It is always interesting to me when something idealistic mutates and becomes the very problem it strove to fix – like in 1953, when the Soviet Union, the world’s foremost communist state, put down a worker’s revolt in East Germany and did so again in Hungary in 1956. Workers of the world unite, the Marxists used to say. That slogan which tore down the institutions of Tsarist Russia and almost scrubbed clean that tyrannical legacy from the face of the Earth would later find itself the tyrant as it put down workers revolt after workers revolt. It had grown into some monstrous parody of the ideals it had been founded upon. I fear cryptocurrencies have suffered the same fate.
Dreamers dream. Without their idealistic visions, we wouldn’t have interesting technologies like Bitcoin, XRP, or Ethereum – these transformative technologies sprung up in the heads of libertarian idealists and were embraced by other freedom-oriented political and social movements. But with exposure to the real-world, something changed. The profit motive attached itself onto this gleaming new concept, and it mutated. It became something else.
For a technology that was founded on libertarian ideals to be so widely embraced by one of the world’s most dictatorial states is indescribably ironic. In between running concentration camps for the Uyghurs and Orwellian social media scoring systems, China still finds the time to cause the cryptocurrency market to jump up and down like a poodle performing a trick for its master.
There’s this wonderful quote by Fredrich Nietzsche that I feel captures the blight on the soul of the cryptocurrency ecosystem:
“Beware that, when fighting monsters, you yourself do not become a monster… for when you gaze long into the abyss. The abyss gazes also into you.”
This technology has the potential to be transformative – to bring a kind of equality and financial freedom that has never been before. But I feel as though it has lost its soul – that it has gazed so long into the abyss that it has brought something back with it.