XRP, Ethereum, Bitcoin, Litecoin, crypto currency
Photo credit: Adapted by WhoWhatWhy from ETC / Flickr, Ivan Radic / Flickr (CC BY 2.0), Jernej Furman / Flickr (CC BY 2.0), and Daniel Pinchbeck.

Are Cryptocurrencies, NFTs, DAOs, and the blockchain that they ride on the financial instruments of the future — or a Ponzi scheme to enrich the wealthy?

In this week’s WhoWhatWhy podcast we talk with bestselling author Daniel Pinchbeck about the future of cryptocurrency. 

With its founding roots in the 2008 financial crash, crypto evolved as a way to decentralize finance and disrupt what was thought to be a corrupt financial system. Instead, it’s become its own speculative asset class, spawning an entire ecosystem of new financial products.

Pinchbeck, the author of Breaking Open the Head, 2012: The Return of the Quetzalcoatl, and his own substack, examines how new products like NFTs and crypto tokens, decentralized autonomous organizations (DAOs), and smart contracts have the potential to enhance capitalism’s worst excesses — or possibly become the basis of a whole new system of finance. 

We examine why the political left is suspicious of crypto, and how it fits perfectly with the libertarian worldview.

In an era in which crypto seems to be moving us toward the ability to monetize everything, Pinchbeck is hopeful that these new tools can still be sculpted and shaped for the greater societal good.

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Full Text Transcript:

(As a service to our readers, we provide transcripts with our podcasts. We try to ensure that these transcripts do not include errors. However, due to a constraint of resources, we are not always able to proofread them as closely as we would like and hope that you will excuse any errors that slipped through.)

Jeff Schechtman: Welcome to the WhoWhatWhy podcast. I’m your host, Jeff Schechtman. Even though it’s taken a hit this week, cryptocurrencies, NFTs, Dows, the blockchain they ride on are still, in the view of many, the decentralized financial instruments of the future. Even if they never replace the fiat currencies of nations, their roles in markets are here to stay.

And crypto, like everything else, has become politicized. You would think that an asset class that is almost pure speculation and not even about owning anything would be immune from the primal forces of partisanship. But no, both the left and the libertarian right have very different views of what crypto and its sister products on the blockchain and Web 3.0 should be.

Few have been harder than the left, who sees in it some kind of pure evil of the market. The good news is that when my guest — author, thinker, and all-around wiseman — Daniel Pinchbeck talks about the politics of crypto, he also helps us to understand what it really is, why it matters and why to the folks on all political sides it should matter in the future.

Daniel Pinchbeck has long been considered a Renaissance man and ahead of his time. He’s the author of the books Breaking Open the Head, The Return to Quetzalcoatl, Notes from the Edge of Time, How Soon is Now, and When Plants Dream. He saw around corners long before many others with respect to our ecological crisis and was a one-time executive director of the Center for Planetary Culture.

His essays and articles have appeared in every major publication. He’s spoken at conferences around the world and had his work featured in a 2010 documentary. He currently writes the Daniel Pinchbeck Newsletter on Substack. Daniel, thanks so much for joining us and welcome to the WhoWhatWhy podcast.

Daniel Pinchbeck: Oh, thanks for having me, Jeff.

Jeff: Why has there been such profound criticism, particularly from the left — and all parts of the left, towards crypto at this point?

Daniel: I’ve been toggling around, but I do really sympathize with a lot of the criticism. I mean, it’s a lot to unpack, but, in 2008, there was this major financial crash, the global economic system went down, and we saw that central banks could just create money as needed, something they hadn’t told us about when we wanted social programs and so on.

And I think that that led to a profound mistrust in the financial system, also destroying a lot of people’s primary asset. And around that time, Bitcoin was issued, and it was definitely issued as a challenge to the hegemony of the money system and the central banks. And many people suspected that behind it was a right-wing libertarian philosophy.

In fact, there’s a good book by this guy, David Golumbia, Software as Ideology [The Politics of Bitcoin: Software as Right-Wing Extremism] I think is what it’s called, where he looks at the politics of Bitcoin as something that, if it was to become super popular, would challenge the centrality and sovereignty and hegemony of nation states and limit their capacity to raise funds both for good and for bad, whether for building armies, or for building housing, or health programs.

