10 years since i warned you's about bitcoin
10 years ago i was working as a senior front-end engineer at the nba making way too little money for what they had me doing and writing extremely niche web development satire as a hobby with my coworker – normal 20-something lady in tech things. this was last time i ever remember being truly bored, which was the big driver behind me writing things on an invite-only blogging platform (medium the dot com in its infancy) that i knew were very funny and therefore would piss off a certain demographic.
before i get into the actual post, let me paint the scene: normally around lunch time at work i'd think of something stupid i should write about that i knew my friends would think was hilarious and that men in tech who take themselves super seriously would hate. i would write the thing within 20 minutes and then publish and share on IRC (slack for old people) and twitter (x for old people). i would then read what i wrote and fix typos that i notice (editor's note: i am doing that right now lol, 3 typos so far). i wasn't getting paid for this so i wasn't taking it seriously, i was just having a goofy time. also during this month i was looking for a new job and keeping my yogurt in a tampon box in the fridge to stop my coworkers from eating it. okay, knowing all that, let's get into this journalistic chaos that i called:
A Case Against Bitcoin
Climate change is real and it has hit our economy
Crypto-currency is a hot topic in technology. I do not know all there is to know about Bitcoin, but I know enough about microeconomics and digitization of e-commerce to know its importance — but also how it could lead to another bubble burst.
i didn't study humor writing, i'm just a funny lil babe who reads a lot of tech blogs, and i read a lot of boring white papers in college. through that experience i learned that to trap the reader into feeling safe about your writing being sincere, you need to start off sincere, serious and stating why you have authority, or lack thereof, and leave a bit of the truth out - like all i knew about bitcoin at this point was that someone i was casually dating talked about it a bit and they were perpetually late to every single date because they insisted on buying a new shirt before every time we had a meal.
With so much real money flowing through the industry, it is important to come up with a digital currency so that banks and the wallets of top execs do not literally run out of space (a case made for making websites instead of flyers for entertainment events back in the early years of ARPANET). Not many people think about that, nor do they think about how the number of bank branches is decreasing as the big companies (ie Chase and Bank of America) take over the smaller guys. So actual space is a legitimate issue.
i swear this was not me predicting the 2023 bank run crisis, it was just me venting about the 2008 one. also, if the mention of ARPANET seems unhinged, that was intentional. i liked to throw in old, incorrectly cited, histories in order to start helping the reader realize that they are not reading serious article. of course this did not work for a lot of people, because a lot of people do not study their history. if this blog post is boring you, feel free to switch to my talk at causal islands about the last 20 years of history repeating itself.
But Bitcoin does not solve the space issue in the long run. Servers are needed to save them, and as more Bitcoins are created, more servers will be needed. I imagine that bank branches would open solely to house the hardware. Hardware has a large carbon footprint, so is digital currency really more environmentally friendly than real money? It’s not. This debunks the number one reason Bitcoin miners use when asked “why Bitcoin?”
i am proof that you don't need to know about bitcoin to have foreseen the environmental impact, you just need a fucking brain and care for humanity outside the scope of your inner circle - a lot to ask, i know, but fortunately for you all i was born with it 💅 by the way, have you looked into literally any research on how much water it takes for chat-gpt to correct your while loop?
Being digital means that Bitcoin is more susceptible to hacking. Unlike in-person robberies, the Bitcoin robbers are anonymous, hidden behind the safety of their computer screen. NSA can get their information and tap into their webcams, but that’s only if they use Apple products (they all come with cameras built in). I imagine that the majority of Bitcoin miners use their iPads for mobile transaction confirmations.
a week after i published this, mt gox halted withdrawals and basically turned my satire into a suspicious foreshadowing #AnyoneWithABrain. the apple products mention was just a cheap trigger for the fan boys in web development community at the time because, well, i love cheap thrills. i also love watching videos covering all the rug-pullers and scammers since - huge shouts out to coffeezilla and his detective work and his team's excellent 3d productions.
Being that Bitcoins are on hardware, something at simple as a refrigerator magnet can bankrupt an entire series of wallets. Tangible money, like dollars, can go through the rain, magnets, and basically all of the other elements of nature without total destruction. With Bitcoins we are not so safe.
i think this is a fun time to drop that my mentor and boss for almost 7 years recently won a webby lifetime achievement award for laying the groundwork for nft's at an event only a few months after i published this post. with all tech innovations, even cosplays of them, there's a stated intention of doing good for the world with said innovation. the hard, but most important part, for us schmucks is to actively decipher who actually intends to help the greater good or just fill their (bitcoin) wallets. i wouldn't be working with anil if i didn't witness and believe in his work to enable creative people to thrive on and build a weird web in its most fragile era.
Another issue with Bitcoin is adoption. Go to most of your local shops and I bet that none of them accept Bitcoin. They accept dollars or credits. Imagine having lots of worthy Bitcoins but no where to spend them. This renders the Bitcoin useless, driving down value and wasting miner’s time. With dollars, we can leave that work to the government and other more financially-knowledgable entities, like banks, so we don’t have to spend our time with transactions and handling the hardware requirements of mining.
i'm starting to understand why people thought i was serious here, because i actually was for the majority of it. these critiques actually make a lot of sense, but i was ahead of my time and also a woman. i've never paid for anything with a cryptocurrency because there was never a situation where it would have been convenient. do they take bitcoin at claire's?
Bitcoin — like meritocracy, communism, and misandry — is a nice idea, but it will never be implemented in a way that could possible make it useful or replace the current currencies. To think it does would be irresponsible and glib. I say stop wasting time exploring it, and leave it to the people you voted into office to handle the economy.
this line is fire actually, probably the only paragraph here that didn't make my skin crawl. do other writers enjoy reading their old writing and if so what is wrong with you? the meritocracy mention was a call back to the week or so before when github got rid of their meritocracy rug. remember that? i wish i lived in the woods sometimes.
Jenn Schiffer studied economics and is the tech evangelist for a think-tank that explores past currencies like Planet Lunch Points and pogs.
i'd intentionally end every "article" with a made up bio that was intended to make my friends laugh and make the people who fell for the entire article finally realize that they got increasingly mad over something stupid. do you think it ever worked?
my personal preference for any satire is that the writing is overshadowed by the response, otherwise the writing is too smart or too flat. the best part of this stupid bitcoin "article" i wrote was the response on the bitcoin subreddit. one of the exceptionally rude commenters emailed a week after the post apologizing for their angry response (and begging me to remove my tweet screenshotting it) and explained that they were just so tired of seeing "all the FUD around bitcoin" being shared by people who "know nothing about it." they were wrong though, i didn't "know nothing." i grew up poor, i've seen family members both scam and be scammed...none of what's happening in the cryptocurrency industry was shocking to me, then or now. and the claim of FUD was so interesting to me because what is more valid to have fear, uncertainty, and doubt about than a new financial concept that depended on technology to make it correct and secure - in a society full of people trying to take advantage of others not practicing discernment, doing due diligence, and being cautious when it comes to money.
i probably would have bought an nft from an artist i enjoyed if it weren't for the backlash to this post several years prior, and not because i would have feared the backlash from my peers online who were ride or die againsts nft's. blockchain technology bred a cult of personality that makes it hard for me to take seriously or incorporate into my lifestyle and work, and also trying to make it go away is absolutely not a hill or subreddit i want to die on. but i do hope that people consider the intersectional impact of new innovations, be it crypto, artificial intelligence, the phones they buy, etc. i also think we need to be making fun of people who explode at the tiniest bit of critique - hell, it got one of them to send me a nice email.
jenn schiffer writes like a 16 year old teenager on her blog. wait it is