from flickr user vincentdesplanche

Satoshi and the New Gold

A children’s story about Bitcoin

There was once a village at the base of a large mountain. For years, the village elders had been in charge of handing out gold to the villagers. The villagers used this gold to trade food, clothes and everything else they needed.

One day, the whole village was woken up by a loud hammering sound coming from the square. They all rushed to see what it was, and found that a large notice had been nailed to the doors of the village hall.

People of the village,
I have discovered a new metal. It may not look precious, but I promise you it is more valuable than gold.
It is found in the rocks of the mountain and needs to be mined. Those who want some, come to the highest lake every morning at dawn and join the miners.

No one knew who Satoshi was, but they all muttered excitedly when they read this — what was this New Gold? Could it really be more valuable than the old gold they all used?

One of the elders stooped down and picked something up from where it was lying under the notice. He held it above the crowd, and they saw that it was a large, rough piece of metal. It certainly didn’t look more valuable than gold. Was this it? Was this what Satoshi had discovered? Disappointed, the crowd dispersed, and everyone went about their daily business.

But there were one or two people who wondered if what Satoshi had written might be true, and they decided to find out. So they left the village and made their way to the highest lake on the mountain.

As they rounded the corner and the lake came into view, they saw hundreds of pickaxes and shovels strewn across the rocky landscape, with no sign of who had put them there. Intrigued, they picked up some tools and started to dig.

When they returned to the village that evening, they passed some of the other villagers, who beckoned to them and asked what they had found. The miners showed them a single, tiny bit of this new metal, which was all they had returned with. The villagers laughed at them and told them they were wasting their time, but, even so, the miners agreed to split it equally between themselves and decided to go back the next day and try again.

The following morning, when they met in the square to return to the mountain, one of the villagers who had laughed at them the previous night was there waiting for them. “Do you mind if I come with you?” the villager asked. They knew they would be able to mine more with more people, so they agreed to let this new volunteer come along. And so a larger group this time traipsed out of the village to search for the New Gold.

In the days that followed, more and more people were waiting in the square every morning to join their group. As they left the village, the curtains of the houses they passed would twitch as the other villagers watched them go and wondered if they, too, should be spending their days mining up on the mountain. The more people who joined the group, the more everyone else thought that perhaps it might not be such a bad idea.

Soon, some villagers who couldn’t go up to the mountain decided they wanted some of the New Gold they kept seeing people returning with. So they started swapping their old gold for the New Gold the miners brought back with them.

The people who ran the market stalls couldn’t get time off to go up and join the miners, but they, too, wanted some of the New Gold. So they started accepting it instead of the old gold at their stalls. Soon, villagers could use their New Gold to buy food, pay for carriages and even have an ale at the local inn.

Even though more people were talking about the New Gold, most of the villagers still didn’t see what all the fuss was about. They could buy everything they needed with their old gold — why would they want to replace it? But all that was about to change.

One morning, the town crier, who roamed the streets every day proclaiming the day’s news, turned his attention to the New Gold. “Do you have any New Gold yet?” he shouted, going from house to house and ringing his bell. “Soon everyone will be trying to get some, so get it while you can!”

When the villagers heard this, they all rushed out into the streets — if everyone else wanted the New Gold, they didn’t want to miss out. They crowded around the stalls in the market that had been set up just for people to trade their old gold for New Gold. So many people wanted New Gold that by the end of the day you had to pay a thousand pieces of old gold for just one piece of New Gold.

As more people became interested in the New Gold, rumours about it began to spread. Someone claimed they had heard from Satoshi himself that the amount of New Gold in the mountain was limited, and it would one day run out. And, sure enough, the miners had to dig deeper and deeper and use bigger and bigger tools to keep finding more of it. But knowing that it would run out only made people want it more.

Even though more and more of the market stalls let people pay with the New Gold, for a while the villagers stopped wanting to use it to buy things. Even a small piece would have bought them enough food to last for a month, but they realised that, if they stored it away instead, they’d soon be able to buy twice as much with it, since it was getting so much more valuable so quickly.

After a while, though, when the initial excitement of the New Gold wore off, its value stopped rising. People started using it to pay at the market again, and the old gold they used to use lay forgotten at home.

Lots of the villagers regularly travelled to the other villages that lay around the base of the mountain. They used to have to swap their old gold at the border for the different money the other villages used, and the elders of each village would make them pay for this and would keep the profits for themselves. But now all the villages used the New Gold, since they all had access to the mountain and sent miners up to the lake, so no one needed to swap their money and pay the tax to the elders any more.

That wasn’t the only reason the elders weren’t happy that everyone was using the New Gold. They had always controlled how much of the old gold was given out to the villagers, which gave them power over the whole village. But the mountain, lying outside the village, didn’t belong to them, so they had no control over the New Gold that was mined there.

One day, the elders held a secret meeting and decided to ban the New Gold. They called the entire village to the square to make their announcement.

“The old gold has real value,” they said. “We use it to make our jewellery. But the New Gold is worthless. We don’t use it for anything — we want it only because everyone else wants it. So, from now on, the New Gold is banned. We will go back to using the old gold.”

The assembled villagers murmured amongst themselves. They didn’t agree — they liked the New Gold, because it took control away from the elders and it meant they could travel to the neighbouring villages without paying a tax. But the elders had a point. No one had ever actually used the New Gold for anything. It wasn’t shaped into necklaces or bracelets. Were the elders right? Was it worthless?

Suddenly, a voice spoke up from the crowd. “You’re wrong,” it said, and everyone craned their necks to see who was speaking. A space cleared around an old man in a cloak who had a hood pulled down over his face.

“The New Gold isn’t worthless,” said the old man. “It has value precisely because people want it. It takes power away from you and gives it to us. And as long as we want it more than we want the old gold, you have no choice but to let us use it.”

At these words, the villagers all nodded their heads and started shouting that they wanted to keep using the New Gold. The elders looked at each other, and realised the old man was right — they had no choice.

“Then so be it,” they said. “We will use the New Gold.

The villagers cheered and celebrated all night and into the next day. Over time, the New Gold completely replaced the old gold. The different villages traded with each other more, because they all used the New Gold, and power shifted from the elders to the villagers, because the villagers were finally in charge of their gold.

No one noticed the old man in the cloak slip away from the celebrations. He walked to the village gates, looked back at the villagers, smiled, and disappeared into the night.

And no one ever heard from Satoshi again.