Bitcoin: Herald of A New Age

I have friends at the forefront of cryptography and privacy who don’t much care for Bitcoin; they see flaws in it and they think we could do better. And they are not wrong: There are flaws and we can do better. Nonetheless, Bitcoin is. And it is playing a crucial role in the formation of a new age.

I think it’s important for us to understand that role.

How The Future Arrives

Children are oblivious to the future. Old people tend to oppose it on principle. Those of us in-between are left to grapple with it. And the fact is that the future seems to arrive in different ways for different people. Three examples will suffice:

  • Middle-of-the-roaders, fiercely committed to a comfortable sameness, tend to be gob-smacked when changes arrive. In 2009, for example, we heard such people groaning, almost in unison, that “No one could have seen this coming.”

  • Cypherpunks, space advocates and other assorted future-seekers are forever disappointed that it’s taking so long.

  • The most enthusiastic denizens of the status quo; that is, those who believe they are feeding from it, can be counted upon to oppose the future. Somehow they understand that when the future rolls in their ox will not only be gored, but run-down flat.

Nonetheless, the future does arrive, though never according to the pristine wishes of the future-seekers. Rather, the future arrives in a very human way: Sloppily and haphazardly. When the future begins to put down roots, it is not according to the best laid plans; it’s according to an insanely complicated human condition.

When the future appears we purists are seldom fully pleased. Nonetheless, it behooves us not to uproot imperfect developments. Our job is rather to keep building, adding better layers to a less than perfect first layer.

Bitcoin, flawed though it may be, is a very effective first layer for the future, and we should avoid anything that smacks of either tearing it up or idolizing it.

Bitcoin Is Education

Anyone who pays attention sees that Bitcoin is a tremendously important revolution in money. It is decentralized, censorship resistant, neutral and immutable. It’s hard to over-estimate the importance and impact of that. It is a massive game-changer.

On top of that, Bitcoin has survived and thrived for nearly eleven years, beginning at absolutely nothing, always at a gigantic disadvantage. And after that battle we see millions of people enamored with a cypherpunk technology… and a hundred million more who are notably curious.

But there is more to Bitcoin than even this. Bitcoin is also education. Please consider this odd concept:

Bitcoin is teaching people how to behave in the new age.

I once listened to a lecture on ancient Greece and was struck by the historian saying, “Homer taught the Greeks how to behave in their new civilization.” I now think that Bitcoin is doing almost precisely that for our new age. To put some flesh and bone on that, I’ll use this moment’s most common exemplar: the Bitcoin meetup.

Every week, in nearly every significant city on the planet, people gather; sometimes 4 or 5, sometimes 20 or 30, occasionally several hundred. And together they explore the mysteries of the blockchain, a method for assuring and scaling trust that requires no overseer.

These people are learning to think about decentralization. That is, to imagine human processes without the central dogma of the past 5,000 years: That centralized force is essential to life itself.

Think about that for a moment: An ethos of survival that has held since the Bronze Age – that small, tight groups must control the masses – is being replaced with a preference for decentralization. And consider that by this the dignity and utility of the individual is being placed above the dignity and utility of rulers.

This is the future taking root.

Seeing Bitcoin As It Is

Bitcoin is neither magic nor poison. It is a tool. A brilliant tool? Yes, I think so, and more than that a terribly useful one.

As I noted above we should neither degrade nor idolize Bitcoin. Rather, we should use it profligately. Not only because it’s good money, but because it is teaching mankind, week by week, to think in terms of decentralization… to value the utility of the individual… to believe in the dignity of the individual.

And those are things that will very definitely change the world.

**

If you’d like to read more on this, see:

FMP issue #71

FMP issue #101

Parallel Society issue #4

A Lodging of Wayfaring Men

Paul Rosenberg
www.freemansperspective.com

Social Attacks On Bitcoin

It’s no secret that Bitcoin has enemies. There are those who’d like to kill it outright and there are those who’d like to subvert it. And, of course, Bitcoin has its fair share of the usual human problems.

The more overt attacks have pretty well failed thus far. Bitcoin, after all, is just a computer program, meaning that there’s no head that can be cut off, killing it with a single blow. On top of that, Bitcoin is protected with encryption end to end, and it’s more or less impossible to swing a sword, or a court order, against math. (Encryption being applied math.)

The usual types of subversion have likewise also failed to do a great deal of damage to Bitcoin and the younger cryptos. Fear of the regulator and especially the seduction of the regulator (“acceptance”) have been tried at length, and while they’ve left a few dents here and there, nothing fundamental has been destroyed.

As for human frailties, we’ve had those too, mostly notably young people finding themselves suddenly rich. That comes with more difficulties than those who haven’t been through it might expect. It’s what we used to call “a crazy-maker.”

Social Attacks

Put yourself in the position of needing to kill cryptocurrencies (for whatever reason), and not having a great deal of success. You can’t cut off its head and regulating it to death isn’t working very well. What choices do you have left?

Well, the next choice is to subvert via social manipulation. If you can’t get at the tech directly, and if there aren’t one or two humans who can sway the whole thing, you’re left to run social attacks. After all, with no one to run miners, develop new applications and so on, the computer programs would sit idle. And so, the intelligent attacker must go after a large number of people at the same time. It’s far from an ideal solution, but they really have no choice.

