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Worth a Listen

Kyle McIntosh

MIKE ZACCARDI recently wrote about his favorite podcasts. His list was excellent, but it didn’t include my own favorite, which is Focus on Facts by Eric Sussman. One of the most popular professors at the University of California at Los Angeles’s Anderson School of Management, Sussman delivered a series of riveting podcasts in the first half of 2021.

Given its short run, it’s no surprise that Mike missed the series. But I recommend that Mike—along with other HumbleDollar readers—go to Sussman’s podcast archives to hear his witty insights on the financial markets. Podcasts I enjoyed include those focusing on the market action behind GameStop’s ascent; financial fraud at Wirecard, the insolvent payments processor that some call Germany’s Enron; and the state of housing in America.

But my favorite Focus on Facts episode—and the one I’ve used in teaching a college course about emerging technologies—covers cryptocurrencies. For anyone who wants to learn how cryptocurrencies work, or is considering investing, it’s “must listen” material. Sussman provides practical examples of how cryptocurrencies work, and contrasts them with government-issued currencies. He then gets to the oft-debated question of whether to invest.

Sussman is outspoken that cryptocurrencies aren’t a necessary holding in an investment portfolio. As I relistened to this year-old podcast for the fourth or fifth time, I was struck by how pertinent his message is today, given the recent freefall in cryptocurrencies. Here are three reasons that Sussman sees them as purely speculative:

  • Cryptocurrencies are too volatile to become broadly accepted mediums of exchange.
  • Cryptocurrencies aren’t needed because we already have reliable and effective ways to transmit funds globally.
  • There is a massive—and unsustainable—environmental cost to mining cryptocurrencies.

If this sounds intriguing, listen to his entire podcast. And be sure to check out some of the other Focus on Facts episodes. If enough of us listen, perhaps Sussman will record a few more.

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Philip Stein
Philip Stein
7 months ago

Two additional concerns I have about cryptocurrencies:

First, cryptocurrency “wallets” are not immune to hacking. There have been cases of Bitcoin theft in the news.

Second, what will happen if the contents of your wallet are stolen, or you lose the password to your wallet? Since cryptocurrencies are, by design, decentralized, what authority will help you recover your lost assets?

Mike Zaccardi
Mike Zaccardi
7 months ago

Good suggestion, Kyle. Thanks!

Rick Connor
Rick Connor
7 months ago

Kyle, thanks for the tip. I’m trying to understand crypto this year.

David Powell
David Powell
7 months ago
Reply to  Rick Connor
Jo Bo
Jo Bo
7 months ago

Thank you, Kyle, for reiterating the environmental costs of cryptocurrency, not often mentioned in mainstream media. Cryptocurrency mining has an energy equivalent that approaches 1% of global electricity production.

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