Last Week Tonight with John Oliver (2014–…): Season 5, Episode 4 - Cryptocurrencies - full transcript

Tonight's main topic is 'Cryptocurrencies'. These digital currencies are creating a lot of noise nowadays. John Oliver explains the volatility of the concept, along with its perks and ...

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Welcome to Last Week Tonight.

I'm John Oliver.
Thank you for joining us.

A quick recap of the week.
We begin with the Trump White House.

Where every morning Jared Kushner
slams a door and yells:

"You' don't have clearance
to hear 'my' secrets !"

Another head-spinning week,
from the departure of Gary Cohn,

to the saga of Stormy Daniels,
to the announcement on Thursday,

that Trump had agreed to
a historic summit with Kim Jong Un.

This seemingly
came out of nowhere.

South Korean officials delivered him
a message that Kim Jong Un

was open to a meeting
and this happened.

Trump interrupted a conversation
between South Korean officials

and said:
"OK...Tell them I'll do it."

South Korean officials looked
at each other as if in disbelief,

according to a White House official:
"Tell him yes", the president said.

And that was it !

Trump broke with decades of precedent
like taking a sample at Costco.

Salmon jerky ?
Fuck it, let's do it.

If I don't like it, it's not
like it's the end of the world.

Who knows if this summit
is even going to happen ?

Because nothing Trump
says means anything.

But what that North Korean news did
is distract from something else,

that was International Women's Day.

That one special day a year
for half the people of earth.

Knock yourselves out,
three and a half billion people !

It was a day of marches,
in support of causes

from equal pay
to combating sexual harassment.

All of which were truly inspiring.
What was dispiriting was that,

Women's Day inspired reactions
from the clumsy to the appalling.

Starting with the efforts of brands
trying to appear progressive feminists.

McDonalds turned its "M"
upside down, for women,

because I guess the "M"
is for men the rest of the time,

Porsche blacked out the letters
in their logo until it read "she"

and then there was Brawny, who
ran a "Who's Your Shero ?" campaign.

Brawny celebrates sheroes
this Women's History Month

and supports Girls Inc. to inspire
sheroes of tomorrow.

Who's your shero ?

We consulted some
linguistics experts

and it turns out there's
already a word for "women's heroes".

It's a little like the word "sheroes"

only it's not stupid
and it is a word.

Mattel fared better with their line
of "inspiring women" Barbie dolls.

One local newscaster
found a way to make it creepy.

The three inspiring women dolls
are aviator Amelia Earhart,

artist Frida Kahlo and mathematician
Katherine Johnson.

I love the Frida Kahlo one.
She's dressed... Love it.

- Salma Hayek, the movie ?
- You like that movie yeah ?

- I like Salma.
- You like Salma, ok.

It was a segment about women's
empowerment, children's toys

and a long-dead artist,
but he decided:

"I 'can' perv out on this.
I 'will' perv out on this."

"I will make this Women's Day
segment about my dick !"

That was not the only
awkward interaction at a TV news desk.

Step forward, CBS This Morning,
a show that fired Charlie Rose

following sexual harassment

They transitioned from a segment
about dog behavior to a segment

about International
Women's Day like this.

Researchers says it's kind
of like speaking to your dog

the way you do to a baby,
but don't mistake the two.

Come here, you little sweetie pie,
don't you look so cute.

I want to be in your lap, Norah.

You know you two are not alone ?
There's people in the room.

Gayle's right:
there are people in the room.

We should focus on who's
"not" in the room.

Who is "not" in that room and how
did he come to be not in the room ?

"CBS This Morning" is less
a morning show and more

"incriminating office
surveillance footage"

"that gets broadcast across
the country every day."

Some news anchors were spending
the entire day acting inappropriately.

Like Mike Jerrick. We don't have
time to show you everything he did,

this is just a sample of what
he got up to on Thursday.

Have a great day International Women.
Why do you need your own day ?

They changed the Brawny
dude to a woman... Yeah.

How could we change that into
something good to celebrate women ?

It's great, you'll love it.
How do you keep your girlish figure ?

- Ever cheated on your husband ?
- No.

Last time you had sex ?

- It's the Alex Holley.
- Turn it around...

It's so authentic
it has a mic pack on it.

