Bitcoin, Alchemy of Money: Transforming Evil Into Greater Good
Bitcoin teaches us that evil can be overcome, not with resistance or punishment, but through our willingness to understand and integrate all sides of our nature.
From resource wars to human rights abuses and economic exploitation, greed and selfishness is now out of control. This has led to the breakdown of the current systems of accountability and a deepening crisis of liberal democracy which has exposed the weakness of the foundations of our global civil society.
In the formation of Western civilization, Christianity has played a powerful influence. Moral values articulated in the Bible helped shape modern court systems and their guiding precepts in defining judicial penalties.
Swiss psychologist Carl Gustav Jung saw inadequacies in the European religious framework of morality. His critique examined ways in which Christianity has promoted an image of God endowed with absolute goodness. The portrayal of a one-sided view of the Divine, acting exclusively as a force for good, is basic to the Judeo-Christian dualistic morality. It sees a part of human nature as evil in contrast to other parts regarded as good, tearing apart the interconnectedness of life.
Jung recognized the negative implications of this radical separation between the good and the evil. Deriving inspiration from the ancient philosophy aimed at metaphorically and literally turning lead to gold, Jung created a therapeutic practice aiming to restore the totality of the psyche. To him, alchemy represented “endeavors to fill in the gaps left open by the Christian tension of opposites.”
Now, over a half a century after the death of the giant whose contributions to psychology were far ahead of his time, our world has become far more complex. Globalization has brought people together for common goals, but it has also created friction among nations. As opposing ideologies and cultural values increase conflicts, Bitcoin, a breakthrough of computer science, now rekindles alchemical imagination.
The Problem Of Evil
Bitcoin came into existence in the aftermath of the global financial crisis in 2008. The mysterious creator known by the pseudonym Satoshi Nakamoto shared the vision of peer-to-peer digital cash in a white paper. In the following year, January 3, 2009, an open-source protocol became operational as a decentralized digital currency.
The significance of this invention of technology goes beyond finance. Bitcoin, a software with a magical property, is like the philosopher’s stone. Arriving in cyberspace, it solved the weakness inherent in our current financial system that requires trust in central authority.
The key feature behind the current trust-based model is a moral maxim that is shaped by the dualistic view of opposition, establishing the antinomy of good and evil. The fiat monetary system is a closed system controlled by the few. Through levers of control, it maintains its integrity by carefully vetting participants for access and excluding “bad actors” who are engaged in behaviors that are considered negative.
Jung recognized a pitfall of moral duality that could lead to “the problem of evil.” He noted how our denial and condemnation of parts of ourselves become a “shadow” — the psychic forces that grow in the unconscious mind, and, over time, it gains its own autonomy and becomes extremely destructive.
Morality Turned Upside Down
When society judges and denies aspects of ourselves that are deemed unfavorable, they do not disappear. They are simply pushed out of our sight and kept hidden. Once having escaped from our consciousness, these forces become unchecked and can gain the upper hand.
Efforts through law enforcement to punish selfish actors can just make them more cunning, deceitful and hostile. Events such as HSBC money laundering and their involvement in arms trade along with the giant banking industry’s currency rigging have shown the use of traditional legal and regulatory tools to be completely ineffective.
In the end (or perhaps even from the outset), the fiat system was taken over and corrupted by power-hungry individuals. Now, central banks set rules for the entire global economy that can be changed at will — anytime and in whatever way they wish. With their monopolized printing press, elite economists, anointed by political leaders, create money out of thin air. This system, operating in secret without public accountability, acts as a moral authority dictating what is right and proper behavior. It creates hypocrisy and a double standard.
Under the banner of fighting against terrorism, banking and payment systems working on behalf of the U.S. Empire impose sanctions on countries that challenge their petrodollar hegemony. They suppress free speech via economic censorship, as was seen in the case of the financial blockade against WikiLeaks. On the pretext of stopping money laundering or protecting public safety, they shut down and freeze accounts of anyone who is suspected of conducting wrong or dangerous activities, acting themselves as arbiters of those terms.
