There’s no shortage of industry buzz around the idea that mass adoption is necessary in order for cryptocurrency and blockchain to become more effective solutions and realize their full potential.
But there’s also no shortage of skepticism around crypto, even in the face of its healthy ups and downs. And while constructive criticism can drive progress, skepticism can shut people off before they ever really get their foot in the door.
At the time of this piece’s publication, Bitcoin’s price has seen a bit of a downward trend—nothing that seems significantly different than the other ups and downs it’s experienced before. Many people attribute this particular dip to the recent limitations set on crypto by China, a major player in the global economy; it’s not some wild indicator of a currency come undone.
But with every sort of dip that crypto takes in its natural fluctuation, there comes the avalanche of pieces written by skeptics. They pile on this downward trend as an indicator of crypto’s weakness. “This might be ‘it,’” they say, referring to the beginning of crypto’s demise, and go on to claim it’s not sustainable, not needed, won’t yield the results people want, etc. One Forbes headline even reads, “Bitcoin Isn’t Down Because of China, It’s Down Because You Don’t Need It.”
We need to understand what specifically fuels this skepticism, so that we can address it directly. This skepticism can point us directly not just to vulnerabilities in the world of cryptocurrency and blockchain, but also to exactly what gaps exist in the public’s understanding of what we do.
Below, we walk through some of the barriers keeping people from getting into crypto. While by no means a comprehensive list, this is a starting point for understanding skeptics; breaking down your skeptics in terms of these barrier can help you provide more effective content.
Barrier #1 – Limited Technical Education
Education is not provided equally to everyone. Although initiatives have been launched to tackle this issue, “Unfortunately, in too many communities, especially those that are persistently underserved, serious gaps remain.” This can impact teaching in cutting-edge subjects like STEM, meaning that students end up without the background they need—limiting their abilities and potentially even leaving them intimidated by technical details, which may seem “over their head.”
STEM subjects often intimidate not just students, but even their teachers. Peer-reviewed studies have looked at this in many ways, including a study that correlated the rise of students’ math anxiety over the course of a year with their teacher’s math anxiety—including as relates to which gender is “better” at math.
There are many dimensions and angles from which to look at this, but the anxiety surrounding STEM is real enough that it can be transferred. These are contributing factors that make for not just technical details, but entire projects to go over people’s heads.
Teaching people in a clear, digestible manner about the concepts behind crypto and blockchain projects, combined with answering questions, can help start to mitigate this issue.
Barrier #2 – Need for Economic Education
This problem exists both within the industry as well as beyond.
We recently interviewed Tellor’s CTO, Nicholas Fett, whose education was in economics and whose first jobs were for government agencies. He put it best when he said, “For much of the industry, you have a technologist taking on the role of an economist. I’m sort of the economist pretending to be a technologist.”
Why does this matter? As Fett goes on to say, “Whenever you’re talking about things like, for instance, token generation, you have to put an inflation rate into the system. You have all of these computer scientists trying to figure out what an appropriate inflation rate system would be. Well, there’s a vast amount of economic literature out there that’s already… worked through the pros and cons of each situation.”
But the problem extends through the general public as well. In schools, the principles of arithmetic are universally taught. The same is not true for economics and finance; we do not all learn the principles of currency, for example.
Instead, the public has to rely heavily on media reporting and expert quotes, which can be very narrow in scope and lack context. This, in turn, does not support the type of critical thinking that could allow the public to feel more comfortable with concepts like cryptocurrency, and independently evaluate performance.
Again, shedding light on important economics principles can help overcome this barrier, as can general transparency about business processes.
Barrier #3 – Stories of “Having Been Burned”
Every industry and technology can run into problems at any point in its lifespan. But with all the hype and buzz surrounding its rapid ascent, controversies like the 2014 Mt. Gox implosion diverted attention onto a less positive path.
There are many stories about individuals who rapidly made fortunes in crypto—only to lose them just as rapidly, which doesn’t help attract new people; nor do stories of scammers, like the BBC’s coverage of OneCoin, seem to frequently come to light. This problem is compounded by the fact that the reasons why these losses happen—as well as how to prevent them and even how likely they really are—don’t get addressed.
Negative light cast on crypto and blockchain can be overcome with transparency. First and foremost, the onus is on each and every one of us to be open about how our product works. But in addition to that, we should help others know what questions to ask as they vet tokens and other projects.
For example, for those of us working with the public on investing, we warn everyone to be cautious about any businesses or individuals making promises about specific returns. We also share expert-reviewed, digestible insights on topics that include security.
As efforts continue to balance regulation of crypto with maintaining its core decentralization, the discussion around these efforts provide a natural occasion to address many skeptics’ concerns.
Barrier #4 – Limited Industry Diversity
The low representation of women in crypto is a topic that has been addressed frequently, with statistics consistently showing less than 10% of the industry being compromised of women, yet continues to exist with no easy fix. We’ve tried to surface opportunities and resources for women of all ages—from young adults through professionals—to enter the industry.
But it’s not just about gender; getting a wider range of ethnicities, educational backgrounds, and even socioeconomic classes involved in cryptocurrency and blockchain is important for healthy industry growth and mass adoption. If people see people they can identify with and relate to, they will feel more welcome to participate.
There are even documented business advantages to diversity. One whitepaper by a decision-making platform notes that diverse teams made better decisions than individuals 87% of the time. McKinsey notes that ethnically diverse companies outperform their peers by an average of 35%. BCG notes almost 20% higher revenue in companies with diverse management.
Each barrier to mass adoption noted above brings specific questions that need to be addressed, but the solutions tend to resolve around the themes of transparency and empowerment through knowledge. Pinpointing and providing clarity to your audience’s specific questions is a powerful way you can help your business—and the industry—grow.