The AI hype bubble is the new crypto hype bubble

Cory Doctorow on 2023-03-09

Someday, we’re gonna feel pretty silly about our autocomplete worship.

Today (Mar 9), you can catch me in person in Austin at the UT School of Design and Creative Technologies, and remotely at U Manitoba’s Ethics of Emerging Tech Lecture.

Tomorrow (Mar 10), Rebecca Giblin and I kick off the SXSW reading series.

Back in 2017 Long Island Ice Tea — known for its undistinguished, barely drinkable sugar-water — changed its name to “Long Blockchain Corp.” Its shares surged to a peak of 400% over their pre-announcement price. The company announced no specific integrations with any kind of blockchain, nor has it made any such integrations since.

LBCC was subsequently delisted from NASDAQ after settling with the SEC over fraudulent investor statements. Today, the company trades over the counter and its market cap is $36m, down from $138m.

The most remarkable thing about this incredibly stupid story is that LBCC wasn’t the peak of the blockchain bubble — rather, it was the start of blockchain’s final pump-and-dump. By the standards of 2022’s blockchain grifters, LBCC was small potatoes, a mere $138m sugar-water grift.

They didn’t have any NFTs, no wash trades, no ICO. They didn’t have a Superbowl ad. They didn’t steal billions from mom-and-pop investors while proclaiming themselves to be “Effective Altruists.” They didn’t channel hundreds of millions to election campaigns through straw donations and other forms of campaing finance frauds. They didn’t even open a crypto-themed hamburger restaurant where you couldn’t buy hamburgers with crypto:

They were amateurs. Their attempt to “make fetch happen” only succeeded for a brief instant. By contrast, the superpredators of the crypto bubble were able to make fetch happen over an improbably long timescale, deploying the most powerful reality distortion fields since