When a Joke is Worth More Than Saving the World: Dogecoin

the globe on fire a coin with a dog on it in the foreground

A Shiba Inu dog staring at a dandelion blowing in the wind

Photo by Kateryna Babaieva from Pexels

On May 8th, 2021, Dogecoin was worth $96 billion.

I don’t know if you care about cryptocurrencies, but I am sure you’ve at least heard of them by now. Maybe you don’t give a flying fact, but here’s at least one reason why you should — $96 billion is more money than the estimated value of the vaccine.

You know, pretty much the only cure to the crazy world-destroying pandemic running amok all around us.

And here’s the kicker — Dogecoin was created as a joke.

History of the Coin

Back in 2013, still in the early days of crypto, Adobe software engineer Jackson Palmer registered a simple domain — Dogecoin.com — and added a simple splash image.

Shortly after, another software guru at IBM named Billy Markus contacted Palmer to create a coin to match the simple splash image — a now-famous Shiba Inu from Hong Kong.

The Dogecoin dog

Credit: dogecoin.com

And so, Dogecoin was born — being launched shortly thereafter on December 6 of that year. But here’s the rub: they did it as a joke.

“I’m half detached, but it’s weird that something I made in a few hours is now part of internet culture.” — Billy Markus

Birth of a Monster

The first few years of the coin didn’t turn into a joke though. It took off.

Within 1 month of launching, the website already had over 1 million visitors. Within 2 weeks it had tripled in price. Within 3 weeks, millions of coins were stolen in the currency’s first hacking incident.

But the newfound community surprisingly banded together and donated coins to replace every single stolen coin. Dogecoin now had a ‘good guy’ vibe behind it.

Besides, who could look at that cute puppy and not think this was a heartfelt project?

But as late-stage capitalism has started teaching us, anything money touches it corrupts.

Especially promises of unlimited wealth with the face of an incredibly cute puppy.

The Price of Pandora’s Box

The golden state of the community could not last forever, though. Even the founder of the coin, heavily active in the Dogecoin fan club on Reddit, felt the urge to be rid of his personal Frankenstein’s monster less than 2 years later.

Palmer tweeted:

“Will be taking an extended leave of absence from the toxic (and quite frankly, stagnant) space that is cryptocurrency.”

The coin’s market cap at the time was around $30 million. Nothing to sneeze at since it literally came out of thin air. You would be forgiven for thinking at least Palmer walked away as a millionaire for all his effort.

But you would be mistaken — he sold all his holdings in 2015 for the grand prize of enough to purchase a shiny brand new Honda Civic.

The founder of a joke coin abandoning his own community because of its toxicity?

This was probably the first sign of things to come.

A sign we all ignored, of course.

Vaccines and Patents

At the time of writing, about 1.67 billion people have had their first shot of a COVID vaccine. Considering that’s only 21% of the total population, we still have a long way to go.

But the world will get there. Vaccines will roll out. Some of them will be free, some will be overpriced, and some of them will be fake.

The US government is even considering making their vaccines patent-free so the world can recover faster. Of course, this would be a giant step backward — to a time when the world actually cared about each other.

But for now, the vaccines aren’t free. They aren’t being funneled to the poorest countries. They aren’t being sent to countries with inestimable outbreaks like India.

They are being used for political purposes. They are being sold for profit. They are being thought of as long-term products. They are dangled over people’s heads as a life-or-death carrot on a stick.

The vaccines are making me ill.

How Much is Your Life Worth?

While the price of Dogecoin rises and falls drastically with the ebb and flow of seemingly bipolar tweets from Elon Musk, the vaccines have a more predictable price.

One group of economists believes the total value of the cure will be somewhere between 5–15% of the entire world’s wealth. But of course, vaccine makers can’t actually sell the cure for the value it would have to the world — even if they’d like to.

Back in August of 2020, one financial analyst triggered his industry when he estimated a more modest sum of the value of a cure — $100 billion in sales and $40 billion in profit.

Another group of economists thinks the global market for vaccines will be worth $25 billion in 3 years — as in, they’re planning for continued sales.

Yikes.

Whichever final valuation you want to believe, the fact that they are discussing profit in a time of the modern black plague is disconcerting, to say the least.

One More Dollar

But what does it mean for society when the value of a literal joke can compare to — or even surpass — the value of a return to normalcy for the entire world?

How can we as humans continue to put profit before our damned salvation? Where is the kindness? The kindred spirit. The knowledge that the faster we band together as a species, the more our collective tide will lift all our ships?

Why can’t the 98 people who control 68% of all Dogecoins (worth tens of billions) sacrifice their wealth to save the damn human race?

Or perhaps the one person, whose name certainly doesn’t rhyme with MeGone Brusque, hand over his 28% share of the nothingness that is Dogecoin?

What can this fictional currency do that a vaccine can’t?

What is one more dollar in a world where you can’t travel, eat at a restaurant, visit your elderly parents, or even go for a stroll down the street to see the neighborhood dog (hopefully not a Shiba)?

Of course, I know the sacrifice won’t be made. In today’s world, it’s just not possible.

Why should it be on their shoulders, of all people, organizations, and governments in the world? Why should Erik Finman — a young adult who thinks “it’s your own fault” if you don’t become a millionaire in the next 10 years — donate money to help a poor Indian boy who’s now dying from an outbreak of extremely deadly black fungus outbreak caused by COVID?

Because the modern world doesn’t expect him to. Nor does it expect the vaccine manufacturers or governments to do it either.

The modern world does not expect what is righteous. It may not even know the meaning of the word anymore.

The modern world thrives on the premise John D. Rockefeller pointed out decades ago:

“How much money does it take to make a man happy? Just one more dollar.

But hey, I got mine, right?


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