COIN TALK is produced in partnership with Medium and hosted by Aaron Lammer and Jay Caspian Kang. Press “Listen to the story” above to play the episode. (You can also subscribe on Apple Podcasts, Google Play, download the MP3, or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org)
Aaron Lammer: Back in the house.
Jay Kang: Back in … Well, we’re not in the crypto cave. We haven’t been in the crypto cave a long time.
Aaron Lammer: I mean, I am in the crypto cave.
Jay Kang: I am in my own cave of depressing nicotine related products and post-it notes-
Aaron Lammer: Oh really?
Jay Kang: … in Industry City, yeah. It’s getting dark in here. I feel like it’s, if someone came in here and they saw me slowly typing away while watching stock charts or something like that with five unopened documents that I’m supposed to be working on, they would be concerned. But luckily nobody has come in here since I’ve rented the space out except for me and one day my wife.
Aaron Lammer: Well, I’m slightly concerned by how much our previously crypto related telegram chatroom is now dedicated to uranium trading.
Jay Kang: Oh yeah.
Aaron Lammer: So everything’s a little topsy turvy. I don’t think I have a ton of stuff to say about the Bitcoin or even larger crypto markets this week. I don’t know what’s happening.
Jay Kang: Yeah.
Aaron Lammer: So we were taping last week, and I feel like we didn’t really get into this, because I think we taped maybe on Election Day or maybe the day after, and so none of this was really settled at this point. But I look at the Coin Talk Twitter feed, because it’s one of the Twitter accounts in my Twitter client, and it’s usually the one at the top, because I don’t really personally use Twitter. And watching crypto Twitter during the election day was pretty weird.
Jay Kang: What happened? I mean, I only use Twitter to follow Overwatch news. So I didn’t see any of it.
Aaron Lammer: Of course, of course. I expected as much. Well, I guess to summarize, a lot of people tweeting don’t vote.
Jay Kang: Oh god.
Aaron Lammer: So it’s almost like the wacky, flipped mirror, Wario, Mario of my other one, because my personal Twitter is just a feed of people saying, “Vote,” and my Coin Talk feed, which is primarily people we talk about on this show, people who have been on this show, is just a litany of don’t vote notices. So the first one that I noticed was from our guest [Safe Amoos 00:03:09]. And Safe is an extreme guy. We’ve talked about it on this show before. It doesn’t deeply surprise me that he has a anti democracy outlook. But it didn’t stop there. It was other people who I don’t view as quite as extreme, like our previous guest Crypto Randy Marsh. Nick Carter, whose stuff I generally like. I would say that most of the mentions of the vote on my crypto feed were people discouraging others from voting.
Jay Kang: All right, so what’s their logic? I generally know the leftist and communist reasons to not vote, which is that it’s not that you shouldn’t vote, it’s that you should not put any stock in the possibility of electoral politics, and that only a revolutionary politick can properly change late capitalism into something better. If I have people on my old feed who would be saying don’t vote, it would most likely be communists. But what is the opposite reason?
Aaron Lammer: I think the rationale is actually not that different if you just put Bitcoin maximalism in there instead of the revolution, or if you say the revolution parenthetical, Bitcoin maximalism, you’re most of the way there. I mean, it’s democracy is bankrupt, it’s a system that’s failed, I don’t know. In the same way that all these guys have Austrian school heroes, I think there’s a literature of democracy is a failure out there. I don’t wanna try and summarize its ideas, because clearly I haven’t read it. But I think what struck me as, whoa, was not that there are a lot of people in crypto who don’t believe in voting. It’s the social encouragement for others to follow suit. Like I don’t have any problem with safe, not voting or being against voting. But it does feel weird to be like, “Hey, you, all of my followers, people who respect me, you, don’t vote.”
Jay Kang: Yeah. You know, it’s saying “Don’t vote” is different than saying, “I don’t believe that voting matters.” Right?
Aaron Lammer: Yeah. And there was a mix of those two things. I shouldn’t say … Some of those people said, “I didn’t vote,” some people say, “Hey, you shouldn’t vote, here’s an article about why.”
