Cryptocurrency – the universe of over 10,000 digital currencies powered by public, permanent databases of information – is everywhere. How do you feel about that?
Are you a crypto optimist who thinks these decentralized and largely unregulated currencies will shape our political and economic future for the better?
Or are you among the skeptics of the movement, who argue that crypto is overrated, and even potentially destructive to the economy and the environment?
Maybe this world seems too confusing for you to pass judgment yet. In “The Latecomer’s Guide to Crypto,” tech columnist Kevin Roose writes that his most firmly held belief about crypto is that it’s poorly explained. He writes:
Until fairly recently, if you lived anywhere other than San Francisco, it was possible to go days or even weeks without hearing about cryptocurrency.
Now, suddenly, it’s unavoidable. Look to one side, and there’s Matt Damon and Larry David doing commercials for crypto start-ups. Rotate your head – oh, hey, it’s the mayors of Miami and New York, arguing over who loves Bitcoin the most. Two NBA arenas are now named after crypto companies, and it seems like every corporate marketing team in America has jumped on the NFT – or non-fungible token – bandwagon. (May I interest you in one of Pepsi’s new ‘Mic Drop’ genesis NFTs? Or maybe something from Applebee’s ‘Metaverse Meals’ NFT collection, inspired by the ‘iconic’ menu items of the restaurant chain?)
Crypto! For years, it seemed like the kind of fleeting tech trend that most people could safely ignore, like hoverboards or Google Glass. But its power, both economic and cultural, has become too great to ignore. Twenty percent of American adults and 36 percent of millennials own cryptocurrency, according to a recent Morning Consult survey. Coinbase, the crypto trading app, has landed at the top of the App Store top charts at least twice in the past year. Today, the crypto market is valued at around $1.75 trillion, roughly the size of Google. And in Silicon Valley, engineers and executives are leaving comfortable jobs in droves to join the crypto gold rush.
As it has gone mainstream, crypto has inspired unusually polarized discourse. Its biggest fans think it’s saving the world, while its biggest skeptics are convinced it’s a scam – an environmentally-killing speculative bubble orchestrated by crooks and sold to greedy dupes, which will likely crash the economy when it breaks out.
I’ve been writing about crypto for nearly a decade, a time during which my own views have fluctuated between extreme skepticism and cautious optimism. These days I generally describe myself as a crypto-moderate, although I admit that it can be an escape.
I agree with the skeptics that much of the crypto market consists of overvalued, overhyped and possibly fraudulent assets, and I am unmoved by the more utopian sentiments shared by fanatics pro-crypto (like former Twitter chief Jack Dorsey’s assertion that Bitcoin will usher in world peace).
But as I’ve experimented more with crypto – including accidentally selling an NFT for over $500,000 at a charity auction last year – I’ve come to accept that it doesn’t. isn’t all about a cynical cash grab, and that there are things of real substance being built. I’ve also learned over my career as a tech journalist that when so much money, energy and talent is pouring into a new thing, it’s usually a good idea to be careful, regardless of your opinion. on the thing itself.
Students, read the whole articlethen tell us:
Do you consider yourself a crypto-optimist, a crypto-skeptic, or neither? Why?
Do you agree with Mr. Roose that crypto is “terribly explained”? Why or why not? How well do you feel you understand cryptography? How much did Mr. Roose’s explanations help?
According to the article, what do proponents of cryptocurrency consider its advantages? Which of these arguments is most compelling to you, if any?
Are you concerned about any of the criticisms of crypto that Mr. Roose names, for example, its environmental impact or that it might be attractive to extremists? To what extent do you think these objections are valid?
Are you hoping to eventually, or do you already own, a cryptocurrency or NFTs? Why or why not?
What questions do you still have about the crypto world?
Want more write prompts? You can find all of our questions in our Student Opinion column. Teachers, check out this guide to learn how you can integrate them into your classroom.
Students aged 13 and over in the US and Britain, and 16 and over elsewhere, are invited to comment. All comments are moderated by Learning Network staff, but remember that once your comment is accepted, it will be made public.