Money has gotten way too complicated. Bitcoin makes it easy again.
Swan Private Insight Update #15
This report was originally sent to Swan Private clients on September 12th, 2022. Swan Private guides corporations and high net worth individuals globally toward building generational wealth with Bitcoin.
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There was a time when people took their paycheque to the bank, put what they didn’t need right away in a savings account, and carried the rest around to spend.
To spend it, they physically handed it to a clerk at a store, and were handed back some change and the merchandise they bought.
After all, since money is something that every single person in the world needs to use, it should be easy to use. It should be the easiest thing in the world to use.
But money has become a very complicated affair.
Today’s experts say that if you don’t invest your money in a diversified portfolio of uncorrelated instruments including equities, bonds, derivatives, and commodities, well then, apparently you’re doing it wrong. These experts advise that you hire more experts to manage it for you, because it’s a full-time job to manage money earned doing your actual full-time job, and you have neither the skill nor the time to do it. But the experts also warn that even the most expert of these experts can’t guarantee that they won’t lose your money while managing it. Something feels very wrong about this whole notion.
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Meanwhile, powerful appointed bureaucrats hold press conferences regularly to announce changes to the monetary policy they are in charge of, and cryptically hint at what changes might come next. Journalists, professional investors, and politicians hang on their every word carefully and markets swing wildly in reaction to what is said — or what isn’t. If you don’t catch on to their clues correctly, then you lose. Something doesn’t seem right about this either.
As well, prices of goods and services have become unstable.
Money is no longer easy to use. Money has become extremely complicated.
An old famous line frequently used in movies and TV shows used to respond to the question “Will you take his money?” with a question as the response: “Is his money green?” Well, the money is still green, but with all that’s happened we have to remember the now famous line of Kermit the Frog who once said,
A lot of things may be very complicated behind the scenes, but are still very easy to use.
I’m reminded of this little illustration of why Apple and Google have been so successful. They developed very powerful technologies, which was not easy to do.
But most importantly, they made it incredibly easy for anyone to use that technology.
There is a great quote from Antoine de Saint-Exupéry that states:
And that illustration concretizes that idea of perfection — quite perfectly.
Today, we all take it for granted that we can just google a term and instantly get back answers or highly relevant links. However, solving the problem of searching the entire internet in milliseconds and returning the most relevant results, based on nothing more than a single text input, was anything but easy. Google’s founders, Larry Page and Sergey Brin, developed the solution while earning their PhDs in Library Sciences at Stanford University. You can still read their seminal and reasonably straightforward to understand “whitepaper” explaining how they solved the problem. The paper is called “The Anatomy of a Large-Scale Hypertextual Web Search Engine” and its opening sentence begins with “In this paper, we present Google, a prototype of a large-scale search engine…”
Do you remember, if you’re old enough, how we all used to do our research by going to libraries, searching through their card catalogs, and relying on the Dewey Decimal System to find the publications we were looking for?
The Internet though became a huge library itself — accessible through cyberspace. But we needed a system to organize it that was far more sophisticated and automated than the Dewey Decimal System, and Google was it.
And for anyone who remembers that old system of finding information in a library, none can argue that Google is not just faster and more comprehensive, but also, far easier.
Google’s “whitepaper” may remind you of another whitepaper, one that solved an arguably even more challenging problem than organizing the Internet. I’m referring of course to Satoshi Nakamoto’s now legendary, “Bitcoin: A Peer-to-Peer Electronic Cash System“.
Google made searching for information in the era of the Internet easy. It relied on complicated and advanced algorithms and data structures to do this, but it hid all of that complexity, instead presenting everyone with a simple interface that basically said “What are you looking for?”
With that in mind, let’s now ask ourselves what would make money as easy as googling in the era of the Internet? What are the one, two, or at most, three features that need to be exposed to users of the money? What would liberate us from the complexity and risk that we all must endure daily that is making it so hard even for the most intelligent, dedicated, and expert managers of money to find ease, stability, and safety in it?
Let’s begin by answering the human interface issues. What essential features must easy-to-use money have? And just as importantly, let us ask also what features must be removed, for perfection to be achieved?
It seems simple to answer these questions. There’s only three things you do with money that are essential:
Send or Spend it
If we’re designing a user interface for money, we really only need two buttons then: send and receive, since doing nothing, i.e. pressing neither button, is the equivalent of holding it. And for the basics — that’s it.
For basic everyday use, that’s really all you need.
For basic everyday use, everything else is not required.
All of the examples above are merely bells and whistles at best, and dangerous gambles more often than not. They are not required for a money that’s used for the basic and essential purposes of money.
That fun little cartoon earlier in the article comparing an image of an Apple or Google product with a wildly complicated product really hits home now when you see how complex everyone is making everything about money seem in this day and age.
But at the surface, for our every day interactions with money, we want it to be reliable for spending, saving, and receiving and THAT IS ALL. Welcome to the Bitcoin standard.
To be sure, creating something as complex as google’s search engine isn’t easy beneath the surface of the easy user interface.
