Transcript: The Seduction of Cryptocurrency | Jan 12, 2022

Steve Paikin sits at a desk with a glass table top. He has short, dark, curly hair and wears a dark coloured suit, light blue shirt and purple tie. Behind Steve is part of The Agenda logo, a lower case letter a. Steve’s hands are crossed. On the desk is a pen, papers, cell phone, glass of water and a book.

Steve says, IN SLIGHTLY MORE
THAN A DECADE, CRYPTOCURRENCY
WENT FROM NOTHING TO, WELL,
SOMETHING, BUT WHAT, IS NOT
EASILY EXPLAINED.

The Agenda logo, a lowercase and a period appears in the bottom left with text that reads, the seduction of cryptocurrency. Above is the Twitter logo, a bird, with text that reads, @spaikin, @theagenda.

Steve says, HOWEVER, WHAT IS CLEAR IS THAT
THE VIRTUAL OR DIGITAL MONEY HAS
DEVELOPED AN ALLURE THAT DRAWS
PEOPLE IN, IN WAYS THAT EVEN
THEY HAVE TROUBLE EXPLAINING.
JOURNALIST AND AUTHOR ETHAN LOU
IS AMONG THEM.

Ethan Lou hast short, black hair and glasses. He wears a red shirt under a light coloured sweater. He sits at a microphone in a kitchen.

Steve says, HIS NEW BOOK CHRONICLES HIS DEEP
DIVE INTO THAT WORLD.
IT'S CALLED: "ONCE A BITCOIN
MINER: SCANDAL AND TURMOIL IN
THE CRYPTOCURRENCY WILD WEST,"
AND IT BRINGS ETHAN LOU BACK TO
OUR VIRTUAL STUDIO TONIGHT FROM
THE DOWNTOWN CORE OF ONTARIO'S
CAPITAL CITY.

The cover of Ethan’s book is briefly displayed.

Steve says, ETHAN, IT'S GREAT TO SEE YOU
AGAIN.
I ENJOYED THE BOOK SO MUCH.
HOW ARE YOU DOING?

Ethan Lou says, I AM WELL.
THANK YOU FOR HAVING ME AGAIN,
STEVE.

Steve says, NOT AT ALL.
I, I'M GOING TO START FROM THE
PREMISE THAT THERE ARE VERY FEW
PEOPLE WATCHING US RIGHT NOW WHO
CAN REALLY TRULY EXPLAIN AND/OR
UNDERSTAND WHAT, FOR EXAMPLE,
CRYPTOCURRENCY OR BITCOIN IS.
SO WE'RE GOING TO THROW THIS
LITTLE EXPLAINER UP AND THEN
WE'LL COME BACK AND CHAT AFTER
THAT, OKAY?
SHELDON, IF YOU WOULD?

In a video, a person says, IN 2009, BITCOIN, THE FIRST
CRYPTOCURRENCY, WAS BORN.
BITCOIN IS DIGITAL, MEANING
THERE'S NO PHYSICAL COIN YOU CAN
TOUCH OR HOLD.
BUT IT IS DIFFERENT FROM THE
DIGITAL MONEY YOU SPEND SHOPPING
ONLINE.

Beside an icon of a smart phone with a dollar sign is a credit card.

The person says, BITCOIN IS WHAT IS KNOWN AS A
DECENTRALIZED DIGITAL CURRENCY.
THAT MEANS THERE ARE NO BANKS,
GOVERNMENT OR OTHER
INTERMEDIARIES OVERSEEING THESE
TRANSACTIONS.
BITCOIN AND OTHER
CRYPTOCURRENCIES RUN ON
BLOCKCHAIN TECHNOLOGY.

Ontario Hubs host Jeyan Jeganathan wears a navy blue shirt.

He says, THINK OF BLOCKCHAIN AS A
DATABASE.
INFORMATION IS STORED IN BLOCKS.
THIS INCLUDES THINGS LIKE
TRANSFERS AND PURCHASES.
ONCE A BLOCK IS FULL, IT IS
LINKED TO THE PREVIOUS BLOCK,
CREATING A CHAIN.
ALL THE BLOCKS ARE CONNECTED
CHRONOLOGICALLY, CREATING A
CHAIN THAT STARTED IN 2009 AND
CONTINUES TO THIS DAY.

An animation forms multiple blocks and connects them.