And so have come, as it seems to me, social attacks on Bitcoin and its younger siblings. I see (or think I see) two particular types that have arisen. These could have come from the negative psychology that floods the world these days – that is, without any particular intent – but I’ve seen this kind of thing before and underestimated it. I don’t want to do that again.

Social Attack #1

Social attack #1 is something I’ve heard rumors about but can’t verify. The story goes that three or four years ago someone tried to get some bad code into BTC by either manipulating or attacking Bitcoin Core, the primary developers. The attacks weren’t physical, but they were serious.

In such a case, you survive the attack by saying, “I don’t care, call me an asshole.” That’s a necessary stand to take from time to time, and if the rumors are true, it was a good thing for the developers to do.

Social Attack #2

So, if you can’t kill it or subvert it very well… and if your first social attack fails as well, what are you to do?

Sadly, the answer is to take whatever opposite inertia was generated by Social Attack #1, and push it to its extreme.

And that’s what appears to have happened. I think we’ve all seen “I’m a Bitcoin hard-ass” posts on Twitter. It’s turning into a divide and conquer situation, pitting one part of the community against the other. And if it grows, it may slowly poison the whole.

This is a generational problem as well. The younger generation have been shoved into polarities by political types: Either they go Social Justice Warrior on the feeling side, self-righteously attacking anyone who doesn’t carry their feelings, or they go caveman on the other, thinking that kindness is weakness and that insults are the path to strength and truth.

This also plays into divide and conquer.

Is some person or group fanning these flames purposely? I don’t know, but it’s what an intelligent villain would do.

In The End…

In the end, it doesn’t much matter whether these attacks come from agents provocateurs or from human frailty. What does matter is that they are recognized and stopped.

The crypto community needs to become the adults of the financial world, not the squabbling teenagers. And we’re quite capable of doing that, even if prodded toward lesser paths.

Both sides of the polarity are bad choices. We need to be hard when it’s required and cooperative at all other times.

We’re not going to get to the goal by being squishy or by playing hard-ass. It behooves us to find balance and to keep our focus on the goal.

**

Paul Rosenberg
www.freemansperspective.com

The Two Crypto Economies

Bitcoin has always been hard to understand. Even Satoshi, its author, complained about that. The problem isn’t so much its complexity, but its newness – there’s really almost nothing to compare it to.

Having nothing to compare to is also a problem related to the prices of Bitcoin and the other cryptos. We’ve never seen currencies start from nothing and grow into serious players. We’ve always had silver and gold, at least in the background, but more or less all other currencies (certainly in our time) have been imposed by force.

Bitcoin, unless I’m forgetting something, is the first independent, world-recognized currency to pop up in a long, long time. And because of that, understanding its price is complicated.

The Two Economies

The key to understanding the price of cryptos is realizing that there are two separate crypto economies: the speculative and the commercial. These two economies are currently bumping into each other and occasionally running over each other… sometimes synergistically and sometimes antagonistically.

The speculative economy is the one that shows up on the news. It’s the home of both serious speculators and hucksters promising Lamborghinis. The speculative economy tends to be philosophically shallow, focusing on price and more or less nothing else((Which is not to say that all speculators care about nothing but price.)). This is the economy of CNBC, the futures markets, and get-rich-quick schemes.

The commercial economy is the one that doesn’t show up on the news. It’s the economy of actual commerce and hardworking developers. The commercial crypto economy tends to be philosophically deep. The people who are struggling to build and spread this technology are doing it because they believe in the better future it can bring into the world. This is the economy of Bitcoin taxis in Africa, international settlement transactions, and millions of smallish transactions between friends and business associates.

What we had in late 2017 was the speculative economy running to excess and overflowing the commercial economy.

What we had in late 2018 was the speculative economy flowing back out and draining liquidity from the commercial economy.

This has been inconvenient for many of us, but it’s something we’ll have to put up with. Evidently this is the way new currencies form.

The Primacy of the Commercial Side

While it appears mundane to the outer world, it’s the commercial crypto economy that really matters.

If there were no utility to Bitcoin and the others, they would have no value at all, save as a curiosity. And without underlying value, speculation would be ridiculous. And so it is the commercial economy that underlies everything. And for those of us who are serious about cryptocurrency, this is the economy we need to stay busy with, building and promoting.

And there is so much to be done.

Consider first that there are some two billion humans with no access to fast and simple financial transfers. That is, they have neither a bank account nor the associated services. These people are perfectly situated to become crypto users. They have the inherent need of trade and they generally have cell phones. And with crypto, that’s enough. Early crypto developers are working in these areas already, but there will be huge needs in this sector for a long time.

Consider also that nearly every cryptocurrency is immune to capital controls. Sadly, we can probably expect more of these in the years ahead, and cryptocurrency is, as we say, censorship-resistant. You can send money to anyone with a connection, anytime and in any amount.

Cryptocurrencies are also immune to monetary inflation… perfectly, mathematically immune. There are a fixed number of currency units in Bitcoin and its children, unlike the units of government currencies, which are created billions at a time by the actions of elites rather than by market participants. The value of the US dollar has fallen 90% over my lifetime because of such actions.