What do you do with this doll
that you have at home ?

I put it by my bedside, so I can
wake up open my eyes and see you.

That is gross.

We should all now take a shower,
but I feel like Mike Jerrick would say:


But the worst moments
were from male politicians.

Boris Johnson, Foreign Secretary
and dumpy Swedish Beatle,

celebrated by visiting schoolchildren,
a perfectly pleasant idea.

The subject of Cleopatra
apparently came up

and Johnson decided to tell
the kids how she died.

She gets some snakes
brought in in a basket of figs

and she wanted to commit suicide
because Antony was dead.

She loved Antony. And so she took out
the snake which was called an asp

and she put it on her bosom
and then she died.

That was the end of Cleopatra.

What are you doing ? I would
watch hours of Boris Johnson

explaining grim endings
to distracted children.

Sara loses her mind,
Harry has his arm amputated

and Marion performs
a sex show for drugs.

And that was the end of
"Requiem For A Dream", children.

Kudos to that one kid who gave him
a thumbs-up at the end of the story.

Can't wait to go home and ask my mom
what bosoms and suicide are.

Who better to end this roundup
than Vladimir Putin ?

In his annual speech,
he decided to read a Russian love poem

that featured some
truly unfortunate sentiments.

It is a woman's soul
that conquers us.

When she is young,
when she's a mother

And even when her hair goes gray.

"Even when her hair goes gray."
That is both a bizarre sentiment

and a weird summary
of any woman's life.

First she is child, then she makes
child, then she changes color.

She is like banana,
if banana make other bananas.

Happy International Women's Day,
you eternally fuckable bananas.

In the unlikely event that Vladimir
Putin loses his upcoming election,

there might be a morning news job
in Philly he would be perfect for.

And now this...

An MSNBC guest brought on to
discuss Gary Cohn's departure

can't get over
the "Bachelor" finale.

It comes down to two women,
tells one he loves her

but he's gonna pick the other one
and she cries in the limousine,

then he picks the other one.

There's the blonde and the brunette
so he picks the brunette,

he proposes to her,
gets down on one knee

and then it goes to the host
Chris Harrison who says:

"but this is not
the end of the story."

The bachelor says he can't stop
thinking about the blonde.

And then the brunette comes
to spend a weekend with him

in some house they rented
for them in Los Angeles.

They say this is the most dramatic
thing in Bachelor history

we're gonna show you, they had
a camera on him a camera on her.

And he says to her...
I'm breaking up with you.

For 20 minutes, America
watched Becca, the brunette, cry.

Cry and cry and feel humiliated
and cry and say go away

and then he wouldn't go away...

Moving on. Our main story
concerns technology.

The thing that will eventually
make television so HiDef,

I will no longer be allowed
to appear on it.

I want to approach this carefully,
discussions of any new technology

tend to age badly, as this news report
from less than five years ago shows.

The first users of Google Glasses
will not be the last.

It'll end up changing our lifestyles,
the way we interact.

And just changing the gesture.
Instead of this, it will be that.

Yeah, it wasn't though.
It was not that.

People didn't mind doing this
if the alternative

was wearing a stupid robot
on their face.

It is dangerous to make predictions
about where tech is going.

Tonight, we're going to talk
about cryptocurrencies.

All you don't understand
about money combined

with all you
don't understand about computers.

The main currency you've
heard about is Bitcoin.

It's been all over the news,
because last year, its value exploded,

from around $1 000,
to $9 000 by November,

to nearly $20 000 by December.

Bitcoin became such a hot topic,
paparazzi asked celebrities about it.

Watch Michael Keaton
leaving a restaurant.

See you guys, take care.

Would you
recommend buying bitcoin ?

I was just talking to my buddy,
who knows about this.

One guy said:
"yeah, you probably want to."

Another friend of mine said...

Not like a bad thing, they
don't know where it's gonna go.

You do not expect conversations with
paparazzi to be so nuanced.

Cardi B ! What are your thoughts
on the idea of universal basic income ?

It could go a long way
to reducing inequality,

but I don't think the Americans
would support the tax increase.

Read in: "Cardinomics: Making Money
Moves For A New American Century"

This was a dramatic shift,
you'd only hear about Bitcoin

from that one guy in your office
who wouldn't shut up about it.

