Bitcoin

I don't believe we shall ever have a good money again before we take the thing out of the hands of government; that is, we can't take it violently out of the hands of government, all we can do is by some sly roundabout way introduce something that they can't stop. — F.A. Hayek, 1984.

​By the 1980s, some people decided to defend privacy in communications through the development and use of encrypted systems, they were the so-called cypherpunks.

Privacy is necessary for an open society in the electronic age. — A Cypherpunk's Manifesto by Eric Hughes (1993).

Extropians were libertarian futurists very interested in the intersection of Ayn Rand, Murray Rothbard, Friedrich Hayek and high technology.

The computer can be used as a tool to liberate and protect people, rather than to control them— Hal Finney (1992).

The fusion of ideas from both groups led to the design of digital systems that would allow fraud to be penalized automatically without the need for any central power.

One of their main objectives was the privatization of money.

​The first attempts to create private monetary systems failed due to lack of decentralization: Hashcash by Adam Back (1997), B-Money by Wei Dai (1998), Reusable Proof of Work by Hal Finney (2004) and Bit Gold by Nick Szabo (2005).

The idea of an unofficial and completely decentralized currency was very fringe both economically and scientifically, but a mysterious cypherpunk behind the pseudonym Satoshi Nakamoto figured it out.

He published the Bitcoin White Paper titled Bitcoin: a Peer-to-Peer Electronic Cash System at bitcoin.org on October 31, 2008. The paper described a private form of money that minimized users' vulnerability to the potential harmful behaviour of third parties.

Satoshi sent the proposal to one of the main mailing lists focused on cryptography.

“I had to write all the code before I could convince myself that I could solve every problem, then I wrote the paper” wrote Satoshi 9 days later. The code was ready.

The software was announced and released as an open source project.

On January 3, 2009 the Bitcoin Network started to operate.

The headline for that same day's edition of The [London] Times was "Chancellor on brink of second bailout for banks"; which is included in the block 0 of Bitcoin's chain.

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Since then, and for the first time in history, financial self-sovereignty is possible thanks to the appearance of a digital and easily verifiable scarce good that is integrated in a decentralized network that secures its ability to be freely stored and transferred globally.

*Click here for a deeper immersion in Bitcoin technology. 

Nobody showed much interest except for Hal Finney, who was the first person to join the network.

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https://twitter.com/halfin/status/1110302988

He was also the first person to receive a transaction, Satoshi sent him 10₿.

The computer can be used as a tool to liberate and protect people, rather than to control them.  Hal Finney.

Interest on the project grew very slowly. 

 

Although "The nature of Bitcoin is such that once version 0.1 was released, the core design was set in stone for the rest of its lifetime" as Satoshi posted, the contributions of new developers made possible for the software to improve in security. 

On May 22, 2010, the first commercial exchange of bitcoin occurred:

a computer programmer from Florida called Laszlo Hanyecz posted a thread on Bitcointalk forum with the title "Pizza for bitcoins?" offering 10,000₿ for 2 pizzas. Another forum user took the offer, and just after receiving the bitcoins he ordered 2 pizzas by phone with charge to his own credit card and delivery to Laszlo's home.    

On April 23, 2011 shortly after a frequent code contributor told Satoshi that he was going to speak to the CIA, Satoshi stated in an email "I've moved on to other things"and he disappeared. 

Bitcoin had an immaculate conception.

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Appreciation for Bitcoin grew exponentially. 

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https://twitter.com/GregSchoen/status/70261648811761665

By 2020s the Bitcoin had become the most reliable and secure financial network in the world, supported by ten of thousands of nodes distributed all over the world. 

Its verifiable scarcity enables monetary sovereignty, while its storability and transferability enable financial sovereignty.

Bitcoin is the first nonviolently securable property in history; its ownership is enforced through the possession of a small piece of data. It can be transferred from person to person globally without intermediaries in a censorship resistant pseudo-anonymous way. 

Bitcoin is also universally accessible since it does not require permission to be adopted, which providing financial inclusivity.

It is a good that is being monetized in real time. As any revolutionary innovation, Bitcoin transgresses established regulations; so its adoption confronts challenges and the expectations about it may vary quickly, which implies high volatility of its purchasing power.

There has to be regulation. This has to be applied and agreed upon... at a global level because if there is an escape that escape will be used. — Christine Lagarde (European Central Bank president) referring to Bitcoin in January 2021.

 

Bitcoin is an escape towards the lifeboat of financial hope, so interventionist states propagandistically spread misinformation in order to justify intervention against its adoption.

The 4 most widespread fallacies that nowadays spread fear, uncertainty and doubt around Bitcoin are counter-argued below:

1) Energy fallacy: "Bitcoin consumes too much non-renewable energy for something useless"

 

Bitcoin requires so much computing activity that it eats up more energy than entire countries. One of the easiest and least disruptive things we can do to fight the climate crisis is to crack down on environmentally wasteful cryptocurrencies. — Elizabeth Warren (U.S. Senator) on June 2021.

