The Ledger is Already Distributed

The ledger is already distributed. All that is left to do is connect it.

Much of our thinking around distributed ledger technology (DLT) is backward. Personal information should be stored locally on personal hardware devices, and served to those who request it, not stored in centralized databases under an associated, yet disparate, user id.

Public blockchains, like one for land or car registry, for instance, or any other transaction for that matter, should be the repository for the associations and outcomes of said transaction. For example, a hash on a public blockchain may reflect that KEY XYZ transferred TOKEN 123 to KEY ABC. How much about KEY XYZ, TOKEN 123, and KEY ABC is made available is up to those who have a stake in the transaction choose to reveal.

All this not only already exists but also occurs in both our digital and real life. The missing link is connecting the distributed ledger of our personal information with the public ledger of our social interactions with other entities.

Blockchain Eliminates the Need for Intermediaries

The reason no one can find a business model for blockchain is because blockchain eliminates most business models.

The strongest use case is the simplest, and the one most often overlooked. The beauty of the blockchain is in its decentralization and the empowerment that decentralization confers. No longer is anyone forced to defer their personal sovereignty to that of some central authority. On the blockchain, each of us can remain autonomous while still participating in the commons.

Participation is the currency of our decentralized future. Want to join a network? Then you must host the network, if only that very data you desire to contribute.

No longer will you provide your personal data to some third party, to host and serve back to you at their convenience. Each individual will maintain their virtual identity on their own “cloud”, sharing it with other networks when and how they see fit. My feed — photos, messages, interactions — will live on my device or personal server, which will serve it to those that call it through the Facebook of the Future, in only such a manner as I have enabled. My funds, my titles of ownership, my health history, will all reside with me, to be called and served however, and only, as I choose.

The validity of these assets will be assured by the distributed ledger. There will be no disputing who holds title to a piece of property. No government or title company will be required to hold or confer it. Record of its ownership will be immutably maintained on every computer in the world.

Our problem with the blockchain is not that use cases for it cannot be found. To the contrary. Its problem is that it changes everything. It makes old methods obsolete, and any attempt to create a use case within the context of our legacy systems falls apart in the face of this fact.

The problem lies not with the blockchain. It lies with us.

We Must Not Surrender the Blockchain

Blockchain is a technology with monumental potential.

Unfortunately it is falling prey to the same myopia that has hampered human progress since its beginning.

The overwhelming thing that blockchain provides is cohesion. For the first time in our history we can visualize our collective activity, as a species, in the same way as nature views us, and itself, as a unified, interdependent body.

From space, the earth is a single entity.

This perspective is what blockchain promises to be. That is, if we don’t allow our baser instincts to co-opt it.

I read an article in Outside Magazine years ago about CFCs. There was one passage that really struck me. In it, the author crossed the border to Metamoros, Mexico, following the trail of bootleg R-12. Use of the gas was illegal, but recharging old automotive A/C systems remained a thriving black market. At one point, the Mexican smuggler, who could not fathom why this was an issue, released some of the banned chemical into the air, saying “see, no problem.”

If you compartmentalize, then you can externalize. To the Mexican smuggler, right then and there, CFCs caused no harm, but we know that they cause ozone depletion, with global effects. For millennia, and still today, this is how human beings have interacted with the world. We consider the portion that concerns us, directly, and we disregard the rest.

It is exactly this tendency, and practice, that has lead to climate change, environmental degradation, species extinction, human exploitation.

In years past, we had an excuse, because we were literally incapable of comprehending relationships, and our place in them, that were beyond the immediate. But modern technology has changed all that. Now we have satellites that can image the entire globe, and a networked communication system connecting nearly everyone on earth.

Wikipedia is amazing, not because of any individual article, or even all of them together, but rather because they all are linked, just as they are in real life. Blockchain promises to bring limpidity, not only to the whole of human knowledge, but to all of human activity as well.

On the blockchain, pure transparency assures complete security.

No one can steal your identity, because it is immutable, fixed permanently in relation to that of your parents, and their parents before them. Once on chain, virtual reality ceases to exist. Instead, reality is virtualized.

Reality is. That we portray or imagine it to be different does not change it, so there is no reason to conceal it, unless it be nefarious. No one should fear placing the entirety of their existence on the blockchain, at least not for fear of others. On chain, the only thing one has to fear is one’s own self.

