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True Names cover illustration by Bob Walters; Mask and background image by Lucho Poletti

On Identity and Pseudonymity in Cyberspace

First published in Citadel 21, Volume 4.

In 1981, at a time where the internet was in its infancy (and I was just a gleam in my father’s eye), the legendary mathematician, computer scientist, and science-fiction author Vernor Vinge published his prophetic novella True Names. The story unfolds in two realms: the real world (meat space) and the Other Plane (cyberspace). Reading it today, many concepts dreamed up in the book seem neither strange nor far-fetched. For example, spending the better part of your waking hours in cyberspace, a place where most people know you by your pseudonym (and not your True Name), might have been science-fiction in the 80ies. …


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A couple of weeks ago I had the immense pleasure of giving the opening talk at the Value of Bitcoin conference. I would like to revisit some ideas of this talk and maybe dig deeper into some parts. After all, my keynote The Bitcoin Journey was restrained by time: 21 minutes.

Again, I will look at the Bitcoin journey in two parts:

  1. The journey of a bitcoiner
  2. The journey of Bitcoin

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A letter to all of you who still have no bitcoin.

I am writing this letter because I am convinced of two things: (1) our current money is fundamentally broken (2) using superior money will benefit you in particular — and society in general — in the long run.

Money is a touchy subject — most people don’t like to talk about it, either because they have little and are ashamed, or because they have lots and are afraid. Even fewer people know anything about the nature of our money, which is quite shocking — after all, money is an essential tool of our civilization.

The world has changed drastically in the last couple of decades, as has the world of money. I’m afraid, however, that the underlying nature of our monetary system has not changed for the better. The simple fact that governments around the world are conjuring up trillions (with a T) of dollars out of thin air is a testament to how disconnected our monetary system is from reality. …


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Citadel of Exile by Sam Keiser

An optimistic letter to friends and foes around the globe.

The madness of this world became obvious in an instant. Everything is changing way faster than most of us ever imagined — but I’m not worried. To the contrary, I’m weirdly optimistic — because of Bitcoin, and because of you.

You probably don’t know me; I probably don’t know you. And that’s perfectly fine. However, I know some of you — and I believe that I know some of you quite well, even if we have never met or met only briefly. I have read your writings, watched you debate each other, saw the things you’ve built, and listened to your voices for countless hours. I don’t care if you identify as a bitcoiner, or as a maximalist, or as a pre-/shit-/multi-/whatever-coiner. I don’t care if you fell down the rabbit hole years ago or if you just got the first glimpse of the honey badger den. I don’t care about your political beliefs, sexual orientation, gender, religion, age, and countless other qualifiers that might be used to put you in a box. The fact that you are here, reading this, thinking about Bitcoin, caring about Bitcoin, is enough for me. That’s why I’m bullish. …


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The world you know and love is no more, even if it isn’t obvious to every one of you just yet. We will look back at this moment in time, the months we are currently living through, the weeks that will mark the line between the pre-virus and the post-virus world. One thing is clear: we are past the inflection point.

“There are decades when nothing happens, and there are weeks when decades happen.” — Vladimir Lenin*

As the events around the COVID-19 pandemic unfold, the fragility of our global systems becomes painfully obvious. …


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How Bitcoin is surviving and thriving between worlds

As I have argued previously, Bitcoin is a living organism. But where does this organism live, exactly? As with many questions in the world of Bitcoin, exact answers are hard to come by. Living things have fuzzy edges: beginnings and endings are hard to pin-point, differentiation is more-or-less arbitrary, and what was classified as a wolf today might evolve to be a dog tomorrow.

Bitcoin has no rigid specification, no absolute finality, no fixed development team, no final security guarantees, no scheduled updates, no central brain, no central vision, no kings, and no rulers. It is a decentralized organism, organically evolving without central planners. …


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How Bitcoin Thrives on the Edge between Order and Chaos

Bitcoin works. No matter what other opinions you hold about this strange phenomenon, it undoubtedly works, marches on, or, as I (and others) have previously argued, is alive. Even if most of the world would grind to a halt, the Bitcoin network would continue to produce valid blocks every 10 minutes or so.

Bitcoin works because of many things: game theory, economic incentives, cryptography, ingenious engineering, resilience on a network level, and so on and so forth. Killing Bitcoin is hard. Really hard. Killing Bitcoin is like killing an idea. …


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José is a bitcoiner. Like many others, he discovered bitcoin a couple of years ago and is fascinated by the technology. Unlike many others, however, José lives in a country where the traditional financial system ceased to work: Venezuela.

“It’s almost as if Venezuela was what Satoshi had in mind when he invented bitcoin over a decade ago,” José mused when I talked to him. “A laboratory to test his ideas, if you will.”

A lot of people in Venezuela, as elsewhere, dismiss bitcoin as just another speculative asset. “They don’t understand the nature of this very different beast.”

José was lucky enough to understand the nature of this beast earlier than most. And he was lucky enough to earn some extra income, which allowed him to invest a bit of money in bitcoin. …


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You don’t.

Further Reading

I hope you have enjoyed this excursion into the world of the Bitcoin organism. If you like to accelerate the growth of both Bitcoin and this article series feel free to drop me a line, some applause on medium, or even some sats via the beast which is Bitcoin. Thanks for all the encouragement, and thank you for reading. …


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Photo cc-by Studio Incendo

How power is re-aligning itself in an internet-native world

Not too long ago, the internet was a fringe phenomenon. Very few people saw the benefits of a global communications network. Even fewer people had the vision and the foresight to see what it might enable. Today, most people take the internet for granted. It is simply expected to be there, like running water in your home.

Even before the internet became ubiquitous, technologists and visionaries realized the potential of this transformative technology. They realized that an undiscriminating network combined with the magical power of public-key cryptography tips the power-balance in the individual’s favor.

Eavesdropping-resistant communication which can’t be stopped is poison to authoritarian regimes, which, after all, are in the business of suppressing and controlling the flow of information. If people are still able to communicate and assemble, they can rise up and speak truth to power. We saw the liberating potential of communications technology during the Arab Spring, and we continue to see individuals rise up and fight authoritarian rule today. …

Gigi

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