Discussions of new technology tend to age badly,” John Oliver said as he opened Sunday night’s episode of Last Week Tonight, “so that said, tonight we are going to talk about cryptocurrencies,” a topic that combines “everything you don’t understand about money” with “everything you don’t understand about computers.”

Oliver spent the next half hour providing his take on Bitcoin mania, and — though fans of individual projects may disagree — he largely struck a balanced tone on the ecosystem as a whole.

For a mass media program, the segment gave a respectable high-level description of how blockchain technology works, as well as its ability to “possibly improve security, efficiency, and trust.”

However, Oliver noted that the cryptocurrency ecosystem also has a seedy side, as evidenced by pump-and-dump schemes, initial coin offering (ICO) scams — and yes, Bitconnect.

Oliver brought up these examples, not to denigrate the ecosystem or judge it by its worst actors but rather to remind his audience — whose demographics largely align with those of cryptocurrency investors — that nobody knows with certainty how this experiment will turn out.

“Who knows? Maybe EOS is going to be the next Google. I don’t think it is, and I certainly don’t think it can be worth over a billion dollars at this point, but I could be wrong. I’m absolutely not, but I could be,” Oliver said in what was probably his least charitable remark of the segment.

All things considered, mass media depictions of cryptocurrency have come a long way since a hitman (played by Jamie Fox) said he wanted to be paid in “untraceable bit coins” in the 2014 comedy Horrible Bosses 2.

And, as many social media users have noted in their assessments of the Last Week Tonight episode, Oliver has a point. Unfortunately, many investors have invested large sums of money in cryptocurrency and blockchain-related projects without taking the time to research what exactly they are buying.

Oliver just wants them to be careful.

“The point is, if you choose to invest in the cryptocurrency space, just know that you’re not investing. You’re gambling, which is fine, but you should know that that is what you’re doing,” he concluded, shortly before actor Keegan-Michael Key used a spot-on parody of Bitconnect promoter Carlos Santos to encourage investors to act responsibly. “The important thing here to remember is that this is a brand new, very complicated space, and literally no one knows how it’s going to develop. So you need to be careful.”


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