Christmas is nearly here, the time where everyone heads home to family fun, family feuding or, more usually, both.
But if you’re involved in the world of crypto, there’ll probably be another complication this year. With Sam Bankman-Fried and FTX having made it into the mainstream media, relatives — probably older ones — will be asking what crypto is all about.
So to help you de-baffle the baffled, here’s Planet Crypto’s helpful guide to negotiating those tricky crypto questions at the Christmas table…
Q: What is a Bitcoin?
A: Think of it like a bit of digital gold. Just as gold was made in the heart of a star that exploded and whose remains eventually coalesced to form the earth, Bitcoin was formed in the heart of a star programmer, Satoshi Nakamoto. Though he has, as far as we know, not exploded yet — unlike many of the businesses his idea has inspired.
Q: But how does it work?
A: Just like normal money. But on a computer.
Q: So if I take my laptop to the corner shop can I use Bitcoin to buy a pint of milk?
A: Well, it doesn’t really work like that.
Q: So how does it work?
At this point, it’s probably best to top up the other person’s wine-glass to distract them, and then change the topic of conversation.
Q: What’s a blockchain?
A: Well… imagine an old fashioned bank ledger, with every bit of money going in and out written down by someone very sensible with excellent hand-writing and a nice pen… and now imagine that everyone in the whole world can see that ledger to check that no-one’s cheating. And it’s on a computer.
Q: So everyone can see what’s in my bank account?
A: That’s not what I meant—
Q: How’s that a good thing? And how does it let me buy milk?
Again, this is probably time for a wine-glass top-up and change of topic.
Q: What’s ‘de-fi’?
A: It’s short for ‘decentralised finance’.
Q: What does that mean?
A: It cuts all the middlemen out of financial transactions, so you don’t need brokers or exchanges or banks.
Q: So what was this Celsius Exchange that went bust?
A: Well, it was somewhere to conduct crypto transactions—
Q: An exchange? Like its name suggests?
A: Well, yes but—
Q: So you do need exchanges!
A: No, in an idealised de-fi world, we’d get rid of all that—
Q: Hang on… doesn’t that mean without them you also avoid regulation?
A: The whole point is to avoid government interferenc—
Q: So my money can be interfered with by criminals and general bad actors?
Q: I’ll never be able to buy milk again…
Again, this is definitely time for a wine-glass top-up and change of topic — and if you’ve filled the glass properly each time, the person you’re talking to will probably fall asleep soon and you’ll be off the hook.
And one final question you’re bound to be asked:
Q: Who is Sam Bankman-Fried? And what did he do?
A: Just point at the turkey in the middle of the table and say ‘with luck next year that’ll be him, in federal prison, completely cooked… and being stuffed with who knows what.’
And that’s Planet Crypto’s guide to talking crypto at the Christmas table!