Squee was having a difficult time in the dating world. He was 24-years-old with a wide, melancholy face, like a cream puff, and a head of perennially dying ginger hairs. Emboldened by a degree from an online “law school,” he earned his crust selling unaffordable car insurance to convicted drunk drivers. And losing what little he made trading shitcoins.
Our Squee was a loser in every way, and he knew it.
He felt hung out to dry, downtrodden, in the doldrums. Most of all, he was painfully celibate. “Involuntarily,” he’d quip, as if it were funny, to whichever gurning tosspot had most recently fallen into his orbit. Yet Squee’s humiliating frogmarch down Chastity Lane was self imposed: He was paranoid, unduly so. An avatar of toxic masculinity, he believed that women were waiting, poised like undercover cops, to bump him off to jail if he so much as glanced at one of them.
Not ideal circumstances for a fulfilling dating life!
But … still … Squee was feeling needy. Restless. Ten hours a day on Chaturbate was doing his head in, and was incredibly… chafing . And though women in the real world around him, ones that couldn’t be logged off when the deed was done, had, now and then, shown some scant interest, our Squee, being the wreck he was, had pushed them away.
Then, after a particularly draining night of competitive Chaturbating, he found the website.
Proof-of-love.com vowed to “leverage radically innovative blockchain technology solutions to timestamp intra-personal relations irrepudiably, shifting the legal paradigm.” A third-party blogger more succinctly described it as an “online dating service that tracks and stamps each interaction onto an immutable database.” Supposedly, logging a jointly-agreed-upon account of each and every trivial interaction made throughout a date—from early pleasantries to depraved, full-throttle missionary on the kitchen counter—would keep both sides from subsequently suing each other in court.
The legally sensitive Squee thought that this was a wonderful premise. He “invested” in $500 worth of ProlCoin, and set out to try the product immediately. The app was in beta, but enough women—presumably taken by the app’s pledge to “incentivize consent”—had signed up. User interface-wise, the app was a Tinder clone. Swipe right for yes, left for no. Easy.
Even Squee, albeit using a picture of his dad, was able to quickly get a match.
She shone in the center of the room like a yahrzeit candle. Waiters, kitchen staff, barmaids, runners, empty beer bottles, trash-cans alike seemed to part in her presence. Squee had never seen a woman like her before, besides, perhaps, Mrs. Thromstew.
They had set up the date for 7:15pm, and there she was, on time, perched on a stool by the sweeping horseshoe bar.
Kayla was in kicky, strappy heels, a wool sweater and jeans, her ash-blond hair pulled back, ashily. Squee was enshlubbed in worn penny-loafers, his khaki, pleated-waist trousers wrinkle-free, and his brown tee rid of last night’s tendie-grease.
Squee smiled. Kayla smiled. They shook hands and murmured introductions.
Suavely, Squee sat in the barstool next to her and signalled, hopelessly, to get a bartender’s attention.
And then there was a third man.
“Hello!” said the third man, a seemly waiter-type with a pleasant, sympathetic smile, who briskly stepped in between them. “I work for proof-of-love.com, and I’ll be your oracle for today.”
“Our what ?” oinked Squee.
“Your oracle. Obviously, external, real-world data can’t be stored on our system without human input, so that’s my job. Don’t mind me, I’ll just be sitting there”—he gestured at a shadowy nook at the back of the room—”taking notes for the night, with a highly sensitive directional mic so I hear everything. Enjoy!” He fluttered off.
Squee looked feebly toward his date, and his gaze was returned… blissfully.
“You knew about this?” he asked.
“Did you not read the white paper? This is key to the product’s success,” Kayla replied. “How, without an ‘oracle,’ can we trust the truth of what we say happened?”
“But,” sputtered Squee, “how can we trust … that one man?”
“Oh, that’s not a problem!” Kayla said brightly, spewing techno-babble as if a second language. “He’s just the lead oracle. There are eight more, each tasked with verifying what the previous oracle writes down.”
Another man, this one bearded with juicy, fat, red cheeks, waved cheerfully from another shadowy nook. Kayla waved back.
Squee looked on, aghast.
“Consensus?” she said. “Surely you’ve heard of it. More than half of them must agree on anything of substance. It’s a very good system.”
Eager to win brownie points, Squee nodded his mangey ginger head vigorously, like the acquiescent bobblehead he is. And summoned the waiter to request a bottle of the restaurant’s cheapest wine.
The date went … okay.
Better than okay, really. Squee subjected Kayla to his usual vaporous anecdotes, an awful, prolonged bout of “palm-reading,” and a brief crying jag about his clinically untreatable, overactive sweat glands.