Jay Kang: Yeah, and look, again, I remember very clearly that Colin Kaepernick at the height of the media attention around him at the election said that he didn’t vote because he didn’t see any difference between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, because both of them would have … I don’t know what his rationale was. But it was … Look, I generally agree with a lot of what Colin Kaepernick is saying about police brutality in America. But I felt like that was probably fed to him, or a line that was fed to him by somebody who is stupid. Because the idea that Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton are the same, you know, is a bizarrely … It’s almost like a privileged take. There are plenty of people who right now we’ve shown are suffering because of this, and to say that they are the same because of some blah blah blah Marxism thing is … I don’t know. It was probably Stephen A. Smith’s greatest moment was responding to that. But-
Aaron Lammer: Stephen A. Smith has a lot of greatest moments.
Jay Kang: Yeah. He really does, yeah.
Aaron Lammer: His greatest moments is like a feature film.
Jay Kang: It’s like the last 10 years of his career, his greatest moments.
Aaron Lammer: For me he will never top mistaking an Onion headline that was Stephen A. Smith thinks it’s finally ready to have the sex argument with teenage son as a real headline and then going on a rant about how he didn’t actually have a son. That was my favorite Stephen A. Smith moment.
Jay Kang: I think my favorite moment was, did you see when he dressed up as one of the Jabbawockeez and danced?
Aaron Lammer: I did not see that.
Jay Kang: He did this whole break dance. It was incredible.
Aaron Lammer: I’m looking that up as soon as we get off the air.
Jay Kang: He’s actually, I mean, quite a good dancer. And look, as somebody who’s on television, I don’t think that this needs to be said. Whenever people in sports media are like, “Oh, well anybody could stand there and scream takes all day long.” Be like, “No, you couldn’t.”
Aaron Lammer: No. Some people are the best at it.
Jay Kang: Yeah. Some people are literally the best at it. And that’s why they make a lot of money. But anyway, go on.
Aaron Lammer: Well, to give a little credit to the crypto people, I didn’t actually … I don’t think the message is don’t vote because the Democrats are the same as the Republicans or that Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump are the same. It’s more like Bitcoin maximalism itself, which is there can be no intermediate step. We can’t just have internet money, we need to tear down the very underpinnings of this inflation taxation et cetera system.
Jay Kang: Sure.
Aaron Lammer: It’s what you’ve heard before. It’s the, we have to kill all vegetables to bring about the steak utopia kind of thinking. And if nothing else, I’ll say that these people are consistent with their extremism.
Jay Kang: Yeah.
Aaron Lammer: But I find it increasingly repellent and potentially getting a little silly. It’s like hey, if you wanna jump off the democracy ship, fine, but the rest of us are still here stuck in America trying to sort this stuff all out. And even if there is gonna be some kind of a borderless Bitcoin future, we still have to figure out what we’re gonna do between now and then. Am I crazy?
Jay Kang: Yeah, well, I don’t know. I mean, it’s like if what you want is a collapse in society and to rebuild all of it despite the enormous cost that you most likely think will happen in terms of human life and capital and everything-
Aaron Lammer: A lot of people are gonna get shot against the wall, definitely.
Jay Kang: Yeah. Then, you should vote for the option that you think is going to bring around that apocalypse. I don’t quite-
Aaron Lammer: I think that’s the Bitcoin’s case for Trump, unfortunately. I mean, I think that’s why people vote for Trump.
Jay Kang: No no, that’s what I mean. You should just hope that the entire country becomes … That every representative in Congress, everybody is like Steve King, and that we have a massive civil war, and that out of the smoldering ashes of that civil war, which will most likely be a race war, that you can build some sort of Bitcoin society. That seems like a much more reasonable take, the idea that ah, voting is going to distract you, and you can’t vote and think of some sort of marginal gains through electoral politics and also be a revolutionary. It’s a little bit silly to me. I mean, you can certainly do both. I don’t want anybody to think, and you made pretty clear, we don’t agree with this standpoint. But I do agree with you in one way, which is that I do think it is consistent with the revolutionary politics, and I think if you asked Saife Ammous and I don’t know Crypto Randy Marsh, but if you asked Saifedean at least, he would classify himself as a revolutionary.
Aaron Lammer: No, I agree. I mean, I think what we’re actually coming around to is that the Bitcoin maximalist outlook is a lot like Marxism. It’s all in, all or nothing, fully revolutionary.
