Be Wary of Cryptocurrency “Experts”
The Wild West of the 21st Century
Since the inception of Bitcoin nearly a decade ago, the cryptocurrency world has grown exponentially. With thousands of digital coins offering a myriad of services — anonymous payments, identity solutions, meme trading cards, smart contracts, etc. — it would require full-time work just to keep up with the latest news.
Because of this, those who do know a thing or two about cryptocurrencies are beginning to see a niche — an opportunity to share what they know for a price. They call themselves “experts” and “investors”, oftentimes promising insider knowledge or guaranteed returns on investments ¹.
Still vastly unregulated, blockchain technology raises a lot of questions in the realms of finance, banking, and regulatory agencies. Is it money? How can it be tracked? Do people need to pay taxes on it? How can we control all of this?
While the alarm bell rings and the moneyed establishment scrambles to know what hit it, modern-day snake oil salesman have re-emerged, masquerading as speakers, investors, analysts and experts of cryptocurrency ². This is not to say that there are not truly competent people in the space designing complex algorithms and creating entirely new industries, because there are.
This is to say that, from my experience, those with a deep understanding of blockchain tech and cryptocurrencies are far too busy working on innovative and groundbreaking projects to be bothered by such distractions and titles.
Those with the hustle and knowledge to create new use-cases, meet global needs, and solve real-world problems are hard at work ³. Frequently, those with the least to say, have the most to show (and vice versa).
Furthermore, the cryptocurrency market has started to rapidly develop in the past couple of years, bringing with it the rise of the opportunists. Whether it be through ICO scams, investment fraud, or “expert” advice, it is imperative that those interested in Bitcoin, Ethereum, or blockchain technology as a whole comprehend how it all works, if only on the surface level.
The Oxymoron of Cryptocurrency Experts
Blockchain technology and cryptocurrencies are truly liberating innovations. They eliminate gatekeepers, bringing agency and autonomy to the people. No longer do you need a banker to take care of your money, and investor to run your portfolio, or a regulatory body to loan out your own capital.
In other words, the experts aren’t needed. All the power is at your fingertips to take charge of your money and your investments. In addition to this, there are passionate and helpful people providing free educational videos and courses so that you can understand and truly know how things work ⁴.
A cryptocurrency expert is a contradiction of terms — just like the term private blockchain creates cognitive dissonance. Everyone can be their own expert, diving deeply into the currencies, algorithms, platforms, and use-cases that matter most to them.
As a little insider note, I’m very active in Facebook, Telegram, and Twitter groups encompassing all things cryptocurrency and blockchain. From coins and mining to algorithms and platforms, I like to stay up to date with new trends and exciting developments.
Many times I see connections on LinkedIn enter these groups, post a bunch of questions, then leave the group just as quickly as they popped in. The next time I see them on LinkedIn, they have changed their work title to something blockchain or Bitcoin expert-like, speaking at conferences and running workshops.
Please don’t take my frustration as jealousy. I’m concerned that these people are putting the wrong ideas (no matter how well-intentioned) in our heads. Though it is nice that they want to show us how to open up a wallet, all of this information is publicly and freely available for those who want it.
But as long as these experts are perpetuating the idea that their advice is needed or required, they completely misunderstand the culture and freedoms that this technology represents.
As previously mentioned, opportunism seeps into all industries in their early and infantile stages. Many cryptocurrencies and blockchains are less than 5 years old. The oldest are not even 10 years old yet. This begs the question, what does it take to be an expert?
Experts should really be called what they are — beginners who want to share what they’ve learned so far for career or monetary gains. The field is too new. The technology is rapidly evolving, coins are being created every day, and complex algorithms are testing the necessity of foundational national and state institutions.
Even those with years of experience in banking, finance, trading, and other fields are entering an entirely new world. This is one of boundless creativity, continuous experimentation, and reimagined economic and civic models.
At the end of the day, we’re all beginners in this space. Some of us are more-so beginners than others, but we’re all still in the early stages of an exciting time. There are no right answers, rather experiments that fail miserably or succeed tremendously.
Everyone is waiting to see where this technology will go, how it will grow, and whether or not their personal favorite projects will thrive into the future. The best way anyone can prepare for the rapid expansion and growth of this tech is to learn, learn, and learn.
The great news is you don’t need a teacher, degree program, or expert to show you the way. You can get involved right now online ⁵. You can start a meet-up in your local community to connect with others interested in blockchain tech ⁶. Ask questions, keep learning, and don’t be fooled by flashy marketing.
Before you sign-up to listen to that speaker, pay to attend that blockchain event, or register for that need-to-have course, do some research and see if you can turn this into a learning experience — one sure to be filled with new challenges, insights, and (free) resources.
Government Intervention and Volatility
Even in their early stages, we are seeing national governments react differently to blockchain technology and cryptocurrencies. While some want to regulate and control them, others are opening their doors to the vast opportunities and potential they hold ⁷.
What does this mean for experts? Unless they are working directly with or for a blockchain start-up, they are in the same boat as all of us — unaware of the regulatory and/or legal processes any given project is going through.