Jeyan says, SO WHY DOES BITCOIN HAVE VALUE?
THE SIMPLE ANSWER IS PEOPLE GIVE
IT THAT VALUE.
THEY TRUST IT.
CURRENCY CAN TAKE MANY FORMS,
BUT THE PROPERTIES OF WHAT IS
KNOWN AS SOUND MONEY ARE
UNIVERSAL.
DIVISIBILITY, DURABILITY,
RECOGNIZABILITY, PORTABILITY,
AND SCARCITY.
WHEN WE TALK ABOUT THE
DIVISIBILITY OF FIAT CURRENCY
LIKE CANADIAN DOLLARS, WE KNOW
THAT $1 CAN BE BROKEN INTO 100
CENTS.
IN COMPARISON, A SATOSHI IS THE
SMALLEST UNIT OF A BITCOIN,
EQUIVALENT TO 100 MILLIONTH OF A
BITCOIN.

An equation represents 1 bitcoin equalling 100,000,000 satoshis.

Jeyan says, UNLIKE CANADIAN DOLLARS WHICH
ARE PRINTED THROUGH THE BANK OF
CANADA, THERE IS A LIMIT ON HOW
MANY BITCOINS ARE AVAILABLE IN
THE MARKET.
ONLY 21 MILLION BITCOINS WILL
EVER BE PRODUCED.
NOW, THERE ARE TWO POPULAR WAYS
OF ACQUIRING BITCOIN.
YOU CAN PURCHASE THEM ONLINE OR
AT ONE OF THE 11,000 BITCOIN
ATMs ACROSS CANADA.
OR YOU CAN DO WHAT IS KNOWN AS
MINING.

A yellow helmet icon is displayed.

Jeyan says, NO, YOU WON'T BE NEEDING A
HELMET AND CHISEL FOR THIS TYPE
OF EXCAVATING, BUT RATHER A
POWERFUL COMPUTER.
THE CONCEPT OF MINING ISN'T ALL
THAT DIFFERENT FROM MINING GOLD.
AS YOU HELP PROCESS TRANSACTIONS
ON THE BLOCKCHAIN, YOU ARE
REWARDED WITH COINS.
ONE OF THE BIGGEST ADVANTAGES OF
CRYPTOCURRENCIES LIKE BITCOIN IS
THAT YOU CAN SEND LARGE SUMS OF
MONEY HALFWAY ACROSS THE WORLD
IN A MATTER OF TEN MINUTES.
BUT WHAT CAN YOU BUY WITH IT?

A hamburger icon is displayed.

Jeyan says, WHILE STILL LIMITED, YOU CAN BUY
FAST FOOD, A HOT CUP OF COFFEE,
PLANE TICKETS TO YOUR NEXT
VACATION, TICKETS TO CONCERTS
AND SPORTING EVENTS.
MORE RECENTLY, TESLA ANNOUNCED
IT WOULD START ACCEPTING BITCOIN
AS A PAYMENT METHOD FOR ITS
PRODUCTS AFTER BUYING
$1.5 BILLION U.S. IN BITCOIN.

An article reads, CNBC, Tesla buys $1.5 billion in bitcoin, plans to accept it as payment, by Steve Kovach, February 8, 2021. The video ends. Text reads, bitcoin’s promise.

Steve says, OKAY.
THANKS TO JEYAN JEGANATHAN FOR
THAT EXPLAINER.
LET'S GET TO IT.
WHAT GOT YOU, ETHAN LOU,
INTERESTED IN BITCOIN TO BEGIN
WITH?

Ethan Lou says, IT'S A VERY LONG
STORY AND IT BEGAN IN 2012-2013
AND THAT IS WHEN I FIRST HEARD
OF BITCOIN.

Text reads, Ethan Lou, author, “Once a Bitcoin Minter.”

Ethan Lou says, IT WAS ACTUALLY WHEN MY FRIENDS
AND I, WE WERE JUST ON THE DARK
WEB I GUESS FOR NO GOOD REASON,
AND THAT WAS MY FIRST TIME JUST
FIDDLING ABOUT ON THE DARK WEB.
AND I SAW THAT THOSE DARK WEB
MARKETPLACES, AND THIS WAS BACK
WHEN SILK ROAD, MOST INFAMOUS OF
THEM, WAS STILL RUNNING.
AND I SAW THAT THEY WERE
TRANSACTING WITH BITCOIN.
THAT WAS THE ONLY MEDIUM OF
TRANSACTION ALOUD THERE.
FROM THAT IT DID TAKE ME A
WHOLE YEAR TO ACTUALLY SINK MY
MONEY INTO BITCOIN, BUT THAT WAS
THE BEGINNING.

Steve says, AND WHAT MADE IT
ATTRACTIVE FOR YOU?

Ethan Lou says, HMM.
WELL, AT FIRST I COULD SEE WHY
PEOPLE WERE USING IT ON THE DARK
WEB.

