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Johannes and Satoshi go for Coffee

Some have likened the invention of Bitcoin by Satoshi Nakamoto to that of the printing press by Johannes Guttenberg, referring to them both as historic turning points.

While the moveable type printing press is about 585 years old and Bitcoin a mere 15 years, is it possible to learn anything by comparing the two? On the surface, a comparison would seem silly, but is it actually?

As a thought experiment, I found myself wishing that Johannes and Satoshi could go together for coffee 15 years into the future, to celebrate the 600 year and 30 year anniversaries of their respective inventions. It would be an opportunity to marvel at how those ideas transformed humanity, one of them very long in the making and the other very recent, and at the beginning of its journey.

That comparison might help the rest of us to appreciate the power of rare transformative technologies and how their growth becomes exponential. Did invention of the printing press enable an exponential growth in population and knowledge eventually leading to the invention of Bitcoin? Might Bitcoin share a similar path?

While the future is opaque, the past and present can offer us hints at the trajectory of things to come. One of the greatest challenges for most of us, is to understand the concept of exponential change. Although we’ve been given many mathematical examples of this, they often seem somewhat divorced from real world experience. The observation of human advancement even before Guttenberg’s time might provide a useful example. It might also enhance our grasp of Bitcoin’s potential role in the future of humanity.

“For millions of years mankind lived just like the animals….Then something happened that unleashed the power of our Imagination….we learned to talk….and we learned to listen”. – Stephen Hawking

[ In his absence we might now add ”we learned to write …then publish…THEN WE LEARNED TO CODE” ]

There have been innumerable temporal markers along our shared human journey, here are a few:

  • Modern Humans have existed for about 300,000 years – World Pop. 150,000
  • Speech is estimated to been acquired 150,000 years ago – World Pop. 1,500,000
  • Agriculture was initially undertaken 12,000 years ago – World Pop. 4,000,000
  • Written language first appeared about 5,500 years ago – World Pop. 30,000,000
  • Guttenberg’s invention was said to be 585 years ago – World Pop. 374,000,000**(1X)
  • Satoshi Nakamoto mined the first Bitcoin block 15 Years ago – World Pop. 6,800,000,000**(18X)*

1) Invention of the Printing Press and Population Increase

chart one

2) Technological Advance


Notice on graph 2 above, that invention of the printing press is at the far left of the exponential curve arriving 200 years before the telescope, and that, 200 years before the electric light bulb. Astonishingly, first footsteps were put on the moon only about 150 years after invention of the light bulb. It’s obvious that the interval between major innovations is decreasing rapidly. Prior to the printing press, knowledge could only be transmitted through the use of verbal and hand written stories along with artistic renderings. This limited the transmission and growth of knowledge to a snail’s pace. Gradually, the printing press through its evolution, led to an exponential advance in technology, discoveries, and knowledge. It enabled information to be shared and built upon in an accelerating manner, with each layer further enabling the next.

Sitting at their coffee table, the conversation might unfold as follows:

Johannes would describe to Satoshi the roadblocks that were thrown up by the church in its effort to retain power over a mostly illiterate populace, by using fear of God and damnation in hell to control them. He’d speak of how the printing press in 1517 enabled Martin Luther to post his 95 theses on the church door in Wittenberg and within four years, be branded a heretic, thus beginning a long battle against the papacy which was entrenched and self-serving. We know that ultimately the printing press won that battle and added fuel to the quest for knowledge, and in the process assisted the nascent renaissance to blossom. Satoshi, nodding his head, relates of how banks and politicians labeled his invention as only valuable to porn purveyors, drug dealers, money launderers and terrorists by allowing them to evade the law. In doing so, they sought to establish roadblocks using, fear and legal restrictions all the while, labeling them as for “protection of the public”. In truth, they were only protecting their own fiefdoms with history showing them to be no different than the earlier dark-age priests and royalty. He also notes that the same resistance happened in the early days of the internet, the foundation upon which Bitcoin was built. Satoshi describes how the internet works and how it represents a new layer that had evolved from Johannes invention. He defines it as an ELECTRONIC PRINTING PRESS offering everyone world-wide, the ability to share thoughts, ideas, and innovations and enabling their distribution in seconds, and virtually free of cost. Satoshi goes on to describe how the publication of Bitcoin’s rules based software enables the same global connection for transmission of value, making all participants equal, regardless of status or purpose, a feature formerly impossible for any form of money. As Satoshi glances up he notices Johannes massaging his temples in amazement. The concept of this exponential growth, slowly then suddenly, all evolving from his simple re-purposed wine press had sent Johannes’ mind spinning, encouraging him to order a brandy to accompany his coffee. The above graph, while new by the standards of Guttenberg’s time, is now outdated, ending shortly after Satoshi’s invention of Bitcoin. As we see below, the Bitcoin block chain is entering its hyperbolic growth phase comparable to when the aforementioned footprints were left on the moon, [#2 above].

3) Bitcoin Blockchain Growth


As Satoshi describes it, not everything must increase forever; the wisdom coded within his invention dictates that the supply of Bitcoin, though highly divisible, will be limited in perpetuity unlike any other asset in existence. [#4 below] Due to this and its inherent security, Bitcoin can become the bedrock upon which foundations of verified truth and value can be built. As listens intently, it takes some time for Johannes to absorb what Satoshi has actually created. A system of globally verified truth and value travelling at 200,000 kilometers per second, growing in layers just as the printing press had, only at incomprehensible speed and available to everyone. On attempting to grasp all of this, Johannes feels compelled to order a second brandy to steady his mind. They both then fall silent, lost in thought, each trying to fully comprehend the connection between their inventions, so very distant in time, yet directly connected by the thread of better more direct and free communication; initially only words and images, but now expanding far beyond, to security, truth, value and more. It is a chain of unbroken technological links that began in the 1400’s enabling ever increasing freedom and prosperity for peoples around the world. Both sit quietly, lost in thought, marveling at their connections and the silence persists.

4) Exponentially Dimishing Supply of Bitcoins


What does the future hold? As this fantasy happens fifteen years in the future, we can’t really know, however there are indicators. Below are only a tiny few glimpses. It is my dream that some more technical commentators opt to share their view of the future, for Johannes’ and Satoshi’s entertainment [along with the rest of us] while they finish their coffee.

As I write this:

  • Wall Street has attempted to join the party with their ”Bitcoin Lite” ETF’s
  • Jason Lowery’s book “Softwar”, formerly censored by the U.S. military – Thesis posits an end to destructive wars by adopting the power inherent in Bitcoin
  • Some nation states are in early processes of adoption of Bitcoin while others are still fighting it.
  • Technology around second and third layers is advancing at a blinding pace as seen in this amazing depiction by Jameson Lopp.
  • A single company headed by Michael Saylor has amassed over 210,000 Bitcoins on its Balance sheet, owning just over 1% of all of the Bitcoin that will ever be.

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