LISTEN LIVE: Loading...

Advertisement

 

Tales from the Crypto | Part III: Crypto is for the children

36:50
Download
Play
(Flifer Technologies, Getty Images)
(Flifer Technologies, Getty Images)

In the final installment of our Tales from the Crypto series, Endless Thread producer Nora Saks and co-host Ben Brock Johnson talk to kids — and parents — who are going cuckoo for cryptocurrency, and some who are not as enthused.

We hear from a pair of Texas siblings making thousands mining crypto each month. A children’s book author convinced that Bitcoin is the future of money, and the key to economic security for the next generation. And an online influencer who calls herself Miss Teen Crypto discusses why she’s spreading the crypto gospel to Gen Z. Crypto is clearly coming for the next generation. But are kids learning about the risks and the rewards?

Show notes

Support the show: 

We love making Endless Thread, and we want to be able to keep making it far into the future. If you want that too, we would deeply appreciate your contribution to our work in any amount. Everyone who makes a monthly donation will get access to exclusive bonus content. Click here for the donation page. Thank you!

Full Transcript:

This content was originally created for audio. The transcript has been edited from our original script for clarity. Heads up that some elements (i.e. music, sound effects, tone) are harder to translate to text. 

Ishaan Thakur: I'm really just a normal kid. I still live a normal life. I wake up, I eat breakfast. I check on the prices of crypto. I look at my machines, but really, that's it. I live a normal life and it's nothing too crazy.

Nora Saks: Over the summer, before Choco Tacos were canceled, we called up some kids. Siblings actually. A big brother and little sister.

Ishaan: My name’s Ishaan and I am 15 years old.

Aanya Thakur: My name is Aanya and I am 10 years old.

Ben Brock Johnson: Ishaan and Aanya Thakur live in Frisco Texas. And over the last year and a half, these siblings have been making bank mining crypto. And they're getting famous for it. Here they are on CBS last October.

[CBS audio:

Anchor: On day one the Frisco siblings made $3. Eight months later.

Ishaan: Now I’m making over 35 thousand dollars a month.]

Nora: 35 thousand dollars per month.

Ben: That is not my summer job. That’s like, I’m dealing cocaine money.

Nora: If you say so. I don’t know about that. Anyways, we really wanted to know how they pulled this off.

Aanya: So in the spring of 2021, the crypto prices went high, like spiked high and we were really interested in it. So we wanted to invest in it, but we didn't have enough money to actually buy a bitcoin, so we decided to earn it by mining for them instead.

Ben: Mining cryptocurrencies requires no pick-and-shovel, just super powerful computers that use a lot of energy. So Ishaan, a gamer, watched some Youtube tutorials, read a few articles, and then he transformed his gaming pc into a crypto mining PC.

Ishaan: Our initial goal was not actually to make money. It was just to learn new things and create business ventures. And we just thought that mining cryptocurrency would be a great way to do that. And also make some money while we're at it.

Nora: And how. What started out as a DIY hobby in the Thakur’s garage has grown into a professional mining operation located in a data center in Dallas. And a company: Flifer Technologies. Aanya, the fifth grader, is the financial officer. Ishaan, a highschool sophomore, is the strategy officer.

The siblings have also invented their own cryptocurrency. And are dabbling in algorithm trading — basically using bots to buy crypto low and sell it high on different exchanges. They’ve got serious entrepreneurial skills.

Ishaan: I actually look up to a very special person. I think you guys know him, Elon Musk?

[Elon Musk: I might pump, but I don’t dump.] 

Ben: For these kid miners, crypto is just a hobby. But they’re pocketing adult coin that could impact their lives in a real way. So, what do they do with all the money they make? And who gets to call the shots?

Ben Brock Johnson: Like if you turn 16, you get your driver's license and you'd like to buy a Lamborghini. Can you just do that? Or is that a conversation you have with your parents?

Ishaan: I could do that. But I would rather invest it into the company.

