Number Go Up brought me to a terrible realization, but one I sadly agree with: Bitcoin may never go all the way away. Zeke covers this at the end of his in-depth investigation of the crypto world, pointing out that for the Bitcoin maximalist true believers, everything that happens is taken as evidence that Bitcoin will only become stronger. It’s something I’ve observed online, it’s a cult, and you can’t argue factfully with someone who believes something on faith. Bleh.
There is exactly one Bitcoin true believer in my life, and talking with them is like visiting Reddit as an actual real world location (appropriately they also believe we’re on our way to a true metaverse any day now). That same level of obstinance that Zeke covers is on full display with this person, who refuses to provide more reasoning for why Bitcoin will take over the world than “the doubters have been wrong so far” and “the number has gone up.”
I’d been putting off reading the Bitcoin Whitepaper, considered a must read for anyone who truly wants to understand crypto, because I figured it would be overly long and complicated. Nope. Twelve pages. Simple as hell. Knowing what I know about the person in the paragraph above and their dominant laziness, I should have known better.
I’m already rambling, so getting back to Number Go Up: what struck me most about this book in particular, adding new things I did not know after my reading of Easy Money and The Truth Machine, is the true human cost currently being exploited by the crypto world. We all know about the environmental cost, we all know crypto is the money of choice for scammers, ransomware villains, and online drug markets. What I didn’t know, is that many of the scams that are carried out by individual callers and texters are driven by slave labor. Zeke goes into this, covering how people are trafficked, put into crypto scam mills, and then tortured and exploited and forced to scam others. It was a galling, gut-wrenching read, and while human trafficking has been going on for a long time before crypto, let’s not pretend a system by which money can be directly extorted over digital means with low need for an intermediary or risk of an authority catching the criminal doesn’t make the problem worse.
At the center of the exploration is Tether, the supposed stablecoin pegged to the US dollar and backed one to one with fiat. This means that for every Tether in existence there is meant to be one dollar backing it. First off, there almost certainly isn’t; Tether is incredibly shady about their backing, refuses all efforts at audit, and cannot be traced to any number of significant holdings. Second, Tether is the currency of choice for these scammers who are trafficking and torturing people. Third, multiple times in Bitcoins history, a sudden influx of purchases in Tether has driven the price up to new floors and highs. Think about that: in this supposed natural free market that resists the glad-handing of centralized fiat and its inflationary risks, a money printer that’s not verifiably backed to real currency has manipulated the BTC price until average people get excited, put real money in, and buy it thinking they’ll get rich. I hate this space so much.
Read this book if you want to be informed but depressed. It’s all a fucking Ponzi scheme and it’s going to be so bad for a lot of people when it finally collapses for good.