Strange Bedfellows: Millennials And Cryptocurrency

Few could have foreseen a Western economic environment where millennials, exhausted and withered from years of "austerity," among other monetary policy imbalances, labor Uber-ization, and record underemployment, actually jettison their progressive utopian views in favor of techno-libertarian market-nihilism... each of us pitted against each other in a deflationary death spirally 24/7 battle of transnational cryptocurrencies, where early adopters become gilded millionaires and late adopters get conscripted to a life of economic irrelevance... but that appears to be exactly what is underway.

Things are getting weird. The economic collapse the media won't mention dead-on, and the accompanying rise of cryptocurrency in its wake, is worthy of a Ridley Scott film. Some of the ideas presented by the cryptocurrency community are downright alien and galactic in scope compared to much else discussed in the financial community.

Millennials, assisted by a cadre of impressively socially awkward Bitcoin startup VC types, are piling intellectual and financial capital into this whole cryptocurrency idea - Bitcoin, Ethereum, all of it. What "e-" in front of any noun did for techie investor excitement in the 1990s, "crypto" and "blockchain" seems to be doing today.

The cryptocurrency market as of writing this stands at US $12,732,589,557, with a 24 hour trading volume of just under $170 million. The marketplace is dominated by Bitcoin, with a $10.6 billion market capitalization, and secondplace dark horse Ethereum, which earlier this year had a market capitalization as high as $1.5 billion before a precipitous fall - today the network's built-in currency or "fuel", Ether, has a market capitalization of $871 million.

While Bitcoin's technology is mostly restricted to the transfer of "coin" ownership for now, Ethereum's network allows for "smart contracts" or electronic agreements written using a native programming language, Solidity, to be uploaded to the blockchain. This allows for things like timelocking money or bestowing money to an heir or heirs in the distant future, royalty payment splits whenever a music track is downloaded, and so forth.

As one of Ethereum's founders recently explained to me, "Bitcoin is the piston engine and Ethereum is the jet turbine. Same principle used with jets but parts are rearranged for much more power."

Ethereum's blockchain is faster, with a "block time" or reconciliation period for new transaction data of about 15 seconds, as opposed to Bitcoin's average 10 minute block time.

Bitcoin, meanwhile, is enjoying a rapid increase in market valuation and user numbers in 2016. US-based Bitcoin wallet provider Coinbase recently reported having over 4 million customers, and total Bitcoin users around the world is estimated to be a much larger number.

Although YouTube's terms of service prohibit me from sharing specific data for my YouTube channel, I can tell you in broad terms I've noticed a significant uptick in traffic to my videos over the last couple months - and, again, although I can't disclose specific demographics, those searching for my videos about Ethereum, Bitcoin, and cryptocurrency wallets are predominantly in their 20s and 30s, the "millennial" crowd, essentially... They're also predominantly male still, sadly, but I will have to save that for a future analysis piece.

Had you put me in a time machine in early 2010 and spit me out today, I would not have a $12.7 billion "cryptocurrency marketplace" written in my list of predictions... this thing came out of left field, heck, it might as well have come from another planet - that's how different it is from prior discussions about money, prior discussions about Internet security and data ownership.

But the reality is that, due to a number of factors, that is what has transpired over the last six years, and the majority of that innovation has been driven in my view by a predominantly millennial user base.

If there's a silver lining to the nascent cryptocurrency boom, it is that maybe some millennials working with these promising crypto projects will see upside and come into some of that fabled prosperity that seems to have escaped so many of us as a generation, so far.