Ben: Ugh, I do not understand this generation at all! I’m officially an old man, Nora.

Nora: Yeah I don’t get it. So these siblings are legit crypto whiz kids. Child prodigies. And talking to them was very fun, but it was also kinda weird.

Ben: Yeah, not just because they didn’t want to immediately go out buy a trans am firebird.

Nora: It was a Lamborghini.

Ben: I may be projecting with the Trans Am Firebird. That may be from my childhood. Anyway, I think for me at least, there were a lot of statements that felt very adult. Like maybe not the real answers, but coached answers.

Ishaan: We don't want to do any harm for the environment. So we choose to mine with full renewable energy.

Aanya: We're friends. We spend time just helping each other with stuff.

Ishaan: This business will give me the learning experience and really just the experience that I need to become a more successful entrepreneur.

Ben: And while Ishaan and Aanya are a bonafide crypto success story, we realized they didn’t exactly go it alone.

What do your parents do?

Ishaan: My parents? My mom is a doctor. And my dad is an investment banker.

Nora: What gets lost in the media frenzy is that it was their father who loaned them money to grow their business. And he was the one who turned his kids onto crypto in the first place.

Ishaan: He had just learned about something called crypto and he wanted to share it with the family.

Ben: Their dad told them crypto was a digital form of payment and explained how it worked.

Ishaan: As soon as he told me, I instantly loved it.

Ben: These days, lots of kids are crypto curious. Going cuckoo for crypto.

[Yousoff Altoukhi: It’s that feeling you get that your hard work has paid off and that’s what I like about cryptocurrency.]

[Benyamin Ahmed: I’m a 12-year-old school boy fascinated by the world of crypto and NFTs.]

[@laura1ee: Ellie is this Bitcoin? Bitcoin!]

[Crypto Coin Kid: Blockchain. For Kids.]

[Stone Frederickson: Alright, let me show you how you can invest in stocks and crypto if you’re under 18, coming from someone who’s 17.]

[@logicalgrowth: Bitcoin. Ethereum. Terra…]

Nora: T. Rowe Price, that big investment firm, recently surveyed 2000 parents and their children aged 8-14, and found that cryptocurrency is really, quote, “grabbing the kids’ interest.”

Ben: And there’s a whole new industry cropping up to teach kids about crypto. Camps, classes, shows, YouTube explainers. You name it.

[The Mighty McClures: Cryptocurrency. Cryptocurrency! Good job. So that’s what we’re gonna learn about. Do you have any idea what cryptocurrency might be?]

Nora: So while we’ve recently been exploring the adult world of crypto, it’s pretty obvious that cryptocurrency, with all its potential rewards and risks, is on the move coming for the next generation. And Fast.

Ben: I’m Benny from the Blockchain Johnson.

Nora: I’m Nora Nocoiner Saks.

Ben: And you’re listening to Endless Thread. From WBUR, Boston’s NPR station.

Nora: Today, for the third and last installment in our mini-series, Tales from the Cyrpto, we’re climbing through a little window into that world. Where just like Wu-Tang…

[Russell Tyrone Jones: Wu-Tang is for the children! We teach the children]

Ben: …crypto is for the children.

Nora: You probably don’t know this, but my secret dream is actually not to be a member of Wu-Tang Clan. It’s to write children’s books.

Ben: You’d more likely be a Killa B, but it’s fine. Yeah I think you’d be really good at that.

Nora: Aw thanks Ben. The reason I would like to be a children’s book author is because some of those books I read as a kid really stuck with me. They shaped the way I thought and still think about the world. Miss Rhumphius? Lupines? Anybody?

Which is why when we first began exploring this whole new world of crypto for kids, I really wanted to talk to someone who was brave enough to tackle a subject as mind bendingly complicated as cryptocurrency — something most adults don’t understand and definitely can’t explain — and distill it into a book for children. And in North Carolina, we found him.

Ben: And his five month old twins, who we could hear faintly crying in the background. A.D., I’ve been there man. I’ve been there.

