Over the past year I have been thinking more and more of the concept of the “Fork” and its implications not just for Bitcoin but to society.
13 months ago (August 2017), the long-standing dispute over how to scale Bitcoin came to a head. Those who favored on chain scaling (increasing the block size) initiated a fork to split from the current BTC chain (those who favored smaller blocks and 2nd layer solutions). I know that Giacomo Zucco disagrees, highly, that this would be classified as a “fork”, but I don’t entirely agree with him on that.
*If you want to see his argument listen to Episode 9 of my podcast.
This disagreement had been festering for years, really since its inception when one of the first conversations Satoshi ever had was with Hal Finney where he pointed out the scaling issue immediately. The arguments were mostly academic for years, since there was no real impetus, yet at that time, to fix it since the problem wasn’t present in the real-world implementation of bitcoins daily operations.
Over time the debates became increasingly heated as both sides (and I recognize there are many different shades of grey) understood the blocks would soon start to fill beyond capacity and transactions would become backlogged with fees, obviously following the supply demand curve, increasing to drive down demand (a natural market force to decrease demand in a fee market).
Several meetings of large stakeholders in the Bitcoin community were held and an agreement was hashed out (no pun intended). That agreement was not followed through as a large portion of the community rose up to stop it.
To make a long story short, those favoring on chain scaling threatened to and eventually forked away from the main BTC chain, creating Bitcoin Cash/BCH.
From the outside this may seem like just a disagreement among a niche group of people, but it was much more than that. There were all the same ingredients that one would find in the recipe for a bloody conflict.
· Extreme passion for a cause.
· Reverence for a prophetic type figure.
· Unshakeable confidence in correct interpretation of prophet’s intentions/wants.
· Tribalism and insular groupthink.
· Dehumanization of the opposing side using derogatory terms to generalize opposition as an “other”.
Throughout human history we have seen these sorts of scenarios play out. Often, especially when there’s a minority/majority component added one or both sides seek conflict resolution through whatever means necessary to accomplish their goals.
Often the majority seeks to use the existing power structure that they control to exercise their ability to “legalize” their solution and in turn make the opposition’s illegal. The minority is then left with 3 options
1. Accept decision and attempt to sway more support to their side to give them the majority position.
2. Accept decision and give up.
3. Use extra-legal means to find resolution to the conflict.
These extra-legal means are often violent ones, meant to break the will of the majority to accept the minorities political will in one or all decisions.
Historically in monarchies the Kings will was law, opposition nearly always took the form of violent revolution; whether it be assassination or gathering of armies for a revolt. There was no real steam valve that allowed opposition’s the ability seek resolutions in their favor.
In representative democracies (using this in a very loose general terms) the people have recourse to change the systems they live under whether through electing new Representatives, amending Constitutions or nullifying national law through principles of subsidiarity (if present in their political culture).
Even with this pressure valve it didn’t end, contrarily it seemed to increase the use of violence as a means of conflict resolution. The 20th century was an era of massive death and violence on a scale that had never been seen before.
In the near to near distant future the majority, if not all our lives will take place in the digital space vs the physical. The advent of TRUE VR platforms and spaces to experience a new reality will rapidly accelerate humanities slide into the digital. Science Fiction, while many times fanciful and unrealistic often contain grains of Truth that we recognize when we read/see. Ready Player One and other VR style dystopian future themes have more than that grain of Truth. How fast would humanity embrace the virtual over the physical when it can meet all the base instinct needs of the consumer? How quickly would you choose the virtual over the physical when the virtual at no cost (or a fraction of the cost compared to the physical world) can offer you the dream job, relationship, car, etc. you’ve always wanted?
To further digress, I want to quickly address the obvious criticism regarding the need for physical touch and physical proximity to others for the sake of mental health. Countless studies show that humans (and primates) need close physical touch for proper development and lack of human interaction in any stage of life can have DRASTIC negative effects on your mental health.
But what does physical touch/proximity mean? It’s merely your senses registering that other person and releasing chemicals in your brain as an incentivization to continue that behavior. It’s an evolutionary response that helped us coalesce into groups so that our individual survival chances would be higher than if we were on our own.
It all boils down to perception. If our brain TRULY believes we are near that person that touch, kiss or hug is real….
If the digital world can fool our brains, into believe what we see in the digital space is the same as the meat space, there’s no reason that those same boxes for endorphin/serotonin releases wouldn’t be checked inside the 4th Wall, ensuring the same level of mental health.
So here is where forks can come in. Once our lives are based around this post 4th wall world we will inevitably become tribal, form cooperatives and groups, meet and coalesce with people of similar interests and beliefs. We already see and have seen that on the internet. These groups are most often not broken up by nationalities or geographic loyalty (albeit language can be artificial barrier). They form based on mutual interests.
The future “Nations” of the post 4th Wall world will not care as to the geographic location they dropped from their mother’s womb, they will care about those in their new home, the digital home.
This will NOT mean conflict disappears just because we can all drive digital Lamborghinis and have the bodies we wish for (and of course digitally scarce items like Bitcoin will appear to allow for status symbols to be presented) doesn’t mean conflict will end.
Human nature begets conflict as a matter of conflict resolution since it’s inherent to the human experience and a strong emotion. It’s a path of least resistance to escape the pain of whatever adverse reality someone is experiencing.
What if we could design and outlet where everybody wins. everybody gets what they want?
What if your group wanted to use this island, but another occupied it? What if you could fork that reality into another, a digital multiverse where every digital possibility that could exist did (or I should say many of them would). Where reality itself is forked and those new groups can live as they wish away from those they had come to have irreconcilable differences with?
It may very well be that after a day, week or month of conversation this idea is proved (perhaps within our own ability to conceive now) to be invalid. That’s fine, the purpose of this thought experiment is to think of solutions to tomorrow’s problems.
The digital world’s overtaking the consciousness timeshare of humanity is rapidly approaching. Most of us ALREADY spend a disproportionate amount of our waking hours immersed in the digital. It is a much smaller leap from now into total VR immersion than it was from 100 years ago to today.