Imagine if there was a public distributed blockchain ledger during the Holocaust.

Would the world have stood idly by while the Nazis registered people at concentration camps and stockpiled poisonous gas? This is the level of transparency and degree of scrutiny that the blockchain is able to provide.

The purpose of the blockchain is not to build Dapps and make initial coin offerings. Its purpose isn’t to create more tools of inequity, division, and surveillance. It is to remove the shackles of preferentiality and injustice, to exorcise the power of dominion, to enable self-sovereignty, to make us each accountable to the unified global community of which we are, incontrovertibly, a part.

There Are No Private Blockchains in Nature

Reality is a distributed ledger.

When it comes to blockchain and cryptocurrency, we seem to have gotten ahead of ourselves. In the race to capture what we can of the stream of capital rushing into the space, we have failed to consider its greater implications, seeking to reconcile this radically new precedent to our current paradigm rather than enable it to realize its true potential.

It’s time to take a step back and come to grips with what this new technology really means for humanity.

Let’s start with the fundamentals.

The world is a finite place, easily transcribed by simple, albeit vast, math. There is only so much land, water, air, minerals, solar radiation, we could go on and on. We like to think of it as boundless, unfathomable, but it is not. It is limited and calculable.

This physical reality exists in a framework of space and time. In space, it can be organized and reorganized, moved hither and fro. In time, it moves linearly in one direction, as far as we can tell.

So does the blockchain.

It is frightening to think that there is only so much in the world to go around. Is there enough for me? It becomes daunting to consider, so we don’t. Instead, we assume it is infinite, and we devise schemes to try to obtain as much of it as possible for ourselves.

Fair enough. That is one way to go about it. And you could probably employ blockchain to help you accomplish that.

But that is not what blockchain is.

Blockchain is DNA.

Blockchain is a way to transcribe the composition and configuration of our known reality over time. Do with it as you like, at its most essential, that is what it is.

The question then becomes, who owns a map of the universe?

From the perspective of the purist, this question is again answered by the technology. Because it is decentralized, we each control our portion of that which makes up the whole. By the fact of our very existence, and our contribution to the collective same, we are all sovereign actors upon it. No greater authority conveys that legitimacy upon us, though many presume to do so. It exists a priori.

So if I am master of my own domain, assuming that to be a hash of my genetic sequence, my birth date, and my family tree, who is master of the commons?

Ah, there’s the rub.

Let us turn again to the fundamentals.

The commons, in our case the biosphere, exists, as does all that it contains. For these purposes, let’s separate those into two categories, life-seeking and non-life-seeking. Because we’re talking about humans, we’ll focus on the life-seeking.

Since the biosphere exists sans any predominance, each and every life-seeking entity has full right to the entirety of it. This gives rise to competition, which is the mode in which mankind has functioned up to this point.

Competition has created the framework of hierarchy, authority, legitimacy, and title that we understand to be the meta reality of today. Past competitions have set forth who controls the ledger and who does not. What gets written in it and what does not.

I suppose blockchain could be used to see this persist.

It would, however, be a poor use of its potential.

Even if we changed nothing else, placing the entirety of this record on the blockchain, and recording every transaction henceforth, would absolutely revolutionize the world. Gone would be the opportunity for duplicity, ambiguity, and manipulation, let alone the cost, associated with our current system of registry and transaction. In its place, transparency, self-sovereignty, and empowerment. 

This is the purpose of blockchain.

To progress the human enterprise from a reductive endeavor into a collaborative one. To shine a light into the dark areas where avarice has lived. To connect humanity through a single, common thread. To realize the ideal that is the world wide web.

Which, by the way, is how the world is actually organized in the first place.

The Human Race is Over

Bitcoin is dead, and has been ever since it was assigned a value relative to fiat currency, which has no inherent value beyond that as a medium of exchange. Really, Bitcoin was dead before that, because once all the coins are mined, how do you incentivize people to maintain the ledger, particularly when it becomes more resource intensive over time?

So what are we going to do with this knowledge? Sit back and wait for the crash?

The crash is not coming.