Ben: When they're sad, it's not because they're like, they just lost a bunch of crypto in a crypto hack or something like that?

A.D. Largie: Not at all, not at all. I mean sometimes, you know, they just, you know, scream for no reason.

Nora: That’s Anthony D. Largie. A.D. for short. He’s got twins and a seven year old. And being a dad is a big part of why he does what he does.

A.D.: There’s probably about 70 childrens books out there authored by me. Some of the most popular ones are like, I do a series of rhyming kids biographies.

Ben: Take this one on LeBron James: “Lebron achieved many goals and won the ring. But his kindness towards others is why he remains a king. ”

Nora: Wow, that’s a really good rhyme.

Ben: It is good! But before A.D. pivoted to writing and self-publishing kids books, he actually worked in corporate finance.

Nora: Oh! Kinda like Ishaan and Aanya’s dad. Who was an investment banker. I’m detecting a pattern…

Ben: Yep. And A.D. has tried his hand at trading crypto — as a side hustle. Another one of A.D.’s best-selling titles? One that’s sold thousands of copies? An illustrated picture book called Bitcoin: The Future of Money.

A.D.: I wanted to think of a creative way to kind of explain the timeline of money and how Bitcoin is kind of like the apex of it. So I chose the concept of a time traveler who has come back in time from the future to explain money to kids. Right?

Ben: Man this is bold. A.D. is doubling down. He’s trying to explain two hard things at once! Crypto and time travel! At the same time!

Nora: Yeah, I have so much respect for him. Who does that?

Ben: So in the book — which is almost like if you took a simple mobile game for your phone and put it on the page in a children’s book — the time traveler first visits the olden days, checks out the barter system. Then he fast forwards to gold, silver, and fiat currencies, the modern banking system, and the myriad problems they all cause.

At last, he goes to digital money AKA Bitcoin, and its invention.

Quincy Walters: “The technology that money works on in the future is called blockchain, and it’s here now.”

Nora: Yeah, the book hand-waves around how the blockchain actually works, but we do learn that...

Quincy: “Bitcoin can be sent directly from one person to another, anywhere in the world, without a middleman, without limits, completely anonymously. This is why bitcoin is the future of money.”

Ben: TLDR — Bitcoin saves the day! Just before the time traveler, is it Satoshi Nakamoto?! We’re not sure! Zooms back to the future, he puts his hand on his jet pack, holds out his smartphone, and shouts...

Quincy: “Now it’s time to go! But remember, Bitcoin will change the world!”

Nora: Now, depending on your point of view, A.D. is either trying to prepare the next generation for a future where crypto is omnipresent. Or, he’s trying to sell them on it, a little bit o’ crypto-propaganda.

A.D.: Am I promoting Bitcoin? Yes.

Ben: And frankly, he doesn’t see anything wrong with that. A.D. says he didn’t learn anything about money in school. Or the best way to actually use it.

A.D.: You know, no one taught you that. You have to learn usually by making mistakes, right? You got a credit card, you max it out. You default, and you're like, oh, man, you know? And now you have to rebuild your credit. Now you understand the importance. You're learning from, you know, the school of hard knocks, so.

Nora: So, if you care about the youths and financial literacy, as A.D. does, and you’re convinced, as A.D. is, that cryptocurrency is the future.

A.D.: It is, it is. It's inevitable.

It makes sense that you’d want to help kids avoid the school of hard knocks. Be ready for that transition. Ahead of the crypto curve, even.

Ben: By writing a children’s book, if that’s what you're called to do.

But it seems like there’s something deeper, more ideological, going on here too. When A.D. encountered Bitcoin after the financial crisis and all the bailouts, it was much more than a new type of digital currency.

A.D.: The fact that it was decentralized, it wasn't controlled by any centralized authority…

Nora: …meant it was a way to revolutionize money itself. Bitcoin advocates like A.D. argue that since no one owns or controls the blockchain technology — the public ledger that records all transactions on the network, it can’t be manipulated. We the people have the power!

