Memes Mean Mad Money. Those Silly Defi Memes, They’re Really Important (#GotBitcoin?)
Sushi, Hotdogs, Yams, Shrimp. It’s all imaginary, they say. It’s not real. Memes Mean Mad Money. Those Silly Defi Memes, They’re Really Important (#GotBitcoin?)
The whimsical, food-obsessed names of of the latest decentralized finance (DeFi) outfits are antithetical to the stodgy imagery of the mainstream financial system they seek to disrupt. Banks’ memes, by contrast, skew toward strength and durability.
(Think of the lion statues and Roman columns guarding bank branches in old parts of London, New York or Paris.)
DeFi’s critics say the silly names show it’s merely a fad, a game – or worse – a scam. It’s all imaginary, they say. It’s not real.
The problem with that perspective is that all aspects of money, including the financial systems built on top of it, are imaginary.
And, in case you’re wondering, that’s a feature, not a bug.
Israeli historian Yuval Harari calls money “the most successful story ever told,” even more important to the evolution of society than religion, corporations and a host of other human-imagined institutions. Like those concepts, money’s power hinges on the collective adoption of a common belief system.
It takes a set of mutually understood rules and gives them symbolic representation in a token we call a currency. In exchanging that token, we reach agreements that reflect those rules and so enable commerce, collaboration, value creation and, ultimately, civilization.
Storytelling and cultural creation have always been integral to how society fosters this belief system, how we’ve forged communities around currencies. It’s why representations of money and the conversations around it are rich with iconography, foundational myths and stirring language.
This process of collective imagination has become firmly tied to another powerful imaginary concept: the nation-state. This combination has been so effective that it has survived the introduction of new technologies and tokens over time. We’ve gone from shells to coins to banknotes to checks to credit cards to Venmo, and each time we’ve just accepted that a new transfer vehicle can convey the same rules and values we’ve always attached to our national currencies.
This is a useful lens to apply to the many new ideas for money bubbling up in the crypto world. Whether it’s bitcoin’s bid to become a digital gold-like currency or the fight between Uniswap and SushiSwap to dominate liquidity in DeFi’s lending markets, the semiotic process for creating memes and stories is vital to the establishment of a new system. We need to reimagine money.
If you have a $100 bill in your wallet, take a good look at it.
On one side, there’s Ben Franklin’s balding head and torso, behind which are a quill, an inkwell with the Liberty Bell superimposed onto it, and an extract from the Declaration of Independence. There are also the seals of the U.S. Treasury and the Federal Reserve, the signatures of the Secretary of the Treasury and the Treasurer, a serial number and other identifying numerals.
On the other, we see Independence Hall in Philadelphia, where Franklin and other Founding Fathers signed the declaration, along with the words “In God We Trust.” On both sides, the number 100 appears numerous times in and around a highly ornate border.
Combined with cotton threads and watermarks, the baroque design helps make the note difficult to counterfeit. But more importantly, the imagery appeals directly to patriotism. It’s all associated with the nation-state to which the dollar, we are encouraged to believe, is indelibly linked.
Now think about the actual value of the note, by which I mean the physical piece of paper. You could use it as a bookmark, maybe, make a paper plane out of it, or write a very small amount of information in very small print on it. But none of those uses add up to $100 in utility.
A banknote’s value comes almost entirely from our shared imagination, a commonality of beliefs fed by centuries of cultural production that forges a type of community. It’s only because the payer and the payee share those beliefs that this piece of paper can function as an instrument for clearing that community’s debts.
Each tribe of cryptocurrency advocates is endeavoring to create the same sense of community and belief around its preferred token. How they attain that is a cultural challenge.
In November 2014, I created a video for The Wall Street Journal with Nicky Enright, a multimedia artist. We filmed him walking the streets of the Diamond District in New York’s Midtown as he wore an A-frame sandwich board and held a wad of “Globos,” his personal currency, in hand. The beautifully ornate notes were on sale for a $1, he told passersby, in a special two-for-one deal.
