Let’s talk about bitcoin, toxicity and includes.
(Kid, my Twitter feed is going to have fun in the next few days.)
First, let me take a stand: I stand with the same people, especially women, who have recently been called abusive by members of the community and have shown gross and abusive behavior as proof of the community’s exclusion. These people who believe in potential cryptocurrency technology but feel discouraged to believe that they belong to the dominant white male white community. If this technology is to realize its global potential, the community associated with it must deal with this problem.
But the real point of this column is not only to protect these visitors. This debunk to one of the more common positions adopted by those who take the trouble with their complaints, especially on Twitter. In doing so, I hope to emphasize how important the concepts of “community” and “culture” are for the healthy development of encryption technology and the growing ecosystem around it.
The line most often thrown by those who call it discontent is that the biscuit is nothing more than a technology, a tool, and that there is no point in attaching a value judgment to human behavior. Bitcoin is immoral, non-political and uncivilized, the argument continues, and like any technology used by both good and bad people.
These commentators, who warn of a political threat based on freedom of expression, will recommend the victim to face the bad actors directly, but refrain from taking over the community.
A perfect example of the genre came from attorney Bernstein Byrne.
Clever, yes. But it is very helpful because the given examples do not share parallel reference points.
Byrne’s “hammer” refers strictly to steel implement that tradesmen use. On the other hand, people who complain about “bitcoin” clearly use the word in a much broader context than when referring only to code, to those and to zero that are the bitcoin protocol. They talk naturally about the wider ecosystem and the community gathered around the idea of bitcoin.
So let’s compare the terms, right? We can make any of these nouns valid for the word “community”.
While it may sound silly to talk about the “fetish community”, there may be groups of obsessive-obsessed souls who are debating questions of design and ease of use at home meetings in chat rooms. If so, I suppose this community will probably also be remembered.
But the real problem is that such a fetish community is going to be much less important for the future design and evolution of hammer technology than the community of bitcoin is. I’m not an expert, but I do not see much change in hammer technology that have taken place for centuries and I’m not sure people expect much in the future. As such, we do not see much jockeying among users to ensure that suggestions for hammer upgrades are implemented and standardized in their preferred design.
In contrast, open source technology behind bitcoin is in a constant state of evolution. It is, by definition, in development, and therefore we are talking about engineers who work on it as “developers”, not “custodians”. As such, there is a constant struggle of interests over who gets to change the code. Appendix A: Discussion of Block Size.
The argument against, that those who do not like the process can only fork code, as the big blockers did, and establish their new community, do not cut it for me. Bitcoin is the brand that matters. Each newcomer will struggle to achieve the same network effects. Secession is simply not viable for those who like the current design, but do not like how its future is set.
Also, is there a “hammer ecosystem”? Maybe. But beyond the manufacturers of nails, and possibly steel and rubber or wood suppliers, you can hardly call it a complex ecosystem.
Bitcoin, on the other hand, who purports to reinvent the global money system, has attracted a huge variety of technology providers, all of whom have competing interests in how they are shaped, managed and marketed to the world. I’m not only talking about business applications built on top of it, but also the developers of related encryption, payment channel, smart contract and other essential technologies, all of which are themselves in a constant state of flux.
(I am guessing that exhibition halls on fetish conventions do not have exactly the same spread of offerings as cryptocurrency events such as consensus).
To say that bitcoin is just a tool, is like saying that music is just a system for ordering different sounds.
Money = community
When Paul Vigna and I wrote The Age of Encryption, we spent a lot of time writing about the emergence of the community that had formed around Bitquin, which we saw as the foundation for its success.