On 18 August 2008, the domain name bitcoin.org was registered. In November that year, a link to a paper authored by Satoshi Nakamoto titled Bitcoin: A Peer-to-Peer Electronic Cash System was posted to a cryptography mailing list. Nakamoto implemented the bitcoin software as open source code and released it in January 2009 on Source Forge. The identity of Nakamoto remains unknown. submitted by
In January 2009, the bitcoin network came into existence after Satoshi Nakamoto mined the first ever block on the chain, known as the genesis block. Embedded in the coin base of this block was the following text:
The Times 03/Jan/2009 Chancellor on brink of second bailout for banks.
This note has been interpreted as both a timestamp of the genesis date and a derisive comment on the instability caused by fractional-reserve banking.
The receiver of the first bitcoin transaction was cypher punk Hal Finney, who created the first reusable proof-of-work system (RPOW) in 2004. Finney downloaded the bitcoin software the day it was released, and received 10 bitcoins from Nakamoto. Other early cypher punk supporters were Wei Dai, creator of bitcoin predecessor b-money, and Nick Szabo, creator of bitcoin predecessor bit gold.
In the early days, Nakamoto is estimated to have mined 1 million bitcoins.In 2010, Nakamoto handed the network alert key and control of the Bitcoin Core code repository over to Gavin Andresen, who later became lead developer at the Bitcoin Foundation. Nakamoto subsequently disappeared from any involvement in bitcoin. Andresen stated he then sought to decentralize control, saying: "As soon as Satoshi stepped back and threw the project onto my shoulders, one of the first things I did was try to decentralize that. So, if I get hit by a bus, it would be clear that the project would go on. " This left opportunity for controversy to develop over the future development path of bitcoin.
Back in the old days of Renaissance Europe, the continent's most creative and free-thinking individuals practiced their experiments in secret. Why was this? Quite simple: You didn't want anyone to know about what you know. For people to know of your occult knowledge was profoundly dangerous. A duke in debt might capture you and expect you to turn base metals into gold for him. Your neighbors would be scared that something might go wrong in your alchemical laboratory and toxic fumes might be released or worse. Read the old manuscripts of those times and you'll find an abundance of warnings to be careful and to avoid letting anyone know you're carrying out alchemical experiments.
At the end of the day, people simply aren't very comfortable with the occult. As a teenager, I would go into new age stores with a friend and ask for a Ouija board. They were unwilling to sell us one, because they believed it could channel destructive influences. If I told people about it, they would respond by telling me not to involve myself in such matter. Similarly, if you're a prominent businessman or politician, who bases his decisions on the position of the stars or a psychic's judgment, the public's response won't be positive. As a result, the occult remains occult.
For a society where the occult wasn't as occult
, consider Classical Rome. Here it was common to make sacrifices to the Genius of the Roman emperor. Divination was common practice too, augurs were appointed by the government and tasked with keeping track of the behavior of birds, which was thought to reflect the will of the Gods. Many Renaissance occultists are referred to as Neoplatonists, precisely because they revived ideas and practices that were common in the Classical world. The Hermetic teachings they revived were originally a kind of folk Platonism. It wasn't uncommon for Renaissance occultists to invoke the name of Roman deities when the performed their rituals.
It's important to note that this mentality towards the world was violently eradicated. The Christians thrown before the lions are part of our collective cultural mythos, but the brutal death of Hypatia at the hands of a Christian mob was a much more shocking and better documented event to people who lived at the time. The Platonic academies didn't die out because people simply lost interest. Successive Roman emperors had to deal with a resurgent Greco-Roman polytheism whenever the barbarians at the gates delivered the surviving native heathen Roman population a breathing pause. It was around 850 AD, more than fifty years after Charlemagne invaded Saxony and more than four centuries after Christianity became the Roman state religion, when the last Greeks of Laconia were forcibly converted to Christianity. You can rest assured that heathenism survived in various forms throughout the empire, behind closed doors and in allegorical myths and manuscripts.
