Cryptno: the moral failings of cryptocurrencies and allied tech

Following the spectacular success of my breakout video on the Planet of the Humans, here’s my take on cryptocurrencies, bitcoin, web3, NFTs, and the like.

Spoiler alert, they’re bad. For the long version, it’s on YT for your listening pleasure!

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I loved the first video! Looking forward to more :slight_smile:

Thank you, Bhante. I never thought I’d learn about cryptocurrency from a Theravadan Buddhist monk. :wink: :pray:

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What a time to be alive! :joy:

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Glad to serve! I mean if we look historically, the Vinaya contains probably the most detailed account of contemporary monetary systems for that time; until the Arthashastra a century or so later at any rate.

FYI, I started looking into these kinds of technologies a few years ago, because of their promise of immutability. I was wondering whether it would make sense to host the Tipitaka on a blockchain, to ensure it is always backed up and never changes. It’s not the worst use of blockchain tech, to be honest, because it’s static and doesn’t need updates. But practically speaking it doesn’t offer any real advantages over a solid cloud-based system like Github.

Writing about crypto is a little bit like writing about climate change. There are so many terrible things happening all over the world every day, you can never keep up. To keep track, this is a good resource:

Here’s a small but tellingly precise one I saw today. The whole thing is based on some dude’s idea that “I have an inherent right to make money for nothing”, so instead of a company or government controlling things, we let THAT DUDE control them.

https://twitter.com/cabel/status/1471528602072064002

And the spot-on analysis of Stephen Diehl:

https://twitter.com/smdiehl

He has been criticizing crypto for some time now, apparently with some effect. Now some of the crypto folks are talking about ganging up on him and suing him for defamation. Nothing says freedom quite like suing the other guy!


Friends don’t let friends do crypto. :pray:

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The technical examples are all solid in the following article:

https://www.usenix.org/publications/loginonline/web3-fraud

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Sadhu, Bhante. The video on your new channel (congrats) is excellent and I’m looking forward to more vids as the moment inspires you to publish these. Good stuff. Sujato Bhikkhu - YouTube

I would have happily lived out the rest of my life without any knowledge of crypto and blockchains, but my son in a moment of hubris or delusion took his modest savings from his work as a social worker and invested (?) it all, one night, in Dogecoin. He later admitted this to me and this was my stumbling entry into the Web 3.0 world, after I said “what the he** is a Dogecoin?”

In any case, he bought in at a few cents, and now the coin is worth about 18 cents. This young man has been taken on a volatile roller coaster ride, and holds a wallet with crypto valued at many times what his small savings account once held. I watch him check his phone for the “charts,” and he has tried to teach me how to identify trading patterns from these charts. All of this has done nothing other than add stress to his life, and mine, but this is a roller coaster ride that Millennials seem willing to strap themselves into these days.

The Dhamma and Bhante Sujato’s videos are an antidote to this stress. This Dhamma is needed in the age of Web and Life 3.0 . But, because I love my son, and want to be able to listen to him and support his explorations, I have spent time and some effort to understand this crypto community. I bought a ticket for a seat on the Web 3.0 rollercoaster; I own some Dogecoin. I even started a platform for a charity www.dogetrust.org so that the Doge community might help support some dog and elephant charities in Chiang Mai. Like a teetotaler who accepts a glass of champagne at a wedding reception, I am joining in so that I do not feel left out, and can be apart of something that is developing around me. Like the hypocrite that I can be sometimes, I cling to ancient wisdom and values while still buying tickets on toxic digital rides.

Just yesterday, I was in an archery shop that I stumbled across while driving in Prairie du Sac for the first time. I used to do kyudo, so I thought to pop in to this shop just to look around. The gentleman at the archery repair desk told me that he is a regular hunter, but that these days, some people can actually use Web 3.0 to set up computers and cameras in the field that are attached to rifles, and from their homes watch for deer and then shoot the deer from the comfort of their sofas. Hew went on to tell me that technology is sickening people and taking them away from traditional values. He said that his best days of hunting were when he never killed anything; that just being outside in nature was the recipe for a great day. I don’t hunt animals, and never will, but I told him I understood this ‘old school’ sensibility, and how technology is, in many ways making a toxic world more toxic, and in a way separating us from what it means to be truly human and connected to the natural world.

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So sorry to hear that!

There’s clearly a core demographic of these scams, namely disaffected young men. What’s scary is that, at such a vulnerable time in their life, it’s so easy to be seduced by the promise of easy money. Your son is, I don’t doubt, a good person who is working hard to help others in his job. But the kind of work that helps people is undervalued and underpaid. Why do something meaningful for others when you are not valued, and instead you can just sit back and let the wealth pile up? It’s easy to see how bitterness and loss and alienation can creep in, all under the dark skies of climate change and the world-wide collapse of democracy.

We need to turn our values upside down. Social workers, teachers, and nurses should be the most highly-paid and valued members of society.


In my talk I discussed a little bit about how crypto is loved by Nazis. The recent study on this is here:

And if you can stomach it, how Nazis see Bitcoin in their own words. Warning for anti-semitic hate speech! (link to an archived page from Stormfront).

https://archive.ph/Y1FVF

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It’s great to see the brilliance of the neo-Nazis and the Daily Stormers, ridding the world of Jewish influence in our financial systems. :crazy_face: The young crypto billionaire who wants to change political fundraising Sam Bankman-Fried runs crypto-exchange FTX, and plans to give most of his money away. “His plan, he said, is to give away all of his money in his lifetime. Other causes he supports include animal welfare and nuclear threat reduction.”

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Loved this as well. Your thoughts on the moral and spiritual dimensions of these topics are a breath of fresh air. Please do more of these if you feel so inclined!

