‘Gambling’ With Your Finances: The Language of Crypto FUD


Cryptocurrency is a good investment if you like to gamble with your savings. At least, that’s the opinion of Tim Chen (co-founder and CEO of Nerdwallet) according to an article published by NBC news.

The article likens crypto investments to going into an underground casino and gambling your life savings, but that’s an unfair comparison. If you want to consider any form of investment, you have to acknowledge the risks involved and, though Chen is correct to say that you shouldn’t risk your life savings on an investment or speculate with money you can’t afford to lose, one must question whether a reasonable person would want to do that with any investment — crypto or otherwise.

For sure Chen, like many critics of cryptocurrency, is an authority whose voice is worth hearing — he’s the CEO of a hugely successful company that helps people with their finances — but like the majority of the critics, his success is firmly rooted in an industry that crypto seeks to disrupt. In this regard, we can add him to a list that includes Jay Clayton, Mark Carney, and central authorities across the world, and we shouldn’t let their comments go unchallenged.

The language of FUD

The more negative articles I read about cryptocurrency, the more I’m finding a trend amongst its critics. That trend is the use of a certain kind of language, or rather, a particular manner of discussing crypto that draws additional attention to negative aspects of the technology.

BoE Governor Mark Carney, for example, levels criticism at the crypto sector that could easily be cut, pasted, and applied to fiat (like cases of misuse and the facilitation of crime) and gives little evidence to support the implication that crypto allows this sort of activity to a greater extent than traditional money. Surely it is unfair to aim this sort of criticism exclusively at crypto when fiat is not exempt from the same problems — it certainly shouldn’t be used to attack its reputation.

The use of ‘gambling’ by Chen to describe crypto investment is interesting in a similar way. Any investment is a risk, so it impossible to disagree with Chen’s logic on that front. However, calling it a gamble changes the meaning in a qualitative but no less important manner. ‘Gamble’ isn’t a nice word. It is loaded with negative connotations and fills us with unease. ‘Investment’ on the other hand doesn’t sound as daunting — it sounds like the sort of thing responsible, intelligent people do, but when it comes down to it, the outcome can be similar.

Language is powerful, and you don’t have to take my word for it. Read any legal document, headline, or watch a political debate and ask yourself why all of these influential mediums don’t speak to us plainly.

Crypto advocates/critics agree on more than it would appear

We live in a time when immediacy is valued. (That’s actually one of the selling points of most crypto.) Many won’t read a long article or pay attention to an argument, but they’ll extrapolate meaning from a headline, knowingly or not. That’s what FUD thrives on, and that’s what makes discussing and challenging such comments a matter of importance.

In the rest of the article, Chen goes on to suggest that regulation is needed to sort out the crypto world, and many in the crypto sphere would agree with him on that, but sensational headlines and exaggerated comments that focus on negatives (negatives that financial authorities have limited success dealing with anyway) only adds to the uncertainty of the crypto world.

Rather than treating crypto like a financial version of the bogeyman, its critics should be asking how the technology can be adapted to fit our world. Although blockchain technology seeks to level the playing field, it’s emergence isn’t going to invite anarchy. The cards are already stacked in favor of the authorities, and anyone with a rudimentary knowledge of recent history would be confident of that. It’s far more likely that both sides will need to make some concessions, and that’s where regulation can help. The sooner we can reach a consensus what the technology is, what it means, and how it should be used, the sooner we can get on with realizing its full potential.

Michael is an English and Creative writing graduate of Liverpool John Moore’s University, a former editor of several magazines, and a crypto-currency enthusiast. He is mostly interested in crypto-legislation and the potential of decentralized technology to change the world.

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