The current proliferation of Marxist philosophies across the Western world has a few analogies with the original proliferation of Christianity in the Western world. From what we know , the unimaginable cruelty of Marxists has no known analogy in early Christianity. In both cases however, an anti-establishment philosophy developed by intellectuals proliferated among a militant impoverished underclass that had little left to live for. Lenin's cannon fodder and Muhammed's suicide-bombers have a similar mentality to Christian slaves who sought martyrdom by preaching their creed to Roman soldiers.
In both cases, the inversion of cultural values leads to a stage of ignorance of natural order that's taught to people. The Marxist utopia where the family no longer exists, children are raised by the state and men and women work of all colours and creeds work together in harmony in a factory requires us to forget what we intuitively know about human nature. The pacifism of Jesus and the denial of the desires of the flesh similarly asks of us to suppress and reject our human nature.
Heathenism in both cases represents a threat that refuses to go away. Just as Christians were always dealing with a resurgent heathenism, Marxist societies are always dealing with a resurgent heathenism of a different form. There will always be men who feel possessive towards their daughter or sister, there will always be women who seek out powerful masculine men, there will always be racists who desire to live among people similar to them, and there will always be people who wonder what happens after death and how matter can experience qualia. Just as people don't need books or cultural traditions to look towards birds in the sky to seek out insight into the will of the transcendental, people don't need books or racist cartoon frog memes to reject the Marxist cultural orthodoxy taught to them in the media and in colleges.
The thing to understand is that when you reject the orthodoxy, you gain access to secret knowledge obscured to the masses. It can be beneficial to have access to such secret knowledge. The value of knowledge increases tremendously, as the share of the population that's aware declines. Tremendous wealth, happiness and power can be gained from knowledge obscured to the masses. If you think carefully, you already know this. When was the right time to buy Bitcoin? When nobody knew about it. When was the worst time to buy Bitcoin? When people began to take it seriously. This simple principle applies in many different aspects of life.
Of course, there is a lot of secret knowledge out there that's utterly useless. Most conspiracy theories are forms of occult knowledge, but the greatest occult knowledge of all might be the simple fact that it won't change your life when you can prove beyond a doubt who killed JFK or knocked down the World Trade Center. When Dick Cheney is thrown in jail he'll spend four months there before his last heart attack puts him out of his misery and after a pat on the shoulder from your boss who never believed you you'll have to go back to filing your TPS reports.
There is greater, more useful occult knowledge out there. Consider that all of the crazy people on the Internet used to talk about the health benefits of cannabis, back when the plant was still illegal. If you look into such a subject, you'll eventually come to the conclusion that you won't just be able to keep your two year old child from dying of brain cancer, but the prohibition of cannabis ultimately won't be sustainable. Eventually, cannabis will be legalized and a massive economic sector will emerge from nothing. A wise man would position himself to make use of that eventual outcome. Perhaps you start out by growing medicinal hemp, or you invest in a cannabis company a friend of you hopes to set up. You knew something most people didn't. Wise people quietly make use of that knowledge. Less wise people post it to their Facebook wall.
The key to secret knowledge is to share it with the right people. If you know something others don't, you will generally need others, to help you make use of that knowledge. Important in the process is to ensure that you don't inform the wrong people. If the secret gets out, the secret becomes useless. Just because you teach people how to do something better, doesn't mean that everyone will benefit. If I design a better weapon, I don't want my enemies to find out. Similarly, if I design a more efficient Bitcoin miner, my knowledge becomes useless when others find out about it too. Most secret knowledge can only create a better world by virtue of the power it gives to the wise person who discovers the knowledge.
One of my favorite thinkers of the 21st century, Peter Thiel, explained this concept in his book "from zero to one". What you should strife for is not to do something better than the competition. What you should strife for is to do something entirely new. Create something that didn't exist before, or make use of something nobody recognized as useful. Since the 1970's, we've lived in a world where we don't really do new things. We do old things slightly better. According to Thiel, this is largely a cultural problem, the result of our faith in what he calls "indefinite optimism". We believe that the world will inevitably blindly pursue greater economic growth and thereby bring about a kind of utopia.
