Congratulations to all of my fellow rat poison enthusiasts who successfully held through the Dark Winter of Doubt (also known as “2018-2020”). Kennedy declared in 1961 that he would have a man on the Moon by end of the decade. Let me declare that bitcoin will be far beyond “the Moon” by the end of this decade.
I’ve lately become a lot less interested in evangelizing or defending cryptocurrency to the skeptics in my life. I’ve spent a solid half-decade casting pearls; at this point you either get it or you don’t.
Obviously there are still massive UX challenges in crypto. Exorbitant gas prices on the Ethereum network continue to intrude on the little guy’s ability to swap ERC-20s or interact with smart contracts. Last month I had to spend well over $100 in Ethereum gas fees to end a number of altcoin stakes that I set up the previous year. At each step of the process I questioned whether I was doing things correctly or whether I was recklessly burning through my gains in order to secure needlessly faster transaction speeds for myself. That experience sucks, and it won’t scale. But it’s not a death knell any more than ARPANET’s complexity was a harbinger of doom for Netscape.
We are still early. We are still early early. Did you see yesterday’s news that U.S. federal banks are now allowed to use stablecoins? We are so early you can’t even imagine it.
You shouldn’t expect the “financial advisor” at your hometown bank to recommend that you invest in crypto any more than you would have expected the store managers at Blockbuster to advise you to jump ship for Netflix. Every meteor is going to displace a few dinosaurs. (And until that day comes, nothing is preventing the dinosaurs from enjoying their 0.1% APY or whatever the CDs are paying nowadays.)
I’m going to go out on a limb and guess that most people who regularly send and receive email cannot explain what TCP/IP or IMAP are, and yet every day they manage to successfully use technology that relies on those protocols. Why insist on understanding “what gives bitcoin value” before pulling the trigger on a provably resilient investment? Bro, you don’t need to understand blockchain in order for blockchain to take off.
My advice (this is not official financial advice; I’m not a licensed advisor; you must do your own research; blah blah blah) to anyone interested in crypto has always been to pick a safe project you believe in (read: BTC) and set up an automatic weekly buy on Coinbase. $10 a week. $50 a week. $5 a week. An amount that to you is negligible but non-trivial. Don’t even look at the price of one full coin when you do it.
What you don’t want to do: wait for the “perfect” moment on the price chart and then dump a life-altering amount of money into it all at once. What you really don’t want to do: day trade.
Buy and hold. That’s it. That’s literally all you have to do.
“But when should I sell?”
Back in 2013/14, when I first started learning about bitcoin, my go-to source of new knowledge on the topic was neither YouTube nor the dregs of /biz/, but rather a podcast called Let’s Talk Bitcoin. I have memories of listening to one episode after another, heading further and further into the backlog, excited about my growing understanding of cryptocurrency.
Eventually I began to feel that the conversations in the podcast were too technical, and essential details were flying right over my head. This, along with the sustained bear market after the 2013 crypto bubble burst, put a damper on my excitement for the topic. I unsubscribed from the podcast and let my Coinbase account languish, untouched for years…
But the last year has seen everyone’s interest in cryptocurrency – my own included – burn bright yet again. And this time I don’t feel like the passion is going to die down any time soon.
Andreas Antonopoulos never left my Twitter feed in all those years, so when the world-renowned blockchain expert and Let’s Talk Bitcoin co-host tweeted that his podcast was celebrating its fifth anniversary in nearby Chicago, I decided to buy a ticket right on the spot.
I entered the venerable Music Box Theatre donning my Litecoin hoodie. Part of me wondered whether that would be seen as provocative at the Let’s Talk Bitcoin show, but no negative comments came my way. The evening’s agenda was a potpourri, starting with a musical performance, followed by a talk by Andreas, and then concluding with a live recording of the podcast. That episode is live now, so I suppose you can listen to it yourself to glean some of the same knowledge in my notes below, but I figured I would share my notes from the night. Some of these are quotes from a speaker, and others are my own thoughts, inspired by what I was hearing.
- You may find yourself confused and intimidated by the complexity of cryptocurrency, but to everyone you know, you’re the expert, says Andreas to laughs and nods of approval
- People who invested in internet companies during the dotcom bubble may have gained or lost money, but the people who invested time and energy (instead of money) into learning how to become a web developer, etc. were/are definitely better off
- Andreas is clearly more interested in Bitcoin than Bitcoin Cash, though he sees room for both to exist and doesn’t antagonize BCH
- According to Andreas, “Bitcoin maximalism is centrality by another name”
- Andreas mentioned how centralization is inevitable in everything, invoking the Pareto principle (aka the 80/20 rule)
- Bear markets are when things get done. All Coinbase can do when tens of thousands of new users sign up every day is deal with the onslaught of customer support needs. Now that the hype has cooled, they – and other companies in this space – can return to building their products.
- Asking if Ethereum will replace Bitcoin is like asking, “Will C kill HTML?” They are totally different things and excel at different tasks
- No one coin will do everything. You can be the optimal payment coin but to make that happen you probably won’t ever be the optimal smart contract coin as well. The most optimally evolved sea creature is not also the most optimally evolved air creature.
- Andreas is optimistic that someone will figure out how to make Proof of Stake work
- Crypto is not “winner-take-all” but “winner-take-niche”
- Learn to code for the blockchain! Contribute! Build something!
- No, seriously, learn to code
Listen to the live recording of the episode for yourself below: