Lesson 1

Immutability and change

I wonder if I've been changed in the night. Let me think. Was I the same when I got up this morning? I almost think I can remember feeling a little different. But if I'm not the same, the next question is 'Who in the world am I?' Ah, that's the great puzzle!
Read by Guy Swann.

Bitcoin is inherently hard to describe. It is a new thing, and any attempt to draw a comparison to previous concepts — be it by calling it digital gold or the internet of money — is bound to fall short of the whole. Whatever your favorite analogy might be, two aspects of Bitcoin are absolutely essential: decentralization and immutability.

One way to think about Bitcoin is as an automated social contract. The software is just one piece of the puzzle, and hoping to change Bitcoin by changing the software is an exercise in futility. One would have to convince the rest of the network to adopt the changes, which is more a psychological effort than a software engineering one.

The following might sound absurd at first, like so many other things in this space, but I believe that it is profoundly true nonetheless: You won’t change Bitcoin, but Bitcoin will change you.

“Bitcoin will change us more than we will change it.” Marty Bent

It took me a long time to realize the profundity of this. Since Bitcoin is just software and all of it is open-source, you can simply change things at will, right? Wrong. Very wrong. Unsurprisingly, Bitcoin’s creator knew this all too well.

“The nature of Bitcoin is such that once version 0.1 was released, the core design was set in stone for the rest of its lifetime.” Satoshi Nakamoto

Many people have attempted to change Bitcoin’s nature. So far all of them have failed. While there is an endless sea of forks and altcoins, the Bitcoin network still does its thing, just as it did when the first node went online. The altcoins won’t matter in the long run. The forks will eventually starve to death. Bitcoin is what matters. As long as our fundamental understanding of mathematics and/or physics doesn’t change, the Bitcoin honeybadger will continue to not care.

“Bitcoin is the first example of a new form of life. It lives and breathes on the internet. It lives because it can pay people to keep it alive. […] It can’t be changed. It can’t be argued with. It can’t be tampered with. It can’t be corrupted. It can’t be stopped. […] If nuclear war destroyed half of our planet, it would continue to live, uncorrupted. “ Ralph Merkle

The heartbeat of the Bitcoin network will outlast all of ours.

Realizing the above changed me way more than the past blocks of the Bitcoin blockchain ever will. It changed my time preference, my understanding of economics, my political views, and so much more. Hell, it is even changing people’s diets. If all of this sounds crazy to you, you’re in good company. All of this is crazy, and yet it is happening.

Bitcoin taught me that it won’t change. I will.

Through the Looking-Glass 🔍

Follow-up articles that expand upon ideas discussed in this lesson:

Down the Rabbit Hole