Let's call him "Dan".
We're calling him "Dan"

because Dan is the exact guy
in our office

who's been annoying everybody with
his "you gotta get into Bitcoin" shit.

This is why we hate Dan.
It's not the only reason,

but it's the easiest one
to bring up right now.

Lately, more and more normal
people, or "non-Dans",

got into cryptocurrencies,
after stories like this.

Dylan Fine is living the dream.

I had that Mitsubishi Eclipse.
My AC didn't work, right ?

I had to open my door
to get food at the drive-through.

Everything changed when
a friend introduced him to Bitcoin.

I turned 350 dollars
into 12 000.

He became a millionaire at 24
by investing in Bitcoin.

I can put in a trade, wait,
let the exchange rate fluctuate

and I'm able to profit from
the world's largest financial market.

That man is apparently a millionaire,
why he's being interviewed

on the most expensive outdoor
swamp log in South Florida.

Despite the fact that Bitcoin dropped
by half since the start of this year,

there is still a cryptocurrency fervor,
with people watching people get rich

or hearing about others
on Reddit or Twitter

and feeling driven to invest in crypto,
due to FOMO

or "fear of missing out".

FOMO is a term that many of you
already knew about,

but I'm forty years old, British
and oblivious, or "FYOBO."

With all this excitement, we'd try
and explain a few things tonight:

Bitcoin, blockchain, the technology
that allows it to exist,

and cryptocurrencies in general.

I'm going to be simplifying things.
So let's start with Bitcoin,

which is a digital,
decentralized currency.

Bitcoin only exists as computer code

and there is no bank or government
creating or controlling it.

This is already a little
hard to understand,

so I'll let this man in a Bitcoin suit
give you a decent explanation.

I'm a virtual currency. Worldwide,
you can send for little to no fees,

not controlled by any government,

corporation or individual,
it's financial freedom, bro.

Thanks, bro. That is a nuanced
and accurate explanation of a topic

delivered with the help
of a man in a stupid costume.

I would make fun of that,

except it's the entire business model
of this television show.

You may be thinking, but: "How
do you make money from Bitcoin ?"

Dan would say: "You trade it on
exchanges, like any other currency."

And if you then asked,
how does it have value ?

Dan would say: "How does
any money have value, man ?"

And then he'd say:
"Call me the brain-fellater,"

"'cause I just blew
your fucking mind."

Forget I asked, Dan. You're
absolutely gross. I hate you.

But the problem is,
Dan is kind of right.

Like most currencies,
the reason that Bitcoin has value

is because people agree
it has value.

It's really being treated more like
speculative investment than a currency.

Think of it like
Beanie Babies.

Why is this Beanie Baby being
for sale at a price of $15 000 ?

Its owner thinks that someone
will pay that for it.

That owner was absolutely right.
I'm kidding.

I bought this at a yard sale
for $10 000.

I'm not a complete idiot.

Bitcoin is interesting as a concept,
there are complicated technical issues

to work out before
it can become a usable currency.

Look what happened in January.

Hundreds are in Miami
for a Bitcoin conference

but it had to stop taking Bitcoin
as a payment for tickets last week,

there are still kinks
to work out with the currency.

It's true, a Bitcoin conference
stopped taking Bitcoin.

Which is a red flag, that's the one
place you'd think it would be accepted.

Like when I tried to pay for access
to the Republican National Convention

using Ronald Reagan's
dusty skeleton bones.

Everyone agreed they had value,
there wasn't an adequate network

for the completion
of our transaction.

Whether Bitcoin catches on or not,
many believe the exciting thing

is the potential of the innovative
technology that it's built on,

something called "blockchain".

If I wanted to send money
to someone across the world,

a bank would verify that transaction
and it could take days.

With Bitcoin, it is vastly faster,
no bank is involved.

Because blockchain technology
allows a record or a ledger

of every Bitcoin transaction
to be stored, not in one place,

but across vast numbers
of computers.

That is part of what people mean
when say Bitcoin is "decentralized"

and decentralization has advantages,
from speed to security.

The key point here is that
this is a distributed ledger.