An insider who does know is disincentivized from telling anyone else as they quietly accumulate or sell off that coin given the impending news. With no leverage into this regulatory reality, experts have very little, if anything, to provide that we can’t get ourselves.
While no one knows which way this technology will take us, what is known is that it is already creating disruption. It is shaping the future of peer-to-peer payments, democratic institutions, and the very structure of the internet ⁸.
As national governments try to stake their territory and power in crypto-land, uncertainty will continue to play out in the coming years. Growing pains are imminent and governments aren’t going away any time soon.
As global access to payment systems and credit rises, businesses begin to accept digital money, and governments get involved in blockchain affairs, we will need to wait and see what currencies are readily accepted, find niche uses, or fade away altogether.
Many coins disappear just as quickly as they appear on the scene, leaving but a landing page or forum archives of their existence. Turn-over rates will stay high as winners find their place and losers liquidate.
Misinformation and FUD
Misinformation and FUD (fear-uncertainty-doubt) run the game. Speculation is king and true information or news has to be skillfully found. It is a crazy world and blockchain “expert” or not, everyone is susceptible to the iffy news, emotional ups-and-downs, and misinformation campaigns that stalk the internet ⁹.
Week-old cryptocurrency day traders share their “wisdom” with newcomers, Twitter and Reddit threads get blown out of proportion, and blockchain tech start-ups copy and paste the names and pictures of innovators in the field on their websites as advisors in order to get attention and news ¹⁰. One must constantly be on guard.
As politics and opposing beliefs cause coins to break in different directions and new coins to form in the process, the lead-up to these events is filled with misinformation, he-said she-said rumors, and hefty speculation ¹¹.
Smear campaigns are run to devalue coins by sneaky investors looking to pick some up for cheap ¹². Hype campaigns are run by large Facebook groups to get a coin to rapidly rise in price — often just in time for those who started the trend to cash out at the peak before the coin falls back down to its pre-hype averages (or worse).
Big players (called whales) are able to sway the value and perceived value of coins and capitalize on hype and fear cycles. Genuine projects working diligently and quietly often see their associated coins drop in price while projects with no product but great marketing see their coin’s price sky-rocket.
The industry is bound to self-correct and the projects with true value will be the ones left standing in the rubble when that day comes. Until then, “buy on rumors, sell on news” will continue to be a common motto sprinkled around chat groups and forums.
In a land of speculation, an “expert” is just as lost in the misinformation, hype, and FUD as anyone else. Sometimes the best thing to do is close your laptop, do something else, and admit that you have no clue about any of this.
Broken Code and Broken Promises
The performance and future of a blockchain start-up or cryptocurrency rests solely in the hands of the programmers who build it and the code that runs it. If the programmer(s) has nefarious plans, the code has security flaws, or the project is not continuously maintained or updated when needed, the entire project becomes vulnerable to network attacks or being passed up by the competition.
A self-proclaimed expert generally has no say in any of these processes and is only aware of problems after they have been exploited and potentially after large amounts of funds have been siphoned out of user wallets ¹³. By that time, the damage is done.
When giving advice or given the power to handle someone else’s money, expert’s are entirely dependent on the proficiency and honesty of the start-ups and coins they work with.
Expert information, advice, and recommendations may be invalid the next day. Wallets are corruptible, ICOs (initial coin offerings) are revealed as scams, and projects embellish the progress and potential of their platforms and coins.
Frequently, news and advice one hour has to be retracted or deleted as new evidence surfaces the next. It is a fast-moving atmosphere. Often too fast for advice or recommendations to manifest into anything beneficial.
Yet, it is all too easy for experts to blame their miscues or errors on this rapid pace. This is another reason why blockchain experts are an interesting conundrum — they are also victim to the dishonesty of projects and, like us non-experts, helplessly dependent on the skills and ethics of the programmers and designers working on them.
Code is vital. A project’s future rests on the power and perfection of its code. Great advice or not, the quality and trustworthiness of an expert depends on the luck and relationships he/she has when choosing projects to recommend and/or invest in.
An Expert-less Frontier
The future of blockchain technology is exciting. It promises full autonomy over one’s own money and finances, trust-less solutions to contracts, transactions, and loans, and permission-less access to build and use different networks and chains.
The sky is truly the limit and projects on the fringes have the opportunity to knock off central players via more secure and improved protocols, innovative algorithms, and game-changing platforms and ecosystems.
Cryptocurrencies with unique economic models and new transaction verification processes can take the industry by storm at any moment.
Resources and information are available and free. You don’t need credentials or status to make an impact or gain access to tools or knowledge. The world is at your fingertips.
While conferences, events, and speakers look worthwhile, you can often get the same information (join an active blockchain community and learn from those with more experience) online and even in your own community. Tap into those opportunities.
Don’t be fooled by the modern-day snake oil salesmen. They have no more access to information and resources than you do and they have everything to lose from making the wrong calls or abusing their privileges. Their services are superfluous and more often than not, outdated.
When it comes to experience and knowledge, most of us are on an equal playing field. That is the true beauty of all of this. Here’s to an expert-less future. Please don’t let old ways of thinking dictate your understanding of new and emerging technologies.
Also published on michaelboland.co.