Ben: It sounds like you're a decentralization proponent.

A.D.: I am, yeah. That's super key to all this. That's the main feature. It's a feature, not a bug.

Nora: More than a decade into Bitcoin, A.D. says no one knows how this is all going to play out. But if he’s right, and the mass adoption of crypto is inevitable, his kids are gonna have a real leg up.

Ben: How soon do you think you're going to get them into buying and selling crypto?

A.D.: Um, probably as soon as they can comprehend. I mean, right now I'm getting my seven year old into it now. I mean, he obviously has read the book, you know, but I think now he's in the second grade, he can kind of grasp the concepts, you know. So around seven, eight is probably the right age.

Ben: Don't you ever get worried that your son is going to get, you know, taken advantage of potentially, financially, if he is a young person kind of trying to dabble in crypto?

A.D.: Yeah, that's possible, right. It's possible to be taken advantage of with any type of money, with traditional money, crypto. It doesn't matter. It's equal opportunity. So that's why education is important, right? Listen, I've been defrauded with crypto, right? I’ve been defrauded.

Ben: What happened?

A.D.: You know, as with any kind of fraud, it’s — you have to make a poor decision somewhere along the line. Right? You decide to trust the wrong person.

Nora: In this case, that wrong person was someone A.D. had hired to do some computer work. He paid them in crypto ahead of time. They ghosted.

A.D.: That's not crypto’s fault. That's my mistake, right?

Ben: Fraud and theft, we should say, is something that is arguably easier to protect against when you have insured, legitimized, centralized institutions.

But it’s not just the scams, the hacks, the fraud, right? Investing in crypto is risky. The market is highly volatile. In less than one year, the price of Bitcoin fell from almost $70K per bitcoin to around $20K per bitcoin.

Nora: I’ve read A.D.’s book a bunch of times. And you won’t find the words risk, gamble, let alone scam or fraud anywhere in its pages. Which is important because the thousands of kids, or beginners, who read it won’t get the message that investing your allowance, or life savings for that matter, in crypto, is pretty different from storing it in a virtual piggy bank. They only get the message that it will change the world.

Ben: Off the page though, A.D. admits, you gotta know what you’re doing. You have to be careful.

A.D.: The technology can be used, you know, for good or evil.

Nora: So Ben, we’ve heard from a couple of kid siblings who are making a killing mining crypto. An adult children’s book author who believes in the crypto revolution. But what about Gen Z?

Ben: Yes, what about Gen Z?

Nora: Who’s preaching the crypto gospel to them?

Ben: Mmmm. We’re gonna find out right after the break.

[SPONSOR BREAK]

Randi Hipper: So hi everyone, thank you guys for having me. My name is Miss Teen Crypto. I'm a 19 year old crypto and NFT speaker and educator based in New York City. My goal is to spread crypto and NFT adoption to Gen Z and educate the world and the masses on cryptocurrency and NFTs.

Ben: Okay. But your real name isn't Miss Teen Crypto, right? Like you have a real name that’s not Miss Teen Crypto.

Randi: I do indeed. Ben, my name is Randi.

Ben: Last name: Hipper. Randi, AKA Miss Teen Crypto, is an influencer. And she is everywhere: Tiktok, Instagram, Telegram, Twitter. She’s got a podcast. A YouTube channel. A theme song!

[MissTeenCrypto YouTube channel audio: Good morning Crypto Twitter it’s Miss Teen Crypto.]

Nora: She’s a walking dictionary of crypto slang.

[Miss Teen Crypto YouTube channel audio: We then have DYOR, meaning do your own research.]

Nora: And always signs off with her signature phrase: “stay zesty”

Randi: And I feel like being zesty is almost a way of life now.

Ben: You feeling zesty, Nora?

Nora: Uhhh, that might not be the word I would choose. But the point is: this young woman is obsessed with crypto.

Randi: Crypto's my everything. So this is what I do all day, every day.