 

Non-renewable energy?

Bitcoin uses electricity to secure the network through a computing process referred as mining.

Electricity can be obtained from other forms of energy, like the so-called renewable or non-renewable energies.

Bitcoin increases the profitability of renewable energy, which incentivizes its adoption. 

Renewable energies like wind or solar are intermittent and have load congestion at peak times. Besides, their distribution from isolated places needs a large electrical grid infrastructure. Bitcoin miners have the ability to use excess energy that otherwise would be wasted since they offer a highly flexible interruptible load that is able to locate in isolated places. 

In the long run, as the increasing of competition for Bitcoin mining decreases its profitability, only the use of surplus energy will be economically viable.

Useless tool?

 

Bitcoin is a superior form of money. 

 

Electricity is the only known way to digitize real world value without a central trusted party. — Willy Woo.

Bitcoin technology uses electricity to avoid consuming human resources.

When we can secure a financial network by computer science rather than by accountants, regulators, investigators, police, and lawyers, we go from a system that is manual, local, and of inconsistent security to one that is automated, global, and much more secure Nick Szabo.

Bitcoin is the only trend away from the habit of using the financial system to interfere with peaceful conducts.

Every time somebody gets censored, Boom! they become a Bitcoin fan. It’s almost a binary thing: 

if you haven’t been censored, or have never been strongly sympathetic with somebody who has been censored by the financial system, then you don’t understand the biggest early use cases of Bitcoin. If you have, nobody needs to “convert” you. —  Nick Szabo.​

Gold has also historically been the subject of fallacious arguments that do not take its benefits into account:


If one looks at the catastrophic consequences of the great paper money inflations, one must admit that the expensiveness of gold production is the minor evil.  Ludwig Von Mises.

Gold mining is a waste, but that waste is far less than the utility of having gold available as a money. I think the case will be the same for Bitcoin. Not having Bitcoin would be the net waste. — Satoshi Nakamoto.

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2)"Bitcoin maintenance is messy and chaotic due to a lack of governance"

Cypherpunks repulse governance, so the lack of it has always been a goal in Bitcoin. 

“Yes: stand back a little bit, you are taking away the sunlight from me”  —  the philosopher Diogenes' reply to Alexander the Great's offer of granting him any wish.

Bitcoin technology enables to decentralize the control over a monetary system, i.e. to minimize financial governance. Bitcoin is rules without rulers; asking “who controls Bitcoin?” is like asking “who controls English?”.  

In Bitcoin, consensus emerges when different computers simultaneously run the same protocol. ​By maximizing the role of the"consensus protocol", "social consensus" is ruthlessly minimized.

Its lack of governance is a feature for the immutability of its security. The core design of Bitcoin is immutable, only those technological innovations that improve security are justified to be gradually included in its code. Advancing slowly is a dogma.

This stuff is difficult. This stuff is subtle. If you are frustrated by how slow Bitcoin moves, let me tell you, Bitcoin moves too fast. Cryptography is hard and scary, and we need to make sure we move slowly. —  Andrew Poelstra (Bitcoin developer).

Bitcoin security updates are:

1. Researched. While deployment of new features in Bitcoin is incredibly slow (for good reason), the pace of research is overwhelming. — Andrew Poelstra.

2. Proposed.

3. If they generate interest and the most active contributors to the software unanimously accept them, then the proposals are implemented and tested

3. Deployed as open source code, so that users can verify them. 

4. Enforced by nodes. Each node operator has to manually install updates if he embraces them.

The more procedural risk and mental cost, the fewer reasons exist to upgrade. 

The costs and risks of hard forks are bigger than those of soft forks, which in turn are greater than those updates that do not require forks.

 

The term fork means a change in the consensus rules:

-A soft fork tightens the consensus rules. Some blocks considered valid by nodes running the old version will be considered invalid by those running the new version. It does not require simultaneous upgrade of the entire network.

-A hard fork relaxes the consensus rules. Blocks considered invalid by nodes running the old version, may be considered valid. It requires every node to upgrade, so it should only be executed as a last solution against an extreme security problem in the blockchain.

 

In the case of a fatal and general failure in Bitcoin's technology, the more influential developers have hopefully some principles in common and, in such a catastrophic scenario, they would probably contribute to deploy code that migrates the simple Bitcoin rules into a new technology. That is "the nuclear option". In such circumstances, Bitcoin as a concept would probably prevail over its technology.

If SHA-256 became completely broken, I think we could come to some agreement about what the honest block chain was before the trouble started, lock that in and continue from there with a new hash function. —  Satoshi Nakamoto.

