But at the very beginning, those people weren't even like really thinking about the money of it was like very backwards because it started with the coins and started with Bitcoin, just like one thing at a price. And then it expanded and expanded and then other coins came along. But it started with the price. And then people have like sort of figure it out or attempted to build applications on it. But it's it's almost like the exact opposite trajectory of thinking about the Internet in which to sort of like money aspect really came much later in his development.”


So with that in mind, we have to think about the evolution of the internet with an entirely new mental framework. Not easy, but not impossible. No matter what direction we approach it, understanding motivations will always be a good place to start. Here’s what Joe said, which I found endlessly interesting:


JOE: “It's interesting to me about this decentralized system, just like a lot of people in the media these days, and I'm a person of the media, a lot of people in the media these days are like they look at our big tech companies and like, darn comfortable with them for some reason or whether it's Amazon or Facebook or the power that these companies have. It like it doesn't sit right with it. Maybe they're uncomfortable because the companies have a lot of power over like free speech or like open communication. Maybe they're uncomfortable because they worry about competition and monopoly and things like that. And yet it's kind of weird that there hasn't been more interest in the media in sort of like the cryptocurrency space, because here are big entities attempting to reshape Internet commerce and Internet activity in a decentralized system. So from like a sort of like Internet architecture standpoint, it's super interesting. And I think that, like, you know, they have a limitation. So, you know, despite what some people say, like a block chain database, they're inefficient by design because they sacrifice efficiency for decentralization. So there are drawbacks to them. And there are all kinds of sort of like legal questions that arise in terms of like using them as a money network. But just from this idea, I like we're here is a way to, like, rethink the architecture of the Internet such that it's not fundamentally controlled by a handful of really big companies. I think it's something that's exciting to me and something that like I want to see in some way people continue to work on.”


Not fundamentally controlled by a handful of really big companies. Those are 10 words any of us would presumably like to hear more often. More capitalistic. More democratic. See? Told you good shit was on tap today.


But the idea of bitcoin and the blockchain tech that supports it ushering in a new internet is less about a world wide web replacement than it is about a philosophical shift. This isn’t about supplanting email or domains or profiles entirely. It’s more about approaching our online lives and selves from a place of decentralization. 


No one person has all the power when it comes to the underlying technologies of the crypto world. There are influencers and deep-pocketed entrepreneurs and powerful people certainly. But from what I understand, none of those people could ever wield enough power to become the next Mark Zuckerberg...to face claims of irrevocably eroding democracy, to cause kids to become depressed, to anoint themselves judge jury and executioner, and to never once completely owning up to what he’d done to the world around him.


Power like that probably shouldn’t exist, at least not today. It’s concerning and off-putting for a reason. What crypto brings to the table instead is something more palatable, if for no reason other than the fact that it’s not derived from one singular person’s brain, at least not anymore.


Bitcoin is in that way our potential gateway drug to a better, very different kind of internet. The cryptocurrency is the first and so far best use case for decentralization—the idea that no single entity—person, government, business, or otherwise—can wield exclusive control over data or processes.


This is useful from Nasdaq: “If a single user or small group of users were to try to manipulate blockchain data in a way with which a majority of the network disagreed, their efforts would be thwarted by the rest of the network. This is one of the features that make blockchain technology so powerful.”


But power—especially the kind of power that doesn’t fit our traditional models—can be scary. In some countries, the idea of decentralization is considerably troubling. Countries like China, where the government has cracked down on bitcoin mining far and wide.


In countries like the one I call home, the mere idea of decentralization has opened the floodgates of what could easily be called a new, more modern economy. 


Think about the advent of things like NFTs, or non-fungible tokens. If you’re like me, you’d never heard of NFTs until this year. But now, they’re an integral part of what will come to mark this season of economic and technological life. 


NFTs have every marking of a post-Satoshi Nakamoto technology. They tout decentralization and the democratization of industries once cordoned off for only the elite. They’re confusing. They rely on technologies that themselves separate people based on education and access. And arguably most importantly, they’ve benefited from a pretty obvious hype cycle.


If those who sip the crypto kool-aid are right, NFTs are but the first of many new means of production and consumption that will come to be the norm in due time as the abstract concept of decentralization becomes increasingly tangible. This, if they’re right, is the new internet.




It’s honestly cliche at this point to say that crypto today is like the internet in its early years, I have to say. Really, what they have in common is that they’re emerging technologies. The more I think about it, the more any technology feels emerging. It’s in our nature to find broken things and make them better, to find problems and solve them.


Perhaps the problem decentralized technologies are solving is less about us and more about technology itself. Power collects in pools naturally, but rarely has power had the opportunity to scale the way it has over the last two decades at the hands of social media. 


I don’t typically believe in staking our entire collective future on the promise of one singular piece of technology, so I’ve been skeptical about the promises of decentralization. But I’ve learned this: Decentralization isn’t a technology. It’s an entire framework for understanding how we build. How we grow. How we improve.


It’s what I’m doing right now. Sure, I’m not creating a new currency that could enable victims of hyperinflation to better provide for their families. But I’m doing something inherently decentralized. 