Ben: Wanna take a wild guess on how Miss Teen Crypto got into crypto?

Nora: Well if she fits the mold….a crypto-loving parent? Probably her father?

Ben: What do your parents do?

Randi: Oh, my dad's in the crypto space.

Ben: Aha. Okay. So he obviously influenced you in crypto.

Randi: He did. But it wasn't something he pushed.

Ben: Randi told us that at first it was just something he talked about at the dinner table. For a while, it went in one ear and out the other. Seemed like an adult thing. She was only 13 at the time.

Randi: I didn't think I could do anything with it. I didn't understand that it was just simply cash.

Ben: But when Randi turned 16, her dad helped her complete her first crypto transaction. Scanned her phone. Entered the amount of money he wanted to send her. Voilà! All of a sudden, it was in her digital wallet.

Nora: That’s when something clicked, she says.

Randi: And I saw that it was going to change the way people transact forever.

Nora: It wasn’t just that you could send money to anyone, anywhere, anytime.
Without a third party — like a bank — involved. Even though Randi was only a teenager, it felt like life was coming quick.

Ben: She was working as a dental assistant, getting a paycheck.

Randi: And I saw that my paycheck from one year to the next was only buying half of what it did. So I was just seeing my purchasing power going down. And as a teenager, that's scary to see because what is it going to be like in ten years?

Ben: Clothes she wanted to buy were more expensive. Eggs doubled in price.

Randi: It was just like buying the most simple thing, I just saw that it wasn't even possible. Especially being in New York where there's 99 cent pizza. Now, that's not even a thing anymore.

Ben: In Randi’s mind, she could keep stashing her earnings in a boring old bank account, where her $200 was always just $200. Or she could put her money somewhere it at least had a fighting chance to grow, appreciate.

Nora: So she starts investing in cryptocurrency.

Randi: Whenever I have spare fiat, I'm just going to throw it into crypto and I don't really trade because I feel like I don't have a big enough capital to be able to play around. And I feel like if I'm going to buy some crypto, it's crypto I want to keep.

Ben: I’m always looking for “spare fiat” in the couch cushions. You know?

Nora: You found any lately?

Ben: No, not a lot. It’s mostly lint and crumbs.

Nora: Me neither. No spare fiat around my house either. So she’s investing in crypto, dollar cost averaging. Then COVID hits. The economy is in tatters. She’s lingering on Crypto Twitter, but really wants to be part of the community. She goes all in.

Randi: So I just came up with a handle that it's like I was a girl, I was a teen and I love crypto. So Miss Teen Crypto was born.

Ben: Tell us about why you think it's so important specifically for Gen Z to understand crypto?

Randi: It's super important for Gen Z to understand crypto because we have the opportunity now to be a part of a financial revolution where we could be our own bank, where we could truly control our assets, which is the most important thing.

Nora: Since Randi’s father was the one that introduced her to crypto in the first place. At one point, we asked if he was around, if we could talk to him too.

Ben: Do you think he'd be game for that maybe?

Randi: For my dad to do an interview? I'm not sure. He doesn't, he doesn't really like the camera, but I guess, we can see.

Ben: In fairness, our podcast cameras are almost always shut off. But again this felt like something a parent had basically passed onto their kid. But the kid was the face of the thing. And there’s nothing wrong with that! I mean, I think my parents bought me a single share of Ben and Jerry’s ice cream stock when I was like 10-years-old. But there are also a lot of pitfalls for parents who want their kids to start playing with money. Especially when those kids become spokespeople —evangelists — for a certain form of money. Or maybe I’m just a prude?

Nora: Well I don’t think you’re a prude, but the thing that catches me is like, crypto isn’t really money, in most places it’s not legal tender and playing around with it is more the stock market, right? Well anyways, we didn’t get a chance to talk to Miss Tean Crypto’s dad. And we didn’t push it. Which is fine. Randi is technically an adult, she’s 19. She agreed to do this interview. And she’s done many others. So we kept calm and carried on.