Jay Kang: Yeah, okay. So my question to Safe and Crypto Randy Marsh is that in Colorado, the governor, the new governor is a gay man, he is also Jewish, and he is quite progressive I think in terms of social issues. He also really likes Bitcoin, and I would say that of all the politicians in America who have any type of large influence, he is by far the most Bitcoin friendly. Should you vote for that guy because he’s Bitcoin friendly? He certainly will I think probably bring some sorts of blockchain technology or blockchain companies to Denver, which actually makes sense as a place for it to be.
Aaron Lammer: Sounds great. As I’ve always said, weed, video games, crypto. You know? These are the underpinnings for our bipartisan society.
Jay Kang: Oh my god, it’s terrible.
Aaron Lammer: It’s where the healing’s gonna come.
Jay Kang: So why not vote for that guy? Why not support him, because that will help your causes? And look, again, this is mostly stuff I encounter on the left in terms of real communist, is that they say you shouldn’t be distracted, and that’s always seemed like such a weak argument to me. Like, how distracted are you going to be for just voting?
Aaron Lammer: How distracted am I gonna get in a place that has weed, video games, and crypto? I mean, come on. I’ll stay focused.
Jay Kang: But also how distracting is it from your revolutionary goals to find the one guy who likes Bitcoin and vote for him? It’s really not. It doesn’t make any sense to me.
Aaron Lammer: Do you mind if I take your pretty hot take and put it on the cooker even more? I feel like that guy, that Denver, he’s a congressman in Denver?
Jay Kang: He’s the governor of Colorado.
Aaron Lammer: Governor, sorry, governor of Colorado. Isn’t that guy in some ways the avatar for crypto moderacy?
Jay Kang: But these guys don’t want crypto moderacy.
Aaron Lammer: I know. But I guess I’m saying Jay that maybe we have an important mission in the world, which is to speak for the vision I had just when I first heard about Bitcoin and got at all interested in it, which was that it was fake internet money and that there was some people who were like pirate party kind of people who are into torrents and bootleg software, but also potentially supported societal safety nets, and supported the very idea of government and society. And then there was other people who were radical, right wing libertarian militia people, some of them maybe even Nazis, and that in some ways cryptocurrency could be a bridge amongst all these people towards some sense of a shared future. And to me that’s the crypto moderate outlook, and it’s disappointing to me that maximalism basically is like you are all in or you’re out. We have no idea of building a consensus or uniting people who have really strong feelings about this with some other people who might like living in this democracy, but also want some fake internet money.
Jay Kang: Yeah. It’s the problem with both libertarians and revolutionaries is that at the point where you have to be like well, we need eight people to agree on one thing so that we can produce this result, they start arguing about theory.
Aaron Lammer: Literally that’s what happened to Ethereum. Have you read any of these recent accounts about the tumultuous early days of Ethereum?
Jay Kang: No.
Aaron Lammer: They got like eight people who couldn’t get, agree with anything out. First they kicked out two people. There was a huge rift about whether it should be a nonprofit.
Jay Kang: How did they kick out people though? How do you decide to kick people out?
Aaron Lammer: The six decided to kick out the two. I mean, the old way.
Jay Kang: Oh my god. So isn’t that a democratic process?
Aaron Lammer: I mean, yeah. I think that that’s part of the whole ethos of the post Bitcoin, alt coin movements is that they have governance attached to them, because you saw Ethereum went from a utopian ideal to a brawl between its eight founders in a period of months. So I guess what I think is that all these problems of how people get along and don’t murder each other and how eight people in the room can possibly come to a conclusion about anything are these big human problems. And I just don’t see how maximalism gets around them. It substitutes this idea of well, we should just decide everything based on everyone having the most liberty. But no one agrees on what the most liberty means.
Jay Kang: Yeah. And also there’s a certain hypocrisy I think that has always annoyed me, which is that … And it’s not, maybe hypocrisy is the wrong word. But I feel like there is a further question that you can ask the maximalists, which is that if you feel this way, if you feel like you want a society that is based entirely on libertarian values and crypto currencies, that has a no government, and that in which these types of systems that are trustless and are decentralized can be the organizing force for society, then you should move to Bitcointopia. You should figure it out. Because that, Bitcointopia might be a scam, but you could create something that is not a scam. And some of these people are very wealthy. And maybe this is what they’re trying to do in Puerto Rico.
