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Web3 is going just great (web3isgoinggreat.com)
299 points by hnbad 36 days ago | hide | past | favorite | 344 comments



All the Web3 criticisms remind me of my experiences with Star Trek.

For context, I never watched Star Trek. I'd read stories about fans and it always struck me as the dorkiest possible show, with unabashed nerdiness making something like the Big Bang Theory look like a sophisticated work of art.

But one day, I listened to a podcast about strength training and a question came up about which Star Trek leader the host liked more. And I was struck by how they described them. They were leaders. Competent, skilled, and wise men.

This is not the impression I got listening from their rabid fans who were at their worst, at the far end of this (at least on first and worst impressions).

I'd watch some scenes and it was in some respects closer to sci-fi Shakespeare than anything else. And so this gap between reality and impression stuck with me. How could I be so swayed by the worst version of something that never existed?

Years later and the rabid users of cryptocurrency rile me up. There's so much abuse and corruption happening in this space, metered with gambling addictions and delusions.

But the math and incentives are there. It would hard for me to make a case that eventually cryptocurrency will fail. There's a wide surface area of financial problems that even fintech hasn't solved yet. And a whole bunch of problems who we don't even realize exist that can one day be solved by these new mathematical properties embedded into software.

So I'm not too keen on stepping too deeply into the cynicism. I'd like to wait without a final judgement on what it might become.

I don't want to miss out on who Captain Picard might become.


So, that's a good argument for why you shouldn't dismiss a show or a thing in general based only on negative secondhand impressions. The lesson to takeaway is that you should judge a thing by its own quality, not by your negative impression of the fanbase.

But from that, there is no way you should conclude that cynicism is wrong in general. You should not overreact to too much cynicism by discarding criticism entirely! You should react by seeking better information.


I think the GP is trying to say that there are some people who are so horrified by a few cringeworthy aspects of Star Trek that they want to create a huge blanket stigma against it to ensure that nobody watches it, and anybody who does watch it is buried in ridicule. Likewise, there are some people who react to blockchain scams and BS by trying to create a blanket stigma against anything related to the topic.

I haven't personally looked into blockchain or related ideas enough to get excited (I'm harder to excite now that I'm older, and I have less time) but sometimes I feel like I ought to, just because the flavor of the criticism reminds me of the smug nastiness that got directed towards people who were interested in things like computers and Star Trek when I was young. These nerds think they're onto something cool, and we have to mock them until they can't believe in it anymore. I almost feel like I should start learning the technology out of solidarity with the little kid I used to be who embraced computers despite knowing how hopelessly dorky that made him.

Of course the concept of nerdiness has been socially rehabilitated since the 1980s, and now the stigma is nominally directed towards scams and environmental waste, but the people delivering the stigma have designed the blast radius to work pretty much the same. The entire topic is stigmatized, any interest or optimism is stigmatized. I think the history of computing and the internet shows that it's hopeless to try to disentangle the utopian hope for social transformation from the grifting and greed. Scam artists can smell the hope for progress and transformation like sharks can smell blood; it means a meal for them. It's a crude distortion to argue that either optimism or greed alone properly characterizes "web3" without the other. When we look back twenty years from now they'll both be part of the story, whether these ideas fizzle out or have a transformative impact or something in between.


I don't think that's GP's conclusion. GP's conclusion is that crypto is rooted in real innovation and the noise surrounding it gives the false impression that the tech is just a scam.


...relying on the evidence-free invention of not merely some specific fictional benefits of the technology, but a category of material improvements in the world:

> And a whole bunch of problems who we don't even realize exist that can one day be solved


and what is that 'real innovation' exactly? Writing checksums of everything in multiple copies, very slowly? Databases had these features for decades.


I don’t know you could, like, read about it?

A few keywords: threshold signatures, zk-snarks, consensusless protocols, byzantine fault tolerant protocols, vrf, vdf, starks, bls


It's not clear that the impression is false.


I’m working in the middle of the field so I might be biased, there’s incredible innovation


"Innovation" and "scam" are not incompatible.


Cynicism should be discared because it's cynicism. It is a pathologicaly warped worldview misshapen by deep narcissism of people who got conned into believing something false and have instead of changing their beliefs made their disillusionment into their identity.


> But the math and incentives are there.

Can you elaborate on this?

The best critiques of blockchain tech, cryptocurrencies, NFTs, DeFi, etc. describe fatal flaws at the core of those technologies. For example, the lack of monetary policy and regulations, privacy and security shortcomings, and high transaction costs.

It'd be great to read a positive analysis of the core merits (the math and the incentives) and how those can be applied to solve problems.


Decentralized proof of ownership is the core merit, as I see it. That has some value, and NFTs are kind of the perfect vehicle to use the technology.

But does it have any practical use? That's the question. NFTs are hot right now as an investment vehicle, or as a way for artists to sell unique creations (leading to investment vehicles, I suppose). I'm not sold on the utility, long term.


Decentralized proof of ownership only matters if people with guns think it matters.

I saw a short video of Keanu Reeves laughing at NFTs because they had value but are easy to copy.

Which I found somewhat funny. Keanu gets paid a lot because he acts in things that have value but are easy to copy (movies).

The reason why those have a high value is because of copyright. The people that financed the film have control over the copying of the film. Because people with guns agree with the copyright scheme (US government).

NFTs cannot have actual value unless people with the ability to enforce that scarcity cares about them.


NFTs do not have to be links to pictures on cloud / decentralized storage. That is just their primary implementation right now, but they can quite literally be a token to represent anything, not simply a jpg. But even in this case, yeah it's easy to make copies of the pictures. However, there is intrinsic value in owning something that is legitimate.

However, I want to focus on the other possibilities for NFTs - I am making an NFT project that does have the art aspect, however the tokens also provide access to unique services like hooking into a video game engine to allow users to interact with their art. Since it's trivial to detect forgeries and ownership, even if someone was to create an NFT pointing to even the exact same piece of art, they would be denied access to the service as it is a forgery.

Right now proof of ownership is usually in the form of discord bots allowing access to servers, but there's much more you can actually do with this concept than we are seeing now, like the example above.


>NFTs cannot have actual value unless people with the ability to enforce that scarcity cares about them.

You're confusing the hyperlink with the destination. The hyperlink has scarcity and is impossible to copy. You can make a new near identical hyperlink, but it's not the same as the original, the community says so and will ignore the imposter. The hyperlink are what people are buying and flipping. It has whatever market value other participants agree it has.


not only that but the idea of ownership of a token and the underlying asset have yet to be challenged in court


> Decentralized proof of ownership is the core merit

> But does it have any practical use? That's the question.

Sounds like a solution searching for a problem.


To me cryptocurrency sounds like monorail or electric bus. Both technologies were designed to fix one aspect of existing transport systems.

Monorail concept appeared around 1900, trying to reduce the elevated railways problem. One designer thought of reducing the use of metal. Wuppertal suspension railway uses much more metal for tracks than conventional trams. There is a special monorail in Britain, built in 1940s, that stands on A-shaped legs. The only rail is supported by some metal triangles, using the same amount of metal. Later models, first built in Disneyland, use concrete (which contains a lot more iron in the concrete itself besides the reinforcement), and rubber wheels (sacrificing the advantage of low friction). Their biggest problem is switches: they're heavy and huge. Suspended monorails use big box instead of a rail, because swaying carriages are uncomfortable, and to hold them, the track must resist the force of a long lever. Errr... what was the reason to go for all that, in the first place? Make simpler track and use less rails/metal? Not achieved at all.

Electric buses... just 2 words: they're 3-5 times more expensive, and a whole route of e-buses requires just as much electric equipment as trolleybus line. Plus, e-buses spend twice more time charging than riding. Which means you need to triple the fleet of triple-quintiple more expensive vehicles. Even if battery technology progresses, as some insist, let it improve for private, not public money.

It seems that blockchain is similar: couple of advantages, lots of big disadvantages.


You can use the technology to make products that are quite unique. I used a game engine to generate art and also provide a bunch of ways to interact with the art, and tokenized the generated pieces. Owners of the pieces will be able to load their art into this game and interact with it directly. Yes, I could have done this with traditional web infra, however it would rely on me managing certs to prove ownership, and there is not an easy way to transfer ownership to other users on a secondary market. There's a lot of parts of the web3 tech that I've been interested in and think it's just a pretty unique ecosystem.

