Last Week Tonight with John Oliver: Cyptocurrencies
March 11, 2018 11:06 PM - Season 5, Episode 4 - Subscribe

This week:
  • President Trump suddenly agrees to meet with North Korean leader Kim Jung Un, reversing decades of precedent on a whim.
  • International Women's Day, "that one special day for half the population of Earth. Knock yourselves out, three-and-a-half billion people!" A roundup of disturbing and disgusting responses from across the media, finishing with Vladimir Putin.
  • And Now: An MSNBC Guest, Brought On To Discuss Gary Cohn's Departure, Can't Get Over The "Bachelor" Finale.
  • Main Story: Cryptocurrencies, "Everything you don't understand about money combined with everything you don't understand about computers." In a field fulled with ridiculous terms like HODL and LAMBO, LWT invited an inspirational speaker (Keegan Michael Key) to promote their new way of dealing with cryptocurrencies, responsibility: "Instead of being HODL, you have to be CRAEFUL!"

Ham-fisted attempts of brands to appear progressive: McDonalds turned their arches upside-down for the day, Porsche blacked out some letters on their sign leaving "SHE," and Brawny paper towels ran a "Who's your Shero?" ad campaign.

F.37: Semper Wu-Tangus, MARTIN SHKRELI
posted by JHarris (16 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Ah, forgot to add a link to the main story. Here it is.
posted by JHarris at 11:49 PM on March 11, 2018

Robert Graham on Oliver's Crypto$ segment
posted by rhizome at 2:01 PM on March 12, 2018 [1 favorite]

I know the mere fact that I'm asking this question means I've taken exactly the wrong lesson from this episode, but: tell me why it wouldn't be fun to get low-key involved in a cryptocurrency pump-and-dump scheme.
posted by Reclusive Novelist Thomas Pynchon at 2:29 PM on March 12, 2018 [1 favorite]

Ethically? All pump-and-dumps are a fraud.
posted by rhizome at 2:41 PM on March 12, 2018

It would be fun, and quite possibly profitable.

It's also at unethical, and illegal (tho' the chance of getting caught is likely low). It's fraud, plain and simple.
posted by Frayed Knot at 2:42 PM on March 12, 2018

posted by numaner at 2:44 PM on March 12, 2018 [2 favorites]

okay but what does a market tend to look like over time when pump-and-dump schemes are legal (or effectively legal) and also a significant percentage of the players are participating in pump-and-dump schemes?

Looking at it through the eyes of a reclusive novelist with a little bit of money and a lot of time on his hands (and, frankly, a willie nelson-scale weed habit), it seems like all the pump and dump schemes would over time converge on the same beat schedule, since the more people are pumping and dumping, the more effective pumping and dumping is. Would the value of the “currency” eventually start to follow a sinusoidal wave pattern, at least until that pattern becomes so widely known that it becomes impossible to find off-meta players who buy at the peak or sell at the trough? I’m sure any real economists could tell me how I’m oversimplifying...

(for personal reasons I’d prefer an adenoidal pattern, but I’ll take a sinusoidal wave if I gotta)
posted by Reclusive Novelist Thomas Pynchon at 3:20 PM on March 12, 2018 [3 favorites]

First off, if you want to do something like this, you'd be well served to start and the end and work your way back. Crypto$ means nothing if you can't convert it to cash.

I'm not a stocks guy, but as for the repeatability of the PnD, for stocks that need pumping, you run out of marks really quickly. Everybody either has bought in or is being implored to buy in, and with each cycle the reasoning must necessarily become more and more imaginary in order to convince people who have the same historical data (and thus can see the sinusoid) that the up and down in price wasn't permanent. It's like a Ponzi scheme with much more available information.
posted by rhizome at 3:40 PM on March 12, 2018 [1 favorite]

I was at my neighbourhood diner waiting for lunch and a couple of older ultra-retired folks where talking about Crypto$.

