I want to talk about the decentralization of truth. Thank you, Elyse. You gave me a
fantastic opening for today’s talk. How many of you are in Bitcoin or in
cryptocurrencies for less than a year? Okay, maybe about a fifth of the audience. This is something that keeps happening. If you keep going to these events, you will notice that a
[certain] percentage of people you meet are always new. Why? Because we are growing at an exponential pace. The entire community, the entire industry,
engagement [with all the cryptocurrencies], is growing at an exponential pace. Most of the people who come [to these events] are new. Here is how it works. You come [after] you have
heard about this weird, nerdy thing called Bitcoin. A lot of people come in through Bitcoin
as their first experience in cryptocurrency. You start asking questions, and none of it
makes any freaking sense. None of it. “Who runs this thing?” “Nobody.” [Laughter] “Okay,
I [understand]… but just tell me. I mean, come on.” “You have been in this space since 2012.
Obviously, you know who runs this thing.” “How does it work? What is it backed by?
Why does it have value? What is going on?” All of these questions come in, and you [think], “This isn’t
like the money I know. This isn’t like anything I know.” None of the answers make sense at first.
Gradually, you climb up this very steep learning curve. But it is full of traps because you [think you] see the
peak. ‘I’m almost there. I’m beginning to understand.’ ‘I’m having this breakthrough moment. I can finally
understand what the hell everybody’s talking about.’ ‘Barely, just a bit.’ You reach that peak and [think], ‘I made it!’
Then you look up and [realize] it is not the final peak. It is just a [brief] plateau and
you [must] start climbing again. “Okay, I kind of understand Bitcoin, but now I am hearing
about blockchains and distributed ledger technologies.” More questions about that, and then altcoins.
“What the hell are altcoins? There are thousands?” “When did this happen? I just understood Bitcoin and
you [just] dump a thousand other things in my lap?” Here you go again, climbing up the steep learning curve. Just when you [are beginning to understand] altcoins,
some kid with a funny name builds a platform… that allows anyone to [launch] an ICO in three minutes;
suddenly, the whole place is flooded with [tokens]. Here we go again. “What the hell are these things?
Are they coins? Are they blockchains?” No, they are [tokens on a blockchain with]
a coin which [enables] smart contracts. “What the hell is a smart contract?”
Here we go, climbing up the learning curve. Just when you are beginning to understand [tokens],
you look back at Bitcoin [and Ethereum thinking], “Okay, I have that covered. At least I understand that.” “Wait, what do you mean it is forking?” [Laughter]
“What the hell is a fork? What do I do?!” “Do I get part of the fork? If I have the fork, am I on
both sides of the fork? How can I be on both sides?” “If I am on both sides, how can I spend [coins]?
Which one do I spend? Which is the real Bitcoin?” “What, it is forking again? Didn’t it just fork two
weeks ago?” Here we go again. “Freaking out!” “How do I get this fork? What about the next one?
And the next one? What if it is forks all the way down?” “What if this is a bottomless forking mechanism?
What if forking is what it is all about?” [Laughter] “Maybe I missed this. Are we ICOing Bitcoin now?
I’m totally confused. I thought I had it, I’m lost again.” In all of this, you are trying to find an anchor;
something familiar, something you can grasp, something that will give you a basis to understand
what the hell is going on with this technology. And [there] is [a] trap. We have grown up believing
in a certain model for discovering the truth. The model we have for discovering
truth is [often based on] authority. So when we are [desperately] trying to figure out
the truth, what is really happening in this space, what do we instinctively do? Instinctively, we look for an authority. “Hang on, Andreas said this is a leaderless movement.
Who is the authority, then? Who tells us what is true?” “How the hell do we find out
what is true, if there is no leader?” Inevitably, someone pops out of the bushes
and [shouts] “I will be the leader [of Bitcoin]!” I’m sorry, but we weren’t advertising a vacancy when
we said “this is a leaderless movement.” [Laughter] We want it to remain leaderless. [When] you look at all of these [coins], some people
tell you that Bitcoin Cash is the real Bitcoin. Is it Bitcoin [with SegWit] that is the real
Bitcoin, or is it [Bitcoin with SegWit2x]? Or is it Bitcoin Gold, or whatever the next fork [will] be?
