If you had bought R50 worth of bitcoin five years ago, you’d be worth R50-million today. You have read this sort of thing before. And it has left you crippled with self-loathing and regret.
You go to someone’s braai to forget the sting of failure and a drunk man shouts into your face, “It’s not too late. Get in now!” It sounds like he knows what he’s talking about because you’re also drunk so you get into your car and race to the mall shouting and singing but when you get there you can’t find the bitcoin shop because it’s 2am so you take the money you were going to invest and spend it at the shebeen instead.
In the morning, hungover, depressed and scouring the internet for free porn, you inadvertently come across news that bitcoin has slumped after plans to increase the cryptocurrency’s block size were cancelled. You don’t understand what it means, but you do recognise the word ‘slumped’. Filled with schadenfreude, you turn up the music and drink every bit of alcohol in the house.
Much later you go to bed, possibly on the floor, still congratulating yourself on not having wasted your money on this dirty pyramid scheme. Burbling about burst bubbles, you pass out and wake up two days later to the news that bitcoin has surged 500% while spittle was dribbling from your mouth. And so the cycle of self-flagellation begins all over again.
In the entire history of people, no girl or boy child has ever left home with a dream of pursuing a career that involves mindless drudgery and physical toil. People who do an honest day’s work are usually one bond repayment away from the homeless shelter. I am not the only one interested in making filthy amounts of money by doing nothing more strenuous than checking Google once a day to see what’s happening to the price of bitcoin. So don’t judge me.
Even though the R50-into-R50-million ship has already sailed, it still sounds like the kind of action I should have a piece of. Bitcoin currently has a market value of $105-billion. Once I have directions I will go down to that market and tell the man at the bitcoin stall that I want to buy some of his damn fine bitcoins. I’ve seen pictures of them on the internet. Shiny gold coins with a B on them. I don’t know how big they are. Probably as big as manhole covers. I’d have to pick up a couple of guys at the robots to help carry them to the car.
But it’s not that easy. It never is. Apparently you don’t actually get a bag of coins in return for your cash. You don’t get anything. Maybe an email. I don’t know what it says. Perhaps something like, “Dear Sir/Madam, thanks you for helping my dead father pay for his operation. Your bitcoins are in the post.”
If I was walking down the street and a man sidled out of a dark alley and said, “Psst. Wanna buy some of this?” and opened his jacket and there was nothing there, I’d say, “I can’t see what you’re selling. Get away from me.” And if he said, “It’s cryptocurrency, man. It’s good shit. The best. It’ll make you rich. Believe me,” I’d be more inclined to buy whatever drugs he was on.
I don’t think I’m mentally incompetent, even though some of my decisions in life might suggest otherwise, so I don’t understand why I can’t understand what’s going on. Perhaps there’s something of the Dunning-Kruger effect at work here.
Take this sentence. “Volume across bitcoin exchanges jumped to 436 021 bitcoins on Sunday. BitMEX, an exchange for cryptocurrency derivatives that allows shorting, saw record activity.” There are people out there who will read this sentence, raise an eyebrow and nod knowingly while stroking their well-groomed beards. Then there are those who will simply nod off while stroking their imaginary cat. I’m with the cat people.
And don’t for one minute think that it’s only bitcoin you need to get your head around. Bitcoin came home late one night in August, drunk as usual, and had a fight with itself. We’ve all been there. When bitcoin woke up, an entirely new creature called bitcoin cash was standing in the doorway with its hands on its hips saying, “I’ve had enough of this. You’re on your own.”
Since then bitcoin cash, like every woman who has ever left you, is doing very well for itself. Glowing, in fact. It jumped 32% since last Friday. I don’t even know which Friday I’m talking about. It doesn’t seem to matter. Bitcoin, still staggering about the kitchen looking for aspirin, slumped to its knees and had a bit of a weep.
Apparently speculators were spooked when a faction of the cryptocurrency community scrapped plans to increase bitcoin’s block size, preventing it from moving unessential data off its underlying blockchain thereby allowing mermaids to grow legs while red dogs performed cartwheels and the moon deflated.
What worries me is this talk of a faction. Are they rebels? How powerful are they? Who are they? What weapons do they have? My financial advisor said they’re probably just a bunch of fat boys lolling on futons in their parents’ basements pecking at their keyboards with one hand and masturbating with the other. He said there was nothing to worry about. He’s never been right before so I don’t know why he would be now.
It gets even more complicated. When bitcoin cash flounced out on her own, shares in companies that make graphics cards used in the mining of digital coins were dragged down along with bitcoin’s sorry hungover ass. So much in this sentence doesn’t make sense. Mining? It’s like expecting us to believe that Snow White never once slept with the dwarf who kept finding the biggest diamonds. Mining is a filthy business at the best of times.
And it’s no good turning to Wikipedia for enlightenment, either. The oracle of the indolent says bitcoin was invented by someone called Satoshi Nakamoto who might or might not exist. And down the rabbit hole we go.
“Bitcoin was released as open-source software in 2009 and is peer-to-peer.” There was this one time I surfed a wave from Bay pier to Snake Park pier and it ended badly. I’m not saying that investing in bitcoin will end with metaphorical fishing line wrapped around your throat, but I’m not not saying it either.
The nice thing about bitcoins, apart from them being sexy golden unicorns, is that you don’t have to buy a whole one. Like you can get a mutton bunny in a half or a quarter, so you can buy a millibitcoin or, if you’re not so hungry, you can get a satoshi to take away. A satoshi is one hundred millionth of a bitcoin. If you bought one for twenty cents eight years ago, you could buy a Ferrari today.