A Trip to the Top-Shelf with the Blockchain’s Hugh Hefner

A Trip to the Top-Shelf with the Blockchain’s Hugh Hefner

“You have four minutes,” was the message which popped up on my screen.

I looked at my phone, showing a notification from the Telegram messenger app. It had a sense of urgency about it, so I hurriedly tapped in my PIN.

It was Stuart Duncan. And it was his reply to a message I had sent to him a month previously to see if he would be interested in talking to me for a follow-up piece on my original Vice Industry Token article which I had written back in December.

That article – which had essentially discussed porn on the Blockchain, albeit from what might be described as a purely technical angle – had generated some interest in Duncan’s new porn ICO venture so I figured I should work another angle for a follow-up piece. But there had been no reply, so I just presumed he was busy. He was.

Now, however, the man behind Exxxtasy, Hustler TV and Playboy TV was telling me that he could spare me a few minutes. Four of them. It seemed like some kind of progress.

“Well,” I replied, “I was hoping to see if  you could answer some questions I have, which could help with writing up a follow-up piece after the success of the last one?”

“I had four minutes, I now have three. Will that do?”

“F*ck me,” I thought, “I suppose it will have to.”

“Actually,” he said, “meeting starting now, talk later.”

“Ok,” I replied.

“I had four minutes, I now have three. Will that do?”

I told myself that maybe a second piece perhaps wasn’t worth the trouble after all. I didn’t expect to hear back from Duncan in any case, and I wasn’t sure what new angle there might be to work with.

The original intention was to talk about the man himself. It seemed like we had something of a personality here. But I gave up on any idea of being able to get enough time with the man to build up an adequate profile.

As well as that, I had a suspicion that he was a man who, despite the overt nature of his work, was an intensely private individual.

It was a surprise, then, when I got another message from him later in the day.

“I’m in the car now,” he said. “Heading to the Canadian border. Three hour drive. Plenty of time to talk.”

“Canadian border? So you’re not based in the UK?” I replied. With a first name and family name both resolutely Scottish, I was half-expecting him to be British.

“Heading over the border to buy some Ether,” he replied. “What do you need to know for your article?”


The trouble with Duncan is that when you get a chance to talk to him, you simply don’t know if the conversation is going to last thirty seconds or thirty minutes. I have learned to always assume the former.

Right now, though, I was intrigued by why someone has to drive to any border of any description to buy cryptocurrency which is simply borderless by nature.

Duncan’s upcoming Vice Industry Token ICO, he tells me, has 10,000 people on its white-list.

“Even the Devil and Hugh Hefner must sit back and admire what the Vice Industry is creating,” he told me, “a world-wide social economy where for the first time in history people get paid to watch porn. The most brilliant ideas are the simplest.”


I had already done my own research into the technical aspect of his project. It held water. As far-fetched as it sounds, it is now entirely possible – and very trivial – to set up a website where people get paid to consume its contents without it costing anyone a single penny.

The Steemit platform has been proof of that very concept – applied to blogging, not porn – for the last eighteen months. It applies what is known as the proof-of-brain approach, a play on the Bitcoin network’s concept of proof-of-work which establishes the consensus mechanism that underpins all blockchains.

Proof-of-brain demonstrates intellectual engagement of some sort in both the creation and consumption – usually via curation – of content on a Steemit-type platform. In other words, if you either create content of some description or give it a thumbs-up, you can expect to get paid. The better the content, the better the rewards in both instances.

Duncan is re-adapting the concept to porn although, one suspects, the engagement will be more corporal than intellectual. Proof-of-fetish, for want of a better name, will change pornography forever, Duncan believes.

“Prior to the blockchain, porn sites were bending over backwards to platform free porn. Not very long from now, they will be in competition with each other to PAY their viewers the best rates.”

From the point-of-view of classical economy, it is an astonishing proposition – and another glimpse into the astonishing changes that we can expect from a blockchain-oriented future.

“How’s about that for some beautiful landscape?”

Duncan sent me another message later in his drive to the border. He was driving on an open, deserted motorway whose adjoining fields were littered with beautiful, clear snow sitting under a grey-blue sky. At the corner of the screen, I got a glimpse of what appeared to be miniature gold ingots sitting on the dashboard.

I wasn’t sure what to make of all this – a porn king driving through the snow in his SUV on his way to the Canadian border with gold lingots to buy some cryptocurrency.

I recall once seeing a Chinese man in an Spanish airport buying kosher condoms. I thought I had seen it all then. I hadn’t met Stuart Duncan.