"Stop adding Bitcoin as a checkout option like it's not a planet-killer."

Looking at you, Internet Archive.


As the price goes up it's worth it for miners to spend more to mine a coin. Even if it costs them enormously in energy costs.

Will they? Guaranteed.

As long as someone who wants to better their finances can make a fortune destroying a common good at least one psychopath will do that.


What can we do? Treat Bitcoin like we (should) treat the heroin trade. Folks want it, suppliers are getting foolishly rich off it, and it does absolutely no good.

Stop adding it as a checkout option like it's not a planet-killer.

And for godsakes stop letting anyone refer to the future promise of blockchain as a beard for BTC. If there were any other use besides burning Earth to a crisp we would have found it by now.

But this analogy may unfairly malign heroin, which for all its downsides, has probably brought the world more joy than Bitcoin ever has.

Previously, previously, previously, previously, previously.

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50 Responses:

  1. Glaurung says:

    Sites that offer bitcoin as a payment option just scream “we are accustomed to and have no problem doing buisness with criminals and terrorists.”

  2. AntaBaka says:

    The amount of "NO! You are just SALTY because you didn't invest early enough!" posts in the comment section is quite something.

    • Not Frank says:

      I'm salty about not being early enough, but it's more about being able to personally bring to bear a "51% attack" that would've humiliated the idea of it before it took root.

  3. Dude says:

    Isn't there a name for "money" with no actual value, but an absurdly high demand? Something based on a pro-capitalist board game with anti-capitalist roots?
    What game am I thinkin' of?

    • Jim says:

      "proof of useless work" as opposed to useful work, the two kinds of proof of work.

      • tfb says:

        I like to think of it as 'proof of contribution to global warming', or 'proof of harm' for short.

        • Jim says:

          Utility is what values human labor. Why should it be any different for machine labor?

          • tfb says:

            If you define 'utility' as 'solving a series of computationally laborious but entirely uninteresting problems for the sole purpose of proving you have solved them' then, well perhaps you should think what kind of world we'd live in if human labour was valued that way. There's a term for worlds, but it seems unfair to say what it is: if you just try looking for every possible word you'll find it eventually, I'm sure. And think how much magic 'utility' you will create by doing so.

            • biorpg says:

              I think the fundamental idea of a digital currency, that by design, can't be counterfeited and can be manipulated no further than the type of manipulation that takes place at the foreign exchange, and flows from the public, is quite attractive.

              That's not to say that the blockchain method of accomplishing this isn't a tremendous waste of energy; but I'd be willing to bet that the overall energy consumed chewing that blockchain into virtual currency, would pale in comparison to the energy consumed by Big Data chewing your personal information into targeted advertisement and training material for each of their respective AI projects.

          • jrl says:

            Because for a human to do something which has value only to that human, and is of no consequence to any other human, is fine.

            For a machine to do something which has no value to any other human is an unambiguous waste. They consume limited resources. To build such machines is insanity.

  4. Not Frank says:

    Blockchains do have uses, on exceedingly rare occasions*... none of which have any reason to be near a currency implemented with any sense, let alone the energy-grubbing stupidity (which isn't a required aspect of blockchains, the idiots) of bitcoin.

    *i.e. basically never. Even moreso post the advent of the right to be forgotten.

      • Aidan Gauland says:

        I mean, a git repository is technically a blockchain, which is fun to point out when people equate "blockchain" with "cryptocurrency," but that's also not what people usually mean when they say "blockchain."

        Semi-relatedly, you can have stupidly-high-energy-consuming blockchain-based systems without any value attached to the "blocks," like Matrix.

        • eekee says:

          You're tempting me to refer to my Forth block storage as a blockchain with some clever-sounding explanation just to wind up cryptocurrency nuts. :D

          For those who don't know, the block storage used by older Forth systems (and nuts like me) is an exceedingly primitive alternative to filesystems. There are ways of working with it which make it better than you'd think, but it's still just-about the simplest possible way of using disks. If I can find a way to use this to wind up crazy enthusiasts... :D

          • Aidan Gauland says:

            I actually knew this about Forth because I read one of my dad's beginner Forth books from the '80s. Just figure out a technically-correct way to describe the block storage as a chain of blocks, then bring it up whenever you run across cryptocurrency nuts hyping up "blockchain".

