Flat White

The cult of cryptocurrency

11 February 2021

7:28 PM

11 February 2021

7:28 PM

The first rule of Crypto Club: You constantly talk about Crypto Club.  

The second rule of Crypto Club: You constantly talk about Crypto Club. 

How do you know someone is involved in crypto? Oh, don’t worry, they’ll soon let you know. 

Full disclaimer: I’m a member. 

We call it club, you see, because nobody wants to admit that they are part of a cult. 

Before I am accused of engaging in linguistic inflation, it is important to ask the following: what, exactly, is a cult? 

A cult is a group or movement held together by a shared commitment to a charismatic leader or ideology.” Ostensibly, cults offer their members structure, purpose, a sense of identity, as well as very specific instructions. Membership appeals to our tribal instincts. 

Another important question must be asked: what separates a fan from a fanatic? I would argue that a refusal to accept objective evidence documenting the dangers of group membership separates the fan from the fanatic. Stubbornly refusing to remove those rose coloured glasses may distort one’s vision.  

The word cult conjures up images of Jim Jones, Charles Manson, and members of QAnon. However, groups held together by a common ideological thread also come in far less explosive flavours. For the purpose of this article, the term cult is used to describe harmless fanatics, not harmful fanatics.  

Unlike QAnon members, for exampleApple devoteesno matter how hardcore they appear to be, are not considered a threat to the public. Nevertheless, Steve Jobs, a brilliant, messiah-like figure, managed to turn millions of individuals into fanaticsThe kind of people who queue for 18 hours in freezing temperatures to hand over way too much money for aoverpriced phoneOverpriced, you say, how dare you. Yes, overpriced, even Tim Cook thinks so.  

Then, we have Tesla, spearheaded by the charismatic Elon Musk. Have you ever witnessed an official Tesla event? They are very strange affairs – to outsiders, anyway. As Andrei Ndelea put it, “The crowds completely lose their marbles – you hear screaming, fanatical encouragement, and frantic clapping even though what’s being shown on stage often doesn’t justify it (at least in my book).” Musk, worshipped with the type of zeal usually reserved for megachurch pastor, is considered a messiah of sorts, here to rescue humanity from themselves.  

Jesus turned water into wine, but Musk has yet to turn the Tesla into a reliable car. The current models are not even particularly good, but try telling that to a devoted Musketeer. Unlike genuine motobuffsTesla fanatics don’t seem to be overly concerned with the finished product, that is the car. It’s the experience that appears to be so intoxicating. 

Speaking of intoxication, let’s discuss the cult of crypto, more specifically The Cult of Bitcoin. Although other cryptocurrencies have fanatical supportersthey pale in comparison to the passion engendered by BTC. 

Like all successful cults, language plays a huge role in promoting the BTC ideologyAs we saw with Trump, some things (for some people) are just fun to say – “Lock her up,” “Build the wall,” and so on. In the world of BTC, we opt for more nuanced terms like “HODL” and “Whale.” This is what happens when you join a cult; every waking moment is consumed by very specific thoughts. 

Every great cult needs a charismatic leader. Apple had Steve Jobs. Tesla has Elon. Scientology had Ron Hubbard.  In the world of BTC, who convinced us to sip from the crypto-infused Kool-Aid? Satoshi? No, we need a more tangible figure. For me, it is a toss-up between Max Keiser and Michael Saylor. Both men are clearly brilliant, but Saylor, with his well-argued, Zen-like aura, carries more weight. The enigmatic entrepreneur oozes a coolness that instils belief, thus making him the perfect leader. If Saylor hands you the Kool-Aid, you nod politely and chug. 

Being part of a cult is synonymous with being unhingedbut there is nothing unhinged about owning a Tesla or an iPhone, nor is there anything unhinged about investing in bitcoin. Ownership and investment are not the problems. No, the problem lies in the endless promotion, the evangelical-like desire to convert non-believers and chastise sceptics.  

By all means, if you happen to be a bitcoin enthusiast, havecourage in your convictions. After allfrom the US dollar to the Australian dollarthe purchasing power of fiat currency continues to plummetThe future lies in a superior solution, a genuine inflation hedge. Nonetheless, that doesn’t mean BTC’s dominance is set in stone. As Charlie Morris notes, “While Bitcoin is the grandfather of cryptocurrency, the protocol remains limited in its functionality. Users can send bitcoin to each other, but there is little else they can do. For developers, building applications on top of the Bitcoin protocol is difficult, which became a key motivation for the creation of Ethereum.” 

Ethereum, you see, appears to be the future. A useful analogy can be drawn here. Bitcoin is mailbox – a very fancy mailbox – capable of doing one thing very well. Ethereum, on the other hand, is a supercomputer, with the potential to reshape the entire world. 

Bitcoin may very well be the future; it may very well become the global reserve currency. Then again, it mightn’t. The grandfather of cryptocurrencies is starting to show “his” age. In fact, “he” might pass away sooner than expected. Then again, the Lazarus of cryptocurrencies has been declared dead hundreds of times. Whatever your feelings, we can agree that a perpetual state of dominance is rarely, if ever, guaranteed.  

From the Mayans to MySpacethe Byzantine Empire to Blockbuster, history is littered with the corpses of companieand civilizations that refused to innovate.  

Is Bitcoin in need of fresh innovation? 

Cult members may very well scream no… but maybe, just maybe, that’s the Kool-Aid talking. 

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