There are certain things that I just don’t “get”. No matter how hard I try and wrap my mind around the topic, it just stubbornly refuses to engage, sitting in a little sullen lump in the corner and obstinately saying “No.” Because of this, the higher mathematic fields have always been closed to me, either through natural disinclination or having been traumatized in getting blind-sided by the New Math in the third grade. Wisely, I stuck to the simpler, practical methods to do with numbers, and left esoteric maths to those who had a bent for them. I have other talents.
That being admitted and perhaps in relation to such an inability, I could never quite grasp the method and appeal of bitcoin.
Why was it a ‘thing’, other than a lot of people seemed to believe that bitcoinage was a ‘thing’? Bitcoin always seemed to me to be like the medium of exchange used in on-line role-playing games; a thing of value because everyone involved insisted on and agreed that it was. As for the concept of ‘mining bitcoin’, other than it involved a lot of time on the computer, and something to do with solving long and complicated formulae … Nope, just could not “get” how that all worked, and what if anything, bitcoin was based on, other than being trendy. It was all vaporous, it meant whatever anyone said that it meant, and no two people seemed to agree on how bitcoins were generated. So my daughter and I were never particularly drawn towards anything to do with bitcoin, or bitcoin wallets, investments or exchanges … especially since so many of the communications that we (my daughter more than me) received about bitcoinage appeared to be scammers. Something so thoroughly fenced around by a poisonous reek of scam made us both wary and we declined involvement, in any way, shape or form. Sensible in hindsight, considering the near-apocalyptic collapse of Sam Bankman-Fried’s Futures Exchange.
A truism to live by – like high-explosives, if you don’t understand it, don’t play around with it.
Well, it could have been worse – might have been tulip bulbs. (Oh, that Charles Mackay is not alive in this century – how many more chapters could he have added to his magnum opus!) It was curious and ironic that Bankman-Fried and his merry band of wonderkind were so elevated by the finance press … as if he had discovered some great hitherto unknown secret to grubbing wealth unfathomable, secrets unknown to the rest of us mere mortals. The subsequent crash and burn, as well as the fury of those rooked out of their very real investments is a matter of academic interest to those of us who had the native intelligence not to go messing about in something we really didn’t understand.
Bankman-Fried and his friends appear to be the children of privilege – just like Elizabeth Holmes, of Theranos ill-fame, who by striking coincidence, was sentenced this week. Like Bankman-Fried, Holmes was taken up by the press and by the great, good, and the well-connected, few of whom appeared to have actual specific knowledge of the field that she claimed expertise in. She conned a great many people who ought to have been warier or known better into backing her blood-testing enterprise – an undertaking that I am certain was as mysterious as is the generation of bitcoinage to laymen… or laywoman. But she fooled the well-connected and media outlets for years, just like Bankman-Fried did, and now everyone who ever bought into the hype has egg, metaphorically-speaking, on their faces. One wonders how much of it was due to the intensely favorable press … and how much the assumption from those who enthusiastically backed Theranos, that ‘she’s one of us, one of the elite, well-connected, graduate of a prestigious university, the daughter of so-and-so; she couldn’t possibly intend to pull a scam on us!’ I assume that it was the same with Bankman-Fried: ‘Oh, he couldn’t possibly scam us! He’s one of us!”
Comment and discuss as you wish.