Text reads, Ethan Lou, author, “Once a Bitcoin Minter.”

Ethan Lou says, IT'S BECAUSE THERE'S NO CENTRAL
ADMINISTRATOR TO THIS.
SO HOW BITCOIN WORKS IS THAT
IT'S ENTIRELY PEER TO PEER.
SO THOSE FUNDS DIRECTLY THEY
CAN'T BE FROZEN, THEY CAN'T BE
SEIZED.
AND THERE IS A CERTAIN
ATTRACTIVENESS TO THAT.
AND IF YOU THINK BEYOND THE DARK
WEB, THERE ARE LOTS OF OTHER
APPLICATIONS FOR THAT, AND YOU
CAN SEE THAT NOT ONLY DOES IT
HAVE VALUE, OTHER PEOPLE ARE
GOING TO SEE THAT IT HAS VALUE.
OF COURSE AT THE TIME I DIDN'T
FEEL THAT TO A 10, PROBABLY LIKE
A 3 OR 4.
IT WAS A GRADUAL PROCESS.

Steve says, OKAY, CAN'T BE FROZEN OR
SEIZED BUT IT CAN BE HACKED OR
STOLEN.
DIDN'T THAT DISTURB YOU AT ALL?

Ethan Lou says, YEAH.
SO I THINK THE ISSUE AND I THINK
SOMETHING THAT COULD POSSIBLY BE
CLEARED UP IS THAT LOTS OF TIMES
WHEN PEOPLE LOSE BITCOIN OR
OTHER CRYPTOS DUE TO HACKS, IT
WASN'T BITCOIN OR OTHER CRYPTOS
THEMSELVES THAT ARE HACKED, IT'S
USUALLY SOMETHING ELSE THAT IS
HACKED.
SO, FOR EXAMPLE, THE RECENT CASE
OF THE KID IN HAMILTON WHO
ALLEGEDLY STOLE $46 MILLION
WORTH OF CRYPTO.
HE DIDN'T HACK THE CRYPTO, HE
DID A SIM SWAP.
SO HE PRETENDED ALLEGEDLY TO BE
SOMEONE ELSE TO THE TELCO
COMPANY AND THUS ESSENTIALLY
STEALING THEIR IDENTITY.
AND FROM THERE, THAT'S HOW
PEOPLE STEAL CRYPTO.
AND ULTIMATELY THE BIGGEST
FEATURE OF BITCOIN IS ALSO ITS
BIGGEST BUG, THAT TRANSACTIONS
ARE IRREVERSIBLE.
SO ONCE STOLEN, IT'S GONE.

Steve says, WELL, THAT'S WHAT
MADE ME WONDER ABOUT WHAT A
SMART GUY LIKE YOU WHO HAD A
FULL-TIME JOB AS A JOURNALIST
AND YOU HAVE A BOOK UNDER YOUR
BELT, YOU'RE AN AUTHOR.
WHAT ARE YOU DOING MESSING
AROUND ON THE DARK WEB LOOKING
FOR LSD HANGING OUT WITH SOME OF
THESE VERY SHADY CHARACTERS.
I MEAN, ETHAN, C'MON.
YOU'RE SUCH A NICE YOUNG MAN.
WHAT ARE YOU DOING?

Ethan laughs.

He says, WELL, I WAS A
YOUNG MAN AT THE TIME.
IT WAS JUST AFTER MY SECOND YEAR
OF UNIVERSITY.
I ONLY FINISHED UNIVERSITY IN
LIKE 2015.
AND WHY DO YOUNG MEN DO WHAT
THEY DO?
IT'S THE SAME REASON THAT PEOPLE
CLIMB TALL PILES OF ROCK OR RIDE
RAGING FARM ANIMALS, JUST TO SEE
HOW LONG THEY CAN STAY ATOP.

Steve says, OKAY, I THINK THAT
ACTUALLY MAKES SOME SENSE.
NOW, YOU HAD A JOB, AS I
SUGGESTED, AT THE REUTERS NEWS
AGENCY, YOU'RE A FULL-TIME
JOURNALIST THERE, AND THEN YOU
QUIT.
I WANT TO READ AN EXCERPT FROM
THE BOOK HERE WHICH TELLS THE
STORY AFTER THAT.
YOU WRITE: THEN, ALMOST INSTANTLY,
I WANTED MORE…

Steve reads a quote titled betting it all on bitcoin, that is displayed beside Ethan’s book.