          • Mike Qtips says:

            That does it, from now on I'm referring to my old Commodore PET's sequential cassette tape storage as blockchain. So mote it be.

        • tfb says:

          Imagine if git was like bitcoin: merges would be resolved in favour of the person who had used computers to generate the most waste heat. This would be great.

          • jwz says:

            You don't have to imagine it: it's called Wikipedia. Merges are resolved in favor of the person who generated the most hot air.

            • Aidan Gauland says:

              Ah, Wikipedia politics...

            • biorpg says:

              There are a few independent studies that compare the overall accuracy of information on Wikipedia to that of traditional Encyclopedias; but I feel such studies only seek to serve as an argument, as the comparison was made quite often by those possessing great skepticism toward the idea of Wikipedia.

              Let us focus our thoughts inward for a brief moment, and gather together the entirety of our knowledge pertaining to the scope of content that exists on the internet. Don't stress over those edges that you left behind, they're not important. We just want to quickly categorize, curate, correlate, paginate, and then bind this knowledge into volumes. Then we can just line those volumes up nicely in alphabetical order on our bookshelf so they can provide a handy reference of knowledge.

              That might come off as a satirical argument in favor of Wikipedia, based on the impossible task of fitting the entire internet on a book shelf, but that, it is not. It is however, an attempt to illustrate the relative ridiculousness of considering a volume set that can fit on a bookshelf, as anywhere near a comprehensive collection of the world's knowledge; as was the case before, and even well into the internet age.

              If there had never been any public collaborative effort, such as Wikipedia, to construct a collection of the vast amounts of data flowing into the web since its inception, then where would we be now? Now that Google has had its fill, and sits upon its perch high above humanity, the only thing you can rely on them for, is to consistently censor their results. So in today's internet, your independent research of any given subject, would be at the mercy of a handful of indexes, all controlled by financial giants, and the dozen or so noteworthy search engines that utilize them; or in the case of Google, pollute them with advertisements abound that even still don't amount to all of the garbage content sites that are created and maintained for the sole purpose of luring people in in order to display those advertisements to them for a few moments.

              I've just marijuana'd, and have lost touch with what I was rant-reasoning about. Have a nice day!

          • biorpg says:

            Here's an odd duck in the scene. It actually utilizes the bitcoin blockchain as a form of securing crypto keys.

      • Mike Qtips says:

        Hi there. 25-year professional database developer and blockchain enthusiast here. I don't know where you're getting your information that it's only the ignorant who feel that enthusiasm but it doesn't jibe with my experience one little bit.

        I do recognize the criticisms as valid, particularly the ecological ones, and they may prove to be the undoing of the technology if they can't somehow be circumvented. In fact, I was planning on releasing some of my digital art as NFTs and decided I don't want to get involved because ultimately the same part of my brain that is disappointed with myself for never having the willpower to become a vegetarian can't morally justify the wastefulness. The current practical problems with the technology are real and we don't know yet if they'll ever be solved. I'm not a fool, I know that, a few currently live Ethereum level-2 demos aside, measurable progress so far has been pretty much nil. Months on end of network transaction fees topping $40-$50 show how far we are from any kind of practical application.

        However: the abstract potential of decentralized computing and trustless public ledgers, if the ecological and other expenses can be mitigated, is revolutionary. Speaking for myself and many other pro developers who I know, it's precisely because of our understanding of the technology that we find it so exciting, not because of ignorance of it.

        To me the interesting use case of cryptocurrency is not as a stateless currency, store of value, or token of supposed ownership of a hash of an URL pointing to a where a JPEG of Elon Musk and a shiba inu was hosted on IPFS for a couple of days, but solely as an incentive mechanism for people to donate CPU cycles to decentralized computing tasks. The whole cyberlibertarian economic epic fantasy is someone else's bag, I won't make any arguments to that effect.

