Bitcoin — Chaos ProxyDecember 15, 2017
I don’t understand Bitcoin. I believe the general inability to discern the underpinnings of cryptocurrencies is a pillar of its meteoric rise. An asset, if that’s what we can call it, not saddled with intrinsic, granular measures of value can trade on intangibles and momentum. Bitcoin is not nuisanced with earnings, yield, or other benchmarks for valuation.
Similarly, one of Amazon’s genius moves has been to shed a source of gravity, keeping most retail stocks in the near-stratosphere. That source of gravity is profits. Amazon’s stock trades more on intangibles — vision and dominance.
I was on Bloomberg and CNBC this week (because I’m a really big fucking deal). Both times I was asked to comment on Bitcoin. If you believe this means many of the people on TV discussing investments don’t have a deep understanding of what they’re talking about, trust your instincts. But I digress …
If it’s just straight supply and demand, then Bitcoin should enjoy more gains. The generation powering Bitcoin saw their parents get rich off stocks, but also saw them get hit hard in the recession, turning them away from stocks and on to speculative investments. The chaser effect here is the world’s largest infection of FOMO. Despite not understanding nor owning any Bitcoin, I’ve been on the Coinbase app this week exploring how I too can get rich and, more importantly, feel young again.
My best attempt to distill the Bitcoin phenomenon is that crypto is a chaos proxy. As young people lose faith in institutions, they turn to investments that aren’t affiliated with nations, central banks, or the institutions that govern them. A pretty easy correlation is the election of Trump, the ensuing chaos, and the 2000+ percentage gain in Bitcoin. On election night Manhattan residents recognized we really do live on an island.
I predicted on CNBC that if Roy Moore won the Alabama senate race, Bitcoin would explode the following day, as chaos would gain momentum. He lost, and it looks as if Bitcoin responded. Things started looking ugly for the judge around 7pm, when Bitcoin was trading at $17,259. The AP called the race for Jones at 10:23pm, and by 11pm it was trading near day lows at $16,465. Note, as I write this at 1am it’s recovered most, if not all, of the losses.
There have been a number of chaos-inducing moments in 2017. But my vote goes to Trump’s “fire and fury” comments about North Korea on August 8th. Over the next seven days, Bitcoin increased 25% from $3,358 to $4,181. So? Safe havens, like gold, aren’t new. But this feels different. Crypto is the collective eyeroll of a generation that looks at its parents and sees them celebrating the election results in Alabama, boasting redemption in a 1.5% margin of victory over a pedophile. The signal from Tuesday’s election is not inspiring or faith restoring, but simple:
When my oldest was two, he’d wake up at dawn, gather some of his most precious possessions (Matchbox cars), put them in a wicker basket, and head to our room. He would stand at the door and extend the basket, a nonverbal offering of sorts, in exchange for us letting him into bed with us. We would refuse and take him back to his bed. This cycle would repeat every 15 minutes for the next two hours until we all got up. There were several mornings we would find him asleep just outside our door, wanting to come in but too afraid of being rejected.
There are few things about parenting I regret more than turning away our oldest from joining us in sleep.
Our intentions were good. Western research on co-sleeping emphasizes the importance of kids developing coping systems, and the confidence they derive from sleeping on their own. Also, it’s important that parents nourish their own relationship and intimacy. But there’s no one-size-fits-all here, and most cultures lean on the side of a pack approach to sleep. It takes a few books on raising kids to realize one thing: nobody has an algorithm for successful parenting. (Note: I’m talking about parents co-sleeping with young children, as there are safety risks associated with co-sleeping with infants.)
I counsel new parents to do what feels right for them, and to trust their instincts. Our instinct, and what we’ve done the last several years, is to ensure everyone starts in their own bed (though our dog sleeps at the foot of the bed of our youngest), and see where things play out the rest of the night. Some nights everyone wakes up where they started, most there are three or four in our bed. Occasionally I exit the crowded parking lot and enjoy some solo slumber in the recently vacated bed of my oldest.
In the US, parents are closeted about the amount of co-sleeping that takes place. We’ve been inculcated in the bullshit notion that it’s unnatural. There are few things that feel more natural. The Japanese are big on co-sleeping, referring to the practice as “the river”: mom and dad as the banks, and the child in-between the water.
The water (sons) in our bed are serene rivers that storm unexpectedly, delivering kicks to the face and errant questions (“Dad, is it time to get up?” “No, go back to sleep”). My youngest is most comfortable sleeping perpendicular across my throat like a 35-pound bow tie. This is strangely relaxing for me, and I nod off. Or it could be mild asphyxiation that renders me unconscious. My oldest likes to have one foot touching his mom or dad, at all times. He will sit up every 90 minutes and just look around the room, then go back to sleep.
Einstein supposedly said the most powerful force in the universe is compound interest. That makes sense. A pillar of financial advice is that small, disciplined investments over a long period of time yield huge benefit. My dad’s biggest fear, as a child of the Depression, is that he’ll die broke (he’s fine). My biggest fear is that my selfish tendencies translate to a lack of investment in relationships, and I’ll die alone. One place I’ve invested, early and often, is with my boys. I’m banking the small investments made several times a week in the middle of the night will pay off. Less space in bed, errant bruises, and generally less sleep are investments compounding toward one goal: they remember their parents chose them, over anything else.
We come into and leave this world alone and vulnerable, wanting the touch of people we know love us so we can sleep in peace. I trust these investments will make it instinctual for our boys, when their mom and dad are old and vulnerable, to lie with and comfort us … so we can sleep in peace.
Life is so rich,