The way I look at it is that this is a tool. The way it is used is up to the creativity of the engineer(s) working with it. I think that using NFTs in this manner is a lot easier for me to manage than other approaches, and it's pretty fun. Practical use? Idk it's a fun art project that I hope people enjoy, but yeah I do think it was easier for me to implement in this method than a traditional web app.

But I do think there are plenty of practical use cases that you could leverage this technology for in terms of access based on ownership of the digital assets.


I always thought we only owned things because a central authority says we do.


That is, until you close on a house and spend hundreds to potentially tens of thousands of dollars on title searches and bank fees.

Then ETH at the worst gas fees looks generous


True, but the title searches and bank fees are just regulatory cruft slathered on from the real estate business.

The cryptocurrency guys who think cryptocurrencies will be immune to this are probably gonna be shocked and annoyed.


You have described what a home computer was in the 80s. It found many problems.


Did it? Today's computers are mostly descendents of more heavyweight '80s computers. I know there are like a few C64s running webservers and stuff for kicks.

Home computers were good for games or learning to program, not sure they were actually that useful outside of those things.

Edit: Ok Atari STs were good for music and Amigas were apparently good for graphics rendering.


>NFTs are hot right now as an investment vehicle,

I'd say speculation more than investing.

The peoblem with public blockchains and related technologies is that they have been list in the middle of huge speculation markets... which brings all sorts of bullshit and scams.

That's why I like to look at hyperledger and similar technologies. If you remove the money incentives, you are left with the pure technology essence. And then you can judge it by what it is.


Yeah, I should have said "speculation," not investment. They smell similar, but they're definitely different.


> Decentralized proof of ownership

I mean, the 'ownership' is as real as "buy a plot of land on Mars" scams.

An inefficient distributed database filled with assertions of legally unenforceable pseudoproperty rights seems somewhat underwhelming.


well said.


> Decentralized proof of ownership is the core merit

But it's neither decentralized nor a proof AT ALL. NFT literally can't facilitate anything by itself, without adding some centralized DB to it and some centralized humans governing all interactions between clients.


> NFT literally can't facilitate anything by itself, without adding some centralized DB to it

What exactly do you want an NFT to facilitate? And are you raving mad at the people who make the NFTs, the people who buy them or both?


Well at minimum at least something, at maximum - fully what cryptobros already promise today (so that their messages won't be lies) - proof of ownership, transfer of ownership, enforcement of ownership, decentralization, universal standards and so on. Nothing special, only the things crypto fans already say today to the gullible buyers.


> proof of ownership,

Ask for a reciept. An NFT is not selling "proof of ownership", its selling you a product

> transfer of ownership,

The so called "gullible buyers" would not be buyers without this process occurring. An NFT is not selling "transfer of ownership", the transfer is the process itself. It consists of a seller (aka crypto fan), a buyer (aka gullible buyers) and a product (the NFT). The product is what is being being transferred, so how can what is being transferred also facilitate the transfer of ownership?

> enforcement of ownership,

Again, ask for a reciept. If someone robs you, sue them or call the police. That "enforcement of ownership" you seek is a separate product.

> decentralization,

How much more decentralized do you want a jpeg on the internet to be, really?

> universal standards and so on

What universal standards exactly?


> Ask for a reciept. An NFT is not selling "proof of ownership", its selling you a product

No, it's not, unless you are calling an entry in DB with an URL inside "a product". NFT system is selling NFT only, and NFT itself is almost nothing and useless.

> The so called "gullible buyers" would not be buyers without this process occurring. An NFT is not selling "transfer of ownership", the transfer is the process itself. It consists of a seller (aka crypto fan), a buyer (aka gullible buyers) and a product (the NFT). The product is what is being being transferred, so how can what is being transferred also facilitate the transfer of ownership?

Ok, I see you really calling the NFT itself a product. This is amusing but I must tell you that you are either misled or malicious, because other cryptobros sell people not NFT but the stuff it links to - digital file usually. And they brainwash buyers that they (buyers) are really buying the digital file.

>Again, ask for a reciept. If someone robs you, sue them or call the police. That "enforcement of ownership" you seek is a separate product.

I won't write long here, but we can see here that NFT don't facilitate any kind of "proof of ownership" and even NFT fans agree with this - you need some centralized receipts and police according them too :)

>How much more decentralized do you want a jpeg on the internet to be, really?

Decentralized proof of ownership, which is impossible today.

>What universal standards exactly?

That was about new NFT fad I'm seeing - gaming NFTs, where bros expect that different competing corporations will for some reason implement a universal standard for items between different competing games and voluntarily implement and support it. Pure BS but that is one of the NFT promises today.


> No, it's not, unless you are calling an entry in DB with an URL inside "a product". NFT system is selling NFT only, and NFT itself is almost nothing and useless.

Calling an entry in a DB? What kind of db exactly... maybe a public distributed ledger (aka a blockchain)? Hmmmm..... The Mona Lisa itself is almost nothing and useless. Just some paint splashed on a canvas hundreds of years ago. Totally worthless. To someone out there. Just like NFTs are totally worthless to you. Heres a small life tip: do not waste your time, energy or money in anything in life that has no value to you, because you find it totally worthless to you. But you are just one being, among seventy billion others alive today. So what is important to you, will be worthless to billions of others. Does that make them idiots? No. But it kind of makes you one if you expect everyone else alive to value only exactly what you value. Live and let live.

> Ok, I see you really calling the NFT itself a product. This is amusing but I must tell you that you are either misled or malicious, because other cryptobros sell people not NFT but the stuff it links to - digital file usually. And they brainwash buyers that they (buyers) are really buying the digital file.

You used to term "gullible buyers". The key word here being BUYERS. The definition of buyer is someone who takes ownership of a PRODUCT... in this case an NFT from someone else. I'm glad you find the concept amusing. Welcome to the world of trade and capitalism. The buyers are usually speculators. Look that term up. Ever heard of the dot-com mania? The tulip mania? If you think they were just buying flowers, you have a lot to learn about human emotions and motivation. Coca-cola is not just selling "colored sugar water".

> I won't write long here, but we can see here that NFT don't facilitate any kind of "proof of ownership" and even NFT fans agree with this - you need some centralized receipts and police according them too :)

So what? If I buy an NFT, I wont be buying it because of "proof of ownership". The very fact that I can buy it today, and sell it to someone else at a profit tommorow is all the proof of ownership I need. Got that? Thousands of NFTs are being bought and sold daily, in a marketplace. Not sure what other proof of ownership (the ability to legally sell something) you are looking for... but like I said, it seems you're still new to this world of trade and capitalism. You'll learn eventually. Hopefully.

> Decentralized proof of ownership, which is impossible today.

It is possible. You just dont understand how it works. The only impossibility here is your ability to understand what proof of ownership in the digital word entails. Can you proove that you own the hacker news account you are posting from? How? Did you just say email account and password... DING!DING!

> That was about new NFT fad I'm seeing - gaming NFTs, where bros expect that different competing corporations will for some reason implement a universal standard for items between different competing games and voluntarily implement and support it. Pure BS but that is one of the NFT promises today.

Fads will come and go. It is human nature. NFTs are no different. Websites were once a fad in the dotcom boom. Some fads help advance our tech and knowlegde.


It is good that you are honest about crypto motivations. I wish others were at least also honest too.


Am not sure how you came to that conclusion of dishonesty in others. Did anyone ever claim that the only reason they were selling you crypto was because they love you, and wish the absolute best for you, and have nothing to gain at all from it other than seeing you happy? If they actually said that, they are liars, and you are a fool.


Exactly. If you want to buy any NFT, you have to go to a centralised marketplace like opensea.io. On top of that you probably have to exchange fiat to ETH in a centralised exchange. If any of those two stop existing your NFTs become worthless, at least when denominated to fiat. And if you can't convert to fiat or buy real things, it's all imaginary.


> If you want to buy any NFT, you have to go to a centralised marketplace like opensea.io.

With hicetnunc.xyz, there is already one example of a "marketplace" shutting down and being immediately replaced with alternative interfaces - which works because the underlying smart contract doesn't care what system people use to interact with it. The "blockchain is a distributed database" part does indeed work if a system is designed to use it.


If two NFTs point at the same underlying asset, how do I go about deciding which one is authoritative without relying on exactly the same sorts of trust and authority relationships that I'd use in the absence of a blockchain?


