It’s 8:15 a.m. at the Hilton hotel in Midtown Manhattan, and the escalator has a bouncer.
An estimated 8,500 blockchain experts and cryptocurrency evangelists have come from around the globe to be here at the 2018 Consensus conference, and the line to pick up attendee badges shows no sign of moving. A security guard in a suit, talking into his sleeve, eventually gives a small group the go-ahead to ride up to the second floor where another line awaits.
It feels like we’re trying, and failing, to get into New York’s hottest nightclub.
“This is like the Coachella of Bitcoin,” a passerby whispers to her companion as they breeze by.
And indeed, while it lacks Beyonce and the questionable wardrobe choices of the Southern California music festival, the Coindesk organized Consensus more than makes up for it in its sheer opulence and buffoonery — a fact made obvious before you even walk through the conference doors.
Parked outside the hotel were three Lamborghinis — an inside joke within the cryptocurrency community — and, opposite them, a man claiming that the developers of NEM screwed him out of over $1.5 million USD worth of cryptocurrency.
Across the street was an entirely different type of show: specifically, a fake protest. Chanting “hey hey, ho ho, Bitcoin has got to go,” the group of self-described bankers and CEOs (one man told me he got his suit out of a dumpster) carried signs reading “paper checks use less electricity” and “we thought this was a bubble.”
According to a rambling statement on the group’s website, the Genesis Mining-backed demonstrators were actually protesting aspects of the financial industry, but either way, they generated enough of a scene to draw a crowd and put conference attendees in what can only be described as an appropriately absurdist frame of mind.
Because as soon as those who came to hear the blockchain gospel made it past the aforementioned escalator bouncer and the formidable registration line, they were met with what can only be described as a hodler’s paradise.
Want 18-karat gold crypto-jewelry to commemorate your ride-or-die status as a Bitcoin maximalist? Consensus 2018 is the place for you.
And sure, you may know about beer, but have you heard of cryptobeer?
If that’s not your thing, don’t fret, just make you way over to the cyptopuppy (yes, this dog was described to me as a “cryptopuppy”) named after Margaret Thatcher chilling on the fourth floor.
But just like the SEC trying to shit all over the decentralized parade, the real world did poke its annoying head into the immutable bubble of joy. That’s right, someone ticketed the Lambos.
What’s more, in what definitely isn’t a metaphor for the entire industry, it turned out that the fancy cars weren’t even the fruit of early Bitcoin adoption. They were just a promotional stunt.
But push that all to the back on your head, fellow believer. Because if there’s one thing “the Coachella of Bitcoin” makes clear, it’s that these are serious people with serious ideas — even if, as one major player in the cryptocurrency space told me on background, 80 percent of people in the scene are likely scammers.
Because scammer or no, at the 2018 Consensus conference we’re all heading to the moon.