"But I don’t want to go among mad people," Alice remarked. "Oh, you can’t help that," said the Cat: "we’re all mad here. I’m mad. You’re mad." "How do you know I’m mad?" said Alice. "You must be," said the Cat, "or you wouldn’t have come here."
In October 2018, Arjun Balaji asked the innocuous question, What have you learned from Bitcoin? After trying to answer this question in a short tweet, and failing miserably, I realized that the things I’ve learned are far too numerous to answer quickly, if at all.
The things I’ve learned are, obviously, about Bitcoin - or at least related to it. However, while some of the inner workings of Bitcoin are explained, the following lessons are not an explanation of how Bitcoin works or what it is, they might, however, help to explore some of the things Bitcoin touches: philosophical questions, economic realities, and technological innovations.
The 21 lessons are structured in bundles of seven, resulting in three chapters. Each chapter looks at Bitcoin through a different lens, extracting what lessons can be learned by inspecting this strange network from a different angle.
Chapter 1 explores the philosophical teachings of Bitcoin. The interplay of immutability and change, the concept of true scarcity, Bitcoin’s immaculate conception, the problem of identity, the contradiction of replication and locality, the power of free speech, and the limits of knowledge.
Chapter 2 explores the economic teachings of Bitcoin. Lessons about financial ignorance, inflation, value, money and the history of money, fractional reserve banking, and how Bitcoin is re-introducing sound money in a sly, roundabout way.
Chapter 3 explores some of the lessons learned by examining the technology of Bitcoin. Why there is strength in numbers, reflections on trust, why telling time takes work, how moving slowly and not breaking things is a feature and not a bug, what Bitcoin’s creation can tell us about privacy, why cypherpunks write code (and not laws), and what metaphors might be useful to explore Bitcoin’s future.
Each lesson contains several quotes and links throughout the text. If I have explored an idea in more detail, you can find links to my related works in the “Through the Looking-Glass” section. If you like to go deeper, links to the most relevant material are listed in the “Down the Rabbit Hole” section. Both can be found at the end of each lesson.
Even though some prior knowledge about Bitcoin is beneficial, I hope that these lessons can be digested by any curious reader. While some relate to each other, each lesson should be able to stand on its own and can be read independently. I did my best to shy away from technical jargon, even though some domain-specific vocabulary is unavoidable.
I hope that my writing serves as inspiration for others to dig beneath the surface and examine some of the deeper questions Bitcoin raises. My own inspiration came from a multitude of authors and content creators to all of whom I am eternally grateful.
Last but not least: my goal in writing this is not to convince you of anything. My goal is to make you think, and show you that there is way more to Bitcoin than meets the eye. I can’t even tell you what Bitcoin is or what Bitcoin will teach you. You will have to find that out for yourself.
“After this, there is no turning back. You take the blue pill — the story ends, you wake up in your bed and believe whatever you want to believe. You take the red pill — you stay in Wonderland, and I show you how deep the rabbit hole goes.” Morpheus