I left my job to start something independent. To utilize the tools of the internet to do what I think is right and better and worthwhile. Those tools—the tools I use to get this episode from my brain to your ears—are all available to anyone, and many of them for free. 


Once upon a time, to do this kind of podcast, I needed a large media company to hire me. I needed expensive equipment. I needed friends in high places. I needed a radio station. Today though? I don’t have any of that and people in the Netherlands are listening an hour after we publish.


That’s decentralization. It doesn’t have to be complicated. It doesn’t have to be NFTs and web three and defi and the complicated cryptocurrency concepts I don’t dare touch. It just has to be a better power structure. And that sounds pretty cool. And perhaps even doable.


*Roll transition music*


Picture this: The year is 2035. I’m still really hot for 40. I’m out a business partner because Josh retired 10 years back after making a fortune in ethereum. He dedicated his life to colonizing space and we haven’t heard from him in years.


Welcome to Possibility Number Three: Bitcoin is simply a wealth building mechanism that’s helped a select few get very rich very fast.


Let’s start by understanding the wealth crypto has created. 10 years ago, a single bitcoin was worth at most $32. Today, that price is closer to $40,000. And while that 40k is well off highs seen earlier this year, we can’t discount just how bananas this has been.


The kinds of people who have become incredibly wealthy from crypto also tend not to be typical millionaire types. According to CNBC, some 47% of millennial millionaires have more than a quarter of their wealth in cryptocurrencies. More than a third of millennial millionaires have at least half their wealth in crypto.


That’s notable for a lot of reasons—it illustrates shifting wealth dynamics and the risk tolerance of the young. But at the end of the day, it’s actually a pretty simple takeaway: People like when things they own go up in price, regardless of the inherent value behind those things. Here’s Joe again.


JOE: “I think the hook that brings people in is just the idea of like buying something where the number goes up really fast, like everybody likes the idea of like buying an investment and having to go up 10x or 100 bucks in the short period of time. And I know that there's like a lot of principled reasons why people get into Bitcoin for tech reasons and people get into ethereum and stuff like that. But I think that, like, we're still at the point we're the number one sort of like customer acquisition strategy to put it, or user acquisition strategy, to put a weird phrase on it for a lot of is just like the thrill of volatility and the thrill of the number going up.”


And volatility is abundant. Bank of America suggested recently that bitcoin is about four times as volatile as the Brazilian real and Turkish lira...which...are not noted for their stability. 


Investing in cryptocurrency still is, in many ways, a game. There are winners and losers. And there are cheaters. Here’s Aubrey again.


AUBREY: “Not everyone has to be a trading crypto all day and getting into these kind of quote unquote shit coins basically that are out there. I mean, there's the tokens right now that really delegitimizes space. I'm sure you heard some of the crazy names out there. And it's like, I don't know if I could take you guys, do whatever you can say, whatever, ask coin, come rocket, like all these different coins that had actually come out and, you know, people have made money on and you can talk about dogecoin. So value is super subjective right now. And we've seen that with the game stop short squeeze and so many things like that. So people are very confusing where to invest their money. But I hope that, you know, when people sort of go down this road, they realize that Bitcoin is the asset they should be investing in. I think Bitcoin kind of took a lot of that away from Bitcoin, as Elon Musk is really touting it out there for a while. And I think that took a lot of the younger investors away from Bitcoin, almost Bitcoin feels like the boomer cryptocurrency at this point, even though it's so young.”


For all their promise of decentralization, bitcoin and its cohort of cryptos are still incredibly susceptible to pump and dump schemes. Take something like Dogecoin with little to no inherent value. Its meteoric rise was the work of people with platforms who wanted their portfolio values to go up and to the right.


Listen to this and tell me it doesn’t sound troubling.


*Roll clip from pull quote saying fuck Elon*


That was Max Keiser, a crypto entrepreneur and investor, at the recent Bitcoin 2021 conference in Miami. Imagine if someone went on CNBC today and made a case that impassioned for a specific stock. They’d be investigated immediately and likely laughed off the set. And that’s before the audit.


There are ample bad actors across the global financial system—we know this to be true. But in the case of crypto, it seems bad actors are profiting from the general population’s unfamiliarity with crypto concepts to benefit themselves.


Those with access to capital and information have used it to accumulate power and influence in the world of cryptocurrency. It’s a reality that flies in the face of all crypto’s promise of decentralization and power to the little guy.


When Elon Musk tweets about Dogecoin, the price goes up. When he decides to hold off on accepting bitcoin at his businesses, the price decreases. He has that influence because he’s rich.


That gives me pause. Can bitcoin or any other cryptocurrency exist in such a dual-faceted manner? Can it be a means of resetting power structures that badly need it...and also serve as a means of making fuck you money?


I’m not sure. But when I asked Aubrey a similar question, she gave a really satisfying answer as to what she considers to be the north star in all this.