The interactions with people were fascinating. One of the most common questions was, “Is it real?” Enright’s answer was always something like, “Of course it’s real. You can see and hold it, right?” As a guest on this week’s inaugural Money Reimagined podcast, Enright reflected on those exchanges, noting that “people will question the Globo in a way that they rarely, if ever, question their own currency” and yet the very same questions about what is “real” could be applied to the purely symbolic value of the dollar.
The pertinent question for cryptocurrency advocates is: How do the purveyors and believers in a particular currency similarly get enough people to believe in it, to view it as “real?” And that’s again where the cultural conversation comes in.
It’s why Bitcoin’s culture is filled with ideas, phrases and iconography that help build community. Think of the word “HODL,” or the concept that Bitcoin is “The Honey Badger of Money,” or the almost religious devotion to the mysterious founding father, Satoshi. (By the way, it’s irrelevant that these ideas, like DeFi’s, seem frivolous to traditionalists. They are appropriately in line with the meme culture of the digital age, and consistent with the liberal conventions that internet culture unleashed, as names like Yahoo and Google became corporate mainstays.)
University of Virginia media studies professor Lana Swartz, author of the newly published New Money: How Payment Became Social Media, has some thoughts on all this.
As the second guest on this week’s podcast, she reflected on the very early research that she and two colleagues did into Bitcoin’s culture in 2013. At that time, she said, “there was a real fixation on the idea that Bitcoin would be free from human institutions, free from human foibles and free from the need for human governance. … But then all these early Bitcoin people ever really did was to talk and create community, and create ways to govern themselves, and create ways to think about this project.”
It’s a great insight. Money is inseparable from community, and community is about values, the expression of which involves governance. (Not government per se, but governance.)
This brings us full circle to DeFi, where tribes conduct meme warfare on Twitter and elsewhere to promote their tokens. Each of those tokens is tied to a protocol, which offers a different form of governance.
The difference with traditional money is that the enforcement of each token’s particular governance model comes via a decentralized network rather than the centralized institutions of a nation-state.
That shift is what makes it so promising. But it’s also why the cultural creation process is so challenging, as it must compete with the giant mindshare that traditional finance occupies. It’s why the meme-ing must continue.
Dinner Is Served: Here’s What DeFi’s Food-Meme Tokens Bring To The Table
Food-themed meme tokens are the latest craze in the DeFi world. Here’s a look at the structure of the most popular ones.
Lately, in the crypto scene, everything related to decentralized finance is being considered a gold mine. While DeFi has brought solid projects to the industry, there’s also a hot new craze, and it’s related to food. Everything from yams to burgers is now being converted to a coin and sold like a tasty meal at a food fair, and investors can’t seem to get enough of these food-themed coins.
However, there are growing concerns over the sustainability of these DeFi projects. At the beginning of the month, Hotdog, a food-themed project, shed 99% of its value within minutes. The occurrence stirred a debate on the hype around these new projects.
It’s safe to say that right now, somewhere, a new DeFi food-meme protocol is cooking in some stove across the globe. Let’s explore some of the most popular meme tokens that have hit the market. How legitimate do they look, and do they have solid financial and governance structures?
SushiSwap is the most recent DeFi liquidity-pool platform to emerge. With SushiSwap, anyone can participate, and investors can add their tokens into the liquidity pool to earn interest. The platform has become quite popular, as it attempts to be an improved, community-based version of the Uniswap decentralized exchange.
The token economics for its native token, SUSHI, are quite interesting, as 10% of its tokens were allocated to developers. Chef Nomi, the creator of SushiSwap, dumped all the tokens from the developer pool, worth around $13 million at the time, and later moved to distance themself from the project. Eventually, the funds were returned, and the project ended up at the hands of Chef Maki and the community.
Unlike traditional exchanges, SushiSwap is community-oriented, where users provide liquidity in return for rewards. With SushiSwap, the users are the market makers. It charges 0.3% on trades, and 0.25% is rewarded to liquidity providers while the remaining 0.05% is converted into SUSHI and rewarded to SUSHI tokenholders. It’s difficult to quantify the value of the protocol, which can only be estimated using the platform’s revenue-sharing model.
