Crypto is the biggest ponzi scheme of all time

    Ben McKenzie, an actor turned anti-crypto activist, argues in his new book Easy Money that while cryptocurrencies highlight legitimate flaws in the financial system, they are essentially a Ponzi scheme.

    He criticises the “Hollywoodisation” of crypto and the lack of regulatory oversight, warning that the tech utopianism surrounding crypto and now AI could leave many losers in its wake. It’s funny how people seamlessly move from one grift to the next without ever being properly called out on it.

    The secret behind most conspiracy-driven movements is that there is often a glimmer of truth at the centre of their beliefs. Anti-vaxxers, for instance, can point to the past behaviour of large pharmaceutical companies as evidence that the medical establishment can’t be trusted. This glimmer is what’s used to ensnare you, says Ben McKenzie, the actor and cryptocurrency critic.

    […]

    After a friend urged him to buy Bitcoin, McKenzie – a former economics student with a degree from the University of Virginia – took a 24-part online course on cryptocurrencies, taught by the current US Securities and Exchange Commission chair Gary Gensler. He came away thinking the entire cryptocurrency thing was a scam. Worse, it was a scam with a lot of momentum behind it. “Advocates will tell you there is no ‘Bitcoin marketing department’,” McKenzie said. “But of course, if Bitcoin and crypto doesn’t have a product, if there is no actual tangible asset behind it, then in fact, Bitcoin and crypto is only marketing. It’s only a story.”

    […]

    During the peak of 2021, some of the most recognisable people in the world – including Matt Damon, Reese Witherspoon and Kim Kardashian – began promoting cryptocurrencies and non-fungible tokens (NFTs).

    McKenzie told me this is part of a more aggressive “hustle culture” in which people use their social contacts to promote products. Multi-level marketing (or MLM) and pyramid-selling schemes have existed for at least a century, but they have been transformed by technology. “In the 1950s, if you wanted to sell someone Mary Kay Cosmetics or Tupperware, you would need to invite them over to your house, cook them dinner, spend three hours trying to convince them [to buy products].” Now, he said, “the MLM can be done through TikTok and Instagram.”

    Though McKenzie is openly critical of the celebrities who have pushed these products, he reserves ultimate blame for the sluggish regulators that allowed it to happen. “I think in many cases the celebrities didn’t really understand what they were selling. Which is not to absolve them of a moral, ethical [or] potentially even legal responsibility for their actions. But they don’t need to be bad people – they just see easy money, right?”

    Source: “The biggest Ponzi of all time”: why Ben McKenzie became a crypto critic | New Statesman

    Monetizing stupidity?

    Nothing surprising about attractive person + financial advice getting people interested, but I thought this was interesting from the ‘monetizing stupid’. Do you interact with the world as it is, or as you want it to be?

    I focus pretty squarely on the latter, but there’s lots of money to be made from the former…

    Everything in me wants to make fun of Altman here (and anyone who reads horoscopes for that matter). I want to say: “Hey, don’t you think it’s a little ridiculous to think that astrology (which is just another name for fake science) has any bearing whatsoever on imaginary digital tokens idolized by virgins!?”

    But I won’t say that, because I think she might actually be some sort of accidental genius. Credit to me for showing self-control.

    She’s taken 2 things that people go absolutely bat-shit crazy over (astrology & crypto) and smashed them together in bite-sized clips made so that even an ADHD-riddled-crypto-obsessed chimpanzee can digest them.

    Source: Monetizing stupid | Contemporary Idiot

    One should always be a little improbable

    Object hitting and bending a wall

    🍲 Introducing ‘Food Grammar,’ the Unspoken Rules of Every Cuisine — "Grammars can even impose what is considered a food and what isn’t: Horse and rabbit are food for the French but not for the English; insects are food in Mexico but not in Spain. Moreover, just as “Hey, man!” is a friendly greeting for a buddy but maybe not for your boss, foods may not be suitable in all grammatical contexts. “A Frenchman would think it odd to drink white coffee with dinner and an Italian probably would resent being served spaghetti for breakfast,” writes Claude Fischler in “Food, Self and Identity.” By the same token, rice is appropriate for breakfast in Korea but not in Ireland."

    The essence of this article is that food is a reflection of culture, and our views of other cultures can become ossified. A good read.