Jay Kang: But that I think that anybody who is reasonable, even on this side, which might be slim pickings, but if you ask them in one of their less zealotrous moments, do you think that this is gonna be easy, they would say, “No, it’s not gonna be easy. We’re gonna have to figure stuff out.” And there is an option to figure this stuff out. Just go live off the grid and be neighbors with someone else who’s into Bitcoin and just have long talks about whether or not the property line that divides your two houses exists or doesn’t exist, and eventually one person is gonna end up murdered. And then you figure out what to do about that. I just feel like people who are libertarians in this sort of hard Austrian school way, who live in society and benefit off of democratic processes and governmental programs, and then just say everything sucks, just go live off the grid then. Nobody is gonna care. Just do it.
Aaron Lammer: I mean, I think some of them I guess are, or are planning to. But-
Jay Kang: I don’t think they are. It’s like the people who are always yelling about O Techs, the floating biodomes on the ocean that harvest [spiralina 00:16:57], just go build one, dude. Stop talking about it for 50 years.
Aaron Lammer: Well no, but people don’t really wanna do that, because it’s mostly single, extremely rich men. There’s a reason everyone was like, “Oh, San Francisco, it’s like a shithole, it’s full of homeless people,” but it’s like, it’s weird, all the technology industry seems to huddle around it. It’s as if you need an American city to live in, and people don’t really wanna live off the grid or on floating barges, at least yet, because they’re still a little bit normal human beings, like 10% of them still wants to go to bars and have Tinder. You know. Live out pre Bitcoin American life. And when I hear people … I feel like I’m … I’m not a person who’s gonna tell you that democracy is going great, or that American democracy is the best attempt at how to live in the world that humans have achieved. But I feel a little bit like a bunch of guys are over at my house going, “Man, this place is a shithole. Fuck this place.” I wanna be like, “Cool, what does your house look like? Could we go see it?”
Jay Kang: Yeah. Yeah.
Aaron Lammer: They’re like, “Oh, I’m building it. I’m building it. It’s out on a barge right now. We can go canoe out …” It’s like yeah, I agree, all this shit is a problem, but you’re not convincing me that you’re the people to solve the problem.
Jay Kang: Yeah. Yeah.
Aaron Lammer: It’s how I felt when I did encounter revolutionary socialism in my teen and college years, which was while I identify with some of the stated ideals here, I definitely don’t want you people to be in charge of anything. I would rather live under the most boring moderate American government than alow myself to live under a bunch of college classmate social revolutionaries. A little bit I feel like you have to sell people on something that they actually want, not simply the deep, deep, deep long term ideal of liberty.
Jay Kang: Well, I mean, we’re at arguably … I don’t even think arguably. We are living under a government right now that is the equivalent of that.
Aaron Lammer: I mean, hey.
Jay Kang: People like Steven Miller, Seb Gorka, and Steve Bannon, and all these people in the Trump administration, they are the people at your college who would hand out flyers.
Aaron Lammer: They’re a bunch of fucking really annoying people. Like Steven Miller was the kind of guy who jumped on the track and interrupted women’s running meets. I don’t wanna talk about the politics. Just remove the politics. And just think about the kind of human beings who are into that kind of shit. They’re the most fucking annoying people. You don’t wanna live … Look. There’s a reason that Bitcointopia has a murder rate of 100%. All the people who wanna go do the wild wacky stuff are absolutely insufferable. And I would much rather live in an inflationary, capitalistic system with a bunch of different people I can hang out with than be fucking stuck on a boat with Steven Miller types.
Jay Kang: Yeah, and look, I think that if you are a revolutionary in a country as large and that has entrenched economy like the United States, then you should not be trying to overthrow the United States, you should be trying to create your own society. I mean, that … Just be like Charles Manson or something like that. Create your own utopia.
Aaron Lammer: I mean, that is what this Puerto Rico stuff is, right?
Jay Kang: Yeah.
Aaron Lammer: I mean, and they’re gonna try … Venezuela is a different iteration of trying to build from the ground up. So to me those are actually more interesting. I’m more interested in a Venezuelan person who wants to live under Bitcoin maximalism than an American.
Jay Kang: Look, if Safe Amoos and Crypto Randy Marsh and 200 Twitter trolls went off to the Nevada desert to create their own society, I would be there with them to film it. I would be fascinated by with hat happened, and-
Aaron Lammer: I think what you really mean is you would go play poker, and then hung over, drive out for a couple hours every morning, slowly go less and less often, start just calling in.
