In the beginning… there was Bitcoin.
Bitcoin and Blockchain development commenced roughly 70,000 years ago - when homo sapiens transcended their biological limits.
It’s a story that has its roots in the evolution of humanity. Humans have been on the planet for over two million years. Homo Sapiens, as a species of human have only been around for about 150,000 years.
70,000 years ago, something happened - it’s linked to the activation of our prefrontal cortex, the shrinking of our digestive system and a few other things. Although nobody really knows “how” it happened, it resulted in us moving from the middle of the food chain, to the top of the food chain - very quickly.
This is where the age of “history” begins.
Before we explore what changed, let’s get some context. After studying the average social group size and brain function of humans and primates throughout history, British Anthropologist Robin Dunbar posited that:
“The human cognitive processing system can tolerate a maximum of 150 “friends”, or stable social relationships.”
– Robin Dunbar
This number has held roughly true over the millennia, across all species of human and primate. It’s an evolutionary biological limit that homo-sapiens still have to this day. However, it was the ability to cooperate in groups beyond this number that changed everything 70,000 years ago.
How did we do it? Communication. Communication changes everything. But it’s not just any form of communication. Animals, mammals, insects, and others all communicate in their own ways and from this form tribes, colonies and packs. In fact, most are way better at organizing and building complex cooperative colonies than humans are (ants cooperate in groups far larger than any human), but these groups and their communication is purely biological.
Homo Sapiens evolved beyond ALL other species (including other humans) because we were somehow able to communicate on a higher level, transcending our biological constraints. We did this in two parts, firstly through complex language, and later by using this complex language to create “shared fictions”. Homo Sapiens are the only species on the planet that are able to communicate about, share and relate to things that don’t actually exist. These are fictions that we all share.
Consider a monkey. A monkey can lie. They can say there is an eagle in the sky to trick their fellow monkey into running away, so they get all the bananas to themselves. Monkeys can also warn of danger, saying something to the effect of “there is a Lion at the River”.
On the other hand, only Homo-Sapiens can say: “The Lion is the Spirit ancestor of our people”. Only Homo-Sapiens - who are from different parts of the world, don’t know each other, have never met, and have no biological reason to trust each other - can strike up a conversation, build rapport and build trust simply because they are Italian, or Chinese, or some other “fictitious” nationality.
And only Homo Sapiens can use that same reason to band together and build the Pyramids or blow each other up “in the name of our country” like we did through most of the 20th century.
Shared fictions are languages in and of themselves, and over the millennia there have been many kinds. From castes to corporations, from races to rulers and religions. All are shared fictions, all are designed to facilitate cooperation, coordination and exchange on a broader level. One of the earliest “shared fictions” was money, and it still exists today because of how fundamentally important it is for society to function.
Money, at it’s very basic level, is a form of communication, it is a shared fiction. It’s an abstraction that we’ve all agreed represents value. The “form” of money has evolved over the years. From spices, to shells, to coins, to gold, to paper, to plastic, and now native digital currencies. Money is one of the only forms of communication or shared fiction that has stood the test of time and managed to transcend the borders and barriers all other shared fictions have been restricted by. Not even religion can come close to the power of money. Why? Because of what it represents.
At the very foundation of Society and its ability to grow and function is one key ingredient:
Furthermore, the ability to exchange value is what makes society run. When we cooperate, we are doing “work”, which has some form of “value” and in all our contributions and interactions, we have exchanges of this value. When you extrapolate that out in layers of complexity, you create societies that are able to exceed Dunbar’s number by orders of magnitude. It’s also important to note that as a society increases in complexity, value will continue to abstract in order to lower the friction of exchange. This is why money is so important, because value is subjective it comes in many forms, but money is objective and can therefore represent all of them.
Money evolved about 3000 - 5000yrs ago, when we invented layer 2 abstractions of money by introducing “trust”. This would facilitate better transactions and exchange, ie; coins were created with stamps by the emperor. This model persisted (in many variants) until the next major abstraction; ie; paper or Promissory notes.
It was popularized by the Florentine banking families during the renaissance because it was easier to carry a note that promised the redemption of an amount of gold, than having to carry the gold itself.
This was the defining model (in and amongst periods of gold standards, etc) for 500yrs, until the promissory notes transformed into what is now called “fiat currency”, ie; a currency that is backed by nothing other than “trust in the state”, or “trust in the issuer”.
With each abstraction, we added better attributes to money, however we also increased the dependence on trust. The more attributes we added, the more the pillar of trust became secretive and complex with a high barrier to entry.
Now In a world that is becoming increasingly interconnected and complex, we need a better form of exchange. One that is faster, more transparent and trustless. And this form of money already exists - it’s been staring at us since 2009. It’s name is Bitcoin.