Which one [is it]? “Can the real Bitcoin stand up?” “Can somebody tell me which one is the real Bitcoin?”
There is no “real Bitcoin.” There is no objective [answer]. There is no final authority. There will be no answer. No one can tell you because
we cannot appeal to an authority. We are so [accustomed] to looking for someone
to tell us. Why do we need that answer? Why do we need to know which one is the real Bitcoin? [Well], if one of them is real, that is
the only one which has value, right? Value comes from authenticity – or does it? “What’s in a name? That which we call a rose /
By any other word would smell as sweet” What is in a name? Is it authenticity that gives it
value, or is it value that gives it authenticity? Where does the value come from? We don’t know how
to handle this, because it has never happened before. Let me give you a question here.
How can you tell what a real dollar is? It has a stamp on it, some fancy serial number.
Maybe you can tell if you put it under a light. Or mark it with a marker, “this is a real dollar.” What does it say on the front? Does it say “one dollar”
[at the top]? No, it doesn’t. You haven’t actually read it. It says “Federal Reserve Note” [at the top]. The [dollar] in your wallet is an imposter. It is essentially
a forgery of what used to be a silver certificate. Those days are over. Now it is a “Federal Reserve Note.”
What is that? Does it matter whether it is a real dollar? Let’s play a little mental exercise. [Imagine that], overnight, all of the dollars
in your wallet are replaced by forgeries, but nobody seems to notice except you. You know they are forged, and you know
that everybody else’s dollars are forged. But you can see them handing [each other] forged
dollars; [nobody] seems to notice they are forged. What happens to the value of the system?
What happens to the value of the dollar if, tomorrow morning, all of them were forged? Nothing. It continues to have the exact same value,
as long as we all believe it has the same value. It doesn’t matter who printed it. What does it matter?
Which is the real one? Where does value come from? It doesn’t come from authenticity, it doesn’t come
from authority. It comes from use [and belief]. If we use the thing, then it is the real thing as far as
we’re concerned. That is all that [effectively] matters. The value comes from the use. It is not valuable
as a dollar because it has the stamp. [The stamp] is only about making sure
that not too many of them are printed. You only care about it being authentic because you
don’t want the market suddenly flooded with it, at which point it [would] start losing value. What happens when the authority [stamping it], is the
one flooding the market by printing more of them? Now we have a bit of a conundrum.
Which one is real? It doesn’t matter. When you ask yourself “which is the real Bitcoin,”
you are looking for authenticity. The problem with looking for authenticity is, [usually],
you can [only] have authenticity is through authority. You need someone to step up and tell you which
is real, which fork to follow, which chain matters, and which one will keep its value. No one can tell you that. The only Bitcoin that
matters is the one that you choose to validate. If you are running a node, you choose
the rules of consensus that you follow. That is the real Bitcoin to you, and [maybe] you alone. There is no objective truth, only empirical
subjective [and inter-subjective] truth. [How] do you know that everybody else is making
the same decision? For that, you need a market. The market takes every single person’s subjective
opinion [about] which one is the “real Bitcoin,” and then puts a price on it. [The market] collects all of the decisions you make,
[that each person makes], of whether to sell or buy, and at what price to sell and buy. [The market] creates this emergent picture of value. ‘I don’t know what the real one is, but this is what people
think the real one is, reflected [by] their decisions.’ The ideal way to maintain the “real Bitcoin” is to run
your own node and validate the consensus rules. How many [people] in this room do that?
Fifteen out of 275 people. That [is not enough]. Most of us delegate this decision. We think,
‘if I choose a wallet [made] by a team that… professes to share my principles and values, following
the same rules that I think make the real Bitcoin, then by proxy I am expressing my opinion about
what the truth is and which one is the real bitcoin.’ This is not just a problem in Bitcoin.
