This is not my precious
I hate to be the one to tell you this, but there’s a cryptocurrency themed after The Lord of the Rings. It’s dubbed the JRR Token, and its creators have called it “The One Token That Rules Them All.” Upon learning about it, my snap judgment was that it’ll be like The Hobbit’s trilogy of films (pointless and doomed to fail), but that may be unfair. Let’s take a look at the video its creators made to explain what makes it special:
Okay, wait. Before we even go into the crypto stuff, I’m wondering what the legal situation is with this video — the video includes images of rolling green countryside overlaid by very Lord of the Rings-esque text, while what sounds like a piano rendition of Howard Shore’s The Shire plays. Even if those don’t turn out to be infringement, they’re definitely banking on confusion with JRR Tolkien’s name. That doesn’t seem like the kind of thing the Tolkien Estate would let slide without a fight.
Let’s put all that aside for now. What’s JRR Token all about? The website and video say that “Tokenites,” or anyone with tokens, will get more of those tokens as more people use the network. It also says that a portion of every transaction will be added to a “liquidity pool,” which I’m sorry to say doesn’t have anything to do with that terrifying scene of Galadriel showing Frodo the Scouring of the Shire. If you’re wondering how its “Tokenomics” work out to making it a functional currency, I am too — but reading the token’s whitepaper, and through some of the FAQ for the Binance platform (which JRR Token is built on) didn’t clear things up.
The website does, however, go into detail on how to obtain the tokens. To someone who’s not exceedingly familiar with crypto, but knows how more popular coins work, the process seems akin to answering and asking riddles in the dark. It involves sending payment to a contract address — which sounds even sketchier than if it were done through, say, a Mt. Gox clone called Mt. Doom.
Maybe I could overlook all that if the creators of JRR Token had paid an actor who appeared in the Lord of the Rings films to promote the cryptocurrency. Perhaps if Billy Boyd, the actor who played Pippin, were to make a Cameo, I’d be sold!
Well, that was a thing that actually happened. And while JRR Token’s tweet containing that video endorsement has since been deleted, the people behind the JRR Token have since tweeted something nearly as incredible (shout out to Boing Boing for the find):
Saruman was trying to unify Middle Earth under centralized rule where as the fellowship wanted decentralization. Cryptocurrency is literally a decentralized network….
The project is now public, so you can see trading charts of it and everything. At this point, though, it’s unclear if the token is just a troll (the internet kind, not the cave kind), or if it’s serious. As Guardian columnist Arwa Mahdawi points out, it can be hard to tell with nascent cryptocurrencies. We reached out to crypto expert and UVA assistant professor Lana Swartz to get her read on whether The Token of Power and its stated goals make sense, and she also says that it’s tough to say these days, especially after the rise of Dogecoin.
Well, whether its creators are earnest or not, am I rushing to buy JRR Token, hoping to get in on the ground floor? No, absolutely not (and not just because The Verge’s ethics policy forbids it.) After many days and nights of deep Lord of the Rings research, I’ve come away with the impression that the One Ring was not actually a force for good. Specifically, if I were writing a whitepaper about my cryptocurrency, I wouldn’t use the text engraved on the Ring to describe said cryptocurrency — and I certainly wouldn’t compare my coin’s market to the Ring’s power to bind the other rings to Sauron’s will, resulting in humans becoming Ringwraiths.
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