By the time I was 20, I was already a high school and college drop out. I was taught to keep my head down, live frugally, and respect authority figures. I was labeled difficult for asking questions, and arrogant for not embracing the salaried drone lifestyle. I pursued my own interests unapologetically. Instead, I spent the years I would have been in college; studying philosophy, Austrian economics, business, psychology, and mindset. While I worked as a server at Stanford, I read books, and listened to podcasts during my commute.
I first heard about Bitcoin in 2011.
The idea of a currency not fully controlled by the state, aligned with the values I had formed from the Mises Institute podcasts. I saw the parallels between cryptocurrency and Hayek’s Plan for Private Money. I decided I was going to pay attention to this Bitcoin thing. I bought my first bitcoin in 2013 after the Silk Road crash. That year the price of bitcoin went from $150 to $1,000.
I was validated. This was my first epiphany.
Market forces are a fundamental force in the universe.
This realization we the outcome of a hypothesis proved positive. I saw that there was a market for a currency that was not manipulated by central banks. I doubled down, cashed in on my amateur trading profits to fund my new amateur coding habit.
Over the next three years from 2013 to 2016, I forked the Bitcoin source code to make “Kiacoin”. I made the Foldy Paper Wallet app for users to be able to generate and print bitcoin addresses securely offline. I created BlockchainMe as a hacked together tool for creating verifiable IDs on the blockchain.
I went on to work as a System Administrator at Blockstream, and this was my first “success” story. The company was founded to support the open source Bitcoin Core developer community, and build the next layer of Bitcoins’ functionality to extend into things like stock trades and smart contracts. In the two years that I’ve worked at Blockstream the value of Bitcoin had done another 10X.
The era of early Bitcoin adopters ranting in chat forums and communicating over mailing lists was coming to a close. The media was talking about Bitcoin as though it was the future of everything, securities trading, instant sentiment, and next-generation Ponzi schemes. The people who truly understood Bitcoin and work on the protocal daily, got lost in the noise of price speculation. And the average user was left not knowing who to trust.
Like art, even when we don’t observe the effort of the artist or the programmer we can recognize its value.
People don’t understand Bitcoin; they follow hype.
A common problem when approaching a complex topic is looking at the complexity at the wrong level of resolution. When I wanted to learn more about the technical side of Bitcoin back in 2013, I fell into this same “wrong resolution” trap. I spent a year learning C++, came back to the Bitcoin source code, and still had no idea how any of it worked. The majority of Bitcoin explanations push lessons on cryptographic hash functions, elliptic-curve math, or how to build Bitcoin from source. None of which is terribly useful to users.
Most Bitcoin books come off as copies of the Bitcoin wiki, reiterating the same content that was initially intended for engineers. So-called in-depth or “under the hood” articles on Bitcoin leave people with the impression that cryptocurrency is too complicated for them to understand.
Had I realized that I didn’t need to understand elliptic-curve anything to use and understand Bitcoin, I could have saved myself a lot of time and got on with using bitcoin sooner.
Nearly five years into working in the Bitcoin space, I realized what people (including myself) were missing. I was asking how bitcoin worked instead of why it worked.
What I got was a few interesting Bitcoin useability skills, how to create transactions from command line, how to not write a Bitcoin wallet (relying on poorly written dependencies), how to secure your bitcoins as best as possible. What I didn’t have was a way to explain Bitcoin as a system.
One I realized this I spent the next 6 months, hashing out concepts in Bitcoin and how to best explain them inline with systems thinking. This resulted in book split into four sections; conceptual reframing, analysis, synthesis, and emergent properties of the system.
Nearly five years ago, I had initially started this blog as a place to document my path of self-education. The blog will continue to serve that purpose while evolving into a tool to help other people on a similar journey. And present Bitcoin at its proper level of resolution.
It’s not about what bitcoin is worth. It’s about what Bitcoin becomes.