57 votes

Cryptocurrency is an abject disaster

50 comments

  1. [4]
    pallas
    (edited )
    Link
    I have conflicted views on Drew DeVault, as one might gather from my other post here. I could write elsewhere about how they are an online example of my conflicted views on people and behaviour:...
    • Exemplary

    I have conflicted views on Drew DeVault, as one might gather from my other post here. I could write elsewhere about how they are an online example of my conflicted views on people and behaviour: they are frequently frustrating, disagreeable, and dramatic, but the alternative is all too often soullessness. The comments here, however, are an illustration of just the sort of toxic cryptocurrency culture they are complaining about. While in DeVault's typical hyperbolic and confrontational style, their post is ultimately making specific complaints about the culture around cryptocurrency online, the way in which details of cryptocurrency incentivize the abuse of open and community-focused online systems, harm unrelated groups, and corrupt technological creativity and conversation. ‘Every comment online about cryptocurrency is tainted by the fact that the commenter has probably invested thousands of dollars into a Ponzi scheme and is depending on your agreement to make their money back.’—ignoring the tone, the point is that the details surrounding cryptocurrency push people to promote cryptocurrency.

    And what do we see here? Comments ignoring those complaints, and instead promoting cryptocurrency generally. We're told to ‘check out current SEC chair Gary Gensler's course entitled "Blockchain and Money."’ We're told ‘The biggest positive issue of crypto is countries where their currency is being devalued.’ We're told the author simply ‘sees all these people making lots of money so his jealousy has to write this article.’ What does any of this have to do with continuous integration on Sourcehut?

    Cryptocurrency has an enormous culture problem, and it is worth discussing without being confronted with promotion and defence of the underlying technologies. Whatever the virtues and vices of cryptocurrency, the usefulness or uselessness, the community around it has a tendency to behave in toxic ways that make everyone dislike them, and likely dislike cryptocurrency more generally.

    As DeVault laments, cryptocurrency miners desperate for free CPU time to extract miniscule profits for themselves are destroying charitable and cooperative systems in the FLOSS community. Elsewhere, in my experience, Matrix now has an increasingly frustrating problem with cryptocurrency and especially altcoin spam in completely unrelated rooms: try to get help with Debian, or discuss an interesting open project, and you'll likely be confronted with continual spam cryptocurrency posts that need to be removed, to the point where moderators probably need to spend most of their time solely dealing with cryptocurrency spam. If Tildes were more open, it would likely have the same problem. The cryptocurrency community poses a risk to public access servers; to public-interest and scientific computational resources; to honour-system and good-faith systems for electricity use and distribution; to gaming communities… there are so many places where the only, or first, interaction a particular community may have with cryptocurrency is the cryptocurrency community tearing apart their pleasant gardens, making it so they can't have nice things.

    None of this is necessarily a problem with cryptocurrency itself. But the incentives around it right now, and the way the community behave, make people hate it. I have to ask cryptocurrency enthusiasts: is that what you want? Is selling your reputation and tearing up other peoples' gardens worth the gains you hope to make for yourself?

    I remember when multi-level-marketing parties and similar hideousness of incentive-based social product selling were popular. On rare occasions, my family would be invited to such things without the nature of the event being clear. The problem was not the products. They may have been reasonable. The problem was the way the system, and the communities around it, abused social interaction, etiquette, and friendship to try to sell products. So, when the the sales pitches started, we'd quietly thank the host for inviting us, apologize for the confusion we had about the nature of the invitation, and never accept an invitation from them again. MLM poisoned invitations: you couldn't know whether they were actually social invitations because the host wanted you to come to their party, or an attempt at profit-seeking social extortion.

    (I do have some cryptocurrency holdings, though I would not be materially impacted by all cryptocurrency becoming worthless.)

    42 votes
    1. skybrian
      (edited )
      Link Parent
      Every link about cryptocurrency becomes a place to air your opinions about cryptocurrency generally. This is generally true for some controversial subjects. It can be repetitive but I don’t think...

      Every link about cryptocurrency becomes a place to air your opinions about cryptocurrency generally. This is generally true for some controversial subjects. It can be repetitive but I don’t think there’s much that can be done?

      I guess we could try a little harder to stay on topic, but because this is a link to a post condemning cryptocurrency generally, it’s not clear that it’s even off-topic?

      This is how contempt works: when you condemn X, it starts a debate about whether X is really worthy of contempt. You don’t even have to like X very much to argue that maybe wholesale condemnation is going too far and it’s not quite as black-and-white as it seems. But if we’re taking the contempt trial seriously (and maybe we shouldn’t), that means you have to study X. And then here we are, studying and debating the thing we dislike.

      I’m not sure there is any way out, other than having a rule that we’re not going to debate whether certain things are worthy of contempt. This would suggest not sharing links condemning cryptocurrency, even though many of us agree that it’s pretty problematic. Or maybe not discussing them? Or maybe make it a personal rule not to debate certain things.

      Or we could say that it’s a topic people are interested in and the discussions about it are okay-ish.

      10 votes
    2. [2]
      HoolaBoola
      Link Parent
      The link seems to point to this same comment - did you make a mistake or is my Tildes bugging?

      I have conflicted views on Drew DeVault, as one might gather from my other post here.

      The link seems to point to this same comment - did you make a mistake or is my Tildes bugging?

      3 votes
      1. cfabbro
        (edited )
        Link Parent
        The comment that pallas linked to was made in reply to a now collapsed, "noise" labeled comment, which breaks the HTML anchor. It's a known issue. If you want to see it, click "Expand all" near...

        The comment that pallas linked to was made in reply to a now collapsed, "noise" labeled comment, which breaks the HTML anchor. It's a known issue.

        If you want to see it, click "Expand all" near the top of this page before clicking the link, or scroll down and expand the collapsed comment at the very bottom of the page.

        3 votes
  2. [3]
    userexec
    Link
    I feel that. I accept bitcoin in my shop, but I learned pretty quick not to say the forbidden word "bitcoin" on most social media because the scammers' bots will dump all over your comment section...

    Every comment online about cryptocurrency is tainted by the fact that the commenter has probably invested thousands of dollars into a Ponzi scheme and is depending on your agreement to make their money back.

