The best podcast episode I listened to today was the April 5th episode of The Ezra Klein Show:

Dan Olson is the creator of a two-hour-YouTube video, “Line Goes Up,” that has now been viewed nearly seven million times. “Line Goes Up” is the single most comprehensive critique of crypto that I’ve ever heard. And that’s because Olson isn’t just focused on cryptocurrencies as a technology or an asset class, but on the crypto universe as a distinct culture underpinned by a powerful ideology. It’s easy to think about the lingo, the acronyms and the myths associated with the crypto world as incidental to the value of cryptocurrencies and NFTs as assets. But for Olson, the culture and the currency are inextricably linked. And once you’ve made that connection, suddenly a lot of the problems, warning signs and potential dangers of crypto become visible in a new way.

The longer I look at crypto the more of a scam it seems to be. Dan Olson brings almost every argument I have read—or made myself—against crypto to the table, and pushes some of them further than I have thought.

One of Olson’s most interesting insights is that the pseudo-anonymity that crypto wallets will, counter-intuitively, reduce your financial price. This is because crypto wallets are pseudonymous1 rather than anonymous, and a blockchain, which stores transaction history for crypto wallets, is open. Therefore, if you know someone’s crypto wallet ID—because you paid them back for something with crypto—you could use that ID to look up all their prior transactions on the blockchain. You could get a good idea how much money they have or spend, and get a good idea about where they spend it, too.

I am concerned that governments eventually will instate their own cryptocurrencies, perhaps for nefarious purposes but more likely for stupid ones, and we will all be stuck using them (ahem, ride that rocket-ship to the moon2) despite all their downsides.

  1. Parties in transactions are identified by codes or hashes rather than by name. ↩︎

  2. This is crypto-slang, which all of us who browse Reddit or occasionally watch TV commercials probably know by now. ↩︎