Who knows what future historians will make of the foul and stupid year that just was. But if there’s anything that epitomizes 2017 – its fulsome greed, its Stockholm-like obsession with digital gewgaws, its yawning detachment from reality – that thing is bitcoin. For years the idiot obsession of Reddit geeks and fiat-money conspiracists, in 2017 bitcoin became the idiot obsession of all of us. For a crisis-scarred generation, the fact that cryptocurrency markets are a chaotic bedlam of manipulation and deceit served not as warning but invitation to finally unclench and give into our shallowest fantasies of how money actually works. Hedge funds starved for alpha rushed in, industryveterans traded credibility for the dumbest of dumb money, and futures sprung up to facilitate what is now the most crowded trade. The Winklevoss twins went from punchline to billionaire(s) by hawking bitcoin as Gold 2.0. As Wall Street gradually relented and accepted bitcoin’s inexorable penetration, we got to watch Jamie Dimon wrestle with inner demons in a spectacularly public way. At the margins a thousand rank flowers bloomed, with scammers of every fashion with almost parodic explicitness. There was Bitcoin Boiler Room. Scads of penny stocks rebranded as crypto concerns and were rewarded with 20-fold stock surges. Digital beanie babies nearly killed the second-largest cryptocurrency. As the SEC dropped a lazy hammer on the routine securities law violations that pervade the alt-coin world, we visited an initial coin offering conference to hear pitches for using blockchain to kill fake news or turn hurricane-ravaged Puerto Rico into an techno-anarchic corporate sandbox.
Appropriately, the Year Of Bitcoin ended with a massive rout, prompted either by Goldman’s inevitable entree into Cryptostan or the advent of the Bitcoin Butt Plug. Maybe both. Pick your narrative. And please, remember to HODL.