Nora: Is it your job, like do you make, do you earn a living from being an influencer as Miss Teen Crypto?

Randi: This is my job, yeah.

Nora: Randi said she had, quote,“different types of income streams”.

Ben: Are you paid to talk about crypto by people who would like more discussion of crypto in the world?

Randi: Oh, everything is under my own initiative. Talking about crypto that's all me. I, I don't get paid to talk about crypto. I talk about crypto regardless.

Nora: That may be true, but it’s also true that she kicks off just about every episode of her YouTube show by thanking her sponsors…

[MissTeenCrypto YouTube channel audio: Next we have Ballet. Ballet is killing the game as always with their easy and convenient wallets.] 

Ben: This is complicated. Saying I don’t get paid to talk about crypto and then thanking your sponsors who are all from the crypto industry. And it feels a little bit like, this whole world of crypto enthusiasts are kind of getting high off of their own supply. They benefit from promoting the thing and there’s something a little bit dicey about that.

Nora: Well either way, being Miss Teen Crypto is work. She’s constantly tweeting to her 55,000 Twitter followers, posting videos on social, doing interviews, speaking at events. She has the stamina of, well, of a 19-year-old.

[Claman: How do you feel about the markets right now? Stock market, crypto market? We’re seeing a lot of red right now.]

[Randi at Utah Valley University: We’re all evangelists. We’re all here for a purpose.]

[Randi in Washington Square Park: I wanted to ask you, do you know about bitcoin cryptocurrency at all?] 

[Randi at the NFT NYC conference: This is my card, Miss Teen Crypto. It’s so nice to meet you you can check out this clip on youtube later.] 

Ben: Even the recent crypto crash hasn’t shaken her faith.

Randi: I really, I’m not scared of the markets. I know a lot of people are a little, like, nervous right now, but there's no reason to be nervous. I mean, I've been watching crypto for six years. Bitcoin going down like 80 something percent is normal.

Nora: So Randi seemed positively stoked to talk about all things crypto. Until we got to the subject of crypto and the environment. And one of the main criticisms of the cryptocurrency industry is its huge carbon footprint. Mining crypto and all the things required to do it uses a ton of energy.

Ben: I mean, you're 19. So I would assume, maybe you're concerned about climate change, for instance, and a lot of people are concerned about the impact of crypto on the climate. Can you talk about your feelings on that topic?

Randi: I feel like this is mostly FUD, fear, uncertainty and doubt with the climate change argument.

Ben: So you're skeptical that crypto has an impact on climate change or you're skeptical of climate change?

Randi: I don't know. I can't speak too much on climate change. But I do know that a lot of the claims with crypto and how it's bad for the environment have been rebutted. So it's just a lot of FUD: fear, uncertainty and doubt.
Ben: What about people who are concerned about crypto being used for criminal activity?

Randi: That's another piece of FUD: fear, uncertainty and doubt.

Nora: Randi refused to engage with any kind of criticism. All the jargon she kept falling back on felt like a brick wall.

Ben: When we asked Randi about what it was like being Miss Teen Crypto in high school, things got a little more awkward.

Randi: Um, not going to lie. High school was a little rough. They didn't really like it. A lot of kids thought I was a little cuckoo for getting involved in cryptocurrency just because it was something so new. And I was always just kind of like that nerdy kid in the corner. So it was just like, it was just like, ah Randi's up to something else, right?

Nora: When it got hard, she told herself...

Randi: You know what? I'm in a new industry that they don't know anything about. They just don't understand me. They just don't understand cryptocurrency, and they will soon.

Ben: Randi didn’t want to go into much detail about her personal life. She wanted to stay on brand.

Randi: Um, I actually have to, I'm sorry to like, cut this short, but I actually do have to run.

Nora: But before she did, we wanted to know what happens when she turns 20. If you think that means she’s giving up her name, think again.

Randi: Miss Teen Crypto is always going to live on.