There is no central survey.
All the other ledgers that we have,

they all sit and reside
inside that company,

which means they have one point
of attack, they can be hacked,

JP Morgan was hacked
by cyber thieves not so long ago,

Home Depot, Target, we've had
these companies get hacked

because there's one central
repository of information.

Bitcoin ledger resides on
thousands of computers.

You can't hack that.

Sounds great.

Because of the complicated process
the network uses, it is very secure.

I'm not going to get into what that
process is, or how it works,

but I will share a really dumb
metaphor for why it is safe.

The way I like to think of it is that
a blockchain is a processed thing,

sort of like a Chicken McNugget
and if you wanted to hack it,

it'd be like turning a Chicken McNugget
back into a chicken.

Someday, someone will do that,
but now it's going to be tough.

That is a horrible thought,
why is that reporter so happy ?

If anyone figures out how to turn a
Chicken McNugget back into a chicken,

that chicken
is going to be fucked up.

He'll be suffering from PTSD and
writing poetry about the experience.

The things I saw...

My body is whole,
But what of my soul ?

That is the blockchain: a database
impossible to hack or tamper with

and which could improve security,
efficiency and trust.

Big companies like Walmart, IBM
and JP Morgan have been experimenting

as a way to potentially share
and secure data

and transactions in a reliable,
easy to access way.

No one yet knows what blockchain
is really capable of.

Don't worry if you still don't
understand. Most people don't.

Dan thinks he does, he'll throw around
terms like "supply chain management"

and it makes me want
to punch him in his face.

Stop leaving printouts of Reddit
threads on my desk, Dan !

I'm just throwing them away !
I hate you !

There is enough excitement around
the very word "blockchain"

that it's become
a magnet for investment.

Reuters found that the existing
companies that merely added

the word blockchain to their name
saw their stock price

increase more than threefold
and one was particularly dumb.

Long Island Iced Tea renamed
themselves long blockchain.

Guess what happened ?
Yeah, their stock tripled.

To people who watch markets. Seems
so stupid it's not worth reporting.

I don't care how stupid it is,
it works.

This show will be called "Last Bit
Tonight With Block Chainiver."

Triple the ratings ! Triple !
Take that to the bank !

At this point you know basically
what Bitcoin is...

It's the future, bro. And why
people are excited about blockchain:

it won't let people
chicken up your nuggs.

You might still be wondering: what
about all the other cryptocurrencies ?

The key software to create
a coin is open-source,

anyone can create one,
so they have done that.

There are over 1 500 cryptocurrencies
that you can buy, with names

like Titcoin, Trumpcoin, Jesuscoin,
Insanecoin, Electroneum, Wax, Particl,

Deep Onion, Snovio,
Pluton, NuBits and Clams.

So insane, you can't tell which ones
are real and which I made up,

they're all real,
I didn't make any up,

I tried to come up with a dumber
name than "Deep Onion"

and it can't be done.

Not all are like Bitcoin,
hoping to be the next currency.

Startup companies will sell a coin
to try and raise money,

as an alternative to issuing stock.

those coins are meant as tokens,

to be used for services that startup
might eventually provide.

Kind of like the tokens at Chuck
E. Cheese, only virtual

and not redeemable
at a rat-based food emporium.

It has become easy to issue coins
so companies are doing it a lot.

Initial coin offerings, or ICO's,
raised over $6 billion in 2017,

with one company raising $35
million in under 30 seconds.

When someone makes that
much money that fast,

they did it by walking up
to Bill O'Reilly,

sitting in silence for 26 seconds,
saying: "I recorded our phone calls."

But the vast majority of people
buying coins are not paying attention

to the details of the startups
they're attached to.

They are just responding
to the huge fervor.

There's an entire online
subculture of YouTube personalities

and sub-Reddits for having a cult-like
devotion to buying these coins.

You'll find they have
a whole shorthand.

One key term is "hodl", based
on a misspelling of "hold".

This is a foundational principle:
don't sell when prices drop.

"Hodl" in the face of "FUD":
"fear, uncertainty and doubt."

You might miss out when the coin
"moons", or rockets up in value,

you'll get "rekt"
or lose money

and never be able to afford
the traders' ultimate goal:

a "lambo," which is short for,

because of course it is.

If you are thinking these terms belong
in a rap video, some traders agree.

