Nobody understands Bitcoin, and that’s okay

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Bitcoin is an infinitely complex system that is a zero-to-one invention with little to compare it to, so no one can fully understand Bitcoin.

Bitcoin is an infinitely complex system that is a zero-to-one invention with little to compare it to, so no one can fully understand Bitcoin.

Jameson Lopp, one of Bitcoin’s early developers, says, “Nobody understands Bitcoin, and that’s okay.” Truer words were never spoken. It’s actually a useful starting point for the topic I’m writing about now. I am absolutely neutral on whether you decide to buy bitcoin or, better yet, save. My sole purpose is to dispel our collective ignorance.

Michelangelo’s creation of the statue of David gives us a reference point. He claims he plucked everything that wasn’t David from the block of stone. Well, my friends, that’s what we have to do here: cut out everything in your mind that is NOT Bitcoin. Not as easy a task as Lopp suggests. I am convinced that with each passing bloc and each passing year, all eight billion souls on this planet will gain a better understanding of Bitcoin. Maybe someday we will fully understand it, but my money is that we will never fully understand it, nor is a full understanding necessary. I don’t know how my car works or my computer or my phone or my fridge or my toaster.

Recently, Bitcoin Magazine published an excellent article called “Surviving The Narrative” which explains Bitcoin excellently in a few sentences.

“Bitcoin as a network (capital B) has the function of keeping track of wallets and the amount of bitcoin (lower b) in each. So it is correct to say that Bitcoin, the network, is just a big digital scoreboard (or ledger) and that the number in each wallet is the wallet’s assigned value. So when we say a wallet deposited bitcoin, our mind sees a piggy bank and coins coming in, but this is an inadequate metaphor for what actually happens.—Douglas Feeldro

For the sake of further clarification, we can say that the Bitcoin network is an interconnected web of computers – some we call “miners” and some we call “nodes” – that keep track of every transaction and the millions of units of ownership that go all the way back to the genesis block on January 3, 2009. This digital ledger is revalidated approximately every 10 minutes by this web of computers! Every block of transactions that isn’t hacked (and not a single transaction or block has been hacked to date) is a monumental achievement worthy of a Nobel Peace Prize that will never come. It is such a profound tool for human rights and freedom that Alex Gladstein has embraced it in his work for the Human Rights Foundation and the Oslo Freedom Forum.

Once you understand the magnitude of Bitcoin’s achievement, it would be much more accurate to say that Bitcoin is the most valuable use of energy for securing an unhacked monetary energy network that mankind has ever seen or conceived.

There are 728,539 blocks – each block validates the transactions in that block and all previous ones – mined in the Bitcoin network at the time of writing. Not only does the Bitcoin network keep track of every transaction going back to the origin block, it validates that the current transaction block followed the rules and keeps the chain of unhacked blocks “streak” until the next block. For many people unfamiliar with Bitcoin, what I just wrote is meaningless. To a Bitcoiner, it means everything. To help those unfamiliar with the kind of performance we are witnessing, a basketball metaphor will help. Imagine Michael Jordan or Steph Curry taking 728,539 shots in a row? Or Tiger Woods making 728,539 10-foot consecutive putts? That will only give you a glimpse, just a hint, of the achievement that Bitcoin is. I don’t know of any other digital asset that comes close to making this claim. There are absolutely no fiat currencies that can make that claim and there will never be a central bank digital currency (CBDC) (which should be more accurately considered a “guard coin”) that will even attempt such a feat. That is why Robert Breedlove and many others have called Bitcoin a “zero-to-one invention” or discovery.

Those who claim Bitcoin is wasting energy don’t know what they are saying. They clearly don’t understand Bitcoin and they have a “piggy bank” understanding of money. Brandon Quittem, author of many great articles on Bitcoin, says, “Bitcoin mining is everything you don’t understand about energy combined with everything you don’t understand about Bitcoin.”

Bitcoin miners not only enable fair money transactions between two people, they maintain an energy force field around an almost unbreakable monetary system that is not controlled or controlled by any flag or company or person, and this force field is strengthened by the hash and by the block. To paraphrase Robert Breedlove, the walls of the vault get thicker the more value is stored in it. I seem to recall that Trace Mayer was the first to refer to the Bitcoin time chain as ‘triple bookkeeping’. The bitcoin miners and nodes are the auditors of the network and make sure everyone in the system follows the consensus rules. All bitcoin miners and nodes validate every transaction back to the genesis block to ensure no cheating takes place. Until January 2009 with the implementation of Bitcoin, cheating was our way of life for people when it comes to money. What would a monetary system that allows cheating look like? The answer is Bitcoin.

So I urge those of you reading this to think about what we’re seeing and what continues to set new records for this network of computers that secure, maintain, and support a peer-to-peer monetary system that isn’t controlled by a government or corporation or billionaire. Even try to understand what that means. Words are not enough. I observe all the conflict that takes place between Bitcoiners; and the conflict between Bitcoiners and alt-coiners; and the conflict between Bitcoiners and no-coiners and I smile. I take my cue from Bitcoin. Bitcoin is amoral and absolutely neutral about whether you join its network or not. My hope for the future for you guys is to remember this reality the next time you get frustrated with your family or friend not getting Bitcoin. No one fully understands Bitcoin, and that’s okay. More personally, no one fully understands Bitcoin, not even you, and that’s okay.

This is a guest post from Mark Maraia. The opinions expressed are entirely their own and do not necessarily reflect those of BTC Inc. or Bitcoin Magazine.

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