Jay Kang: Yeah. I’d bring a bulletproof vest or something like that. And have a handgun. And then I would show up for an hour and a half, and then I would watch them yelling at each other, take a few notes, and then I would drive back to my hotel. That is true. But it would be a fascinating experiment. Like you and I said, I think that they would literally actually kill each other very, very quickly, or at least would just be arguing and using whatever decentralized version of Twitter they had to flame each other all day long. But, my only advice to them would be look, just go do it. Live your best life, live your dream, and go for it. Because look, the ideas are not … You and I are interested in crypto because we don’t think that the fundamental ideas are all stupid. You know?
Aaron Lammer: No.
Jay Kang: We acknowledge that there is a need to try and create some sort of decentralized platform that does not sell all of our information and all of our privacy to four companies that then hand it over to the government. All that is bad, I don’t think that those are fringe opinions. And then perhaps this is a type of technological revolution, is the only way that we can break ourselves from their power. All that stuff is interesting to us, but I don’t think that yelling on Twitter, giving money to another tech company by the way, is really the best way to do this.
Aaron Lammer: 100% agree. All right. Should we do a little lighter side here, a little lighter side of crypto?
Jay Kang: Yeah.
Aaron Lammer: Jay, have you gotten any Initiative Q?
Jay Kang: No.
Aaron Lammer: It’s like getting free Bitcoin seven years ago.
Jay Kang: Yeah, yeah.
Aaron Lammer: And if you will sign up, I have an invite I could give you. All right, that’s not true, I don’t actually have an invite to Initiative Q. If anyone is listening, please invite me and Jay, okay? Just send an invite to-
Jay Kang: No no, don’t. Don’t. Please don’t.
Aaron Lammer: … email@example.com.
Jay Kang: Please don’t.
Aaron Lammer: Okay. So Jay, do you understand what Initiative Q is?
Jay Kang: The only thing I understand about it, Aaron, is that it reminds me of Herbalife, where you sign up for it and then you try and get more people to sign up for it, and then those five people that you signed up try and get five people to sign up for it, and that the shape that this takes, and if you mapped it out, looks much like a pyramid. That’s all I understand about it.
Aaron Lammer: Forms a 3D triangle. Okay. In some ways I feel like by comparing it to Herbalife you’re giving it too much credit.
Jay Kang: Okay.
Aaron Lammer: Because Herbalife is a real sugar pill that you can actually have shipped to your house, and once you get people to join the scheme, they too can get Herbalife and sell Herbalife to their neighbors. Initiative Q is not quite that far down the line. For background, it’s founded by a famous academic and a major PayPal person. So it seems like it’s real.
Jay Kang: Yeah yeah, so the people behind, the team is real. It’s an economics professor, and-
Aaron Lammer: But we don’t really even know what that means. Because we don’t know what they’re doing. The idea that there’s a professor behind it. All it is is the promise that in the future, you will be issued Initiative Q tokens. So if let’s say I sign up, someone invites me. I get one in the mail and I’m like “Hey Aaron, I know you’re into crypto, here’s an invite to Initiative Q.” If all you have to do is sign up and you’re getting free Initiative Q tokens that I can actually estimate the value of them in the future. They have a tool on there. And they’re basically saying, “This is like getting free Bitcoin.” And if I send it to you, I think you get five invites if you sign up, then not only do you get Initiative Q, but I get more Initiative Q. I think the token is Q, I guess. I get more Q because I invited you. So you can see rapidly, as you multiply five times five times five times five times five, this is now out to millions and millions of people, it’s a massive viral smash. And all it really is at this point is a giant mailing list with a promise of a future air drop.
Aaron Lammer: But what they’re air dropping is not a decentralized blockchain product, it’s just simply Q, it’s centralized on their server, there’s no real understanding of what the supply is, it’s just Q, and you’re gonna be able in the future to buy stuff, Apple Pay style with Q.
Jay Kang: Can we back up a little bit and talk about the name? Since you and I only really understand these things from branding standpoints. What do you think about the name Initiative Q?
Aaron Lammer: Well, I have to assume that it predates Q Anon.
