Dean Clough

November 28, 2022

Portico Darwin: Conic Boom


Flag of Ukraine.jpg

I trust you had a great holiday weekend.  Thanksgiving is easily one of the best times of the year in America, and nowhere more so than here in SF - the peace and quiet are wonderful.  In between the wanton piss-ups.

But now, we must go back to reality.   

Because the FTX meltdown is something.  It's like Enron or WorldCom, but with a little Bernie Madoff thrown in.  Elon's in there, too - why not?  It's the perfect shit-show, and it has mostly destroyed faith in the nascent cryptocurrency sector as a whole.  Some wonder if it will ever recover - here is one take, from just last week.

But mark me down as skeptically optimistic.  Of course, a lot has changed since the whole crypto/NFT thing hit peak hype earlier this year . . .

As you might recall, my cousin Charlie and I tested the NFT waters, as a mechanism for selling his fine art.  While our investment was low and our exposure to the FTX contagion zero, I still had my concerns at the time.  I will toot my own horn (shocker) and reprint a portion of what I said then - this was on January 26th of this year.

It's everywhere and it looks like Egypt.
God, I typically hate hyped things.  Be it Pokémon Go or a Marvel movie, I like to steer clear.  And yes, NFTs are easily the most hyped thing to hit my own personal radar screen in a long while, maybe ever.  It's a snake-oil pit full of used car dealers selling nutritional supplements to each other.  And if you look at the NFT racket for even a few minutes, its pyramidal shape and the whiff of multi-level marketing is hard to miss.

And I am also happy to say my heart was in the right place.

But I don't care.  There is an opportunity - a valid, real opportunity - for creators like Charlie Clough to bypass the highly-dysfunctional and corrupt art market.  He can also participate in the resale of his works, something never before possible. 

But my optimism back then was met with a resounding thud, sales-wise:  our efforts at the NFT marketplace resulted in no sales.  So why do I have any optimism now, albeit tinged with skepticism (if not cynicism)? 

My friends at The Economist summed it up perfectly in their cover story.

Amid the wreckage of the past week, it is worth remembering the technology’s underlying potential.  Conventional banking requires a vast infrastructure to maintain trust between strangers.  This is expensive and is often captured by insiders who take a cut.  Public blockchains, by contrast, are built on a network of computers, making their transactions transparent and, in theory, trustworthy.  Interoperable, open-source functions can be built on top of them, including self-executing smart contracts that are guaranteed to function as written.  A system of tokens, and rules governing them, can collectively offer a clever way to incentivise open-source contributors.  And arrangements that would be expensive or impractical to enforce in the real world become possible—allowing artists to retain a stake in the profits from the resale of their digital works, for instance.

The disappointment is that, 14 years after the Bitcoin blockchain was invented, little of this promise has been realised.

And that's why I'm skeptical and not just optimistic:  where is Web 3.0 and when will an average citizen enjoy its benefit and utility?


A belated shout-out to the jetsetter and après ski princess Nicki Vale.  She winged it from Denver to Detroit with some fellow #BillsMafia, for the game on Thanksgiving which pitted her Bills against the Lions.  I beamed with pride when I looked at this photo she texted me, pregame - this was something like 9AM local time. 

Thank you to any one that is reading this newsletter.


Here is an artist to whom I refer as "The King", in part due to his monumental sound, but also because of his love of model railroading.  Here is Neil Young and After the Gold Rush.

About Dean Clough