Prized author and Oxford Alumni Matt Ridley is an entrepreneur whose thoughts and opinions have reached millions across the world in over 30 different languages. His recent book “The Rational Optimist: How prosperity evolves” argues:
“The secret of human prosperity is that everybody is working for everybody else.”
For one hundred thousand years specialization and sharing ideas have been a source of human innovation leading us to be the freest, most equal, and wealthiest society in history.
In his TED Talk “When Ideas Have Sex” he shows the engine of progress has not been the creation of original ideas. Like Legos of gestalt Transformers, the mating of existing ideas to make something new fuels human progress.
Ridley talks about the genius of bitcoin on his blog – the trustless fusion of file sharing, cryptography, and libertarian monetary policy. And looks towards the decentralized future.
A new currency is just one application of such an idea. The block chain’s special feature is that it cuts out the need for somebody else to verify that something is what it says it is. This opens the possibility of self-enforcing “smart contracts” and “distributed autonomous organizations”
Ridley is talking about the implications of replacing the organizations traditionally run by human beings with software. He continues:
…imagine in the future summoning a taxi that is not only driverless but ownerless. It belongs to a network that has raised funds, signed contracts, and taken delivery of vehicles autonomously, even though its “headquarters” is distributed all over the net.
Mike Hearn presented on this use of Distributed Autonomous Corporations (DACs) at a Bitcoin Conference.
The idea that the services traditionally offered by governments and corporations could be better-served by exclusively private interests has been around a long time. The war between progress and control wages across human history. Major battles marked by advances in technology that make old ways obsolete and expansions in the establishments that stagnate the contemporary industry.
Maybe smartphones, apps, and having a shopping mall available from the couch are good enough metrics for a “digital society” but that doesn’t satisfy me. The true paradigm shift is when the old ways are replaced by the new. That’s why Bitcoin and blockchains are so important. The technology we have now will be like rubbing two sticks together to make fire.
Every day more people are becoming aware of Bitcoin and sharing its value with others. The global consciousness, our “collective brain”, is understanding what it means. Like the capitalists and entrepreneurs who have come before, the opportunity to build things that outlive ourselves and continue giving back to the world after we’re gone waits for us to create it.
We don’t have to worry about trusting the integrity of others to run our businesses. We don’t have to ask permission before making something available to the rest of the world. We get to decide right and wrong for ourselves. We get to work with one another to decide the best course forward without the albatross of a third party enacting executive power over our decisions.
Ridley has this to say about Bitcoin’s creator:
Perhaps you can now see why Satoshi Nakamoto would not want to take credit for all this. Governments get jealous of people who make them look irrelevant. Look what happened to Bernard von NotHaus, who started openly selling tokens called “liberty dollars” in 1998 to people who wanted a hedge against inflation. As the economist Kevin Dowd recounts in a fine essay on the future of money, after nine years of tolerating this, suddenly the US federal government arrested and prosecuted him on the flimsiest of grounds for counterfeiting, fraud and conspiracy. His real crime was to show the devaluing of real dollars. No wonder Satoshi keeps his head down.
Bitcoin is the Bessemer Converter of what is to come when we finally shift from an industrial society to a digital society. It’s the tip of innovation’s spear against a crumbling the industrial era’s establishments. The Industrial Era changed blue-collar labor. White-collar labor will be disrupted by Bitcoin.
Bitcoin Is Powerful because of the Idea it Unleashed.
The value of bitcoins as a currency is a side effect of the value of Bitcoin as a technology. Bitcoin is just numbers written in a file that cannot change. I’m OK with the idea that “It won’t be that Bitcoin is good; everyone else is just that bad.”
Our era is still waiting for it’s Carnegie’s, Rothschild’s, and Vanderbilt’s to release their ideas on the world. The true “Gold Rush of the Internet” is not mining bitcoins. It’s the opportunity that everyone one of us has, right now, to reach our hands in the source code of Bitcoin, pull out the blockchain and set it to work in ways no one has thought of before.
Bitcoin is a proof of concept for how we live our lives 20 years from now.
Images from Shutterstock