In many ways, at the moment cryptocurrencies are mostly used for speculation and maybe that's the reason that it doesn't get much attention within the EA community (apart from being relatively more accepted as as source of donations compared to other communities).
I think that might be an oversight.
So far I would say cryptocurrency was mainly transformative in three ways:
1) Allowing (pseudo-)anonymous transactions world-wide, which allows for more safety when conducting transactions in a context that could lead to persecution (buying high-quality drugs online seems to be the most widespread one)
2) Smart individuals (or lucky early-adopters) can become, or have become quite rich by utilizing the enormous growth of the crypto market which certainly is transformative for the individuals in question
3) It has created a new eco-system in the technology/financial space, where money and ideas flow quite differently than before
I think 2) is quite relevant to EAs because crypto-trading is likely a more accessible way of making lots of money to give away compared to many alternatives like getting a very high paying job. The crypto market is a very inefficient market with enormous returns due to its extremely dynamic nature.
Yes, it is relatively risky, but this can mitigated quite well by risk management, and with respect to "earning to give" expected value is more important than volatility.
But this is not what I want to focus on in this post.
What I mostly want to point out in this post is the great transformative potential of cryptocurrencies as it relates to the economy and the distribution of money:
4) Cryptocurrency allows for decentralized creation of money instead of money creation by central banks
So far the total market cap of cryptocurrency is in the billions (barely reaching a trillion now), so the total economic effect is relatively subtle, but as it stands there seem to be little reason for the crypto market to stagnate or shrink over the long-term.
As I see it, the only realistic possibility that would lead to cryptocurrencies not mattering too much in the future is if they get suppressed by governments.
But I feel the economic benefits to governments that do not do this will likely be too big for that to happen on a large scale.
The implication of 4) is that depending on the trajectory of cryptocurrencies, they could lead to vastly different economic and societal effects.
One possibility is for them to be a tool for people with privileged access to wealth and education and a high affinity towards new technologies to become rich (for example through mining, investing, trading, founding,...) at the cost of leading to devaluation of traditional currencies.
For now, that seems to mostly be the case.
The more idealistic possibility is that cryptocurrencies would be distributed more fairly, based on need and merit, but so far this only happens on a very small scale.
Nano for example was distributed through faucets, which while quite arbitrary and susceptible to manipulation (eg click farms) at least had the intention of distributing the currency without preferring privileged people.
Some currencies like GoodDollar have an even more radical approach and want to give every person that verifies themselves as unique a basic income on an ongoing basis. I like the idea, but I feel it's likely not fleshed-out enough and just a bit too ambitious at the moment. I think unfortunately the value of the basic income will likely never be enough to make significant change in the lives of the recipients.
So as I see it the creation of truly fair (relatively) decentralized money with a high positive social impact is hugely neglected right now, and depending on what the market share of cryptocurrencies will be, this could literally be about trillions of dollars.
What such a currency would look like is of course a complex question when it comes to the details, but there seem to be realistic ways of making huge improvements compared to present distribution models.
Voting seems to be an obvious mechanism to decide how to distribute funds, but this would have to supplemented with adequate identity verification, rules against abuse and an organization behind it that works with stakeholders and representatives to make sure funds are not only being distributed with a degree of participatory legitimation, but also in an effective manner (of course it should not have too much authority which would go against the idea of a decentralized currency, but serve more of an educational, regulatory and representative function).
I favor a certain initial distribution with an additional ongoing distribution with an infinite, slowly rising monetary supply, as to not lock-in the decisions too early.
Maybe some form of cooperation with governments would be ideal so that the currency will not perceived as a competition to traditional money, but as one of the most compliant and beneficial cryptocurrencies.
It could be that some projects along these lines do already exist, but so far I haven't seen anything quite like it and I have a relatively solid overview over the crypto-sphere.
So if it exists it must be quite small and in great need of support.
Of course this a big idea, and my abilities and connections are quite limited, but I felt it's important to start somewhere and raise awareness of this potential cause area.
I hope this inspired some of you to think more deeply about what impact cryptocurrency could have in the future, and maybe you have some ideas or suggestions on how this cause area could be developed further.