It seems that every day, the world of cryptocurrency gets even more confusing for those of us who aren’t in it. With new currencies and terminology coming from seemingly nowhere and loads of new ideas coming across more as cons than as real viable businesses, crypto is a lot to take in. We here at Podsauce aren’t even going to pretend to understand the blockchain or mining for Bitcoin or even how to properly use those phrases. And neither is PJ Vogt, but he’s determined to try.
His new podcast, “Crypto Island,” is diving headfirst into web3, which is being described as the new decentralized era of the internet based on blockchain technology. This isn’t a podcast hosted by someone who loves crypto and is trying to get you to love it, too. Instead, PJ is taking a journalistic approach to understanding the new internet.
You may recognize PJ from Gimlet’s “Reply All,” a podcast all about the internet that he left in mid-2021. He has since embarked on this brand new project, “Crypto Island,” a podcast exploring the new frontier of web3. There are only three episodes out so far, two of them just 15 minutes long and one of them 48 minutes long. And while the episode titled “0: Welcome to Crypto Island” may seem like a trailer you don’t have to listen to, you should absolutely listen to it first.
In that first episode, he explains the motivation behind the creation of “Crypto Island.” He says that earlier this January, he saw a video that nearly broke his brain. It was a 20-minute long, Pixar-esque, musical-number-filled video about the world’s first physical crypto island, aptly named Cryptoland. For one million dollars (the equivalent of some amount of ether), people can purchase a single acre of land on this island. A Spanish couple had come up with this idea, which seemingly boiled down to asking strangers for money in exchange to live in this promised new world.
It reminded PJ of a story he read in Maria Konnikova’s The Art of the Con about a Scottish huxter named Gregor MacGregor who sold people on a land called Poyais, of which he claimed to be the Cazique, a kind of prince. He convinced investors and settlers to donate £250,000 to this island where gold lined the riverbeds and its water could heal any illness. Nearly 250 people moved to this island, only to find it an undeveloped jungle where many of them would die.
Now that sounds super negative, and that was the early 1800s. PJ wasn’t interested in reveling in the fall of Crypto Land, though. He wasn’t even that interested in the materialization of it. What he was interested in understanding was the people whom this fantasy was supposed to entice. He wants to know more about the people who would find this land a fantasy. He wants to know if it’s a fantasy at all. He speaks with friends who are actual crypto people about what entices them to this world, and if the 20-minute long and elaborately detailed Cryptoland video is one of those things (spoiler alert: it’s not. It apparently barely made waves in many realms of this world).
If you’re thinking to yourself, “There is no possible way I will enjoy a podcast about all of this mumbo-jumbo,” you aren’t the first. Even if you’re someone who finds themselves filled with rage at the mere mention of cryptocurrencies, this is a safe space for those feelings. And if you love this newfangled, decentralized world, well then, even better. No matter your feelings towards the subject, you find yourself captivated by “Crypto Island” as PJ Vogt brings us along his exploration. Especially if you’ve missed his masterful storytelling on “Reply All,” this podcast is here to fill that void.
PJ’s first foray into web3 is the strange story of the auction for the most valuable piece of paper in the United States. He explains the ConstitutionDAO, the group that attempted to purchase one of two privately owned copies of the Constitution of the United States of America at an auction last fall. PJ first explains to us what a DAO is – a decentralized autonomous organization with no central leadership.
For the ConstitutionDAO, anyone who donated to it using the Ethereum blockchain would have the right to vote on what this group did with their copy of the Constitution. PJ speaks with a man who was a part of the DAO’s core team, the group of people that sets up the backend of the DAO, about how these DAO’s really work when it comes to ownership of things like exorbitantly valuable historic documents or a Baskin Robbins.
If conversations about crypto threaten to break you brain wide open, you’re not alone. PJ Vogt is on the case. “Crypto Island” is exceptional journalism, storytelling, and entertainment. PJ transforms obscure terms and systems into deeply fascinating, easy-to-follow storylines. We literally learned what a DAO was within 6 minutes of the second episode. Be sure to follow along this new podcast, or you’ll be kicking yourself harder than those who bought Bitcoin back in 2012 and forgot their password.