A Narrative Untainted by Illusions of Fact – Cointelegraph Journal
Understanding Bitcoin as one thing static — as some ‘factor’ with a solidified id — just isn’t understanding Bitcoin in any respect.
Bitcoin just isn’t being. Bitcoin is turning into. The perpetuation of its id just isn’t terminal however quite instrumental to one thing else. Bitcoin maintains id in order that it might probably serve its that means. And, like id, that means is malleable and exists solely within the hivemind that tasks it.
A extra revealing means to consider Bitcoin then is to not perceive it as a bodily assemble — as a decentralized fee community working on a cryptographic protocol — however as narrative. And don’t simply consider it as narrative in probably the most simple that means of the phrase, as a illustration or imitation of actuality or a cultural artifact, but additionally consider its deeper facets — i.e. narrative as being constitutive of consciousness itself.
Narrative is not only as our thoughts’s means of describing being, but additionally as its means of expressing and creating the probabilities of turning into. In different phrases, narratives aren’t merely representations or imitations of actuality — they are actuality. Creator and writer of Epsilon Concept Ben Hunt, whose concepts we will go to once more later, defines the idea of narrative as “a totally postmodern concept. What I imply by that is that Narrative is a social development, a malleable public illustration of malleable public statements that lacks any inherent Fact with a capital T[…]”
Whereas the epistemology of Fact with a capital T is past the scope of this piece, and whereas certainly the sensible thinkers at Epsilon Concept are by no means too removed from the reality (no matter it might imply) once they opine about narratives, there’s an implied false dichotomy between ‘narrative’ and ‘actuality’ within the above definition that mustn’t stay unaddressed. If we select to know narratives as mere cultural artifacts — as nothing however merchandise of our idle minds — then sure, narratives can undoubtedly be deemed “unfaithful” or “disconnected from observable details.”
But when we take the opposite, extra unorthodox strategy, and take into account narratives as being constitutive of consciousness itself, then the true energy of narratives — as creators and destroyers of worlds — turns into evident.
And, to be completely clear, this isn’t simply semantic hair-splitting. The purpose is to persuade you that, for all that issues, the narrative is all there may be. It’s narratives that make the world go spherical. There isn’t some occult deeper layer past the narrative the place Fact with a capital T resides. Even when there may be, we now have no entry to it. To borrow a quote from cognitive scientist Joscha Bach: “Our expertise of the world that we’re embedded on just isn’t a secret direct wire to the bodily actuality. Bodily actuality is a bizarre quantum graph that we are able to by no means expertise and get entry to.”
All we get to expertise — as Paul Ricœur, the thinker who’s given us probably the most complete characterization of narrative so far argues — are phenomena “emploted” with narrative. If we are able to’t, by definition, expertise the noumenon, and we by no means get to flee our mind’s simulacrum of actuality, then all we’re actually left with is… narrative.
Altering Narratives or Altering Bitcoin?
All mainstream discourse round Bitcoin narratives is laden with the false underlying assumption that the Bitcoin protocol is one way or the other categorically totally different from the Bitcoin narrative.
Narratives change, Bitcoin doesn’t, individuals assume.
However in actuality, this isn’t the case. It’s the identical blunder in pondering that presupposes the false dichotomy between narrative and actuality we talked about earlier. It’s not the code or the protocol that constitutes what we conceive to be Bitcoin, it’s the narrative that’s hooked up to it. Bitcoin’s code may be, and has been, modified many occasions earlier than, all with out triggering any shifts in narrative. The truth is, out of the few radical shifts in Bitcoin’s id which have occurred over the previous eleven years — none had been brought on by modifications to the code or the foundations of the protocol.
Certainly, it was all the time the opposite means round: when the narratives change — your entire nature and id of the asset modifications. It’s nearly as if the asset is nothing however the underlying by-product of the narrative.
Narratives dictate how we understand Bitcoin, and once they shift, our conduct modifications, which then, in flip, modifications the entire sport: the way in which your entire business operates, the companies, the shoppers, the laws, the enforcement — all the pieces.
Good proof of this phenomenon may be discovered once we take a better take a look at Bitcoin’s swap from digital money to digital gold. From 2013 to early 2017 the overwhelming majority of bitcoiners seen and needed to make use of Bitcoin primarily as a way of change and secondarily as a speculative asset. Although Bitcoin was simply as scarce then as it’s now, hardly ever did anyone hodl it with conviction or consider it as a financial savings know-how or a superior retailer of worth in any significant means. Bitcoiners had been obsessive about with the ability to purchase cups of espresso with it, and the vast majority of the discourse on the time revolved round how low cost the transactions had been and the best way to persuade as many retailers to simply accept Bitcoin as fee.
Then, someday round late 2017, early 2018, when the legendary bull rally got here and the transaction charges skyrocketed, what could possibly be sensed brewing underneath the floor lastly burst onto the scene. First steadily, then all of a sudden, and with none modifications to the protocol, Bitcoin turned digital gold.
Okay, okay. It didn’t actually turn out to be digital gold in a single day; the digital gold narrative was, as a matter of reality, gaining traction even way back to 2015, however for all it issues, it wasn’t till the digital money proselytes migrated to Bitcoin Money in mid-2017 that it actually turned mainstream.
The purpose is, at present’s Bitcoin is on no account form or kind a foreign money — just because no person appears at it in these phrases any longer. Regardless of all the pieces being the identical on the protocol layer, no person of their proper thoughts would spend Bitcoin as foreign money at present. And why is that?
