Bitcoin crypto currency physical banknote and coin imitations.
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  • A recent Financial Times Magazine piece interviewed several early crypto superfans who have since become disillusioned.
  • Perhaps the most high-profile display of a crypto backer turning on the space is dogecoin creator, Jackson Palmer.
  • But the most vocal crypto proponents are not deterred. Twitter's Jack Dorsey says bitcoin will create "world peace."
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Crypto has plenty of detractors, but it is those who were once inside the tent that attract the most interest - and ire.

That's the upshot of a recent Financial Times Magazine piece that interviewed several early crypto superfans who have since become disillusioned with the sector.

The FT spoke with an unnamed figure dubbed "Neil," who in 2014, fresh out of college, joined Coinbase, then an obscure crypto startup. Neil, a computer science student, was first attracted to the idea of virtual money as a neat programming problem to solve.

But he quickly became swept up in the revolutionary ethos of the early crypto scene, which promised to take on the bad, old financial system and replace it with something better.

That spirit still lives on in some of today's most vocal crypto proponents. Take, for instance, Twitter's Jack Dorsey, who at a conference in July said the ultimate ambition of bitcoin is that it "creates world peace."

Or take Michael Saylor of MicroStrategy, which owns more than $5 billion (R71 billion) in bitcoin. At the Miami bitcoin conference in June now famous for the announcement El Salvador would officially adopt bitcoin, Saylor called the cryptocurrency "the apex property of the human race," saying it "fixes everything."

In 2014, that degree of crypto hype was less mainstream. Yet for Neil, the relative obscurity of crypto brought a certain coolness, a feeling of operating from the underground.

"I think nerdy types like me got fooled because bitcoin made us feel cool, like a Revenge of the Nerds type thing, so we were incentivised to not ask ourselves hard questions," Neil told the FT. "And then, the non-technical people got fooled because they didn't understand the technology."

Chris DeRose, a computer consultant-turned-bitcoin evangelist, was likewise enchanted by early crypto culture. In 2013, he quit his job to become a crypto podcaster, telling the FT that he loved the culture of open discourse that fueled the bitcoin and crypto communities then.

But as crypto rose to greater mainstream recognition, DeRose saw debate give way to dogma and uncritical hype.

"If you look online at 'what is bitcoin,' what you'll see is a gigantic amount of literature and decontextualised media snippets that paint a beautiful picture," DeRose told the FT.

"However, if you look at bitcoin off the screen, what you'll see is declining merchant uptake, zero evidence of blockchain deployment or efficiency, and mostly just a lot of promotional events offering cures to whatever ails you," he added.

But perhaps the most high-profile display of a crypto backer turning on the space has to be Jackson Palmer, the dogecoin creator who in July tore into the crypto space in a Twitter thread.

In the thread, Palmer called crypto an "inherently right-wing, hyper-capitalistic technology" that uses a "network of shady business connections" to "extract new money from the financially desperate and naïve." He compared it to a cult and a get-rich-quick scheme, and said he was leaving the space.

Still, despite these detractors, in many ways the crypto enthusiasts have won. Each passing day sees more and more big-ticket companies making inroads in crypto, shrugging off scams, hacks, and sharp volatility.

Billionaire investor Leon Cooperman, who is 78, summed up the zeitgeist earlier this week in an interview.

"I say that if you don't understand bitcoin, it means you're old."

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