What we need instead, is a kind of "definite optimism". Definite optimism involves making bold, specific plans for the future, and taking risks to fulfill them. What definite optimists do is to create entire new options that didn't exist before. When you create something entirely new, you are capable of developing a monopoly, if you know what you're doing. When you develop such a monopoly, you gain access to true wealth and the power to make genuine changes to how we live our lives.
There are differing degrees of secrecy. Some people make discoveries that they proceed to keep entirely to themselves. Most of the things we learn however, are simply things that are still under the radar. This is fine. You don't need sole ownership of your secret. If the implications of your secret are big enough, there is room for multiple people to make use of it. What matters ultimately, is that you gain knowledge about something your peers don't know about. To succeed, you have to go against the grain.
I often see the claim that there are diminishing returns to innovation, that we are running out of new ideas to discover. In some domains this may be true. Benjamin Franklin could perform innovative physics experiments on his own, whereas today we need the Large Hadron Collider for us to discover new knowledge. What is not mentioned however, is that innovation creates new niches of its own. It doesn't matter if you can't continue to build upon a branch of knowledge, when entirely new branches of knowledge are available to you. Consider an example. We now need genetic manipulation and a growing arsenal of pesticides, to boost our agricultural yields. But why are we trying to boost our yields, if we could eat entirely different things?
When I look at our human relationship to the natural world around us, what I witness is horizontal expansion. We witness nature, we observe its fertile soils and we seek to gain control over them. Eventually, we end up fighting each other over control of those soils. What this is, is our competition to conform. We have killed the apex predators and now we wish to live as if we were them. There is no serious attempt made at vertical expansion, to do something entirely new.
Consider the simple fact, that we effectively live as we always have, but now with more energy. We have machines that plow our soils for us and grow a variety of cereal grains. We then feed those plants to our livestock and proceed to eat the animals. This is what most of the world's terrestrial surface is now used for. We even witness the same problem as we did in the medieval era, when bottom trawlers would harvest fish from the bottom of the ocean, in such abundant amounts that they had no genuine use for them other than to feed them to their livestock.
The mistake we have to avoid, is to resort to a kind of hopeless cynicism in the face of this reality. As Thiel puts it, "If everything worth doing has already been done, you may as well feign an allergy to achievement and become a barista". This is a mistake. Besides the simple fact that it makes your own life miserable, it's simply a philosophical mistake. The future is not a deterministic trajectory in which we blindly pursue the maximum power principle until we render the planet uninhabitable. We're not a chemical reaction that ran out of control. We have the power to change the trajectory of the future. One way to do this, is by planning for the future in an intelligent manner.
Consider the simple fact, that as Africa's population is exponentially growing, Russia, China, Brazil, Japan and many other places face declining fertility rates. Iran's fertility rate took a decade to plunge. These places are clearly not subject to the maximum power principle. Growth has stalled, despite plenty of resources that could be utilized, if people were willing to reproduce. If we can escape the maximum power principle in Russia, why not at a global level? An African cultural transition could bring about the same collapse in fertility rates that we have seen in most of the world. There exist strong cultural barriers towards low fertility rates, but those barriers can be forcefully torn down. Consider the complete annihilation of the phenomenon of the fertile Catholic working class in Europe. A similar outcome is possible in Africa, if we make the right decisions.
More importantly, a cultural transition inspired by new technologies can help us reign down our impact on the natural world. An estimated seventy percent of arable land worldwide is used for the production of meat in one form or another. If we transitioned to meat grown in labs, we could get rid of this problem, as lab grown meat requires 99% less land use. We could add to this the consumption of seaweed and mushrooms. In Japan, 10% of the diet was historically composed of seaweed. Mushrooms can similarly be grown using very little physical space. The amount of physical land needed to feed a human being is much smaller than we imagine it to be. It simply depends on how we choose to live.
