parable of the cube

back in my minecraft days, there was an old ruse we used to do: we'd conspicuously place valuable blocks like gold blocks right outside safe zones, hide nearby, and then ambush players who came out to try and grab them. imagine my surprise when i found out that a guy basically did the same thing but in real life!

yes, i'm referring to that brief blip on the """news""" radar from a while back that you might vaguely recall, where some pretentious european "artist" put a solid gold cube in central park. an absolutely classic publicity stunt. news organizations immediately recognized the viral potential and thus were more than happy to pump out plenty of news articles about it for people to share on social media. you know something's really doing numbers when even i end up hearing about it.

but why did he do it? obviously he was not using it as bait and mugging people briefly stupefied by greed while they considered how to make off with it. there are better ways to make money in real life. you can also immediately forget whatever the artist said is the "point" or the "message". if you manage to make it to the bottom of any of the news articles about it (many don't), the cube's objective is clear: it's to promote yet another crypto/NFT thing. remember how that was a big thing back in those halcyon days? so nostalgic looking back on that now. if you think about it, it really is just the old minecraft ruse in the end: the gold cube is bait for a crypto pitch ambush. "art" imitates (minecraft) life indeed.

of course, people were not clicking that "share" button because they were hyped about the crypto or thought the cube was really cool. no, for the most part the vibe i got was "get a look at this asshole putting a giant gold cube in central park, while there are so many people in the world who are poor and starving or whatever". so, clearly the whole thing was a bit of a failure, since everyone just ended up making fun of the guy and dunking on it all, if they weren't calling him evil for not donating that cube money to charity or something.

haha, WRONG, they got exactly what they wanted and the cube stunt was a huge success. what is the point of a publicity stunt again? oh right, to get publicity, and don't forget that "there is no such thing as bad publicity". why is that? in this case, it's the same reason scammers cast their nets as wide as possible to find marks: the more people you reach, the more chumps you'll be able to find who will be willing to buy in to your crypto thing. it's a numbers game.

what this means is that everyone who shared, retweeted, or reposted is complicit. a "rageshare" is still a share and gets more attention for its target. you never know, maybe it was inadvertently thanks to YOUR share that your idiot friend joe schmoe found out about it, bought in, and lost his shirt. "oh it's just a meme, it's harmless" is what they want you to think, because in fact memes have great power. part of that power comes from how much people underestimate them.

the rage share/click effect is actually so powerful that marketers now deliberately exploit it. a wise man once said: "it's bad on purpose to make you click". looking back on it from that perspective, it seems almost too obvious. is there any group more universally reviled than smug, obnoxious nyc art guys? and of course he just HAD to be european as well. the game was rigged from the start.

postscript (several months later)

i wrote most of the first part back while the gold block was still fresh in the news cycles and in my mind (and maybe yours). my intention was to revisit it a few months down the line after the dust had settled, and see if my predictions held up. i also chose to hold off on posting the original portion until now, so that i could avoid spreading the memetic virus like i warned about.

when i checked up on it today by googling "central park gold block", i got a mass of news articles about it, all from the same handful of days in february 2022. truly a golden flash in the pan. though i was originally under the impression he was going to leave the cube in central park a whole week, it seems it was actually only there a single day. i suppose that was smart, it's all that was needed.

i then looked up the official website for the gold-block-associated crypto, "castello coin", for the first timewherever did the name "castello" come from? it is the artist's last name, of course. incidentally, i also learned that the gold cube was officialy entitled the "castello cube". after the artist or after the crypto, i wonder. according to the website, "Castello Coin is the first crypto currency in history achieving its level of recognition through a unique, physical artwork, and thus enjoys a unique position in the crypto and the traditional world." the rest of the website is pretty much along those same lines: buy castello coin because it's associated with the viral gold cube. honestly not a terrible pitch because 99% of what makes a "successful" new crypto is getting enough hype and attention for the launch so the price gets pumped up high and you can dump your coins on latecomers for much more than you bought them for (free, if you happen to be an insider). pretty much everything else, like actual uses, is completely irrelevant.

after this, i checked in on the castello coin price history to see how things went. it came out about a month or two after the cube stunt, but the initial hype must have attracted enough chumps because i saw the characteristic graph of a "successful" crypto launch: starts out extremely low, then very quickly spikes to multiple times its initial price, and then crashes just as steeply, as the insiders and/or early buyers cash out on those coming in late trying to ride the cresting wave higher. then, for months after, nothing but a slow, steady decline as the hype dies and everyone goes searching for the next big crypto to get in early on and hopefully get rich selling the peak of. so it goes.