Proof Of Work
As a patronage network of private banks increasingly creates chaos and destruction in the world, Bitcoin now provides a creative approach for us to tackle the riddle of evil. Its core invention, a proof-of-work consensus algorithm, has begun to accelerate the demise of the fiat monetary system.
Satoshi, using strong cryptography, has created an unbreakable container that can unite the principles of good and evil. What facilitates Bitcoin’s alchemical transformation is the mining — a process that is involved in the creation of bitcoin and clearing of transactions.
In an open network where rules are applied to everyone equally, computers around the world (called miners) engage in a broadcast math competition. Rules of the game are fixed and made clear at the outset. They include the total quantity of bitcoin that can ever be created (math caps the monetary base at 21 million BTC), a predictable issuance rate and automatic adjustment of difficulty of the mining.
Solving math problems requires miners to spend energy, in this case electricity in the form of computational power. Every 10 minutes, problems are solved and whoever solves the problem first wins a fixed number of bitcoins. In order to earn bitcoin, everyone has to follow the rules of the game and do the work — use precious resources that are necessary to solve problems.
Mining difficulty is adjusted according to demand with a tight feedback loop every two weeks, keeping the mining always profitable. Regulated by the law of thermodynamics — principles concerning heat, temperature and their relation to energy — the dynamic market created through this global math contest provides security for the entire system.
Honest Account Of Human Nature
The creation of digital gold requires special substances. Satoshi created the magic formula by mixing game theory (the study of mathematical models of strategic interaction among decision-makers) and economic incentive structure (careful balance of risk and reward).
Jung emphasized how the psychic processes of alchemy require us to confront our own shadow and make a healthy relationship with it. The creator of Bitcoin faced and integrated the dark side of humanity with the knowledge of evolutionary psychology — a biologically informed approach to study human behavior.
The essential idea was articulated by evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins. Dawkins, the author of the influential book, “The Selfish Gene,” renewed the theory of evolution by putting genes rather than individuals at the center. With the term “the selfish gene,” he explained how “a gene that didn’t look after its own interests would not survive” and posited selfishness as a foundation of developing altruism. This theory offered an explanation of the paradox of human nature; humans can be selfish and nasty, yet at the same time we have a capacity for empathy and can act kindly toward others.
With an honest account of ourselves as both corruptible and perfectible, Satoshi created Bitcoin’s unprecedented security model. Bitcoin’s computer scripting language does not say, “You shall not cheat, steal and attack a network.” Satoshi expects miners to act selfishly. If some miners are kind to others and hesitate to compete, he knows this kindness will be exploited. Bitcoin developers share a mindset — that Bitcoin lives in an adversarial environment — and so humanity’s fallible nature is factored into the design of the system.
The Genius Of Economic Incentive
Unlike the fiat system that acts punitively toward those acting in their self-interest (except for those who run the system), the creator of Bitcoin accepts humanity’s tendency to take advantage of the good will of others and found a way to constructively work with it. Through the method of decentralization, aligning everyone’s incentives, Satoshi uses rewards to encourage all players to act honestly in an open and transparent network.
This creative ensuring of the rule of consensus, without the use of force, introduced a new code of ethics that radically departs from the old dualistic morality. The significance of this shift into a more compassionate approach might be compared to the breakthrough of Jesus Christ’s moral teaching recorded in the New Testament.
In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus taught his followers how to pray. The Lord’s Prayer provided his disciples with a path to repentance. The path includes petitions made to God for forgiveness of our sinful nature and those requests were granted. Similarly, Bitcoin is an inclusive network with its door kept open to whoever asks and seeks to correct their deeds through following the rules of consensus.
The Lord’s Prayer reads, “Lead us not temptation, but deliver us from evil.” Bitcoin’s innovative incentive structure responds to the wishes of bitcoiners. Robert Wolinsky, senior manager of blockchain research at Genesis Project, explains the genius of Bitcoin’s economic incentive structure noting how “Satoshi introduces a cost equation to cheating/collusion via the proof-of-work protocol,” making the cost of attacking the network clear to parties and having them pay for it upfront. Furthermore, by making the rewards for playing by the rules higher than the value of attacking the network, it can proactively protect the system.
