BSV Series: Part IV
Disclosure: The New Economy Fund holds all major implementations of Bitcoin: BTC, BCH, and BSV. The author of this essay series is not a financial advisor and this is not financial advice. Do not invest in speculative assets with money you cannot afford to lose.
If you are arriving at this essay without first reading parts I, II, and III, some necessary context will be lost. The following links to each individual essay, several of which build off their predecessor.
Table of Contents
- “What” is going on?: Fractals and Contrarian Consensus
- “Where” is the problem?: BTC, Small Blocks, and Lightning Network
- “Why” BSV?: Darwinian Fitness and Irrational Markets
- “Who” is Craig Steven Wright?: Satoshi? Does it Matter?
- “How” did we elect thought leaders?: Complexity’s Preference for Genius over Excellence (this essay)
- “When” to make an investment: A Conclusion
“How” did we elect thought leaders?: Complexity’s Preference for Genius over Excellence
While it’s fun to mock fallen gatekeepers like the NYT or the Harvard economics department from the first level of our fractal contrarian image, it’s important to remember that “experts” do exist for a reason. Theoretically, these institutions are designed to sit atop hierarchies of competence and meritocratically separate the wheat from the chaff, saving the wider public the necessary time and knowledge required to individually do this ourselves. However, if these hierarchies were functioning properly they wouldn’t present us with Nobel prize winning Paul Krugman as high quality wheat and relegate someone like Nassim Taleb as disposable chaff. In the absence of well functioning institutional gatekeeping, we are left to determine this by some ad hoc, less standardized method. Whether consciously or not, crypto seems to have done some version of this. We now appear to have “thought leaders” and organizations with a degree of crypto community prestige. These entities would likely rate highly on broad polling of the crypto community and empirically do “rate highly” in the continuously ongoing poll that is Twitter follower counts, with Twitter serving as a vital communication network for the industry as a whole. So who are these crypto currency “experts” and what might their effect be on blue pilled (non red pilled) contrarian consensus?
Determining who is an “expert” out of a large community without the aid of the gatekeeping institutions is a difficult task. Particularly when the domain in which you are seeking expertise is one that involves complexity. Crypto currency ought to be considered a domain of meta-complexity because it is an irreducibly interdisciplinary field (cryptography, computer science, economics, systems theory, evolutionary theory, game theory…among others) containing several individual domains with complexity as standalone subjects. Given its meta-complex nature, it’s arguable that all-encompassing expertise in crypto currency is an impossibility altogether. Notwithstanding, this won’t prevent curious individuals from seeking out experts upon first entering the field. Naturally they will look for people to listen to in an attempt to educate themselves. People who appear as experts, perhaps marketing themselves as such, will emerge. Iterated over time, these “expert” individuals will be the ones who accrue the highest Twitter follower counts. Without the ability to properly discern the competent from the fraudulent, newcomers will be especially susceptible to individuals offering the appearance of polished excellence in a form they are superficially familiar with from seemingly analogous fields like finance or computer science. These individuals will signal, and read, as those who have achieved excellence and expertise, and the social proof from high online metrics will ostensibly confirm it.
Excellence, as Eric Weinstein the Managing Director of Thiel Capital, posits, is qualitatively different from genius. Excellence is primarily concerned with quality control which is traded off for adaptability and innovation, the primary fruits of genius. To demonstrate this distinction Weinstein uses the example of music performance.
“If I’m going to go for a classical music concert, I want to assume that the piece will be played flawlessly, and I will concentrate only on the interpretive aspects of the piece above that. But, in fact, quality control can be deadly. For example, in a jazz date where an improviser takes few risks, the music may be pleasant enough as background music but it’s scarcely the sort of thing that would have animated the bebop generation who played live dates under open mic conditions never knowing what would happen next.”
Excellence, he argues, is the ability to narrow ones variance in some domain to regularly achieve near-perfect outputs. Genius is the ability to thrive in sloppy, high variance environments and ultimately innovate to create new domains that perhaps the excellent will later come and improve (read: lower the variance) upon. Given the immaturity and meta-complex nature of the domain of crypto currency, excellence is a fool’s errand. One cannot sufficiently narrow the variance of the field in order to deliver on that promise. Especially at this stage in the development of crypto currency, the underlying complexity is out of individuals’ control. Unlike playing the trumpet, crypto currency isn’t “masterable” for even the most competent individual. This is dissimilar from more mature domains like the aforementioned finance or computer science. Although crypto currency can at times superficially appear similar to these fields, the type of “thought leader” required to successfully traverse them is wholly different. Crypto currency is better suited for genius. In 2018, we are not even close to the classical concerto stage, we are still improvising.
