In 2013 Palmer Jackson and Billy Markus came up with a killer prank: They created a cryptocurrency that was based on a meme featuring a photo of a slightly startled-looking Shiba Inu. They called it Dogecoin, and likely expected it would get a few laughs or maybe fool a few people then somehow fade into obscurity. Jackson, in fact, got out of the crypto game completely just a few years later.
Turns out this exit was due to Jackson’s opinions of cryptocurrency in general, and he recently decided to tweet a thread explaining what he thinks. Which is, to put it mildly, not positive.
It’s easier to read Jackson’s words if they’re reformatted from Twitter:
Despite claims of “decentralization”, the cryptocurrency industry is controlled by a powerful cartel of wealthy figures who, with time, have evolved to incorporate many of the same institutions tied to the existing centralized financial system they supposedly set out to replace.
The cryptocurrency industry leverages a network of shady business connections, bought influencers and pay-for-play media outlets to perpetuate a cult-like “get rich quick” funnel designed to extract new money from the financially desperate and naive.
Financial exploitation undoubtedly existed before cryptocurrency, but cryptocurrency is almost purpose built to make the funnel of profiteering more efficient for those at the top and less safeguarded for the vulnerable.
Cryptocurrency is like taking the worst parts of today’s capitalist system (eg. corruption, fraud, inequality) and using software to technically limit the use of interventions (eg. audits, regulation, taxation) which serve as protections or safety nets for the average person.
Lose your savings account password? Your fault. Fall victim to a scam? Your fault. Billionaires manipulating markets? They’re geniuses. This is the type of dangerous “free for all” capitalism cryptocurrency was unfortunately architected to facilitate since its inception.
But these days even the most modest critique of cryptocurrency will draw smears from the powerful figures in control of the industry and the ire of retail investors who they’ve sold the false promise of one day being a fellow billionaire. Good-faith debate is near impossible.
For these reasons, I simply no longer go out of my way to engage in public discussion regarding cryptocurrency. It doesn’t align with my politics or belief system, and I don’t have the energy to try and discuss that with those unwilling to engage in a grounded conversation.
Doge might have been a joke, but it ended up functioning better than its creators likely dreamed. Tesla customers can pay for their EVs in Doge. Elon Musk has tweeted shout-outs to the coin, often temporarily boosting its value considerably.
Its success doesn’t remotely compare to Bitcoin’s, but there are definitely people who have acquired considerable wealth just from buying Dogecoin and holding it till it grew in value, then selling.
Though his opinion was bluntly stated, Jackson did complete his statement on a conciliatory note, writing that “those with the energy to continue asking the hard questions and applying the lens of rigorous skepticism all technology should be subject to.”
“New technology can make the world a better place,” Jackson admitted, “but not when decoupled from its inherent politics or societal consequences.”
Jackson’s epic thread may have also affected the crypto he co-created — Dogecoin, which was already on a downswing, bottomed out Thursday, having lost nearly 15% of its value from the previous week.
It wouldn’t be fair to blame this low point on Palmer Jackson, but the Dogecoin market is notoriously volatile and sensitive to negative news coverage, so chances are he didn’t help.