The problem (as others have said) is ownership is a legal construct not a mathematical one. A smart contract may not be recognized as a valid contract in a court of law, or have precedent over say the actual handshake agreement.

Even ignoring that, many NFTs do not convey any ownership of the digital work, but rather of the NFT itself.

So far the most likely value is in a platform that actually lets you leverage that ownership, such as Meta letting you put a framed monkey on the wall in your virtual home. But that sort of platform tie-in means it is basically the same as say the DRM-encoumbered media stores we've seen go bye - ownership which is only recognized within a platform is only really providing durable value to that platform.


How does decentralized proof of ownership better provide for developed economies than modern monetary policy with robust tooling to e.g. ease economic downturns, prevent high (20%+j inflation and prevent hoarding of capital to incentivize investment?


Zero knowledge proofs will revolutionize civic life


Zero knowledge proofs have existed since the 80s. How much longer do we have to wait for this revolutionizing?


solving people problems with tech.


> privacy and security shortcomings, and high transaction costs

I think these are the only technical arguments here, and there's real improvements there depending on what project you're looking at.


There's also fatal flaws at the heart of capitalism and a centrally controlled currency whose value is manipulated at will completely outside a citizen's power to control.

These fatal flaws have not prevented capitalism from blooming all over the world.

Lest you think I'm some species of these crypto libertarians, I believe it's an imperfect solution to hand humans more greed levers to go about life dictating their actions by perverse incentives.

The solution for me looks more like a free net whose power is contributed by a mass group of volunteers. But who then will run the datacenters? With what materials will they build them and who will freely give it to them?

Capitalism needs to be ripped up from its roots before we can have a hope of a free in all senses world for all. Until then, maybe we first take control of the machinery by replacing the currency with which the state does its business of violence.


> Capitalism needs to be ripped up from its roots before we can have a hope of a free in all senses world for all. Until then, maybe we first take control of the machinery by replacing the currency with which the state does its business of violence.

I agreed up until your last sentence: is the state the bigger problem (versus multi-billion corps and capitalists)? is currency the main lever of states (versus diplomacy, infrastructures, military, etc)?


Let's just say that the geostrategically important states that tried to move away from the dollar got freedomed very quick.


> But the math and incentives are there. It would hard for me to make a case that eventually cryptocurrency will fail.

This strikes at one of my primary complaints with crypto/web3 discussions: Advocates switch between specific cryptocurrencies, cryptocurrency in general, and the concept of a blockchain in general as convenient for their arguments.

The concept of a cryptocurrency will always exist, but that doesn't mean that we can't be critical of the current financial shenanigans going on in the space.

If it helps, remember that the thing people talk about the most when discussing cryptocurrencies is always the price. But cryptocurrencies don't have any built-in notion of price. 1 BTC is 1 BTC. What people are really excited about is the exchanges and the on-ramps and off-ramps, which have nothing to do with the blockchain or cryptography.


This concept (context switching) reminds me of the current USSR fans (yes, they exist). They pick and choose ONLY the positive parts of each specific decade of USSR history as it fits them and blindly ignore all the negatives. E.g. some bit of space race (the successful part of course) ignoring gulag which facilitated it; the victory part of WW2 ignoring all other countries and it's own participation in 39-40; the corruption trials ignoring literal mass killing with out trial at the same time; cheap budget living ignoring dying economic of the same period; and the list goes on.

Crypto bros do the same. Adoption - "look, Bitcoin", but its not working - "look, shitcoin1", but it's premined - "look, shitcoin2", but it's used by 3 persons including devs - "look, Bitcoin". And so on and on.


You'll find you can play that game with anything people are passionate about. Global warning, the US, Trump, Obama..BLM..Cuomo, Rust


> What people are really excited about is the exchanges and the on-ramps and off-ramps, which have nothing to do with the blockchain or cryptography.

Isn't that like saying that what gets people really exciting about beer is the euphoric feeling after consuming it, which has nothing to do with the liquid itself?

If it wasn't for the exchanges and on- and off-ramps then cryptocurrencies wouldn't exist at all. Potentially spending it one day is the only thing that makes the crypto world go around.


> If it wasn't for the exchanges and on- and off-ramps then cryptocurrencies wouldn't exist at all. Potentially spending it one day is the only thing that makes the crypto world go around.

"Spending" it doesn't require cashing it out in a hypothetical cryptocurrency future. People can, and do, transact in cryptocurrencies. Though it's actually quite painful, slow, expensive, and lacks all of the benefits of traditional transactions so everyone avoids it if possible.

But this exposes another flaw in the currency argument: If the on-ramps and off-ramps were to become so cheap, fast, and ubiquitous that we could transact instantly in cryptocurrencies for free, then suddenly the underlying coins wouldn't need to have any speculative value. If I could click "buy" on a product and the exchange into crypto, transfer, and end-user exchange out of crypto was basically instant, then the exchange rate doesn't actually matter at all because I'm only holding for a brief instant. Yet that would break the speculative use case entirely, so the hype tends to follow the deliberately inefficient coins. Crypto proponents don't actually want cryptocurrency to be easy to use. They only want you to buy it, then do nothing with it. Ever. If you lose it, even better (for everyone else).


> Though it's actually quite painful, slow, expensive, and lacks all of the benefits of traditional transactions so everyone avoids it if possible.

It’s really not. For several years, paying with crypto has been faster and easier than credit card or PayPal.

No arbitrary blocks, guessing traffic lights, aligning shipping and billing names and zip codes, figuring which card will work for what country and payment processor, biyearly renewals, SMS confirmations, risk of having it abused despite having good opsec, being on the phone with PayPal, etc etc.

I just open my wallet, unlock it used my preferred method, [scan a qr code/copy-paste something], click OK, done.

I understand that many people on HN get profiled “white” enough by “the algorithms” to not have to experience the Kafkaesque frustration of the status quo.

For the rest of us, cryptocurrency is faster, easier, and sometimes cheaper. Today.


> It would hard for me to make a case that eventually cryptocurrency will fail.

It's easy for me to make that case. Ransomware aside, there's no underlying value in cryptocurrency, unlike currencies which have the full faith and credit of governments. This is a fundamental problem that I see no way around.


I'm sure you'll roll your eyes at this response, but a large chunk of economists don't believe there is value in anything. Your definition of "value" might mean "utility" or "what the US treasury says this is worth", or something else entirely. Starting a discussion with "well, it doesn't have any value" is more or less meaningless, and borders on economically illiterate, excuse the harshness.

My stuffed animal from when I was a baby has no "value", but I find it quite valuable. This isn't pendantics either - it determines more or less your entire economic perspective. If you believe in a utility or labor theory of value, of course crypto is a scam. A subjective theory? Not so much.

If someone trades an ETH for a Dollar, has value been changed? Moved around? Created? Has someone been scammed? Has wealth been created? Has net happiness been increased? Value is an extremely non-trivial thing and will lead you to love or hate the exact same situation depending on your chosen definition.

At any rate, I agree, crypto contains no value intrinsically. That said, I'm buying at the current price!

Those crypto-fans who are saying "ah well the -network- has intrinsic value" are missing the point. Value does not exist in the world. Value is like beauty or color - it's a subjective experience. All statements in the form of "X has no value" must be concatenated with "to me".

If anyone finds this incredibly interesting, and a fairly ignored part of epistemology, I strongly recommend reading Carl Menger's "The Origin of Money"


> I'm sure you'll roll your eyes at this response, but a large chunk of economists don't believe there is value in anything.

Food and shelter have value which is pretty near to objective. In fact it is routinely used to compare economic levels throughout history or societies. In fact it's quite useful to distinguish market price from usage (intrinsic) value. Usage value is variable from individual to individual, but there is a hierarchy of things we usually agree on, at the bottom being water, then food, then light, ... (biological stuff) then social interactions, intellectual stimulation, ... (more complex social stuff), then things like healthcare or gun access which will obviously depend on your political ethic (but which still are largely clustered, just not universal). So sure market price doesn't denote value, and intrinsic value is a fuzzy hierachy that is more and more precise given more and more assumptions on social norms, but the bottom of this hierachy is non-trivial (not everything at 0) and the top isn't that diverse.

Marx & Engels had a (critical) theory of capitalistic value where value is actually pretty well defined, as the amount of human work which has gone into something. That may be seen as an extension of what i first said (the value of human time being at least cost of life for that time).


