Cryptocurrency prices have largely stalled in recent months. Institutional players are coming into the space, supported by what is likely to be greater regulatory certainty. The biggest controversy in recent weeks has involved stablecoins generally pegged to the dollar, and what happens when that tether is loosened.

Does this lack of volatility mean cryptocurrencies have become just another asset class? What about the underlying blockchain technology? As more mainstream players get involved there are people working very hard to keep blockchain decentralized, as it was intended.

What do CryptoKitties, John McAfee and developers of blockchain cities have in common?

Are the days of ambitious, audacious moonshots numbered? Can blockchain ever be boring? Given a wide-ranging series of announcements over the past week, that seems unlikely.

After all, we’ve seen blockchain developer ConsenSys acquire space exploration firm Planetary Resources, which is interested in mining on an interplanetary level. Other big-name players in the crypto space announced a blockchain-powered city to be built from scratch and a U.S. presidential run. Even among the more level-headed, a symbol of the sector’s excess garnered a seven-figure investment from a number of blue-chip players.

A Blockchain City

On the 10th anniversary of the white paper that launched bitcoin (BTC) and the entire cryptocurrency space, Blockchains LLC founder Jeffrey Berns announced one of the most ambitious plans to date: Building a “smart city” in the Nevada desert that would be governed as a “distributed collaborative entity.” All property ownership and decision making would take place on a blockchain.

“Something inside me tells me this is the answer, that if we can get enough people to trust the blockchain, we can begin to change all the systems we operate by,” Berns told the New York Times.  

While the idea of a decentralized city with thousands of homes sounds like a long shot, Blockchains has already built an office complex on the property to serve as a sandbox for new experiments, and hired a staff of 70. It also has entered a partnership with the NV Energy utility to conduct energy transactions over the blockchain.

Even if the blockchain city doesn’t come to fruition, Blockchain’s land has promising neighbors. The 67,000-acre property completely surrounds Tesla’s Gigafactory plant and sites owned by Apple and Google.

A Presidential Run

It’s safe to say that John McAfee is one of the cryptocurrency space’s most colorful personalities. The exploits of – and questions about – the founder of the software company McAfee are the subject of a documentary and a forthcoming major motion picture. He said in June he’s running for president in 2020, either as a Libertarian or an independent. It would be his second bid for the nation’s highest office, but the first time crypto has become the driving focus behind a presidential campaign.

Back in September, via Twitter, he asked his Libertarian supporters from his 2016 campaign if they would support him if he ran as an independent. Last week, McAfee tweeted“When I gain access to the national stage (as I did in 2016), the world of crypto will have a light shed on it that none before have been able to shine. The world will change. Freedom, at last will be within our reach. Do we have the courage to grasp it?”

McAfee would be the first to agree on the long odds of his campaign succeeding. “Don’t think that I have a chance of winning. I do not,” he said in back in June. “But what truly changes America is not the president, but the process of creating one. If my following is sufficient, I get to stand [on] the world’s largest stage and talk to everyone, as I did last time, to tell the truth.”

Cats and Cold Cash

And then there are the CryptoKittiesthe Ethereum-based collectible cats that became a symbol of blockchain excess when prices for rare cats broke the six-figure mark last year.

However, that has not stopped the kitties’ parent company from raising an additional $15 million in financing from the investment units of Google and Samsung, among others. Institutional investors are still willing to overlook the odds in hopes of building models for mass adoption.

Mass adoption still has a long way to go, however. CryptoKitties, like most decentralized apps on the Ethereum blockchain, has a small user base measured in the hundreds, not thousands, daily. That means investors have put upwards of $75,000 towards each CryptoKitties daily user, by one estimate. That’s a lot of cash for collectible cats, but a clear sign investors see promise in blockchain’s most unusual areas.

Mark Toner
Mark Toner is a Washington, D.C., writer and editor. He has covered business, technology, media, education, and healthcare for a wide range of trade and industry publications.