On Bitcoin — Wrapping Up:
Software freedom as a concept dates back all the way to the 70s. It was seminal to the creation of the internet, which in turn led to an unprecedented growth of innovation. One of the latest, most groundbreaking innovations was Bitcoin, which itself is built on the foundations of software freedom. Bitcoin is to decentralisation what the internet was for the transport of information.
Software freedom and the pre-Bitcoin internet have given us the platform and surveillance economy. Only the combination of Bitcoin, software freedom, and the internet have the potential to deliver on that initial vision of decentralisation, user control, privacy and security. In the BILA stack, we already have all the components required to build solutions that provide these values to anyone in the world.
Bitcoin is a child of software freedom, and a testament to the level of innovation software freedom can unlock. It started as an experiment, but has evolved into the antidote to so many challenges, including the platform and surveillance economy.
Any project to bring decentralisation, privacy, security and user control that is not already looking into how a BILA stack can help their mission has a huge discovery ahead of them, and a lot of catching up to do.
Because the traditional financial ecosystem is not set up for the digital world software freedom is looking to build. Instead, many of its incumbents are pushing towards Central Bank Digital Currencies (CBDC), the financial shadow of the surveillance economy. That shift is coming, and thanks to the rise of contactless payment during COVID-19, it is coming a whole lot faster than it seemed only two years ago. Also the shift is irreversible. Most people won’t go back.
Just like the shift to cloud computing is not going to disappear. Its efficiency gains will continue to favour the biggest players. And while
memes and stickers are cute, they didn’t really scare the cat back into the bag.
Even large global banks — which are incredibly compliance driven and handle some of the most sensitive data — now start warming to the idea of moving all their IT operations into the cloud. And the concerns against cloud in most governments are slowly disappearing as their Microsoft support contracts are gradually becoming more expensive for delaying the inevitable.
Only a true disruption of the status quo can effect meaningful, lasting change. Bitcoin is that disruption. Ignoring it, or perhaps even fighting it, ultimately does a disservice to all the values software freedom set out to promote.
Albert Einstein is often credited with the quote “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting different results.” That is why for myself I decided some years back that continuing to do the same thing in the same way was not going to bring about the world that I wanted to see for my boys.
So personally I opened a new chapter with Vereign, and joined the crazy cult of laser eyed Bitcoiners who wield the power of volcanoes to secure a global layer of trust that is equitable, fair, open, transparent and cannot be controlled by any one party or person.
The rationale behind that decision follows my personal mission to put technology at the service of humanity for all the reasons outlined. My hope for this series was that that others in the software freedom community will likewise come to question the idea of what they thought Bitcoin represents, and see the opportunity that Bitcoin and its follow-on innovation brings.
And if all this still seems really far from where you are right now, here are three possible starting points for your own journey of discovery, depending on your current state of mind or occupation:
- Decentralised Identity Foundation — building an open, standards-based, decentralized identity ecosystem for people, organizations, apps, and devices;
- W3C Editor’s Draft 16 June 2021 on Use Cases and Requirements for Decentralized Identifiers;
- Gaia-X — a European initiative to build the next generation of data infrastructure: an open, transparent and secure digital ecosystem.
Curiously, all these lead down the same rabbit hole. As does the work done by the European Commission about updating its electronic signature laws to incorporate Self Sovereign Identity.
This field is evolving fast, and I believe the software freedom community with its competency, experience and values should be an active part of shaping that disruption.
So please, come and join us.
This article is wrapping up a series of six articles exploring my personal take on Bitcoin, including its relevance, technical properties, environmental impact, social relevance and significance for software freedom.
Here is a list of the entire series:
- On Bitcoin, Part 1: Can Software Freedom succeed without Bitcoin?
- On Bitcoin, Part 2: Centralised Trust drives Centralisation
- On Bitcoin, Part 3: Money, banks, and other financial intermediaries
- On Bitcoin, Part 4: New Opportunities
- On Bitcoin, Part 5: The boiling oceans
- On Bitcoin, Part 6: The (mood) swings
- On Bitcoin, Wrapping Up: Where next? (this article)