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Stanford Seminar – Can We Mitigate Cryptocurrencies’ Externalities

David Rosenthal

February 9, 2022
Bitcoin is notorious for consuming as much electricity as the Netherlands, but there are around 10,000 other cryptocurrencies, most using similar infrastructure and thus also in aggregate consuming unsustainable amounts of electricity. This is far from the only externality the cryptocurrency mania imposes upon the world. Among the others are that Bitcoin alone generates as much e-waste as the Netherlands, that cryptocurrencies enable a $5.2B/year ransomware industry, that they have disrupted supply chains for GPUs, hard disks, SSDs and other chips, that they have made it impossible for web services to offer free tiers, and that they are responsible for a massive crime wave including fraud, theft, tax evasion, funding of rogue states such as North Korea, drug smuggling, and even armed robbery. In return they offer no social benefit beyond speculation. Is it possible to mitigate these societal harms?

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