Jay Kang: Yeah, okay. Let’s get that out of the way.
Aaron Lammer: It’s a pretty slick and sophisticated. So I think that’s just a very unfortunate coincidence. And you see this kind of stuff in naming, where probably there’s some sort of internal testing tool that is telling people that Q stuff is good right now.
Jay Kang: Oh. Huh. I don’t know. I guess the only reason why I thought it was interesting was because its’ literally the vaguest name possible. It doesn’t mean anything but it sounds kinda cool. You know? I took the subway the other day Aaron, which is, as you know, extremely rare for me, and I was walking-
Aaron Lammer: Once a year. Once a year.
Jay Kang: Yeah. I was walking around Union Square subway station and there were these ads for “What is,” and I don’t remember what the name was, but then they had as you kept walking they had other subway advertisements that explained what it was, but none of the other explanations made any more sense. And I feel that way about Initiative Q, which is that I have done a little bit of reading in preparation for this podcast about it, and no, nothing outside of the pyramid … I’m sorry, that’s unfair, the as you put it, 3D triangular shape of its structure.
Aaron Lammer: The viral helix.
Jay Kang: Nothing else makes sense to me. I don’t quite understand what it is or what it’s proposing to do. The only thing I understand about it, and this is from the Breaker piece, which I think was quite good, is that the only thing they say is that, “We are not a crypto currency.” Right?
Aaron Lammer: Yeah. It’s got this real wink wink where it’s like, “Initiative Q is a lot like a crypto currency. But it’s not a crypto currency.” Then it’s just, that’s the end of the section. Because it’s got-
Jay Kang: Yeah, I actually think that that’s the entire description, which is like … It’s like digital money, but it is not a crypto currency, and that’s it. I don’t think that they really give you anything else.
Aaron Lammer: Yeah, I mean, most of my understanding of it is reverse engineered from other people criticizing it. But it’s basically either the opposite of crypto or the most crypto thing possible, and then it’s like abandoning all of the stuff that people are excited about in crypto and replacing them with the most crass, obvious bait and switch additions. But I think it’s doing pretty well, and it seems like, unlike crypto itself right now, it’s actually appealing to a non crypto audience. Like the people who are all signing up for Initiative Q are not crypto people, I don’t think. I think they’re more like email chain letter hoax kind of people.
Jay Kang: Oh okay, so why are … Is there any explanation as to why people are signing up? I would say that if somebody … If I got an email and it said … If you sent me an email and you said, “Look, here’s some free money, you should sign up for it.”
Aaron Lammer: Yeah.
Jay Kang: I would text your wife and ask if you’re okay, because it seems like the oldest-
Aaron Lammer: That was how I got you into crypto in the first place. I was like, “Jay, these shit coins, they’re basically free money.”
Jay Kang: It seems like at its baseline the most obvious scam ever, you know?
Aaron Lammer: But what’s the scam? I haven’t given them any money. It’s just a virality for the sake of virality. The reason someone would do it is it’s free.
Jay Kang: Okay, but Aaron, if you’re walking down the street, let’s say, let’s say that you’re walking down Broadway and somebody hands you a $5 bill. Do you take the $5 bill?
Aaron Lammer: Mmm.
Jay Kang: No. Of course you don’t.
Aaron Lammer: Good question. The first thing I do is I start looking around, and then, yeah, I probably don’t take it.
Jay Kang: Yeah. Or what if they say, “Hey, all I need is your email address. Here’s a $5 bill. It’s only the email.” Of course you wouldn’t take it. I just don’t understand why this thing, which is not even worth $5 now, because it doesn’t exist, why is it virally successful?
Aaron Lammer: Jay, I think you may have just invented Initiative Z, which is $5 street disbursals.
Jay Kang: Yeah. But I’ve actually asked you as somebody who I think knows slightly more about it than me. Is there any explanation for why it’s been virally successful?
Aaron Lammer: Are you asking me to make the bull case for Q? Okay, I will. So it comes out. It’s like a centralized token that they just issued a ton of and no one knows what it is. Probably let’s say it somehow makes its way to exchanges even though it’s centralized. I could see people bidding it up to being worth a few cents or whatever. I mean, if you believe that Bitcoin is just made up money and you don’t even know anything about centralization or the blockchain or ledger or anything, why would you not believe that something else could just be made up money?
