Not often, but here and there, I feel a pang of sympathy for the crypto bros. They have to suck up to the worst billionaires. When their wallets full of hideous monkey NFTs get emptied by scammers and hackers, they are met only with taunts and jeers. If they attempt to argue that decentralized blockchain currency isn’t a massive scam that hastens climate change through unchecked energy consumption, they tend to sound, shall we say, unconvincing.
Oof. No, it can’t be easy shilling for Bitcoin day in and day out. But you know what’s probably worse? Trying to survive a violent uprising in Kazakhstan that was precipitated by an increase in fuel prices and a failing power grid stretched to the limit by… uh… cryptominers. The industry boomed in the Central Asian country last year after China banned mining, which, combined with a substantial “gray” market of illegal operations, put enormous strain on aging energy infrastructure and caused rolling blackouts across several regions. Kazakhstan was suddenly contributing nearly a fifth of the computational power used for mining worldwide. Electricity demand surged up to eight times higher than expected. This helped set the stage for protests that have quickly escalated into demands for liberalization of an autocratic government.
What a shitshow. And while you won’t find any American coiners or miners blaming themselves for the many deaths in the crackdowns over there, it’s true that some are dreaming of a brighter future for their digital economy. A literal paradise, if you will.
There you have an infomercial of sorts for Cryptoland, a proposed island resort and tech hub in Fiji that caters to the crypto community. Following the much-reviled Bored Apes and other NFT garbage, it’s become a primary target of ridicule among the anti-crypto hecklers. Already likened to the doomed Fyre Festival, which stranded rich influencers on an undeveloped strip of sand in the Caribbean with minimal resources, Cryptoland also mistakenly(?) hinted that there won’t be age of consent laws on the island. The current backlash has been so intense that the project’s brain trust were compelled to issue a formal statement condemning the rest of the internet for bullying them. (Naturally, they turned the replies off.)
It’s easy — and appropriate — to laugh at this fever dream of two obvious grifters. But after seeing what’s happened in Kazakhstan, maybe we shouldn’t dismiss it. The Fijian island in question, Nananu-i-cake, is still for sale at around $12 million. Should these clowns successfully buy the land, then lure the crypto elite there, the rest of the world could stand to benefit. Did you know that 0.01 percent of Bitcoin holders possess 27 percent of the currency? That means affluence in this market is even more concentrated than in the general economy, where the richest 0.01 percent own 11 percent of global wealth. Trap the high-rolling Bitcoin investors on a beach in Fiji, cut off their internet, stop sending boats and you might just tank the currency for good. Plus, they wouldn’t be able to remotely run mining rigs in places like Kazakhstan.
Maybe I’m being naïve to assume you could cut off the head of the crypto beast in one fell swoop, and yeah, it’s inhumane of me to suggest we force unwitting tech nerds into a Survivor tournament. (Or it’s the best TV pitch ever. Same difference.) Thing is, Bitcoin and similar currencies are causing problems of dizzying, frightening scope, and we have to defend the planet against the worst. How poetic a scene I imagine: the Cryptolanders returning to primitive ways, forgetting their graphs and portfolios, noting a gradual rise in sea level all around them, the result of carbon emissions to which they no longer contribute.
At the very least, relegating this group to a small, remote, self-contained area will spare us from hearing them push crypto all the time. Which is another reason the tropical campus is destined to die on the drawing board. The Bitcoin billionaires don’t really want an exclusive retreat where they can meet in private — they expand their fortunes by widening the net, always convincing new saps to buy in.