Cryptocurrencies are Becoming the Everest of Stupid

If you know me from my mountain climbing books, you know that I try to inject a little humor into mountain climbing, which is a sport whose practitioners often take themselves too seriously. Let me be clear: you should not ever take yourself seriously, especially not when in the great outdoors. But you should respect the land to the point of religious zealotry.

Someone who was attempting to publicize their new social media and attendant cryptocurrency sent three climbers to the summit of Everest with a thumb drive they say is valued at $50,000. The men were told to leave the thumb drive there as a publicity stunt for the new crypto. A man died in the attempt. That makes me unspeakably sad, even though I never met him.

Beyond that man’s senseless passing, it bothers me that the company claims their surviving climbers “conquered” Everest. Humans no more conquer Everest than an ant conquers my driveway. I suppose to the ants the driveway might be significant, but to me it’s just a flat surface where I park ageing used cars. The ant, the driveway, and myself are all so insignificant to the Earth as to disappear from calculability. It is impossible to “conquer” something that will never, ever notice you.

Secondly, just because you say something is good–say, worth $50,000–doesn’t mean that it is. I have explained to my wife many times that my dance moves are art, but she insists upon asking me if I am having a stroke. We’re expected to understand that if the currency’s designers say it’s worth $50,000 it must be so? Guys. Are you having a stroke?

Even if the thumb drive these guys left was worth what they say it is, it costs more than $50,000 to get to the summit of Everest. You might be able to get to the summit for less money if you already have all the gear, fitness, and knowledge, but even so you’ll be gone from your home for months, which means you’ll not be earning any money. Also, like all mountaineers, you’ll be at the mercy of the weather. You might never set a foot above 4000m.

This fundamental lack of parity between what crypto people say their stuff is worth and the real world is, like, the most cryptocurrency thing ever.

A friend emailed me this morning to ask about some sort of blockchain social media thingy which claims to pay authors in a cryptocurrency that has just been invented. This is the digital equivalent of reading your work out loud in a bus station in return for Skee-ball tickets.

I don’t mean to sound like a cryptocurrency snob, but if someone was offering Bitcoin I might be able to turn that into actual money. Then again, my first question would be, “But why can’t you just pay me in actual money?”

I think the ideas behind cryptocurrency, like security and de-centralization, are good ones, but it seems now that every day someone invents a new coin and a dumb way to promote it. It makes me sad that someone died alongside this frivolity.

You know what doesn’t need promoting, ever? Value.

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