Cryptocurrency Might be a Path to Authoritarianism
Extreme libertarians built blockchain to decentralize government and corporate power. It could consolidate their control instead.
By Ian Bogost
I remember reading this Atlantic article when it first came out almost 5 years ago and thinking "this sounds about right" It, and other examinations of what was going on, kept me from getting involved in the whole crypto world.
Now here we are, half a decade later, and I would say that it was a little bit wrong, but a lot more right.
The only thing missing (or is it?) is far right-wing, or far left-wing, governments of the world, to start enacting just some of the imagined uses of an authoritarian state this article lays out. I can see China already starting, and I'm pretty sure Georgia, Florida, or Texas wouldn't hesitate to use this kind of tech to control voter roles, once it decides it can get away with it.
And there are many many more scenarios that have been made possible with the continued advancement of the tech in the crypto/blockchain world.
I've got some very dear friends who've bought in wholeheartedly to this world. I hope they understand what they're really supporting and Web3 (which is what they're calling it) doesn't take the path of the Internet that I was deeply involved in ('web 2.0).
We really believed we were creating something that democratized information for individuals and society as a whole. What we really did, mostly, was create tools for corporations to massively centralize information and turn even tiny bits of it into financial transaction devices, also known as the securitization of information.
NFT's are the current manifestation of that. Laugh at them if you want, but, fiat money (i.e the US Dollar) is no less ethereal (pun intended Ethereum fans) than crypto-currencies and NFT's.
Massively distributed systems may be 'the democratization of X', but, they can be used for the opposite as well.
The article above sums it up nicely:
"blockchain’s future seems tied to the short-term vision of investors and entrepreneurs willing to speculate on a hypothetical, distributed utopia without hedging against the consolidated autocracy it seems equally likely to realize. “This is what happens,” Greenfield says, “when very bright people outsmart themselves.”
I'm no longer the young idealist that went to silicon valley in the 80's to work for Apple. I've seen some shit. Especially in the last 5 years, I've come to conclude that humans will not, always, pick the best path for all of us collectively, or even, themselves individually. Some days, being a misanthrope is just easier.
I know this sounds like a 'get off my lawn' post, but, every so often, the old geezer yelling that old anachronistic stereotypical trope, is right.