Triad of Principles
Some people say that Bitcoin is a cult. Assuming that they are right, there must be a focal point of worship – if not for the entire network, then at least for the most devout disciples of Bitcoin’s unknowable promulgator, Satoshi Nakamoto. Let me summarize my undoubtedly maculate conception of this creed as follows:
Every individual has unreserved ownership of, and unrestricted authority over the time, energy, and value they contribute to society.
Its implementation as the Bitcoin protocol is instrumental to the enforcement of natural law, in general, and of basic property rights, in particular.
But let’s dig deeper to uncover the underlying values that the whole alleged cult and culture of Bitcoin is built upon. Even though it is by no means an exhaustive list, the following three principles should help to illustrate what unifies such a diverse and highly individualistic group of strangers into an infamous cult.
As these concepts need some explanation in order to be fully appreciated, it probably helps to look at three particular holidays that the more cultish portion of the network fervently observes.
The order in which they arranged themselves chronologically in our calendar incidently corresponds to a progression that starts with the innermost experience of the individual. From there, it conceptually expands outwards to ultimately encompass the global network and how everything and everyone relate to one another.
Proof of Keys
The most personal and introspect rite of passage for any Bitcoiner is taking custody of their bitcoin by holding the keys to the spendable funds. This is commemorated on January 3, the date on which the Bitcoin Genesis Block was mined in 2009. The unrepeatable step from nothing to something constitutes the rock upon which the incorruptible ledger of value is being built.
Once a year we are reminded of the importance of holding the private cryptographic keys to the value we command – by the power of consensus as much as by the laws of math and physics.
With such power, naturally, comes great responsibility. It is a personal responsibility that each individual has to shoulder as a true rite of passage. As the mere promise of possession in fiat terms (i.e. by decree and its enforcement) is transformed into an actual guarantee of possession by force of universal laws, the individual itself is transformed.
When property is taken into somebody’s own hands this way, it becomes imbued with a form of authority that transcends any regulatory power of human provenance or providence. In that moment, knowledge (of the private key) becomes power (to move the recorded energy expenditure). Act accordingly. There is nobody else to blame for the ways your energies flow, henceforth.
Bitcoin Pizza Day
It might seem rather mundane to commemorate the first voluntary exchange of goods and services for the immaterial energy money by ordering a plain old pizza. That is the actual point, though.
Nobody needs an economy that is built exclusively around luxury goods or special interest memorabilia, for example. Instead, we really want to cover the basics like food and clothing first before we move on to the fancy stuff. While the controversial choice of pineapple and jalapeños as suitable pizza topping invites fundamental debates about good and evil, there shouldn’t be much disagreement about the role of proper money within a desirable economy. First and foremost it should be voluntarily accepted as means of exchange by all transacting parties. At close inspection, a crazy idea that actually already disqualifies fiat money as suitable. You only accept it because everybody else does – by decree.
On May 22 of 2010 the amount of 10.000 BTC turned out to be as desirable to one party as having 2 servings of pizza to eat. At the same time another party valued it as highly as the effort to make and deliver such a meal. This value judgment is noteworthy because bitcoin (and its currently smallest on-chain denomination, the Satoshi) doesn’t have any non-monetary value.
That means that it has no intrinsic value except for being a measure of how much energy has gone into its creation and maintenance. Thus, it is, supposedly, accepted in order to exchange it for goods and services (i.e. the time, energy, and resources of others) at a later point in time.
Bitcoin Pizza Day is not a hodler’s holiday like the Proof of Keys. Quite complementary in nature, it celebrates the actualized use case that Satoshi Nakamoto prophesized in his whitepaper’s subtitle.
Making your first purchase or other voluntary transaction using Bitcoin is like setting a cornerstone of the truly free market that is yet to come.
Bitcoin Independence Day
This day is supposed to remind Bitcoiners of their place within the network as a whole. Every single node is central to Bitcoin and its decentralized omnipresence within the hash horizon, after all.
Personally, I don’t think the commemorative date is aptly named as Bitcoin Independence Day. As is, it merely underlines the independence of affordable and decentralized full nodes in relatively large quantities, i.e. the network, from any centralized planning efforts to affect the protocol rules.
This independence has been impressively demonstrated on August 1 of 2017, when a so- called user activated softfork frustrated the plans of a group of influential – or so they thought – miners, exchanges, and companies to increase the block size on the Bitcoin blockchain by force of hash power.
The episode, however, reveals some deeper implications to the miraculous working of the Bitcoin protocol. The word independence doesn’t do justice to the computing device that is the free market of self-interested economic actors.
Embedded into its complexity your individual decision counts. It counts as much as anybody else’s, but in a way where all such decisions are dependent on one another to enforce a beneficial outcome to the system in the long run – not necessarily one that’s to your liking in the short term.
Blending together the seemingly incompatible ideas of being essential and insignificant to the network at the same time is yet another rite of passage for the devout Bitcoiner. Expressing this transpersonal relationship with the decentralized consensus is best achieved by running your own validating full node that enforces the rules you want to live and transact by. For this reason, Node Day would be my name of choice for the occasion.
Rituals and traditions seem to be an emergent phenomenon of thriving and mutually supportive groups of individuals that organize around shared values and best practices. Bitcoin is a novel means by which we communicate the value of time and energy across civilization.
Thus, its cultural fortification is a diametrically opposed response to the erosion of value structures in the declining fiat age.
Reflecting over your own behavior and that of the network as a whole as it emerges, will likely strengthen your faith in Bitcoin as a tool to fix whatever needs to be fixed. You both are and use the tool in this context while humbly remaining the workpiece itself.
Now, go forth and hold your keys, don’t sell but spend, and run a node.