The Most Thorough Case Against Crypto I've Heard

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The hype around cryptocurrencies has reached a fever pitch. There are Super Bowl ads for crypto companies featuring celebrities like Matt Damon and Larry David. The Staples Center in Los Angeles is now the Crypto.com Arena. And behind that hype is a distinct vision: a more decentralized economy where individuals have more autonomy over their finances, a grass-roots internet free of the not-so-invisible hand of Big Tech, and a cultural ecosystem where artists and musicians can fairly monetize their work.

But what if that vision is deeply flawed? What if the technology undergirding cryptocurrencies isn’t what it’s cracked up to be? Or what if the technology does work, yet the world it creates isn’t a decentralized utopia but a hyper-financialized dystopia?

Dan Olson is the creator of a two-hour-YouTube video, “Line Goes Up,” that has now been viewed nearly seven million times. “Line Goes Up” is the single most comprehensive critique of crypto that I’ve ever heard. And that’s because Olson isn’t just focused on cryptocurrencies as a technology or an asset class, but on the crypto universe as a distinct culture underpinned by a powerful ideology. It’s easy to think about the lingo, the acronyms and the myths associated with the crypto world as incidental to the value of cryptocurrencies and NFTs as assets. But for Olson, the culture and the currency are inextricably linked. And once you’ve made that connection, suddenly a lot of the problems, warning signs and potential dangers of crypto become visible in a new way.

Mentioned:

A Crypto Optimist Meets a Crypto Skeptic” from “The Ezra Klein Show”

How NFTs Create Value” by Steve Kaczynski and Scott Duke Kominers

You Are Not a Gadget by Jaron Lanier

Web3 Is Going Just Great” by Molly White

The Gift by Lewis Hyde

Book recommendations:

The Power Broker by Robert A. Caro

The Tombs of Atuan by Ursula K. Le Guin

Persuasive Games by Ian Bogost

Thoughts? Guest suggestions? Email us at ezrakleinshow@nytimes.com.

You can find transcripts (posted midday) and more episodes of “The Ezra Klein Show” at nytimes.com/ezra-klein-podcast, and you can find Ezra on Twitter @ezraklein. Book recommendations from all our guests are listed at https://www.nytimes.com/article/ezra-klein-show-book-recs.

“The Ezra Klein Show” is produced by Annie Galvin, Jeff Geld and Rogé Karma; fact-checking by Michelle Harris, Mary Marge Locker and Kate Sinclair; original music by Isaac Jones; mixing by Jeff Geld and Isaac Jones; audience strategy by Shannon Busta. Our executive producer is Irene Noguchi. Special thanks to Kristin Lin and Kristina Samulewski.

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