        But, from a technological standpoint—and speaking only of the ultimate potential and not the current deeply (and perhaps fatally) flawed implementations—to claim that only the tech-illerate are enthusiastic about blockchain is badly mistaken. And practical uses are already in production, ecologically wasteful though they be.

    • Whenever someone proposes using blockchain for anything, suggest using a Merkle hash tree instead.

      • jwilkes says:

        Sending funds to Sci-hub-- which does not and probably can not receive funding any other way-- would not be possible with only a Merkle tree.

        The relevant singular category of uses-- sending payments to worthwhile organizations that most of the western world is intent on shutting down-- has this one clear and extant case.

        This is important not because it is an example of myriad other worthwhile uses of blockchain. I don't know myriad worthwhile extant uses of blockchain. (Nor does this single use case outweigh the costs associated with a blockchain.)

        Rather, this is important because if you make even an off-by-one error in criticism of blockchain, blockchain fans in the wild will seize on it to get a credibility boost. They'll then use that to boost to suggest to neophytes that this singular case (or perhaps one of a very few others) is just the tip of the iceberg for a fascinating future built on beautiful blockchain applications.

        Don't get me wrong-- I'd love an extension that hides all conversations about blockchain. But I'd prefer that people who don't know enough to install such an extension hear 100% bullshit from blockchain fans. Because blockchain fans are just the kind of people who can take a 99% bullshit story and roll into something that seems attractive to newcomers.

        If you don't believe me, consider the fact that blockchain fans were convinced by someone else to actually become fans of blockchain technology. :)

      • jwz says:

        How about leftover travellers' checks from the 1960s that I found in a drawer, how about those instead?

      • Aidan Gauland says:

        Doesn't a Merkle tree count as a type of blockchain, anyway, since blockchain is such a vague term and does not stipulate any proof-of-whatever requirements, just a hash of parents?

        • No. (a) Blockchain is not at all vague, it is well-defined in Satoishi's original paper. (b) The paper does include proof-of-work, although it is possible to do blockchains without it. (c) Merkle trees are not a type of blockchain, in fact each block includes a Merkle tree.

          Your penance is to actually read the paper and report back on all the unsupported libertarian assumptions you can find.

          • Aidan Gauland says:

            I have read the paper, but it's been a while. I, for some reason, thought the term "blockchain" predated the Bitcoin whitepaper.

            I'm not sure what you mean by "unsupported libertarian assumptions," though.

  5. Bill Moyers says:

    Calm down, Jamie. You don't really need a RTX3080 to play Doom Eternal.

  6. Gordon says:

    Bitcoin == Paperclips

  7. Stephen says:

    After seeing you call them 'Dunning-Krugrrands' here I cannot stop saying it myself. Thank you for that addition to my vocabulary.


  8. Maybe we need an International Climate Court to prosecute crimes against the planet.

  9. thielges says:

    Sweet! Another Bitcoin article that I can use to ask dumb questions.

    Last time around I had thought that the high energy consumption was related to just the mining aspect of discovering new bitcoins. I was schooled here that even just transacting bitcoins was the same computational effort as mining.

    So next question is that if the transaction cost is so high and always increasing then doesn’t this ultimately doom Bitcoin? If it costs $2 to spend $1 then the market will collapse, right? What am I missing?

    And if these little sub-Bitcoin transactions are done on the side and without the full friction of mining, then isn’t Bitcoin just any run of the mill fiat currency? What would prevent others from flooding the market with other similar schemes, diluting Bitcoin to zero?

    For now I’m gonna hodl my assets in traditional instruments. Not gonna invest in something I don’t grok.

    • Rob says:

      Your first mistake was thinking bitcoin is a currency, it is not a currency. The transaction fees are already over $20 US, so nobody is seriously using it as a currency. Also due to block size limitations Bitcoin is stuck at a max of 5 transactions per second across the entire planet, not nearly enough to be useful in any sense.

