Black book cover of Number Go Up, and Zeke Faux headshot in blue shirt

Inside Crypto’s Wild Rise and Staggering Fall

An entrepreneur friend who fell deep into crypto mania said he hadn’t thought of it before.

The inevitability of crypto dominance that he predicted would be led by how traditional fiat currencies would fall out of favor. The thing about bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies, I told him, was that no military backed them. Tanks favor the status quo.

Now, as the founder of a tech-business publication, I always knew I needed a handle on blockchain, crypto and its myriad interwoven technologies, now increasingly labeled web3 and decentralization. So I still hold a small stash of bitcoin and ethereum, and I do hold an NFT, but I’ve always been prepared for them all to be priced at zero. That did help me better understand the world.

But that friend of mine had a hard fall. His stake in cryptocurrencies has so far fared better, but his portfolio of NFTs are essentially worthless today. It will always be a cautionary tale. And I bet the story isn’t done. Yet, the high-profile fall of the crypto exchange FTX and its boyish, one-time-billionare founder Samuel Bankman Fried was enough to spin an array of books – including one by a former coworker of mine. More recently, I read another account from journalist Zeke Faux, in his 2023 book “Number Go Up: Inside Crypto’s Wild Rise and Staggering Fall.”

Below I share my notes for future reference.

My notes:

  • 80% of ICOs were fraudulent
  • Pump and dump scams are old: some are gullible but many know that’s the game
  • Author says he was offered $1m for his information on Tether’s financials
  • SBF played the computer game Storybook while speaking to the Economic Club of NY
  • SBF read Peter Singer and then saw William MacAskill (whom I’ve read) speak and deepened his interest in effective altruism, always calculating “expected value” to maximize lives saved — this justification drove him to further financial chicanery
  • Gary Wang of FTX grew up in Cherry Hill, NJ
  • Initially Alameda Research the hedge fund sought arbitrage with different prices for coins, and FTX the exchange gave more dependability: that’s what made real money
  • Did SBF really mean he effective altruism goals? Maybe “scammers don’t plan on getting caught”
  • Heather Morgan and Ilya crypto robbery showed just how weak security was
  • As Andy Greenberg wrote “bitcoin had turned out to be practically the opposite of untraceable: a kind of honeypot for crypto criminals that had, for years, due to and unreasonably recorded evidence of their dirty deals.”
  • Heather Morgan wrote a column for Forbes (Yeesh) she does call herself an economist and a journalist in Versace Bedouin
  • Alexandre Cazes
  • Axie Infinity in the Philippines was heralded as a web3 example: people used coins, earned back and controlled  (some of) their  data (investor Packy McCormick shouted it out); Mark Cuban invested and SBF sponsored
  • In March 2022, North Korean hackers stole $600m in an exchange affiliated with Axie, meaning poor Philippines funded a dictator’s weapons program (according to U.S. officials)
  • Michael Lewis criticized for fawning questions of SBF at Crypto Bahamas
  • Brandolini’s Law, or the bullshit asymmetry law, posits that the energy to debunk bullshit is an order of magnitude harder than to create it
  • Sothebys sold Bored Apes “of historical significance”
  • Degen “degenerate gambler”
  • Pig butchering scam sent to the author down illicit use of Tether ; the Cambodian Chinatown compound could generate $600m a year in tether
  • El Salvador’s Nayib Bukele: the world’s coolest dictator
  • Whole book follows his pursuit of Devasini of Tether, giving it a storytelling arc
  • “An exchange like FTX was supposed to hold onto customers’ deposits and return them if asked. Like a casino, it made its money by collecting a small cut of every bet. It wasn’t supposed to gamble itself, and no matter how many gamblers wanted to cash in their chips at once, it shouldn’t have had any trouble paying out. Amid the crisis, U.S. regulators opened investigations into whether FTX had misused customer funds.”

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