I have some friends who have gotten sucked in to the crypto thing. When they explained it to me it all sounded a bit fishy but nonetheless I found myself thinking “maybe I could get into this…”

Thankfully I dismissed those thoughts!

Thanks again Bhante. :pray:

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As someone trained in Econ, one of the things that really struck me reading through the Suttas was the Buddha’s clear economic literacy. The metaphor of two golden himalayas, and his fluid metaphor of flows and reservoirs for finance. Taking traditional dates at face value, this is a hundred years older than the Oeconomicus for which econ is named. The suttas obviously are not about economics as a central subject matter, but that makes it all the more impressive to me how accurate the economic wisdom they contain is.

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Oh thank god! If I help one person then it’s worth it!

Yesterday marked the second Sunday in a row when an old Dhamma friend started talking out of the blue about getting into crypto. At least now I have somewhere to refer them!

The Buddha knew what was up! You might want to check out some of the Vinaya rules about money and the handling thereof, they are an interesting insight into the times.

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Well said, Bhante. The basic problem is greed and the mirage of happiness that wealth represents to people. People I consider wealthy think they are poor, it’s so bad today. The trouble with wealth is that it activates the addiction cycle in the human mind. There’s the initial rush of pleasure that’s never recaptured afterwards, and a person chases its memory. More, more, more is never enough because a memory doesn’t exist in the future.

People spend so much time trying to divine hairsplitting philosophical points in Buddhist texts, but it’s the simple things that are the wisdom they should focus their attention. Knowing what’s enough is one of the first steps of the path for a very good reason. You have to stop chasing mirages of happiness to find real happiness. A person can live in poverty, even what would be considered desperate poverty, and be happy. But the basic unfairness of income equality causes all these societal problems because it inculcates destructive emotions like greed and resentment in individual people and in the culture as a whole.

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Has anyone perhaps got 10 arguments why not to invest in cryptocurrencies to take with me at Christmas Eve? My dear siblings try to convince my father to invest in crypto. But my father is an intelligent man, he always first listens to his youngest daughter.

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Question to ask is: Do you have greed? If yes, then don’t invest.

But how can crypto be dangerous for people who never heard about it or never invest on it or doesn’t have greed?

Since crypto is just an object, they can be part of long investment. Crypto is just the same as money or gold. Object isn’t not dukkha or source of dukkha.

Source of dukkha is tanha. Tanha arises due to feeling. Dukkha is pancupadanakhandha (want to make the aggregates as mine)

So, Problem only arise, when one see another person owns crypto and got rich. This person then cognize it, then feeling of want to get rich as well, then greed occur. Then they trade/invest due to greed. Hence the suffering occured when they can’t get what they want. Then the mass suffering arises.

So, crypto is just as same as money or gold. It is just an object. No feeling on them.

Remind me about Ud 1.10 Bahiya Sutta:

In that case, Bāhiya, you should train like this:
In the seen will be merely the seeing; in the heard will be merely the hearing; in the thought will be merely the thinking; in the known will be merely the knowing.’ That’s how you should train. When you have trained in this way, you won’t be ‘by that’. When you’re not ‘in that’, you won’t be in this world or the world beyond or between the two. Just this is the end of suffering.”

No meaning to apply a same generalize brush to everyone. Hence it will only cause disharmony and quarrel. Advice is fine if you see one doesn’t understand and has greed.

But arguments will only cause another dukkha.

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Firstly, I will admit I am extremely confused by your post. Nonetheless, I just want to say … the Sentinelese people probably don’t know what nuclear weapons are, but if one is dropped on their island, I would say that it is dangerous to them even though they don’t know what it is.

Crypto is something that has infiltrated society, and in-turn it impacts said society through various channels. Many of these ways are negative.

I also don’t think the asking oneself if one has greed prior to investing would make much sense, considering the only point of investing is to make money. Seems like a neoliberal assumption to think you can morally invest or do it in some way that you can convince yourself you aren’t greedy, considering once again, the only aim in investing is to make money.

It is like someone who drives a high-end sports car … they can go on and on about how they love performance or something, but in reality, they just want to look cool to others, and show off the fact they are a high net worth individual.

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This would be a good list … I sure would like it. I just take the route that investment in the stock market in general is stupid, but then again, one more step over the line and I would be a communist. Or maybe I already am one. I think it is just one more pipe dream, one more version of “hope” packaged up for people. When essentially 99% of people stay in the same income bracket as their parents, it isn’t too far from the truth to say that putting your money in the stock market will give you a 1% chance to move up a rung.

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I listened to Bhante’s reflections on cryptos and it triggered some thoughts.

First, he made a point about turning abundance into scarcity to create value. I am not sure how crypto currency are different in that regard in the sense that to perceive something as finite is a necessary condition to associate value to it, to control it and possibly own it. The body is finite in terms of time and energy hence trading through mediums are the cornerstone of economic transactions. The medium could be a commodity as per the old barter system, or bank notes as with conventional money or access to information/data as with crypto currency.

Another aspect of value is convertibility which is a certain level of faith or trust that another would agree to or perceive similar value in an item. As values are converted through mediums, that does not necessarily make one medium more original or real than the other. Bhante made a point that the value of cryptos are still communicated through the USD, which is true, but i fail to understand how that makes the dynamics of values associated with the USD more real than cryptos. The value of the USD or any other currency are known through its purchasing power, which would always require another medium.

In relation to other moral aspects, cryptos are indeed being used by terrorist organizations and to fund illegal activities. However, centralized currencies have been used in morally questionable ways such as imposing sanctions on nations and creating a lot of suffering in the process.

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