Steve reads, …AND THERE WAS INDEED MORE.
CRYPTOCURRENCY HAD ONLY BEEN
AROUND SINCE 2009.
EVERYTHING WAS STILL IN ITS INFANCY.
LIKE EVERYONE ELSE I’D MET,
I HAD BEEN SEDUCED BY THIS NEW WORLD
AND ITS POTENTIAL AND OPPORTUNITIES.
LATER, WHEN SEARCHING FOR A SIMPLE
EXPLANATION FOR WHAT I DID NEXT, I
WOULD CITE THIS, THAT IN THAT MOMENT
WHEN I CAME TO TRULY UNDERSTAND MY
WEALTH, MY HEART HAD BEEN FILLED AND
PIERCED WITH BEWITCHMENT AND WITH
DESIRE, FOR THE ENCHANTED GOLD
BEYOND PRICE AND COUNT.

Below the quote, text reads, - Ethan Lou, “Once a Bitcoin Miner” (2021).

Steve says, ALL RIGHT.
LET'S GET INTO THIS.

Text reads, the frontier spirit.

Steve asks, HOW DOES MINING CRYPTOCURRENCY
LEAD TO THE KIND OF WEALTH OR
FINANCIAL COMFORT THAT
APPARENTLY GAVE YOU ENOUGH
COMFORT TO QUIT A REAL FULL-TIME
JOB?

Ethan nods.

He says, HMM.
WELL, SO FIRST OF ALL, I WOULD
SAY WHEN I QUIT THAT JOB, I
WOULDN'T PUT IT LIKE HOW SOMEONE
STRIKES A LOTTERY AND THEN
SPENDS THEIR TIME SAILING ALL
THE TIME.
I WOULD LIKEN IT MORE TO, SAY, A
LAWYER QUITTING A CORPORATE JOB
WHERE HE DOES MERGERS AND
ACQUISITIONS AND THEN GOES ON TO
START HIS OWN FIRM AND DOING
CASES THAT ARE MORE MEANINGFUL
TO HIM.
I STILL, I HAVE A COLUMN IN
THE FINANCIAL POST.
I WRITE IN THE GLOBE AND THE
STAR FROM TIME TO TIME.
SO I HAVE NOT LEFT MY ACTUAL
CAREER.
IT WAS JUST MORE OF A CHANGING
OF THE EMPLOYER.
MINING DIDN'T ACTUALLY MAKE ME
THAT MUCH MONEY.
IT WAS THAT INVESTMENT BACK IN
2013.
SO WHEN I FIRST GOT INTO
BITCOIN, THAT WAS, I BOUGHT IT
WHEN IT WAS AS LOW AS A THOUSAND
AND AS LOW AS 200.
SO 2017, IT WENT UP TO 20,000.
I DON'T HAVE ALL OF THAT MONEY
RIGHT NOW.
BUT AT THE TIME, I DID HAVE A
LOT.

Text reads, Ethan Lou, author, “Once a Bitcoin Minter.”

Steve says, YEAH, YOU WERE A
MILLIONAIRE AT ONE POINT, WERE
YOU NOT?

Ethan Lou says, YEAH, THAT IS
CORRECT.
AND THAT IS, THAT WAS A PRETTY
WILD THING, EH?

Steve laughs.

He asks, HOW OLD
WERE YOU WHEN YOU WERE A
MILLIONAIRE?

Ethan Lou says, 27.
I JUST TURNED 27.
AND I WAS JUST TWO YEARS OUT OF
UNIVERSITY.

Steve says, THAT'S NOT TOO BAD.
BUT AT A CERTAIN POINT YOU DID
GET, WHAT DID YOU GET?
BORED OF MINING CRYPTOCURRENCY
OR HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE WHAT
OVERCAME YOU?

Ethan Lou says, HMM.
WELL, I THINK LOTS OF THINGS,
THEY ARE NEVER JUST ONE THING, A
MULTITUDE OF FACTORS.
AND ONE OF THE REASONS I STARTED
MINING WAS ALSO AS A VEHICLE FOR
THIS BOOK.

Text reads, Ethan Lou, @Ethan_Lou.

Ethan Lou says, AND I HAD BEEN THINKING OF
WRITING THIS BOOK FOR A LONG
TIME, I THINK EVER SINCE 2014.
YOU KNOW, ONE OF THE THINGS YOU
HAVE TO PUT IN A BOOK PROPOSAL
IS WHY ARE YOU THE PERSON TO
WRITE THIS BOOK.
AND FOR THE LONGEST TIME I COULD
NOT ANSWER THAT QUESTION.
AND MINING WAS A WAY TO ANSWER
THAT QUESTION AND AS I FOCUSED
MORE ON THE BOOK, I SORT OF
WRAPPED THAT UP.

