Nozomi Hayase PhD, is a writer covering issues of freedom of speech, transparency and decentralized movements. In this article, she looks at bitcoin in the context of Darwin's evolutionary theories.
In the six years since the inception of Satoshi Nakamoto's blockchain, many have begun to see bitcoin as a disruption force in the future of finance.
Put simply, money is a ledger – one that has now become programmable. Now anyone can create their own currency and with simple scripting language, different values can be coded to manifest values of community.
Economists try to understand this new innovation through modern monetary theory, while those who advocate economic equality tend to dismiss bitcoin as Wall Street-friendly currency with a libertarian bent.
Yet, careful examination of its design reveals how the vision of this technology transcends political ideology. In actuality, it is best understood as a representation of innate human nature and as an innovation that can foster evolution of the species.
The vision of man put forward by naturalist Charles Darwin in the 19th century contained aspects of human nature that can appear somewhat contradictory.
Most people are familiar with Darwin’s theory of genetic mutation, natural selection and the survival of the fittest from The Origin of Species. But his second work, The Descent of Man was largely ignored. In it, Darwin argued for recognition of the higher nature of man based on innate altruism and love.
These seemingly opposing characteristics appear in two polarized images that are developing in bitcoin.
On one hand bitcoin is often associated with the dark side of humanity, seen in events such as speculators' manipulation, the Silk Road scandals and the demise of Mt Gox, while on the other hand it evokes altruistic aspirations shown in its fast growing usage for charity and tipping.
These two human tendencies are inherent in this technology’s unique architecture. Bitcoin brings a new monetary design that has never existed before.
At first glance, with its fixed supply (a total of 21 million bitcoins will be created), it can appear as a gold-like asset. This is one reason why it is attracting investors and speculators and is criticized by economists as deflationary, thereby incentivizing hoarding.
Yet, this is only half the puzzle. Unlike gold, bitcoin can be infinitely divided (into 8 decimal points and more if consensus is reached). Along with this contradictory message of scarcity (finite supply) and abundance (infinite divisibility), Darwin’s dualistic human nature is manifested in the function of mining.
The mining pools at the heart of the bitcoin network are like worker owned co-ops; they self-organize through mutual aid, competing while cooperating through sharing resources.
The foundation upon which bitcoin’s programing language is written is open source. Unlike corporate proprietary software, anyone can read it and modify the code. This makes blockchain networks open to anyone.
The concept of open source has over the last decade challenged crony capitalism. In his blog piece, Watching Open Source Destroy Capitalism, JD Moyer described how “capitalism is based on scarcity” with private production and distribution. He argued how open source challenges this scarcity by reducing or eliminating the cost of production and distribution.
With the invention of the BitTorrent file sharing protocol, communal and altruistic impulses suppressed by the dominant ownership culture found expression online.
Till now, this trend of sharing has not been associated with money and has grown separately from an individualistic and entrepreneurial spirit. The invention of the blockchain has opened up a new path to link these often conflicted aspects of human nature manifested in the ideological schism of capitalism and socialism; between on one hand an impulse for competition for healthy price discovery and on the other cooperation for sharing.
Satoshi’s perfect market
The core invention of the blockchain technology is its solving of the doublespend problem. In his creation of HashCash, cryptographer Adam Back introduced the concept of digital scarcity; a way to make an object in the digital world scarce.
IBM's Richard Gendal Brown noted how this scarcity is bitcoin’s irreducible essence, namely enabling "transfer without duplication".
Until the emergence of bitcoin, scarcity in the digital world was artificially created through enforcement of copyright law and proprietary models of access restriction. Now, bitcoin creates scarcity through algorithmic consensus.
Silicon Valley tech entrepreneur and author Andreas Antonopoulos acknowledged that the creator Satoshi Nakamoto not only invented a new currency, but he also gave us the world’s first "perfect market".
Through mathematical solutions found within the chaos of unpredictable, unrepeatable random numbers, new bitcoins are conceived and blocks created. Similar to DNA code, every bitcoin is like a unique cell that can’t be replicated. Cells do not multiply, but divide without losing intrinsic value in order to support growth and health of the larger organism.
Currency of abundance
Unlike bitcoin’s living ecosystem, in the current fiat world, central control kills the spontaneous force of the market. It turned the system into a mechanical and ruthless machine. A dead system can’t nourish itself. It becomes parasitic and sustains itself through incurring debts, stealing and extracting through rent seeking.
In this paradigm, the language of scarcity locks people in, fueling fear and rewarding those who control and exploit. The callous aspects of man have dragged the whole world into a virtual reality of an abstract Nintendo computer game, in which humanity is degraded into heartless cyborgs, engaging in drone attacks, sweatshop mass exploitation and financial colonization.
The invention of the blockchain is offering a way out of this tyrannical system of control.
Satoshi’s perfect market enables a distributed system of accountability. By rewarding those who abide by the rules, it regulates man’s fallible nature and secures the system. It channels aggressive and competitive parts of human nature and directs them to constructively serve higher ideals embedded in this technology.
The blockchain as a public asset ledger is an asset in and of itself. As the network matures, bitcoin’s scarcity that helped to develop the system and add value comes to fruition with the companion feature of expansion through infinite divisibility. Through non-inflatable solid value, abundance is created, becoming a currency that carries the innate human nature of sharing.
The evolution of our species has for so long been stagnated through religious dogma, patriarchy, as well as economic and political oppression.
As the centralization of man’s greed has held humanity down for centuries, a piece of mathematics enshrined in computer code has unleashed a new potential. As levers of control are removed, money used to coerce and enslave people is now being transformed to become a flow that can realize the innate capacity for altruism encoded in our DNA.
The path of evolution is now cleared. We no longer need permission. Each individual can freely respond to the call within to rise higher.
Evolution image via Shutterstock
Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of, and should not be attributed to, CoinDesk.