    I feel that. I accept bitcoin in my shop, but I learned pretty quick not to say the forbidden word "bitcoin" on most social media because the scammers' bots will dump all over your comment section with get-rich-quick crap and de-class the whole place. The last thing you want under your product is a bunch of people trying to outright scam your customers. So much cleanup.

    Disclosure as the author suggests, I put $400 or so into doge and litecoin ASIC mining as a side project while learning Linux back in 2014, then converted it into bitcoin when I could no longer keep up. I'm still invested. It's not a life-changing amount, but it is enough that I have to be careful my opinions aren't colored by it being there.

    21 votes
    1. [2]
      babypuncher
      Link Parent
      The more time goes on, the more glad I am that the extent of my crypto "investments" is some dogecoin mining I did on hardware I already owned for a month or two in 2014. And it was during winter,...

      The more time goes on, the more glad I am that the extent of my crypto "investments" is some dogecoin mining I did on hardware I already owned for a month or two in 2014. And it was during winter, so my apartment was getting "free" heat out of it.

      5 votes
      1. meatrocket
        Link Parent
        I mined .1ETH and then lost my wallet key. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

        I mined .1ETH and then lost my wallet key. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

        5 votes
  3. [19]
    bloup
    Link
    I agree with basically everything the author writes. But it is very important not to lose sight that the problems that motivated the development of cryptocurrency in the first place still exist...

    I agree with basically everything the author writes. But it is very important not to lose sight that the problems that motivated the development of cryptocurrency in the first place still exist and still need serious solutions. There needs to be a real electronic alternative to physical cash. We cannot have a world that operates solely on credit doled out by the owning class, and literal physical money is practically an anachronism at this point.

    Also, I have never held crypto, ever, and definitely am not planning on it anytime soon.

    13 votes
    1. [18]
      NaraVara
      Link Parent
      Mobile banking has basically solved all these problems in the developing world. The United States just hasn't caught on because there's an industry of predatory lenders lobbying to keep our system...

      Mobile banking has basically solved all these problems in the developing world. The United States just hasn't caught on because there's an industry of predatory lenders lobbying to keep our system broken. The solution for that is political reform rather than crypto.

      Also, AOC is putting out a bill to establish postal banking that could address many of these challenges as well.

      19 votes
      1. [16]
        bloup
        Link Parent
        These things do not solve the problems I speak of at all. Access to financial services is a separate issue. It should be simply possible to be custodian of your own financial assets without having...

        These things do not solve the problems I speak of at all. Access to financial services is a separate issue. It should be simply possible to be custodian of your own financial assets without having to involve some kind of external party that you literally just have to trust, and it should be possible to do this without physical tokens. This is the problem we need to solve. And I really find it troubling everyone seems to be a-okay with just handing over the keys to multinational for-profit banks because we didn’t work out the kinks in crypto.

        12 votes
        1. [11]
          mat
          Link Parent
          So, um, how does crypto solve that issue? Every other month you hear about someone running off with a bunch of the stuff. In many places anyone can set up an exchange with barely a whiff of...

          It should be simply possible to be custodian of your own financial assets without having to involve some kind of external party that you literally just have to trust

          So, um, how does crypto solve that issue? Every other month you hear about someone running off with a bunch of the stuff. In many places anyone can set up an exchange with barely a whiff of regulation, wait for people to hand over their money, walk away. You can't do that in most countries if you're a bank because contrary to your claim, you don't have to "just trust" banks because of large, powerful, legally robust regulatory systems to mean that trust is well deserved. Banks hate regulation but regulation is why you can trust banks. But apparently it's just fine if you trust some random dude with a laptop for no reason at all. Talk about 'troubling' - what's troubling is that out of the available options, people would think crypto is the safer place to put their money!

          And I really find it troubling everyone seems to be a-okay with just handing over the keys to multinational for-profit banks because we didn’t work out the kinks in crypto.

          I mean you're entitled to your opinion but the banking system works. Why wouldn't I use a system that works? It's not perfect but it's a hell of a lot better than all the other options. It's like saying that roads suck and complaining that we have to take driving tests when the alternative is launching yourself into the sky in a barely-tested rocket car made by a teenager and given away for free. I don't disagree that roads suck but the alternative is far suckier.

          Also fwiw my bank isn't a for-profit, it's customer-owned. I am a custodian of my own financial assets, such as they are, and the only tokens involved are the cards I use rather than setting up those cards on my phone. Which I could do but choose not to.

          Also it's worth noting that a lot of the "kinks" in most crypto are designed-in and unsolvable in it's current form. Bitcoin will literally never take over from VISA's settlement system even if the banks wanted it to - even if we all wanted all our transactions to live in public forever (I certainly don't, and I barely give a fuck about privacy, how the privacy people somehow glommed onto bitcoin for privacy is beyond baffling) it is just not possible for the Bitcoin blockchain to get anywhere close to fast enough

          9 votes
          1. [10]
            bloup
            (edited )
            Link Parent
            Crypto makes it so you don't have to trust anybody. It doesn't make it so you can trust anybody. Huge difference. Those people got screwed, but the point is none of them had to use these services...

            So, um, how does crypto solve that issue? Every other month you hear about someone running off with a bunch of the stuff

            Crypto makes it so you don't have to trust anybody. It doesn't make it so you can trust anybody. Huge difference. Those people got screwed, but the point is none of them had to use these services if they just wanted to participate in the system. With cryptocurrency, there is an equivalent to keeping some emergency cash on hand in your house. This is the analogy to cash, in that "you don't have to trust anyone" because that cash exists and as long as you do what you're supposed to and manage to keep it safe, it's not going anywhere. You can't do this if you can't have money unless it's in a bank account.

            Why wouldn't I use a system that works?

            I guess this is really an entirely separate discussion but personally I look at all the misery in the world that seems to be directly caused by the global financial system and can hardly say it "just works". I mean, regulations are great and all, but I mean even here in the US, I see how banks constantly screw over regular American people all the time. Like how can you say that, living through the Great Recession and its consequences for large financial institutions? And that's just here! Go look at how multinational banks finance the plunder of the third world if you want some real horror. I don't want anything to do with them!