Steve says, DO YOU HAVE A BETTER
ANSWER TO THE QUESTION NOW?

Ethan’s book, Once A Bitcoin Miner, is displayed beside him.

Ethan Lou says, YEAH.
AND I THINK ULTIMATELY, I
THINK WHAT PEOPLE SEARCH FOR
WHEN THEY GO INTO THIS WORLD OF
CRYPTOCURRENCY, IT'S ALSO WHAT
PEOPLE SEARCH FOR WHEN THEY LUST
AFTER THE WILD WEST BACK IN
THOSE DAYS.
THEY'RE SEARCHING FOR FREEDOM
AND ADVENTURE.
AND BACK THEN, I WANT TO SAY
BACK THEN, I WAS VERY YOUNG.
I'M STILL YOUNG NOW.
AND I THINK NAIVE PEOPLE LIKE
ME, I THINK WE ARE SEARCHING FOR
THOSE THINGS.

Steve says, WELL YOU DO POINT OUT YOU
WRITE FOR OTHER PUBLICATIONS AS
WELL AND YOU DID WRITE IN THE GLOBE
AND MAIL THAT BITCOIN INVOKES
THAT LONGSTANDING PHENOMENON WE
KNOW AS THE FRONTIER MYTH.
HOW DOES IT DO THAT?

Ethan Lou says, WELL, I THINK
I'M NOT THE FIRST PERSON TO MAKE
THAT COMPARISON.
I THINK LOTS OF PEOPLE HAVE
COMPARED BITCOIN AND
CRYPTOCURRENCY, THIS WORLD TO
THE WILD WEST.
WHERE OUR CONCLUSIONS DIFFER IS
THAT I DON'T CONSIDER THE
COMPARISON TO BE AN INSULT.
I THINK WHILE THE ACTUAL WILD
WEST IS FULL OF INJUSTICE,
COLONIALISM, AND BRUTALITY, THE
IDEA OF THE WEST, WHAT BECKONS
PEOPLE THERE, THAT IS VERY
POSITIVE.
WHY DO PEOPLE GO TO THE WEST IN
THE PAST?
BECAUSE IT OFFERS FREEDOM AND IT
OFFERS OPPORTUNITY AND RICHES.
BUT MORE IMPORTANT THAN THAT, IN
THE WILD WEST YOU ARE FREE FROM
THE SOCIETAL HIERARCHIES BACK HOME.
HOW THINGS ARE STRUCTURED IN
NORMAL SOCIETY MAY NOT MATTER
THAT MUCH IN THE WEST.
AND I THINK THE WORLD OF CRYPTO
IS VERY MUCH LIKE THAT, AND
PEOPLE SEEKING IT ARE PEOPLE
SOUGHT IN THE WEST BACK THEN.

Steve says, SO THERE IS IN YOUR
VIEW A KIND OF A TYPICAL
CRYPTO PERSONALITY THAT MIGHT BE
PARTICULARLY ATTRACTED TO THAT
WORLD; IS THAT FAIR TO SAY?

Ethan Lou says, OH, YEAH,
ABSOLUTELY.
BUT I THINK THE WORLD IS DIVERSE
AND WE ALL HAVE A LOT OF
DIFFERENCES, BUT I THINK
UNDERNEATH ALL THAT, EVERYONE IN
IT DOES HAVE SOMETHING VERY
SIMILAR BECAUSE WHEN I WENT TO
NORTH KOREA FOR THAT
CRYPTO CONFERENCE, RIGHT BEFORE
THEN I MET A WHOLE BUNCH OF THE
OTHER ATTENDEES.

Text reads, the future of money.

Ethan Lou says, WE HAD NOTHING IN COMMON.
BUT THE FIRST THING A GUY SAID
TO ME IS WHY DID YOU DECIDE TO
DO THIS OUTLANDISH THING OF
GOING TO NORTH KOREA.
AND MY ONLY RESPONSE WAS: WELL,
WHAT ABOUT YOU?
AND WE ALL JUST LAUGHED.
AND WE NEVER REALLY ADDRESSED
THAT.
BUT I THINK WE KNEW WE SHARED
SOMETHING IN AN UNSPOKEN WAY.

Steve laughs.

He says, WELL AS A MATTER OF FACT,
THAT IS QUESTION 8 ON MY LIST
HERE:
WHY IN HEAVEN'S NAME WOULD YOU
GO TO NORTH KOREA?
YOU SORT OF ANSWERED IT NOW.
LET'S PUT IT THIS WAY.
ADMITTEDLY, YOU'RE A BIT OF A
CHILD OF THE WORLD.
YOU WERE BORN IN CHINA BUT YOU
GREW UP IN WEST GERMANY AND NOW
HERE YOU ARE IN NORTH KOREA.
DID IT AT ANY POINT OCCUR TO YOU
THAT THAT WOULD NOT BE THE
SMARTEST THING IN THE WORLD TO
DO?

