Last month, cultural critic Alison P. Davis published an article in The Cut titled “A Vibe Shift is Coming. Will Any of Us Survive It?” The “vibe shift” Davis was referring to had nothing to do with crypto. She was referring to a sea change in pop culture and social trends, particularly in view of GenZ’s ongoing ascendance into trendsetting and cultural relevance. Nevertheless, her positioning caught my eye because she aptly put her finger on something crucial that I’ve also been feeling, particularly as it relates to crypto. The paradigm shift toward the next cultural moment — whatever it is — is perceptible, even if it’s not palpable. We can’t quite make it out, but we know it’s in the room. The concrete conditions haven’t shifted yet, but the vibe most certainly has.
In the days following its publication, “vibe shift” captured Twitter’s attention and, in many cases, its derision. However silly the term, it captures something real and similar happening in the crypto space. Ridiculous as it may initially sound, there’s a vibe shift happening in crypto.
I like the term “vibe shift” because it’s about exactly that: a feeling, a hunch, a mood, a tone, a vibe. Across its brief history, crypto’s vibe shifts have followed changes in the technology itself. Crypto’s initial wild west, anything-goes optimism stemmed from Bitcoin’s (BTC) transition from a peer-to-peer (P2P) payment solution to a store of value, then grew even more manic with the introduction of Ethereum, which demonstrated the potential of smart contracts. This half-manic optimism grew more serious and businesslike as decentralized finance (DeFi) expanded on the back of legitimate level-two networks. The development of nonfungible tokens (NFTs) brought artists and musicians into the fold, not the other way round.
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This isn’t a good or a bad thing, it’s just a fact. The technology determines the discourse in DeFi and crypto, meaning that it also dictates the culture. That “this is no longer the case” is an argument you could…