While pragmatically what you've said is entirely true - if we treat the subject with some rigor it's extremely easy to find examples of people who have valued food and shelter at zero. What of the self-immolating buddhist? They valued Tibet's freedom over their own life, and certainly over food and shelter.

So sure, most reasonable people would agree on food and water - but that's introducing a very very powerful new actor - your ability to judge other peoples actions as reasonable or rational. If you reserve that right - then sure, let's call crypto irrational - let's stand on the sidelines and say "well I wouldn't do that!" - let's start building the hierarchy of "reasonable values". I'm only suggesting that our ability to call someone else's valuation irrational behavior is dubious at best and aggressively violent, the birth of social engineering, the sourge of humanity, at worst (hyperbole maybe, but maybe not).

That impulse to guide "rationality" is exactly why we have modern monetary policy, and the only philosophical reason to like cryptocurrencies: a well designed, well distributed immutable ledger is more or less immune from such "guidance".

Edit: Obviously, I disagree strongly with the labor theory of value. I don't have anything handy, but there is a lot written on this (and I think the labor theory of value is fairly well demolished!). Let me know and I'd be happy to send links!


I'm gonna nitpick on your nitpicking, but for me the self-immolating buddhist did value life/means of existance just like everybody else, it's just that they valued some more complex thing more (that thing being of course extremely rare). I mean i'm pretty sure my view is (at least superficially) consistent (eg i believe i can find alternate interpretations for any counter examples) so we have to look a bit deeper!

About your pick on judging other and building a hierarchy of reasonable values: well that's politics/ethics/moral (i'm no philosopher so i don't fully understand the difference between these concepts)! I'm not here saying there a is a total order between value systems, mostly a partial order based on inclusion/precision. And i'm asserting that whatever the set of living things you're taking, they'll have a non-trivial greatest lower bound (eg there is a common notion of intrinsic value) (but i think you got that).

About rationality: perhaps we don't understand the same thing by rationality but i believe one cannot be irrational, it's kinda vacuous. One can be in irrational with respect to some value system, but every one is (boundedly) rational with respect to his values (and it's by this axiom that we can infer peoples value systems). My comparison of value systems isn't on qualitative comparison between alternatives (me good you bad), it's a comparison on commonness/shared-base (this specific to me, this specific to you, this common).

on your edit: :) you feel nice to disagree with, send already, but i'm not promising i'll read! Btw i'm not sure i'll actually disagree with such critics, i personally don't really believe in value (as a homogeneous unit) because different things aren't always comparable and even different orders of magnitude of the same thing aren't always comparable (i've got no value for 0.01 house or 100 house, or more precisely it's not 0.01 resp 100 times my value for 1 house).


What's going to happen when people start trying to retire by selling crypto?

Many people will be selling at the same time, and suddenly the subjective value for everyone will be lower because it will be easier and easier to buy it.

My sense is that there is a cap on the demand for purchasing crypto, but the supply is very low because mining decreases over time, and generally people holding lots of crypto are younger and have no need to sell in order to pay for things, they can just pay with their fiat income.

This equation will change drastically as people start to retire and need to sell lots of crypto in order to fund their lifestyle without working.


The value of whatever coin you have may go down. Planning a retirement around a lottery ticket is fun but you still stuff your retirement fund.

Bitcoin slows down ensuring it's value continues to increase with fewer buyers.

Proper retirement planning means moving from 100% risky in your 20s to 50/50 in your 40s to 10/90 in your 60s.


What happens when people start generally moving away from crypto towards less risky assets as they age? This hasn’t started yet but it will


Move value to me to value to many within a society and everyone can be on the same page


Thats the rub - a currency which you can't actually spend is more of a speculative investment. A currency which you can only exchange for other more stable currencies even more so.

When you try to take a digital currency and exchange it for digital items and digital ownership, you do so in a realm where "information wants to be free" - ownership of data is not often as interesting a concept as you want.

Finally, when you try to exchange digital currency for physical goods, you start to realize ownership itself only means anything as part of the existing legal constructs - a distributed ledger "title" will only be valid when the government says it is, and a successfully executed smart contract can be effectively overturned by a judge's order.

The parties/exchanges that don't acknowledge any of this and push the decentralized, out-of-government-control messaging seem like they are tending to be the ones who are structured corporately to be highly resistant to being taken to court over false claims by their customers/victims.


I’d argue there’s an underlying value in tokens like Ether that is similar to paying for compute power and storage on AWS. I’m not saying the price right now is correct, but that there is an intrinsic value.


It cost compute power to produce the tokens, but that's sunk cost, not intrinsic. All that matters afterward is whether people want the tokens and will exchange things of value for them.


I mean the use of those to power arbitrary computation on the network. It’s not dissimilar to AWS tokens.


I think the intrinsic value is coming from the fact that you need to spend eth to run smart contracts on the Ethereum blockchain.


Is fiat currency any different? My coins and bills don't have any intrinsic value either, but they are still currency.


If your debts and bills are denominated in the currency of your country, the bills and coins have value because you know how many of them you need to pay what you owe. So yes, if we ever got to the stage where your rent is priced in some coin, that coin would correspond to a currency. But until then, it's more like a volatile stock and "currency" is a misnomer.


Why, there is value in crypocurrency. Maybe not the kind of value society actually wants. Crypto can be redeemed for drugs on the darknet. And you can use it to launder money, or to dirty money (taking your legitimate income and funneling it anonymously somewhere else).

Many cryptocurrencies have been ruled securities. Securities are not "currencies", but still have value, don't they? Even if it is just speculative value (you don't know whether the underlying business is goiong to be successful, or if it is even a scam).


> there's no underlying value in cryptocurrency

Of course, there is a value: it's a decentralized write-only database that can be used for things like proof of ownership without the requirement of a central authority. A famous use-case is the illicit online drug trade, which cannot currently be achieved (to my knowledge) with fiat currencies.

It might never replace government-backed currencies (or it just might, who knows), but to say it literally has no utility betrays a lack of knowledge about the system.


No, it can't be used for "proof of ownership" at all. Crypto only barely works because it lives inside blockchain completely. Anything external to the blockchain (which is practically everything) can't be verified using blockchain. Only using some centralized and opaque/corrupt additions to the blockchain some rights can be maybe transferred (but not enforced even then), but at that point blockchain is useless can be safely removed if data is stored centrally.


> Only using some centralized and opaque/corrupt additions to the blockchain some rights can be maybe transferred

Hmmm... centralized and opaque/corrupt. So like a traditional bank?


Assuming if the banks are bad, please tell me why are we replicating them them again but in worse way? (opaque, unregulated, anonymous and usually sitting in offshore fearing IRS sanctions)


You seem to have a very flawed, fundamental misunderstanding of either the term opaque, or what a public ledger is. There is nothing opaque about bitcoin transactions. They are all (every single one of them) open to the public. They are more traceable than cash transactions and more public than bank transactions.

> please tell me why are we replicating them them again but in worse way?

But this is just your disputed opinion. It is like asking "why is Kanye always singing and selling bad new songs, and we already have the beatles". Because they can and want to.


Bitcoins are transparent, that I don't contest. Now please tell me how do Bitcoins specifically facilitate "proof of ownership" of stuff? Because that's where this thread started, that crypto will somehow do this, according to crypto fans.


Short answer: passwords The very same way your online bank account facilitates "proof of ownership" of that said bank account.


Lolno. You are completely mistaken about what ownership means. I don't own my bank account (it's complicated), I don't own my HN account. Password is only used to authenticate and authorize me on the digital property owned by someone else - PG or bank corporation.


You do own your hacker news account. If someone hacks into your computer, and makes stupid comments while pretending to be you, you have every right to seek compensation. Because you actually OWN your hacker news account, in the very same way you OWN the house you are renting. Your landlord cannot just rock up to your house tomorrow, walk in and sit in your yard for an hour because they "own" the house. So yes, you are right! Ownership is and can be complicated, and NFT ownership is no different. ;)


It can be used for proof of ownership not to be confused with proof of identity because anyone can check the public blockchain to determine that funds sent from account a belongs to whoever setup account a.

It allows proof ownership without proof of identity.


No it doesn't allow proof of ownership. Ownership is a set of intellectual rights encoded via laws. NFT can't do anything about IPs or laws, and won't be able in future.


