Bitcoin Is An Idea
THE BITCOIN ESSAYS
Originally Published January 2023
5 Minute Read
Metaphorical symbolism is everywhere if you know where to look for it. In the case of ideas, contemporary symbolism images them as “lightbulb moments.” The metaphor has implications for how we understand the nature of ideas and their role in human cognition and creativity. It suggests that ideas are something we can see and understand, like light, rather than something that is hidden and mysterious. It also implies ideas are something we can actively seek out and discover, like a switch we can turn on. This activity is the thing we spend much of our time doing when not attending to primal matters of survival; and the perpetual process of searching, discovering, and illuminating is revelatory in both the individual and global domains.
In this essay, I will aim to put forward the idea that ‘Bitcoin Is An Idea’, and further, that it is a good and true idea. But first, what exactly is the Bitcoin Idea? To answer this question, of all places one may begin, perhaps consultation with the Bitcoin white paper itself would be a logical starting point. Herein we have a description from Satoshi Nakamoto, the pseudonymous inventor, that Bitcoin is “a purely peer-to-peer version of electronic cash [which] would allow online payments to be sent directly from one party to another without going through a financial institution. Digital signatures provide part of the solution, but the main benefits are lost if a trusted third party is still required to prevent double-spending. We propose a solution to the double-spending problem using a peer-to-peer network. The network timestamps transactions by hashing them into an ongoing chain of hash-based proof-of-work, forming a record that cannot be changed without redoing the proof-of-work. The longest chain not only serves as proof of the sequence of events witnessed, but proof that it came from the largest pool of CPU power. As long as a majority of CPU power is controlled by nodes that are not cooperating to attack the network, they’ll generate the longest chain and outpace attackers. The network itself requires minimal structure. Messages are broadcast on a best effort basis, and nodes can leave and rejoin the network at will, accepting the longest proof-of-work chain as proof of what happened while they were gone.”
If you’re still with me, what you’ve just read is the Abstract, in its entirety, straight from the Bitcoin white paper. For those unfamiliar with a white paper, this is a document traditionally used in information technology which is written by a lead product designer to explain the philosophy and operation of a product in a marketplace or technology context. In the case of Bitcoin, Satoshi would be considered the lead product designer, and the product would be digital cash, or digital gold as many understand it today.
So what makes Bitcoin such a novel idea? Haven’t we been using digital cash for decades in the form of online banking, e-commerce, and credit cards? Sort of. This is the particular point where most fail to conceptualize the incredibly novel idea that is Bitcoin. If I could put this in layman’s terms, the genius Bitcoin idea is to not simply dematerialize middle-men, but remove them entirely from the process of issuing and exchanging money; in our case, digital money. For those familiar with a rough history of money, you know that precious metals functioned as bearer money for thousands of years of human history. I.e. Natural money has no issuers, and no middle-men involved in their exchange. Natural money, or God’s money if you like, is commodity money. Furthermore, to quote Satoshi, natural bearer money is “peer-to-peer.” Meaning the holder, or bearer, of the commodity is considered the owner by default, and the transactions with this form of money are censorship resistant and private.
Still not getting it? Let me put it to you crudely. The form of money you’ve been using your entire life is not natural. Don’t believe me? Ask yourself, who created gold? Who created dollars? Who created silver? Who created the ~180 fiat currencies in the world today? Who created any of the natural monies humans utilized for thousands of years? Obviously, two of the forms of money I listed are issued by humans, and the others are naturally occurring monies with no issuers. These monies are naturally occurring and have properties that enable them to ascend through a competitive darwinian process of market fitness. Their users land on them because they approximate the ideal properties their users desire of them. I.e. Transactability and store of value for future transactability.
So what are dollars then? This rabbit hole is beyond the scope of this essay and will be elaborated upon respectively. Suffice it to say, when humanity scales through technological globalization, the natural commodity based monies do not have the properties sufficient for desired scalability. I.e. Natural commodity monies like silver and gold are hardware and cannot be ported into the domain of software and cyberspace in an efficient and trustless manner. In other words, natural commodity monies become effectively intransactable in the digital domain, and to whatever extent they are transactable, there is always trust involved in an intermediary to oversee the digitization and securitization of the underlying natural commodity.
So back to Bitcoin. What is a way of understanding this? Think of it as an abstract form of natural money, like gold or silver, that has emerged in the digital domain. Here I mean digital specifically in terms of bits and bites, zeros and ones. Bitcoin is an emergent, natural, digitally-native form of bearer commodity money. In other words, Bitcoin gets us back to the form of money we’re used to as human beings. And better, because in the case of Bitcoin this form of money is finitely scarce, teleportable – if I may invent a word, and infinitely divisible which means whole new forms of micro-transactability are opened to us.
Forthcoming essays will seek to elaborate on many of the key observations I’ve made here, but I hope these realizations provide a teaser for why ‘Bitcoin Is An Idea’, and further, a good and true idea that has the potential to give humanity it’s money back so we can get back to being just that, human.
This is Jonathan David Kellogg – Writing for
That Bitcoin Blog.
These are The Bitcoin Essays.