            I'm glad you use a credit union or mutual bank, I wish everyone did. I refuse to allow myself to become dependent on any other sort of financial institution. But, why? I mean, I use credit unions for basically all the same reasons that I think people should not write off cryptocurrency... I think, if we had a global co-op economy and financial institutions were all owned by their members, a trust based financial system would be totally fine, but we absolutely do not live in a world even remotely resembling that. Currently the global financial system is completely dominated by extremely wealthy private for-profit institutions that hardly see cooperative banking as any kind of threat, and as long as that's the case it's a really dumb idea for people to essentially cede control of their finances to these institutions. I mean it's great you're in a credit union, but that's hardly the case for everybody!

            Also it's worth noting that a lot of the "kinks" in most crypto are designed-in and unsolvable in it's current form.

            I don't really understand this statement. Like yeah, things with problems always will have those problems until you fix them... i.e. "change them so they are no longer in their 'current' form".

            8 votes
            1. [8]
              mat
              Link Parent
              Well, you sort of do. All settlement (including cash) is a consensus trust system except with a lot of modern crypto that trust is breakable by design. Throw enough compute at it and you can gain...

              Crypto makes it so you don't have to trust anybody

              Well, you sort of do. All settlement (including cash) is a consensus trust system except with a lot of modern crypto that trust is breakable by design. Throw enough compute at it and you can gain trust over any blockchain. Look up 51% attacks. They're quite popular these days, lots of smaller blockchains getting taken over and their contents siphoned off. The last estimate I saw said that to gain trust over the bitcoin blockchain would cost about a quarter of a million dollars an hour in compute resources, which given the value of that blockchain, ain't that much...

              I look at all the misery in the world that seems to be directly caused by the global financial system and can hardly say it "just works"

              Well, don't confuse the products of global capitalism with a modern digital financial settlement system. People are getting the shit end of the stick of finance related stuff regardless of how transactions are settled. Crypto doesn't do it any better, in fact it is worse because being so poorly regulated it's much more prone to scams and ripoffs. The basic mechanism of me having some digital cash in an account and being able to spend that cash pretty much anywhere in the world is the bit that works that I'm talking about.

              The ridiculous structure of global trading, financial gambling, predatory lending and so on is not the same thing as merely conducting transactions. You could still have all that awful stuff with bitcoin or eth or whatever running the backend. That it's currently dollars or euros or whatever is irrelevant. The tokens don't matter. But at least dollars don't cost the planet to create.

              I don't really understand this statement. Like yeah, things with problems always will have those problems until you fix them... i.e. "change them so they are no longer in their 'current' form".

              The point is that you cannot "fix" BTC and still have BTC at the end of it. Bitcoin is fundamentally not possible to turn into the thing it needs to be to solve the problems you want it to solve. Could another system be, sure but would it be recognisable as a cryptocurrency? Not sure.

              6 votes
              1. [7]
                bloup
                (edited )
                Link Parent
                yes, but if people didn't "like" those things (and who does, except for the few bloodsuckers who profit off of it), they could just take their ball and go home and that is literally all I want...

                You could still have all that awful stuff with bitcoin or eth or whatever running the backend. That it's currently dollars or euros or whatever is irrelevant. The tokens don't matter. But at least dollars don't cost the planet to create.

                yes, but if people didn't "like" those things (and who does, except for the few bloodsuckers who profit off of it), they could just take their ball and go home and that is literally all I want people to understand.

                And I am sick of this energy consumption talking point. It's a dealbreaking problem in many of the earliest implementations of a brand new technology and I won't even argue with you on that... I don't really understand why so many people think I am advocating for existing cryptocurrencies when if anything I hoped I made it quite clear that I myself am extremely critical of how they are now. But why do you think it can't be fixed?

                The point is that you cannot "fix" BTC and still have BTC at the end of it. Bitcoin is fundamentally not possible to turn into the thing it needs to be to solve the problems you want it to solve.

                I literally don't care about bitcoin. Bitcoin is shit. It's broken, it's a failure, it'll never succeed at what it set out to do, holy shit please stop talking to me about how bad bitcoin is because the first comment I made on this post was "I agree with basically everything the author of this bitcoin-hating article has to say about bitcoin".

                Could another system be, sure but would it be recognisable as a cryptocurrency? Not sure.

                Homie, if all it takes for me to get you on board with what I'm talking about is for me to not call it "cryptocurrency" then you can call it whatever you want. But it really sounds like you are just creating a definition of "cryptocurrency" where "if it's good, it can't be cryptocurrency". Like, "cryptocurrency" is not exactly a "well-defined" idea... There are literally "cryptocurrencies" that are just straight 1 to 1 USD backed up by an audited cash account and nobody has a problem calling them "cryptocurrencies".

                5 votes
                1. [6]
                  mat
                  Link Parent
                  The thing is, I don't think your problem is with the current financial settlement system. I think your problem is with predatory capitalism. And I'm 100% there with you on that. But Whatevercoin...

                  The thing is, I don't think your problem is with the current financial settlement system. I think your problem is with predatory capitalism. And I'm 100% there with you on that. But Whatevercoin doesn't fix that any more than the dollar causes it.

                  The point I don't think I'm making very clear is that when it comes to moving value around, the tokens you use to do that don't matter. You can make whatever system for transacting value you want and people will almost immediately find ways to use it to fuck other people over. The issue isn't technology, it's people. We can't fix people by inventing a different form of money, all we do is give them different ways to fuck each other over. You know the most effective way to fix the people problem? Regulation. Laws. Government. Which is why banks are still better than crypto. For a variable value of better depending on how corrupt your locale is.

                  Oh, and the "please stop going on about how crypto is helping destroy the planet" line doesn't really wash with me. It's a major issue, much more so than just some new tech needing optimisation, using terrifying quantities of power is a designed in feature of most major cryptocurrencies and it's not going away. While I still have to live on this planet I'm not shutting up about people pointlessly wrecking it just to invent some new numbers to sell each other, and I'm sorry if that's annoying, but maybe stop being part of the problem and people will stop bothering you about it.