So, libertarians tend to be people who prefer a strong emphasis on private liberty, a strong emphasis on private property, and government is reduced to the police force for those who have resources. So, I’m personally very much against the libertarian worldview, and unfortunately, it seems that a lot of the new cryptos are basically just amplifying that.

So, for instance, I’ve actually just been studying more and learning more about, for instance, Ethereum, started by this kid, Vitalik Buterin, who’s a very genius cryptographer, mathematician, programmer. But some of the early money to create Ethereum was a grant from Peter Thiel. Peter Thiel is one of the PayPal mafia right-wing billionaires who is Trump’s science advisor.

So yes, there’s a lot of suspicion on the left. I mean, where I see the problem is that the global financial system is deeply corrupt and basically supports the extraction, the following of capital from the masses to the small group who happen to control certain institutions and corporations and so on. And it’s a system that’s getting worse and worse, and it’s directly related to our planetary apocalypse.

The fact that we’re facing ecological catastrophe, Armageddon, even extinction, and so on. So, we need to flip this economic system in some way. And when you look at the blockchain, which is simply distributed ledger technology, you could define different mechanisms for exchanging value, for recognizing the things that corporations now see as externalities like the system that then understands the importance of carbon and gives that accounting.

So blockchain could allow for that, but, at the moment, it’s much more being used for creating new speculative asset classes that really have very little foundations or fundamentals. Although some of them are very seductive and attractive for people who are seeing that their savings in relationship to inflation, they’re going below water, they’re in debt.

So, the fact that crypto is this new asset class where you have the capacity, if you’re extremely lucky or get it early, to make high yields or extremely exponential returns, is of course very seductive to many people. But unfortunately, if you look at it as a whole rather than just as individual success stories, it seems to be tilting back more towards supporting the super wealthy than the average person.

Jeff: One of the things that you had said could be of some interest: Are these distributed autonomous organizations, Dows, the one that was created to buy this copy of the US Constitution, that those instruments, that that idea could have some potential in terms of dealing with some of the broken aspects of the system?

Daniel Pinchbeck: Yes. I mean, that’s my hope. I actually want to start one as an experiment for the creative community, but I think you have to be very careful because this whole thing about smart contracts… So basically the idea is that the people who are very fascinated with crypto tend to be people who see that centralization is one issue.

Although the question of whether cryptos are actually decentralized, or if it’s actually like a fraudulent concept, is an interesting one. But then also the idea of trust, that basically they feel that the best thing when we have a system, that in a sense is trustless, or in a sense guarantees that you don’t even need to have trust in other people because it’s all being dealt with by code in a very mathematical way.

Like if I get paid for something and somebody did some graphics, they’re counting on me to pay them for those graphics or whatever. If it was done as a smart contract in the blockchain, those royalties can be split automatically. So that’s very interesting. And also, with non-fungible tokens or NFTs, which are digital certificates of ownership, similarly, they can have smart contracts built into them.

So, if I create a work of art and I sell it as an NFT, then every time it’s resold to somebody else I could get 10 percent of that. And that’s built in and guaranteed. So as a creative person, I then share in the wealth as my work gets more popular or more valuable. So yesm distributed autonomous organizations are essentially creating organizations that are organized around smart contracts rather than legal contracts.

And this has some interesting pluses, but also some dangerous minuses. I mean, the problem is that our traditional legal contracts protect us in certain respects. I mean for instance, let’s say somebody pays rent on their apartment every month and one month they don’t have the rent. They lost their job or something, or they had big bills, generally you can go, first of all, it’ll take months to close, to evict you, you have to go through all the process.

There’s some humane legal situation there. You can argue if it’s fair for the landlord, fair for the tenant, but there’s some fungible gray area. With the smart contracts, it wouldn’t be like that. So, it’d be 12:01 on January 1st, you didn’t pay your rent, the door automatically locks you out and you’re done; or maybe even a drone appears on your doorstep and points a gun at you and says, “It’s time to go.”

