Author Topic: DM25 The Power of Cryptocurrencies  (Read 10586 times)

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Offline Daen

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DM25 The Power of Cryptocurrencies
« on: March 18, 2022, 07:17:17 AM »
Musing 25 The Power of Cryptocurrencies

I don't know if you're the kind of person who's into cryptocurrencies, but I have very little personal experience with them. I first heard about them back in 2014, when most everyone started talking about Bitcoin. The craze sort of died down after that, but it's come back with a vengeance in recent years.

If you know my work at all, you can probably guess how I feel about this. If you don't, I won't spoil the surprise. I will however, use an analogy that hopefully will reach a large portion of you. I like video games.

I started out with the old NES and Gameboy, and eventually graduated to computer games in high school and college. I was terrible at first-person shooters, so I avoided them after Halo. I loved strategy games, and still do, especially ones with compelling stories backing them. I didn't really get into sandbox games until very recently, though.

In a sandbox game, the most notable example being Minecraft, the world is procedurally generated. That is, it creates the world around your character AS you explore that world. It doesn't bother having the whole thing mapped out before you get started, because most players won't explore any more than a tiny fraction of that world. Kind of like the real one, when you think about it.

Anyway, this is great for people who like to experiment with their environment, like me. I recently started playing Valheim, and I worked very hard to mine out the area underneath a copper deposit in the Black Forest. Not the actual Black Forest, which is in Germany, just to be clear. I went back to that copper deposit day after day, wearing out pickaxe after pickaxe, throwing away gobs of stone that I mined up during my excavation, but eventually found that it went all the way down to the theoretical bedrock. So much for my grand plans of having a floating copper deposit in midair that I could ride like a spaceship.

I also play games like Stardew Valley, which have crops you can plant and harvest regularly, and an ever-increasing plethora of ways to generate profit. Minecraft, which I haven't actually played with any real drive, was just the first example of this.

Why am I bringing up sandbox games in connection with cryptocurrencies? Well, aside from the fact that the value in both is completely intangible, they're both a capitalist dream come true.

In sandbox games, there are infinite resources. If you run out of copper/stone/diamonds/whatever, you can simply move to another part of this procedurally generated world, and get more. If it's too far away, you can move your production facilities with you, and set up shop there instead. Exhausting all the resources in an area isn't really a problem, because there are always more to be had somewhere else.

The same is true for cryptocurrencies. Sure, it takes time and computing power to mine up crypto shares for whatever currency you're trying to generate, but that's ALL it takes. Just time and effort. There is no cap to how many bitcoins, or dogecoins, or fairycoins, or vomitcoins, or whatever the type is, in existence. You can simply generate more.

People often claim that capitalism is a meritocracy. Only the most skilled, the most dedicated, and the most hardworking become successful, and then only because they deserve it! In cryptocurrencies, and in sandbox games, that is true. Everyone starts out on an equal playing field, and if they're willing to put in the time and effort necessary to gather the resources, they're able to use those resources as they see fit. The trouble is, it's not analogous to the real world!

The idea of an infinite resource world is candy to capitalists. The idea that if we run out, we can simply go somewhere else to find more, is their fondest dream. And like any dream, it's just a fantasy they've played out in their minds and in the media they control, so that they can keep taking and consuming and destroying as they please.

Now, I'm not bashing computer games at all. There's plenty to bash in a lot of them, believe me, but they're not my target right now, if they ever will be. I wouldn't be bashing cryptocurrencies either, really, if the drive to create them was like a computer game. Again, the problem is, it's not. When I said the power of cryptocurrencies, I meant that literally. As in, it takes a lot of power to make them.

In 2014 they were a novelty. In 2016, they were of interest. But in 2022... they're a nation-sized drain on our global power supply!

Did you know cryptocurrencies consume more power than the state of Washington? Or the nation of Spain? Or the Netherlands, Sweden, and Chile put together? That's how much our newest fictional novelty item takes to create. That's the literal power of it.

Again, that's not necessarily a bad thing, until you consider how that power is generated. The same way power for other things is generated, sadly. While America, and many other nations, are getting more used to the idea of wind and solar as renewable alternatives to coal and natural gas, we're a long way from being 100 percent on renewables. Still, the crypto miners aren't willing to wait. Greed has driven them to extract more and more energy from the power grid, in the hopes of making them rich, and our governments, while often split on just how much to allow cryptocurrencies to influence our economies, are fully behind allowing them to be made in the first place!

We've got people here, in this the richest country on the earth, who cannot afford to heat their homes in winter, or cool them in summer! How are we allowing these cryptominers to continue, knowing that they'll just keep growing their mining operations, without any end in sight? Knowing that all the while, human suffering will simply increase as a result??


Oh, right. The same reason we allow all exploitative behavior in this world. Because either we profit from it, or we've been duped into thinking that someday we will profit from it. Those of us who recognize the damage it's doing to people... are consistently drowned out of the public discourse by media that's controlled by people who profit from it.

And yet, there is hope. In 2019, a 15 year old Swedish girl called capitalists out for their careless and existentially-risking exploitation. She got global coverage on her speech, and so can we. She was right. Infinite growth in a world without infinite resources is... to put it mildly, sadistic insanity! We can't keep pretending that we live in a procedurally generated video game. The world doesn't stretch out forever, and neither do we. Eventually, that stretch will snap. And the more people doing the stretching, the more people who will suffer and die when the snap comes.

Oh, I meant to include some examples of how fake money is, by comparing cryptocurrencies to the dollar after we abandoned the Gold Standard, but it seems redundant now. The whole 'burning the world to get more dumbcoins' thing kinda eclipsed it. Sorry about that.

At any rate, if you're planning on mining cryptostuff, do so with the knowledge that it's even worse for the world than hard currency or stock options or speculative investment or any of those other dumb things we made up to legitimize our exploitation of others. They're all bad, but crypto is worse. And yet despite that comparison... I still want to play my sandbox games. At least the only people I can hurt there, are fictional as well.
« Last Edit: July 22, 2022, 05:37:16 AM by Daen »