So, which is a better place to put the fruit of one’s labors? Government currencies are all but guaranteed to lose value consistently. Cryptocurrency is all but guaranteed (aside from speculative waves) to retain value.

Finally and probably most importantly, crypto is a path around a dangerous and tyrannical set of government currencies. I’ll leave off the details for today, but central banks and their associated systems have become networks of surveillance, control, and dominance. For the sake of our species, they need to be made obsolete.

So, in the long run, cryptocurrency is terribly attractive, first of all for its direct benefits, and secondarily as a speculation.

Until Then…

Until all these things play out, we’ll have to put up with speculative waves rolling back and forth over the commercial crypto economy.

More than that, we need to get even more serious about building the commercial side. Not only does the world need this, but the larger the commercial side, the less damage waves of speculation can cause.

* * * * *

The novel that helped put the crypto revolution into high gear.

Comments from readers:

“Of the twenty five or so people I worked with last fall, all of them revered A Lodging of Wayfaring Men as a bible. They referred to the house and their community effort as a Lodge. We all felt it was modeled on the Free Souls.”

“Actually, I am somewhat at a loss as to how I might explain how I feel about this book other than to say what a great mind to write such an awesome story!”

“I’m an Old guy and find that Rosenberg has captured many Real-World truths in this novel. I wish the Millennial Generation would read this novel and consider the concepts and rationale presented here.”

Get it at Amazon or on Kindle.

* * * * *

Paul Rosenberg
www.freemansperspective.com

Why We’ll Win

winA free, post-scarcity world will not be prevented by archaic systems scratching and clawing to retain their domination. We will evolve freely, unburdened by an unfortunate past. This will happen, and today I’m going to tell you why.

But more than that, I want you to understand that we deserve to win, and that the future – the world of our children, grandchildren, and so on – very much needs us to win. Our culture stands for – and supports in action – the things that make life thrive on Earth.

Let me make this point very clear:

We believe in the Golden Rule… as in actually believe in it, all the time. Our culture takes it seriously and acts like it’s the only healthy way to live.

The easiest and most gutless life is to follow the crowd. What makes the world better, on the other hand, is to live by what’s right. Making unpopular choices – developing and trading crypto, homeschooling your children, ignoring brain-locked regulators, pursuing unapproved cures, changing religions where it’s forbidden, pursuing what is disliked by the powers that be – these things require strength of character and dedication to real principles.

Regardless of our occasional stupidities and errors, our way of life clearly deserves to win.

How We’ll Win

“To change something,” said Buckminster Fuller, “build a new model and make the old obsolete.” And we’ve been building a new model considerably more than we may realize.

A new model is precisely how the personal computer came to be and how the Internet came to be. Regardless that computers and the Internet have been recaptured by the status quo, the model remains and has also spawned encryption and Bitcoin, technologies that are ephemeral and a lot harder to conquer.

Moreover, the cryptosphere is growing tremendously. When I started pursuing such things back in the 1990s, there were very few of us, and far between. Now I run into crypto advocates in grocery stores, not to mention in general business circles.

Likewise there are dozens of VPN providers these days. When we started Cryptohippie, few people outside of technical circles had any idea of what we were selling.

Furthermore, there are tens of thousands of people working to develop, improve, and spread cryptocurrencies every day, often at their own expense and with considerable uncertainty. Because they believe in them. Because they believe they’re building a better world.

Homeschooling makes another fine example. When I started my involvement, parents had recently been arrested for homeschooling in the US. We had to get busy supporting a legal defense fund. Now there are a few million homeschooled kids in the US alone, and everyone knows that homeschooling produces excellent results.

We’ll win by doing these things, followed by others like them. Little by little, step by step, planting seed after seed, we’re moving toward our goal faster than we’ve appreciated.

Once human action of these types account for enough of our activities, it’ll be almost unstoppable, and the legacy system will begin shrinking. We can expect screaming, threats, and even bloodshed from the obsolete system, but over time it will give up its operations piece by piece.

This isn’t to say that our new systems will be immaculate, but they’ll be far better than the Bronze Age relics that currently dominate mankind.

And if Not…

If, for whatever reason, we fail to continue what we’ve begun, our new civilization still wins in the end. For one thing, human evolution continues. We are notably better than we were a few thousand years ago – qualitatively better – and we’ll be still better in the future.

More immediately than that, however, the next cycling of rulership will finish the job for us. As we covered back in FMP #18, civilizations always cycle. They always have and almost certainly always will, until violence-backed hierarchy ends. When the next cycle comes along, it will do so in a rich technological environment. Because technology does not cycle. Rather, it accretes… it builds up.

So, once the present hierarchies break up and vanish for a few hundred years, tech will be free to come out and play. We’ll be free to reorganize in innovative new ways. Things simply will not be rebuilt according to the same old model. That’s how history works.

But while it’s nice to know that the insanity will pass one way or another, I think all of us would like it to be sooner rather than later. For our own sakes and certainly for those of our offspring, time is important. And so we need to believe in what we’re doing and to do it with vigor.

“The fashion of the present world,” says the Bible, “is passing away.” Let’s help it along.

