TL;DR: Tim Swanson is a powerful, important voice in the cryptocurrency ecosystem. He occupies a part of that space as an analyst and researcher, learned and careful, someone bridging the gap between enthusiasts and what’s known as the enterprise aspect of financial technology. More recently, he’s taken to becoming a savvy media critic as well, questioning relatively large news organizations such as CoinDesk and the Wall Street Journal. The episode is available embedded in this article, below, or on YouTube, iTunes, Spotify, Google Podcasts, Stitcher, Radio Public, Breaker, PocketCasts, and PodBean.
Tim Swanson on Bitcoin and Those Controlling the Narrative
The Truth Machine: The Blockchain and the Future of Everything (St. Martin’s Press 2018), by Michael J. Casey and Paul Vigna, was just this week released as a paperback edition. Mainstream press lists the title as a frequent go-to source on the ecosystem, and it’s hard to blame them, at least on the surface.
Casey was a longtime journalist for The Wall Street Journal, advises MIT Media Lab, and is Chair of the CoinDesk board. Vigna covers cryptocurrency for The Wall Street Journal. They’re about as mainstream as you can get, and Truth Machine is their second collaboration for a book on the phenomenon. That’s a powerful one-two pedigree.
Outside mainstream circles, however, the two carry less weight, and are often known more for their lack of understanding than for insight. Nowhere is that more in evidence than when analyst Tim Swanson digs-in with a point-by-point refutation of Truth Machine. To a concerned reader, the book seemed a bit rushed, at times confused, and makes too many basic mistakes to be considered literate. Swanson seizes on its plentiful gaffs, and winds up really re-writing the thing.
Enterprise and a Devil’s Bargain
Right away, Swanson’s writing voice is authoritative and cutting. He’s surgical, precise, and disassembles Casey and Vigna as few have ever dared in public. The legacy, institutional darlings are seemingly not up to the subject-matter’s task, and Swanson lets them have it. He’s also a guy who finds it important to disclose his own biases, and immediately points out his personal connection with their work. We get into it all in this episode.
Our discussion then veers toward Swanson’s vocational passion as a research liaison between crypto enthusiasts and the enterprise aspect of financial technology. He likes to take deep dives on subjects, and his newsletter is enthusiastically read at CoinSpice for its independent take.
Swanson speaks candidly about the space he’s been involved with since around 2012, and offers a few warnings about where it is now and where it seems to be heading. There’s a tension between, for example, lauding and pushing forward exchange banks such as Coinbase and the entire point of bitcoin: if enthusiasts are looking for peer-to-peer digital cash, permissionless and uncensorable, they’re going about it all wrong by continually handing over such aspects to trusted third parties. And that’s the theme we organically arrived at: as the crypto ecosystem matures, it needs to be more skeptical of its assumptions.
- Mining to market research 3:30
- Truth Machine 6:15
- Permissioned blockchains 14:30
- Enterprise and tension of crypto ethos 19:45
- Coinbase and Neutrino 22:30
- Intermediaries 29:15
- Enterprise and DLT, post-trade settlement world 31:00
- Expectation management, Revolut and Wells Fargo 39:30
- What might be ahead for crypto: regulation 47:00
- The CoinSpice Podcast 12
- Host C. Edward Kelso
- Tim Swanson’s blog, Great Wall of Numbers
- Tim Swanson on Twitter
- Post Oak Labs
- Preston Byrne on Twitter
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