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The best crypto and blockchain journalism and research from June and July
Image source: Midjourney. MJ got a subscription through work and now all she does is generate AI images, all day.
It has certainly been a busy summer — with more SEC rulings than we can keep up with, an increasing amount of layoffs and (several ship-jumpers) from major crypto players, and crypto conferences held during record-breaking heatwaves.
But us crypto journalists and researchers out there have still found time to publish a plethora of important stories — and we, your humble newsletter writers, have also found time to curate the best of the bunch for you. We do apologize in advance for all the New York Times articles in what is normally a crypto media-heavy round-up, but the NYT is kind of killing it this summer while all of us crypto journalists are off at conferences or drinking away our SEC blues.
We’d also like to give a shoutout to Project Glitch, a “future of the internet” journalism project launched by former The Block journos. We applaud all types of new crypto journalism creativity!
⭐️ Calling ACJR to Permissionless! ⭐️
Austin, Sept. 12, 5-7pm — the ACJR will be hosting a panel and happy hour for journos/researchers/anyone interested in learning more about crypto journalism at Permissionless.
Interested? Register for a free Permissionless media pass! The media pass gives you access to both days of Permissionless.
More info on panelists to come 🤠
Now let’s get started with the newsletter!
Top crypto journalism in June & July
Now might be a good time to consider quitting crypto by Whizy Kim, Wired
Although this article refers to crypto as the Wild West, and has a title that harks back to “Bitcoin is dead” obituary season, it’s a good explainer for the regular, less-technical folk out there all the latest SEC crypto actions and why they matter
Their crypto company collapsed. They went to Bali by David Yaffe-Bellany, The New York Times
Read this one just for this quotation: One clear evening, on a rooftop in Bali, Mr. Davies took shrooms with a group of crypto colleagues. “You look at the stars, and the stars are just, like, moving [...] You touch the grass, and it feels, like, not like normal grass.”
Need we say more?
Crypto bot borrows $200 million in a flash loan to secure just $3 of profit by Vishal Chawa, The Block
The headline of this piece highlights the absurdity of some of the money-making schemes happening in DeFi every day.
Why the XRP army keeps fighting by Jeff Wilser, Coindesk
Jeff brings us here really a quite fun, almost nostalgia-inducing feature deep dive into a weird part of crypto. With crypto so “mainstream” nowadays, it’s refreshing to be reminded that hardcore crypto weirdos most definitely still exist.
Charles Hoskinson embarks on ocean expedition to search for alien technology by Ekin Genç, DL News
Now this is the kind of news story that we love to see — no tech-speak, no boring fundraising news, but getting to the good stuff right away. AKA a rundown of all the strange things that Charles Hoskinson is doing with his money, like investing in a startup that hopes to bring the dodo back to life.
He went after crypto companies. Then someone came after him by John Carreyrou, The New York Times
We’re not positive that we love this piece in the NYT about the crypto lawyer whose boasts about suing everyone in crypto made it to the web last year (albeit in a very strange, highly edited video format). We’ll leave it to you, ACJR readers, to decide for yourself if this is a fair profile of someone who made a very messy public mistake, and the people who allegedly set him up for it.
In this phase of the crypto industry, where companies are being sued by governments left and right and transparency is becoming everything, it’s an amazing get to publish an interview with one of crypto’s most secretive female entrepreneurs.
Binance executives exit as the regulatory heat on the largest crypto exchange intensifies by Olga Kharif and Muyao Shen, Bloomberg
To continue with the Bloomberg shoutouts around their Binance coverage, this piece uncovered a small exodus of executives before their public announcement. *a note that Fortune covered the Binance employee exodus first, we must give credit where credit is due!
Backlash over Arkham’s Intelligence platform highlights blockchains’ double-edged sword by Jeremy Nation, The Defiant
With all of the chatter about Arkham’s platform and what it meant for privacy and doxing in crypto, The Defiant here breaks it down succinctly.