Bitcoin Is A Protocol THE BITCOIN ESSAYS Originally Published February 2023 5 Minute Read v1.0 Our world runs on protocols. Here’s a shortlist… Language. Sports. Speed limits. Stop lights. Medical procedures. Cooking instructions. Codes of conduct. Holiday celebrations. Religious ceremonies and traditions. Common and statutory law. HTTP. TCP/IP. Employee handbooks. Electoral processes. Natural laws of gravity, conservation of energy, and the speed of light. Genetic inheritance. Mathematical formulas of algebra, calculus, and geometry. As I
Bitcoin Is For Everyone THE BITCOIN ESSAYS Originally Published January 2023 2 Minute Read v1.1 A friendly admonishment – never mistake size and proportion for quality and complexity. The exhortation came first to me, standing meekly beneath a canopy of blazing celestial embers. We study the stars, but they do not study us. We may be made of stardust, but a star is no Imago Dei. Humanity is originally and uniquely imbued with the Divine.
Bitcoin And The Boston Tea Party THE BITCOIN ESSAYS Originally Published January 2023 5 Minute Read v1.0 The Boston Tea Party was a seminal event in the dawning history of the United States, and is widely considered to be one of the key sparks that led to the American Revolution. The now infamous political protest of December 16, 1773, pitted frustrated American colonists against the imperial British motherland and culminated in the dumping of 342
Bitcoin Is An Idea THE BITCOIN ESSAYS Originally Published January 2023 5 Minute Read v1.0 Metaphorical symbolism is everywhere if you know where to look for it. In the case of ideas, contemporary symbolism images them as “lightbulb moments.” The metaphor has implications for how we understand the nature of ideas and their role in human cognition and creativity. It suggests that ideas are something we can see and understand, like light, rather than something
Bitcoin Is A Jedi Force THE BITCOIN ESSAYS Originally Published April 2023 (DRAFTING) *XX* Minute Read v1.1 “Out of the mouths of babes and infants, you have established strength because of your foes, to still the enemy and the avenger.” // Psalms 8:2 The George Lucas’ masterwork, ‘Star Wars’, has captured the imagination of modern moviegoers the world over. These films depict heroes and villains caught in a timeless cosmic dance between good and evil;
Bitcoin Is Edifying THE BITCOIN ESSAYS Originally Published February 2023 5 Minute Read v1.0 The term “edification” refers to the process of enhancing one’s knowledge, moral character, or overall well-being through experience and instruction. In its broadest sense, edification can encompass a wide range of activities, from formal education to personal development and self-improvement. It is a complex concept that encompasses not just the acquisition of knowledge, but also the development of critical thinking skills,
Bitcoin And Time Preference THE BITCOIN ESSAYS Originally Published March 2023 5 Minute Read v1.0 There’s an old story about two fish. Swimming side by side, one fish says to the other, “The water sure is warm today.” The other fish responds, “What is water?” It’s strange to think of money in this context, but consider, rich or poor, human beings are swimming in money. We speak the money language every day and most of
Bitcoin Is Digital Property THE BITCOIN ESSAYS Originally Published March 2023 5 Minute Read v1.0 “By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food until you return to the ground, since from it you were taken; for dust you are and to dust you will return.” // Genesis 3:19 It is not at all obvious when the concept of property first took root in the human mind. Perhaps the early innings of the
Bitcoin Is Digital Sport THE BITCOIN ESSAYS Originally Published April 2023 10 Minute Read v1.0 Few patterns manifest as insistently throughout the human story as games. The deeper and wider anthropologists peer into our history, the more variants of play they discover. Mostly peaceful, some violent. Clever and trivial. Intellectual and physical. One versus one, some versus some, many on many. Games test the wits, might, and finesse of beings against themselves. Modern play schemes
Bitcoin And Spacefarers THE BITCOIN ESSAYS Originally Published March 2023 5 Minute Read v1.0 From dawning consciousness, humanity has been shrouded night and day by the ominous cloak of space. The darkness as suffocating as silence, yet filled with charming orbs glistening down like far-off Edison bulbs. We, as weary travelers, find their glow to be a comfort; as one would feel having been stranded near death, finally stumbling upon the sign of civilization. Yet
The Bitcoin Worldview THE BITCOIN ESSAYS Originally Published February 2023 15 Minute Read v1.1 We all wear glasses. No living person sees the world objectively. Our worldviews simultaneously grant us sight and render us blind. We look through a glass darkly and the fault for this lies in our limited understanding and perspective. The lenses we wear are multilayered and multifaceted, fashioned by cultural heritage and personal destiny. On occasion, whether through voluntary exposure or
Bitcoin Is A Phoenix Rising THE BITCOIN ESSAYS Originally Published January 2023 3 Minute Read v1.0 The archetypal Rising of the Phoenix is most potently seen in Christology surrounding the resurrection of the Messiah. Contemporary secular culture familiarizes itself through films such as The Hunger Games and fictitious messianic figures like Superman. The symbolic imagery and story arcs surrounding these character-narratives evoke inspiration in men, women, and children alike, providing a unifying victor-hero to ascribe