Having a private key provides ownership over an account. That ownership allows you to transfer money. It allows you to accept money.

This is outside of IP or laws. You can move money without laws.

NFT are a differet topic. NFT are a way of having a digital token attached to something that can be used to determine ownership to an account. Do they need to be decentralized? No but it opens up ownership to all not just the approved.


Most currencies have no underlying value. The value of a dollar is drawn from dollar supply and trust that others will accept and value the dollar.

When a currency goes through hyperinflation, that generally happens because the government goes crazy printing the currency and the trust that others have in accepting the currency goes down.

If crypto collapses, it will likely be because it just becomes computationally infeasible to work with. The problem with the blockchain is that every action on the blockchain requires the whole blockchain. As time goes on simply storing the blockchain will be something that's simply not reasonable.

An issue specifically with bitcoin is that as time goes on, transferring a single coin in a day, month, or year becomes computationally impossible. Bitcoin is quickly rushing to a point where holders of bitcoin will be incapable of trading it.

That, IMO, will be the collapse of crypto. If you can't move the currency, it doesn't matter how much others value it. It'll become a game of hot potato. with the last few holders getting more and more desperate to unload the potato for money.


Hyperinflation after money printing is not the result of "trust going down". It's the result of increased dollars increasing aggregate demand in a system that cannot keep up with productive capacity.


What if the value store is the network itself.

At this point currency is an abstraction relying on computers. I handle cash personally once a month.

Amazon cashier-less stores are just as much to normalize the behavior of not paying as reducing jobs).

Producing currency, securing it, moving it, the old banking infra just for finance management has a huge environmental impact.

Banks are easily socially engineered. Corruption is rife.

Eth shouldn’t be pegged to a dollar. It’s not a currency. It’s an information network.

What crypto should be is not property but the technical network abstraction we develop and roll over.

Grifters are trying to generate traditional wealth off the idea it’s a literal thing but we could just keep rolling new protocols out. Up to you to store your work.

It’s a logical substrate for transmitting and storing information that can’t be monopolized like physical money if we see it as such.

Unlike banks with full vaults, ephemeral network control can be coded out. No one person can become a black hole with disproportionate pull on social agency.


Instrumentalizing a show whose essential message was that living in a post-scarcity society is possible and where people pursue their interests genuinely rather than in the name of economic gain to make a case for crypto is so on brand with the actual post we're commenting on you could put it directly on the website

Let's just listen to the man himself for a second, while we're talking about star trek and money: https://youtu.be/PV4Oze9JEU0?t=143


It's even more ironic, because the entire point of NFTs is to create artificial scarcity in an environment without scarcity (the digital world).

I guess you could argue that NFTs isn't the main aspect of cryptocurrencies, and I think you'd be right, but I find cryptocurrency projects in general seem to lean heavily into the scarcity aspect, and promise that early adopters will be able to cash in that scarcity later.


> I guess you could argue that NFTs isn't the main aspect of cryptocurrencies

Not even a major aspect. Just like neither are the main aspect(s) of Web3.

Despite what con artists and puppet farms on Reddit and Twitter are pushing.

(The web3 moniker in its current form came years before the first NFT contract)


Problem is blockchain is a test to see if humans will set their own home on fire, while they're still living it, for the promise of a quick buck.

Promoted by people who think government is a terrible idea, an idea so terrible that literally every large group of people invented it.

Of course if I had mined some bitcoin when it was new, I'd be telling you how great it was to ensure my own profits


I wouldn't say large groups of people invent governments. I think they arise from infighting between small groups of people and then a majority of people that didn't really care much about what was being fought about are just "ok with it".

I don't know if government is a terrible idea, but if you agree that monopolies are a terrible idea then maybe at least you should give people against the concept of a government some attention regarding the "monopoly on violence" contradiction that's pretty much alive in all forms of government in place today.


There's no large functioning society without government though, it appears to be the natural stable state.

If you want to gather 100,000 of your most random friends and try a new idea though, that's great.

But history suggests you'll invent government.


You could have said the same thing but change "without government" to "with electricity" in like 1830 and be right. History doesn't suggest anything, people suggest things, and "it didn't happen yet so it will never happen" is useless as a historical argument.

History suggests what the stable state of something is as much as reading tea leafs suggests it.


And all the people who choose to live without electricity are weird.

Many groups have tried to live without government, which have succeeded at scale?


The math is there, yes. Its cool and exciting. But thats all. All the incentives are to control the plane and grab the next big thing, like Facebook and Google grabbed the Internet Advertising. Any form of decentralization is not possible, it won't work. Just look how hard it is for people to agree on anything very basic. The higher the stake, the more people will try to grab as much as they can. How would imagine for people to get a consensus about upgrades and changes in the protocol. Just look how much bitcoin staled because of that. Everything is controller by developers of given technology. If there is a reason, they will force their agenda. It's been happening over and over.


While I agree with all your sentiment here, I think it's ok to be critical of web3 and still see a future for crypto. With all of the hyperbole and real issues both technical and social around the web3 ecosystem I'm reminded of being an outsider spectator of the dot com bubble crash. I was a senior in high school living in the east bay and something that kind of blew my mind at the time was grocery delivery. The idea of ordering some food online and getting it delivered was very exciting, the reality was it wasn't a tenable service. 12 years later with the advent and proliferation of smart phones the idea had legs and now I can and do order groceries from a variety of stores. Including a local speciality asian food place. I feel like the promises of web3 is in the phase of some good ideas that aren't ready for mainstream, similarly to grocery delivery in 1999


Like that one episode of TNG where they wake up all the people from the nineties, but it's one guy who keeps asking Picard how much BTC is at, how the blockchain is doing, etc.

edit: https://youtu.be/XQQYbKT_rMg


Love this take.

It's kind of how I feel about crypto – cautiously observing, investing money I can afford to lose, toying with ideas on how and which real problems it could solve, and doing my best to ignore the parts that smell like pure hype, MLMs, and land grabs.

There is something here and I don't know what yet. I doubt NFTs are it. And we already know it doesn't quite work as a currency.


> But the math and incentives are there.

Cui bono as they say. Crypto won't fail because of the group that is driving most of the demand. It's a small group of people with lots of money. If it was a big group of people with little money, you could make the case that cryptocurrencies will fail. It's success has little to do with the math and quality of the technology.


You could have said the same thing about the ~2017 ICO bubble, which had a bunch of smart money VC involvement. As far as I can tell, the big VCs did just fine, because they liquidated enough of their tokens on the little guy before the market crashed.


Exactly. Unfortunately the little guys don't decide the winners and losers so they suffer as they must. You saw it in the end of the 90s with the tech bubble, and in the 1980s with personal computing. I doubt anyone would agree the best technology won during any of those periods. I mean, would anyone consider Windows, for example, the pinnacle of OS tech? Or even today, bitcoin and ethereum the pinnacle of blockchain tech? When a small group drives most of the investment and decision making, you end up with a lot of collateral damage. It's actually sad since there are likely really technically great blockchain systems out there that will just die in the wind, and it will have nothing to do with the system's quality.


It doesn't matter, it revolves around a bizarre ideology that doesn't and can't work in theory or in practice. I suggest everybody look up the story about the cruise ship Satoshi to get a glimpse of how deluded these people are.



Bitcoin has merit. There is a finite amount of it, and that's it. There is no more bitcoin after the whole 23? million are "minted".

Alt-coins/shitcoins are grifts, they can be worth what people want to pay but anyone can spin up a new coin. And they do. Pump and dump for chumps.

NFTs are the same. Anyone can create an NFT for whatever. There is no value in it whatsoever.


They literally don't have money in Star Trek. Their society considers itself to have advanced beyond the need for money entirely. This couldn't be further from the future envisioned by web3 people, who seem to want to further financialize, marketize, and commodify all of human experience and interaction.


I’ve never really watched Star Trek either. Now my impression of it is that people watch it for the same reason that they watch The West Wing;[1] to fawn at the Leadership and Decorum of the Wise men (and women!).

(Probably not though.)

I’d rather interact with cosplaying nerds than with those haughty-taughty process and procedure geeks.

[1]: I of course have not watched that, either.


I’ve spent enough time in fintech to know where this ends.

The interest in it is purely because of the vast problems it creates are opportunities to gain something. These are numerous compared to the roughly single benefit and the technology itself.