The oracles were more or less out of the way, though Squee was aware of their constant scribbling in the shadows. Nothing amiss, just the scratch of nine pens, the blinking of nine phones.
Toward the end of the evening, things were going so well—Kayla actually giggled at some interminable story of his about an enormous cauliflower an aunt had grown when he was a child—that our hero leaned in… for a kiss.
And that’s when the trouble began.
“Stoooooooop!” shrieked the first oracle, who was rather new to the job. He sprang forth from the shadows and bounded over to the couple’s dining table. “You didn’t enter your consent into the app.”
He was right. Diligently, Squee and Kayla fumbled for their phones.
“No, it’s too late now,” the oracle said, petulantly. “We’ll have to discuss it among ourselves.”
The other eight oracles emerged, grouchily, from their shadowy nooks to confer.
“I saw him lunge at her, like an animal!” Squee heard one whisper. “No, no, it was her, she seduced him, like a sordid temptress !” asserted another. “I saw both lunge, and neither gave consent!” hissed a third.
“How do you know?” screeched another. “You only think you know because you know that I know! That’s how this system works! You verify!”
“I don’t verify, you verify! I’m at the source, and I know what I saw! You only know what I told you I saw!”
“Well then if I’m wrong, so are you!”
“But it’s your job to make sure I’m right, that’s verifying!”
“That’s right,” another oracle verified, uncertainly and somewhat out of order.
“How can I make sure you’re right when everything I know is passed down directly from you?” beseeched the former interlocutor.
“Shall we have a vote then,” suggested one of the older oracles. She looked bored by the whole thing.
Squee tried to interject. “Guys, why don’t you ask us what the facts are?”
“Afraid not, pal,” said the woman, who stood at a slant, like a birch. “You are the fact. We can’t trust facts with the facts. We need third parties to check them.” She gave out a deep sigh. “You just can’t trust folks with the truth these days,” she lamented, sounding like a third-rate Facebook post written by a dumb hick conspiracy theorist — precisely the kind of hick this whole system was intended to thwart.
“That’s why we take care of this,” she explained, continuing in the vein of a fictitious character dreamed up solely to parody blockchain. “It’s ‘trustless,’ and requires only faith in our Byzantine system of coordination.”
“Oh, and we’re not ‘guys ,’” she added in a barb directed squarely at Squee. She was flanked by a few other women who glared at him, menacingly. Squee recoiled, terrified.
Meanwhile, the inter-oracle brawl continued. One oracle, appalled at having his verification skills slighted, threw a hard left hook on the nose of another, who launched promptly into a nosebleed. The wounded man staggered back in shock.
The first oracle wrung his hands. “Oh, my!” he said. “If we can’t reach consensus we will have to fork.”
“Wanna come back with me?,” whined Squee at his date through the corner of his grisly mouth.
“Screw it, let’s go,” she said, unrealistically.
Kayla ordered an Uber, which instantly swung by, cutting crisply through the crispy, crisp air. They clambered aboard, but before the driver could get the Prius’s doors shut, the horde of angry oracles tried to squeeze in. Several more summoned additional Uber Priuses.
And all the while, the crazed oracles screamed, “We need to watch you have sex!”
Kayla and Squee tried to drive off, but a stalemate had been reached. With three oracles hanging onto it, the Uber could go no further.
Just as things could get no worse, internationally reviled blockchain skeptic David Gerard rocketed up on a baby blue Vespa, a young Lindsay Lohan riding shotgun.
“This whole thing is a fraud!” he declaimed. “There is no reason to use blockchain for a dating app. There is no reason to use blockchain for anything .”
All the oracles stopped shoving. They fell silent, and looked at him.
“He’s right you know,” said the first. “I concur,” said the second, somewhat sheepishly. “You got that right,” said the third. “Fucking A,” said the fourth. And so on, right down the line.
There was 100% agreement among the oracles. Consensus had at last been achieved.
Kayla ended up leaving with with one of them. And Squee? Bless his heart, Squee immediately tried to sell off his ProlCoin, but found that the price had dropped to a few decrements above zero. He decided, against his better instincts, to HODL. Dully, he wondered if it was too late to work up a decent tournament in Chaturbate.
The best of Decrypt fired straight to your inbox.
Get the top commentary on the news that matters delivered to your inbox
An oh so clever take on the day’s 3 top stories.
You friend, if you want to know what’s what.
Each morning with your ☕.
Because a young writer's career is on the line.