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A blistering takedown of cryptocurrencies leads to an exceptionally dark thought: what if crypto is a self-perpetuating trauma machine?
Published onJul 14, 2021

The co-creator of Dogecoin, the original meme coin, published a heck of a Twitter thread today, spelling out his view of cryptocurrency in no uncertain terms:

He goes on contextualize cryptocurrency within the global economy’s worsening plague of inequality, writing that it “is almost purpose built to make the funnel of profiteering more efficient for those at the top and less safeguarded for the vulnerable.”

I can’t help reading Palmer’s critique against Packy McCormick’s “great online game” and Cory Doctorow’s observations about the trauma of living under surveillance capitalism, which I discussed a few weeks ago. As I argued in that piece, comparing McCormick’s game framing to studies of QAnon:

What if the same forces collapsing the distinction between work and play, currency and reward, and market manipulation and Twitter joke are also collapsing the distinction between reality and conspiracy, for the same reasons McCormick thinks the Game is succeeding: because participating in QAnon is more fun, or at least more hopeful, than facing the reality of what Cory Doctorow calls “the trauma of living through real conspiracies all around us.”

In Palmer’s telling, crypto is one of those real conspiracies that Doctorow believes makes people more susceptible to fake ones. And yet folks like McCormick are successfully selling it as the antidote to those same conspiracies. As Palmer notes, it’s almost impossible to have a good-faith conversation about these issues, precisely because so many people have already bought into the conspiracy, financially and emotionally.

So here’s a terrifying question: if crypto is simultaneously a game-like escape from trauma and the real-life conspiracy that causes it in the first place, how do we help people escape from a self-perpetuating trauma machine without doing enormous social, economic, and psychological damage?

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