3) Quantum computing fallacy"Quantum Computing will break Bitcoin"

Quantum Computing is nowhere near capable of breaking Elliptic Curve cryptography, and unclear if it ever will. When that time comes, Bitcoin will softfork to add post-Quantum signatures schemes, and eventually remove Elliptic Curve based outputs when we become too worried about their breaking. — Pieter Wuille (Bitcoin developer).

"With Quantum Computing somebody will be able to access to all coins that are lost"

 

There is a theoretical and highly hypothetical solution that would consist of invalidating Elliptic Curve-based spending methods (invalidating coins), except when the spending includes a post-Quantum zero-knowledge proof that the key was derived from a known BIP32 seed. Such approach would likely keep most coins movable, while removing the risk for theft by Quantum Computing. 

The obvious path to solving this is:

1.Research post-Quantum cryptography.

2. When that is done, propose an improvement to Bitcoin that enables post-Quantum Computing outputs.

3. People start moving their coins over time to these post-Quantum Computing outputs.

4. Decades later, when the threat for a sufficiently powerful Quantum Computing becomes real, disable spending from old Elliptic Curve-based outputs— Pieter Wuille.

4) "Bitcoin can’t be scarce because its software can be copied"

It is trivial to copy open source code, but getting people to appreciate a copy is the tricky part.

It is not possible to replicate the Bitcoin scarcity that comes from its immaculate conception, from its longest established history and from its highest reputation.

 

Bitcoin attracts the best cryptographers.

Gifted people tend to want to work with other top people and work on something that matters, that they believe in. Motivation matters. Protocol design and coding is partly an artistic, aesthetic endeavour; people do their best work on a mission: uncensorable global internet money. —  Adam Back.

 

Hodlers defend it with passion:

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Arguing that Bitcoin can not be scarce because its code can be copied is like arguing that a Van Gogh can not be valuable because it can be copied.

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Elvis Presley is unique despite it can be copied.

 

A Bitcoin copy is probably built by a few inexperienced developers, so its code is structurally unsound and poorly reviewed.

If Bitcoin is imagined like gold being stored in the ultra secure Fort Knox under heavy armed guard, then forking Bitcoin would be like painting some rocks on a gold color and storing them in a recently built, small and poorly engineered shack called Fort Knox Lite that is secured with someone disguised as a policeman. 

Alternative “cryptocurrencies” sacrifice security in order to temporarily gain some functionality.

If the designers of your blockchain talk about “saving the planet”, “increasing throughput”, “compliance”, “governance”, “democracy”, or any other topic more than they both talk & actually care about securing your financial property,  run! do not walk away from that chain.  —  Nick Szabo.

Centralized Digital Currencies (CDC) & Central Bank Digital Currencies (CBDC) are cryptocurrencies in the same way that a doll is a baby as they lack the predominant source of value that distinguishes cryptocurrencies from fiat money: the reduction in vulnerability to third parties decisions.

Different mediums of exchange may coexist, specially when the soundest money lacks some monetary property. However, money has a strong network effect when acting as a medium of exchange because an increasing social adoption implies better saleability.

For example, due to its high density of value, gold lacks divisibility for small amounts; instead, silver and copper were more convenient for small transactions, so gold, silver and copper coexisted as monetary metals. But in the 19th century, the superior divisibility of silver and copper became irrelevant as paper receipts of stored metals gained use as medium of exchange. Gold then became the main money backing those receipts.

Despite of all the fallacious narratives and attack attempts against Bitcoin, the network stays working like a clock: “Tik tok, new block.”  In fact, Bitcoin seems to be anti-fragile.

 

What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.

 

Anti-fragility is beyond resilience or robustness. The resilient resists shocks and stays the same; the anti-fragile gets better, it gains from disorder, thriving and growing when exposed to stressors. 

The anti-fragile loves adventures: “smooth seas do not make good sailors”.

In complex systems, anti-fragility works through layers.

Layers provide Bitcoin with extra functionalities while preserving the Protocol Network robustness.

Most Bitcoin transactions will occur between banks, to settle net transfers. Bitcoin transactions by private individuals will be as rare as...well, as Bitcoin based purchases are today. — Hal Finney, on December 2010.

Terms:

Sovereign: One that is above the rulership of another (not ruled, not a subject or slave). From latin: super = above, regnam = rulership or control.

Ownership: rightful or legal claim to a property.

Possession: custody or control of a property.

Privacy: the power to selectively reveal oneself to the world.

Encrypt: the word has a Greek origin, it meant "to hide". "Cypher" is a synonym with a Latin origin.

Cryptography is the science that creates protocols to configure secrets that only the receiver of the message will be able to reveal. 

Peer-to-Peer: with the ability for 2 people to interact directly with each other, without anyone in the middle.

Cash: bearer money, that is, not in the custody of a third party.

Protocol: set of rules.