Friday, June 22, 2018

Cryptocurrencies: Last Week Tonight with John Oliver

“Everything that exists is going to be better.”

I have queued the video up to a clip in the middle. It shows a very slick ad for a pump and dump scheme that really has to be seen to be believed. It's actually not the best part of the episode – – that would come closer to the end – – but if you only have a couple of minutes, this is the part you want to watch.

Oliver's shows have a tendency to build. They generally spend the first 10 minutes or so setting an informative and balanced framework interspaced with a few jokes to keep things from getting too dry. The opening framework provides important nuance and context which allows them to bring out really absurd and infuriating clips without simply playing them for shock value.

Regular readers will recognize lots of familiar elements here. Cryptocurrencies run almost entirely on magical heuristics. There's virtually no way to justify their value based on conventional logic and economic principles. Instead, the narrative is driven entirely by things like the magic of association, faith and language, the belief that we are entering an age of great upheaval but one which will richly reward the faithful. It's like you distilled hype and bullshit and mystical thinking of every Silicon Valley startup into a pure essence of nonsense.

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