                  8 votes
                  1. [4]
                    Chrozera
                    Link Parent
                    I feel like this is not completely correct, as many cryptocurrencies are going towards a proof of stake model which is a lot more power-efficient. Even Eth is planning to move to such a structure...

                    It's a major issue, much more so than just some new tech needing optimisation, using terrifying quantities of power is a designed in feature of most major cryptocurrencies and it's not going away.

                    I feel like this is not completely correct, as many cryptocurrencies are going towards a proof of stake model which is a lot more power-efficient. Even Eth is planning to move to such a structure I think. So it's definitely something that is being worked on. So right now crypto pretty thrash for the environment, but pretending it be as bad as it's now is what it forever will be is a bit much.
                    Other than that I agree with your points though.

                    2 votes
                    1. [3]
                      mat
                      Link Parent
                      Eth has been promising PoS "soon" for years and if they actually gave a shit they'd have done it a long time ago. There's no technical reason not to do it, but the people involved are currently...

                      Eth has been promising PoS "soon" for years and if they actually gave a shit they'd have done it a long time ago. There's no technical reason not to do it, but the people involved are currently very happily swimming around in free money the upper echelons of a wildly successful Ponzi scheme so why would they?

                      It sounds hyperbolic but when you think about it, I think it's perfectly reasonable to suggest the people running such things should be in prison for crimes against humanity.

                      4 votes
                      1. [2]
                        Cycloneblaze
                        Link Parent
                        It is hyperbolic - because if there was any slim chance of any nation actually prosecuting anyone for crimes against humanity, there is undoubtedly a long line of people who should go ahead of...

                        It sounds hyperbolic but when you think about it, I think it's perfectly reasonable to suggest the people running such things should be in prison for crimes against humanity.

                        It is hyperbolic - because if there was any slim chance of any nation actually prosecuting anyone for crimes against humanity, there is undoubtedly a long line of people who should go ahead of cryptocurrency people.

                        3 votes
                        1. mat
                          Link Parent
                          Ah, the old "but other people are doing different bad things so these bad things don't count" defence. A legal classic, I think we can all agree.

                          Ah, the old "but other people are doing different bad things so these bad things don't count" defence. A legal classic, I think we can all agree.

                  2. [2]
                    Comment removed by site admin
                    Link Parent
                    1. Deimos
                      (edited )
                      Link Parent
                      Alright, this is starting to drift into personal attacks now, so it's over. Don't post again in this topic.

                      Alright, this is starting to drift into personal attacks now, so it's over. Don't post again in this topic.

                      7 votes
            2. petrichor
              Link Parent
              So if this money is going to be stored for a bit, why wouldn't I just purchase something useful like gold that isn't subject to the same price volatility as cryptocurrencies?

              With cryptocurrency, there is an equivalent to keeping some emergency cash on hand in your house.

              So if this money is going to be stored for a bit, why wouldn't I just purchase something useful like gold that isn't subject to the same price volatility as cryptocurrencies?

              2 votes
        2. [4]
          NaraVara
          Link Parent
          There is literally no social value in the thing you’re describing. I talked about the problems crypto can theoretically solve that do have value. The thing is, the stuff I mentioned manages to...

          There is literally no social value in the thing you’re describing. I talked about the problems crypto can theoretically solve that do have value. The thing is, the stuff I mentioned manages to solve these problems more elegantly and safely than crypto does without a ruinous a carbon footprint or needing 20 minutes to clear a transaction.

          Commerce is inherently a social thing. It depends on societal consensus to actually work. Even if crypto was actually functional as a currency (which it isn’t), it wouldn’t actually have any practical value if the banks and governments aren’t interested. And if they are, then all it’s value is, once again, contingent on their support for it.

          5 votes
          1. [3]
            bloup
            (edited )
            Link Parent
            Simply being able to have total financial control over your life has tremendous social value. We live in a world dominated by for profit financial institutions that do not serve you, but rather...

            Simply being able to have total financial control over your life has tremendous social value. We live in a world dominated by for profit financial institutions that do not serve you, but rather use your needs as a vehicle to make even more money for themselves. Anytime they figure it'll suit their interests to sell you out, they will every single time. We see it happen over and over again, and you want to give more power to these institutions?

            I mean, honestly, I think cryptocurrency is really only a technology that is necessary in a world where a person really has no good reason to trust banks, because they put profit before your needs. Like if anything, you should trust them to sell you out every single time it suits their interests because that would just be good business. If people hate the idea of cryptocurrency so much, or think it's really impossible to solve the problems they perceive with it, then I think the rational response would not be to naively reject the very important considerations I bring up, but to start advocating for the cooperatization of financial institutions... In other words, if you want me to trust banks so bad, structure literally all the banks in the world so that the business owner literally can't sell out the customers because they are the same thing.

            it wouldn’t actually have any practical value if the banks...aren’t interested.

            I mean, don't you realize that a successful cryptocurrency that was actually up to the standards you have set would completely undermine the power of the privately owned global financial system because it would make it possible for people to easily "opt out" of it if they don't like what banks do, so of course banks "aren't interested" and never will be? Honestly, it's sort of the whole point of why it's so important...

            And for what it's worth, I'm really only saying

            we should all think very hard to try and solve the problems NaraVara describes because a cryptocurrency that was able to work as well as NaraVara describes would be a tremendous social good for the world as it exists now and I personally do not see any reason to think these problems are necessarily intractable.

            5 votes
            1. [2]
              NaraVara
              Link Parent
              That’s the thing. You don’t, even with crypto. This is why I said currency is a social construct. Money doesn’t mean anything without a social consensus that it should. This is even true of...

              Simply being able to have total financial control over your life has tremendous social value.

              That’s the thing. You don’t, even with crypto. This is why I said currency is a social construct. Money doesn’t mean anything without a social consensus that it should. This is even true of tangible things like gold. It only has value because people agree it’s appropriate to use as a medium of exchange. If crypto is actually useful as a currency, all the institutions that people do business with will need to accept it or people just won’t adopt it. And then you’re back to square one where the banks and governments have control over the money supply. You can’t have your cake and eat it to. Currently all crypto is good for is facilitating black market transactions, something for which there is no social value in doing.