How Bitcoin helps civilians escape the war in Sudan by Louisa Alexa, Forbes
An important, non-Western look into how Bitcoin is actually being used the way that so many advocates intend for it to be — a currency, helping the unbanked be financially independent.
Judge rules in SEC case vs Ripple by Casey Wagner & Katherine Ross, Blockworks
A tiny bit of closure in one of crypto’s longest standing (and most notorious) legal quagmires, a judge sided with Ripple Labs in an SEC lawsuit alleging the company’s token, XRP, is an unregistered security. Whether you’ve been following the case for years or are hearing about it for the first time, this piece gives a thorough overview of the case and explanation of the judge’s ruling.
Inside Sam Altman’s Worldcoin and its quest to catalog all humans by Ryan Weeks, The Block
Worldcoin’s recent airdrop of the WLD token brought the eyeball scanning crypto company into the spotlight once again as they continue to forge forward with their eyeball scanning Proof of Humanity plans. Many communities in crypto seem less than enthusiastic about Worldcoin, and Ryan summarizes both what Worldcoin has been up to and some of its primary criticisms in this piece.
A recent high-profile scammer arrest by Canadian law enforcement has been uncovered as a hoax, with Ben highlighting how miscommunications (and misunderstandings around blockchain technology) can lead to authorities easily being fooled into action.
And now — it’s research time.
For the first time in a long while, an op-ed, just for our ACJR newsletter, about a *very* relevant topic — Worldcoin.
No Country for Orbless Men
A subcutaneous patch on my temple gently vibrates me awake — not quite my requested wake-up at 7am, but within a range the AI deems optimal. I peer through my window at a skyline built at humanity's behest, but with alien designs, and wonder how much more it will change this year.
While I wonder, my shoebox-sized apartment's sensors peer into me, scanning my iris, and cross-checking my biometric signature with the Patch in my forehead. A voice modulated by my permanent, bone-conduction implants graciously informs me that my Global Credit Score remains in a "probationary zone," and that I am at risk of losing access rights to my AI-Subsidized-Housing.
"Your score, as always, was calculated privately, based on numerous private and public sources, without revealing your identity or exact score. Thank you for being a Citizen of the Globe, and don't forget your morning Starbucks on your way to your job interview!"
The machine knows my addictions without knowing me; neat trick, that. I remain unconcerned about my apartment — today is my final interview, and I'm feeling good about my chances. On my way to the lobby to catch a car to the interview, I check my Worldcoin balance and–
Wait. Basic Income was 10 coins less this week?
"Patch, why is my AI-Assisted-Stipend lower this week?" I subvocalize.
The machine gods respond: "Pursuant to governance proposal 3712 for additional Treasury spending to subsidize high-coin-holder biometric security, the AI-Assisted-Stipend was universally lowered to maintain a sustainable Global budget. The vote was 71% in favor after a two week debate period, and resulted in an additional disbursement to all holders with more than 1,000,000 WLD (their privacy preserved of course, except for First Citizen Altman, who publicly donated his portion to the Effective Alignment Research pool). If you'd like I can send further details to your device or eyescreen–"
"No, don't bother. Skipping coffee today I guess."
"Wise choice, sir," the gods volunteer and contradict.
I exit the lobby and enter my hailed car, surrounded by nothing but screens. I have enough WLD on recurring subscription contracts to pay to remove the sound, but the video remains — and the machines seem intent on advertising coffee to me today. Privacy-preserved or not, they seem keen on torturing me. Perhaps they think this will improve my chances at the interview, to be a little on edge?
…screw it, they win. I redirect the car to the nearest Starbucks and walk up to the register, my usual drink waiting for me without any explicit action beyond my change in destination. As soon as I touch the disposable cup, biodegradable fingerprint sensors confirm my identity (privately, or so they say), while an invisible iris scanner in the ceiling double-checks the cheaper cup's work. My Patch vibrates its tell-tale "your wallet is getting thinner" pattern, and my eyescreen confirms 11 WLD leaving my universal wallet.
The coffee tastes burnt.
