by Michelle Varron (Last updated November 2018)

I. The Chasm Between Unscientific and Scientific

Isaac  Newton is often referred to as the first of the modern physicists and  the last of the alchemists. He lived at the border of superstition and  science, studying texts on material transmutation and alchemical culture  that would be considered by today's standards complete and utter  rubbish, while being a member of his day's elite scientific circles, and  quite intuitively, using his alchemical leanings as the foundations of  modern theories of physics. The famous story about the apple falling on  him, however compelling, is untrue. Instead, Newton derived his  gravitational theory from less practical inspirations. He was inspired  by the configuration of the hearth of the Salomon Temple. From this, he  formulated the idea of universal gravitation — likening the hearth and  the disciples gathered around it to a kind of universal force that  attracts all matter.

Newton's extrapolation of scientific concepts  from cultish superstition and esoteric thinking led to the foundations  of modern physics. By using alchemical concepts as a springboard, he  imagined new fundamental principles that were not only measurable but  reproducible. He was caught between his passion for the mysterious,  occult and magical, and his scientific vigor — a prodigious gift for  deciphering codes, unraveling mathematical formulae and discovering  patterns from observation.

Just as Newton was a man of both belief  and science, today's crypto-evangelists could be considered a bridge  between the past and the future: born into a money system that is  largely propped up by belief in states and authoritarian figures, and  witnesses to a new form of currency — one that does not rely on trust or  symbols, but rather the laws of mathematics, and yes, physics itself.

Of course I am talking about Bitcoin.

Bitcoin  exists at a time when we still practice the vestiges of a kind of  monetary alchemy. A time when gold is still the leading store of value.  And where money is printed liberally in an inflationary model. (Who  needs alchemy when you can simply use paper?)

We are in a  "Newtonian birth" of monetary evolution, where the old exists but is  quickly giving way to the new. And where the new — the creation of  math-based currency — arose from unscientific, even traumatic,  circumstances. Many would cite the timing of bitcoin's release as  reactionary to the global financial crisis. Just like the alchemists, we  have labored for centuries to create new methods of forging wealth,  relying on symbolism, cultish ideas and beliefs, working back the errors  in our computations and compensating with various economic governance  mechanisms to manage what is essentially a crude tool. Like the  physicists, we have finally arrived at a mathematical solution.

By  "we" I refer to us as a collective civilization, but really it is  bitcoin's pseudonymous inventor, Satoshi Nakamoto, who has skyrocketed  us to this stage. Another example of the intelligence and determination  of one mind being far more important and influential than the tide of  groupthink and collective belief that can often lead us astray. One  person (or entity) has catapulted us into a new era.

But this is  only the beginning. Money — true computational money, scientific money —  is barely at its infancy. The turmoil in crypto markets today (writing  this right in the middle of the bloodbath of November 2018) signifies  the uncertainty of the cryptosphere. Still infected by old notions and  anxiety or greed-propelled systems of speculation, while we are  attempting, bravely, to move forward, yet the old psychology  predominates.

This is a good time to step back for a moment —  really step back — and look at the timeline from a civilizational  perspective. We are a juncture where we have potentially invented, or  are at the cusp of, true civilizational money. Why do I say this?

Money  is traditionally tribal. It is the attribution of tribal qualities and  values towards a material store of value or medium of exchange, and  today is reflected as the tribalism of nations, for which there are  different currencies representing different societies. For tribal money  to succeed, the society needs to flourish. Social rivalries and  competition leads to the sinister side of tribal currencies — used as  the vehicle to fund wars and capture resources for the tribe.

For  the first time, with bitcoin, money has not just become non-tribal,  meaning, not affiliated with any government, nation or group, but  completely agnostic to its user. It has crossed social barriers to  become a medium of exchange for Homo Sapiens, regardless  of nationality, race, gender or belief system. It is a non-divisive  currency, a truly global one, that does not rely on any kind of alchemy  to prop it up. It, instead, functions exclusively along the lines of  mathematics and physics, employing the fundamentals of how the universe  works.

Now how valuable is that! If we pause for a moment, and see  what we truly have here, we will realize that we have set in motion  something that could transform us fundamentally, because it is so close  to the true laws that govern us in the first place. (Not the ones we  invented.)

This important step in human civilization has been largely overlooked for what it really is.

The  revolution combining game theory, PoW (Proof-of-Work), cryptography, distributed systems, peer-to-peer transactions and decentralization, is  embodied in one invention: bitcoin.

Bitcoin in its essence, is a  scientific breakthrough — pure scientific money — without concern for  opinion. The most fascinating thing about it, to me, is its use of pure  tools — the most fundamental of them all — to create what is money's most truthful form to date. Satoshi Nakamoto thought back to first  principles, and answered the question, "What is money?" and perhaps, equally important, "What is the money of the future?"

II. Our Time: the End of Monetary Alchemy

When are  we? Despite our best efforts, we are not quite fully in the age of scientific money yet. Rather, we are at the tumultuous end of  unscientific currency.

We are building the foundations, and the  foundations are costly. Creating the seed matrix for bitcoin costs  significant investment in machinery, computational power and energy. It  took (and still is taking) tremendous effort to scale socially. It is taking even more time, effort and resources to convert the current  economic system into one that includes bitcoin in its foundations. One  does not simply destroy old money in favor of shiny new discoveries  regardless of the human and social cost. The tearing down is painful,  and there will be growing pains, pushback from institutions,  negotiations and trojan horses on both sides.

Our time marks a crucial point of survival.

Image credits: Image by Esther Jiao. Colorized by Erexon Rana.

III. A Future Ancestor

One  day, in the not-so-distant future, energy science will catch up with cryptocurrencies. I believe that to change money permanently, not one  but two revolutions need to happen: one already has — a cryptographic universal form of money, bitcoin; the other, not yet — cheap and  boundless energy.

These two will tremendously accelerate the  Earth economy into a state of new abundance as never before. It will be a  perfect exponential reaction where finance will enjoy nearly zero  friction.

We will have the best of both worlds: distributed,  seamless, truthful money that can be beamed from any satellite or  transported beyond the planet, and the clean energy required to power  the math that protects it.

I am confident that we are standing on a  crucial foundational event for a new civilizational era to emerge. We  are now in possession of a new form of economic self-management — one  that does not care about the political flavor of the day; one that can  traverse geographic (and even planetary) gaps; one that can take us  farthest from where we started.

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About The Author

Michelle has been an active bitcoin advocate since 2012. Apart from her entrepreneurial ventures in the crypto/blockchain space, she enjoys kung  fu and writing science fiction. Follow her on Twitter.