Ben: It's very natural to cling to your youth. I also cling to my youth.

Randi: I'll be 80 and wrinkly and be Miss Teen Crypto.

Ben: In the case studies we found there was a clear trend. Kids, teens, and young adults are getting into crypto in part because of a crypto-happy parent either at the steering wheel or in the back seat. Whether this is ultimately going to be a gain or loss for their financial future, we can’t say.

Nora: But it cuts both ways. Because there are also grown-ups who are trying to do the exact opposite.

Nora: Does your son know anything about money yet?

Ed Zitron: Nope. Not really. He’s four.

Nora: Do you have an idea or a plan for how you might expose him to cryptocurrency or what you might tell him about it if you decide not to?

Ed: Imagine money but worse, is a great place to start.

Nora: Keep going.

Ed: Because imagine money but worse. It's in the computer and it can sometimes be worth a lot more than it is today, and it can sometimes be worth a lot less. When he asks why, I'll say because a lot of people play with the value. And a lot of very rich people are very much invested in increasing its value so they get richer.

Nora: That’s Ed Zitron. Now Ed is a bit of a unicorn. He manages to both run a media relations firm and keep one foot in the world of journalism.

Ed: I write a newsletter called Where's Your Ed At?

Ben: His Substack newsletter focuses on tech and culture. And a good portion of its real estate goes to crypto skepticism.

Ed: I hate the term as it's used because it suggests that you are turning a blind eye to the good parts of crypto that don't exist. The opposite of a skeptic is a zealot.

Nora: It wasn’t always this way. Ed has invested some of his own money into crypto. He’s had crypto clients. And he’s also someone tee'd up to fall head over heels for cryptocurrency. When Bitcoin first arrived on the scene, back in 2009, he was pumped. He’s an early adopter of tech, loves playing with it, thinking about what it might do.

Ben: But 13 years later, Ed has some beef with cryptocurrency. An entire herd of cattle, really. A big one? A fat juicy steer?

Ed: What does any of this stuff do?

Ben: In Ed’s not-so-humble-opinion, crypto doesn’t do anything. Or at least do anything better than the tech it purports to replace.

Nora: But his real beef isn’t that crypto, which he calls a, quote, “quasi-legal, regularly-fraudulent non-industry” is doing nothing to improve society. It’s that it’s actively hurting people.

[Matt Levin: Steve Insall spent the afternoon of Tuesday May 10 watching an app on his phone as his life savings, $320,000, dwindled by the second.]

Ben: So why is it so appealing to youth? Is it just about getting rich quick?

Ed: My general sense is that the young people getting into cryptocurrency are doing so out of desperation.

Nora: Many Millennials who came of age in the financial crisis are worse off than their parents. Gen Z-ers are drowning in financial anxiety. And both generations are worried they won’t be able to afford the life they want.

Ed: And so, yes, of course, young people are going to go for this. They have a convenient answer with a potential, imagined or otherwise, outcome that would allow them to actually not be lower middle class their entire goddamn lives. It's brutal because crypto is taking advantage of this.

Ben: Ed has plenty of empathy for those who get tangled in crypto’s web. Especially young’uns. Although, not across the board.

Randi: We have the opportunity now to be a part of a financial revolution where we could be our own bank.

Ed: So she should be called Miss Word Salad. Nothing she said there meant anything. Absolutely complete and utter pablum nonsense.

Ben: Ouch! That is rough.

Nora: Yeah, when we played a few snippets of our conversation with Miss Teen Crypto, Ed was pretty harsh. Said she was going to lead her followers into the, quote, “mouths of hell”. So we asked him to dig deep, try and remember what it was like to be young. Full of passion.

Ed: Christ, when I was 19, I'm sure I held a bunch of extremely stupid beliefs founded on very little information. It's one of the fun parts of being a teenager. But what worries me is anyone speaking like that having influence over other people.

Ben: Tens of thousands of people in Miss Teen Crypto’s case.