I exit, disappointing beverage in hand, and subvocalize another ride request to my Patch for my last interview. "Insufficient balance," squawks my Patch into my inner ear. "Recommend public maglev."
Am I really that strapped for cash? Sighing, I walk toward the nearest subway station. Unable to find a refuse bin for my uncharacteristically bad coffee, I toss the half-drunk cup in what I hope are well-shielded bushes a few hundred yards away from the station. My Patch vibrates in an unfamiliar — or perhaps forgotten? — pattern, but I instinctively dismiss it, assuming it's some new invasive advert I can't yet afford to suppress.
Upon reaching the station, I am confronted by business as usual; scanners of all sorts, casting their peerless gaze into the commuting mob's amalgamated soul. I reach the turnstile, feel the tell-tale vibration in my Patch of my wallet being charged, then…nothing. The turnstile remains stuck.
My Patch suddenly interjects, "We apologize, but due to a lower-than-acceptable Global Social Responsibility Score, you are unable to access the municipal subway. While we cannot see your exact score due to Globe-guaranteed privacy protections, we can see that an event 7 minutes ago caused the drop below the threshold. We understand these stricter thresholds — proposed by governance proposal 2831, then ratified after 4 weeks of debate — may cause hardship for some, which is why you may appeal this decision with a combined jury of 5 of your simulated peers, while your subway fare will be processed in 3-4 business days."
I didn't have time for this. "Appeal now! Rush appeal. Whatever the added compute cost, just take it from my wallet."
"Request unlock of private local data to share with the simulated jurors and judge."
I still didn't have time for this. "Granted, fine, let's just get on with it." The voices behind me grumble as I continue to delay their commute, but I suspect none of them was interested in escalating, not wanting to drop below the Social Responsibility threshold, as I did.
My Patch vibrates in what might be described as a warm, cheer-filled hug.
"Appeal denied. You should have thrown out your coffee cup. Your Global Social Responsibility Score will gradually regenerate on its own, but you can accelerate that process with vetted and approved Community Service. If you are interested in available community activities, I can send several to your eyescreen–"
"Goddammit, no I am not. Thanks for nothing." No cheer-filled vibration this time, except perhaps from the crowd behind me as I leave my spot in the queue. Now how was I going to get to my interview–
Before I could even consider my next step, a new voice appears in my implants, solving that problem rather elegantly.
"Your final interview has been canceled, due to changes in your Global Credit and Global Social Responsibility Score that fall below our thresholds for employment. As an equal-opportunity employer dedicated to meritocracy and individual rights, we take these factors seriously, and do not have access to your scores or the changes that necessitated this cancellation — nor do your prospective co-workers, who were informed that you volunteered to cancel the interview of your own accord…to protect your privacy. You may reapply after the requisite six month waiting period. Thank you again for your consideration, and we hope you might one day join the West Ham Capital family in the future."
I collapse into myself on the side of the road I can't use, atop the subway I can't access, pining for a job that would never be mine, while the cars and buses elegantly route around me without human intervention. I feel the tell-tale buzz on my Patch, and dismiss the voice immediately — I already know what it was going to say, and there's no point heading back to an apartment that isn't mine anymore.
Sighing heavily, I reach into my back pocket and find a cracked, beaten-up, ancient telecommunications device that — for all of its faults — has one overarching benefit: it's off-Globe. It takes a little while to piggy-back an encrypted signal off another nearby device — I have no idea who or where they are, but I suspect they're using one because their morning was not entirely unlike my own.
A connection is established into the broader sneakernet, and I can finally broadcast a message.
NEED NEW WORLDID, HAVE SKILLS, WILL OFFER 10% UBI AND 20% SALARY FOR 12 MONTHS
Minutes pass, then finally, a response.
CHRIST JOSH, AGAIN?
You bolt awake. You are not at the inevitable conclusion of Sam Altman's dystopian boondoggle. It is 2023 AD, and you have changed your mind. The future cannot come to pass. Worldcoin must burn.