It’s yet another market created to manipulate arbitrary wealth tokens. The masters are different that is all.


Math is indeed there, multiplication, division etc. I just fail to understand why is that important for you? Incentives are also there - the infamous FOMO. I think it's not a thing to be proud of.


Captain Kirk was a better captain.


This is a superb metaphor.


Spot on.

Easy to destroy a poorly constructed argument.

Those who could have a well constructed argument often choose to spend their explanation energy on those who are less skeptical.


I find it both sad and funny watching folks discard efficient, regulated, centralized financial systems, and turn to a decentralized one and deal with the constant scams that such a system would obviously produce. Irreversible transactions, 90% wash trading, the hilariously bad idea of "smart contracts," and surprisingly inefficient core technology designed to become more wasteful as it scales.

Who knows what the future holds, though. There's clearly huge hype in this space. Will anything come of it once the pyramid scheme and ponzi scheme foundational core of web3 is realized and replaced? Or will that day never come? I don't think it will and this is just another gold rush.

Some people are surprisingly open about it, running scams and hyping up other people to try to strengthen their own pump-and-dump scams. We see things like this with people Tweeing/Telegraming/Reddting/whatever about AMC stock too. At least in regulated markets this is easier to catch and change, and it's the minority of trades, where it's the foundation of cryptocurrency.

Thinking more about it, I think I feel bad for the people caught up thinking this will be useful or game changing technology. I wonder how much they realize the core technology has limited use, and all of the hype is around trading unregulated, untaxed asset bubbles.


My favorite new thing are these metaverse land sales. Not like there's an infinite amount of land in a virtual world or anything...


I find it sad and funny watching folks use this tired argument that forget how filled with scams the current financial system is. A good 3/4 of dotcom, penny stocks, boiler rooms, and even highly regarded stocks like Nikola prove that it doesn't matter where it is, money attracts scams and the SEC and others do nothing to prevent it. Try not living in such a naive world longing for a nanny state that doesn't/can't exist at least to protect people before the fact. Try owning responsibility for your financial existence. We'll still be here growing and taking on the financial world that exists to leech upon the naive and empowering people to create their own wealth and comfort.


To the proponents of the "efficient, regulated, centralized financial systems" I want to ask - why can't I pay $0.10 to a random paywalled site to access a single article?


Because an advertiser will pay more and most people don't want to pay anything? There's a technical problem of handling micropayments but those are a lot smaller than the social/business problems: think about what the experience would be like clicking around with “Please deposit $0.25 to continue” prompts, and whether sites would bother with that when Google will give them a check every month for less work.

Google has tried this with Contributor back in 2015, and then again in 2017, but it wasn't popular because you were committing to pay a noticeable amount of money every month (which is more than many people think they can/should pay) and the people who would pay that would only pay that if they didn't see ads at all (since you were effectively bidding for your own ads, this wasn't a given). If, as is common, you hit sites which weren't using Google's ad network, you'd still see ads and the prospect of paying more to buy those out wasn't going to be a fun sale.

Now, maybe Google isn't trustworthy here but they're far from the only party to try this and there are also services like Apple News or Blendle which are trying a more targeted approach. I don't know how their sales look but the fact that it hasn't been newsworthy suggests that the status quo isn't going anywhere quickly.


Why pays the advertiser? More often than not it's me and you when we buy something online, even if we never click on ads. Advertisement is just another cost of doing business and it's built into the price. I can't imagine paying for content via all these middlemen would be more efficient than paying for it directly. That said, what's different is who's doing the paying and I suspect that a small minority of users are paying for everyone.


Don’t forget offline sales, too – the profit margin on one person buying a $60k SUV pays for a ton of ad sales, which is why you see so many ads for big ticket items.

Direct cost efficiency isn’t the only factor: I think site operators value the simplicity of not needing a relationship with each visitor (especially internationally) or needing to ask permission to access content, and visitors like that they don’t have a taxi meter ticking as they browse around.

I’m definitely not saying the system is perfect but any time something is this resistant to change I would assume it’s better at a factor we’re not considering. Ads certainly aren’t perfect and the major publishers would drop Google/Facebook in a heartbeat if they thought they could afford it, so I would look at proposed replacements from that perspective.

A blockchain based system has a few obvious challenges but the biggest one for me is the assumption that enough people don't like ads enough to pay a comparable amount of money & deal with thinking about transactions. That experiment has been tried enough times that I think the failures are an important lesson about revealed consumer preferences.


Insufficient consumer demand, and the economics of it don't work for publishers/creators. There've been plenty of attempts - Flattr, Coil, Dropp. If people want it, it could be built but there doesn't seem to be much market demand.


See, that's the whole problem with the approach though.

Paywalls are shitty. Nobody wanted that to happen except for the money-men. It's for this very reason that if an article gets linked here and has a pay-wall, a few volunteers will go hunt down a free version of the article and post it on archive.org for everyone else to view. You may see this as flawed - but I see it as beautiful. The way the "good parts" of the web still work.

Money/currency/blockchain absolutely does _not_ have to be a fundamental structure of the internet. There is zero reason why a currency needs to be fundamental to the basic operation of "the web" other than for incumbents to try to increase the value of said currency. Like - seriously; the internet was supposed to be about democratization of information. I realize that didn't exactly happen due to big-tech extrapolating value out of everything - but the "solution" you are proposing is to say "oh you don't have any [insert coin here]? Yeah - you'll need to exchange 20$ USD first before you can even use our internet. Or if you don't have any cash we can give you some freebies so you can shill for us." Like - what? No. Not going to work.

Or maybe it will. But, not because it should.


So you'd rather choose privacy invading ads just because it's technically not a paywall? I'll take microtransactions every time. In fact, I'll argue that the current state of the internet can be directly attributed to content producer's inability to directly monetize their work so they have had to find an indirect way to get paid.

Information can be copied almost for free, but it still takes a fixed amount of work to produce even one copy of something. It is better to sell more copies at a fraction of the price assuming the revenue ends up the same because more value is created in the world. Unfortunately you can't charge people low enough amounts via the current financial system as they're not interested in innovation. So we are stuck with ads.


Those are decent points. I'll admit to some dormroom philosophizing in my original comment.

Moving on:

> So you'd rather choose privacy invading ads just because it's technically not a paywall? I'll take microtransactions every time.

Surely there is some middle ground there? I find _both_ ends of that spectrum deplorable. At least with the freemium model I can bring my own ad blocker. But no, I don't "choose privacy invading ads". I accept that the current internet has flaws. You understand that cryptocurrency is going to get co-opted by mainstream elites and the top 1% though, right? Sometimes I feel like I'm watching history repeat itself.

> the current state of the internet can be directly attributed to content producer's inability to directly monetize their work so they have had to find an indirect way to get paid.

I agree and I think the causation is actually reversed; the internet has enabled cheap copying of 0's and 1's since its inception. This has of course caused all sorts of issues and I agree that content creators should have a more direct way to monetize their work.

What I don't see is how NFT's enable that. Yes, they enable a content creator to collect currency from a one-time transaction, or perhaps a smart contract setup to provide a commission. But; the file contents are not actually encrypted anywhere. So ad-based websites can still easily steal content and profit from it. Further, even if they were; it would be ad-based networks buying the best content as they can afford to.


Oh, I'm ashamed to admit that I don't really know what NFTs are, but I was thinking of something along the lines of Patreon. I use it and like it, but it's still a third party that both sides need to sign up with so not everyone's on it and it's not available everywhere due to the limits imposed by traditional banking, among other things. A third party can still host the content and mediate access and charge fees for the service, but it should be working for the creator and not the other way around.


I'm flabberghasted at the amount of hate this space is getting from parts of the dev community and in particular HN. Web3 has its fair share of issues, but there's community and energy in the space that I haven't seen online since the early days of the world wide web.

Consider this: if you are absolutely, 100% convinced that all of this is bogus, is going to go nowhere (despite the high number of talented individuals flocking to it...), fair enough: bet on it disappearing overnight or over long cold crypto winter.

But if you think there's a slim chance that web3 may persist, and that it's not all just the bad bad things you think it is, do take a look, play around, join a community like Corruption(*s) (https://twitter.com/fabianstelzer/status/1470525607104684032) - I assure you you will reconsider your stance if you look close enough, and it'll position you in a much better way for what's to come compared to continuing to ignore it.


