It is probably fair to say that if you were thinking of attending the North American Bitcoin Conference you’d probably envisage being seated in one of those enormous, and typically anonymous looking conference centres. But that wasn’t the case with this particular meeting of crypto enthusiasts and experts, because the organisers of this event chose instead to host it at one of the top strip clubs in Miami.
The invite said: “Join us at E11even for some networking and R&R. Or dancing.” Surely it must have looked like a scene from “The Big Bang Theory,” with several Sheldon-like Bitcoiners awkwardly busting some moves. At least, if the perception that Bitcoin is the preserve of ‘nerds & geeks’, that is the kind of scene that comes to mind.
The crypto crowd has changed
But what this event and its chosen location signalled is this; that crypto is no longer just for those nerds who went to Stanford or MIT and can write code that the average person needs a new form of the Rosetta Stone to decipher. There is a new flock of investors who want to be a part of the crypto scene and to hell with the coding. As long as someone understands it, we don’t all need to. Nothing wrong with that: after all, since the idea of investing in other people’s enterprises began, investors haven’t necessarily understood all the nuts and bolts of how a product works; they see the big picture and the overall potential, and that is what propels them into putting money into it.
It has changed the ‘cryptosphere’ from one populated by cyberpunks and anarcho-techies, to one where those who want to make money fast, buy Lamborghinis and hold conferences in strip clubs dominate. Ariel Deschapell writing in Coindesk calls it: “this newer, shinier, get-rich-quick crypto culture.”
And so, the conversation about crypto drifted away from a serious, adult discussion about real use cases for the blockchain, how to overcome its limitations and identifying the key challenges. Instead, the mainstream media, and crypto community publications to some extent, ran the more exciting stories about the newly minted blockchain millionaires and billionaires; the luxury properties being bought for Bitcoin and of course, the inevitable scare stories about the perils of putting your money into crypto.
And along came FOMO
And then there was FOMO. People were terrified of missing out on the “next Bitcoin.” With Bitcoin’s price soaring at the end of 2017, new arrivals at the party were seeking new coins that could be bought for cents, just like Bitcoin at its inception. The problem with this was that the FOMO encouraged more than just a few bad actors to get involved, selling crypto tokens on the back of ICOs that had no sound technological basis. The problem of course was one of ignorance about the blockcahin. Having skipped the basic ‘Blockchain 101’, it looked like every new blockchain-based business had the potential to be the next Bitcoin. Only the experienced investors with technological know-how knew which projects were likely to have longevity and technological integrity.
The speed at which the new crypto enthusiasts rushed headlong into putting money into fraudulent ICOs stunned seasoned blockchain investors. The flow of money into them was like a torrential river that threatened to burst its banks. With the result that the ‘real banks’ started to clamp down on people using credit cards to purchase crypto, with a kind of “it’s for your own good” message.
Deschappell provided a neat illustration of the recklessness involved, saying: “Even more alarming than a simple lack of education or due diligence, however, is the fact that perhaps many new cryptocurrency investors don’t actually care,” and illustrated the point with the example of Ponzicoin, a self proclaimed scam set up as a joke raised $25,000 in a few hours, proving that people really didn’t care, even when it actually said “this is a scam.
It’s time to learn about the blockchain
The upshot of all this is something pretty critical to the continued success of the blockchain: it is not a shiny, new exciting plaything and if you want to invest in it, do it because you understand the potential of a specific project. No cryptocurrency is a magic bean that will grow you a beanstalk or show you the way to the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, yet, that is what we have been witnessing. It is not about hosting parties at strip clubs in the Magic City, nor will everyone have a Walt Disney ending with their crypto investments.
It is time for all of us to learn more about blockchain technology, to read the whitepapers of ICOs and do proper due diligence. In the end, that will play an integral role in the evolution of the blockchain. It might not be quite as sexy approach as the ‘get rich quick’ one, but it’s the one that will ensure the blockchain’s survival.