Through incentivizing greed, Satoshi does not test miners beyond their capacity to endure, and, at the same time, by rewarding honest behavior, he ensures that even the lost souls among us who are devoid of conscience will not be led astray.
The New Testament was said to have brought a “covenant of grace.” With this, humanity is allowed to repent their transgressions, not by perfect compliance with a God’s will but by faith in his forgiveness. In this process, no priests, prophets, even Jesus himself can insert their authority and intervene in one’s relationship to the Divine.
Satoshi, with the invention of the consensus algorithm, established a new contract in which individuals can now directly connect to the source. Through simply trusting math, now each of us can claim virtues within ourselves and align our actions with truth and honesty. This is Satoshi’s grace. The Bitcoin protocol now helps us rescue ourselves from the separation within ourselves, from falling under the sway of the autocratic fiat regime.
Now, the great work has begun for the transformation of evil into a greater good. Satoshi’s love creates a spark of magic in the cryptographically ensured alchemical vessel. Man’s burning zeal for scarce money ignites the fire for the creation of the heart of gold. With the heat generated through the brutal mining competition, the flame glows ever more immensely for the redemption of our own selfishness.
By channeling energies that have been funneled into the military-industrial complex and surveillance capitalism, Bitcoin transmutes greed and aggression into a formidable defense for peace. The network, backed by the great hashing power, preserves moral values created by sovereign individuals out of their own freedom.
Bitcoin, an alchemical form of money, has begun to liberate people from the tyranny of central banks. Hyperbitcoinization could end misery and suffering and help move humanity toward our own salvation.
Acknowledgement: Special thanks goes to La Fleur Productions for her editorial help.
This is a guest post by Nozomi Hayase. Opinions expressed are entirely their own and do not necessarily reflect those of BTC, Inc. or Bitcoin Magazine.
The Hero’s Journey: Creating Authentic Digital IDs And Personalized Engagement For Bitcoin Decentralized/Distributed Systems
Numerous Bitcoin podcast discussions have led to the inevitable “wall,” a wall which, to date, has not been penetrated and its adjacent territory explored. I’m referring to the existential question of how “Bitcoinization” actually manifests for each individual, while legacy monetary infrastructure and social structures disintegrate. It’s one thing to romanticize how our new society will somehow magically crawl out of the ashes like some unburned, proud and polished phoenix and quite another to face the real-life, ugly hurdles facing us.
The deeply embedded detritus of legacy fiat thinking and behaviors do not simply disappear. In fact, as we transition to the bitcoin standard and the working people of highly developed, industrialized countries become squeezed and further impoverished during the deflationary depression (see Jeff Booth, “The Price of Tomorrow”), social unrest will erupt, and inevitably, Bitcoin itself could be blamed and viewed by many as the culprit of the collective pain. It doesn’t take profound foresight to predict that many such people, seeking blame and simple solutions, could demand even more centralization and control through the perceived safety net of an increasingly powerful authoritarian state.
Will growth in Bitcoin infrastructure adoption magically and quickly transform the superstructure of human organizational design and engagement in some novel corresponding way à la “fix the money, fix the world”? Or are we doomed to simply “pretend and extend” by overlaying old fiat social engagement design on top of this new monetary foundation and naively hope it all smooths out somehow? How can we better attune the adoption of Bitcoin’s decentralized/distributed monetary infrastructure with an empowered, Bitcoin-defined social superstructure? Will our digital ID continue to be composed of only objective data (cold data), while our subjective experiences (warm data) remain devalued? How can we support and expand individual self-sovereignty through Bitcoin engagement design?