We cannot afford for it to, because the system is so complex that no one has any idea what is causal to what anymore. We’re simply protecting the downside, which is total implosion. The markets have been hacked by algorithms, so they can no longer be trusted. Big data is the new battlefront. Plan for infinite monetary growth, whether that is dollars or coin. Because it is meaningless.

This is the mentality already in employ in Russia and China. They care nothing about monetary policy, except in relation to USD. Within their own borders it is of no consequence — the state simply demands activity, initiates it, or creates money to motivate it as needed.

Hyperinflation is a chimera in this new reality, both because the total quantity of money is at once inconsequential and unable to be known, and because it leads to an impossible situation, which is the barter of goods at real value. It will never be allowed to happen, or more to the point, we should hope that it does.

The American Dream is defunct.

Now there is only hegemony. But rather than the dominance of one nation state over another, it is now a global dominion over each individual’s own state of being.

So what is to be done? Buy gold and guns and wait for the collapse? Certainly not, because that is never coming. Buy Bitcoin futures? To what end?

The value of Bitcoin was in its immutable nature, just as the value of stock was in minimizing the risk to any one person for a venture that many deemed necessary and important, just as the value of a bond was that it allowed a multitude to fund a common benefit that none alone could bring to fruition. Any derivative of this value is worthless, because it fails to provide any realizable motivation.

The trouble that the world faces today is that it fails to accept that we have moved beyond these primitive tools. In fact, a majority have forgotten that they are indeed tools, thinking them certainties. But they are not, able to be changed or abandoned altogether.

Thus we see Bitcoin reverted into something more familiar, rather than investigated for its potential as an entirely novel approach. People are buying it, but no one is employing it.

So what’s the point?

One point is that it is motivating the investment of our best intelligence into making it useful and deployable at scale. Blockchain based on proof of useful work will be one outcome — a distributed accounting of quantity, ownership, and allocation of everything known to man, secured by the need to collectively harness and effectively deploy the computing power of the world.

But again, to what end? Because the only thing that really matters is what we are doing, not the tools we are using to do it. Blockchain itself doesn’t contain value. The fact that it engenders trust without the need for a central authority does. The coins themselves don’t hold a thing, except perhaps the confidence in ourselves and others to achieve outcomes.

We have arrived at a point beyond scarcity, a circumstance for which none of our current systems are prepared. In an attempt to resolve this reality to our legacy construct, we are creating artificial scarcity. Bitcoin is an example of this. It is both scarce and consumptive by design. Stripped of any real value, at best all it can hope for is to reach its designed limit and inevitable demise.

What is required, more than any technology or organizational solution, is that we unshackle ourselves from the notion that there is anything left for us to fear.

America is no longer in competition with Russia or China, nor any other nation or people on Earth.

There is no difference between any of them. Every country in the world runs the same operating system. There are no Macs, and certainly no Linux. Bitcoin was Linux, until it became Red Hat.

Our goal, as a species, ist to ensure the well being of every single member therein, as well as the machinery and framework that serves to sustain them. It is with that in mind that we design the operating system, create the tools, and employ the same. The entirety of their value is found in what leverage they provide toward actually achieving that goal.

Before money, there was not this need to motivate a member of the tribe to act justly and contribute their full effort for the benefit of the group. That motivation came from the internal and external dynamic between the biological imperative toward personal survival and the beneficial network effect of broad collaboration. Those motivations have value, because they serve both the individual and the common good. Money is an abstraction of that value and, without the trust that it can engender similar motivation, utterly worthless.

Before blockchain, there was trust.

Bitcoin was an attempt to outsource trust to the cloud. As a tool for documenting the existence, title, and transfer of property by way of an interconnected, instantaneous, and transparent distributed ledger, it is beyond compare. In its current form, as an energy squandering substitute for an already outmoded construct, it is no better, and many ways worse, than money.

We do not live in the same world as before, and we cannot apply the same thinking, the systems of organization, motivation, production, and exchange. We have completely terraformed the Earth, forever altered its physical, chemical, and biological makeup. We have eliminated scarcity and constructed a global nervous system linking every human actor, and many non-human ones, into a single, gigantic brain. While people scramble to develop AI, they fail to recognize it is already in existence. Who knows what it is thinking?

It is time to free ourselves from the past and move boldly into our collective future.

We are all members of the same tribe, and accountable to one another. Give freely. The human race is over. We have emerged victorious.