Today, December 17, 2018, marks the one year anniversary of the death of happiness. The end of all light, the abandonment of hope. The moment the rats sniffed the air and, as if they shared one fevered, chittering supra-mind, began to flop gracelessly off the side of the sinking lambo.
One year ago today, bitcoin hit its all-time high.
That high was $19,783.06, according to CoinDesk’s index at the time. Coinmarketcap, thanks to whatever the Korean word for alchemy is, actually recorded a peak of $20,078.40.
As I wrote for Fortune on that very day, the peak represented a 1,824 percent (or so) rise over the price of bitcoin on January 1 of 2017. As I also wrote that day, there was broad consensus among experienced market-watchers that the run-up was a speculation-driven bubble. Mania had well and fully set in, thanks to uncritical hype flowing from an army of financially illiterate YouTube personalities, CNBC hosts who to this day can’t be bothered to distinguish an ICO from a stock, and—let’s be real—an all-too-willing army of degenerate gamblers at retail. One year later, bitcoin has led the rest of the crypto market back down the hill. Annual losses stand at 83 percent.
(For history: Coindesk’s “technical analyst” described the Last Day of Hope at the time as “in line with the bull flag breakout,” and said “there is merit in being cautiously bullish.” I can tell you one thing that’s bull-ish.)
What may be most notable, though, is that anyone who bought into crypto markets before the bubble is still sitting on pretty incredible investment returns: If you bought bitcoin at the May 2017 price of around $1750, you’ve nearly doubled your money in a year and a half. ETH and other alts have crashed a lot further, relatively. And there’s no reason to think things won’t keep retracing for months—or for that matter, years!
You were the one with your sweaty finger on the “buy” button.
But that slightly broader picture is why the wreckage of the crash has, so far, seemed so limited, particularly among blockchain startups and ICO-funded companies. There were some apparently real companies, like Sirin Labs, that raised money via ICOs at the height of the bubble, exposing them to massive subsequent losses. But many more projects, from Consensys (via Joe Lubin) to EOS to our own parent company, SingularDTV, raised crypto-funds well before the bubble, and well before the masses arrived. They’re still up (and in many cases, way up). Other operations, including exchanges like Coinbase, made big bucks off the hype, but didn’t have to grapple with any downside risk.
Of course, you didn’t buy in May of 2017. You bought in November, and your kid’s college fund is down 60 percent. You’re not getting back that house you mortgaged.
It’s certainly tempting, and to a great extent fair, to blame that on Ran NeuNer, DJ Khaled, corrupt news sites, Bitfinex, Julian Hosp, and the entire extended family of scammers, frauds, and brainlets who flooded the space before it all came crashing down. The SEC certainly seems to think those bad actors are worthy of attention, so here’s hoping 2019 will feature more well-deserved comeuppance.
But you’re not getting off the hook that easy. You were the one with your sweaty finger on the “buy” button. You were the one who decided a technology you didn’t understand would be your road to financial independence. You were the one who smashed “like” on every tweet dismissing caution from respected business news outlets as mere FUD, clearly bought and paid for by big banks, who you were SURE were simply terrified of bitcoin. You were the one mainlining hope and letting it destroy your brain.
So, yes, the voices that keep you awake are right—you were an idiot. You didn’t sell the ETH from your ICO because you thought the bull run would last forever. You let someone else tell you why blockchain would change the world. In a confused, smiling daze, you then filled your bags with Verge, because bitcoin was “too expensive.” You thought “things will be different this time.”
That’s why you probably aren’t reading this right now. Your fleeting interest has flown onward—to marijuana penny stocks, to Initiative Q, to Amway, to a hundred and one other big promises. But they won’t change your life, either. They won’t change who you are. You’re wrecked. You didn’t even learn anything. And you never will.