12 min read - Posted 20 May 19

random cryptocurrency / cryptoeconomics thoughts #5

The below is ungroomed, thinking out loud, a collection of thought bubbles written as a messy tangle and has not been processed for concision/to make it easier to read. Patience and indulgence is required. There is not a sequential flow, paragraphs are ordered randomly. No effort was made to format for easier reading/viewing.

On the surface, it appears obvious to say that cryptocurrency is about money, is about being a currency/tool that we can use to run our economic life. Perhaps instead, coming events may serve to support/prove the notion that the non-obvious but most significant purpose of cryptocurrency is as a defeating mechanism for baser human economic practices. To survive long term, it may be the case that cryptocurrency needs to be programmed not just to be a currency, but more so to be a ‘malicious behaviour defeating mechanism’ — to thrive, crypto may need to ensure that it can:

  • Stop/disincent cartels from forming

  • Limit whale manipulation effects

  • Be antifragile to censorship attempts

  • Correctly nudge humans into serving their own altruistic ‘higher angels’

  • Bring persistence and finality to the way that humans allocate and construct the concept of trust, of how humans signal trust to each other socially and interpersonally

  • Constantly police and defeat apathy by majority (e.g. on governance matters) It may be the case that crypto’s higher/highest value to us is to finally force us into a ‘good behaviour’ bondage, where we finally have a self-maintaining (hard-encoded in the codebase/node community) way to protect against the inevitable ‘wearing down’, gaming (e.g. regulatory capture) and ‘pollution by neglect’ of trust and social interchange systems: as we take our eyes off these values, they get nibbled/besieged by malicious actors who seize the chance to erode the power of these trustkeeper systems whilst the stakeholder is being lazy/distracted/apathetic. One might concede the notion that thieves will most often wait until you leave home before they set about plundering its goodies. Humans have spent 10,000+ years evolving their evolved social/economic world with the implicit understanding that some counterparties are very unprincipled, that such counterparties will lie, cheat, commit crime, brutalise, steal, subvert, game, suborn, collude, besmirch and attack for economic reasons. If crypto works to limit/remove or recast the window of opportunity for such maladaptive behaviours, then this represents a reset of that implicit expectation. Imagine what it means when you no longer have to worry of the person you are financially transacting with has limited ability to swindle you, ‘because blockchain’. We will have to adjust our internal models of our expectation of lying and criminality by counterparties, when their ability to ply their nefarious craft has evaporated/been muzzled/been slain. There is a psychological adjustment that will thereby be needed to the state machine we carry around inside our heads, our inner homo economicus. Whilst crypto may not be the excision of such maladaptive behaviours from the human genome, crypto may serve as a strong-enough governor on them so as to render them newly impotent. Is it an irony that cryptocurrency is valuable because it is p2p, forces you to be your own bank, is censorship resistant, offers us immutable canonical truth, frees you from bad actors, from central banker foibles and from rent seekers yet it does this by being ruthlessly efficient and impassively unforgiving at enforcing its cryptoeconomic principles: you must submit and obey, because you must trust the code, trust the crypto maths, trust the outcomes decisions of the consensus mechanism. Crypto is about economic freedom, yet achieves this by a mathematical tyranny. What does it say about we humans that we might only achieve societal economic/personal freedom through submitting 100% to the disembodied and uncaring temperament of crypto maths/codebases? It seems ironic that in order to defeat old world strong men, we must replace them by some etherealised non-persons in the form of unassailable powerful cryptomath structures. We will continue to experience the large scale attack on the cryptosphere by old world entrenched vested interests (banks, regulators, governments et al) because of a particular aspect of crypto that is complete anathema and existential risk to them: crypto doesn’t just disintermediate them, crypto doesn’t just challenge them: rather, crypto spells their complete doom (in the sense, for example, that email displaced snailmail). Crypto teaches humans the particular value that decentralisation offers. Seven billion humans are learning that by using decentralisation (the internet itself, p2p such as BitTorrent and now cryptocurrency), we can completely discharge, replace, zero-out or obviate the need for those old world structures. Decentralisation doesn’t just lessen, change or restructure the need for governments and coercive structures: it completely removes the need, in our minds; this is a psychological earthquake. Decentralisation via crypto is a lightbulb moment, where people come to realise, feel, understand, grok that by trusting the crypto math, crypto codebase, crypto engine, they completely replace the highest authority, omnipotent god, last recourse, daddy-like figurehead that used to be in their minds: this is a mental overturning of the highest order. There is a lightbulb moment when noobies ‘figure out’ that crypto really is p2p, that it needs only self-authority. Most people aren’t used to contemplating that they them self can be their own god, their own highest authority. It’s a Lord Of The Flies moment, when you realise there is no higher authority on your island, that you yourself can be the highest local power. Old world entrenched vested interests (banks, regulators, governments) of course find this frightening and a complete (existential) challenge to their authority/self-interests.
    Of course, many people aren’t ready/able to displace their previous God and become him/her/it instead, such is the psychological magnitude of this replacement (Nietzsche’s “God is dead, I teach you the superman”) — perhaps Stockholm Syndrome. Many people of course prefer to outsource their God-load to a church or guru or cult leader, so that they them self don’t have to contemplate what it means to be their own God or indeed more powerful than their previous God. Crypto laughs at this and forces God-hood onto its participants, with meme-strength efficiency. Some will commute at some pace, some instead will regress; expect psychic carnage for a while. You work for a boss, whom you submit to. You live in a country, whose laws and systems you submit to. You are protected by soldiers and police, whom you submit to. You marry a spouse, whose stake claim and needs you have to submit to (arguably/to some degree). You feel safe if your money is in a bank, so you allow the bank to have authority over your funds. The aspect of this is the need to recognise a hierarchy of needs, and that your mental process has to factor those needs, often as superior to one’s own needs, often at a cost to self. You spend your life carrying around in your mind the notion that there is some higher authority than yourself. Almost every mental process bears this factor in its calculus. A deep mental groove is cut in your mind, a default way of thinking, this is a factor that either directly or subtly colours almost every thought you have.