    🌍 Scientists begin building highly accurate digital twin of our planet — "The digital twin of the Earth is intended to be an information system that develops and tests scenarios that show more sustainable development and thus better inform policies. "If you are planning a two-​metre high dike in The Netherlands, for example, I can run through the data in my digital twin and check whether the dike will in all likelihood still protect against expected extreme events in 2050," says Peter Bauer, deputy director for Research at the European Centre for Medium-​Range Weather Forecasts (ECMWF) and co-​initiator of Destination Earth. The digital twin will also be used for strategic planning of fresh water and food supplies or wind farms and solar plants."

    This is the kind of thing that simultaneously fills me with hope and fear. On the one hand, such a great idea; on the other, if we get the model wrong, it could make things worse...


    🤑 Why an Animated Flying Cat With a Pop-Tart Body Sold for Almost $600,000 — "The sale was a new high point in a fast-growing market for ownership rights to digital art, ephemera and media called NFTs, or “nonfungible tokens.” The buyers are usually not acquiring copyrights, trademarks or even the sole ownership of whatever it is they purchase. They’re buying bragging rights and the knowledge that their copy is the “authentic” one."

    I've got a blog post percolating in my mind at the moment about digital reserve currencies, NFTs and deepfakes. There's something here about an emerging hyper-capitalist dystopia, for sure.


    Quotation-as-title by Oscar Wilde. Image by Tu Tram Pham.

    It would not be better if things happened to men just as they wish

    🕸️ A plan to redesign the internet could make apps that no one controls ⁠— "Rewinding the internet is not about nostalgia. The dominance of a few companies, and the ad-tech industry that supports them, has distorted the way we communicate—pulling public discourse into a gravity well of hate speech and misinformation—and upended basic norms of privacy. There are few places online beyond the reach of these tech giants, and few apps or services that thrive outside of their ecosystems."

    It is, inevitably, focused on crypto tokens, which provide an economic incentive. If only there was a way to fix things that didn't seem to be driven by making the inventors obscenely rich?


    🤯 Can’t Get You Out of My Head review – Adam Curtis's 'emotional history' is dazzling — "Whether you are convinced or not by the working hypothesis, Can’t Get You Out of My Head is a rush. It is vanishingly rare to be confronted by work so dense, so widely searching and ambitious in scope, so intelligent and respectful of the audience’s intelligence, too. It is rare, also, to watch a project over which one person has evidently been given complete creative freedom and control without any sense of self-indulgence creeping in."

    Adam Curtis' documentary 'Hypernormalisation' blew my mind, and I'm already enjoying the first of these six hour-long documentaries.


    💸 Why Mastercard is bringing crypto onto its network — "We are preparing right now for the future of crypto and payments, announcing that this year Mastercard will start supporting select cryptocurrencies directly on our network. This is a big change that will require a lot of work. We will be very thoughtful about which assets we support based on our principles for digital currencies, which focus on consumer protections and compliance."

    Companies like Mastercard haven't got much of a choice here: they have to either get with the program or risk being replaced. Hopefully it will help simplify what is a confusing picture at the moment. I've had problems recently withdrawing money from cryptocurrency exchanges to my bank accounts.


    👉 Hovering over decline and clicking accept — "There's so much written about self-care. And much of it starts from a good place but falls apart the moment things get hectic. But this idea of Past You working in service of Future You isn't a one-off. It's not a massage you sneak in one Friday morning. The secret hope that 60 minutes of hot rocks will counteract 12 hours a day hunched over a laptop."

    Some good advice in here from the Nightingales, whose book is also worth a read.


    👨‍💻 Praxis and the Indieweb — "If a movement has at its core a significant barrier to entry, then it is always exclusionary. While we’ve already seen that the movement has barriers at ability and personality, it is also true that, as of 2021, there is a significant barrier in terms of monetary resources."

    As I said a year ago in this microcast, I have issues with the IndieWeb and why I'm more of a fan of decentralisation through federation.


    Quotation-as-title by Heraclitus. Image by Saad Chaudhry.

    Continuous eloquence is tedious

    Corner of a high-rise building

    🏭 Ukraine plans huge cryptocurrency mining data centers next to nuclear power plants — "Ukraine's Energoatom followed up [the May 2020] deal with another partnership in October. The state enterprise announced an MoU with Dutch mining company Bitfury to operate multiple data centers near its four nuclear power plants, with a total mining consumption of 2GW."

