Looks bright and shiny. But what is it?

A recent news report out of the UK had the police raiding a property in the Midlands with suspiciously high energy usage. They figured it was a grow-op. Instead, it turned out to be a bitcoin mine.

I’ve never given a lot of thought to cryptocurrencies, but this piqued my interest. There are a lot of primers and basic introductions to the subject online so I tried to get somewhat up to speed. I was not entirely successful. I still don’t know what, exactly, a blockchain is, or what bitcoin mining involves. Yes, the former is a ledger and the second refers to the process of validating transactions (which is what I believe takes so much energy), but that doesn’t help a lot.

As with anything involving a lot of tech, a lot of money, and a lot of secrecy, I am suspicious of all of this. “Cutting out the middleman” and facilitating faster financial transactions may be of some value, but they don’t seem like really pressing needs for anyone. Meanwhile, avoiding any oversight is the kind of thing mostly bad actors want to take advantage of.

We know a lot of sketchy businesses exploit the crypto part of cryptocurrency, as it keeps shady dealings hidden in dark markets. Throw in the energy consumption (with cryptomining generating some 22 million tonnes of carbon dioxide annually, which is as much as some small countries), and illicit cryptomining (through “permissionless blockchains”) and I’m not sure why governments aren’t cracking down more.

But as I said, it’s a subject I know little about. Given that this is where things are heading I’m going to try to learn more. Not to invest in bitcoins but to better understand what’s going on.

5 thoughts on “Cryptoscepticism

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