              Just saying “BUT BANKS” with spooky overtones isn’t really an argument for anything. If you’re using crypto as your store of value and medium of exchange, then the crypto markets end up with all the perverse incentives that banks do, only with no actual oversight or regulations. And we’ve already established that this is primarily a technology used by criminals to engage in fraud and criminal activity, so you’re not exactly dealing with upstanding citizens who care about you or the common good here. This is nothing but a speculative asset bubble and I’m coming around on the argument that most people posting about it online are engaged in bad faith attempts to keep inflating it.

              mean, don't you realize that a successful cryptocurrency that was actually up to the standards you have set would completely undermine the power of the privately owned global financial system because it would make it possible for people to easily "opt out" of it if they don't like what banks do, so of course banks "aren't interested" and never will be?

              Do you think banks got big by just being idiots who can’t figure out what every script kiddie with a GPU could? You don’t think that if crypto actually became anything more than a speculative bubble and a convenient way to dodge taxes that banks wouldn’t just corner the market on it? As if any consortium of wealth couldn’t just execute a 51% attack?

              You’re stuck in this mindset where you think money means anything. Just the dollars and cents value means nothing. It only has value insofar as it gives you access to goods and services. As long as there needs to be some interface to real value, as in goods and services, they’re always going to have leverage over the economy. Whatever Byzantine boondoggle people want to nerd out over to keep score of who owns what is immaterial. It wouldn’t undermine shit but the climate. If it was actually useful for what it’s supposed to do they would just control the market. They’re not interested because it sucks. It sucks at it’s ostensible purpose. Insofar as they are interested, they’re interested in it for the handful of things it’s actually good for. Speculation and arbitrage, black market transactions, bribes, political corruption, tax evasion, and illegal activity.

              12 votes
              1. Macil
                (edited )
                Link Parent
                There's not a binary between trusting everyone and trusting nobody. Cryptocurrency lets you cut out the middlemen of banks and payment services. Obviously if you're buying a physical item, you...

                There's not a binary between trusting everyone and trusting nobody. Cryptocurrency lets you cut out the middlemen of banks and payment services. Obviously if you're buying a physical item, you have to trust that the seller will actually send the item and will send the correct thing, but just because you have to trust them doesn't mean that there's no downsides to having middlemen involved with the payment.

                About once a year, I have some payment or another fail to get through because some system decides the way I'm using my money is unusual (like buying something in a new city I'm visiting, buying a gift card for a friend, etc) and I have to call customer support to get my account unlocked, and sometimes it's not until days later that things are straightened out. Thankfully I use a few different credit card and payment services and I'm usually able to switch to another whenever one gets locked, but it seems like a matter of time before I have multiple act up at the same time and lock me out of accomplishing something. (It wouldn't even necessarily take a coincidence: if a payment gets blocked because I'm in an unusual place or buying an unusual thing, then it's likely that my other accounts' fraud prevention systems might flag it for the same thing.)

                I hate the feeling of powerlessness knowing that critical things I depend on in my life are up to the whims of some company that arbitrarily cuts me off, that there's rarely ways for me to make the company pay more attention to me, and I can't do anything to make the account recovery process quicker, more dependable, or more transparent. (While calling customer support to unlock my Amazon+AWS account recently, I was told that if I couldn't answer certain security questions I would not be able to reactivate the account, and one of the questions was a strange one about past purchases that I feel like I got right by luck.) I know there's ways I could mess up with cryptocurrency and lose it, but I can be careful and avoid those. It's my responsibility in the same way it's my responsibility to not lose track of physical cash. I can put in effort to make issues less likely by keeping backups, by using a hardware wallet, by using a multisig wallet, etc. I can't put in effort with middlemen companies to make my account with them less at their whim.

                If crypto is actually useful as a currency, all the institutions that people do business with will need to accept it or people just won’t adopt it.

                PayPal isn't supported universally, but it's still very useful. I think a lot of people (many cryptocurrency fans and critics alike) get a false idea that cryptocurrency is only useful if it dethrones the USD and world governments, but it can be useful as like an open PayPal alternative.

                And then you’re back to square one where the banks and governments have control over the money supply.

                I personally don't have any trouble with the idea of the government or banks controlling the supply and value of USD. I don't think the entirety of the value of cryptocurrency comes from it being separately valued from USD; I think the value of cryptocurrency comes from the direct control it gives people. There are popular cryptocurrencies like DAI which have their value pegged to USD and have a nonvolatile value. It's my favorite. I think the existence of stablecoins like DAI should make anyone who thought the only point of cryptocurrency was price speculation reconsider their belief. (I wouldn't argue against the point that most attention in cryptocurrency has been because of price speculation, but that doesn't make the decentralization benefits not real.)

                (Side point: unlike cryptocurrencies with volatile prices, one minor benefit of stablecoins like DAI is that you know anyone talking about it isn't doing it to increase the value of their own holdings, and really is speaking for the claimed decentralization benefits. I think it's a fair point in the original article that regular cryptocurrencies make it really hard to determine whether people pushing them are doing it to get rich or for the decentralization benefits.)

                Currently all crypto is good for is facilitating black market transactions, something for which there is no social value in doing.

                I disagree with both parts of this. I wouldn't be surprised if crypto was mostly used for black market transactions at some very early point, but I don't think it's an exclusive use for it and I'd be surprised if it made up a noticeable percentage of use of cryptocurrency nowadays. (To believe otherwise would imply that black markets have been significantly taking off with the crypto price boom of the last few years.)

                But I also disagree with the idea of black market transactions having no value. I think there's value in escape hatches existing in the rules of society when the rules are imperfect. I enjoy weed sometimes, and I think many people agree that restrictions around it in most places have been hugely detrimental. I live in a state where it's legal, but if I were in another state, I would prefer to have the option to pay for it online. I've purchased an xbox development kit years ago on ebay, but ebay and paypal have at times had rules against buying and selling those since they're generally covered by NDAs. I'm not entirely sure if I can objectively justify that specific rule-breaking, but it seems to me like a low level of mischief like that should be technically possible in society.