While the Bitcoin meme “fix the money, fix the world” offers a simplified solution, this paper and its described superstructure applications seek to penetrate the territory where contemporary Bitcoin “thought leaders” and developers have yet to explore. Hopefully, we can help avoid a misguided but possibly very real collective public response for a stronger totalitarian centralization of power. We do this by empowering the individual with the narrative, mentors and experiences of personal responsibility and self-sovereignty, which support and lead to developing individual tools to authentically recreate a peer-to-peer creator economy. We must become self-empowered entrepreneurs and creators. Think “decentralized, designer craftsmanship.”
For this to emerge, we must move toward a novel disintermediated, hyper-personalized engagement design which begins and ends with each unique individual.
However, before we get to where we are going, we need to know where we’ve been and what we are currently facing. Using seductive carrot-stick reward systems and enticements, people have long been objectified and manipulated by legacy engagement systems. Such “addictive design” strategies can certainly drive behaviors — through advertising, gaming, social media and more — but at a great cost to the individual. Unfortunately, such concentrated behaviorism and operant conditioning, now combined with emergent tech, have contributed to disabling and disempowering our youth. Judgmental, performance-based exogenous validation systems and its mindless FOMO (fear of missing out) have helped create an anxiety-ridden, dependent and emotionally fragile generation. These young adults suffer from unprecedented levels of crippling psychological/emotional disease in crisis proportions, now exacerbated by recent COVID-19 lock downs. Anxiety and depression, obsessive-compulsive disorders, self-harm, addiction disorders, violence and suicide levels are off the charts. We are in the midst of an unprecedented crisis in mental illness, and it is currently underpinned and reinforced by exploitive, centralized engagement design. As Nora Bateson has said, “We need to de-industrialize and re-animate.”
Insular, rigid groupthink communities can provide a perceived “safe haven” with like-minded people, but they also demand their own narrow conformity. Groupthink can detract us from coming to know our unique selves and building upon our innate talents. It can preclude us from building vibrant communities richly thriving in diversity and bold creativity. Ultimately, there is nothing more emotionally affirming than being seen by another for who we truly are — our authentic, essential selves. We do not easily forget such profoundly meaningful experiences of being authentically seen and validated.
Companies which refuse to further exploit the vulnerabilities of our youth, and instead empower them with authentic engagement to find and grow their unique talents, and be authentically seen for their unique selves, can bring fresh, high value. Hedonic escapism may provide temporary relief but fixes nothing. We live in highly extenuating times necessitating inner resources and skills to resiliently adapt and recreate our way out of difficulty.
Media and its content distribution have historically focused on how to manipulate and incentivize people to think a certain way or desire, buy and use things they perhaps would otherwise not be interested in. All sorts of consumer manipulation strategies have been used over the years, now resulting in a consumer hardened by fake news, fake engagement, fake relationships, fake moral correctness and more. People feel worse than weary or angry. We’re numb.
Centrally sourced content messaging is suspect. It cannot be trusted. It’s inauthentic. We are objectified and hustled. Young people today don’t simply want more stuff. They want experiences.
What people want now more than anything are the experiences of authentic engagement, meaning, purpose and expression. These sought-after feelings of self-determinism and authentic engagement are currently not inspired or supported by exogenous marketing sources. In truth, such feelings can only be self-generated and cultivated from within each person. Those who wish to reach a more self-empowered state can assume personal responsibility to cultivate such tools to help them get there. Why shouldn’t social, gaming and marketing identify, address and expand upon what is most desired intrinsically by the customer and provide the methodologies for getting there? In so doing, is this not providing authentic and timely “value” to the customer?
James Andrews is head of product at Genies, and author of “Self-Expression, Spirituality and Gen Z.” He expresses well the mandate for the new, self-sovereign digital identity, its demand for empowered self-knowing and authentic engagement. He asks, “What happens though when you have an entire generation chasing their authentic selves?”
“The Fix”: Marketing For Decentralized/Distributed Bitcoin Technologies
So, how does the new Bitcoin marketplace of engagement attune to each unique individual, while also delivering highly curated and personalized, authentic and meaningful engagement experiences to that individual? What is relevant or inspirational for one person may not be for another. Not everyone engages the same way. “The fix” is not found in using some new technology overlayed with same-old legacy design methodologies only to produce similarly poor outcomes. “The fix” is using Bitcoin technologies integrating biomimetic engagement design focusing on the unique individual and not compelling the individual to contort to a standardized platform.
