A Short Note to the Bitcoin Community: This Is the Time


I’m not sure how much of the Bitcoin community I reach, but I think this is an important moment for us, and I want to get this out. Please pass it along if you see it as useful. Thanks.

Threat Over, Time to Get Busy

The Bitcoin XT effort seems to be over. I opposed it for two primary reasons:

  1. It was sold through fear. That always drives me away. Fear is our enemy.

  2. It smelled of Elite Capture. The people driving XT were hanging out with the elite crowd and saying things that made a lot of us twitch.

Be that as it may, those people seem to have pulled back; battle over for now.

Our problems, however, remain. Bitcoin does not possess God-given perfection; it’s a technology… and it needs to be upgraded. In fact, it may need to be upgraded several times. That’s just the way technology is, and it falls to us to handle it well or poorly. So, here’s my one, short message:

This is the time to improve Bitcoin without succumbing to Elite Capture.

I’m not going to tell you what upgrades are required. Those of you involved need to deduce those yourselves. What I will tell you is this: Bitcoin needs to scale, and it’s our turn to be the adults. (Here’s a lecture where I explain further.) We need to get ready for the future, and this is the right time for it.

To the Developers:

Now I’m going to give you some advice.

I am in no position to tell you anything, but I do have perspective. In other words, I’m older and have been involved with digital currencies and general internet radicalism longer. So, take this for what it’s worth, but please do consider it:

  1. Go back to your principles. Whatever it is that brought you here, go back to it. (Aristotle, Rothbard, the Gospels, the Torah, whatever.) Refocus yourself on the most fundamental factors.

  2. Reread the original cypherpunk documents. A Cypherpunk’s Manifesto, The Crypto Anarchist Manifesto, and The Cyphernomicon are what produced Bitcoin. Go back and re-familiarize yourself with them.

  3. Get into cooperation. Think about the stupidity and destructiveness of status and dominance. Think about the beauty of co-dominant relationships. Think about the beauty of synergy and brotherhood.

  4. Get going. Planning is how people end up going nowhere. Break your inertia and move. Nothing will ever change until you do.

  5. Keep your eyes on the prize. And that prize is a Bitcoin that remains true to its nature while becoming massively scalable. Ignore stupidities and slights; move to the goal. The world needs a robust Bitcoin, even though many people still don’t realize it. We’re the only people who can do it.

Thus ends my message, aside from this: Make your time on Earth matter; make your 90-year-old self proud.


Paul Rosenberg

5 thoughts on “A Short Note to the Bitcoin Community: This Is the Time”

  1. Bitcoin, and the companies who sell, buy and hold these things have yet to prove to me that bitcoin is a viable substitute for Western Union, Paypal, wire transfers, etc. And as much as I would love to see all these money transfer companies/banks put out of business, I don’t have any confidence in bitcoin at all. At least with Paypal, one is unlikely to lose more than the large fees associated with a transfer, whereas in the bitcoin casino, I can’t say the same. Apparently the bitcoin universe is full of scoundrels and thieves, so until people have confidence, bitcoins will remain on the sidelines, in my opinion..

    1. Remaining on the sidelines is your choice, and there’s never any lack of reason to avoid risk. Getting into the game, however, is a lot more rewarding.

    2. I suspect Bitcoin is already far superior to Western Union and wire transfers in most cases when conducting peer to peer transfers. Bitcoin enables you to make the transfer almost instantly, 24 hours a day, with a negligible fee – far less than what Western Union or your bank charges. There are plenty of exchanges and conversion services available if the transfer recipient wants
      to immediately convert the bitcoins into dollars which eliminates market risk… but not inflation risk.
      If viewed from the developed world’s consumerist lens,Bitcoin is probably inferior to PayPal, Credit Cards, and the prominent means of exchange at this point in time for most cases as you point out. At least as far as Joe Six-Pack is concerned. But keep in mind the Internet was once considered little more than a geek’s playground before it completely altered the very fabric of human civilization.
      Bitcoin is already a viable currency and means of exchange on the fringes, especially in the developing world, and I suspect its attractiveness will increase as negative interest rates spread and the War on Cash heats up. Further, there are a number of hugely important societal functions that the Blockchain could potentially revolutionize which would lend Bitcoin additional credibility. Here’s just a few: http://www.zenconomics.com/bitcoin-crypto-revolution
      Something to keep in mind: there’s nothing that says Bitcoin must be mutually exclusive. It is a market-based currency which means it must stand on its own merit. Bitcoin needs to scale, but I don’t think it needs to take over the world. Instead, I think Bitcoin can and should be the portal to a world of competing currencies; each with their own strengths and weaknesses. Competition helps to keep incentives properly aligned and corruption to a minimum. My research leads me to fervently believe that Bitcoin is open-source, borderless, transnational, immutable, incorruptible, and censorship-resistant thus I am very excited about it… but I still allocate some capital to cash and precious metals to diversify.
      Brian, I was very skeptical of Bitcoin for a couple years until I finally dipped a toe into the water. That forced me to really learn how Bitcoin works, learn about the available exchanges and wallets, learn about cold storage options, and to learn general good practices and risk management. Then I began using Bitcoin and I was hooked.
      If you care to create a wallet for yourself, I will be happy to send over a little BTC to help fund your education. That way you have nothing to lose. Blockchain.info, Coinbase.com, AirBitz.co, and Mycelium.com are a few places where you can learn how to set up a wallet if interested. I’ll send some BTC over if you post your Bitcoin address in these comments, and I wouldn’t be surprised if a few others did the same without even commenting.

  2. When you make a trade with someone, you are trusting that what you’re getting has all the qualities you expect it to have. If you can show that your trading partner made representations that are false, then you can present their deceit to them to be righted, though this requires that you find them. Once you find them, they may ignore your protests, and in that case, you can bring your private matter out into the public. Traditionally, this is called a “lawsuit”. The public airing of your dispute may bring peer pressure or even direct coercion against your trading partner to make you whole. Anarchists are just as capable of publicly airing disputes as statists are, and I think that among anarchists, that strategy would be more effective.
    What I wrote above is as true when bitcoin is involved as it is when bitcoin is not involved. Bitcoin does NOT change the nature of that situation. What benefit does it offer then? It offers several methods of proving various things. The ease with which a proficient bitcoin user can demonstrate various facts to himself and to others has an effect that was mentioned in the Bitcoin whitepaper. Bitcoin was designed so that a greedy attacker would “find it more profitable to play by the rules”. When compared to all other media of exchange (fiat, gold. silver, credit backed by these things, etc.), bitcoin is vastly superior.
    With these things in mind, I urge anyone trading with anyone to maintain the ability to keep that person honest by finding them and confronting them with any problems in the trade. This goes for bitcoin just as much as it does for everything else. One important implication of my perspective is that you should never sign a transaction unless you intend that transaction to be confirmed. Your signature (even if cryptographic) is the first and most important confirmation. Publishing it is your responsibility, and the bitcoin protocol helps you do that, but really, it’s the interest of the receiver that motivates that publication.
    If you read this far, it is probably because you are in a position to consider and promote an idea I had: Let’s make it easier for the recipient of a bitcoin payment to get their hands on the signed transaction so that even if the sender doesn’t ensure that it remains available to miners, the receiver can do so. We thus hold ourselves accountable through publication.

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