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Saturday, September 30, 2023

ChatGPT is everything you wanted Bitcoin to be

Bitcoin is a middling technology that, 15 years after its introduction to the world, still does not have a single legitimate use case in the developed world where it’s the best possible solution to a problem. It’s worse than our traditional stores of value (gold, US dollar) because of its inherent volatility (roughly 5x more volatile than the stock market). It’s clunkier and more annoying than our existing payment systems and any argument about it being cheaper or more efficient as a medium of exchange has become laughable over the last six months. And it most certainly did not earn its keep as an inflation hedge during one of the all time greatest inflationary spikes in American history. Proponents of bitcoin technology continue to bend their words (and minds) into pretzels when trying to describe its current usefulness. The only reasonable argument left is “just you wait and see,” which is the same argument people have been making for over a decade now. Fine, we’re waiting. Show us. I have an open mind.

In the meantime, ChatGPT was introduced a few months ago and has already spread like wildfire in a way that Bitcoin never has, despite the latter’s explosive rise into the public consciousness as a way to gamble and speculate. OpenAI’s ChatGPT has instantly found use cases, most notably at the high school and college level as children begin to experiment with it as a way to help them complete (or cheat on) their assignments. I wouldn’t scoff at this development – it’s a well established Silicon Valley trope that some of the most world-changing technologies at first appear as toys and silly little playthings for kids. If millions of kids start using the technology in their everyday lives over the next year or so, this behavior will become embedded and have long-term ramifications for the way in which these kids grow into adulthood and bring it with them into their careers.

While Bitcoin relies on the instant-millionaire daydreams of traders or the steadfast belief of its Twitter-based cult, the actual utilitarian function of AI chatbots will continue to proliferate without there being a need for endless conference panels and impassioned tweet-thread defenses on social media. It just works. No theorizing or pumping necessary. It’s easy and accessible in a way that bitcoin as a payments system never was (or will be?). Any child or technologically unsophisticated adult can make use of it upon first contact. Not in Venezuela. Not in the near future. Here and now.

I speak from experience, having bought my first bitcoin in 2017 and subsequently invested in a variety of coins and tokens over the ensuing five years. I have been among the unrequited believers all this time, and have the financial war wounds to prove it.

I still believe there’s something there. My main criticism of the industry is that too much time and attention and capital have gone toward inventing things to trade and not enough toward building useful products and services. You can argue, but I have all of the evidence on my side. The largest entities in the crypto ecosystem, despite last year’s 1929 moment, are still the brokerages and exchanges. There is nothing else worth talking about. If there are brilliant entrepreneurs in the space who have built useful crypto things suitable for mass adoption, where are they? Who are they? Why are we not hearing more about them? In their absence, we have nothing to focus on other than crashed prices and international scandals.

It’s too early to write off the possibility of blockchain somehow becoming transformative. But at the current rate of progress, it would take a century for the financial benefits of using blockchain technology to offset the hundreds of billions of dollars that have been lost betting on it. ChatGPT on the other hand is instantly useful and obviously ready for primetime. Every corporation and organization in the world is going to spend 2023 coming up with its AI strategy. The arrival of this particular chatbot was like the detonation of a nuclear bomb. Nothing is going to be the same in its aftermath. By contrast, if bitcoin were to disappear tomorrow, almost nobody would notice any difference.

Read also:

Google plans to demo a version of its search engine with AI chatbot features and launch 20 new products, following ChatGPT ‘code red,’ report says (Insider)

What Microsoft gets from betting billions on the maker of ChatGPT (Vox)

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