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What is cryptocurrency, and should you care?

Put briefly: cryptocurrency is much ado about nothing, and you shouldn't care about it. In more detail: getting your computer to do a lot of very complicated equations (with no beneficial end result) gives you what is called cryptocurrency, which can be exchanged for goods and services on *some* websites. It's a make-believe money market which, much like currency in most countries, has no real-world backing in terms of gold or other materials. But unlike those currencies, it is unstable and subject to hacking, consumes enormous amounts of computational energy which can be used for better things, and is generally a Bad Thing.

Proponents of cryptocurrency will tell you that it is a 'decentralised' currency, which is to say there is no centerpoint or exchange. Unfortunately this turns out not to be true. All cryptocurrency goes through particular online exchanges when it is converted from one form to another. In addition, those who started early with cryptocurrency tend to have a lot more of it, and so control of the market is in-practice dictated by a very small number of people, particularly those who have access to expensive high-performance computing resources.

There are many different forms of cryptocurrency, such as bitcoin, ethereum, dogecoin and others. The buying and selling of these emulates that which occurs in regular financial markets, but in a way which is easily controlled by those who started early with those particular currencies. So, the rich get richer, even with a 'decentralised' currency. And that's not even mentioning the environmental side effects.

The amount of energy consumed to generate cryptocurrency worldwide generates emissions equivalent to that of a small country. That same amount of computational power, if applied to problems like cancer and alseimers research, would have dramatic effects on human wellbeing. There are already many platforms using distributed computing in this way, such as Folding@Home, which played a pivotal part in developing vaccines for Covid.

Cryptocurrency adds nothing to human wellbeing, funds only the lucky few and has no real-world sustainability. In this authors opinion it is the worst excess of tech culture, with it's proponents either being cynical opportunists or chumps. For more info I recommend the youtube video "The Line Goes Up", which also covers NFT's, a related (and equally unimportant) technology.

Speaking of things which add nothing to human wellbeing, if you're running Windows 10 and it asks you to upgrade to Windows 11, deny it. Don't accept. Windows 11 is still a buggy, unfinished product that should never have been beta-tested on you innocent home users. In 3 years time, once Win10 stops being supported by Microsoft, it should be ready for use.

- Matt Bentley, computer expert at Bentley Home PC Support.
Email info@homepcsupport.co.nz or phone 0211348576.

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