Important to note is that this won't cause an overpopulation crisis. We witness today that countries with an abundance of food don't suffer from excessive population growth. People don't continue to reproduce until they die of hunger as if they were rabbits. Places that suffer famines do so because they rely on a limited range of crops vulnerable to weather disruption or suffer from political instability. Humans who live in big cities tend to have few children. The natural tendency for the human population is thus to eventually decline, provided that urbanization continues at an accelerating pace. As people migrate to cities, the rural countryside ends up reforested. The total amount of global rainforest is thought to be increasing
, because third world people are migrating from the countryside to the big cities, where they generally fail to reproduce. As a result, their rural farmland ends up abandoned, allowing new forests to emerge there.
The most important thing to understand is that the intelligent pursuit of specific technologies allows us to create the kind of conditions that lead to the decline of our human impact on the environment around us. This does not just apply to food. We are capable of producing cement that sequesters carbon dioxide. In addition to this, we are capable of shrinking our car fleet by 99%
, when we transition to self-driving cars. You will find that most of our oil and other fossil fuels will be left in the ground, because we will not be able to come up with any good use for it. Why would you bother driving a car that runs on oil, if you can drive around using electricity? The internal combustion engine moves you around through a series of small explosions. This is why cars are in need of constant repairs. An electric vehicle in comparison will end up having a much longer lifetime.
What is important to understand, is that these developments depend on one thing: The persistence of a cognitive elite within our population that is able to pursue its talents without restraint. Consider this: Google engineers who are fired because they write politically incorrect memos are not able to deliver a contribution to society. In the words of Peter Thiel: "Today's aged hippies no longer understand that there is a difference between the election of a black president and the creation of cheap solar energy; in their minds, the movement towards greater civil rights parallels general progress everywhere". Winston Churchill believed in the 1930's that lab-grown meat would come into existence within the next fifty years. Why didn't that happen? Because of the cultural climate that has emerged.
There are societies out there that went from awe inspiring innovation and creativity, towards a permanent stasis in a form of barbarous stupidity. The Middle East is a prominent example. After the Mongols destroyed Baghdad, the Islamic world descended into a spiral of increasing regressiveness, until eventually we reached the worst depths imaginable with the rise of movements like ISIS. Muslims make up 23% of the world's population, but just 1.4% of Nobel prize winners. Most of their prizes are peace prizes, which are awarded to them for accomplishments in standing up to the stupidity that characterizes the rest of their society. This isn't the innate unchanging state of Muslims, it is the consequence predominantly of a cultural transition that has been hugely destructive.
In the Western world, the rise of Marxism has similarly had a hugely destructive impact on our ability to face the challenges of the 21st century. We see today that Western Europe and the United States are descending into the kind of stifled intellectual climate that has characterized Eastern Europe for most of the 20th century. Whereas Eastern Europe is hard at work shredding the last traumatic memories of this dark era, in Western Europe and North America, no genuine accomplishments are made now, except for petty human rights issues.
Consider that in the Soviet Union, genetics was considered a "bourgeois pseudoscience". Whereas here in Western Europe and North America, we learned how biology functions, in the Soviet Union, authorities believed that rye could spontaneously transform in wheat and wheat into barley, or that weeds could spontaneously transform into nutritious plants. Today we see that here in the modern Western world, we believe that humans can become anything as long as they are "educated". Whereas a deeper understanding of genetics would allow us to look with a sense of realism towards the prospect of places like Detroit, Baltimore and Puerto Rico, today we pretend that throwing seven times the entire annual foreign aid budget for Africa at Puerto Rico will somehow end its poverty. Just as political correctness prevented the Soviet Union from pursuing meaningful accomplishments, political correctness ensures that here in the Western world we will end up living in third world countries.
Although our intellectual climate is oppressive, this should not prevent you from pursuing your full intellectual potential. If you are intelligent and capable of pursuing a strong vision, you are capable of rising up above the mediocrity, even though we live in a society where we expect everyone to adjust to the lowest common denominator. What it all starts out with, is a secret. There are hard problems out there, problems that take a lot of effort to solve, to which only a small minority of our population has answers. To come up with an answer to such a problem allows you to garner tremendous concentrated wealth and power for yourself, which can be used to change society for the better. Upon discovering your secret, the next step becomes to gather a group of people, who will conspire with you to change the world. Ask yourself: What do you know that most smart people don't?
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