Throw your hands in the air man.
If you're d-down with the blockchain.

I ain't got time for the haters.
We about to grow to a million.

Hodl gang... Tell me
are you down with the crypto ?

Hodl gang...

And I've got to be honest there,

it is hard not to watch that and
deep down want to be in

the hodl gang,
hodl gang...

Many are buying coins because
other people are buying them.

Even a coin started as a joke, like
Dogecoin, can rocket up in value.

It's named after an internet meme
that was popular at the time.

A photo of a shiba inu with comments
written in broken English around it.

Dogecoin's total market value
has almost doubled, to over $2 billion.

There appear to be
no obvious reasons for this.

Yeah, because there were
no obvious reasons.

The whole point was to make fun
of how people will buy anything.

People did exactly that.
That is no less ridiculous than

if you started a joke band after
Beatles called The Woofles,

all St. Bernard's, and they went
on to have 40 #1 hits

and were knighted by the Queen.

This is clearly ridiculous,
but for investors, it's also dangerous.

This market is the Wild West
and ripe for exploitation.

It's easy to manipulate the value of
coins through pump-and-dump schemes.

Regulators crack down on those
with stocks,

but they acted slower
in the crypto market.

That may explain why
some groups have felt comfortable

posting videos like this.

Welcome to Crypto Callz,
a leading cryptocurrency pump group,

where we skyrocket the value
of coins for six hours at a time.

For information
about our weekly pumps,

follow our Telegram channel.

Once released,
buy the coin as quickly as possible.

When everyone in the group
has purchased the coin,

we will begin advertising it to
other investors on social media.

Outside investors will fill our orders
as they "FOMO" into the coin

that we have increased in value
1 000 to 2 000 percent.

The six hours are up, everyone
in our group will have sold for profit.

Crypto Callz: together, we profit.

Holy shit !
It's kind of destabilizing to see

an advertisement for something
you could have sworn was illegal.

It's like watching a
commercial and hearing:

Do you not have a child ?
Do you want somebody else's ?

Then Kidnappers' Korner
is the group for you !

We take children that are not ours
and bring them home with us !

It's "easy peasy
toddler-seizey !"

Pump-and-dumps are the beginning.
There are dodgy companies,

some look like old-school frauds
with crypto sauce on top.

Take Bitconnect. It was worth
three billion dollars.

Bitconnect told investors that,
if they handed over money,

they could get returns
as 40% a month.

And a rate of return that high
may seem suspicious to you,

but the market was soaring and
Bitconnect had excited investors,

like this guy who spoke
at one of the conferences.

Wassup ? Bitconnect !

Let me tell you that we are
changing the world as we know it.

The world is not anymore
the way it used to be. No !

Bitconnect !

Bitconnect !

I love...

Bitconnect !

Yes, the last time I saw someone
that irrationally exuberant,

he was roughly seven years
away from divorcing Katie Holmes.

I don't blame him.
He's got a good head on his shoulders.

You stay clear, Tommy.
Stay clear, my boy.

That man's passion has become
famous in the crypto world,

as well as his conviction that
the business was 100% legit.

I am saying to so many people
who say that this was going to be

a con artist game,
a scammer game:

you're gonna lose all your money,
my wife still doesn't believe in me !

I tell her:
"Honey, look, this is real."

No, that's a scam.

I said to myself: "When I started
to put ten thousand dollars a day

on her table,
then she's gonna say....

Women ! Always nagging you not to
get sucked into get-rich-quick schemes,

leaving your marriage
in a state of financial ruin.

Bitconnect !

This will not surprise you:
Bitconnect essentially collapsed.

Regulators in two states
issued cease-and-desist orders

and Bitconnect's reportedly
been labeled a Ponzi scheme.

Something nobody suspected
from their promotional material,

except it featured this illustration
of their bonus system.

A picture of a man coming up
with the idea for a pyramid scheme.

I am not saying that
every crypto coin is a scam.

I'm not saying that every
blockchain company is bullshit.

In a speculative mania,

it can be incredibly hard
to tell which companies are for real.

Look at, a startup whose
coin offering has so far raised

$1.5 billion, which will go toward
developing a software project, EOS.

It took Facebook seven years to raise
a billion dollars from investors.