Is it Ethereum or Ethereum Classic? By show of hands: Ethereum, Classic,
Ethereum, Classic? [Laughter] Which is real? As people who are indoctrinated to authority, we look
for some kind of protection [for] authenticity. “Sue those bastards for trademark infringement!”
“They are trying to steal the brand.” That is old-school thinking. That is the basis of old
currencies. We are no longer in a zero-sum game. Here’s the bad news: we would [easily] have our
answer if [only] one of these things survived, and the others simply went away or died. it would be fantastic if the real one, emerged as
a victor and eventually the others disappeared. In order for one to win, something [must]
lose in such a way that it disappears. None of these things [will] ever disappear. As long as there are two people running the
consensus algorithm, the coin continues. There are coins from 2012, the very
early altcoin boom, that are still around. Nobody knows what they are anymore, but they are
still around and they might be around forever. We have a thousand blockchains today.
In a few years, we will have ten thousand. Then we will have a hundred thousand, etc.
and none of them will die. Because somewhere, probably in a cabin in Montana,
with a satellite dish and a Raspberry Pi [node], there will be the one [of the last] die-hard users
of Bitcoin [Classic] or whatever the latest fork is. They will say, “This is the real one, and you
can take it away from my cold dead hands!” That one will exist forever… There will be no winner because this
is not a competition of elimination. This is not game season, this is not the World Series.
This is not a knockout match. This is a system in which everybody [could] choose
to follow their own path and create their own coin. There will be thousands, hundreds
of thousands, and then millions. It doesn’t matter which is the real one. There is
no absolute truth. There is no objective answer. We [must] become accustomed to uncertainty.
We must understand that [many options] will all exist. The only thing that matters is
which one you choose to use. The value doesn’t come from it being [a
winner], authentic, authorized, or anointed. Use value is the only value. Then you realize that all currencies are like that.
None of them have intrinsic value. None of them matter in terms of authority.
only have value not because the government said so, but because we believed, and they will
only have value as long as we believe. Even that authority is fake.
Even that money is fake. It is an illusion. All that matters
is what we choose to use. There is no authenticity. There is no objective truth. Here’s the danger: people are very uncomfortable
with this idea. They want a simple, objective answer… that they can cling to and say, “This is the real one.” But they will never get it, so they will
delegate their responsibility to others. They will say, “Let Coinbase decide.”
Let the hosted wallet or exchange decide for [them]. “Whatever fork they support is my
fork” is delegating responsibility. There is a very dangerous moment when companies
[which] have successfully grown in this space… forget that they serve their users,
they do not represent their users. They did not receive a [blockchain] electoral mandate
by having ten million users, to represent those users… in consensus or be their elected
representatives through business. They serve customers. They are
not served by their customers. Over the last couple of years, we have watched that
gradual slide as people [went from] serving customers… to believing that they had a mandate to represent their
customer base, to make decisions about consensus… and impose those decisions on everybody else. That is a very dangerous path. It is the path
— as Elyse was alluding to — of centralization. If you give up your responsibility to choose based on
your principles, give up that power to someone else, just like giving your keys to someone else,
you are no longer participating in the community. You are no longer participating in consensus, no longer
expressing your principles through [your own] choices. You are delegating to central authority.
It all goes to shit from there, very fast. Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Do not make the mistake of looking for a
simple answer or a straightforward authority… who will tell you which is the real one. They are all “real.” They are all “fake.”
There is no difference between real and fake. Which is the useful one?
Which is the empowering one? Which one expresses your principles,
achieves things you want to see in the world? Is that real enough for you? Follow that and
let the market aggregate all of those opinions. You can express your choice. There will be no winners. But together we can ensure that, by making
these choices ourselves, taking control of our keys, by [participating in] consensus when
we can, we won’t arrive at a final truth, but we will put in our little two cents (or satoshis),
[we will inject] our choice into the market, and hope that the market reflects that. We can have something that persists,
that is resistant to censorship; that is neutral, open, and empowering for individuals. [We can have something] that cannot be easily hijacked.
We are decentralizing truth. Thank you! [Applause]