SAN FRANCISCO, CALIFORNIA – A story that first made the rounds back in June is back in the news again, with barely a change in the headlines. “Sam Altman Wants to Scan Your Eyeball in Exchange for Cryptocurrency” was a piece run by Bloomberg last summer, introducing the AI guru’s startup Worldcoin and its silver iris-scanning ‘orb’ that looks almost exactly like the device used in Woody Allen’s 1973 futuristic satire, Sleeper.
Wired published a new article on Friday, repeating much of the same information that emerged five months ago, down to the hyperbolic tone for shock value. The initial PR push, which included stories in Fortune, SF Gate and Business Insider in addition to Bloomberg’s, seems to have fallen flat and has been resurrected just in time for the revival of cryptocurrency mania as signs of its widespread adoption multiply.
From country-level experiments like El Salvador’s, which made Bitcoin an official coin of the U.S.-client-state’s realm, to more local efforts like the one championed in Miami, Florida, by its scandal-ridden Mayor and the popular cryptocurrency’s record high just a few days ago, momentum to foist a digital currency paradigm on the world is clearly gaining traction.
Contrary to the prevailing anti-establishment narratives surrounding cryptocurrencies, and Bitcoin in particular, the biggest promoters are to be found among the most elite financial circles. People like Larry Fink, founder and CEO of the multi-billion dollar investment firm BlackRock, who recently praised the burgeoning digital asset space and whose company not only has an overriding interest in the blockchain technology that will support its Fourth Sector endeavors, but also owns a 13% stake in the leading cryptocurrency market-shaper, MicroStrategy.
This reality is also reflected at the government policy and central banking levels, as go-ahead signals for the shift towards digital currencies emanate from both the U.S. Fed and the Bank for International Settlements, which is in the process of running pilot programs around the world to aid in the imminent roll out of Central Bank Digital Currencies (CBDC). In the United States, specifically, a cryptocurrency lobbying group called The Chamber of Digital Commerce has been advocating for the adoption of digital money since its inception in 2014.
As U.S. regulators set their sights on defining the standards for cryptocurrencies and related digital assets, the Chamber is among those who have the ear of the President’s Working Group on Financial Markets, which is working on legal framework recommendations related to stablecoins – “a type of cryptocurrency linked to an asset like the U.S. dollar that doesn’t change much in value”.
The Chamber is making the case for a laissez-faire approach to stablecoin regulation, arguing for a “retail-focused digital payment tool” approach as opposed to keeping them within the regulatory structure of an investment asset, which would limit their ability to propagate throughout the regular economy.
Billing itself as the “world’s leading trade association representing the digital asset and blockchain industry”, the Chamber boasts quite a list of members drawn from top financial institutions like Goldman Sachs, Citigroup and Fidelity, as well as leading blockchain firms and cryptocurrency exchanges, such as Ripple and Binance.
Strategic partnerships with the Linux Foundation’s Hyperledger; a distributed digital ledger technology developed with Chamber partner IBM, and used as the basis of the latter’s blockchain-based supply chain management tool Hyperledger Fabric, should give us an inkling about the influence this particular lobbying group can wield, especially considering the current disruptions to the global supply chain and the calls for a new “social contract” by many associated financial interests.
A look into The Chamber’s team of executives and advisors reveals deep ties to the elite financial and political establishment and belies any notion that cryptocurrencies have ever been about anything other than setting the stage for the global data-driven economy of assetized human activity and securitized social services.
Starting with The Chamber’s founder and President, Perianne M. Boring, who went on create the organization after serving as a legislative assistant for the U.S. House of Representatives between 2011 and 2013, the group’s leadership spans the public and private sectors at both the national and international levels.
Boring, an outspoken Bitcoin advocate, who penned a column at Forbes called “Boring Economics” and is the author of the Boring Bitcoin Report blog, got her start as a White House intern during the Obama administration. After serving as a liaison between congressmen and interest groups in matters of finance, taxes and healthcare as a legislative assistant, she went to work for the Koch Industries-backed politician, Rep. Dennis Ross (R-FL) as a legislative analyst.
The Chamber’s Chief Policy Officer is Amy Davine Kim, a veteran lobbyist who made her bones at Patton Boggs LLP, one of the largest lobbying firms in the U.S., working on behalf of clients such as private equity giant Cerberus Capital Management, which recently sold off one of its assets, DynCorp International. Her area of expertise is in FinCEN, economic sanctions and money laundering. She is joined by Annemarie Tierney, former General Counsel for Digital Currency Group, which was covered by Silicon Icarus and exposed as a pivotal cog in the ongoing shift to digital currencies by the global financial elites.
Other notable Chamber team members include Donald Trump’s former Commissioner of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, J. Christopher Giancarlo, a.k.a. “Crypto Dad” and prime facilitator of the Bitcoin ETF that was just approvedby the SEC. Giancarlo sits on The Chamber’s board of advisors along with Erik Bethel, whom Trump sent to the World Bank as Alternate Executive Director, where he promoted “blockchain and the tokenization of World Bank loans”, according to his Linked In page.
Not to be outshined, Britain’s “cryptocurrency queen” and inventor of the infamous credit-default swap, Blythe Masters, rounds out only a few of the many power players of the blockchain and cryptocurrency space, who are joining forces in The Chamber to bring about the digital asset transformation; not on behalf of the proverbial “little guy”, but in concert with the very same financial elites we know and hate.
Cold Party Dip
In Allen’s movie, a spherical-shaped gadget that produced a feeling of sexual frenzy was passed around at parties in a dystopian society nearly two centuries from now, in which physical copulation has been outlawed and sensuous pleasure is only available through the metallic apparatus and other orgasm-producing machines, like the “orgasmatron“.
The metallic silver globe is not the only synchronicity between Altman’s Worldcoin dream and the sci-fi comedy. The entire premise also bears a striking parallel to the broader mythologies surrounding cryptocurrencies and their origin. In the film, the protagonist (played by Allen) is brought back to life in the year 2173 after having been in a state of cryogenic suspension for two hundred years.
Cryonics plays a central role in the legend of cryptocurrencies. Much of the concept for digital money revolved around absurd tales of immortality, which a small group of mathematicians, computer scientists and science fiction writers liked to indulge in as they worked on new digital encryption methods, building on the cryptographic building blocks developed by the NSA, IBM and others.
It was a cult of transhumanism, whose members were transfixed by the idea of finding a way to “send money into the future” to themselves, tax-free centuries after their death. Possessed by a spirit of deranged libertarian fantasy, the pioneers of digital cash sought to design a system where absolutely everything could be stored in the form of data and retrievable as such.
After all, the only way a person could be revived centuries after the physical body perishes is to create a copy and run it back as a programmatic simulation. The consciousness that once animated that body would never actually be recovered, of course. Only a crude facsimile of an individual’s behavior and thought patterns can be transposed into a digital substrate and reproduced like a vinyl record, and perhaps given some ‘life-like’ qualities with an algorithm that could respond to stimuli from living beings who interact with the machine.
Phillip Salin, part of the team for Xanadu – the pioneering information commodification project that “promised to become a global network of terminals providing authoring and access to” practically everything – was the 59th person in history to undergo a cryogenic suspension procedure, having his head removed and stored in a freezer after passing away at the young age of 41.
The only way Salin and company can fulfill their dream of resurrection is if we, too, chop our heads off and join him them the digital universe he and his cohorts dedicated their lives to building, and unless we can distinguish between what’s truly valuable in life and what’s not, The Chamber of Digital Commerce is coming, machete-in-hand, to make sure we all attend Salin’s welcome back party.