Reading Material

Arguments for staying away from crypto, NFTs, and “Web3” in general

If you have doubts about cryptocurrencies, NFTs, and web3 in general and need some more convincing, you might find these arguments helpful. If you’re a true believer, these are the arguments you’ll have to counter. Either way, enjoy!

The “You’ll be running with a crowd of terrible human beings” argument

Tap to view the original tweet

The article Bitcoin Goes to War in The New Republic has a subtitle that explains its thesis a little better: “For some crypto holders, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is an opportunity⁠—and a validation of their increasingly radical beliefs.”

However, I feel that the best summary comes from a sentence in the middle of the article, which reads “For some right-wing libertarian-minded coiners, the right to freely trade crypto takes precedence over opposing a Russian invasion of a sovereign nation.”

Nothing drives this point home better than investor Mike Alfred’s Twitter response to Mykhailo Fedorov, Vice Prime Minister of Ukraine and Minister of Digital Transformation of Ukraine, who asked:

Alfred’s response? This gem, which will someday be cited regularly in ethics courses under the “don’t be this guy” category:

The computer science argument

UC Berkeley professor Nicholas Weaver dedicated one lecture of the Computer Security 161 course to material that would not be on the exam, but simply to help “immunize you from crap”. The topic is cryptocurrency, and luckily for us, he posted it on YouTube!

Here’s Weaver’s opening slide:

He points out that the blockchain data structure isn’t anything revolutionary, but instead is based on decades-old, well-documented structures: hash chains and hash trees (a.k.a. Merkle trees):

He also talks about the excuses that crypto-fans make for its massive power consumption…

…how easy it is to steal or grift from other people…

…that it just created a new business model for VCs…

…the dubious economics…

…and the incredible inefficiency:

It’s an amazing lecture that’s well worth viewing, even if you’re a crypto believer — just so you know the arguments against your thing.

The layperson’s argument

If you (or someone you know) has heard of cryptocurrency and NFTs but doesn’t know much about them or why they’re getting a lot of hype, Dan Olson’s Line Goes Up — The Problem with NFTs explains everything quite well.

Don’t let the 2-hour 18-minute runtime scare you off — it’s broken into chapters and presents its material so well that you won’t even notice the time passing.

Here’s its table of contents:

  • 00:00:00 Preface
  • 00:01:12 0. In 2008 The Economy Collapsed
  • 00:07:09 1. Bitcoin
  • 00:18:18 2. Ethereum
  • 00:24:34 3. The Machine
  • 00:39:07 4. NFTs Exist To Get You To Buy Crypto
  • 00:57:54 5. The Unbearable Cringe Of Crypto
  • 01:11:46 6. A Self-Organizing High Control Group
  • 01:16:57 7. Crypto Reality
  • 01:25:36 8. There Is No Privacy On The Chain
  • 01:32:52 9. If This “Looks Like Scam” Then Every NFT Room I’m In Looks Like Scam LOL
  • 01:38:29 10. Play To Earn Exists To Get You To Buy Crypto
  • 01:46:39 11. We’re All Gonna Make It And By “We” I Mean “Us” Not You
  • 01:56:08 12. DAOs Exist To Get You To Buy Crypto
  • 02:13:21 13. I Know It’s Rigged, But It’s The Only Game In Town

The artsy English-accented argument

English Youtuber and musician Georgina “munecat” Taylor does a wonderful takedown of the entire Web 3.0 scene, and while the video clock in at over an hour and forty minutes, it’s a very entertaining and informative watch.

The “Fucked Company” argument

If you were around during the dot-com bubble’s burst, you might remember a website called Fucked Company (whose name s a pardoy of Fast Company) that chronicled the ongoing failures of dot-coms with maximum snark.

There’s now a Web3 version: Web3 is going just great, and it’s part of my daily cautionary reading. Check it out.

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