The crypto alternative

Suppose, just for a moment, just for argument’s sake, that (some) cryptocurrencies are not a giant scam, and what’s more, they’re not just another kind of financial asset. Come on. Don’t look at me like that. Work with me here. Imagine, just for a moment, that there exist plausible futures in which they matter.

An interesting question to ask is: what exactly do those futures look like? Because if we can’t come up with any compelling answers, then we may conclude, by reductio ad absurdum, that a cryptofuture is awfully unlikely. So let’s walk through a few scenarios, shall we? And then judge how likely each one is.

1. The Crypto Maximalist Future

Situation: Bitcoin is the global currency. Except for “System D,” of course, and transactions hidden for reasons of tax avoidance, which run on ZCash, which is (ineffectively) banned by governments who fear the loss of their tax revenue from earned income hidden by zk-SNARKs. All retail transactions run through Lightning hubs, constantly watched and verified by AIs.

People maintain their own private keys, without which all of their life savings effectively vanish. These keys also maintain all of their own personal data, which they approve for usage by dapps on the Ethereum “world computer,” which performs billions of transactions per second courtesy of Plasma and (again) AIs monitoring the system with fraud proofs at the ready.

Fiat currencies died of hyperinflation. Banks died with them. Nation-states are on life support., and the new generation prefers statelessness to any citizenship. The world is increasingly controlled by a weird combination of libertarian Bitcoin seasteaders and communal Ethereum hacker collectives, who name themselves “phyles” after Neal Stephenson’s The Diamond Age, but call this The Crypto Age.

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