At the time of writing, I envision Rise Of The Nodes as most probably turning into a series of short (hopefully) writeups about what nodes are or should be as I believe that we might be reaching a point in time where they become a real area of focus and attention for a much larger audience than in the past.
We don’t need to imagine a dystopian future.
All we have to do is look around and notice that most of the groundwork for that has already been laid out:
- global infrastructures monitored 24/7 by nation states so that they can watch you, your behavior, your opinions, your accounts;
- governments passing laws granting them powers which are now enforced outside of a normal and democratic judicial oversight framework;
- attacks on constitutional or basic rights such as freedom of speech or the right to assemble;
- private companies, some larger than most countries in the world, often monopolistic in nature, capable of filtering access to everyday services based on moral opinions that they try to promote globally.
In a lot of ways, the only thing this comes down to is an overwhelmingly complex legal burden for simple citizens as their rights are gradually but steadily eaten away by larger interests’ groups looking to accumulate power and often artificially protect their dominant positions for their own financial benefit.
The very uneven balance of power is often tilted towards the larger, more powerful organizations, whatever their nature and motives might be, as they have a different perception or use of two key tools: time & money. The more complex and expensive a situation is, the more you should expect large organizations to hold a massive advantage over individuals.
“After having thus successively taken each member of the community in its powerful grasp, and fashioned them at will, the supreme power then extends its arm over the whole community. It covers the surface of society with a network of small complicated rules, minute and uniform, through which the most original minds and the most energetic characters cannot penetrate, to rise above the crowd. The will of man is not shattered, but softened, bent, and guided: men are seldom forced by it to act, but they are constantly restrained from acting: such a power does not destroy, but it prevents existence; it does not tyrannize, but it compresses, enervates, extinguishes, and stupefies a people, till each nation is reduced to be nothing better than a flock of timid and industrious animals, of which the government is the shepherd.”
Alexis de Tocqueville — Democracy in America
There Is Still Hope
Looking at the world today, one would probably be very tempted to say that it is increasingly complex, global, fast-paced, digital, and that this trend is showing no slowing down — quite the contrary.
However, I do believe there is reason for optimism and hope.
Over the past couple of decades, we have witnessed social or political events which while very diverse in nature, have all taken center stage for a brief amount of time in their respective countries while simultaneously making major headlines around the globe.
Usually the explanations end up being very local. Most of them have to do with politics, economics or the very specific events that have triggered some sort of popular unrest. However, you rarely find — if ever — a much broader analysis placing that specific event within a much larger timeframe, culture or geographic zone.
Not seeing the big picture might be a significant oversight. Sometimes, general trends are far more important and powerful than events. Watch the tide, not the waves.
What I think those very macro trends tell us is that overall, a significant number of people are tired with how the world is being run and that they feel like they ended up with the short end of the straw. The feeling of resignation is palpable, as individuals increasingly feel a complete lack of power to do anything to change their conditions
But what I believe is even more telling is how many of these people add that while they are dissatisfied with the state of things or point out to how poorly they are represented they do not want to run for office themselves.
This is never discussed or debated. Voting seems to appeal to less and less people but the only elements that are mentioned are high turnout = good and low turnout = bad. But what about alternatives to voting, or other ways of voting? Maybe those aren’t discussed because they would not benefit so much the people who try to get voted in than the people who are supposed to vote.
Most people seem to aspire to lead their lives freely. Simply put, they expect their privacy to be respected and to enjoy the best quality of life possible for themselves and their family.
So far, they have tried to do that, and earlier generations even succeeded. Many of us grew up with the expectation that our quality of life would exceed that of our parents, but more and more that is no longer the case — and for some incomprehensible reason, you keep being told that there is no inflation…
People are frustrated, but without an alternative to what they were raised to believe they are resigned to the status quo — even if it’s getting increasingly harder. And although technology, the most obvious example being the internet, has greatly facilitated innumerable aspects of daily life, it has also made you more vulnerable.
Large companies and government institutions now have even more monitoring capabilities, tracking our every move. In other words, complete strangers — and a lot of them — know everything about us — and use it to our disadvantage.
But up till now, it wasn’t really clear how you could, concretely and effortlessly, lead your life as you wished and protect you best interests.
Rise of the nodes
Now I might be over-reaching quite a bit when I say effortlessly as this still requires a lot of work on a protocol level and on a user interface level. But that, I hope, is just a work in progress.
What It also requires is some form of resistance on an individual basis. It requires the courage to embrace an alternative. It’s time to make a stand.
“Resolve to serve no more, and you are at once freed. I do not ask that you place hands upon the tyrant to topple him over, but simply that you support him no longer; then you will behold him, like a great Colossus whose pedestal has been pulled away, fall of his own weight and break into pieces.”
Etienne de la Boétie — The Discourse of Voluntary Servitude
And that is where my hope lies. There are things that people can do, individually, to protect both their privacy and assets.
For decades now, people far brighter than me, have spent their time trying to create an electronic version of money. Thanks to years of effort, we now have bitcoin: sound electronic money.
But Bitcoin, through its characteristics offers more possibilities than what we were used to with our old fiat digital currencies.
It gives you the opportunity to opt-into an owner-less system with written rules that you can enforce, and it allows you to conduct un-censorable, private, financial transactions with other individuals around the world freely.
With such a solid foundation, and a proven track record of running resiliently and uninterrupted for 10 years, at some point it’s our turn, you, me, everybody — to catch the ball and run with it. And that’s where Lightning Solutions comes in.
Convinced that greater financial freedom is possible, we decided to build nodl, a plug and play Bitcoin node with Lightning. We recognized the incremental benefits for individuals running nodes, and we also felt that there weren’t any viable, off-the-shelf, open nodes that were commercially available. Either you knew enough about hardware, software, Bitcoin and Lightning Network to put it all together by yourself or you followed a detailed setup guide like the great one Stadicus maintains for Raspibolt. In the meantime, another interesting option has surfaced with Pierre Rochard’s node launcher that you can run from your Mac or PC.
But when we set out to build nodl originally, we were trying to look a little further down the road in order to design what we firmly believe should become a staple in regular households, the Bitcoin personal assistant, or for businesses, the Bitcoin business assistant.
I’ll spend some time in the next articles detailing what lies beneath those products, and how they can be practically applied in everyday life.