TL;DR: This is it. Whatever economic and social signs cryptocurrency enthusiasts needed or required to spur adoption and usage, a worldwide shut down of the legacy financial system should probably qualify. And, if the utter wreckage of human trade, commerce, and finance does not prompt significantly more interest in peer-to-peer electronic cash, then perhaps we never understood Bitcoin.
This Really is a Turning Point for Cryptocurrency
Admittedly, the rubbing of hands at thoughts of prolonged pandemic economic stress and social chaos is exceedingly dickish to convey on any level. People are dying, and you know the rest: global lockdown, massive government intervention in literally every sector of life like never before, etc.
The United States is a 90% service-sector economy, and the financial engine of the world is being effectively closed for business. A few voices, such as Michael Levitt, a Nobel laureate and Stanford biophysicist, insist we’re all going to be fine. But data and metrics in at least the short term point otherwise.
Central bankers are acting based solely upon their Great Recession experience from 2008. The tools available appear to keep cash floating through economies, ensuring major too-big-to-fail industries are bailed out, and dropping buckets of new loans and direct payments all around.
Cryptocurrencies Serve a Function
Of course, that 2008 experience spurred on the work of building real peer-to-peer electronic cash, a prize many decades in the making. By 2009, Bitcoin was quickened, and the rest is history. During the past more than a decade, enough of the global population has taken notice to warrant some important observations.
Cryptocurrencies serve a function. They’re mechanisms for databases, distributed ledgers, and they’re also useful as permissionless mediums of exchange. They can be units of account and relative stores of value. Enough engineers have plodded away at improving overall user experience to make them approachable, and just about every legacy financial institution has had to grapple with the cryptocurrency phenomenon — central bankers, regulators, conglomerates.
Few sober enthusiasts would ever claim cryptocurrency adoption and use is anywhere near where it should be, regardless of excuse. Some might feel BTC is too hamstrung by developers and corporate capture, while others could view Ethereum as a too complicated, unfocused melange of wonky experiments to matter much. Projects beyond those two have their own follies for different reasons, but the pattern is clear: cryptocurrency hasn’t caught on.
So Far, the Impact has Been Less Than Imagined
In places like Zimbabwe and Venezuela, experts believed peer-to-peer electronic cash would find its natural foothold. So far, no. Cryptocurrency adoption lags. While folks in parts of Africa and Latin America have for sure used cryptocurrencies in a variety of ways, they really haven’t made the impact any of us imagined. Again, so far.
The reasons for lack of adoption run the gamut. Now with coronavirus, however, nearly all excuses are gone. There is a world downturn, a catastrophe right before our eyes. Politicians are bickering over arranging Titanic deckchairs while the globe burns. Bankers, hot-shot traders, Wall Street types are back at the public trough, hats in hand, begging for government relief … and they’re pretty obviously going to get it again, this time beyond anything we’ve ever known.
Cryptocurrency is more important now than ever, according to advocates’ decade’s long arguments, everything we’ve taught. It’s important we acknowledge that, and, where it makes sense, remind ourselves of cryptocurrency’s value and place especially amidst a once-in-a-lifetime event such as coronavirus.
Time to Recommit
If a significant number of new users and adoptions do not happen, it will be a critical turning point in cryptocurrency history. It will be time to reevaluate what we’re doing, how we’re doing it, and the role peer-to-peer electronic cash will really play in our lives. If it’s just for speculation and porn, so be it. That’s not nothing, and maybe the revolution we expected is much, much further off. I suspect, however, the evidence in that case will mean a great deal more than we realize.
What could happen is something in-between. Maybe hyperbitcoinization doesn’t happen. That would be a giant blow. Perhaps instead, quietly more people interact with cryptocurrencies and begin to weave them into their lives. Not a flood. Not a giant boom. But real growth. If, on the other hand, trade volumes, usage, and adoption lower, then perhaps we never understood cryptocurrency at all.
It’s time. It’s time to build. It’s time to recommit to projects we love, feel passionate about. It’s time to show the many advantages of cryptocurrency at just the exact moment it is theoretically most needed. And since we’re bound to be online even more than usual, the opportunities seem endless.
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DYOR: CoinSpice is your home for just spicy crypto things. We’re not affiliated with any cryptocurrency project or token. Each published piece is intended for information purposes only, not investment advice and not in the hope of impacting speculative markets. There are plenty of trading sites and coin-specific advocacy journals out there, we’re neither. CoinSpice strives for rigorous accuracy in our reporting. Information presented here is contingent usually on a host of factors, and the ecosystem moves fast — prices change, projects change, and at warp speed. Do your own research.
DISCLOSURE: The author holds cryptocurrency as part of his financial portfolio, including BCH.