I understand HOW. I do not understand WHY. Of engineers and cryptocurrencies
June 5, 2021
Do all the talented engineers working on cryptocurrencies ensure crypto success? I recently participated in a panel discussion on cryptocurrencies where one of the crypto advocates, the owner of a successful crypto startup, remarked that the presence of so many talented engineers in the crypto space must mean that they will be successful.
How could it not? When a problem attracts so much engineering talent and the technological advances are so rapid, a success must be around the corner.
So does the remark hold water? Only if crypto success is achieved by technological advancement alone. Certainly one way of seeing it, but not one I agree with.
History provides some guidance. Half a century ago, some of the most talented scientists and engineers worked in nuclear science. Designing nuclear bombs. The bombs got smaller, more powerful and easier to deploy. Engineering success. Was society better off? Hardly. And then what happened to all these experts? By the early 1970s, the world was awash in nuclear weapons engineers, but the armies with nuclear bombs already had what they needed, so most of the experts ended up being unemployed. Not a nice place to be in the 1970s stagflation.
And so what about crypto? I think my interlocutor was wrong. The presence of all this engineering talent does not mean crypto success. For that, it needs to solve some useful problem for society, and so far, none is forthcoming.
The same day, I had dinner with a friend of mine, Rupert Goodwin, and he noted the similarity with Orwell’s 1984. The protagonist, Winston Smith, is a newspeak engineer working on rewriting history, and when reflecting on his job, said:
I understand HOW. I do not understand WHY.
The same could be said about crypto.