John Oliver can't decide if cryptocurrency is a good thing

Commentary: The host of HBO show "Last Week Tonight with John Oliver" says this is where your lack of knowledge of money and computers collide.

Chris Matyszczyk
2 min read

Technically Incorrect offers a slightly twisted take on the tech that's taken over our lives.


Oh, that doesn't look so good.

Last Week Tonight/YouTube screenshot by Chris Matyszczyk/CNET

I'm a naturally suspicious sort. 

So when something -- or, worse, someone -- promises to radically alter my life, my chest frowns and my head hardens to the point of being able to safely butt a brick wall.

For some people, cryptocurrency is such a potentially life-altering thing. Just like the Gold Rush, you go mining, you find gold and your gold is worth a fortune. At least, that's how it appears.

Sunday night, HBO's John Oliver spent 25 minutes trying to get to the the bottom of bitcoin and friends to see whether it was all it seemed. 

The comedian ended up appearing to decide that if you can't beat them, you might as well at least get to know them, just in case some good might come out of it.

The short version of his investigation: "You're not investing. You're gambling."

Oliver tried to explain crypto's principles and meanderings by admitting that no one really knows if this is truly a social and financial revolution or whether it's merely another vast pyramid scheme. 

Early in his piece, he made it seem as if the Blockchain that underpins cryptocurrencies is a good thing because it's unhackable.

But then I read one of Monday's CNET headlines and wonder: "Binance offers $10 million in cryptocurrency to nab hackers."

It's near the end that Oliver presented what, for some, might reveal the more uncomfortable aspects of it all.

He showed part of an interview with Brock Pierce, a partner at EOS, one of the more prominent cryptocurrency companies.

"Everything will be better, faster and cheaper," Pierce said. "Everything will be more connected. Everything will be more trustworthy. Everything will be more secure. Everything that exists is no longer going to exist in the way that it does today. Everything in this world is about to get better."

"Oh, please, douche," observed Oliver, before adding: "How the f*** is EOS going to change this iguana?"

Of course, the fear of missing out on a fortune is strong. There will likely be winners and losers.

But as so often with winning and losing, I'll bet there will likely be far more losers than winners.

Blockchain Decoded:  CNET looks at the tech powering bitcoin -- and soon, too, a myriad of services that will change your life.

Technically Incorrect: Bringing you a fresh and irreverent take on tech.