why do you hate my jpegs?
POST ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED FEBRUARY 14TH 2022
What’s really behind the visceral spite that some people have for NFTs, web3 or crypto in general?
Joseph Schumpeter, the famous Austrian economist, said all the way back in 1912 that innovator’s work opened them up to “social ostracism and to physical prevention or to direct attack”. In other words, people don’t like change, especially when it comes to technology. This paraphrased Gandhi quote has circulated within the crypto community for a while…
“First, they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win”
I think it’s a fair lens to view the space through in general. It’s a bit adversarial for my liking because crypto is not a zero-sum game. But it’s accurate in describing the mainstream population’s relationship with crypto up until this point. So why is there such a strong opposition to crypto if it’s such a transformative, value-add technology? Like most things, it has to do with the human condition. The most difficult information to process for us humans, is that which challenges a core belief we hold. Let’s look at some real-world examples…
If I’m a God-fearing man, do you know how much evidence I will need to see to shake that belief? If I’ve grown up going to mass every week, reading scripture and praying over very personal matters, it’s unlikely a bit of evidence against these long-held beliefs will sway me. Conversely, how many unexplained, divine miracles would an atheist need to experience before changing their religious beliefs? Any one particular event can always be explained away circumstantially, and a handful in a row can be seen as plausible six-sigma events.
What about superstar athletes? There’s a reason it’s so common to see them play a few years too long, looking like a shell of their former selves. These are people who have literally been the best in the world their entire lives. It’s so easy for them to dismiss signs of decline because those signs are in direct opposition to what they’ve known forever to be true. It takes an avalanche of evidence for them to accept the new reality.
How does this relate to crypto? There are tons of people watching their friends, family, or people they know make incredible sums of money in crypto & NFTs. Some of those watching probably heard about bitcoin or ethereum back in 2017 during the previous cycle’s peak. Most of these people were encouraged to read about crypto or at the very least ape in and buy some coins. Those who chose not to (or paper-handed their coins during the bear market because they never developed their own conviction) are now being forced to reckon with a scary & uncomfortable position: self-reflection. It’s very difficult to admit that you missed a massive opportunity or that you didn’t understand something. Even more discouraging is being told crypto is the future & you need to come to terms with the fact that you didn’t see it coming. Nobody likes to admit they were wrong.
It's much easier to dump on whatever this new thing is – call it a scam, a ponzi, or a speculative bubble ready to pop. Over time though, this loud group slowly begins to capitulate into using the new technology – sometimes they choose to justify their delayed adoption as “waiting until the tech was ready & usable”. We all recognize this for what it is: cope. It will help these people sleep at night. ThEy WeReN’t WrOnG, iT jUsT wAsN’t ReAdY yEt. Sure. As cryptonatives, we can only do so much to encourage people around us to experiment with the space & educate themselves – we cannot force adoption. We can build & invest in the space. Over time, the technology will become a fabric of society and only the digital luddites will be left shouting into the abyss.
There will continue to be fighting around crypto in the short & medium term because of this human element. Prominent “thought-leaders” from the previous tech era remain particularly skeptical. I actually don’t think this should be surprising at all. Put yourself in their shoes. Imagine you were around just as the internet was entering mass adoption. You were one of those who could see the potential and scale for this novel technology; so much so that you built a software business from the ground up. You scaled to tens of thousands of employees and amassed a fortune as your thesis came to fruition. What a genius you are! A visionary! A titan of industry! Everyone marvels at how forward thinking you were and what conviction you had. They want your opinion on what’s next. Surely you know just as you did before.
Imagine now that these same people have missed the boat on being the earliest advocates of crypto. That’s an especially difficult position for those who tie their identity to being a technologist or forward thinker; they’ve failed to recognize the largest trend since the internet boom. The knee-jerk reaction from them is that it must be a scam, because otherwise they would have seen it. In the same way the God-fearing man or the atheist needs overwhelming evidence to question their core beliefs, so too will the leaders of the previous tech era.
Memes are such a powerful mode of communicating complex ideas. They’re fun, they go viral, and in some cases, they convey messages that might otherwise be rude or uncomfortable to say out loud. The midwit meme is one of my favorites because it only offends a very specific type of person. Many of today’s crypto skeptics would be outraged at the idea that they are of mostly average intelligence. They’ve played by the rules of the old system: went to a good school, got a seemingly prestigious job at a well-known institution and read the WSJ/NYT. Meanwhile they are seeing people around them who (in their eyes) are far “dumber” than they, making money hand over fist with JPEGS or fake internet money.
“This can’t be right!”
“This isn’t fair it must end!”
They are inevitably missing the point of course. We all fall along different parts of that spectrum at various times and obviously memes simplify complex realities. Of course, the safest way to determine where someone sits on this general IQ spectrum is to simply ask them…
@0xsmac on twitter
POST ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED FEBRUARY 14TH 2022