**

Paul Rosenberg
www.freemansperspective.com

Bitcoin and the Beatles

Beatles

I’ve been involved with cryptography since the mid-1990s. That’s when I had my “aha” moment and realized that cryptography creates a terra nova the lords of force can’t penetrate. Progress, however, was disturbingly slow. We had great ideas, brilliant people, and even some impressive projects. But nothing really stuck. Disheartened, most of us gave up on our world-changing dreams.

Then, to our great surprise, Bitcoin stuck. And now, finally, I’m facing the possibility of cryptocurrency making some of our dreams come true. And trust me, that’s not easy after years of disappointments.

Fun (and Maybe Useful) Parallels

As it happens, I’m starting on a series of stories just now, involving jumps back into the past. Part of the process has been to listen to old music to get a feel for the era I’m writing about. And that led me to my Bitcoin-and-Beatles parallels.

Bear in mind, please, that this isn’t only for fun. Both the rise of the Beatles and the rise of Bitcoin are social phenomena, tied to popular acceptance. There may be substance beneath some of this.

But either way, let’s have some fun with this idea.

Synthesis

In the cases of both the Beatles and Bitcoin, it wasn’t any single thing that made them a big deal, but a synthesis of several factors. Consider:

The Beatles: Yes, the lads were talented and hardworking, but in no way did they stand above the era’s best musicians. Paul was a competent bass player, John just an average guitarist, Ringo a professional-level drummer, and George a shyly inventive guitarist. Paul and John were pleasant singers and George was a competent harmonist, but none of them could come close to a singer like Andy Williams. Even when it came to songwriting (their strongest area in my opinion), it’s quite debatable that they were as good as, say, Goffen and King.

But taken all together… the synthesis was an earthquake. In 1963, the top 100 songs still included Henry Mancini, Nat King Cole, and Tony Bennett. Fine musicians all, but definitely rooted in the post-World War II era. In 1964, the Beatles blew the doors off everything that had come before, with nine songs hitting the top 100, including #1 and #2.

Bitcoin: No single component of Bitcoin was a revolution in itself. Diffie and Hellman had invented public key exchange back in the 1970s and Ralph Merkle, hash trees back in 1979. Bram Cohen defined P2P networking several years before Bitcoin, and proof of work was previously developed by Adam Back as a cure for spam.

But again, the synthesis was an earthquake.

The Acceptance Pattern

The Beatles (Lennon, McCartney, and Harrison) had been playing together for six years before the broader world noticed. Then they exploded. But after the explosion, as few people remember, they slowly faded. As we said, in 1964 they had nine songs in the top 100. In 1965 they had only four. They had four again in 1966 and lower on the list. In 1967 they had only two songs on the list. By the standard measurements, they were dropping.

1967, however, was the year the Beatles released the Sgt. Pepper album, changing the music business and making the list almost irrelevant.

Bitcoin likewise labored for years before it was noticed. It dropped onto the internet in January 2009, but few people heard of it until the exchange rate rose dramatically in 2016 and 2017. Then the world heard about Bitcoin, which promptly fell into a slump.

So, is Bitcoin’s “Sgt. Pepper moment” coming? Consider first that literally billions of people have no bank account and no serious hope of getting one; they are constrained to their local trading circles. They do, however, have smart phones, and that’s all they need to use cryptocurrency, opening the world economy to them. Crypto gives them more or less all the advantages banks can provide (and then some), with few of the hassles or fees. Consider also that the value of Bitcoin can’t be inflated away like government money. (The dollar has lost 90% of its value since I was a boy.)

So the answer is yes, Bitcoin’s (cryptocurrency’s) Sgt. Pepper moment is almost certainly coming. It may not be as sharp an arrival as the release of Sgt. Pepper, but it’s almost certain. People are not blind to what’s in their interest.

Further Parallels

Both the Beatles and Bitcoin had fleeting predecessors. For the Beatles, Elvis and Little Richard had shaken things up some years before, but they were mainly gone. For Bitcoin, the cypherpunks had shaken things up some years before, but they were pretty well gone too.

Both handled their fame admirably. The Beatles were suddenly influencing a hundred million young people while not far past boyhood themselves. But they behaved themselves and moved toward peace and love, admirable directions. Likewise Satoshi: He, she, or they got out of the way and stayed out of the way, which, in retrospect, was probably necessary.

It was just the right time. The world was ready for new music in 1964, but probably no more than it’s ready for new money now.

* * * * *

A book that generates comments like these, from actual readers, might be worth your time:

  • I just finished reading The Breaking Dawn and found it to be one of the most thought-provoking, amazing books I have ever read… It will be hard to read another book now that I’ve read this book… I want everyone to read it.
  • Such a tour de force, so many ideas. And I am amazed at the courage to write such a book, that challenges so many people’s conceptions.
  • There were so many points where it was hard to read, I was so choked up.
  • Holy moly! I was familiar with most of the themes presented in A Lodging of Wayfaring Men, but I am still trying to wrap my head around the concepts you presented at the end of this one.

Get it at Amazon ($18.95) or on Kindle: ($5.99)

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* * * * *

Paul Rosenberg
www.freemansperspective.com

Bitcoin and the Power Grid

BPowerGrid“Bitcoin is evil” articles exist in profusion, and these days I pretty much ignore them. But one of the recent types – raising awareness of Bitcoin’s environmental unsustainability – has engaged me. As it turns out, I have an unusual background to bring to this topic, and I think I should contribute.