Each generation has been conditioned to believe “x” is real money. Gold and paper backed by “governments” have been the major incumbents for the last century. When we first started moving to plastic there was an uproar that this was not real money. The same thing happened with building the digital veneer over money that we use today. Whilst these continual abstractions have come with advantages and disadvantages, they’ve pathed the way for truly native digital, global currencies / means of exchange to emerge.
“Most people have been afraid or unwilling to put their savings into one of these new currencies, either because of a lack of savings, an aversion to risk, or just plain old technical difficulty. Buying and selling cryptocurrencies is still too hard! ”
-Aleksandar Svetski, CEO @ Stashh and Founder at Blockchain Training Institute.
For some of us, it still seems like internet funny money, but for the next generation - paper, cash and plastic will seem like useless relics of the past. Native digital currencies are the future, and most importantly those that are decentralized, borderless, global and censorship resistant - because technology is democratizing everything else, and we need a form of money to go with it.
There is a lot of contention around the idea of digital currencies - and a big part of that is due to their volatility. People say that “these can never be currencies” because they’re unstable, and whilst that may be true now, they miss something fundamental. Before something can become an exchange of value, it must become a store of value. Becoming a store of value takes time – especially when it’s something so disruptive to so many stakeholders in so many parts of the world.
The other argument is that it’s not “backed by anything”. Well, the last (and only) real, trustless store of value was gold. Which is also backed by nothing, except that it’s real and tangible, which means it’s safe and secure. It’s also finite, recognizable, durable, relatively stable and relatively fungible. Today gold has a market capitalization (network value) of more than $7T – impressive, till you consider it took 5000 years to get there!
Over time, as adoption grows, so too will the network value of digital currencies. They will become real mediums of exchange. It’s not an if but a when. Electricity, the telephone, the internet, Facebook. Nobody saw any of those coming, nor predicted their growth. There is a reason for this, networks are fundamentally different to companies and traditional and capital infrastructure models.
The mental models we’ve developed over the last 100 years to measure and analyses capital, markets, corporations, cooperatives and more don’t fit with the laws that govern networks. Networks are not companies. They don’t have to worry about profit, loss, shareholders, a board or customers. Thinking back on the dot com bubble can be painful for some, but the internet continued, and in fact accelerated its growth during the crash.
The companies built on the internet were affected, but the underlying network was not. We’ve been trained and conditioned to value things based on profits, earnings, revenues, customers, margins, returns on investment or capital allocation. Networks are just not subject to the same valuation models and hence we can’t predict what their future value will look like. Networks have time on their side. Time is usually against you in the corporate world because you’re fighting for market share, fighting for mindshare, fighting against new startups.
With something like Bitcoin, apart from a catastrophic failure, the fact that new technologies come and go doesn’t really mean much. Bitcoin is stable. Bitcoin has infrastructure. Bitcoin has security. Bitcoin is censorship resistant. Bitcoin has network effects. The question is not; “How good or valuable is the technology today”, but “how will it evolve over time?”.
For example, one of Bitcoin’s primary use cases is banking the unbanked, and I cannot overstate how valuable this is. You may have heard of “The Rising Billion”, the 1 billion people crossing the traditional “poverty” line and coming into the global economy. Exponential technology is already bringing them the tools they need to participate. But what about banking and financial services?
The banks cannot and will not service them because banks are companies, they need to make money and there is no money to be made out there... yet. Open, public, decentralized protocols do not have that issue. Bitcoin doesn’t care who you are, where you are, how much you have or why you want to use it.With a phone and internet access the unbanked will have the basic financial services that we in the “developed” world currently take for granted - and in fact, probably better. And they won’t have to sell their privacy and souls to get access.
By the time banks catch up and try to service these 4 billion people, it will already be too late. Why the hell would anyone subject themselves to the rigor, discrimination and constraints of traditional banking when they’ve got something so much better?
They won’t. And that’s because the network effects will have already reached a critical mass.
In conclusion, the most important thing we can do as a community is to spread the word and participate. We need to increase the adoption of the core protocols, because everything else will then have a foundation upon which to grow. Network effects are the biggest advantage we have. That’s what we’re trying to do at Stashh. Our mission is to lower the barrier to entry for the mass market - and thereby increase overall adoption. Most people are unable to participate in this new asset class because they lack savings, have an aversion to risk, or find it just too technically difficult. And it’s true; Buying and selling cryptocurrencies is still too hard!
We’ve created a way for people to simply download an app, link their accounts and much like a digital piggy bank, the spare change from all their random daily transactions gets automatically invested in Bitcoin and Ether. In this way, people can “test the waters” - and in time, we can teach them to swim. If you’re interested in finding out more, early adopters qualify for 0% exchange fees at “stashh.io”.
Whether you buy some Bitcoin through our application or not doesn’t matter. What matters is that we adopt this new technology and spread the word.
So go out and buy some Bitcoin or any other cryptocurrency you believe in. Be a user, be a “node” - and the network will grow faster than any of us could’ve ever imagined.