Ed: If you're able to pull together 50,000 followers, you're able to read a single bit of criticism.

Nora: What would you like to see change in order to protect more regular folks, more young people from getting hurt by crypto in the future?

Ed: I think we need to, very badly right now, we need regulation. And we also need to ban cryptocurrency mining. I know that’s an extreme thing. It's an environmental nightmare. There's no reason we should be doing this. God damn. Not even one reason to be doing this.

Nora: Ed predicts banning mining will effectively shutter crypto in America. And by the time his own 4 year old son comes of age…

Ed: I would love it to be just gone.

Nora: He thinks no one will truly miss it.

Ben: Whatever the future holds and however you or we might feel about cryptocurrency, there is evidence everywhere that Gen Z, Gen Alpha, and beyond, are absolutely going to be more into crypto than Millennials, Gen X, etc. If one thing is true, the youths are — at the moment at least — absolutely opting into crypto. In fact, we had trouble finding young people who wanted to talk to us about the issues with crypto.

Nora: You’re a dad, Ben. When are your very cute offspring getting their own crypto wallets?

Ben: Oh gosh, I mean they barely watch television. I can’t imagine them getting into crypto anytime soon. I do think there’s an important opening here to have conversations about money with kids. Teach them about finances. I think crypto in some ways can do that. But we should be real with kids about the risks. And we should not all think that we’re gonna make $30K a month mining crypto.

Nora: Oh yeah, remember those kids in Frisco, Texas who got famous for making adult money mining crypto last year? Well that was before the crash.

[NPR: In less than a year, crypto has collapsed. The total value of digital currencies is now less than a third of what it was…]

Ben: How much money do you make right now mining crypto?

Ishaan: It's, it's a lot less than before, I would say around $15,000 a month.

Ben: So they’re not exactly devastated.

Ishaan: But that's part of the game. That is, that’s why we do it.

[CREDITS]

Ben: Hey remember when we asked you to tweet at us the answer to our question about the first thing ever bought and sold with Bitcoin? Shouts to users like captain bubaru, embBeeBe, SooooozyQ, Ponch22, Nicolen, Moholier. Chirdma3, Unheard 78 and so many more who tweeted at us. And Angel Janes 7 who all guessed pizza. As Angel said in the end, the answer is always pizza. But user ItsChanaka was first and he gets the pizza. Chanaka, we will be in touch to get your order. Check your DMs.

Nora: Also, since our mini series is wrapping up, we want to hear from you. What are your Tales from the Crypto? Did you make bank mining crypto? Do you have a friend who bought a plot of land in the BlockChain hills on that ill fated island venture? Did you start your own DAO? Or are you still mystified by all of this? Send us a voice memo! You can record one with your phone and email it to Endless Thread at WBUR dot org. We might include your story in our final wrap up.

Nora: Endless Thread is a production of WBUR in Boston.

Ben: Want early tickets to events, swag, bonus content? To hear my ODB impression, or to read Nora’s children's book, join our email list! You’ll find it at wbur.org/endlessthread.

Nora: This episode was written, produced, and co-hosted by me, Nora Saks.

Ben: And me, Benny from the Blockchain Johnson. Mix and sound design by Paul Vaitkus. Editing help from the rest of the team: Dean Russell, Amory Sivertson, Quincy Walters, Megan Cattel, Grace Tatter, Matt Reed, and Emily Jankowski. Megan Cattel is our web producer. Special thanks to Quincy Walters for voicing excerpts from A.D. Largie’s book: Bitcoin: The Future of Money.

Nora: Endless Thread is a show about the blurred lines between digital communities and looking for spare fiat in your couch cushions. If you’ve got an untold history, an unsolved mystery, or a wild story from the internet that you want us to tell, hit us up. Email Endless Thread at WBUR dot ORG.

Nora Saks Producer
Nora Saks is a producer with WBUR's podcast team. 

More…

Advertisement

 
Play
Listen Live
/00:00
Close