So, here we go:

Another Apocalypse?

Let’s be honest and admit that most of the “environmental movement” sells fear of an apocalypse. And as we should all realize by now, humans have an innate weakness for fear.

More or less every apocalyptic environmental prediction has failed. (I’m talking about those that could actually be measured, obviously.) That won’t stop the fear-sellers of course, and now Bitcoin has come into their sights.

The fear is that because crypto mining uses so much power, it will bring down the grid or cause various environmental disasters. The advocates of this fear throw around scary sounding numbers (measured in terawatts) and assorted scientific terminology. (“They understand it and you don’t… don’t expose yourself to ridicule.”)

But it’s mostly just fear. Sure, proof-of-work sucks up power, but that’s nothing new. How much power do you suppose all those millions of air conditioners suck up every summer? I haven’t dug up the figures, but I’m ready to take bets that it’s several times more than crypto mining. Shall we now fear the air conditioner?

Further Factors

I worked for decades in the electrical industry, and so I’d like to give you some facts from that perspective:

  • Power use has been going up since the beginning. These days most houses get 200 amperes of electrical service. But there are still thousands of houses that are wired with only 60 amperes. That was plenty 60 years ago. New loads (devices using power) come along all the time. In just my time, we’ve added air conditioning, microwaves, and lots of computers.
  • Mining is a nice, steady load. The kind power companies thrive on. What makes their lives crazy are seasonal loads like air conditioning, which occur only a few months per year.
  • Power failures happen every year, especially in summer due to the aforementioned air conditioning load. It’s a good bet that several fear-sellers have press releases ready to go for this summer.
  • The utilities are making money on this. More power use means more income.
  • If people use too much power, the providers will raise their prices. Econ 101.

And the Big One

Cryptocurrencies don’t finance war.

The public hasn’t actually paid for a war since WW2. Since then the whole game’s been run on credit. (The same goes, more or less, for everything Big Guv does to save us poor, helpless sheep.)

With Bitcoin you can’t do such things. If you want to throw a war in a Bitcoin-based economy, you’ll have to convince people to pay for it. Good luck.

**

Paul Rosenberg
www.freemansperspective.com

ROSC 19: Back to the Shadows

ROSC19

I got a strange phone call the other day. The person on the other end played like it was a wrong number, asking for Angie something, but they were listening to my voice way too closely. What they were doing, I was pretty certain, was to see if it was really me using the phone billed to me.

The next day, I stopped by Jay’s Bar*, partly because I was nearby and partly to see if anyone was hanging around looking for me. I sat at the far corner of the bar, where I had a good angle on nearly the whole of the establishment. I ordered a tonic and lime (I don’t drink a lot of booze) and read through some of my notes.

I could see the look in Michele’s eye. He greeted me and then moved past, wiping down the bar. But as he did, looking away from me, he said, “There was a man asking about you a day ago… forty-ish, white… a pro.”

“Grazie,” I murmured while taking a drink.

That settled it; “they,” whoever they were this time, were looking for me. And so I started making notes. Some kind of government operative (and there are literally hundreds of spy agencies to choose from these days) wanted information on me and my new friends. Since we all use encryption and anonymization, getting information the usual way hadn’t done them much good. Now they were back to old-school methods: sending someone to watch and perhaps to confront.

After scribbling down a number of ideas, examining them, and choosing between them, I came to three big conclusions:

  1. We’d move our meetings between small taco joints on the north side.

  2. I’d make myself available to the watchers.

  3. I’d immediately have a talk with an old friend who is deeply connected.

I finished my second tonic and lime while trying not to look too disgusted. I motioned for Michele, handed him my money, and said, loud enough but not too loud, “See you Thursday after work.”

If “they” were listening somehow, they’d be waiting for me.

The next day I went to where my connected friend habitually eats lunch. I have his old phone number somewhere, but things like this are better done in person. And fortunately, I found him. We caught up on family and friends for a few minutes, and then I told him precisely what was going on and asked for his advice.

My friend thought for a moment, smiled at me, and pulled out his phone.

“Hey, Johnny,” he said into it. “You still bored?”

I was pretty sure whom he was talking to: a mutual friend who used to be a major player in state politics but who had left the big game and wasn’t doing much. And the continuing conversation between the two (or at least the half of it I heard) confirmed it.

“So,” my friend said as he turned to me, “you’ll meet Johnny at that bar Thursday at six, then buy him dinner next door?”

“Deal,” I said.

I thanked my friend for setting up the dinner and tried to pick up his check. He stopped me, but I protested.

“You did me a favor,” I said. “You can let me pay for your lunch.”

He shook his head and held the check.

“No,” he said. “Friends do favors for friends.”

I thanked him again and left, making a reservation at the Italian place on my way home.

Thursday I’ll meet the retired politician at Jay’s. My guess is that we’ll talk about anything but crypto for 90% of the evening: old friends, interesting stories, our families, and so on. Johnny’s a very entertaining guy.

But at least the watchers will see that I have a friend with some juice, and maybe they’ll back off a little. If nothing else, I think it will secure my position on the “non-violent dissident” list. That’s a position I can live with.

