9 items tagged “bitcoin”
Crypto creates a massively multiplayer online game where the game is “currency speculation”, and it’s very realistic because it really is money, at least if enough people get involved. [...] NFTs add another layer to the game. Instead of just currency speculation, you’re now simulating art speculation too! The fact that you don’t actually own the art and the fact that the art is randomly generated cartoon images of monkeys is entirely beside the point: the point is the speculation, and winning the game by making money. This is, again, a lot of fun to some people, and in addition to the piles of money they also in some very limited sense own a picture of a cartoon monkey that some people recognize as being very expensive, so they can brag without having to actually post screenshots of their bank balance, which nobody believed anyway.
One popular way of making money through cryptocurrency is to start a new currency, while retaining a large chunk of it for yourself. As a result, there are now thousands of competing cryptocurrencies in operation, with relatively little technical difference between them. In order to succeed, currency founders must convince people that their currency is new and different, and crucially, that the buyer understands this while other less savvy investors do not. Wild claims, fanciful economic ideas and rampant technobabble are the order of the day. This is a field that thrives on mystique, and particularly preys on participants’ fear of missing out on the next big thing.
One could never price a thirty year mortgage in bitcoin because its volatility makes it completely unpredictable and no sensible bank could calculate the risk of covering that debt. A world in which Elon Musk can tweet two emojis and your home depreciates 80% in value is a dystopia.
In 2015, the men controlling 80% of Bitcoin mining stood on stage together at a conference. Three or four entities have run Bitcoin mining since then. The only thing preventing miner misbehaviour is wanting to avoid spooking the suckers — it’s completely trust-based. Bitcoin now uses a country’s worth of electricity for no actual reason. You could do the transactions on a 2007 iPhone.
Over the past several months, everyone in the industry who provides any kind of free CPU resources has been dealing with a massive outbreak of abuse for cryptocurrency mining. The industry has been setting up informal working groups to pool knowledge of mitigations, communicate when our platforms are being leveraged against one another, and cumulatively wasting thousands of hours of engineering time implementing measures to deal with this abuse, and responding as attackers find new ways to circumvent them.
It’s probably a bad idea to risk paying your ransom, though — the US Treasury Dept has issued clarifying guidance that companies paying off ransomware, and all companies facilitating the payment, can be charged with sanctions violations if the bitcoins end up at North Korea or sanctioned cybercrime groups.
Every bitcoin proof-of-work mined is an incremental addition to a vast distributed summoning ritual powering the demon-soul at the heart of the maze, the computational equivalent of a Buddhist prayer wheel spinning in a Himalayan breeze.
In one case this winter, miners from China landed their private jet at the local airport, drove a rental car to the visitor center at the Rocky Reach Dam, just north of Wenatchee, and, according to Chelan County PUD officials, politely asked to see the “dam master because we want to buy some electricity.”
Consider Bitcoin a grand middle finger. It’s a prank, almost a parody of the global financial system, that turned into a bubble. “You plutocrats of Davos may think you control the global money supply,” the pranksters seem to say. “But humans will make an economy out of anything. Even this!”