So, we can see how these smart contracts, the rigidity of them could lock us into an even more… a dangerously unjust world that would really would be even more to the benefit of large capital holders and large institutions. So, there’s legitimate concerns about it. However, this idea that you could bring people together, have a distributed, decentralized mechanism for making decisions together, and then a vault where value is stored, and how that is a portion, it can also be described democratically. That’s all somewhat interesting.

Jeff: One of the other things that you talk about are the way in which blockchain currencies, or blockchains in general, [are] melding with things like artificial intelligence and all this talk about the metaverse and what the dangers are as all these things start to come together.

Daniel: We have to ask ourselves, technology is very intoxicating and seductive and addictive. We can have to step back and ask ourselves what have been the good and bad qualities of the last 20 or 30 years in terms of what technology has done for us and done to us. And as we saw recently with Frances Haugen testimonies around Facebook, these companies are well aware that they’re creating something that’s as addictive as tobacco or heroin, particularly for young people, and you are seeing among young people a huge amount of apathy, a huge amount of mental illness, suicide, and so on, and some of that is fueled by the social competition through Instagram, and sense of lack of self-worth around body image, and so on, which these technologies fuel.

But the tendency of this technological system is to keep pushing us further and further into virtual and digital realms, and in itself could be seen as something that we need to start questioning. But I’m intrigued by the potential of these immersive metaverses, these 3D, 4D artificial realities, and so on, but I’m concerned about the level to which we’re not facing up to this ecological emergency, and also the rapid reassembling of authoritarianism around the world, and the attrition that we’re seeing with liberal democracies. And some of it, I think, is just because people feel so disconnected and apathetic, and this technology used in certain ways could ameliorate that, but instead, it tends to pull people more and more into these artificial realities.

Jeff: The other thing that it does, and NFTs are perhaps the best example of this, is it takes further this idea of monetizing everything.

Daniel: Yes. That’s one of the big dangers. And I do recommend, if people want to explore this deeper, yes, as you mentioned, there’s my work. I’ve been looking at… Daniel Pinchbeck on It’s one of a number of issues that I address. Some of them are more mystical, or psychedelics and shamanism, or even conspiratorial, looking at thinkers like RK Jr., and other stuff, trying to put a critical framework on that type of stuff. But there’s a project called The Crypto Syllabus, which is very interesting. It’s a very high-level intellectual one, then there’s this guy, I think it’s called “folding intelligence,” which I just watched this incredible two-hour video that he did really going through in-depth… the problems with crypto and the dangers of it.

The model of Ethereum is the financialization of everything, like fractional ownership is a future potential. There is an interesting book, interesting in the sense of horrible from my perspective, called Radical Markets which is an MIT economist that has done some work with Vitalik, the founder of Ethereum, and the idea is, in the future, everything will be constantly auctioned. So, your house, your suitcase, your watch, whoever bids highest for it would have access to it. I assume there’s some safeguards on it, but in practice, that’s the idea. And just as I’ve written in the pieces, I admit that I’m a leftist, but more anarchist than anything else. But going back to Karl Marx, where he talked about in the original declarations of independence in the US and France, we enshrined certain freedoms and we denied other freedoms that maybe we should have thought more about.

So, we gave everybody the freedom to practice religion rather giving them freedom from religion. And we gave people freedom to trade rather than having freedom from trade. So personally, I would prefer this point freedom from trade, but a lot of this stuff with the way the crypto is pointing and the NFTs and so on, it would be trade would become an intrinsic part of day-to-day daily existence, even more than it is now.

Jeff: Is it your sense that the crypto world is here to stay?

Daniel: It’s an interesting question. I was feeling that was the case. Once again, for me stepping back, and I wrote about this in my 2017 book, How Soon is Now, people are very invested across the board in capitalism. And it’s hard for people to believe that the system might have an end date or terminus. Unfortunately, capitalism is coming into direct conflict with the life support systems of the planet, and it is immediately threatening our own future lives and certainly the lives of future generations. And that’s because it’s an economic model that, as I mentioned before, ignores what they call externality, such as the integrity of ecosystems, or the health of local indigenous communities, the values that communities might have [is] based on constant growth and exploitation.