Our group’s weekly meetings, however, will have to move from place to place. That way they’ll need extended surveillance on at least some of us if they want to bug our meetings… and I can’t imagine that we’re important enough for that. The worst these kids would do is to stiff the IRS.

Our only “weapon” is cryptography… which boils down to math. This is a point that Satoshi Nakamoto made when he announced Bitcoin:

[I wrote Bitcoin to] win a major battle in the arms race and gain a new territory of freedom for several years.

The “arms race” of Satoshi and the cypherpunks was this:

  • They have cops, guns, and bullets… and court orders backed by them.

  • We have crypto.

And I still think that’s a good way to look at things.

More next time.

 

* Please note that the stories set in and around Jay’s Bar are fictional. They’re often based upon real people and events, but they are fiction.

* * * * *

A book that generates comments like these, from actual readers, might be worth your time:

  • I just finished reading The Breaking Dawn and found it to be one of the most thought-provoking, amazing books I have ever read… It will be hard to read another book now that I’ve read this book… I want everyone to read it.
  • Such a tour de force, so many ideas. And I am amazed at the courage to write such a book, that challenges so many people’s conceptions.
  • There were so many points where it was hard to read, I was so choked up.
  • Holy moly! I was familiar with most of the themes presented in A Lodging of Wayfaring Men, but I am still trying to wrap my head around the concepts you presented at the end of this one.

Get it at Amazon ($18.95) or on Kindle: ($5.99)

TheBreakingDawn

* * * * *

Paul Rosenberg
www.freemansperspective.com

ROSC 17: The Rise of the Elderly

rosc17

Under the mindset of the factory era, old people were expected to move quietly to the side after they stopped working. From there they were to quietly dote on grandchildren, then get sick and die. That, however, has changed.

For one thing, people are living longer and retaining their health into advanced ages. Also, old people never really were fit to be pushed off the stage. Certainly old people tend to slow down, but “slower” is a long way from “no movement at all.” Old people are more than capable of many things, and they frequently have piles of massively valuable experience.

Anyway, what we learned as the sanitarium (and now Crypto House) opened back up last week, was that Esther and the sanitarium refugees have been busy. While they were away, they spread their new ideas to at least three different old folks’ homes. Contrary to the system’s assumptions, the people there – or at least a decent percentage of them – don’t want to disengage from the world, and they do want to continue making an impact in it. Three cars full of such people have visited the sanitarium/Crypto House this past week, and more are expected.

On top of that, the Swedes (wonderful people) are settling in, and the Bitcoin Bus family is slated to stay at the house for a month. As a bonus, the musicians (a few will remain in an extra room for a while) are going to put on weekly concerts in the factory parking lot next door once weather permits. The factory manager ended up being a pretty cool guy, and he thinks his workers will enjoy it after the last shift on Friday. The cops will probably find some permit violation to shut it down with (or rather, their bosses will… God forbid someone might have fun without paying them first), but the manager is game for it as long as the musicians are.

So, lots of good things are happening. But I’m straying from my main subject: the old folks.

Old and Smart Go Together Really Well

The status quo system we all grew up in made a major error by ignoring the abilities of old people. These are people who spent long decades developing important skills. To simply ignore that was ridiculous. Worse, the assumption that they should be moved to the side has been encoded in laws for Social Security, health care, professional regulation, business insurance policies, and more. The legacy system forcibly ejects old people from the pool of the productive.

In the crypto-world, however, they can do whatever they want, and no one need ever even know their age. There are many in the old-age homes who take comfort in filling the role assigned to them by the status quo, and we really have nothing to offer them. But we’re finding a pretty strong percentage of oldsters who don’t want to tread water for 10 or 20 years and then die. They may not want to work full days or weeks, but they do want to work… they don’t want to give up being productive until they need to.

I’ve talked with only five or 10 of these people so far, but here are the things I know they’re up to:

  • An elderly lawyer has taken up online arbitration work on the Open Bazaar system.

  • Three sets of old ladies are setting up to work as sales agents for anonymous buyers, working through Open Bazaar. They’ll wear cop-type body cameras and drive from one estate sale or garage sale to another, taking live bids from remote purchasers. They already have a dozen or more customers lined up.

  • Two retired engineers and a retired programmer have just acquired their first customer for anonymous drone delivery. Their drones (they have two at the moment) are being programmed with a set of maps, GPS, and a memory system using ephemeral key encryption. And so, a client enters his or her address, which goes directly to the drone, which verifies it to be within its flight radius. But it does not share those details with anyone else. The “Tech Elders” team (that’s what they’re calling themselves) then attaches whatever goods are to be delivered (within a specified weight limit) and sends the machine on its way. They are never told where it will go. Once the delivery is completed, the keys that encrypted the address are automatically dropped from the system. It is known that the drone delivered something somewhere, but only the purchaser knows where.

  • Two friends of friends who really are past their ability to do much have offered their postal addresses for deliveries. If something forbidden gets delivered, what are the enforcers going to do, put them on trial? They’d hardly be considered fit for trial, they’d have no information to give up, and by the time a trial could be arranged, they’d likely have checked out anyway.