The boat has sailed, just waiting for all the current marks to get burnt to a cinder. If you aren't already in, there aren't much easy lunches left unless you have the capital, time, and expertise to take advantage of the volitility (which the 20-something "millionaire" guy on the swamp-log was purported to be doing).
posted by porpoise at 5:29 PM on March 12, 2018 [2 favorites]

Are we at the "shoeshine boy" stage of crypto$ then?
posted by rhizome at 6:44 PM on March 12, 2018 [2 favorites]

This made me sad that I wasn't smart enough to buy into and profit from Bitcoin when the time was right for that.

I'm the kind of person who gets crushed under the wheels of history, aren't I.

Also... holy shit that yelling guy was unbearable.
posted by orange swan at 6:52 PM on March 12, 2018

There never really was a "good time" to buy Bitcoin except at the ground floors of pump'n'dumps and rando companies super-early-on/before they did the stupid exploit of name dropping "blockchain."

When the getting was good, the getting out wasn't clear. It was once a PITA to exchange large amounts of BTC for actual government recognized money. I'm under the impression that that is still the case.

But it has always been a MLM scam (Ponzi/pyramid scheme). It's built into the design specifications. Being able to "mine" new Bitcoins becomes exponentially (give or take) more resource intensive as more extant Bitcoins are magic-ed into being. It's a fucking travesty and will likely be intensely studied in the future as an example of economic mania.

Yeah, some people really made good on it. I don't despise them or anything, they got lucky making reckless decisions that paid off. What I'm peevish about is all the efforts to get new marks into the mania and the stupidity/naivete of so many people who are going to lose a lot of money.

That, and the environmental impact thing. IMvHO, implementation of blockchain may become more of a nuisance/parasite on global internet infrastructure than spam ever was.

The stupid money floating around, though, is "investment" in stocks of companies playing pretend at crypto currency. Not actual crypto$.

So don't feel bad. At all.
posted by porpoise at 7:41 PM on March 12, 2018 [7 favorites]

That does make me feel better. Thank you, porpoise.
posted by orange swan at 7:56 PM on March 12, 2018 [2 favorites]

The swamp log dude - I don't think that he gets it; I highly suspect that he think that he's "worth" $1M USD rather than having $1M USD in an accredited bank somewhere.

I pity his loan operators, but the repo peeps might have a bit of fun.
posted by porpoise at 8:47 PM on March 12, 2018

Oh, it was also interesting that Oliver name-dropped (and asked the audience to google) 'Brock Pierce.'

Wow. What a piece of shit. Former minor child actor who metamorphosized into a total fucking scumbag.

Talk about buy into and profit from Bitcoin when the time was right for that - before crypto$, there was MMORPG transaction services ("gold sellers") and he was all on on that brokerage biz and all the shadiness implicit in that scene.

Steve Bannon was in the "gold seller" biz, too before turning to exploiting the US Government and the reasoning-challenged populace instead.
posted by porpoise at 3:31 AM on March 13, 2018 [1 favorite]

Yeah, some people really made good on it. I don't despise them or anything, they got lucky making reckless decisions that paid off.

Thing is, spending a few grand on a Bitcoin mining rig when it was still at $140 wouldn't have been a reckless decision at all. I never expected it to get to $10,000 (I'm frankly shocked at how blatantly millions of dollars have been conjured from thin air to prop up the price of BTC), but it was pretty obvious that there was enough interest that $1000 wasn't an unreasonable expectation and money could be made without any increase in value at all, assuming you could get one of the mostly-fraudulent manufacturers to actually give you a mining rig for your money.

There was (and still is) an underlying use even beyond dark web drug transactions, or would be if the volatility wasn't quite so damned ridiculous. Nothing that couldn't be done better, but it was good enough for what enough people wanted to do to give it some value. It's not hard to turn up to five figures into currency, it's larger amounts that get.. shady. Which is one reason why the current price simply isn't sustainable.
posted by wierdo at 2:01 AM on March 15, 2018

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