The same is true of Bitcoin. Technologically speaking, the most complex part of Bitcoin may actually be all the behind-the-scenes inventions that support the user experience where you don’t do anything at all — where you just sit there and hold it, all while Bitcoin works to prevent anyone from taking away your bitcoins or making more than the pre-determined amount, which would dilute your share of the bitcoin supply.
There’s so much complex, behind-the-scenes stuff that Bitcoin does. It is the only known practical solution to a mathematical problem that was proven to be theoretically impossible to solve. You may have heard of the Byzantine Generals’ Problem, which also goes by the name of the “double-spend problem”. Satoshi Nakamoto’s practical solution to this theoretically impossible to solve problem is to apply the use of energy to arrive at a good enough state of consensus between these “Byzantine Generals, ” or, in the case of Bitcoin, everyone who runs the Bitcoin node software, so that it’s extraordinarily expensive and difficult to break with consensus.
In addition to that, Bitcoin is architected to be unstoppable. Bitcoin has operated flawlessly without any downtime for well over nine years and only had two short interruptions in its entire history, in its earliest days. Not even Google, Apple, Facebook, any bank, or VISA, can claim that level of reliable uptime. The same architecture that prevents it from going down also prevents anyone from barring anyone else from sending or receiving a transaction.
And other elements of this architecture also ensures nobody can tamper with the records of which bitcoins belong to which people.
It’s all really so intricate and detailed that many people (myself included) spend years studying the extraordinary aspects of Bitcoin’s architecture and continue to find fascinating nuances that surprise and delight. Bitcoin is so unique that we find more similarities in many aspects of its design to life itself than to other man-made organizations or inventions.
Just like Google, you don’t have to know any of the above to use Bitcoin. It will work whether you study it or not, whether you understand it or not. You are advised to take certain precautions to ensure you don’t do something that will lead to a loss of your bitcoins, and, if you have a lot of wealth stored in Bitcoin, it is advisable to take precautions that themselves may require some complexity. But outside of those specific tasks, Bitcoin remains a simple protocol that is incredibly straightforward to use compared to what is actually happening under the surface.
Do you remember a time when searching Google required that you enter your entire search criteria? This was when Google didn’t anticipate what it was you were trying to type and suggest the entire phrase you have in mind after you only typed two or three characters. Man, were those ever tough times. I’m glad we never have to go back there.
What about when the Internet was so slow that it took ten minutes to download a single image? Remember that? Or when you had to connect to it using your telephone line, and disconnect when you were done so you could use the phone? And this was because you didn’t have a mobile phone because they didn’t even exist! Back then the word “text” was just a noun. Those were the early days of the Internet. And it was nothing like the easy to use interfaces and tools we have today But it’s actually hard to remember such times even though they weren’t really all that long ago.
We’re kind of at the same stage with Bitcoin now. There are constant improvements going on, especially on the ease-of-use front. Everything is getting faster, easier, and even cheaper. Most importantly, all of these advancements are happening without users having to do anything at all really. In part, it’s because the Internet itself has gotten so good, fast, cheap, and reliable. But in larger part, it’s because there’s so much incentive for so many smart people to work on making Bitcoin better and easier. Whether that incentive is to make money, or to help usher in an era of easy-to-use, universally inclusive money, or some combination of both, it is drawing tremendous talent and capital into Bitcoin. The Bitcoin of tomorrow will feel very different compared to the Bitcoin of today. It will be much easier.
The easiest to use things are the those that just work without us thinking about them. We often don’t realize how hard something was to use until we have the easier alternative. Today we don’t think at all about how long it used to take to get a weather forecast: that we used to have to occupy the phone line to get a desktop computer to connect to the Internet, to find a website that we would then have to type our city’s name into, and then wait for a page to load. Instead, we now just lift our mobile phone up to our face, and maybe swipe up with our finger, and the rest is taken care of. Or maybe we simply speak aloud, “Hey Siri/Google, what’s the weather?” and a voice responds appropriately (usually at least).
We aren’t at that level of invisible easiness yet with money, but we’re on our way, thanks to Bitcoin. The world in which you have to change your money from one currency to another depending on where you are or where your counterparty to a transaction is, or where your money’s purchasing power dissolves while you store it, or where you have to hire experts to make bets on complicated instruments just so that it will be worth the same or more later than what it is today, or where you have to wait days for cheques to clear, or pay high fees, or consume investment media — that world is going to fade away and be replaced by one with easy-to-use money. This is all thanks to Bitcoin and its extraordinary ecosystem of technologies, people, incentives, and the unstoppable human spirit of making things better and solving problems we find ourselves facing by turning them into opportunities. It’s a bright future. And it couldn’t come at a better time.
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Tomer Strolight is Editor-in-Chief at Swan Bitcoin. He completed bachelors and masters degrees at Toronto’s Schulich School of Business. Tomer spent 25 years operating businesses in digital media and private equity before turning his attention full time to Bitcoin. Tomer wrote the book “Why Bitcoin?” a collection of 27 short articles each explaining a different facet of this revolutionary new monetary system. Tomer also wrote and narrated the short film “Bitcoin Is Generational Wealth”. He has appeared on many Bitcoin podcasts including What Bitcoin Did, The Stephan Livera Podcast, Bitcoin Rapid Fire, Twice Bitten, the Bitcoin Matrix and many more.
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