All of this will be done behind walls of cryptography. A variety of cryptocurrencies will be used (Bitcoin will mainly be a settlement currency between the other currencies), all communications will be encrypted, and only pseudonyms will be used. But for customer comfort with pseudonyms, they’re using realistic names (Sean W. Thornton, for example) rather than the purposely quirky names we used in the old days of crypto-anarchy.

The Purpose of It All

The entry of the old folks really made me happy. The deep purpose here isn’t to make money or even to escape tyranny. Rather, it’s to help life function in the world. And these old folks still have life in them. They should be able to use it any way they wish to. Crypto gives that to them.

More next time.

* * * * *

A book that generates comments like these, from actual readers, might be worth your time:

  • I just finished reading The Breaking Dawn and found it to be one of the most thought-provoking, amazing books I have ever read… It will be hard to read another book now that I’ve read this book… I want everyone to read it.
  • Such a tour de force, so many ideas. And I am amazed at the courage to write such a book, that challenges so many people’s conceptions.
  • There were so many points where it was hard to read, I was so choked up.
  • Holy moly! I was familiar with most of the themes presented in A Lodging of Wayfaring Men, but I am still trying to wrap my head around the concepts you presented at the end of this one.

Get it at Amazon ($18.95) or on Kindle: ($5.99)

TheBreakingDawn

* * * * *

Paul Rosenberg
www.freemansperspective.com

The Essential Goodness of the Crypto Community

CryptoCommunity

Quite a few people have been complaining about the cryptocurrency community lately. And to be fair, they have legitimate reasons: Many get-rich-quickers, corporate sellouts, and outright scammers have shown up recently.

But it’s far too easy for us to focus on the malicious and the misguided. The bulk of the crypto community are decent people, even if they’re unsure of the best paths forward. (No surprise in that, with perfect knowledge remaining scarce on this planet.)

What I want to point out today is that most of these people are caring and decent. And here’s why I say that:

A couple of weeks ago one of the best Bitcoin advocates, Andreas Antonopoulos, rather publicly admitted that he had serious money problems of his own making. (If you don’t think that takes guts, imagine doing it yourself… after first imagining yourself way out and alone in front of millions of people… including plenty of immature trolls.)

And Andreas did get critical comments. But then something else happened: Hundreds of people – many hundreds, I think – stepped up to help him. Andreas has been working full time to promote Bitcoin for years and has done it well.

And people had noticed.

And they remembered.

And they cared.

Over the following days, hundreds of people signed on to be his patrons and lots of people made Bitcoin donations… in some cases giant donations. (Emphasis his.)

As a result Andreas will not have to worry about money for a long time. He can continue (and expand) as an independent voice for cryptocurrencies.

Out Here on the Frontier

Cryptocurrencies, while gaining some measure of acknowledgement, even if not acceptance, remain a frontier technology. For those of us out on the frontier, there is no one to help us when we fall except a few others like ourselves.

A few weeks ago, one of us fell… and the other frontier-dwellers ran to him and helped him back up.

The people on the frontier are good people. They just proved it.

So, acknowledge problems in the crypto community when you see them. Fix them if possible. But don’t go negative. Once you start “fighting the threats,” inertia will carry you forward into finding one new threat after another, and you’ll end up like Inspector Javert, feeling ever so righteous about enforcing purity.

Killing the bad, I’m here to tell you, is a dead end. Your job, rather, is to build the good.

So, evade errors as they appear. But far more importantly, help each other, improve each other, find better ways, and share what you find.

Keep building a better world. All else is detail or distraction.

* * * * *

A book that generates comments like these, from actual readers, might be worth your time:

  • I just finished reading The Breaking Dawn and found it to be one of the most thought-provoking, amazing books I have ever read… It will be hard to read another book now that I’ve read this book… I want everyone to read it.
  • Such a tour de force, so many ideas. And I am amazed at the courage to write such a book, that challenges so many people’s conceptions.
  • There were so many points where it was hard to read, I was so choked up.
  • Holy moly! I was familiar with most of the themes presented in A Lodging of Wayfaring Men, but I am still trying to wrap my head around the concepts you presented at the end of this one.

Get it at Amazon ($18.95) or on Kindle: ($5.99)

TheBreakingDawn

* * * * *

Paul Rosenberg
www.freemansperspective.com

ROSC 16: Rebels with Full Bellies

ROSC16

Thank God for experience. Last week we had another of our meetings at Jay’s bar, and it almost turned into a disaster. Only long experience saved it.

Everything was proceeding nicely until I saw my old friend Martin walking up to the bar with a man who creeped me out. This guy was perfectly attired and wore the same type of overcoat I used to see in and around power centers in Rome. (I lived in Rome for a short time.) This guy smelled of “heartless elite.”

The last time I talked with someone who gave me that vibe, she asked me about e-gold… which was attacked and destroyed a year or two later. Coincidence, perhaps, but I wasn’t about to take such a chance again.

I know that Martin worked for those groups for 30 years or more. (Though I never asked for details and he didn’t offer many.) I met him only after he had retired… and Martin knew things that he really shouldn’t have.

“Listen to me,” I said to our table with urgency. “I don’t have time to explain, but please trust me and get the hell out of here right now. I have to stay and deal with something. I’ll pay the bill, and I won’t be in any danger, so please leave now.”

They all looked at me, unsure of what was happening.

