10 years rolls by so quickly. Before you know it, your little cryptocurrency has gone from a screaming infant baby that needs constant attention to a strapping young so-and-so with aspirations for world domination.
Did the anonymous Nakamoto know what (s)he was releasing? Did they realize just how much of an impact Bitcoin would have on the world? Despite the ups and downs, the volatility and scams and hyper-partisan bickering about which coin is the true crypto to rule all other cryptos, the ever-looming question of what cryptocurrency’s long-term prospects are, it’s impossible to deny Bitcoin has made an indelible and unmistakable impression upon the world.
The concept of money has been re-examined, evaluated, and measured against the needs of an increasingly global, yet also increasingly fractured social framework. Even the almighty dollar has been given a glance or two under the microscope and discovered to be merely the invention and mass delusion of a society that cannot survive without constructing fictions. Value and wealth have themselves undergone scrutiny, and found to be, in certain contexts, in the eye of the beholder. And most of all, it’s been seen to be ephemeral–the blink of an eye can wipe out your portfolio, and just as quickly raise it up again, which begs the question: what is money if not a system of trust?
Trust, or the lack thereof, is the bedrock of Satoshi’s invention. What Bitcoin offers is the ability to disregard that need in favor of a system that relies on network consensus, using the strength of the network to both ratify transactions and withstand attacks against it. It’s a unique proposition that implies some intriguing parallels with our own social constructs.
Decentralization and the triumph of the blockchain (and Satoshi’s inventive use of public ledger encryption to solve the Byzantine Generals problem) has ostensibly been the keystone of the explosion of cryptocurrency into the public consciousness. With it came the inevitable wolves of crypto, preying on the weak and uneducated to scam millions of dollars and force the legitimate community to grapple with the question of balancing freedom and anonymity with the need for regulations, government oversight, and consumer protections. Some of these questions are very much up in the air. Some may not be answered for years to come.
But in light of those things, we must also look at the innovations, the progressive questioning of centralized banking and financial wizardry keeping the global economy afloat, the exploration of new methods of transmitting money cheaply, quickly, and in a genuine peer-to-peer fashion, without the need for banks or other third parties, just as Satoshi envisioned.
We’re not “there” yet, as there is a place you can only look toward, never achieve fully. Because innovation and new ideas only come from questioning the status quo. The maintainers of Bitcoin’s code grapple with this paradox; even with the instruments of financial independence and freedom in our hands, we find new shackles, new problems, new challenges. And we’ll continue to do so, which means that Satoshi’s vision is being followed.
I’m not much of a disciple, but I do think it’s fitting, on this tenth birthday, to think about what’s come so far in such a relatively short amount of time, and to imagine, if it’s possible, what the next ten years might look like.
I wonder if Satoshi Nakamoto would be surprised.