If we look at the variety of “thought leaders” and organizations who have emerged and most heavily influenced the contrarian consensus of crypto currency in 2019, it appears that we have foolishly (though understandably) overvalued excellence to the exclusion of genius. To illustrate this point, we will look at the crypto currency figures of Richard Heart and Daniel Krawisz as representations of a broader pattern. Let’s look at their Twitter profiles. How do they choose to present themselves?
Even just aesthetically from their Twitter profiles there is a lot to be learned. Heart’s is gilded and strong (albeit somewhat quirky) like the facade of a centuries old wall street bank. His royal-ish sounding pen name centered in golden typeface is buttressed by Obama ’08 esque pop art profiles of his face. Krawisz, to the other end of the spectrum, demonstrates a fuzzy softness with a watercolor sunset and his avatar (literally) of a flamboyant blue furry donning eye make-up and antlers. The short text profile from Heart includes (presumably earnestly) “billionaire”, “thought leader”, and “founder”. Krawisz similarly includes “cofounder” but follows it with the ironic title of “emperor of bitcoin” and then the unassuming and amateurish name of his Youtube series “bitcoin stuff”. While there is certainly some tongue-in-cheek aspect of Heart’s profile as well (wearing a top hat in his avatar and the gaudy aesthetic of the golden candelabra behind him) the difference between the two is clear before you even hear them speak. Once you do, this difference is solidified. Heart is signaling excellence, Krawisz is signaling genius.
Both Heart and Krawisz have dozens of videos and I encourage you to watch as much as you can from both. They each offer interesting perspectives. Heart is the classic “smartest guy in the room.” His IQ is obviously to the far right of the distribution. He knows computer science technicals, has a history of successful business experience, and a confidence that shows he’s not only smarter than you but also that he knows it. Every time I watch one of his 4K live-streamed interviews I am bamboozled by 13 new words I’ve never heard before that he throws out so nonchalantly it seems like he’s boring himself. This is fine for me in the judgment-free safety of my home watching on a computer, but his interview and debate guests are often quickly dismantled by it. Quintessential excellence.
Krawisz takes a different approach. While he is also likely a high IQ individual, it seems like he doesn’t want you to know it. If you are comfortable learning about “bitcoin stuff” from an antlered blue furry, you pass the first test. If you don’t mind his shitty SD webcam recording him in his (what must be intentionally) poorly lit bedroom, you pass the second. If you aren’t put off by his intricate weaving of complicated literary metaphors referencing CS Lewis or John Milton to explain the cutting edge technological innovation of crypto currency, you pass the third. Both Heart and Krawisz are alienating. Heart is alienating with his excellence, you think he’s smarter than you (he is) and as a result you should listen to him. He isn’t talking to you as if he wants you to understand him. At times he will explicitly say things and follow with “but you have no idea what I’m talking about anyway”. Instead, he wants you to trust him. Krawisz is alienating in his difficulty. You’re not sure if he’s an idiot or a genius and as a result your time spent trying to answer that question may end up being wasted. Unlike with Heart, it seems like Krawisz does earnestly want you to understand him. So long as it’s in the same manner as he understands things AND (importantly) so long as you’re the type of person by whom he wants to be understood. Krawisz himself more or less articulates this method in one of his more difficult and interesting videos. The root of this Heart vs Krawisz distinction is somewhat elusive but there is something profound at its core. Maybe genius, maybe not.
On the surface it might sound like a universally good thing to signal genius. Everyone respects a genius! But as Kanye West noted, “name one genius that ain’t crazy”. Genius is typically a retrospective label of recognition granted with the clarifying benefit of hindsight; think van Gogh, Tesla, or Copernicus. Contemporaneously, the genius, horizontal, unorthodox, or weird thinkers who play with the boundaries rather than within the boundaries are often dismissed as fools. But, like with Ron Paul playing with the boundaries of economics and monetary policy, sometimes these foolish sounding ideas are just what’s needed to drop down into the next level of fractal contrarianism.
Perhaps the best illustration of Heart and Krawisz’s two styles is when they have a conversation together. The topic of the discussion is bitcoin scaling, especially relevant to this series. Just as we’d expect, Krawisz is difficult (playing the online game Peggle with the volume on high over Heart trying to talk) and Heart is intellectually flexing. Who “wins” the discussion/debate? There is no perfect controlled experiment, but Heart certainly has won the race for social proof (51k vs 13k Twitter followers, 39k vs 1.3k Youtube subscribers) and prestige expert status among the crypto masses. In the discussion Heart defends BTC against the threat of contentious forks as Daniel argues for their benefit to the community. Thinking about this selection mechanism for who crypto currency’s “thought leaders” are and the methodology they use to arrive at their ideas is a useful exercise.