So as a dynamic system, money is created as bank debt. So, the debt has to be paid back with interest. The constant growth of interest requires constant development, and discovery, and penetration of new markets, so that even with this idea of these endless vaccine boosters, for instance, it’s like they’ve turned our immune system into an operating system that becomes like a new market to exploit. Water once was available freely, it was delicious… now people buy it in plastic. So, capitalism has this inexorable push to keep developing, to keep growing, to keep exploiting. And as I said, the natural resources of the planet can’t really handle that anymore.

So, we need to transition to a new economic system that is not going to make people very happy. But if the choice is extinction or metamorphosis, then hopefully we choose metamorphosis. We have to put the breaks on a lot of the development, the endless growth, the endless consumption that has become the basis of our system. And so, I think that blockchain, other forms of crypto could be devised that would allow for a positive transition, but those are not the ones that are being used at the moment or promoted at the moment. The ones that are being promoted are more like speculative asset classes.

Jeff: And then, of course, there’s the ecological damage, the ecological cost of mining crypto.

Daniel: The problem is that particularly Bitcoin and Ethereum are based on what’s called “proof of work” mining. And so it requires massive computing power with all these… basically, to make a transaction, the computers have to guess an extremely complex number or completes a very complex mathematical equation or whatever. So, these gigantic rings and by some, I guess 0.55 percent of the world’s electricity is now going into Bitcoin mining. That’s a little insane considering the problems we’re already having with energy consumption, that Bitcoin itself is consuming as much as a small country like Finland, or maybe even a larger country.

The advocates for Bitcoin have a number of clever ways of arguing this. One argument they make is that Bitcoin mining tends to use renewable sources or even find access like excess sources of renewable energy that wasn’t really being utilized properly in the system, whether it’s like hydroelectric, or geothermal, or whatever, but I think it’s a dumb argument because we know that the Bitcoin mining is already using more power I believe than all the solar panels in the world. So, it’s certainly a regression and it’s also, as we can see, there’s not really a great social utility. Ultimately, Bitcoin is an open-source technological platform that is a certain set of code that a number of people have agreed upon as having this value. There isn’t really an intrinsic value behind it. And so ultimately, it is like a Ponzi scheme, a marketing scam in some way in that if people lose their belief in it or their interest in it, it just disintegrates.

And one of the points that Bitcoin advocates make is that the fiat currency is also speculative and virtual, and doesn’t really exist. That’s really not true, but I totally hate the way that if we look at the 2008 financial crash, and how we really saw how manipulated and corrupt the financial system is, and it’s really a problem, but it’s really cost America its standing in the world, which we’re now seeing as a massive global emergency as we see China and Russia, these authoritarian nations, becoming more aggressive and more forceful, partially because America has showed itself to be so corrupt and hypocritical that it’s lost a lot of its standing in the world.

But still, a fiat currency is in theory backed by all of the assets of a nation. So, part of the reason you could also argue that, yes, the US dollar is partially very valuable because it’s been the Petrodollar. They made a deal with the Middle East. We made a deal with the Middle East in the ’70s that the US dollar would be the medium of transaction for oil, so there’s that aspect to it. Beyond that, there’s also the fact that the US dollar is backed by 200 years of legal institutions, code institutions, highways, bridges, etcetera, forests, public parks, and so on. Whereas Bitcoin is really just backed by the collective belief in it in this particular iteration of this mathematical code.

The other thing that’s interesting about crypto is that the crypto can always be forked. So, somebody could create their own version of Bitcoin if they have the technical know-how, or their own version of a theory, but this has also already happened several times, or many times. And so that intrigues me because maybe you could figure out a way to create a Bitcoin. I mean, in some of the stuff that I studied, like Bernard Lietaer, who’s an economist and wrote a book called The Future of Money; he argued that one of the things that would get us out of our disaster would be a global trading currency that has a negative interest or demurrage charge.