It took Uber five years.
EOS surpassed that in nine months.

Despite the Wall Street Journal
described block one

as "a software startup that
doesn't plan to sell any software"

and describes what it's selling
as having "no purpose".

While the company insists
that EOS will be

"the most powerful infrastructure
for decentralized applications",

which they say will
be "usable",

it hasn't launched yet.

You have to take their word
for it. And they do talk a big game.

Everything will be better,
faster and cheaper.

Everything will be
more connected.

Everything will be more trustworthy,
more secure.

Everything that exists
is no longer going to exist

in the way that it does today.

Everything in this world
is about to get better.

Please, douche. Everything will no
longer exist in the way it does ?

How is EOS going
to change this iguana ?

How is EOS going to both alter
and improve, Susan, here ?

Susan is enough !

That sleepy creepy cowboy from
the future is named Brock Pierce.

He began his career appearing
in "The Mighty Ducks"

and in a Gushers commercial as
a child who turns into a banana.

That banana got involved
with unsavory figures.

Google "Brock Pierce scandal"
is all I'm saying there

and he teamed up with EOS to help
promote their not-yeta-product.

He gave a speech at a tech conference,
and remember as you listen:

the company he's describing
has raised $1.5 billion.

This is a Chestahedron that I'm wearing
which is the logo of EOS.

The Chestahedron is the sacred
geometrical shape of the heart.

If you're gonna bring a technology that
has the potential to change everything,

it's good when you do it with intention
and seems a good place to begin.

This was my wedding.
An entirely unicorn wedding.

All the groomsmen wore the color
of the rainbow plus pink.

And my best man was a woman
dressed in black, cracking a whip.

Stop, Brock. Stop.
I was already out at Chestahedron,

and I refuse to believe that a man
who organize a unicorn wedding

should be trusted around
one and a half billion dollars.

If someone mowed your lawn
and gave you that speech,

you would tell:
"I don't trust you with my lawn."

You're gonna organize
a warlock quinceanera on it.

At the start, I said that I didn't
want to make predictions.

Maybe EOS is going to be the next
Google. I don't think it is.

I don't think it can be worth over
a billion dollars at this point.

But I could be wrong.
I'm not, but I could be.

If you choose to invest
in the cryptocurrency space,

know you're not investing,
you're gambling.

You should know that is what
you're doing. Prices do go down.

Bitcoin could be worthless.
Or it could be worth billions

and adopted
as a new global currency.

If that does happen,
I will not experience it,

I'll be in an bunker, trying to avoid
Dan's smug little face.

I hate your belt more than
anything else in that photo.

This is a new space and nobody
knows how it's going to develop.

So you need to be careful.
I know that that sounds boring,

caution is a tough sell when you're
up against Bitconnect and hodl gang.

I have invited a special guest to
help make that message more exciting.

Wassup ?

I'm so thrilled right now to be
sharing this, super exciting,

hunky-dory, Magic Mike
moment with all of you !

Tonight, we're going to be talking
about: responsibility !

Responsibility. Tell me more
about this responsibility.

I shouldn't throw everything I own
into cryptocurrencies ?

- That's right, John.
- I shouldn't do it ?

- No !
- That's a no ?

- That's a no.
- That's a hard no.

The crypto market is volatile
and insufficiently regulated.

They pump they dump.
They pump 'n dump...

- Pumpin' it and dumpin' it...
- It's true.

They pump and dump...

- All the time.
- And they dump.

- Yes.
- They dump.

Listen up bitties and gentlecoins,
investing in crypto could be

like getting in on Google
on the ground floor.

Hold on wait ! When you say that,
that sounds absolutely great.

Or it could be like getting in on
Google Glass on the ground floor !

That turned out to be:
a one-story building !

That was a single story.
What is the big lesson here ?

Never invest any more
than you're willing to lose !

And if you do,
don't just blindly "hodl" !

Instead, you have to be
extremely craeful, ok ?

Have to be craeful.
Hashtag "craefulgang" !

Craefulgang !

Craefulgang, I love it.
That's our show !

Thank you for watching !
We'll see you next week ! Goodnight !

Craefulgang !
Responsibility !

He makes some good points.
You make a good point.

I make a good point.

Responsibility !