                Then there are things that should be allowed that aren't specifically against the law, but continuously get prohibited by all payment processors because they don't prioritize these things. I know people who commission NSFW furry art, and there's lots of discussions about various payment processors adding too wide of rules with the intent of prohibiting sex work that may affect people commissioning NSFW art. Companies selling porn and companies selling weed where it's legal often have trouble finding payment processors that will work with them, and often are forced to turn to unreliable companies or give up because it's too hard dealing with payment processors.

                An argument can be made that black markets shouldn't be allowed under any circumstance and that effort should instead be placed on improving the regulations, but ... is there any shortage of effort in people pushing for improved laws? And regardless of that effort, it's apparent that changing rules requires lots of time. In the meantime while we have imperfect rules, there's value in these escape hatches.

                (I think it's more than fair to criticize the environmental costs of PoW cryptocurrency and mining. I'm excited by seeing the progress that the second most popular cryptocurrency is making in switching away from PoW mining to the eco-friendly proof-of-stake system, and the falling dominance of PoW-based Bitcoin. I hope to see this trend continue to abolish the huge impact of mining.)

                7 votes
      2. Parliament
        Link Parent
        Postal banking would be awesome. When I lived in France, it was really useful to have banking and postal services in one place, and it would have such a positive impact on underserved communities.

        Postal banking would be awesome. When I lived in France, it was really useful to have banking and postal services in one place, and it would have such a positive impact on underserved communities.

        7 votes
  4. [4]
    archevel
    Link
    It is a bit sad that cryptocurrencies seem like mostly Ponzi schemes of some sort. It might be different in 10 years, but currently to me it just seems toxic. I also still haven't really figured...

    Maybe your cryptocurrency is different. But look: you’re in really poor company. When you’re the only honest person in the room, maybe you should be in a different room.

    It is a bit sad that cryptocurrencies seem like mostly Ponzi schemes of some sort. It might be different in 10 years, but currently to me it just seems toxic. I also still haven't really figured out a good usecase for them that solves problems that's not already solved and have wide applicability. Then again I'm no expert.

    11 votes
    1. [2]
      nacho
      Link Parent
      There is absolutely no reason why today's cryptocurrencies should be or will be the ones that may gain mainstream adoption in a decade. To the contrary, there are very specific reasons for why...

      There is absolutely no reason why today's cryptocurrencies should be or will be the ones that may gain mainstream adoption in a decade.

      To the contrary, there are very specific reasons for why both Bitcoin, Dogecoin and all the rest are worse at being currencies than almost any new cryptocurrency someone creates.

      Additionally, there's absolutely no reason we should believe that a decentralized cryptocurrency without the backing of a large, economic powerhose (be that country, company, consortium or whatever) will be able to out-compete the exact same technology that is backed by such an entity.

      I think your point is even more powerful though: Just because some people think blockchain technology can solve problems in the future that need solving, there's no real use of crypto today, except for buying drugs or doing other illegal things. Then the blockchain itself documenting all transactions permanently, well, I wouldn't want to use crypto for those things either.

      15 votes
      1. Micycle_the_Bichael
        Link Parent
        I'd say the only crypto worth believing could be the one to gain mainstream adoption would be ETH.

        I'd say the only crypto worth believing could be the one to gain mainstream adoption would be ETH.

        5 votes
    2. NaraVara
      Link Parent
      It is very good if you want to do black-market dealings. Of course why we'd want to make that easier is an open question.

      I also still haven't really figured out a good usecase for them that solves problems that's not already solved and have wide applicability.

      It is very good if you want to do black-market dealings.

      Of course why we'd want to make that easier is an open question.

      3 votes
  5. [3]
    oxy
    (edited )
    Link
    One of the things that stand out to me, and something that I can relate to from my peers, is how cryptocurrency has encouraged people to abuse CI infrastructure to try and make a quick buck, at...

    One of the things that stand out to me, and something that I can relate to from my peers, is how cryptocurrency has encouraged people to abuse CI infrastructure to try and make a quick buck, at the detriment to many free tiers, and to many open source projects.

    A non-insignificant amount of time now has to be spent in the arms-race between CI/free tier spammers who are trying to make money off of your infrastructure, and then engineers who could otherwise be working on features to try and write detections - this has been a thing for VPS providers with free trials, for CI providers, for other service providers like cloud IDEs (my company used to be in this space, but we exited.) (EDIT: we exited the consumer hosted space for a while, we still provide software for enterprises to host.) I keep hearing about the wasted resources mining crypto, and the engineering time spent writing detections.

    In addition to this, there's also the added pressure on open-source maintainers because of spam PRs that add cryptominers to GitHub Actions, which has led to running actions requiring manual approval, and maintainers having to deal with spam...

    Attaching value to CPU time doing nothing but crunching hashes is probably one of the worse things to happen for services that provide CPU time to open source projects as an act of gratitude.

    10 votes
    1. [2]
      tesseractcat
      Link Parent
      Free CPU time is inherently valuable, I think this would be inevitable either way, if not cryptocurrency some other valuable form of compute.

      Free CPU time is inherently valuable, I think this would be inevitable either way, if not cryptocurrency some other valuable form of compute.

      3 votes
      1. MimicSquid
        Link Parent
        For decades that time was spent searching for extraterrestrial life, or crunching protein folding, or something else that had a broad social benefit. For it to have been converted to private...

        For decades that time was spent searching for extraterrestrial life, or crunching protein folding, or something else that had a broad social benefit. For it to have been converted to private monetization is kinda sad.

        9 votes
  6. [3]
    vaddi
    (edited )
    Link
    This is the part of the post that I find more valuable. I've been following him for sometime now, and while I share many of his views and can understand the reasoning behind the ones I don't...

    This rant has been a long time coming and is probably one of the most justified expressions of anger I've written for this blog yet. However, it will probably be the last one.

    I realize that my blog has been a source of a lot of negativity in the past, and I regret how harsh I've been with some of the projects I've criticised. I will make my arguments by example going forward: if I think we can do better, I'll do it better, instead of criticising those who are just earnestly trying their best.

    Thanks for reading 🙂 Let's keep making the software world a better place.

    This is the part of the post that I find more valuable. I've been following him for sometime now, and while I share many of his views and can understand the reasoning behind the ones I don't completely agree with, it is clear that a lot of people dismiss stuff that he says because of his tone and overall style. Personally I find it unfortunate because he often makes intelligent remarks and tries to push the use of technology in directions that benefits users and communities.