Uniswap brought about a revolution in DeFi technology, and this has inspired a lot of projects. While SushiSwap is all about rewarding liquidity providers on the platform, matters of governance are not fully in the hands of the users. The protocol is entirely undemocratic, with unchangeable low staking rewards. With that in mind, sushi is thought of as food for the elite, but here enters BURGER, which is considered “food for everyone.”
BurgerSwap’s protocol allows for democracy; therefore, parameters are directly determined by the people. Its users can vote to change the exchange parameters, and what’s more, they get rewards whenever they participate in voting.
BurgerSwap was the first such protocol to be developed on the recently launched Binance Smart Chain. The project was seen by some as a clone of SushiSwap, and its token is available for trading paired with Binance Coin (BNB). The launch of BurgerSwap saw the price of BNB shoot up over 33% in less than 48 hours, which caused a stir on the crypto scene, sparking speculation that Binance’s CEO, Changpeng Zhao, is supporting the high-”frying” project.
Following its tremendous performance, a Medium post by the platform gave credit to Binance Smart Chain for its support. According to the blog, the team behind BURGER was spread across the United States, the United Kingdom, China and Turkey.
Yam Finance is an experimental protocol with some of the most exciting innovations in programmable money and governance. At the core of Yam is an elastic supply of its native YAM token; it expands and contracts, depending on market conditions.
The price of the first version of YAM crashed to zero within minutes, due to a bug. After the project was called a scam by ShapeShift founder Eric Voorhees, Yam Finance posted a tweet claiming that the platform had a technical bug. An official blog post by Yam’s developers stated:
“At approximately 6PM UTC, on Wed August 12, we discovered a bug in the YAM rebasing contract that would mint far more YAM than intended to sell to the Uniswap YAM/yCRV pool, sending a large amount of excess YAM to the protocol reserve.
Given YAM’s governance module, this bug would render it impossible to reach quorum, meaning no governance action would be possible and funds in the treasury would be locked.”
Since the crash, Yam has asked for patience as it carries out a four-week audit of the technical issues. Meanwhile, the development of Yam V3 is underway.
BakerySwap is the next form of Uniswap; it’s very similar, but it claims to be faster and cheaper. The BakerySwap protocol is democratic, and all liquidity providers will be rewarded with BAKE tokens, which will earn them a share of the platform’s trading fees and voting rights. BAKE tokens will be gradually released to liquidity pools, following their respective reward multiplier.
Early farmers will be greatly rewarded in terms of the initial BAKE per block release. An anonymous group of developers will receive a low share of rewards during the whole BAKE farming period. The reward will be 1 BAKE for every 100 BAKE farmed. However, Binance’s CZ has been called out in a tweet by Jay Hao, the CEO of OKEx, for supporting “sketchy DeFi projects.”
1/Reminder to be careful when farming on Binance Smart Chain. As I said, it’s managed by only one team & is not decentralized. Built on #BSC, #BakerySwap caused huge losses for many retail investors <12h after mining began, which led to protests against BSC in China & elsewhere. https://t.co/BVvXeANN2s
— Jay_OKEX_CEO (@JayHao8) September 15, 2020
Pizza is an EOS-based DeFi network that allows users to put their EOS tokens up as collateral to generate a stablecoin called USDE that is pegged to the U.S. dollar. The Pizza platform provides users with financial services that are already built in.
Some of these services include decentralized order-book trading through Pizza DEX, Chinese yuan fiat entry through Morecoin, instant asset swap through Pzaswap, asset liquidation functions, as well as an exclusive USDE investment program. Users generate PIZZA coins through mining. There is over 10 million PIZZA in supply and over 1 million in circulation.
Hotdog.Swap is another Uniswap copycat, launched in early September. The HOTDOG token it provided was highly illiquid, surging in price to over $5,000 but then crashing from $4,000 to $1 in just five minutes. The tokens are quite similar to SUSHI, where liquidity providers deposit Uniswap liquidity tokens to earn HOTDOG tokens.
All HOTDOG tokenholders are entitled to earn part of the protocol-accumulated fees. The idea is that liquidity providers are rewarded with 100% community-owned tokens. The original idea was started by Yam Finance, which opened up the gates for numerous copycats such as Hotdog.
