After I introduced myself, Bryan explained that he was an “artist and entertainer” who led an itinerant existence, traveling around the country with his wife and children. “I go to a lot of conventions and parties, and just have a good time.” He had been at Consensus all week, making friends and learning about crypto. Several people had suggested turning Bryan’s Boogie Man character into an NFT, an idea he found intriguing. “People here are really programmed by numbers, and programmed by a certain thought,” he mused, “but I think there’s room in this industry to have fun.” The highlight of Bryan’s week was attending a house party outside of Austin hosted by a financial services company called Alpaca, which recently raised $50 million in venture capital. The event featured a petting zoo with actual alpacas.

Bryan did have one complaint about Consensus. “I’ve noticed there are a lot of guys here who just talk to other dudes,” he told me. “If you go to a club, watch how the men will just gather in a group and leave the ladies to get a Red Bull or something. That’s not cool—some of these chicks are bosses too. They worked hard to be here.” Bryan said he had learned more about crypto over the previous few days from women than from men. “They really know how to talk to you and explain things to you.”

Occasionally, some stray remark would briefly puncture the crypto fantasy world in which most of the conference exhibitors, speakers, and attendees seemed to live. During our interview, Kemper alluded to the saga of Dogecoin, a cryptocurrency created as a joke that experienced a dramatic spike in value last year after Elon Musk tweeted about it. It has since lost nearly all its value. “A lot of people got burned,” Kemper admitted. “But doge was never about making money. It was about the memes.” A few attendees mentioned the recent “Evolved Ape” scam, in which an NFT developer made off with 798 Ether (roughly $2.7 million) of investors’ money—the latest example of a crime so common as to have its own name, “rug pull.” But most at Consensus seemed to view these incidents—and the recently collapsing price of cryptocurrencies—as mere bumps in the road to crypto’s ultimate dominance. Crypto, to them, was still the future.

Or was it? During a live taping of CoinDesk’s daily video talk show, The Hash, a man in a green ball cap stood up to ask the four hosts a question. He looked to be in his seventies, several decades older than anyone else I had seen at Consensus. “If a billion people decided to have a financial transaction at this moment, a fiat currency could handle that, instantly,” the man said. “How many transactions can the crypto world handle at this stage of technology in a single moment?” Host William Foxley, a boyish-looking crypto reporter wearing a T-shirt and shorts, decided to field the question. “It really depends on how fast you want to settle, what chain you want to use, and what kind of parameters you want for that money to settle with . . .” Foxley kept speaking, but the questioner had made his point: blockchain remained far less useful than traditional financial systems for ordinary transactions.

After the show ended, I caught up with the septuagenarian, who declined to give his name but identified himself as a retired financial trader who lives in South Austin. He was attending the conference with a friend who had flown down from New York City on a private plane. “He’s a believer—he drank the Kool-Aid,” the trader told me. As for himself, he remained skeptical about the ability of cryptocurrency to supplant what conference attendees derisively call “fiat”—i.e., government-backed—currencies, such as the dollar or the euro.

“People have been thinking about what money is since Aristotle,” the trader said, “but the one thing everyone agrees on is that it has to be fungible”—i.e., capable of being exchanged for goods. “And I’m not sure that cryptocurrency is.” But what of the whole multibillion-dollar crypto industry, with its thousands of currencies, its NFTs and DAOs (decentralized autonomous organizations), and range of other exotic, jargon-laden acronyms that were on display all around us? The trader looked around the exhibition hall for a minute before pronouncing his verdict: “I’m willing to bet that in five years, ninety percent of these companies will be out of business.”

Since Consensus wrapped, Bitcoin is down another 15 percent.

Via: Texas Monthly