    It's already impossible to buy graphics cards, due to their GPUs being perfect for crypto mining. That fact doesn't seem like it's going to be resolved anytime soon.


    😔 The unbearable banality of Jeff Bezos — "To put it in Freudian terms, we are talking about the triumph of the consumerist id over the ethical superego. Bezos is a kind of managerial Mephistopheles for our time, who will guarantee you a life of worldly customer ecstasy as long as you avert your eyes from the iniquities being carried out in your name."

    I've started buying less stuff from Amazon; even just removing the app from my phone has made them treat me as just another online shop. I also switched a few years ago from a Kindle to a ePub-based e-reader.


    📱 The great unbundling — "Covid brought shock and a lot of broken habits to tech, but mostly, it accelerates everything that was already changing. 20 trillion dollars of retail, brands, TV and advertising is being overturned, and software is remaking everything from cars to pharma. Meanwhile, China has more smartphone users than Europe and the USA combined, and India is close behind - technology and innovation will be much more widely spread. For that and lots of other reasons, tech is becoming a regulated industry, but if we step over the slogans, what does that actually mean? Tech is entering its second 50 years."

    This is a really interesting presentation (and slide deck). It's been interesting watching Evans build this iteratively over the last few weeks, as he's been sharing his progress on Twitter.


    🗯️ The Coup We Are Not Talking About — "In an information civilization, societies are defined by questions of knowledge — how it is distributed, the authority that governs its distribution and the power that protects that authority. Who knows? Who decides who knows? Who decides who decides who knows? Surveillance capitalists now hold the answers to each question, though we never elected them to govern. This is the essence of the epistemic coup. They claim the authority to decide who knows by asserting ownership rights over our personal information and defend that authority with the power to control critical information systems and infrastructures."

    Zuboff is an interesting character, and her book on surveillance capitalism is a classic. This might article be a little overblown, but it's still an important subject for discussion.


    ☀️ Who Built the Egyptian Pyramids? Not Slaves — "So why do so many people think the Egyptian pyramids were built by slaves? The Greek historian Herodotus seems to have been the first to suggest that was the case. Herodotus has sometimes been called the “father of history.” Other times he's been dubbed the “father of lies.” He claimed to have toured Egypt and wrote that the pyramids were built by slaves. But Herodotus actually lived thousands of years after the fact."

    It's always good to challenge our assumptions, and, perhaps more importantly, analyse why we came to hold them in the first place.


    Quotation-as-title by Blaise Pascal. Image by Victor Forgacs.

    Puertopia

    Dudes make millions (or billions) of dollars via cryptocurrency. Hurricane hits Puerto Rico. They decide to build a new state.

    They call what they are building Puertopia. But then someone told them, apparently in all seriousness, that it translates to “eternal boy playground” in Latin. So they are changing the name: They will call it Sol.
    Oops.

    Puerto Rico offers an unparalleled tax incentive: no federal personal income taxes, no capital gains tax and favorable business taxes — all without having to renounce your American citizenship. For now, the local government seems receptive toward the crypto utopians; the governor will speak at their blockchain summit conference, called Puerto Crypto, in March.

    Of course it does. But look at what they've got planned:

    Some are open to the new wave as a welcome infusion of investment and ideas.

    “We’re open for crypto business,” said Erika Medina-Vecchini, the chief business development officer for the Department of Economic Development and Commerce, in an interview at her office. She said her office was starting an ad campaign aimed at the new crypto expat boom, with the tagline “Paradise Performs.”

    Others worry about the island’s being used for an experiment and talk about “crypto colonialism.” At a house party in San Juan, Richard Lopez, 32, who runs a pizza restaurant, Estella, in the town of Arecibo, said: “I think it’s great. Lure them in with taxes, and they’ll spend money.”

    Andria Satz, 33, who grew up in Old San Juan and works for the Conservation Trust of Puerto Rico, disagreed.

    “We’re the tax playground for the rich,” she said. “We’re the test case for anyone who wants to experiment. Outsiders get tax exemptions, and locals can’t get permits.”

    Interesting times.

    Source: The New York Times