Ito replies:

“That’s the thing. Money corrupts.”

“I think the real problem with all this [blockchain and cryptocurrency development] is that cryptocurrencies are sort of fundamentally about money. It has this really weird dynamic of enticing people to take a path where they could see their work converted into cash.”

“It’s really hard not to take that [path] because if you have a family, you almost have a family responsibility to care about money.”

It’s easy to imagine Ito’s attitude extending to his own justifications for taking Epstein’s money. Later, while discussing the abuse of crypto crowdfunding, Ito notes: “A lot of stuff starts out bad.”

What can be said is that even though he accepted money from Epstein, Ito also provided the DCI with necessary skepticism around crypto. Through his blog and in op-eds, he worried about the effects of over-investment in blockchain and he expressed anxiety about the effects of putting money first.

“My concern with today’s ICOs is that they’re being fueled by the gold-rush mentality around cryptocurrencies, and so are deployed in irresponsible ways that are causing harm to individuals and damaging the ecosystem of developers and organizations,” he wrote in a February 2018 op-ed for Wired. “We haven’t set up the legal, technical, or normative controls yet, and many people are taking advantage of this.”

When, near the height of the 2017 bubble, a cryptocurrency called IOTA received glowing coverage from the MIT Technology Review, Ito dissected and dismissed the project’s claims. What’s disappointing is that Ito recognized abuse and hyperbole in the crypto community, but seems to have forgotten to apply the same standards to himself.

Read this: Why Bitcoin is and isn’t like the Internet (Joi Ito, 2015)


Please send news, tips, and lab directors to Today’s Private Key was written by Matthew De Silva and edited by Mike Murphy. Alexander wept for there were no more worlds to conquer. 

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