…I'll admit this is not quite the orb-ed I expected to write. But stories, particularly ones that enjoin us to speculate on the designs of what today's titans want for tomorrow, often hold more sway than pure arguments. And sure, it was hyperbole, a funhouse-mirror exaggeration perhaps; so too is the breathless marketing around Worldcoin! Seemed only appropriate to meet it head-to-head, eye-to-orb-scanning-eye.
Rather than letting the story stand on its own (which would have been the more elegant way to complete this piece, but I am not a talented enough writer for that) I did want to leave you with a question that haunted me as I wrote this piece: who is Worldcoin really for? Is a soul-bound, global identifier for every human being a desirable state of the world? Is Global Identity empowering you, or is empowering someone else to control you?
You don't need an orb to scan into the recesses of my soul to guess my answer.
Josh Cincinnati is an advisor, investor, board member, privacy advocate, and satirist in the cryptocurrency industry. He currently advises the Sia Foundation, the Twilight Protocol, the Penumbra Protocol, and sits on the board of the Mina Foundation. Previously, he was the founding Executive Director at the Zcash Foundation. He (regrettably) holds an MBA from Stanford University, and strongly recommends not graduating from business school in 2009 if you can avoid it. He also holds degrees in Mathematics and Political & Social Thought from the University of Virginia. You can find his deranged quips on Twitter or Bluesky, and — if this article wasn't enough — his longer-form unhinged prose on bitbanter.
Top crypto research & policy in June & July
Toward Equitable Ownership and Governance in the Digital Public Sphere by Sarah Hubbard, Connor Spelliscy, Nathan Schneider, Samuel Vance-Law, Harvard Kennedy School Belfer Center
A fascinating, novel examination of how decentralized autonomous organizations (DAOs) could impact traditional business settings: the authors stipulate that user-owned co-ops could be a viable alternative to Big Tech companies who use their platforms (e.g. social media apps) to exploit user data and privacy for profit. The paper outlines how co-ops can use DAO tooling to compete with Big Tech companies.
The authors of this paper from Circle, issuer of the popular USDC stablecoin, show how stablecoin use has evolved in the years since the technology rose to prominence within crypto. An example of a paper that shows empirical evidence of crypto markets maturing.
Cryptography and MPC in Coinbase Wallet as a Service (WaaS) by Yehuda Lindell, Coinbase
Go inside Coinbase’s Wallet as a Service product with Engineering fellow Yehuda Lindell. This paper breaks down in great detail the cryptography WaaS uses under the hood.
Building Blockchain Frontiers: Ethereum as an Extension of the Californian Ideology by Ann Brody, Tamara Kneese, Julie Frizzo-Barker, USC Annenberg
If you’ve ever felt there wasn’t enough rigorous anthropology happening in crypto, this paper is for you. The authors examine the Californian Ideology, ideas and movements which largely shaped the Silicon Valley worldview, and how the Ethereum community exhibits similar characteristics.
Could not summarize this research better than the authors did: “In this piece, we propose a shared sequencer architecture that enables atomic cross-rollup interoperability.” This would make bridging across different optimistic rollups, like Optimism to Arbitrum One.
Understanding the Bitcoin Halving by Daniel Gray, Fidelity Digital Assets
A+ breakdown of the Bitcoin Halving by Daniel Gray that covers how the issuance change impacts the network’s security and economics. A go-to primer on everything you need to know about what makes the Halving a significant event for Bitcoin and beyond.
Top crypto video in June & July
There has been a LOT of chatter about Prometheum, and journalist Laura Shin got the interview with co-CEO Aaron Kaplan. Definitely worth a watch.
Top crypto unhinged tweets in June & July
Source: Ryan Selkis
You have to be so chronically online to understand this. Unfortunately, we are.
Next month, will we have the strength to release another newsletter on time? Or will we wait until the end of September, when the collective weight of the best stories in crypto will crash Molly Jane’s computer again?
MJ’s browser before the crash for this newsletter.
Only time will tell.
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