“There’s someone here who very much should not see you. Please go. Now!”

With just a bit of hesitation, they did.

“Email us later,” a few of them said on their way out.

“I will,” I said.

And then I turned my back toward Martin and the man with him. I didn’t want Martin to notice me until my guys were out of view.

I motioned to the busboy, who looked at plates of uneaten food and asked me with his eyes if he should really remove them.

“They had to go,” I said. “I’ll settle up with Michele.”

Martin was my gym friend. He was, by nature, a decent guy. But he grew up poor in a small town in Montana, and so, when one of these elites noticed his innate intelligence (he is very bright), they offered him good money and he accepted. I think he was happy to finally leave his job of drafting legislation, securing the votes for it, coordinating mega-corporate plans, and so on.

Once my young friends were clear, I walked up to Michele at the bar and asked to pay the bill. Michele was surprised to see me so soon (our food was served just a few minutes prior), but he was too busy for questions and we made our transaction quickly. And it was then that Martin spotted me.

“Paul, what a nice surprise.”

And I really was glad to see him. Then he introduced me to his friend, whose name I’ll leave off. My first impression remained.

“Let me buy you a drink,” Martin said. “We have to wait for a table next door.” (As I mentioned before, there’s a restaurant next door, and the two establishments work with each other.)

I agreed, we got our drinks, and we sat at an empty section of the bar. I asked Martin how he was feeling, and we engaged in small talk for a few minutes. Then, wanting to include his friend, he went on to ask about Bitcoin.

“I remember you telling me about the genius of Bitcoin,” Martin said. “We were discussing it earlier, so perhaps you can help us understand it.”

I understood Martin’s interest. He saw Bitcoin as an intellectual entertainment. I was a lot less sure of the other guy’s motives. And so I stared at the guy, waiting for him to express an interest.

“What I’m trying to understand,” he said, “is who the prime movers behind it are. They say it’s decentralized, but there have to be a few people with outsized power. I’m trying to understand who that might be.”

“Well,” I said, “it really is decentralized. There is no office, no customer service, no one with final approval.”

“Yes, we are aware of that,” he said, clearly presuming that I wasn’t bright enough to grasp his intent, which I took as a good thing, “but I know the software has been updated, for example. Some group of people had to decide to do that.”

“Yes,” I said. “There’s a group of Bitcoin developers, but they are widely mistrusted. In fact, there have been several forks of the Bitcoin protocol, undertaken by groups who were very much displeased with the core developers. So, they don’t actually have oversized power, as you call it. And the miners don’t have to use their code anyway.”

“Then the miners have final say over things?” he asked.

“Not really. Some people think of miners as Ferengis… even if unfairly.”

He looked at Martin, to see if he understood what I was talking about.

“That’s a Star Trek reference,” I added. “The Ferengis were an offensive race who cared for absolutely nothing so much as numbers in bank accounts. And that’s the reputation at least some of the miners have.”

He looked confused, and I thought it was best to leave things that way. I turned things in a different direction.

“You know, Martin, I have a question of my own. We used to discuss macroeconomics, and perhaps you gentlemen can help me understand something.”

Martin smiled and his friend seemed content to accept the change of subject.

“I see, in the overall, a generally deflationary environment, due to technological advances, but all of the expenses faced by average people are rising in a near lockstep, soaking up the extra money… be it direct taxation, rising medical fees, paying for corn… ethanol… to be added to gasoline, and so on. Would you agree?”

“I do,” said Martin.

“Yes,” said his associate.

“What I wonder,” I went on, “is when the rising number of people who are officially ‘out of the labor force’ – and mainly on disability or some other handout program – will begin to rebel at being made superfluous.”

This time Martin said nothing, eventually making an “I dunno” expression. I turned to the other man. He seemed disgusted with the question but answered anyway.

“People with food in their bellies do not rebel,” he answered.

Just then Michele informed them that their table was ready. We politely parted company and I finished my drink.

Michele walked over. “Who was that other guy,” he asked.

“I don’t rightly know, Michele, but he’s not my kind of guy.”

“No, not mine either, I think.” Michele has a good nose for people. “But I tell you what, if I find out anything, I’ll tell you.”

I thanked him, shook his hand, and walked out.

On my way back to the train station I made myself happy by thinking of dozens of “rebels with food in their bellies.” Food simply isn’t enough. Complete personalities need to know that they are producing; that they’re doing things that improve the world.

Old Rabbi Heschel was right: Mankind is not always blind.

* * * * *

A book that generates comments like these, from actual readers, might be worth your time:

  • I just finished reading The Breaking Dawn and found it to be one of the most thought-provoking, amazing books I have ever read… It will be hard to read another book now that I’ve read this book… I want everyone to read it.
  • Such a tour de force, so many ideas. And I am amazed at the courage to write such a book, that challenges so many people’s conceptions.
  • There were so many points where it was hard to read, I was so choked up.
  • Holy moly! I was familiar with most of the themes presented in A Lodging of Wayfaring Men, but I am still trying to wrap my head around the concepts you presented at the end of this one.

Get it at Amazon ($18.95) or on Kindle: ($5.99)

TheBreakingDawn

* * * * *

Paul Rosenberg
www.freemansperspective.com