Today’s design “meta trend” is quickly moving from industrial-era centralization to digital-era decentralized and distributed systems. The public, open-source foundational settlement layer, Bitcoin, is seeing rapid adoption globally and is experiencing a mass migration from centralized internet sites to a decentralized/distributed and disintermediated internet layer where all engagement can be monetized, streaming to the seconds. There is a rapid birthing of Layer 2 and 3 peer-to-peer engagement systems built on top of, pegged to or side-chained that disintermediate legacy third parties while empowering the unique individual. And unlike legacy/centralized sites (“the Boomer’s internet”), this distributed design has capacities to now curate and hyper-personalize products, services and experiences to the unique individual in a dynamic inspirational and aspirational manner.
So, how do we do this? How do we move from top-down, standardized, industrial-era design to focusing on the digital personalization of the unique, highly nuanced individual in a meaningful, personalized way? What novel matrix biomimetic to our own human biologic design can be used for such individuation going forward?
First, we reject our overdependency upon centralized behaviorist/operant conditioning engagement design.
Secondly, we value, support, facilitate and celebrate the strong sense of self-determinism by the individual. The focus and commitment are on authentically engaging with the individual on their terms. A healthy inner locus of control is developed by identifying and scaffolding upon the individual’s unique intrinsic motivators. If we know what play is, and is not, we can identify intrinsic motivators and authentic engagement patterns and patterns within patterns. This then becomes the matrix for authentic personalized engagement design and provides user-generated data to fine-tune identity and focus personalized content distribution.
Thirdly, monetization opportunities emerge. Through authentic engagement and developing an inner locus of control and self-determinism, opportunities to capitalize on one’s growth and creativity ensue, as the engagement matrix and identity fabric contribute to the development of an authentic digital ID. All engagement, from gaming to social to enterprise and beyond, becomes streaming monetization on top of decentralized/distributed bitcoin. A robust peer-to-peer creator economy emerges. People create and pursue what they love and are literally paid to play.
How are these three goals accomplished? What are the myriad cross-sector applications? Here is but a brief synopsis.
Nature’s hard-wired engagement design in all animals is not game mechanics but play. Play is the first principle of self-generated, self-motivated and self-sustaining engagement design, whereas gaming and behaviorist design are not. These centralized and manipulative designs objectify the user and are based solely on objective data, neglecting the user’s subjective, warm data. Play is a fundamental survival drive; the exogenous reward systems and enticements underpinning behaviorist design and game mechanics are not. While gaming is a small aspect or subset of play, it is not the whole of play. And not everyone likes games. Conversely, we are all subcortically hardwired to play, and everyone plays differently. The cosmic joke, the playful paradox, is that despite our differences and the fact we all play differently, we can meet and engage through the languages of play.
Authentic play is authentic engagement: It is self-generated, self-motivated and self-sustained and disintermediated. Once someone tries to intermediate or control the engagement, it is no longer play, and the many beneficial outcomes of authentic engagement are lost. If we know what play is, and what it is not, we can identify within individuals their authentic engagement patterns and patterns within patterns. This then becomes the matrix for authentic personalized engagement design. Authentic play engagement is how we identify and develop what we love to do, what we like, what we aspire to, and it identifies and develops our intrinsic motivators, drive and grit (all “warm data”).
By suppressing or hijacking access to authentic play, a person’s sense of self and inner locus of control eventually become stunted. They eventually suffer from any one or a few of the panoply of negative consequences associated with play deprivation, including the plague of mental illness. They either isolate into hedonic escapist behaviors or become mindlessly dependent, anxiously chasing extrinsic rewards and exogenous validation. This stunts their moxie, their internal drive, inner locus of control, healthy sense of self, creativity and adaptability. These degraded human potentials are the attributes needed in robust fashion to forge the unique being, one’s authentic expression, while increasing self-esteem, meaning and purpose and adaptability in a world in great transition. Play foments creativity and evolutionary adaptation.
