Bitcoin is this strange thing I don’t fully understand. Going down the rabbit hole, as it is commonly known, I generally feel disappointed. Every bitcoiner I meet is a fanatic insisting that I buy bitcoin instead of a supportive mentor. The best buys of my life took place under guidance not pressure, thus I’m always reluctant to listen. Why are they constantly trying to sell it to you?
Bitcoin without being a company has more salesmen than utility. Maybe there is something there, maybe there isn’t. A bubble that pops and comes back deserves some analysis. Saifedean Ammous’ Book: The Bitcoin Standard is a mandatory read. It helps you see why this magic internet money might be something else than a bad deal. Yet, I confess that my first change of heart arose after reading Jeff Booth ’s Book: The Price of Tomorrow. It wasn’t the honest/hard/non-confiscable money argument that got me. It was the argument about repricing the system. The need to let people reprice debt because writing the debt off is as unlikely as paying it off is.
At my current knowledge and experience level, Bitcoin’s advertised economic promise is too inflated compared to its technological and social capabilities. That is why, I’m still empty-handed. Promises are only that, and in Bitcoin, there is no one to hold accountable. Technology can always get better with well-remunerated engineers. But people and social problems don’t get any better because of technology. As I have heard and experienced time and again: you don’t fix social problems with technology. Technology is just a tool, a powerful tool, a valuable tool, but it is not the solution. Bitcoin doesn’t fix it.
Why then care? Why write about it? Why the title? Because Ben Hunt said it, and it made so much sense. His words allowed me for the first time to see an ideology I could start building upon. Bitcoin may or may not be the technological innovation of the century. Bitcoin may or may not become the reserve asset of the world. It may or may not reprice all debt and bring a deflationary and abundant future. Bitcoin may or may not open up worldwide trade and disincentive violence.
Bitcoin is good art. Bitcoin is elegant and beautiful fashion, sitting at the intersection of art and commerce. Most importantly, owning Bitcoin has been an authentic expression of identity, an extremely positive identity of autonomy, entrepreneurialism, and resistance to the Nudging State and the Nudging Oligarchy.
There are no cash flows to art. There are no fundamentals to art. There is no “use case” to art. There is only story. There is only narrative. There is only common knowledge – what everyone knows that everyone knows – about the value of art, common knowledge that emerges from our social interaction with story and narrative.
— Ben Hunt
Let me materialize this analogy. For example, Pablo Picasso is an internationally recognized artist, and his works are highly valued. Despite that, I don’t like them, I would never buy them. If I receive any as a gift I would not keep it. I would give it away to the first person who offers to take it out of my hands. In my profound ignorance, I have neither use nor appreciation for it and so I could never efficiently trade with it. On the contrary, I happen to like Monet’s work, and I thought of it when creating this post’s image. My finances prohibit me from buying an original work of Monet, despite that I do cherish replicas. I have bought prints because I like them. I understand what I like and want. Only then I can find an offer at a price point which I’m happy to engage with.
That example doesn’t explain anything from the quote. I know, and that is my point. Art is not a thing that stands on its own, it is what you think of it. At the same time, it is a movement, a community. It means belonging to the group of people that like that art. It is about the people willing to be together on that narrative. It only makes sense to own an art piece when you like it. It is a personal choice, and you decide how valuable it is, and to which of all the imaginable offers you want to commit. Art has no value, it has a price, which doesn’t even represent a commercial value. The high price doesn’t make it universally desirable. And nothing prevents you from choosing imitations.
I agree Bitcoin is good art. It is a new form of art, one that I’m starting to understand. I operate a Bitcoin node with varying levels of excitement and curiosity. Yet, without coins of my own, there isn’t much I can do with it. How about a replica? Yes! Absolutely! I run my node on the testnet too, I enjoy that one at least. I have some test coins and move them around. I enjoy the experience, without suffering the monetary premium of the “real” network. You should know, that the best things in life are free.
I find the testnet crucial and yet not discussed enough. It goes against the pressuring salesman insisting you buy bitcoin! Nobody encourages you to play with bitcoin. If you can’t play with it at low stakes, you’ll never learn to play the game, you’ll never know if you want the real deal. Bitcoin will miss the opportunity to become great art. It is always buy bitcoin and the rest are sh*tcoins. The more they discourage you from any alternative, the more suspicious I am of some slick salesman trying to sell you those magic beans Jack.
Thus, I propose you play on the Bitcoin testnet, get some test coins, and move them around. Notice how dull money is when there is nothing to buy, and the real network isn’t any better. There are plenty of testnet faucets to get coins for free, use them. The Bitcoin network had those faucets too, until the coins felt scarce and started to appreciate in commercial value. The good thing is that it is digital media and you can make as much as you want. You can always start your network and make more coins. The digital world is not scarce, that is the value of it. That is what has brought so much wealth to the world, there is enough for everybody and we can make more of it if we want.
Yes, there is value to Bitcoin, but the value is not the price. I absolutely appreciate that you can run your node and participate in the global consensus on modest hardware. I value that I can own and control my balance on the network by having my keys. Practiced otherwise it is akin to taking a selfie with an artwork, which is fine too, you might be in only for the experience. I have selfies in front of beautiful architectural buildings I will never own and that is fine too. Recognize the fact that even if you can see it on your phone screen, it doesn’t mean you own it. Bitcoin is the art piece you can truly own and verify, enjoying it requires you to own and verify. You can have a replica too, those must offer you the same own and verify capabilities. You can then pass them around too, and they can have value too. Because beauty/value is in the eye of the beholder. Bitcoin is valuable if you believe it is.
Starting with this post you can endorse my posts with Testnet Lightning Bitcoin. There is nothing to buy, nothing to spend(except more of your time and attention). There are no accounts to register, as should be in an open, permissionless decentralized system. Get some Testnet Lightning Bitcoin immediately at htcl.me , request a lightning invoice at the bottom of the page, and pay. Watch it work! Maybe it won’t be the future of payments, but I care enough to have this in my future.
If you like it, go on, and get some on-chain test Bitcoin from a faucet. Run your node, open a lightning channel, and give me some more test endorsements. Consider this as the honest way the ecosystem subsidizes your education, giving you playground money to practice. If any technology is to gain any adoption it needs a game where it is O.K. to “lose” your funds. If any art is to gain appreciation it needs to be in the hands and eyes of everyone.
P.S. If you want to thank me with “real” Bitcoin, let me have a taste of the real deal and why it is worth it. Then send me an email, and we can arrange that.
Software archeologist – Recovering Physicist – Dancer
As scientist I studied the physics of the very small quantum world. As a computer hacker I distill code. Software is eating the world, and less code means less errors, less problems. Millions of lines of legacy code demand attention and have to be understood and simplified for future reliable operation.