Ethan Lou says, FIRSTLY, WHY I
DECIDED TO GO TO NORTH KOREA
OTHER THAN THE CRYPTO ASPECT
BECAUSE NORTH KOREA WAS HOLDING
A CRYPTOCURRENCY CONFERENCE.

Text reads, Ethan Lou, author, “Once a Bitcoin Minter.”

Ethan Lou says, IT WAS ALSO THAT I THINK OF
NORTH KOREA AS A TIME CAPSULE.
WHEN I TELL MY PARENTS HOW WEIRD
NORTH KOREA IS, THEY WOULD SAY,
IT'S NOT WEIRD, THIS IS THE
CHINA IN WHICH I GREW UP.
BUT OVER THE YEARS, CHINA HAS
CHANGED A LOT AND NORTH KOREA
HAS REMAINED RATHER STAGNANT.
I HAVE ALWAYS THOUGHT IF I CAN GO TO
NORTH KOREA, I CAN SORT OF SEE
HOW MY PARENTS GREW UP.
AND I'VE LONG WANTED TO GO TO
NORTH KOREA.
AND WHEN THE CRYPTO CONFERENCE
CAME, THAT WAS, I WAS LIKE, I
HAVE TO GO.
AND ALSO I SHOULD SAY THAT NORTH
KOREA, BEFORE THE PANDEMIC AT
LEAST, IT HAD OPENED ITSELF TO
TOURISM.
LOTS OF PEOPLE GO THERE ALL THE
TIME.
AND SO WHILE IT MAY NOT SEEM
LIKE A NORMAL THING TO DO, IT'S
NOT, IN MY VIEW AT LEAST,
COMPLETELY OUTLANDISH.

Steve says, WELL, IT MAY BE THAT
MORE PEOPLE ARE GOING THERE.
BUT IF I READ YOUR BOOK
CORRECTLY, THERE'S A LOT MORE
PEOPLE THAT ARE TRYING TO GET
OUT OF THERE RIGHT NOW.
AS YOU LOOK BACK ON THE
EXPERIENCE RIGHT NOW, WOULD YOU
ADVISE OTHER PEOPLE TO GO TO
NORTH KOREA?

Ethan Lou says, HMM.

Ethan looks thoughtful.

He says, WELL, I WOULD SAY I GUESS
PROBABLY YES.
I GUESS IT DEPENDS ON YOUR
PERSONAL RISK TOLERANCE.

Text reads, Ethan Lou, author, “Once a Bitcoin Minter.”

Ethan Lou says, I ACTUALLY DON'T SEE WHY NOT.
BUT PROBABLY NOT IN THE PANDEMIC
BECAUSE THEY SUSPENDED THESE
TOURS.
BUT IF THEY EVER COME BACK
AGAIN, THESE ARE LEGITIMATE
TOURISM COMPANIES AND THEY TAKE
YOU THERE, AND GENERALLY I WOULD
THINK OF IT AS QUITE SAFE.

Text reads, Ethan Lou, @Ethan_Lou.

Steve says, WELL, LET ME ASK YOU
ABOUT A HIGH-PROFILE FIGURE IN
THE CRYPTOCURRENCY WORLD, A MAN
BY THE NAME OF VIRGIL GRIFFITH
WHO WAS ON THE SAME TRIP AS YOU.
WHAT HAPPENED TO HIM?

Ethan nods.

He says, MM-HMM.
WELL, HE GOT ARRESTED.
MAYBE TO ADDRESS THE PREVIOUS
QUESTION AGAIN.
IF YOU'RE AMERICAN, IT WOULD
PROBABLY BE A GOOD IDEA NOT TO
GO TO NORTH KOREA BECAUSE HE
WAS, HE HAD THE ILL FATE OF
BEING BORN AN AMERICAN AND
AMERICANS, THEY CAN'T GO TO
NORTH KOREA AFTER SOMEONE WENT
THERE, GOT DETAINED, AND LATER
DIED.

Text reads, Ethan Lou, author, “Once a Bitcoin Minter.”

Ethan Lou says, SO HE NOT ONLY, HE WASN'T
ALLOWED TO GO, HE SOUGHT
PERMISSION TO GO, HE WAS DENIED.
AND SO THEY WERE CLEARLY
WATCHING HIM FROM THE BEGINNING.
AND THEN HE GAVE A SPEECH THERE
AND HE WAS ACCUSED OF IMPARTING
TECHNICAL ADVICE TO NORTH KOREA
WITH RESPECT TO CRYPTO AND WITH
RESPECT TO EVADING SANCTIONS AND
HE PLEADED GUILTY IN SEPTEMBER
OF THIS YEAR.