    The issues used to start when he was not able to suppress his high standards (maybe utopian) when discussing other projects in public, and in my opinion ended up hurting the scene more than making it better.

    An example of it is when discussing the Matrix open standard and communication protocol.
    If you read his blog he clearly hates stuff like WhatsApp, Slack, Discord, or any proprietary stuff for that matter. He personally uses and likes IRC. He is also a proponent FOSS contributor and promoter.
    However he used to heavily criticize Matrix because he finds that the protocol is too complicated and the code quality does not live up to his standards (he also hates the fact that you can enter IRC channels through Matrix and spam IRC because Matrix allows sending stuff that IRC is not capable of handling). The problem is that the way he used to share his view regarding this topic, because it was inflammatory, ended up dividing people instead of making people gather and try to improve Matrix, a FOSS project. One can argue that the tech is over complicated, but it is the best that we have right now (for the use case that the general public cares about, having a FOSS Slack clone) . So what is the point of being negative about it and making other people feel negative too, while probably making the developers sad (some of whom contribute in their free time)?

    Now he has a company and isn't just a guy with public projects. I've seen many people on hackernews and lobste.rs write that they don't want to use his stuff mainly because of his aggressiveness, which is a shame because he produces good stuff.

    I'm glad he is trying to change his ways.

    10 votes
    1. [2]
      fleg
      Link Parent
      My favorite part of that post about instant messaging he practically described XMPP, but based on JSON. When asked about that in the email his answer was more or less "XMPP had its chance and it's...

      My favorite part of that post about instant messaging he practically described XMPP, but based on JSON.
      When asked about that in the email his answer was more or less "XMPP had its chance and it's not relevant anymore".

      Guess what, XMPP is still developed, stuff for XMPP is still being developed and maintained, people are using it, even companies are basing their (some open, some closed source) products on it. If not his negative approach towards it maybe he'd find what he was looking for.

      4 votes
      1. vaddi
        (edited )
        Link Parent
        Just to clarify, regarding Matrix I wasn't talking about a specific blog post. The type of language and tone that I was describing was mainly used on his now defunct mastodon (which he stated...

        My favorite part of that post about instant messaging

        Just to clarify, regarding Matrix I wasn't talking about a specific blog post. The type of language and tone that I was describing was mainly used on his now defunct mastodon (which he stated being for shitposting though), hackernews and lobsters when engaging with other people.

        1 vote
  7. streblo
    Link
    I still am looking for an explanation into the long term stability of PoW cryptocurrency. A fully mined coin has to combat increased compute power for tens and hundreds of years after the last...

    I still am looking for an explanation into the long term stability of PoW cryptocurrency.

    A fully mined coin has to combat increased compute power for tens and hundreds of years after the last block is mined. To incentivize miners to keep investing in mining hardware at that point you need constant growth of transaction fees.

    Either the coin collapses as transaction fees eat increasingly larger shares of your wealth and people flee to newer currencies or the coin is supposed to inflate in value in perpetuity in a matter totally detached from supply and demand. Neither seems really beneficial and the former seems more likely than the latter.

    7 votes
  8. skybrian
    Link
    I think the value of cryptocurrency in countries like Venezuela is roughly similar to the value of having a black market. (The cryptocurrency makes the black market a bit more efficient as the...

    I think the value of cryptocurrency in countries like Venezuela is roughly similar to the value of having a black market. (The cryptocurrency makes the black market a bit more efficient as the black marketers use it to get large sums of money out of the country.) The black market operators are probably corrupt insiders with connections, but if there wasn’t a black market at all, maybe things would be even worse?

    In better-run countries there is less need for such things, but I don’t feel like I can judge what people do in desperate circumstances and therefore don’t think its value can be entirely dismissed. Maybe informal markets are saving lives in India during the current crisis?

    A cryptocurrency market crash would greatly reduce incentives for stealing CPU time so there’s some hope that it isn’t a permanent problem. And I hope Etherium’s switch to proof-of-stake works out.

    Disclosure: I bought 5 ETH a while ago, sold one during the previous spike to get my money back, and now I’m just holding onto it so I don’t regret it if it goes up a lot more. Also dabbled in Dogecoin and sold a long time ago in a bit of cleanup. I guess hanging onto small, weird investments is sometimes worthwhile, just in case?

    5 votes
  9. [3]
    nothis
    Link
    [Disclaimer: About $1500, but probably +/-20% since I haven't checked in the last hour.] It's shit. But it just. Doesn't. Want. To. Die! What to make of this? The best argument for crypto is that...

    [Disclaimer: About $1500, but probably +/-20% since I haven't checked in the last hour.]

    It's shit. But it just. Doesn't. Want. To. Die! What to make of this? The best argument for crypto is that it's basically paper money for the digital world or maybe, more accurately, a digital gold standard. It takes a ton of processing power but I've seen arguments that its environmental impact is still much lower than gold mining.

    I don't feel great about it like, say, solar power or Wikipedia, all of which solve real problems. Cryptocurrencies solve an abstract problem about how to automate proving you paid for something in a way no one involved can deny it. Efficiency is besides the point since encryption can't be computationally efficient, almost by definition. I wonder, if you unfuddled all the encryption done in computer systems nowadays, every bank login, every secured chat message, etc, it would probably a similarly mind-blowing figure as the "more electricity than Argentina" numbers.

    I think it's rather likely that the whole system will crash. I think it's still too niche to drag a larger part of the economy with it. Or if it was, it probably wouldn't crash because the money becomes as "real" as the FED adding a zero to some bank account.

    I understand the problem to projects like builds.sr.ht, which the article seems to really be about. But in a way, this is like complaining about E-Mail Spam or BitTorrent. It's just a symptom of freely flowing information. It's also a reminder why that isn't always a good thing. I've long come to accept a "rose tinted glasses off" view of the internet when it comes to things like this.

    3 votes
    1. stu2b50
      Link Parent
      That's not really true. Most encrypted data is done with AES, and AES has hardware support by all modern processors to be lightning fast empirically - basically a negligible amount of overhead....

      Efficiency is besides the point since encryption can't be computationally efficient, almost by definition.