So, when using that currency, there’s no incentive to hoard it or to hold on to it, you actually want to keep circulating it. So you could, for instance, create a Bitcoin-like currency as a global trading currency that loses value as people hold on to it, so they’re more incentivized to share than to hoard. So, yes, I guess that’s my answer.

Jeff: What is your sense of how China’s dealing with crypto right now trying to exercise more government control, and even trying to create their own digital currency?

Daniel: Sure, well, that’s been one of the concerns that many people, the progressive… well, actually, I mean, even on the right, also, it’s a shared concern, is that where this stuff is heading is very dangerous. I mean, China has already, of course, created this social credit system, where they develop this very totalitarian grip over the population because if you step out of line, they’re going to stop your kids from being able to go to school, or stop you from being able to travel, or whatever. So China is very troublesome, worrisome I guess, on many levels, if you’re interested in the future of democracy and human freedom, and so on.

I mean, they’ve developed a very, very powerful social credit system, which means that if people speak out against the government, or do anything, they won’t be able to go to… their kids won’t be able to go to school, they won’t be able to travel. Unfortunately, technology with its surveillance capacities, makes this a lot easier. The problem is that digital currencies would actually make that even way easier, because at the moment, if you say something on your YouTube or your Twitter that the government doesn’t like, and you say it loudly enough, they might shut off your channel.

But in the future, if it’s a digital currency, you can certainly have your money also shut off so you wouldn’t really be able to survive. That’s like a conservative look at the World Economic Forum, and how they always invite the Chinese Premier to open the conference and so on. There seems to be a coordination of interests among the power elite. Yes, so centralized digital currencies are an issue if you’re progressing from a left-wing, or also from a right-wing perspective, actually, they’re very dangerous because they could allow for a lot more control over people’s activities.

Jeff: Where is the nexus then, as you see it, in the West, between digital currency, between crypto, between the financialization of everything, as we were talking about all these attempts to do that, and the rise of authoritarianism, and the waning of democracy?

Daniel: As I mentioned, David Golumbia’s book, The Politics of Bitcoin: Software as Right-Wing Extremism, I think it’s called. There’s implicit bias in these cryptocurrencies towards this right-wing libertarian philosophy, which is very much based on private control, direct ownership, and then shrinking the government. I mean, the whole idea of Bitcoin, if it was to become the global reserve currency, it’s a currency that’s limited to 21 million coins, tokens, which shouldn’t be divisible when you couldn’t speculate it the same way that a country like the US wouldn’t be able to go massively trillions upon trillions of dollars into debt if they were forced to use Bitcoin as the reserve currency.

It has an implicit social bias, but there are some people who argue that it would prevent war because countries wouldn’t be able to build up a huge debt to buy or to build a huge war machine. But it would also prevent all sorts of ambitious social programs and healthcare initiatives and so on, education initiatives. Beyond that, I think in itself, it’s become… it’s a distraction. I mean, I feel back in 2011, there was the Occupy movement, there was the beginning to be a strong realization of the need for a new direction. And unfortunately, this crypto Ethereum came in.

In a way, it’s beautiful, it’s inspired a lot of younger people, a lot of entrepreneurs, a lot of tech innovators, they’re building all these new things. But they’re not really, there’s no… there’s very little effort, I would say, to use the technology in this systematic design-science way to address our emergency issues right now. That includes this growing authoritarianism, and also the ecological disaster that we’re facing. And from an authoritarian perspective, I don’t think crypto is, well, I mean, it is interesting; you have countries like China banning it for whatever reason, or putting tight controls over it. But, in general, it seems to work well with authoritarian regimes.

Jeff: And I guess what one wonders is, one, whether it collapses as suddenly, it’s starting to lose value now, and all these people that have been fascinated by it suddenly lose interest, or, in fact, there’s a whole “Crypto 2.0” that begins to address some of these issues that you’re talking about, and that it becomes a problem-solving mechanism, perhaps, at some point, to address some of these global crises.

