The fog of… blockchain?

You may not necessarily agree with his politics or his opinions (although, to be honest, I usually do), but Paul Krugman rarely gets the facts — or his interpretation of their implications — wrong. And this is a pretty good takedown of the entire principle of cryptocurrency and blockchain.

A lot of the more technical criticism of blockchain has been — justifiably — its environmental cost. But something that rarely gets mentioned does at least get that much from him here: “Why go to the trouble and expense of maintaining a ledger in many places, and basically carrying that ledger around every time a transaction takes place?”

Simply put, crypto doesn’t scale. That has been so blindingly obvious to me from the beginning that I couldn’t understand why the supposedly tech-genius “bros” championing this stuff didn’t see it. Another quote, from a very different context, seems fitting here: “It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends on his not understanding it.”

Actually, now that I think about it… I wonder if I’ve had Upton Sinclair wrong all these years. Maybe he wasn’t talking about labor when he wrote that, but management.

Crypto chump change

I know artists who are exploring crypto as a new way to earn money from their work — something that is notoriously hard given the soulless priorities of our economy — but I can’t see it as anything other than a get-rich-quick scheme… or a pyramid scheme… some kind of a scheme (with all the negative connotations that word carries in the US). You might get rich — some people obviously have — but you probably won’t, and ultimately crypto is not going to solve any of our problems… but it’s already created some novel ones.

I’ve been following Molly White’s blog for a while now. I really like her approach and insights. While I personally have less than zero interest in getting into crypto, I’m somewhat fixated on it right now — how it’s changing, how its myriad flaws are gradually being revealed, and how people are misunderstanding what it really is, how it works, and how it’s impacting society and the planet. (But yes I will admit that any time I see someone is into it, my immediate assumption is they’re either an Ayn Rand acolyte or a chump.)

Speaking of Molly White, she also contributed to (and hosts) this group-annotated version of Kevin Roose’s ridiculously pro-crypto “explainer” article recently published by the New York Times. Essential reading on the topic. (The annotations that is, not the original article.)