> I'm flabberghasted at the amount of hate this space is getting from parts of the dev community and in particular HN. Web3 has its fair share of issues, but there's community and energy in the space that I haven't seen online since the early days of the world wide web.

If you're familiar with the space, you have to at least admit that it's filled to the brim with grifters and people looking to acquire life-changing wealth for themselves by hyping things that they have a vested financial interest in.

There is a lot of energy in the space, but that's because it's just about the only thing web3 has going for it right now. The value of an asset has an exponential relationship with the hype around it, so everyone is working overtime to hype hype hype. Few people are interested in discussing what's underneath all of the hype, though, and instead allude to all of the vague future uses of the technology (which will allow everyone to flip their current investments for huge profits, or so the narrative goes).


In a way, this is a reflection of real life. Just as in politics and public space, we see the race to the bottom, to be the most horrible (and visible) human being possible, as part of performative assholery and grift.


I've worked on and off in the crypto space for 4 years, and I've often said that crypto attracts some of the best and the absolute worst of humanity. The key, I think, is to realize that it's still very much a "wild west" industry, and there will be heartache to endure. We continue on because we believe in the unrealized potential of decentralization.


People are quick to forget the cesspool that 90s internet was with the spam, fraud and abuse that happened in that new technology during those times.

Shit, I remember I received snail mail spam of penis enlargement crap in my town here in Mexico . They forget what brought the US legislators to the CAN SPAM act, and being 100% legal, also to the DMCA and all new legislation to prevent rampant copyright infringement (now... I dont agree with copyright law, but it's still the law).

We are at the same stage in the crypto space. Theres really interesting new tech and ideas (the Yahoos, Amazons, Googles, CD-Nows, MySpaces of the 90s), and theres also plenty of shady and blatantly illegal stuff (the Napsters, emules, Edward Davidsons of the 90s') .

That doesn't decrease the value of the technology.


Yeah, this kind of culture absolutely exists, but tbh I'd compare it to Reddit in that regard (hear me out): I don't particularly enjoy most of Reddit, and there are some vile subreddits I'd avoid at all costs, BUT there are many communities and subreddits that I immensely enjoy hanging out in. That said, my entire "consumption" of web2 communities like Reddit (AND HN!) has honestly been replaced with the amazing and kind communities I met "on" web3 (a misnomer in that context, as the entire comms stack is Twitter and Discord).

Unsurprisingly, the quality of Web3 communities IMO is inversely correlated to how much price-talk they engage in (e. g. in token-gated Discord servers).


> That said, my entire "consumption" of web2 communities like Reddit (AND HN!) has honestly been replaced with the amazing and kind communities I met "on" web3 (a misnomer in that context, as the entire comms stack is Twitter and Discord).

So your "web3" consumption happens entirely on web 2.0? And its existence doesn't actually require anything web3 related?

What makes it web3, other than the fact that maybe someone built a bot that requires NFT ownership to get into a Discord? Just the fact that people are talking about web3 in it?


A bunch of things, which also define what web3 means to me:

- Yes, NFTs: just like most websites are crap, so are most NFTs, and the tulip bubble that has formed around them will eventually bust (but return in different ways...). What will IMO almost certainly remain is the significant paradigm shift on two aspects: 1. indisputable ownership of digital goods that unlock other things: logins to apps, usage of software, access to certain communities / social clubs. 2. A dramatic unbundling of the way software is designed and used. Entire game universes will be build in the NFT space that are permissionlessly composable. A game designer may take an character NFT and build a game around them. Take a look at Loot Project, the first of this kind. Corruption(s*) by Dom is my favorite here: https://twitter.com/fabianstelzer/status/1470525607104684032

- DAOs will profoundly change the way in which we work. Wrote an article here: https://www.daos.fm/blog/daos-and-the-civstack Most NFT communities eventually become minimal DAOs as they often at some point pool a bunch of NFTs into a community wallet that they govern together. Sometimes for lols, sometimes to fund public goods

- Permissionlessness may sound like a buzzword, but it's huge. I think the NFT space will move toward a CC0 model in many parts, which means that anyone can build on top of existing things and expand on a successful model with an existing community.

- Most importantly, community, and this isn't fluff: consider this - most on chain tech is by definition open source and easily forkable - it's on a public chain! The differentiating factor for a project then is solely how well the community works, and how well its community is rewarded for helping the project out. Take the ENS (Ethereum Naming Service), which let's you shorten your ETH public key to a "domain.eth" one. They incorporated as a DAO and as a token of gratitude to their early adopters airdropped ENS tokens into every early users wallet. These tokens were immediately worth around 15k USD and instantly tradeable. Many didn't trade them but instead used them to vote for a delegate to represent them in the ENS DAO.

It's mindblowing how fast the space moves.


>It's mindblowing how fast the space moves

Your post almost reminds me of how "mind-blowing the space moves" pre-2008, the space being the mortgage debt derivatives matket.

More and more complex derivatives that provide seemingly no value but allow the creators to make a lot of short term money by selling them.


> most on chain tech is by definition open source and easily forkable - it's on a public chain

This indicates that you are either disingenuous or ignorant. I could put any closed binary on a public chain, that doesn't somehow magically make it open source.


Minor correction: accessible source doesn't mean free to copy


> people looking to acquire life-changing wealth for themselves by hyping things that they have a vested financial interest in

What's wrong with hyping things you've invested in, or seeking life-changing wealth for yourself?


In a vacuum, nothing. But it's generally good to disclose to others when the investment advice you're offering will also materially benefit you.

It's funny that cryptocurrency proponents will often lambast the traditional banking system for being corrupt and self-serving but then ask a question like this. Is cryptocurrency supposed to be a more fair way to invest/bank/move money or not?


> In a vacuum, nothing. But it's generally good to disclose to others when the investment advice you're offering will also materially benefit you.

This should be obvious. When was the last time you saw a coca-cola add? Did it say "please buy this because we are vested in it" or did it say "coca-cola tastes great".

> Is cryptocurrency supposed to be a more fair way to invest/bank/move money or not?

I honestly don't think so. It's great for some use cases though, like cheap, instant cross border payments.


There is obviously a difference between an ad which doesn't pretend to be anything else and financial "advice" which is pretending to be advice.

Pretending otherwise is disingenuous.

The thing that is wrong with it is that you are intentionally deceiving people.


So someone enticing you to BUY "sugar water" is not financial advice, but being enticed to buy fake internet money somehow is? How exactly did you reach that conclusion?


Well, if you create a project where the primary motivation is to enrich yourself, and you recognize that money shuffling in crypto is zero sum, it's pretty apparent that these "founders" are borderline scamming people.

In most other spaces the idea has real world utility. Not like, invent virtual land and sell it to people. Oh but no use for it for now. It could be worth lots later!


You do realize there are almost 100 000 coins out there. How many of those have you actually researched about and come to the conclusion that they lacked "real world utility". Does a casino provide "real world utility"? What about a boxing match.. is there any "real world utility" in that?


100,000 coins is a perfect example of why it's all a scam. These things are created out of thin air and sold as if they have any real value.

You fork a project, put up a webpage with aspirational talking points, and dump your premined coins onto the rubes that buy in.

Gambling has real value, and that's about all the value crypto provides. Which is the hot pyramid scheme of the month so I can make money off less intelligent people who don't understand it's all a scam veiled by perfectly valid technology?

It will all inevitably implode the next time any risk off sentiment takes hold.


For me it comes down to utility: the web was full of immediate, obviously beneficial things you could do with it and that just grew with web 2.0. Normal people would come to you with ideas about how it’d make their lives or businesses better.

Cryptocurrency has been the opposite: we’re over a decade into endless talking it up from the sales people but there’s still no reason to buy in unless you like day trading. The pitch of “wouldn’t it be great if everyday life was as full of microtransactions as a mid-2000s mobile game?” just isn’t appealing, and the need to recruit others so your down line makes you rich is actively repellent to many, especially for those of us who grew up in an era where the dream of the web was making everything accessible to everyone, not just the rich.


Why do you thing HN and for example /r/programming communities are united in telling visitors that Web3 is scam, cryptocurrencies is a scam and so on? Maybe it's a time to stop and reflect on their opinion, instead of blindly listening to blatant lies?