Daniel: Yes, I think that… that’s why I’m happy that you invited me on, and I’m excited that whether it’s this “folding intelligence” video, or The Crypto Syllabus, or David Golumbia’s book. There needs to be a much deeper conscious awareness of the public around what’s happening, what the dangers really are for this, and potentially what some of the opportunities are. Because it’s still something that can be sculpted and shaped… like Facebook and Google didn’t have to take the form that it took back in 2009 or 2010. Now we’re at the nascent stage or something, and essentially, the idea of Web 3.0 is that it’s going to do for money and finance what Web 2.0 did for media and communications.

And when we step back and ask ourselves, “What did it do?” In some ways, it’s positive. I like the fact that as an independent creator, I can use Kickstarter, or Substack, or people can create their own media brand really easily. It’s led to very much a fragmentation. I mean, there’s something also good about having trustable, coherent resources. It’s also led to fake news, it’s led to filter bubble effects, where people really obligate the information that’s from their own little thing, then their biases get exacerbated, and suddenly they’re mind-controlled by some right-wing group, or terrorist group or something.

There’s a lot of stuff we haven’t even started out with Web 2.0, and then bring that same type of disaggregation to the money and financial world definitely has a lot of dangers to it. And so, yes, and we’re seeing the way this thing is going, but there do seem to be these cycles of expansion and collapse, but the collapse doesn’t necessarily kill the beast, it just means that it has to take a slightly different form. I mean, one of the big points of failure of the whole crypto industry could be the stable coins.

And this is something that I don’t fully understand, but I know that because banks don’t really want to have low crypto, the crypto world created something called Tether, which is a crypto coin, which is indexed to the US dollar. So one Tether in theory equals $1, and Tether is in theory backed by these huge reserves of currency that the people who run Tether in theory have somewhere safe.

But in reality, it turns out that this is highly speculative that they claim to have… they would need to have like $85 billion in reserves. It’s not clear they even have 3 percent of that, and currency reserves that they have taken in they’ve also used to their own speculative investments. So, there is the possibility that the crypto thing could collapse in a very similar way to the subprime market collapse in 2008. And that would have a lot of repercussions. But to be honest with you, I think I would have positive ones because it doesn’t necessarily mean that this industry is going away. But there are a lot of problems with what’s happening right now.

Jeff: It’s a little bit more like the .com bubble that reemerged as Web 2.0 and became a different product, and we could see the same thing here with crypto.

Daniel: I think it’s going to be hard now to stop the basic movement towards the fragmentation of financial assets. I mean, there are so many of these coins. And I guess one question is how a regulatory framework develops. This is not anywhere near my area of specialty. But one reason that crypto has been lightly regulated is they take this fine line between being seen as securities, or speculative assets, or being currencies. So, they claim themselves to be currencies, when it benefits them or assets, securities, when it benefits them. And so, they’ve towed this very interesting line up to this point.

Jeff: We also have the question of how the existing banking system may be pushing back against this.

Daniel: Well, I don’t think it’s pushing back against it. I think, unfortunately, what’s happened is some of the major investment banks, the same ones that caused the 2008 subprime crash, the same ones who are always looking for fantastic returns, have enthusiastically embraced crypto. And I think that’s probably, unfortunately, part of the reason why it’s not really being regulated very effectively. And, for instance, if you look at Tether, it seems like it would be obvious that that would need to be tested in some kind of regulatory framework.

Similar number of people I know were involved with iOS, which literally raised $4 billion based on an idea of “proof of stake” rather than “proof of work,” which means that instead of having a totally distributed, decentralized way of approving transactions, there was like 21 nodes, validators that would move between different players in the iOS ecosystem over time. But as far as I understand it, iOS after several years, there’s no product, the thing doesn’t work. And what happened to that $4 billion?

Yeah, so it’ll be interesting to see. This is another question: We already learned that the corrupt financial system is very, very deeply corrupt; are they just extending their corruption in this area? It is, as I said, very tantalizing for average people who are now seeing a very low interest, or no interest, on their checking and savings accounts, to put money into crypto, where you could see phenomenal returns if you have the right information and get very lucky.

But a lot of it is very “scammy.” And they use like pump-and-dump schemes. And obviously when the scam always leaves somebody holding the bag. So if you’re not somebody who’s very privileged, in the “in” groups, who’s getting the right information, you can easily be one of the ones who falls victim.