AUBREY: “Bitcoin is going to be valuable. And there's if you look at a 10 year graph of how Bitcoin has done, there has been ebbs and flows. It is a volatile asset. Everyone pretty much is aware of that by this point. But over a 10 year period, it has been the most profitable asset over the past decade. So I think if keeping that in mind, people can make the best judgment on if they want to spend their Bitcoin or if they want to hold on to it, there may there will be other cryptos and things that come and go. And that's happened in the last cycle and is happened. It's happening now. The one thing that has stayed true is Bitcoin. So until we see some sort of breakthrough or something is built on top of Bitcoin, which are projects and things being built on top of Bitcoin right now is the one thing holding true in this space.”


*Roll transition music*


I know a few things to be true. If he likes you, you’ll know it and if he doesn’t, you’ll be confused. Diet Coke tastes better from a fountain than a bottle. And cryptocurrency technology will absolutely change our lives. 


I’ve spent the better part of this episode talking about how that change might look when it gets here—whether it’s in the form of a new global financial system, a new internet, or a new way to get rich quick.


This was all in an effort to better understand what the future looks like so that we can best take advantage of whatever comes our way. I’ve been feeling a creeping concern that not knowing what the F is going on with decentralization and crypto might put me behind my peers who’ve been buying and selling since well before my cousin told me what ether was.


If I don’t know what the future holds, how can I expect to find success within its bounds?


I was talking about this with Josh recently—the idea that those in positions of power and influence are typically those who saw a trend coming before anyone else. Or the kids of those who saw a trend coming before anyone else.


Take the paradigm shifting technology that is the automobile. Henry Ford, problematic as he was, saw the possibility of a new piece of technology and built a fortune on that premonition. He wasn’t the only one to get rich on the advent of the car, though—there were ample opportunities for wealth, from starting taxi cab companies to building gas station empires. If you understood the baseline technology of a car and how to apply it, you were in a position to win.


I’m not so sure that’s the case when it comes to decentralization and crypto. These ideas are bigger than any one singular piece of technology. Because of that, you don’t have to know every in and out to keep up.


Think about our global financial system as it exists today. Billions of people use it every single day to do everything from buy coffee to buy a company. And yet, a vast majority of those people probably can’t explain what the Federal Reserve does or what a basket of currencies actually means. That doesn’t preclude them from participating in the buying and selling of goods and services. And it most certainly doesn’t mean they’re not smart.


Here’s Joe again.


JOE: “There's there's kind of a luxury of the modern world to not have to think about certain things like, you know, most people don't know how the banking system works. That's fine. I really don't think that's like a big deal. Most people in production spend their time thinking about how the banking system works. You know, like people people have a lot going on in their lives. And, you know, most people don't know what the Federal Reserve do. Again, I think that's we find like people should be living in a it's a luxury to live in a country or to live in a world or to have a society where you don't have to worry about that stuff or that's not a big threat or a big source of anxiety some day to day.”


My guess is that most people listening to this episode are in that luxury camp Joe referenced. In all likelihood, you’ll be fine functioning in whatever version of our new economy comes to fruition with or without a deep knowledge of cryptography and decentralized finance.


See, most of us have gotten used to the rapid pace of change that’s become the norm online today. The internet changes all the time—that doesn’t mean we stop using it. That just means we adapt. You’re not going to get left behind if you don’t know what a distributed ledger or non-fungible token is, at least not right now.


Think about this: In his 1962 book “Profiles of the Future: An Inquiry into the Limits of the Possible”, science fiction writer Arthur C. Clarke formulated his famous Three Laws. The third is the best known—it goes like this: “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.”


Let magic be magic. Do your best to understand it, but don’t worry if you don’t immediately. Go at your own pace. Think about what the future might look like, but don’t think too hard. I’m more excited and less terrified after making this episode and speaking with people who’ve dedicated their lives to understanding magic. They’ve calmed me down, taught me something, and made me think that...chances are, we’ll have some new paradigm-shifting tech in no time.


Now, that’s not to say we should sit back and let change happen to us. We can orchestrate the kind of change that does good by the whole of humanity. It sounds dramatic, but I think it’s true. You don’t have to want to be the Henry Ford of crypto—I sure don’t want to be—but as long as we keep our eyes up and our heads in the game, we can seek truth and equity and recognize patterns. 


And if we empower the next Henry Ford to come from literally anywhere? To me, that’s how we avoid the trappings of earlier financial systems and their inequities. We’re all forced to function under the same markets, but the conditions differ—those with more information are often those making the most money.


So instead of building a new hierarchy, let’s attempt to make good on the decentralized promises of bitcoin. You don’t need to know every last detail about Satoshi’s white paper to do that...you got closer just by listening to this episode.


I challenge you to reframe the way you think about the future of crypto—think of it not as a get rich quick scheme. Think of it as a way to empower those left powerless. Think of it as a way of thinking differently, not profiting differently. Just go out and think.


Take these ideas to the group chat. Ask your friends about the future of cryptocurrency. Ask them what they think they’ll pay for their morning coffee with in a decade. Ask them what they feel about decentralization.


Ask them what they think. Because thinning is cool. And so are you. See you next time.