Jay Kang: Well, because the other things have a theory and a philosophy and an idea behind it.
Aaron Lammer: The title of this episode is definitely gonna be The Bull Case for Initiative Q.
Jay Kang: I don’t know if you’ve made a bull case for it, Aaron. You’re basically just like if everything else is bullshit, then why can’t this bullshit work, right?
Aaron Lammer: That’s the bull case for all alt coins.
Jay Kang: I don’t know. I mean, I don’t quite get it. This is mentioned in the Breaker piece, which is that we already have a centralized from of sending money around the internet, and you-
Aaron Lammer: Yeah, but you can’t just get it for free.
Jay Kang: I guess that’s-
Aaron Lammer: PayPal won’t just give you PayPal credit.
Jay Kang: So is there a … This does come from two people who do, at least are credentialed, right?
Aaron Lammer: I don’t even know if I’m comfortable saying that.
Jay Kang: One of them is a professor of economics, right?
Aaron Lammer: Think about how many wack-a-doodle professors you’ve met in your life.
Jay Kang: I’m saying that there is a-
Aaron Lammer: We have friends who who are professors who are not reputable people.
Jay Kang: Do we? I don’t.
Aaron Lammer: I know some disreputable professors.
Jay Kang: Name them right now. I would say at the very least that there must be some idea behind this, but the weird thing about Initiative Q is that it has not told us what the idea is except that the idea is that it’s not crypto currency. So I guess my question is literally, is there going to be other reveals? It feels very much Super Bowl ad-y. Remember all the Super Bowls where there would be like 15 seconds and there would put a name out and everyone would be like, “Well what is that?” And then they would reveal it a month later or something like that.
Aaron Lammer: If they drop an Initiative Q ad at the Super Bowl, I’ll go crazy.
Jay Kang: I mean, that might be coming. That might be coming. I think that crypto is tied perfectly so that there are no crypto Super Bowl ads. Or was there?
Aaron Lammer: Yeah, no, I think that by the time … I think no one had budget by the time … By the time the Super Bowl rolled around it was we were a little … Ah, I don’t know, media buyers. If you were a media buyer in December, you would have been all over that.
Jay Kang: Yeah, or even before that. I mean, I think they probably sell out the Super Bowl ads much earlier than that. But yeah, I don’t really get this. And it seems scam-y to me. And anything in this space that feels scam-y is probably scam-y, and I do wonder how much work the, what you call not credentialing, but I would say is probably enough credentialing for your average person who wants free money. I wonder how much work that’s doing for them. If it was like Initiative Coin Talk and it was just me and you, I wonder how much virality there would be.
Aaron Lammer: Well, I mean, part of them are they are drafting off of the bull run of Bitcoin, which is they’re basically doing something that in no way is like Bitcoin, but most of the people who didn’t really understand the last Bitcoin run, or maybe didn’t pay any attention to it, wouldn’t be able to tell the difference between Initiative Q and Bitcoin if you know nothing about either of them. So someone’s saying, “Hey, we just wanna give you free tokens of the next Bitcoin,” it’s kind of the ultimate dumb … You know how we talk about acting like a dumb person? This is the ultimate acting like a dumb person. And that’s why I sort of can believe in how successful it’s been. It’s the opposite of Civil.
Jay Kang: I don’t know.
Aaron Lammer: Remember how Civil, we were like their problem is that they were actually trying to do something. This is the ultimate not doing anything. It’s not even decentralizing. It’s not even issuing anything. It’s literally just a really big email list.
Jay Kang: Okay, but-
Aaron Lammer: It’s the world’s best email mailing list drive up.
Jay Kang: But by the rule of Coin Talk, which is that if you and I are into it it means that it is dumb, then-
Aaron Lammer: Yes.
Jay Kang: … if this was perfectly dumb, then you and I would be pumping it right now on this show, and we would not be-
Aaron Lammer: I am pumping it on this show.
Jay Kang: We wouldn’t be doing it out of some cynical self regard, we would be like, “Oh yeah, that’s a great idea.” I think this might be too dumb even for us, which means that I don’t quite understand its virality at all. Or at the very least we have to maybe amend the Coin Talk rule of if we’re into it then it’s probably dumb, and most likely a scam.