Jeff: The other thing we touched on but haven’t really explored in detail is this whole issue of NFTs.

Daniel: That’s another issue. I’m happy for some friends of mine who are artists who were struggling, waiting tables, or sleeping on friends’ couches, and hit it big over the last year. One person I know had a million-dollar photography sale at Christie’s, and then later sold a single photograph, is now one of the 10 most high-valued sale photographs in history. So, from being unknown, he reached that kind of height.

And other friends of mine have had successful drops of collections of NFTs probably minting them hundreds of thousands upon millions of dollars. Of course, more people have had failures, have tried to enter the space and have not had success. But it feels like when you step back and ask yourself what’s happening, you can try to analyze the situation. With Ethereum, for instance, people had amassed a lot of it and made quite a bit of money on it, but there really wasn’t anything tangible to do with it. It’s not really used. You can’t really use it to buy anything. So, the NFT space became an opportunity for the use of Ethereum, and also the marketing of Ethereum.

So, high-priced Ethereum art sales help to promote the whole crypto enterprise. And while it’s benefited artists in the short term, they’ve all now been sucked into this crypto world. And because there’s no intrinsic value to crypto, it’s not like it’s backed by real estate or energy or whatever, it needs to keep finding new markets and new people to pull into it.

So, the artists who have now been pulled in… graphic artists, fine artists, musicians, and so on, really act as a publicity and marketing team for crypto.

Jeff: And finally, Daniel, is it your sense that regulators and the government have any real understanding of what’s going on here, or is this really happened way too fast for institutions to absorb?

Daniel: I wouldn’t know how to answer that. I studied it years ago, and I’d written about the potential of blockchain and Ethereum, which, in some ways, I was more hopeful about. It seemed to have a more idealistic frequency to it back in 2016, when I wrote my How Soon is Now book. In 2017… a book that I still think is very relevant, by the way, if anybody wants to check it out. It has introductions by Sting and Russell Brand and tries to really look at the types of changes we would have to make, systemically, to deal with the ecological crisis that we’re facing.

Jeff: But short of reading some of these books, does the government or leaders have any idea what they’re dealing with?

Daniel: Hopefully they have smart people who are getting up to speed on it. I just have no idea, that’s not my world, but it only takes a few months. It’s like anything to get conversant in the lingo and to understand. There are some things that I’d still really have a hard time understanding. I have friends who want me to get involved with a token project called Terra and Luna. And right now, if you get these Terra coins and you stake them on Anchor, you get apparently quite stable 20 percent return on your money, which obviously is way higher than banks. But then if you also get more into this Luna ecosystem, you can get for x returns.

But it’s very much beyond me. My friends are enthusiastic about it. To give you the positive view of it also, basically, the way it works now is we put our money into banks, and the banks use our money to make money, a lot of money, and they give us these miserable interest rates or hardly any interest whatsoever.

Whereas the good part of this crypto world is that we disintermediate, that you can choose to put your money into play directly, but then you’re also dealing with the risk of that, and you don’t have any insurance. If people get fleeced in crypto, there’s nobody to appeal to it. It is a very scam-infested situation.

Jeff: Daniel Pinchbeck, I thank you so much for spending time with us here on the WhoWhatWhy podcast. If people want more information about what you’re thinking about, they can subscribe to your Substack, and I thank you for your time with us today.

Daniel: OK, Jeff, thanks for having me.

Jeff: Thank you. And thank you for listening and joining us here on the WhoWhatWhy podcast. I hope you join us next week for another radio WhoWhatWhy podcast, I’m Jeff Schechtman. If you liked this podcast, please feel free to share and help others find it by rating and reviewing it on iTunes. You can also support this podcast and all the work we do by going to


  • Jeff Schechtman

    Jeff Schechtman’s career spans movies, radio stations and podcasts. After spending twenty-five years in the motion picture industry as a producer and executive, he immersed himself in journalism, radio, and more recently the world of podcasts. To date he has conducted over ten-thousand interviews with authors, journalists, and thought leaders. Since March of 2015, he has conducted over 315 podcasts for

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