Lane Rettig is a core developer for Spacemesh. In this interview, we discuss the much-criticised New York Times article that attacked Bitcoin mining, specifically focusing on its strange attacks on demand response and the use of marginal emissions accounting. We also talk about the difficulties of finding truth in a world with misaligned incentives.
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On April 11th, The New York Times (NYT) published a piece of investigative journalism by Gabriel J.X. Dance entitled “The Real-World Costs of the Digital Race for Bitcoin”. The piece stated Bitcoin mines “cash in on electricity — by devouring it, selling it, even turning it off — and they cause immense pollution. In many cases, the public pays a price.” As Margot Paez stated in a brilliant review of the article for the Bitcoin Policy Institute, The NYT’s hit piece is “Absurd”.
The article had been long expected as a number of prominent people within the community have been interviewed for it. What transpired was that any pro-Bitcoin information provided had been ignored. The flip side was the biased representation of Bitcoin mining using flawed analysis, false equivalences, wild extrapolations and incorrect deductions. It is an exemplar of confirmation bias writ large, where the conclusions preceded the investigation.
That Gabriel Dance has no experience of Bitcoin or crypto in any of his previous work is neither here nor there. Any journalist worth their salt knows the basic tenets of reporting: a clinical gathering of evidence, cold interrogation of facts, and an unbiased and clear interpretation of the results. The NYT put’s it best in its mission statement: “seek the truth & help people understand the world”.
So, what has happened? A commissioning editor would have signed this off following a modicum of independent fact checking. That it has been published whilst being riven with distortions and mistruths suggests either a corruption of the journalistic practices at The NYT or that their internal systems have been stripped to the bone and the drive for clickbait trumps everything else. Either way, we have a problem, as mainstream fake information spreads like a virus.