(before anyone writes indignant answer to me - for example "NFT facilitates decentralized proof of ownership" is a complete and utter lie in our face, "like "black is white", and it was written by multiple users just in this topic, and same happened in every other discussion too, it's always the same story and the same lies)


You can use NFTs for proof of digital ownership though? Not sure what you're even saying lol. I've heard more lies from people claiming everything in the space is a scam (when their own knowledge is obviously lacking) than scammers in the space trying to get rich quick.

You can literally make a project that has tokenized assets in the form of NFTs, and provide services based on ownership of that collection. It's trivial to detect whether an NFT is a forgery, and also trivial to detect if a user actually owns the NFT they claim to own. So when you are making claims that this is a lie, I have no idea where you are even coming from. It's literally proof of digital ownership for essentially a ticket/token into a service.


I honestly don't think anyone ever bought an NFT because "NFT facilitates decentralized proof of ownership".


Why do you think people buy NFTs?


My guess (because i cannot mind-read all NFT buyers), is its mostly speculation[1] 1. https://www.investopedia.com/terms/s/speculation.asp


What net-beneficial applications of crypto would you suggest I look at if I wanted to re-evaluate my perspective on crypto?

I was a very early crypto fan, loved talking about decentralized trustless networks, legal smart contracts, that kind of thing. But after years and years of just getting burned by the space being taken over by financial people spouting cultist rhetoric, the space has lost it's shimmer to me.

Asking somebody to join a community and look around themselves is a huge demand of trust when the industry has coordinated rugpull after rugpull using social tactics very similar to your own.

I would very much like to hear about promising applications of crypto and blockchain outside of some esoteric financial ploy for more money.

What I am most interested in is making something like game cosmetics into NFTs that can be traded around players. For example: Imagine getting a rare Season 1 helmet in the new Halo game, and then being able to trade it with your friends in season 2 for something else. The blockchain is actually useless here aside from the fact that it's a protocol that defines ownership outsde of the game so that the central authority can't place limits on trading.

But I just haven't seen anything in that capacity so you'll still have to color me cynical


I always say blockchain is just another database tech.

Are you excited by Cassandra, cockroach db , scylla or similar technologies? Then you can be similarly excited with Blockhain databases.

The concensus mechanisms in public blockchains are an interesting mechanism from the purely academic PoV. But yeah... what is happening now is like if a bunch of non-technical marketing and sales people took MongoDB in a MLM campaign.


Take a look at Loot project by Dom Hof (the creator of vine, but now mostly known for Loot...:)

It is exactly how you describe, but so so much more: why limit your Halo / skyrim character to one game world when you could take it into any other format and play with it there? NFT composability is a huge topic and extremely exciting in terms of these optionalities. Again: https://www.lootproject.com/

Also see my comment above with some more examples in response to another question...


None of that requires anything provided by a blockchain, but does require significant effort by developers to form consensus around formats, representations, and access[0].

[0] one could just decide to ignore the NFT after all, or mint their own NFTs for the same asset.


I can totally see Nintendo wanting to enable you to bring your collection of fancy, rare high-powered guns from Borderlands, carried by your favourite shiny Pokémon, into a no-holds-barred Mario Kart match so you could turn a fun all-ages racing game into an absolute bloodbath. Totally fits with their brand image etc.

Despite the likely bad PR, fiddly intellectual property issues, and the fact auctioning off high value gameplay items to the highest bidder turns games into tremendously boring pay2win experiences, the value in NFTs is that a game company might let players use assets bought or acquired in one game in a different game, even though they could do that already do that by just making private contractual relationships between existing game companies.


Why would I want to play my Skyrim character in Halo?


I guess maybe you didn't check out the site, since there's an article linked which is about exactly what you're describing: https://kotaku.com/ubisofts-nft-announcement-has-been-intens...


But your video on twitter, although very creative, documents exactly the type of accelerating self-referential tornado that that makes people skeptical. All just one big art project? Just a fun game? That'd probably be fine with everybody, skeptics included, but that's not what the proponents are saying. They say it will change everything. Energy and community are necessary but not sufficient for these claims.


Yes, you're right generally, though specifically in THIS case, we are actually talking about an obscure and extremely nerdy art project / game. That doesn't mean everything has to be one big art project. I'm in various other communities doing amazing stuff around climate change, for example, and the energy is just as intense and friendly as in the art/game projects. I linked to this because the community is one of the best I've experienced online in 3 decades of using the web.


> there's community and energy in the space that I haven't seen online since the early days of the world wide web.

Just like communities pumping AMC and other meme stocks. People get hyped easily when they can get something out of it. Why is that a criterion for anything?

> bet on it disappearing overnight or over long cold crypto winter.

Did you actually look into this? Because it's way riskier than you make it sound. In particular, I don't think it's financially sound to make this kind of bet as long as Tether exists with so little transparency.

> I assure you you will reconsider your stance if you look close enough, and it'll position you in a much better way for what's to come compared to continuing to ignore it.

After reading all your comments here, I still don't know what I should look at, beyond the "community and energy". The tech might be advanced and hard to grasp, but that's actually the part I do understand. What I'm still not seeing is the business case. Take any of the blockchain projects you seem to be fond of: what would happen if you just removed the blockchain? Would it really be worse off?


Like Pascal's Wager, but denominated in ETH.


Precisely. Very good comparison.

PS: and for some reason I still don't see need to believe, even for an off chance of going to heaven. Same with crypto.


Many people are scammed all the time from this garbage, and there's usually no legal recourse because either the malicious actors reside in countries which encourage these scams, or they hide their identities well enough that you can't find out who to sue.

It's a totally fraudulent industry and certainly deserves the anger directed at it. It undermines trust in society, and the people participating in this fraud deserve prison and asset forfeiture.


What if we think it might succeed and the world would be worse for it?

That's where I'm at. I don't want that vision of commercialization and commodification of everything.

I think there is a possibility that all of that crypto stuff might succeed and I'm terrified of it throwing us into an even worse capitalist dystopia than the one we already live in.


Right? Basically, imagine the post-scarcity Star Trek utopia except that everyone has to input a digital wallet code to use the replicator and everything it makes has a different price.


Yeah I hate the idea of artificially reintroducing scarcity now that we're finally close to overcoming it.


there's some cool stuff going on in the NFT space, e.g. my favorite band has been selling NFTs that come with access to stuff like concert videos and private events. the idea of NFTs as access to a community i think has merit - hey, if you buy a Porsche, you can go to Porsche owners clubs and stuff. nothing wrong with that.

that being said, the main reason I haven't bought one (i'd love to see the concert) is you have to use ether. that means taking on something like forex risk, plus costs money and time for what feels like the sake of costing money and time. if i could buy one of the things in dollars with a card or paypal, i probably would.

i get (at least some of) the ideas behind using a value token that's endogenous to and therefore in the control of the software ensuring trust, etc., but it seems to me that the cool parts of NFTs are somewhat negated by the cryptocurrency part of the implementation.


> there's some cool stuff going on in the NFT space, e.g. my favorite band has been selling NFTs that come with access to stuff like concert videos and private events.

Why do you need NFTs for that though? Bands have been selling exclusive access to content for ages using regular old currency.


I'd say you owe it to yourself to use some play money to really just play with it for the sake of learning and playing. Worst case you'll continue to think it may not be worth it in which case you've lost some money on some NFT but have gained knowledge in return. I predict something will happen though, and you might find that the space is actually extremely interesting.


It’s basically politicization of blockchain. For many HN users, it represents libertarianism and they oppose it based on political merits. That’s what I’m observing from the sidelines and also not counting all the crypto MLM schemes - just speaking purely about blockchain.


And instead of fixing politics, we are just going to have our own un-governed thing over here. Run away from out problems, lets open another bottle. It will be great then.


I’m apathetic about all of this, I don’t have a horse in this race, I’m not placing any bets.


Yes, you do have a horse, if you live on Earth (I am not being snarky). World's democracies are backsliding, while we are all trading monkey NFTs.


I agree, democracies are getting hammered. But it’s not because we are busy with experimental blockchain tech. That said - I found your response deeply unpleasant and imposing. Now I do have a horse to ignore you from telling me what to think and do.

Think deeply about what you just did. “If you’re on the sidelines and not playing the game, you’re an enemy”. That sounds exactly opposite of democracy. It sounds like Authoritarianism.


I honestly cannot make sense of this. I said that it affects you, and you will have to care, whether you want to or not. In what way did I say you were the enemy?

Just curious, are you at a college/university, or fresh out of?


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