At the end of 2022, I vowed to start the new year with a column called So You Don’t Have To.
The idea was simple: I’d read crypto books, watch fluff documentaries, and play Ponzi games. Then, after torturing myself enough, I’d report back with an honest review.
Unfortunately, I couldn’t have started with a more loathsome, vanilla, and hypocritical book than Catching Up To Crypto: Your Guide to Bitcoin and the Digital Economy by the equally loathsome, vanilla, and hypocritical Ben “BitBoy” Armstrong.
The book is a mere 204 pages (but trust me, it feels much longer), with nearly 50 of those devoted to notes and indices. The notes, in this case, include a bunch of referral links to four crypto exchanges, BitBoy’s ‘courses’ from BitLab Academy, and a few portfolio trackers and trading analytics. These are all found in the section titled ‘Essential Resources and Tools of the Trade.’
But let’s start with a couple of points pre-chapter one.
You’re joining a cult
First up, Raoul Pal wrote the foreword for the book. His page of bland statements can mostly be ignored, except for the fact that he calls BitBoy a “deep expert in the space.” I’m not sure how BitBoy is a deep expert in anything besides grifting his audience and shilling bad projects, but Raoul doesn’t go out of his way to explain.
Perhaps he was happy to write the foreword because BitBoy lets him shill his company and Twitter handle at the end.
Next up, in the preface, BitBoy describes the literal “come to God” moment that brought him into the realm of cryptocurrency: “The Lord spoke to me in a dream… [and said] by the end of the year [my wife and I] would be millionaires.”
It’s probably fair to file that under ‘cult-like and shallow.’ I mean, imagine God comes to you in a dream and all he says is, “You’ll make a lot of money!”
This is to say that while some cults — like religious fanaticism or fantasy-novels-turned-pseudo-religions — can be interesting to view from the outside, BitBoy’s attempt at a modern-day version of Dianetics proves to be even less persuasive and ultimately boring, with a mantra akin to “crypto is future, money is good.”
I hate this already
It was in the introduction that I realized I already hated BitBoy’s Catching Up To Crypto. While describing his first interactions with Bitcoin in (supposedly) 2012, he made numerous statements that not only make no sense but aren’t even true. For example:
- In 2012 and 2013 “selling Bitcoin was a lot harder than buying.”
- He claims that there was no information to reference in 2012, but only attempts to find videos on YouTube.
- BitBoy cites “Crypto Crow… Ian Balina” and “Ivan on Tech,” as great resources available in 2017, yet all individuals named are associated with scamming their audiences and relying on ref links for income.
However, despite all this, what made me most nauseous was the line, “The cliché ‘Rome wasn’t built in a day’ has proven true in my career as a crypto YouTuber.”
BitBoy is all about repetition without personality
Most of the chapters in this book are regurgitated slogans about Austrian economics, propaganda espousing the benefits of deflationary currency, brief discussions of why decentralization is best for privacy, and, of course, why cryptocurrencies are destined to take over the world.
There are innumerable hypocrisies scattered throughout the pages of this book, from the jumping-off point of his godly desire to be a millionaire to his repeated claims that fiat is “a worthless piece of paper.”
Unfortunately, these instances of insincerity aren’t funny, witty, or even enthralling. It’s just tiresome.
Recommendations (before we move on)
While intense and loud criticism for something as abhorrent as Catching Up To Crypto is necessary (after all, without it somebody might mistakenly go out and buy it), I also think it’s worth pointing people in the right direction if they want to read up on some of the topics covered in the book.
First of all, there’s a wonderful book by former New York Times reporter Nathaniel Popper entitled Digital Gold, which does a fantastic job of going over the early history of Bitcoin and the people involved.
Secondly, the BitMEX Research-sponsored book by Jonathan Bier called The Blocksize War: The battle over who controls Bitcoin’s protocol rules is a thorough explanation of the debate between so-called ‘big-blockers’ and ‘small blockers’ and does a much better job of detailing the intricacies.
Lastly, Laura Shin’s The Cryptopians: Idealism, Greed, Lies, and the Making of the First Big Cryptocurrency Craze does a much better job of objectively looking at the rise of Ethereum and its founders.
One of the best parts of the book is when BitBoy discusses “Moonboys and Lambos” and tries to help the reader understand and notice top signals for a market. Unfortunately, one of the top signals he points to is “paid celebrity endorsements… [getting] out of hand,” and celebrities not “disclosing that their posts were paid sponsorships.”
BitBoy was forced to pay ZachXBT, an anonymous cryptocurrency sleuth, $10,000 for not disclosing a paid sponsorship on a video. This is something he’s done numerous times, along with accepting coins and equity for mentioning tokens.
The funniest description in the entire book, however, is BitBoy’s attempt at explaining how hashing works: “Hashing a number is the same idea as chopping up potatoes to make hashbrowns: taking something uniform and scrambling it up. A simple definition of ‘hashing’ is that it’s a mathematics term for running some data through a formula. A hash is the result that comes out of the formula — like a plate of hashbrowns you order at Waffle House.”
BitBoy book provides no value
In short, there’s no value — redemptive, or otherwise — to Catching Up To Crypto. BitBoy charges $22 for this utter trash and there’s no getting those dirty “worthless pieces of paper” back after wasting several hours reading it.
Not wanting to risk this awful tome finding its way into the hands of another unsuspecting victim, I’ve chosen to do the only thing acceptable: I threw the book in the recycling, where I can rest assured it will never be discovered by another innocent dupe like me.