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More than a Market: Tradable Assets that Embody Technology
Public perception of crypto has radically shifted in the last two years. It’s previously been viewed as a new form of money, as an engagement incentive or even a “governance value,” former Genesis Trading researcher Noelle Acheson argues. Now, she says, the mainstream views crypto as a market.
In short, public perception is still falling short of the mark.
It’s more that crypto became just a market for most casual observers. That’s all, just a market. And with the market in dire straits, well, obviously there’s no longer any point to the whole concept.
Looking back, it’s not hard to see how this shift happened. The increasing levels of institutional interest (Goldman Sachs! Fidelity! BlackRock!), prices (up 20% in a day! down 80% year to date!), scams (rug pull! exploit!) and regulatory concern (protect investors! protect the financial system!) fueled headlines that grabbed attention, incentivizing more stories along the same vein. The power of repetition as media coverage of the industry broadened cemented the association of “crypto” with “risky.”
I’m not pointing the finger at media – many publications have done a great job of also surfacing the more transformative aspects of our industry. But perception tends to latch on to what it can grasp, and the “public” (generalizing here) is familiar with markets, whereas it doesn’t necessarily understand Merkle trees. Price moves are easier to visualize than consensus algorithms. And the power of institutional signaling is more relatable than weighted decentralized liquidity pools. The markets narrative is stickier than the tech narrative because it is more comfortable. The risk narrative is stickier than the innovation narrative because drama is better at grabbing our attention.
The instinctive reaction here, then, is to vow to start focusing more on the technology angles of crypto – I and many others have argued for that elsewhere. But while that is still the case, there’s another fundamental aspect of crypto evolution that has been largely overlooked.
We know that crypto assets are both speculative and investment opportunities. We also know they represent radical new technologies. We can acknowledge that they are all those at the same time. What is harder to wrap our heads around is that the asset is the technology.
For the first time in our history, we have tradable assets that embody innovation. Sure, investors can get exposure to progress through equities or exchange-traded funds, but they are formulaic wrappers around potential earnings streams that become available to the public only long after the innovation is first tested.
What’s more, crypto assets open up support for innovation unlike any other tradable vehicle to date. They are pure technology plays that anyone, anywhere can invest in, without having to prove a certain amount of wealth for early access. They are risky, yes, but new concepts usually are, and education as well as platform disclosure rules could offer some protection without erecting inequality-enhancing barriers.
Crypto is so much more than a market. It is also more than a new technology. It is a new way of thinking about value, risk, funding and engagement. It adds a jugful of philosophy to the soup of finance, garnishes it with a few dashes of ingenious code and a sprinkle of hype, and stirs it up to get a whole new flavor of evolution.