It’s as a result of the narrative inalterably transmuted Bitcoin from result in gold. Bitcoin went from being one kind of asset to a different — from a digital foreign money or a medium of change to commodity cash and a retailer of worth. And this course of, which might hardly be interpreted as something aside from narrative alchemy, resulted in precise transmutation of the asset, and never simply in some superficial shift in group sentiment.
In 2018, an unbiased Bitcoin researcher going by the pseudonym Hasu wrote an excellent piece on the same matter titled Unpacking Bitcoin’s Social Contract which cuts proper to the core of this matter:
“Bitcoin’s guidelines are made on the social layer, and the software program solely automates it. The place the social contract and the protocol layer diverge, the protocol layer is flawed — all the time. A failure of the protocol layer to briefly implement the foundations of the contract has no everlasting bearing on the validity of the contract itself.”
Bingo. Bitcoin’s id is cast on the social layer after which is however transcribed onto the protocol layer. The social realm is the place Bitcoin lives and the place Fact with capital T is set. However, this now begs the query: who makes the foundations? Who controls the narrative?
Narratives, in any case, have to come back from someplace — they don’t come up spontaneously, from the void. They both develop organically, by the unnoted dissemination of the underlying composite memes, or they’re created by fiat. So, the place did Bitcoin’s retailer of worth narrative come from? Did we arrive at it by advantage of inertia, or was it maybe a product of manufactured consent?
If we flip to the Bitcoin group, at present the vast majority of it appears to imagine that the at present prevailing retailer of worth narrative emerged organically, as a direct results of Bitcoin’s protocol design. Even Satoshi himself used analogies of gold and gold mining to elucidate Bitcoin, and what’s gold actually if not a retailer of worth?
And whereas many pundits take into account this imaginative and prescient of Bitcoin self-evident, it bears reminding that, when it comes to narrative, it wasn’t all the time this manner. Bitcoin was for lengthy envisaged as a financial weapon — a weapon poised to undermine Caesar, take what’s his, and render it again to the individuals.
Bitcoin was a revolutionary, disruptive, and significantly harmful concept. It is just just lately that the overarching mythos modified from “overcoming the monster” to “rags to riches,” or in crypto phrases “when Lambo?”
In a 2019 podcast interview, Ben Hunt, talked about earlier, made some very compelling contrarian factors about Bitcoin’s altering narrative that maybe the Bitcoin group ought to take into account extra significantly. To be extra particular, Ben thinks that Bitcoin’s newfound digital gold story is a purposefully construed narrative entice.
“Bitcoiners are taking up the function that gold homeowners had for the final 50 years. It’s a job the place you end up now primarily hoping for financial collapse […] You’re being balkanized; it’s the true unique that means of the ghetto — the place you’re having this neighborhood constructed for you, and also you’re like ‘Ow look how good that is!’ and you then transfer in and understand ‘Ow ow ow, now I’m right here — I’m the grumpy previous man that yells at clouds now.”
It’s a depressing option to dwell, says Ben. And in some ways, he’s proper. We’re like frogs in boiling water; we had been lured into the pot by the promise of riches and now we’re trapped in a reductionist narrative that fails to inform the world the entire story of Bitcoin. It’s an enormous step down in ambition. From a optimistic change motion, the group reworked right into a bunch of cynics ready for dangerous issues to occur solely to be confirmed proper.
Maybe Ben is appropriate. Perhaps the powers that be have an even bigger say in Bitcoin’s story than we’d prefer to assume. Maybe the group believes what it believes at present as a result of its consent has been manufactured. In spite of everything, the digital gold narrative is preserving the established order — not difficult it. The governments of the world are unfazed by it. What might’ve been the largest menace to their financial sovereignty has been neutralized by a mere change in narrative. Coincidence? Who is aware of. Nevertheless it’s actually one thing to consider.
Bitcoin is approaching an ontological inflection level
No matter what anybody thinks of Ben’s narrative inquiry into Bitcoin and the origins of the shop of worth narrative, a very powerful level to contemplate right here is that Bitcoin’s nonetheless an uncrystallized concept. Bitcoin remains to be turning into — nonetheless trying to find its last narrative kind.
The presently dominant narrative is however certainly one of many narratives competing for the soul of Bitcoin. Bitcoin was born out of the 2008 monetary disaster, and its current id is closely influenced — if not totally molded — by it. However this may increasingly not essentially be the ultimate kind Bitcoin appropriates sooner or later. Sound cash, world foreign money, world base settlement layer, nameless and fungible digital money — these are all visions of Bitcoin that will someday resurface if the precise situations emerge.
Now that we’re going through the worst financial disaster within the final 100 years, Bitcoin’s retailer of worth narrative is more and more being known as into query, which signifies that its day might come sooner quite than later. Central banks are printing an order of magnitude extra fiat foreign money now than they ever did, and Bitcoin, by all accounts and measures, is meant to thrive and prosper in such macroeconomic situations.
That is the narrative make-or-break level.
If Bitcoin doesn’t carry out nicely as an uncorrelated monetary asset and it doesn’t ascend (or no less than preserve) its worth in fiat-denominated phrases, then the shop of worth narrative will shatter and Bitcoin should both reappropriate a number of the different, already current competing narratives, or reinvent itself into one thing else totally. If, however, Bitcoin succeeds as a retailer of worth, then this narrative will cement and assume a comparatively secure kind.
No matter narrative Bitcoin assumes after it crosses the occasion horizon, it will likely be one which defines it for years (if not many years) to come back.