Aaron Lammer: I’m not denying that it’s dumb and a scam. I’m saying that they’ve done something almost amazing, which is even the dumbest of ICO shit coins, crypto people are dissecting it and making fun of it. This is so dumb it almost stands outside of crypto. Here’s what I would say. Satoshi is to Excerptoshi as crypto is to Initiative Q.
Jay Kang: Okay. Here’s another question that I have. Do you know who Peter Boghassian is? He’s like a sort of intellectual dark web figure. And he’s a professor somewhere, I don’t remember where. He and somebody else published-
Aaron Lammer: Another shady professor.
Jay Kang: Yeah. Actually, he is proof of that. He and another professor made up a bunch of fake papers that had insane what they would classify as social justice warrior type of things.
Aaron Lammer: Yeah, I followed this story. I didn’t recognize the name, but yeah, I know the story, yeah.
Jay Kang: But he sent out, they sent out papers to be published that were all ironic and done in this hyperbolic way, and a lot of them did get published. And to be fair, some of those were pay to play type journals. None of them were particularly reputable journals. But-
Aaron Lammer: Just like you could put out a fake white paper and someone would take it seriously and maybe even make the coin.
Jay Kang: Yes. But I wonder if this, Initiative Q, might be that. Is it a way for these people to show mania.
Aaron Lammer: Ooh, I like it. And then they come out with the hoax at the Super Bowl.
Jay Kang: Yeah. Well, not even that, but they-
Aaron Lammer: The Super Bowl’s the big reveal.
Jay Kang: They are filming a documentary about it right now, and they’re studying human behavior.
Aaron Lammer: Ooh, I like it.
Jay Kang: Because the idea of free … It’s like here’s a pyramid scheme for free money. That’s essentially what this boils down to, right? It’s kinda like Bitcoin, but we won’t tell you what it is. It feels like a social experiment more than a real project, if that makes sense to you.
Aaron Lammer: I don’t remember who tweeted this, but someone was like, “This is a brilliant idea if you want a list of all of the dumbest investors in America.” If you were trying to shill scam-y financial products to people, the mailing list of Initiative Q would be the most amazing lead generation service possible for people who are willing to make really dumb investments.
Jay Kang: Yeah that, and the Coin Talk subscriber list.
Aaron Lammer: Also highly valuable. Highly valuable business data for today’s investor. How many people listen to Coin Talk this week. Email me.
Jay Kang: All right. Well is there anything else you wanna talk about this week?
Aaron Lammer: No, I mean, look, it’s hard to go anywhere from Initiative Q. Whatever it is, it’s the bottom of something. It’s either the top or the bottom of some sort of a pyramid. So maybe we’ll bounce now. Maybe Initiative Q will be the sobering lesson crypto needs to move forward.
Jay Kang: Okay, well I have a question then, which is that we do know people who could send us invites. Are you going to sign up?
Aaron Lammer: I will sign up.
Jay Kang: Okay.
Aaron Lammer: I am curious to go further in the Initiative Q experiment, and I feel like we maybe hit the bottom of the well with dumb ICOs, but I’m waiting for whatever the next wave of dumb is, and this feels like dropping the whole clumsy decentralization part seems like it’s gonna open up a new world of weird, scam-y crypto culture.
Jay Kang: Okay, well if you sign up, I’ll sign up.
Aaron Lammer: Well, I mean, I was gonna say I’ll sign up, but I’ll invite you so you’re a little downstream of me. I just want a little of the action from your sign up.
Jay Kang: Oh yeah. But you’ll have more Initiative Q than I do, which-
Aaron Lammer: I mean, I admit, the earlier you join, the higher your reward. So yes, I will have more Q than you. But I think I deserve it because I put skin in the game earlier and made the bull case for Initiative Q.
Jay Kang: Yes but this is where the market comes in, and as you know, I hate having less of anything than-
Aaron Lammer: Jay, I’m willing to sell you a little of my Q if you wanna level up.
Jay Kang: I might have to spend a few days building out my own network so that I have more Q than you.
Aaron Lammer: I can see you getting really into Q, like using it as a bet settlement layer also. Like we’re all just transferring Q, and it still has no value, but we’re both hoarding Q like it’s like Monopoly game tokens.
Jay Kang: Yeah, that actually is true. I bet I could get everyone in my degenerate gambling group text to sign up for this thing. So I might be ahead of you before too long.