    Then crypto comes along with its inherent p2p aspect. Your brain wigs out, it is not used to being a peer. Your mind is not used to being sovereign. Most people don’t know how to be their own God, or what that enables in them. Expect crypto confusion for a while, as participants stumble upon, then with, this conceptual revolution. There is a criticism of blockchain and cryptocurrency that some put forward that blockchain is ‘merely a slight variation’ on previous database technologies (e.g. SQL) — their point is that crypto punters therefore are getting all hot and bothered over nothing, really. The fact that distributed ledgers and cryptocurrencies have, at their heart, a database-like construct that keeps track of transactions, accounts, balances, state (or whatever the coin tracks), serves to underscore and confirm the notion that indeed, cryptocurrencies and blockchains are indeed databases of a kind.
    The future, being 100% crypto, thus becomes 100% all about database (“all ‘bout dat dbase”) — thus the future of all human social/economic interaction depends on the database tech we use. One might argue that the current old world banking empires are centred on, and exemplars of, strong database science as well, so that crypto’s championing of database tech is therefore nothing new and just a johnny come lately.
    Crypto is not your grandfather’s database, it is indeed a new tech, and not because of the codebase. Yes, the delta between old world db tech and crypto db tech is arguably small or minor — indeed, crypto does not add much new to the canon of db tech, and/or many of the concepts of crypto db tech (e.g. sharding) were extant in the old world db tech canon. The difference, rather, is in the psycho dimensions of what crypto db tech brings to the canon. SQL was a servant of human interaction, whereas crypto will remodel, drive, usurp and displace human interaction. Unlike old world db tech, crypto db tech is a mental conversation we have to have to figure out the new rules for what we want from money (and thus each other, socially) going forward. Crypto is thus a subtle and abstract redefinition of how the tool can and will rewire the mind of it user/s. Can your grandpa’s db tech do that? The 20th century was the triumph of the non-person. Non person constructs gained supremacy and stomped their boot in the face of actual persons. We saw the supremacy of the nation sate, the banking system, the regulator, the corporation/company, the deep state, the MSM, the military/industrial complex, big pharma. These constructs gamed the judicial system and the political system, and like ticks settling into the skin folds of a blood-rich host, they ensconced themselves near a juicy vein and went about sucking blood from their actual person host/s. People lost out as constructs sucked our blood from us, used the law to protect them from us and they left us to fend for ourselves (externalisation). The rise of the 0.01%ers is testament to how strongly those new constructs rewarded their acolytes at the expense of the real person/s (us).
    Crypto inverts that power equation. Open source (the bazaar, not the cathedral), wisdom of the crowd, p2p decentralisation: these are all expressions of the underlying inversion — people will reassert their dominion over the constructs, people will regain supremacy by withering down the usurped power that constructs leached from us. Crypto, p2p and open source will rip the constructs from their supply veins and thus starve them of their power, and restore the sovereignty of the person over the construct. Importantly, crypto will do this without a shot being fired. Crypto will not be tricked into attempting to defeat the soldier by using a gun against him; instead, crypto memes will cannibalise the soldier’s mind from within. Crypto will advance its arts and crafts and prove itself to be a superior offering, and like how Amazon shut down the old-world bookstore model, crypto (DAO’s) will shut down the corporation, shut down the government (Tezos, BitNation), shut down the political system (Decred). Like p2p software is often superior to commercial software (Linux beating Unix), crypto is superior to old world constructs, as it better actualises the inner human rationality engine. It is important that crypto does this without a shot being fired, we want a subtle and it-came-from-within process here, lest crypto make a target of itself and force a large scale confrontation. Expect crypto to erode the old enemies in a slow, unnoticeable manner, largely unreported and unremarked — one day in the future you will wake one morn and find the war was won and you didn’t even notice. Perhaps lower level protocols should lean toward stasis and conservatism — “measure twice and cut once” — while higher level protocols should be more flexible — “move fast and break things”. In the words of Calvin Coolidge: “it is much more important to kill bad bills than to pass good ones”. > “Change is frightening, though. In Europe, for example, 300 years ago, people did not have RIGHTS! Today, we’re talking about paying taxes and transacting using currencies that we, the people, create independently of governments. These changes are causing the powers-that-be to fear for their positions as the elites of society.” Brad Robbins President,

In the 1990’s and 2000’s, the internet jargon was about the term ‘disintermediation’. This was the notion that the internet allowed disruptors like Amazon to come along and displace or replace intermediaries such as old-timey retailers/distributors/wholesalers. Email displaced the postal service. Manufacturers could sell direct to end-user customer (B2C) or direct to end-business customer (B2B), thus obviating the need for intermediary layers.
Crypto is doing the same with money: replacing/obviating central banks and sovereign states as sole issuers of money and policy. This aspect of crypto is thus ‘disintermediating’ governments and regulators — perhaps we need a word for this, such as ‘dis-sovereigning’ or ‘dis-governmenting’ or ‘dis-censoring’. Disclaimers: just my ideas about possible scenarios for near-term future. This is not investment advice. I’m ego-driven, clueless and biased, so do your own thinking. I’m not qualified, I have no special privileged position to drive my insight, I’m a nobody, is what you should assume about me and what I say here. My ZenCash address = znk9GjfbzRHwDiMWmq2xeTi5FNkgnzQXthg

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