Kimchi Finance is one of the new DeFi products popping up since the introduction of Uniswap. Named after a rather popular dish in Korea, the KIMCHI token’s popularity hit the roof when news emerged that it was able to raise $500 million in a matter of four hours, reaching a value of $6.
Kimchi is following in the footsteps of SushiSwap by using a yield farming protocol, which promises great riches for those willing to invest. However, following the recent Bithumb raid that sunk the whole crypto market, KIMCHI experienced a 67% drop from $6 to around $1.90.
Although not food-related, MEME is very much a quintessential meme token. The experimental project came to life as an airdrop to Telegram users. Jordan Lyall created a joke advertisement for “The Degenerator,” which received a lot of engagement on Twitter from the crypto community. Hours later, Lyall shared that someone had minted a token and listed it on CoinGecko under the ticker MEME. 28,000 tokens, which was the asset’s total supply, were distributed to interested parties on Telegram. Now the token has managed to garner a $3 million market capitalization.
Meme is trying to pivot to a niche as a nonfungible token-farming protocol. The project has become the first meme farming experiment. However, a recent tweet from crypto influencer Alex Saunders has revealed that a few people are attempting to create hype around the token.
The Future Of Food-Themed Meme Tokens
There’s no denying that the above tokens have taken the whole crypto space by storm, mainly because of the quick succession in which they were introduced. A deeper look at the trend reveals similarities to the initial coin offering mania of 2017. Money is being pumped into these projects, while information about the developers and founders of most of them remains a mystery or is surrounded by controversy. These projects seem to thrive without the checks and balances of the blockchain network.
Ryan Selkis, the founder and CEO of crypto data site Messari, recently tweeted: “The DeFi bubble will pop sooner than people expect. We’re nearing the apex of ponzi economics, rug pulls, and ‘yield’ hopping, and ETH fees are going to eat too heavily into non-whale profits.” But only time will tell if this sentiment is true and how long the hype will continue. Until then, crypto-entrepreneurs need to remain alert and look for any red flags that may wipe their investments in minutes.
Redditor Memes His Way To $25K In Bitcoin Profits
This is the story of a Redditor’s roundabout way of making a hefty Bitcoin profit.
A Reddit user by the name of “u/Cryptorich13” has capitalized on the social media platform’s crypto reward system by converting his stash of free coins into Bitcoin (BTC).
In a Sunday post, u/Cryptorich13 explained how he converted his 80,000 Moon reward into Bitcoin earlier this year. The value of his holdings has ballooned following the latest Bitcoin price pump. He said:
“I shitposted a lot in 2017. I was awarded 80k reddit moons earlier this year which I sold on the rinkeby testnet using XDai and honeyswap and immediately bought BTC with it. (0.92 BTC to be exact).”
U/Cryptorich13 claims to have unloaded his 80,000 Moon for Dai at an average price of $0.08 to $0.13 per token over a 24-hour period in late September. From there, he converted the Dai into Bitcoin. The entire process was documented on the Warosu imageboard.
At the time he published the original Reddit post, his Bitcoin stash was worth $23,736, based on a BTC price of $25,800. In a later edit, his 0.92 BTC was worth $25,576.
At the time of writing, Moon was worth around $0.01, down 15% on the day, according to CoinGecko. It should be noted that the CoinGecko data feed tracks Moon values from late-October onwards.
Reddit’s Moon token is the official cryptocurrency of the r/Cryptocurrency subreddit, a platform dedicated to news, discussion and analysis of all things related to digital assets. The token rewards active users for their contributions to the subreddit. According to community guidelines, all posts in the subreddit need to be crypto-related or associated with the culture in some form or manner.
Moon is part of Reddit Community Points, or RCP, a rewards program that was introduced earlier this year to incentivize content creation on the social network. RCPs are Ethereum-based tokens that are interoperable with all other Ethereum applications.
To date, only one other subreddit has launched a cryptocurrency via the RCP program. The r/FortNiteBR subreddit introduced the Brick token earlier this year to reward users for their contributions to the community.
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