The Bitcoin Story

According to Hacker News, Bitcoin has many problems, and therefore, is not merit-worthy:

  • “Transactions are slow and expensive"
  • "It lacks a lot of the controls that traditional banks have for good reasons, so fraud becomes harder to tackle”
  • “I just wanted internet money, not a speculative financial instrument.”
  • "This volatility is why it will never be a useful currency.”

By this same logic, email should also not have succeeded:

  • Email is slow, heavy, and uses largely outdated technologies
  • It’s nearly impossible to make email private/encrypted
  • Email, as software, is largely impossible to make incremental improvements on due to its sheer decentralization

But email’s days are numbered, yeah? Any day now.

Perhaps by this same logic, the English language shouldn’t succeed either:

  • There/their/they’re is a UX nightmare that will inhibit adoption
  • The gh in laugh makes an f sound—give me a break. But sometimes it also makes an oo sound, as in through. But also it can make an oh sound, as in though. Good luck scaling that.
  • English is riddled with homographs and contronyms that will confuse even English professors

Will the startup that disrupts the English language come from California, or will it be Texas?

If the pattern has not yet been made obvious, networked technologies like Bitcoin, email, and the English language are not valued by their feature set and design—they’re valued by the number of nodes that speak that same language. The most useful language is the one spoken by the most number of people. The most useful communication technology is the one accessible by the most number of people. The most important currency is the one believed in by the most number of people.

The philosophical arguments against Bitcoin end up being precisely why it is so valuable:

  • “Bitcoin isn’t even the best cryptocurrency. It was just first.” Yup, exactly. But like, a Big Bang of a first, am I right? This is important.
  • “Bitcoin is just a pyramid scheme that requires new believers to make previous believers’ holdings more practical. It has no intrinsic value.” Yup, it’s a networked technology. The more people you can get to speak your English-disrupting language, the more valuable it becomes. Without belief, without adoption, there is no value or utility.
  • “Bitcoin is just a cyberpunk fantasy about a future where Bitcoin will matter.” Yeah, but it’s a hell of a story, right? If you think this story is compelling, check out Christianity’s stories, or Islam’s stories, or the United States national story. Now those have suckered in quite a few. What would you put Christianity’s market cap at?

If you continue judging stories like Bitcoin by their technical merits, you will perpetually blind yourself to their importance, value, and potential. When you instead judge networked technologies by their narrative, ubiquity, trust, and ultimately, decentralization, you might begin to understand what a $1 trillion dollar story looks like.

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