Steve says, LET ME RAISE ANOTHER
GUY WHO IS A BIG PLAYER IN YOUR
BOOK AND HIS NAME IS JAN CERATO
WITH WHOM, YOU ACTUALLY
PUBLISH IN THE BACK OF YOUR BOOK
A LENGTHY EMAIL EXCHANGE THAT
THE TWO OF YOU HAD.

Ethan nods.

Steve says, YOU SEEM QUITE BALANCED DURING
THE COURSE OF IT.
HE SEEMED QUITE, WELL, I'M NOT
SURE WHAT WORD TO USE.
"DISTRACTED" I GUESS IS A GENTLE
WAY OF DESCRIBING THE WAY THAT
HIS EMAILS SEEMED TO YOU.
OKAY.
TALK TO ME ABOUT YOUR
RELATIONSHIP WITH HIM AND HOW IT
ENDED UP.

Ethan Lou says, MM-HMM.
SO IT WAS ACTUALLY A TEXT
EXCHANGE.
BUT, YEAH, MY RELATIONSHIP WITH
HIM.

Text reads, Ethan Lou, author, “Once a Bitcoin Minter.”

Ethan Lou says, I FIRST CAME ACROSS HIM WHEN I
WENT TO THIS CRYPTO MEETUP IN
CALGARY.
AND IT WAS BRANDED AS A
WORKSHOP.
BUT WHEN I WALKED IN, THERE WERE
PEOPLE CLEARLY SELLING A SCAM.
THERE WAS THIS GUY, HE LITERALLY
QUOTED THE BIBLE.
HE SAID: TRUST IN THE LORD WITH
ALL YOUR HEART AND LEAN NOT TO
YOUR OWN UNDERSTANDING.
AND THAT PROJECT WAS EVENTUALLY
SUED BY THE SEC IN THE U.S.
AND I SHOULD SAY JAN CERATO'S
SIDE OF THE STORY, THAT HE WOULD
LATER SAY HE HAD NOTHING AT ALL
TO DO WITH THE EVENT BUT HE WAS
LISTED AS THE ORGANIZER OF THE
EVENT.
SO THAT WAS WHEN I FIRST CAME
ACROSS HIM.
AND HE WOULD BE INVOLVED IN A
CASE IN THE BOOK WHICH IS NOW
BEFORE THE ALBERTA SECURITIES
COMMISSION, AND AGAIN HIS SIDE
OF THE STORY IS THAT IN THAT
CASE HE HAD ONLY A MINIMAL ROLE
AND HE WAS JUST A MARKETING GUY
AND NOT THE RING LEADER.
BUT FROM WHAT SOURCES TELL ME
AND FROM WHAT I WRITE IN THE
BOOK, THE RECORDS THAT I HAVE
SEEN AND WHAT THE ASC IS
ACCUSING HIM OF, HE RAN THIS
ILLEGAL INVESTING CLUB, AND
PEOPLE BASICALLY GAVE THEM THEIR
MONEY AND HE WOULD, OR THE
CLUB WOULD INVEST IT ON THEIR
BEHALF IN VARIOUS
CRYPTOCURRENCIES.

Text reads, Ethan Lou, author, “Once a Bitcoin Minter.”

Ethan Lou says, IT WAS CALLED THE WHALE CLUB.
AND ULTIMATELY IT WAS A CASE OF
THE BLIND LEADING THE BLIND.
AND LOTS OF PEOPLE LOST LOTS OF
MONEY.

Text reads, Ethan Lou, @Ethan_Lou.

Steve says, ARE YOU ONE OF THEM?

Ethan Lou says, NO.
I THINK FROM THE BEGINNING I DID
NOT THINK OF THAT AS SOMETHING I
WOULD PUT MY MONEY INTO.
IT WAS INDEED A LITTLE
SUSPICIOUS.
BUT 2017, LET ME TELL YOU, THAT
WAS A WILD TIME.
BITCOIN WENT FROM 1,000 TO
20,000.
ALL SORTS OF PROJECTS WERE
ENTERING AND ALL SORTS OF PEOPLE
WERE CLAIMING ALL SORTS OF
EXPERTISE.
AND THE INTERESTING THING IS
THAT YOU DIDN'T NEED TO KNOW
WHAT YOU WERE DOING TO MAKE
MONEY BECAUSE EVERYONE'S A
GENIUS IN A BULL MARKET.

