Criteria of Life
The Bitcoin network meets all the descriptive criteria of life, as defined on Wikipedia. Bitcoin could be characterized as an organism because it exhibits the following characteristics:
- Homeostasis: regulation of environment to maintain constant state.
- Organization: composed of one or more basic units.
- Metabolism: transformation of energy into components.
- Growth: higher rate of component creation than destruction.
- Adaptation: state changes over time in response to environment.
- Response to Stimuli: complex reactions to input.
- Reproduction: the ability to produce new individual organisms
Bitcoin’s protocol regulates growth rate by modifying proof of work difficulty over time and global hash rate. The Bitcoin network and protocol contain basic units including transactions, the blockchain, client nodes, miners and mining pools. Bitcoin’s metabolism comes by way of turning electricity into secure blocks used to validate transactions. Its growth is observed in both the number of full client nodes, miners, and the blockchain database itself.
Bitcoin adapts itself by utilizing and modifying the blockchain’s Merkel Trees based on transaction flow, its difficulty based on global hash rate, and the coin production rate based on time. Bitcoin can respond to input stimuli by the use of complex transactional scripts (contracts). Bitcoin reproduces via cloning the database through bootstrapping and also by instantiating itself via alternate currencies.
Bitcoin’s network behavior also mirrors new hypotheses theorized to be responsible for the the origin of life. Specifically, Bitcoin practices a market based energy conservation. Bitcoin’s inventor saw this effect in 2010:
“The price of any commodity tends to gravitate toward the production cost. If the price is below cost, then production slows down. If the price is above cost, profit can be made by generating and selling more. The utility of the exchanges made possible by Bitcoin will far exceed the cost of electricity used. Therefore, not having Bitcoin would be the net waste.” — Satoshi Nakamoto
Bitcoin is to Humans as the Mycorrhiza is to the Forest
Mycorrhizal networks are underground hyphal networks created by mycorrhizal fungi that connect individual plants together and transfer water, carbon, and nutrients. In summary, Mycorrhizal fungi provide a commoditized transport network to the forest.
This symbiotic behavior is mirrored in the Bitcoin network. Bitcoin relies on humans to provide the hardware, network and power on top of which it runs. Just like the fungi in the forest, Bitcoin gives us the ability to transmit units of value to each other in a highly distributed and trustworthy manner.
Why Bitcoin Can’t Die in a Fire
Like other technologies before it, Bitcoin brings about highly polarized opinion in the general population. As a result, there has been no shortage of fear based Bitcoin stories, most of which spell doom and gloom for the technology. Unfortunately, most of these arguments attempt to disprove the viability of Bitcon through absence of evidence.
“The only truth that can be told is one which reveals rather than conceals the fact that it is a lie.” — Mark Twain
Bitcoin evangelists have been quick to point out benefits and reasons why Bitcoin will succeed in spite of these perceived fear based challenges, with some going as far to offer suggestions on how the people ‘behind’ Bitcoin should fix it.
The primary problem with a marketing based approach to ‘fixing’ Bitcoin or educating the market on its benefits is obvious: Bitcoin is not governed or controlled by a single entity. Put simply, Bitcoin is beyond any single pool of power’s control. The only way to influence Bitcoin’s behavior would be to hack the opinion of 51% of the people who interact with Bitcoin on a daily basis.
We would all do well to take a queue from one of Satoshi’s last public statements:
“If you don’t believe me or don’t get it, I don’t have time to try to convince you, sorry.” — Satoshi Nakamoto
Regardless of whether you accept Bitcoin is technically alive or not, there is only one inescapable conclusion to be made of its ‘will’ through us to continue to live and grow with nearly limitless bounds.
Bitcoin is here to stay.