As an older woman who grew up playing on the streets of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil in the 60’s and 70’s, I feel the loss of free, authentic play in our culture. Play has been hi-jacked and sublimated by intermediaries, leading to a great loss in authentic engagement, meaning and purpose, social skills, creativity and problem-solving, and community-building. Thanks to standardized performance testing, centralized media, extrinsic reward systems and other exogenous measurements, our children grew up valued for their conformist performance, and not who they were intrinsically meant to become. We can fix this through recreating a disintermediated global engagement design on Bitcoin.
An older, pre-retirement, long-distance truck driver who lost his job to FSD semi-trucks is not the same as the low self-esteem young woman who anxiously seeks exogenous validation through objectifying herself. Yet each can potentially recreate their selves in a way that works for them. However, this is tough to accomplish when we lack the tools, insights, methodologies and supportive community to do so, particularly when we’ve been dependent, uncritical, fiat-thinking conformists all our lives, and software is eating legacy jobs. With warm data integrated into decentralized and personalized authentic engagement design, “Bitcoin can fix this,” too.
The value and invention here involve the system, methodologies, designs and myriad applications for identifying and scaffolding upon a unique individual’s intrinsic motivators as a matrix for personalized, intrinsically motivated, authentic engagement design and a self-sovereign identity adaptable to emergent decentralized/distributed systems. The engagement profile/play personality is a dynamic composition of play behavior patterns which can be collated from IRL and online through many means, depending upon its subject. No two people are the same or engage the same way. The composition and weight of engagement patterns are endless, so each profile/play personality is unique. One is not inherently better than the other. It’s just different, as nature intended. Nature loves diversity.
The unique intrinsic engagement profile/play personality can be collated for each unique individual dynamically, from birth to old age, and used as their avatars and/or dopplegangers. An instantly recognizable and decipherable graphic icon can represent the composition of play personality/engagement profile for each unique individual so another person instantly knows how to attune and uniquely engage with increasing nuance, empathy and respect. Each of us can represent our own brand and wear and express it proudly. Products, services and experiences can be curated to the unique individual so that marketing and advertisement do not manipulate users by asking them to contort themselves but instead attune with their innate proclivities to authentically engage. Legacy marketing protocols are flipped, validating the unique person on their terms, and providing added value in an authentic manner. We deindustrialize our schooling systems, and our children become blessed with personalized learning opportunities identified, driven and scaffolded by their own intrinsic interests and authentic engagement.
Of particular note: Because play states, like sleep states (both play and sleep are fundamental survival drives), can now be biometrically identified, optimal authentic engagement opportunities can be personalized and designed to each unique user derived by their biometric data (e.g., non-addictive gaming personalized for optimal play states with countless health and performance-related outcomes).
The myriad applications of this novel engagement design are directly aligned with emergent identity in the decentralized/distributed metaverse and have broad cross-sector applications, including hyper-personalization in advertising and content delivery, ML/AI, AR/VR, IoT, gaming, social media, preventive medicine, education and so much more. Truly this can be a design that easily migrates across all sectors.
When the measurement of performance goals (cold extrinsic data) become more important than the inherent joy and attunement found in an activity (warm intrinsic data), we have lost authentic engagement and the transformational recreative power of play. The activity becomes work. Creativity is lost. Self-sustainability, personal agency and ownership/responsibility are diminished.
By integrating personalized authentic engagement design into Bitcoin’s superstructure/social protocols, the benefits and goals we aspire to can become the unintended outcomes. It’s a playful paradox. However, this is nature’s design. If humans are to live sustainably and joyfully, it needs to be ours as well.
“All bear the inherent right to become sovereign of the self — not only in body and mind, but in soul, for any authority that is allowed to rule over you, does so by taking a piece of who you really are.” — Dan Thomas
This is a guest post by Kristen Cozad. Opinions expressed are entirely their own and do not necessarily reflect those of BTC, Inc. or Bitcoin Magazine.