      That's not really true. Most encrypted data is done with AES, and AES has hardware support by all modern processors to be lightning fast empirically - basically a negligible amount of overhead.

      RSA, Diffie-Hellman, El Gamal, etc. are more expensive, but is done with a negligible size N. Negligible overall.

      What you're probably thinking is password hashes, as some password hashes, like bcrypt or argon, are designed to computational expensive. But that's only in relative sense; the intent is to make it expensive to do 1 trillion hashes; it's like if you increased the price of a loaf of bread by 1 cent, for people who consume normal amounts of bread that is negligible, for monsters who buy 1 trillion loafs of bread, it's quite an extra expense - the extra computational complexity of doing a single hash, as is needed to check a password matches a hash, is a fraction of the energy it takes to light up the pixels that make up your mouse.


      If you compared the extra power used for all the cryptographic systems in normal use... it would be absolutely insignificant relative the power it takes to do the actual purpose of the system (i.e the cost of encoding and decoding your youtube video with AES is completely insignificant compared to the electrical cost of sending that signal, of encoding and decoding with a compression format, of IP routing, certainly of displaying the video on screen, definitely less than the database lookup, etc.)

      4 votes
    2. Macil
      Link Parent
      Encryption is very efficient and not a problem energy-wise. The astronomical energy use of (PoW) cryptocurrencies is specifically because of their use of proof-of-work, which essentially uses...

      Encryption is very efficient and not a problem energy-wise. The astronomical energy use of (PoW) cryptocurrencies is specifically because of their use of proof-of-work, which essentially uses proofs that you've spent compute time (electricity) as a way to vote on the definitive version of the transaction history. This is what people buy and run miners to compute. Some cryptocurrencies use an alternative technique called proof-of-stake instead of proof-of-work and don't involve the electricity-spending of mining at all, completely removing their unusual astronomical energy usage.

      3 votes
  10. guts
    Link
    I will give the same opinion i did on other social media post but the author did not speak at all of other blockchains as proof of stake were there is no environmental and mining problem as...

    I will give the same opinion i did on other social media post but the author did not speak at all of other blockchains as proof of stake were there is no environmental and mining problem as Bitcoin. The author gives good points about the quick rich schemes, ponzy and other related problems cryptocurrencies have since 2013 but the panorama in 2021 is different with proven blockchains as Ethereum and Monero.

    3 votes
  11. [6]
    floweringmind
    Link
    There are always articles demonizing crypto. I bet he lost his less than $10,000 in the last big drop and sold at a loss. Then he sees all these people making lots of money so his jealousy has to...

    There are always articles demonizing crypto. I bet he lost his less than $10,000 in the last big drop and sold at a loss. Then he sees all these people making lots of money so his jealousy has to write this article. Where ever there is money to be made there are scammers.

    Plain and simple, crypto is currently gambling, just like the stock market. Easy to win and easy to lose. Does crypto have a use, sometimes, but there are usually better technologies. Will crypto be the next big currency? Maybe, some banks and credit services think there is at least a way to make money off of fees.

    The biggest positive issue of crypto is countries where their currency is being devalued.

    The reason I invest in crypto is because it is way easier than stocks and faster to cash in and out.

    6 votes
    1. [2]
      pallas
      (edited )
      Link Parent
      At the beginning of the post, in a red box, the author states that they held some amount of Bitcoin and altcoins, and profited off of them at the time. Are you saying that they are lying, both...

      I bet he lost his less than $10,000 in the last big drop and sold at a loss.

      At the beginning of the post, in a red box, the author states that they held some amount of Bitcoin and altcoins, and profited off of them at the time. Are you saying that they are lying, both about profits and motivations for complaining? The complaint in this post is a specific point that directly impacts the author and a community unrelated to cryptocurrency: that abuse by cryptocurrency miners is breaking features on Sourcehut and other online repository systems that offer continuous integration. It is not (necessarily) a post about cryptocurrency in general, and it is not a ‘plain and simple’ matter.

      If it is not clear, the post is by Drew DeVault, a prolific but controversial programmer and the creator of SourceHut, amongst a number of other projects. While I am not fond of their usual tone, many of their views, or their tendency toward programming community drama, they do tend to have a strong—one might even say obsessive and single-minded—devotion to particular projects and programming cultures. I see no reason why someone well known for angrily denouncing communities, projects, and ideas over what sometimes seem like petty, unrealistic, or idealistic points (eg, Rust, HTML email, non-email-based patch systems, people who don't like Wayland, people who don't use mailing lists they way they'd like them to, people who don't hard wrap text at 72 characters, …) would lie about their motivations for attacking a technology and community that has presented a nuisance to one of their projects.

      Is there some reason why you think they're lying here? Surely you are not just slandering them because they criticized cryptocurrency?

      19 votes
      1. floweringmind
        Link Parent
        I wasn't saying he was lying, I was saying his article comes across as bitter and I was giving a suggestion of what I thought might have happened to make him that way. I didn't feel like the...

        I wasn't saying he was lying, I was saying his article comes across as bitter and I was giving a suggestion of what I thought might have happened to make him that way. I didn't feel like the article offered much beyond a rant on how bad crypto is. As I said these kind of articles are dime a dozen.

    2. [3]
      anothersimulacrum
      (edited )
      Link Parent
      As someone who has never invested in crypto, the only impact it's had on my life is depriving free software projects of CI and being a large source of GHG emissions, so I can certainly empathize...

      As someone who has never invested in crypto, the only impact it's had on my life is depriving free software projects of CI and being a large source of GHG emissions, so I can certainly empathize with this article, without having personally ever had a stake in the financial world there.

      EDIT: I a word

      10 votes
      1. [2]
        NaraVara
        Link Parent
        Don't forget cranking up prices on decent GPUs. Gamers everywhere should be real mad.

        Don't forget cranking up prices on decent GPUs. Gamers everywhere should be real mad.

        7 votes
        1. spit-evil-olive-tips
          Link Parent
          Coming up soon they'll be cranking up prices on SSDs and hard drives as well. Chinese coin miners flock to new cryptocurrency Chia resulting in hard drive shortages and price surges We might not...
          4 votes