Crypto, please leave AI alone
There is just something about crypto’s embracing of AI that leaves a bad taste in my mouth
Midjourney modified by Blockworks
The crypto boom of a few years ago was truly wild.
I wouldn’t dare to call it a Wild West, but the way that people “discovered” cryptocurrency in 2017 and made millions of dollars from ICOs for projects that probably never existed, was indeed a wild time.
Cryptocurrency was something new, something weird, and something totally digital. You literally cannot get more online than magical internet money.
Since then, crypto has, of course, continued to exist, but on a more muted level. There might not be the same flurry of headlines every time that crypto sneezes, but the industry is obviously still real — even if it’s not quite thriving at the moment.
While crypto is settling down into middle age, there is a new kid in town. And this new kid is totally wild: artificial intelligence.
The same type of shock and awe that people used to bestow on the wondrous new properties of digital cash are now being bestowed on artificial intelligence. It’s like AI came onto the scene and stole crypto’s thunder. AI is the thing that everyone wants to integrate into their products now, even though it makes absolutely zero sense most of the time.
I wouldn’t be surprised if we had another cycle of companies changing their names to line up with the AI craze. Remember when Long Island Iced Tea became Long Blockchain Corp.? I bet it’s already re-registered as Long Island AI.
You might read this and say, hey, wait a minute, cryptocurrency and AI actually do have a lot in common (unlike blockchain and iced tea). You can use AI to write smart contracts, teach trading bots on DEXs, or help answer customer queries about your exchange (for a while, anyway).
But there is actually nothing special about the relationship between cryptocurrency and AI.
Replace “cryptocurrency” with “cooking,” for example (merely because they both start with the letter C). You’ll see that you can use AI to write recipes, use AI to teach chefs tips on how to cook, and use AI to help answer chef queries about your recipes.
So why does everyone in crypto — crypto Twitter pundits, even formerly crypto-exclusive trade publications — write about AI like it’s a totally normal part of the crypto ecosystem? New AI innovations are gushed about on Crypto Twitter as if they are new Ethereum proposals.
The answer: Crypto is trying to make AI into its own thing, even though it is so not.
Crypto has done this before. The entire industry is prone to obsession with something to such an extreme that it seems like whatever it is, it is actually a natural part of the crypto ecosystem. Like life elongation technology. Or superconductors.
Maybe the reason behind these obsessions is that crypto is filled with a bunch of computer nerds who find computer things cool, and so they naturally find other weird internet and technology things cool — like the aforementioned AI, living forever and superconductors.
To be fair, there are some crypto projects that actually are attempting to use AI as an essential part of their product. But so are so many other things in this world that are not cryptocurrency.
There is just something about crypto’s embracing of AI that leaves a bad taste in my mouth.
It’s almost like crypto is trying too hard to say, look at me! I don’t make people millions of dollars overnight just as easily as I used to,
and I can’t create a photorealistic image of you as a pirate in less than 20 seconds, and only three people are using my DeFi platform a day, but I’m with AI! Let us into the club together, I’m AI’s plus-one, I promise.
For whatever reason, crypto has taken AI firmly under its wing — just like it took in “metaverse” a couple years ago. But unlike the metaverse, a concept which arguably has a real connection to blockchain, you can’t convince me that AI has anything really to do with cryptocurrency technology.
The two are both wild digital phenomenons in an internet age, yes, but they are actually entirely mutually exclusive.
The truth is that cryptocurrency may need AI, but AI may not need cryptocurrency.
Because now that you really think about it, do you think that the AI industry even wants to be this closely associated with the crypto one? Did they actually have any say in the matter?
Perhaps we’ll soon see AI politely removing crypto’s desperate grasp from around its shoulders, placing crypto’s proverbial arm back by its side…and walking away.
I don’t care much about tech, I don’t care a whole lot about finance, either. I care about writing stories and watching weird things unfold. And that’s why I’ve ended up in crypto.
But because I’m missing that passion for what crypto and blockchain are all about — finance, tech, privacy, yadda yadda — I’m going to write instead about what I am actually interested in. Everything about crypto that has very little to do with crypto.
That’s what this column will be about. All the tangential stories that come out of the blockchain and crypto space, what I think about them, and how I navigate it all as a skeptical former Russian literature major.
It’s precisely my perch as an outsider that lets me do what I do: Opine on all sides of any crypto issue, no strings attached, no skin in the game.
If you want to talk crypto with me, let’s go off topic.