      Bitcoin is a highly speculative asset that is only useful to the black market. It is loved by gamblers who think they can profit, and math geeks who think it's just dandy that we burn life-changing amounts of energy to solve useless math problems.

      • jwz says:

        Reminds me of a talk I saw once that began, "Your first mistake is thinking that Three Card Monte is a card game."

      • Aidan Gauland says:

        Last I heard, the high transaction fees "are good, actually," because now Bitcoin now an asset that people invest in like gold. It just can't fail in the minds of techno-libertarians.

        Also, I'm pretty sure those "math geeks" are just technolibertarians wearing Groucho Marx glasses.

      • thielges says:

        Thanks for everyone why addressed my latest round of noob questions. This time I learned that the transaction cost is high, but not the same as the cost to mine a coin. Otherwise transaction costs would be in the tens of thousands of dollar range or a bitcoin would cost closer to $20. That leaves bitcoin as a speculative quasi-investment vehicle. The transaction friction and upper bound on transaction rate seem to put it in the same category of precious metals as a peer. For now.

        Speaking of which, that also means if there is a rush for the exits to cash out on BTC, the transaction bottleneck will massively distort "free" market dynamics. If the bottleneck causes transactions to be queued in a FIFO then the clearing price will likely be radically different from the market price at the time of the transaction. You sell at $30,000 but a few minutes later the price might have dropped to $10,000, Ouch. While that will burn a bunch of casual traders, maybe the silver lining is that it could take down a batch of dark capital from gangsters and other illicit launderers are left hodling.

        The same won't happen with a real precious metal asset because we've been hacking away for millennia at finding ways to find more gold cheaper. It would take something like a Ron Popeil Gold-O-Matic turning squash into gold in thousands of kitchens to significantly and suddenly devalue gold.

    • Dude says:

      As this story explains, it's like when everyone would-be investor in the '90s bought foil comics ans Beanie Babies because they thought they'd be rich.

    • Aidan Gauland says:

      Yes, you are correct in that Bitcoin is useless as a currency. The only reason this hasn't doomed this is because of fairy tales. Similar to the fairy tales about infinite, geometric, economic growth that (indirectly) doom the planet.

    • plank says:

      Oh boy is this the wrong place to be learning about bitcoin!

      Transaction costs in bitcoin fluctuate wildly, but unlike legacy currency there is no need for temporal immediacy in a bitcoin transaction. What I mean by this is that you can send a transaction for a low fee that you know will not be confirmed right away. However, the recipient will still receive this transaction and rebroadcast it to the network until it's confirmed. This isn't best practice, as it leaves the recipient open to a double-spend attack where the sender is able to send those same coins to somebody else, but if an existing trust relationship already exists between the sender and recipient, this isn't a problem.

      For example, I paid a friend 0.0008 BTC for some cannabis (legal in my jurisdiction) a week ago, and the transaction has yet to be confirmed. Yet I've already consumed all the cannabis and neither of us are concerned that he is in fact the person controlling that 0.0008 BTC. The transaction will be confirmed once all this price craziness dies down a bit and the pool of transactions waiting to be confirmed is winnowed.

  10. margaret says:

    janet yellen in today's (22feb2021) ny times.

    Ms. Yellen doubled down on a “buyer beware” message to investors in Bitcoin. “I don’t think that Bitcoin — I’ve said this before — is widely used as a transaction mechanism. To the extent it’s used, I fear it’s often for illicit finance,” she said. “It’s an extremely inefficient way of conducting transactions. And the amount of energy that’s consumed in processing those transactions is staggering. But it is a highly speculative asset, and I think people should beware. It can be extremely volatile, and I do worry about potential losses that investors in it could suffer.”

  11. plank says:

    Well I guess I'll just leave this here. He does a much more thorough job of refuting the arguments every bitcoiner has heard hundreds of times before than I ever could.


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