Steve chuckles.

Ethan Lou says, WHEN THE CRYPTO WINTER COMES, IT
CAME FOR EVERYONE.

Steve nods.

He says, IN OUR LAST COUPLE
OF MINUTES HERE, I GUESS ONE OF
THE THINGS THAT HELPED ME
UNDERSTAND CRYPTOCURRENCY WAS
THE NOTION THAT, YOU KNOW, AIR
MILES IS A KIND OF CURRENCY.
AEROPLAN POINTS ARE A KIND OF
CURRENCY.
YOU COLLECT THEM AND YOU SPEND
THEM.
AND CRYPTOCURRENCY, BITCOIN, I
GUESS, IS THE SAME KIND OF
THING.
MY QUESTION FOR YOU IS: NOW THAT
YOU'VE LOOKED INTO THIS SO MUCH
AND SPENT SO MUCH TIME ON IT, DO
YOU THINK THAT CRYPTOCURRENCY IS
GOING TO BECOME, AS AIR MILES
AND AEROPLAN POINTS HAVE, DO YOU
THINK IT'S GOING TO BECOME MORE
MAINSTREAM AND EVERYDAY PEOPLE
ARE GOING TO BE INTO THIS IN A
BIG WAY?

Ethan Lou says, YEAH,
ABSOLUTELY.
AND I THINK, YEAH, YOU CAN
DEFINITELY DRAW THE COMPARISON
BETWEEN BITCOIN AND AIR MILES,
BUT THERE IS A BIG DIFFERENCE
THERE IN THAT AIR MILES, WHETHER
YOU HAVE IT, HOW YOU SPEND IT,
IT DEPENDS ON THE BENEVOLENCE OF
THE COMPANY CONTROLLING IT.

Text reads, Ethan Lou, author, “Once a Bitcoin Minter.”

Ethan Lou says, AND I WOULD TELL YOU A STORY
ABOUT BITCOIN THAT I LOVE
TELLING, IT ILLUSTRATES I THINK
IN THE BEST WAY ITS USE CASE.
SO IN AFGHANISTAN, BACK WHEN THE
TALIBAN WERE TAKING OVER AND
WHEN REFUGEES TRIED TO FLEE,
THEY ALL, MOST OF THEM, THEY
CAN'T LEAVE WITH THEIR MONEY.
THEY LEAVE OFTEN PENNILESS
BECAUSE OF HOW BAD THE FINANCIAL
INFRASTRUCTURE IS AND HOW BAD
THEIR CURRENCY IS.
BUT THERE WAS THIS YOUNG LADY
I'VE HEARD WHO HAD BITCOIN, AND
IT WAS A HARROWING JOURNEY FOR
HER OUT OF AFGHANISTAN.
SHE HAD TO CROSS IRAN AND TURKEY
AND HER SHIP SANK IN THE
MEDITERRANEAN.

Text reads, Ethan Lou, @Ethan_Lou.

Ethan Lou says, BUT WHEN SHE LANDED IN GERMANY,
SHE EFFECTIVELY, WHEN YOU
MEMORIZE YOUR PASS PHRASE, YOU
EFFECTIVELY JUST CARRY BITCOINS
IN YOUR HEAD.
SO SHE WAS ABLE TO USE TWO
BITCOINS TO FUND A NEW LIFE IN
GERMANY.
AND I THINK AT THE END OF THE
DAY OUR FINANCIAL
INFRASTRUCTURE, WE TAKE A LOT OF
THESE THINGS FOR GRANTED BUT WE
FORGET HOW FRAGILE THEY ARE AND
HOW QUICKLY THEY CAN FADE AWAY.
BUT BITCOIN AT ITS HEART IT'S AN
ANTI-FRAGILE VERSION OF THAT.

Steve says, WELL, IT IS A
FASCINATING AND DRAMATIC STORY
AND IT'S WELL TOLD IN "ONCE A
BITCOIN MINER: SCANDAL AND
TURMOIL IN THE CRYPTOCURRENCY
WILD WEST."

Ethan’s book
is displayed beside him.

Steve says, AND IT'S BROUGHT ETHAN LOU TO
OUR VIRTUAL STUDIO TONIGHT FROM
DOWNTOWN TORONTO IN ONTARIO'S
CAPITAL CITY AND, ETHAN, IT'S
BEEN GOOD TO SEE YOU AGAIN.
STAY WELL, OKAY?

Ethan Lou says, ALWAYS A
PLEASURE.

Ethan smiles. Text reads, produced by Carla Lucchetta, @carrletta.

Watch: The Seduction of Cryptocurrency