Dive in, the water is intellectually stimulating
The cryptocurrency world needs your curiosity, your skepticism, and your optimism, no matter who you are
Last month, I was scrolling through one of the cryptocurrency Telegram channels I follow and came across a string of chats that contained rude jokes about a woman’s body.
There’s nothing surprising about finding sexism in a Telegram chat. It’s everywhere.
But I find value in this particular Telegram channel (which I won’t name), so I decided to speak out against the sexist jokes. I replied to the most offensive one and requested that “locker room talk” like this stay out of the channel, in order to create the kind of inclusive community that blockchain projects are supposed to be all about.
If you’ve been on the internet in the last decade, you know what happened next.
Bring on the haters:
Like I said, this kind of sexism online isn’t surprising, and I’ve dealt with much worse on other forums.
But I’m sharing this story because of the made-up-on-the-spot statistic this individual used, which still reflects the way many people feel about tech and emerging industries:
The tech industry is 98% male and there’s no reason that should ever change. If you don’t like the way males talk in the tech world, then you don’t belong.
Until recently, I believed some of this myself. Or at least, I definitely felt like I didn’t belong in the ultra-intimidating world of cryptocurrency.
But I do. I have just as much of a right to take up space in this industry as the troll-who-can’t-survive-without-sexist-jokes.
If I accomplish one thing by participating in this new industry (or economy? Or ecosystem? It’s so new and so weird no one knows what to call it) I hope it will be convincing more people like myself who don’t think they belong in conversations about future technology that they absolutely do belong.
We need people with diverse opinions participating in conversations about crypto. We need informed critics and skeptics. We need philosophers and poets and artists and anthropologists and historians, because without them, we might just wake up one day and discover that the nerds have accidentally created Skynet.
Cryptocurrency enthusiasts think they’re building the next economic system that will supersede capitalism. They have lofty goals of creating exponentially more wealth to be shared with exponentially more people, but unless smart, critical thinkers like you and me get involved, this next economy is most likely going to struggle with the same problems of our current global economic system.
The people who create it are the people who will benefit from it.
But I totally get it. It’s still intimidating as hell. You have to learn a completely new vocabulary (I’ve definitely looked up more definitions in the last six months than I did in an entire year studying for the SAT.) The technology is tedious and confusing, and your first few Google searches will be totally overwhelming. You’ll have to wade through sexist bullshit and communities of people who obsess over every little bump and dip of bitcoin or ethereum, and meanwhile miss the big picture.
No one would drag themselves through that process out of an obligation to put their liberal arts degree to use in service of future humanity. There are too many other good things to do with your time.
You have to want to join in because it actually looks fun and worthwhile.
So I’m going to try to entice you in.
If you are interested in any of the following conversations, you just might find your niche in crypto:
- The next global economic system after capitalism (in other words, if you’re depressed about how much capitalism sucks and consumerism is destroying the environment, start learning about cryptocurrency. It’s totally not there yet, and most of the premises are somewhat flawed, but it’s a spark that could ignite the next phase of human evolution).
- White savior syndrome in tech. Ever heard of the phrase “Nothing about us without us?” In the age of millennial values, tech startups are all obsessed with their origin story and their world-changing mission. “We’re going to bank the unbanked.” “We’re solving water shortages in Africa.” It’s almost always Africa. It’s just another echo of colonialism, and it is not going away any time soon.
- The deeply introspective question of whether it is possible to “make humans better” and if so, is it ethical? What would a better human look like? And if a human adapts to serve the interests of the community because they also serve the self, is that human really “better”? Does it matter? All these questions and more are foundational to the game theory and exploration of incentives that every overly ambitious humanitarian-focused crypto project is doing.
- Universal basic income — where will wealth and value come from when robots do all of the necessary work to sustain human life on this planet? Crypto kids think they have the answer. You be the judge.
- If you think the current political situation in the U.S. indicates that democracy has run its course, then what’s next? The crypto world is obsessed with decentralized governance, but most of the time, they end up trying to recreate democracy with fewer paid staff. Is democracy — even a fancy, blockchain-enforced-and-brokered democracy — really our best bet? Is there something better that we haven’t imagined?
- How newspapers of the future will make money. Yep, crypto is trying to transform journalism too, just check out Civil.
After months of searching, I have finally found some writers and online magazines who know how to make engaging in this world fun. Here is a round-up of the best stuff I’ve read recently:
Medium’s The Crypto Collection:
This whole curated collection is great, but here are some highlights:
Here’s what really happens on a “decentralized vacation” in Chiang Maimedium.com
A tour of Portsmouth, New Hampshire, where cryptocurrency diehards are leaving the U.S. dollar behindmedium.com
Why cryptocurrency solves for our moral calculus of arousalmedium.com
EVERYTHING from breakermag.com. What it lacks in aesthetics and design, it more than makes up for in reporting and storytelling.
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While we’re on the subject of newsletters, The Hustle does a nice job of covering big news in crypto occasionally, and a great job of humanizing and humorizing tech news every weekday, so I couldn’t recommend it more. And if you want to increase my chances of one day earning free swag, you could use my ambassador sign-up link to become a subscriber.