I’ve been reading about the meltdown of the Mt. Gox bitcoin exchange in the mainstream media. It all sounds so Serious and Mysterious — Was it outside thieves or insider embezzlement? — What will this do to online finances? — And, whither the future of bitcoin and similar currencies?
It’s not serious or mysterious, it’s actually stupidity. Charlie Stross, science fiction author and former computer programmer, points out that “MtGox” stands for “Magic: the Gathering Online Exchange.” Then he goes on to add:
“C’mon, folks. Mt. Gox was a trading card swap mart set up by an amateur coder and implemented in PHP! And you expected NSA-levels of trusted computing security, so you trusted your money to it?”
Now that I know all this, the whole story just seems Sad and Sordid. A few Magic card freaks move into amateur banking. A bunch of credulous people trust way too much money to the Magic card freaks. As happens all too often in human affairs, stupidity bred disaster.
I think there’s theology in here somewhere: Something about the essential fallibility of humans. And (more importantly) something about the way humans need to pretend that stupid human mistakes are actually Serious and Mysterious.