“No crypto. How bitcoin bewitched the planet”, by Nastasia Hadjadji, Divergences, 200 p., €16.
The cover is neon pink, as if to contrast better with the “White Paper” posted online in 2008 under the pseudonym of Satoshi Nakamoto, who launched bitcoin. Because it is a resolutely critical position towards the best known of cryptoassets (a term that she prefers to that of cryptocurrency) that Nastasia Hadjadji adopts in her essay No crypto.
More than a technology, it is above all an environment that the journalist does the radiography. After a welcome introduction to the jargon used by the crypto community, she invites us to reflect on her function: to create a form of worship. Early opportunists, ideologues or rebels… the author draws up a fine typology of the different cross-populations among those fond of bitcoins, which the usual use of the term “crypto bros” tends, wrongly, to homogenize. They all have the same credo, however: born in response to the 2008 financial crisis, bitcoin – and its 20,000 substitutes – represents “the industry of the future”. A future where decentralization is the key word, the state the antichrist, and where those who converted in time will one day experience wealth and redemption.
Except that every cult actually hides a structure and political issues. Very well documented, No crypto describes the roots “e-deological” bitcoin. In the breeding ground of the thought of the “cypherpunks”, activists of the 1990s against state surveillance and advocating encryption (cipher) by the citizens, germinated the seed of an ultraliberal discourse. Resting on “the demonization of central banks”the latter presents bitcoin as a miracle solution against inflation and defends a social project based on general mistrust, in which cryptography and algorithms come to compensate for the lack of trust between individuals.
Above all, the book details how, from a utopian currency, bitcoin has turned into a financial asset with dramatic side effects. First, the litany of scams allowed by a system that offers no protection to its users. Then the ecological impact of a “parasitic industry”, in the words of researcher Peter Howson, vampirizing the energy resources of entire regions, from Kazakhstan to the Democratic Republic of Congo. Finally, and this is related, a form of “crypto-colonialism” and D’“predatory inclusion” : under the veneer of emancipation, bitcoin traps vulnerable populations, subject to the roller coaster of its course, irreversible transactions and toxic behaviors of unbridled finance.
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