The Enlightenment of Money

A Little Bit of Money

Thought Experiments on Cross-Border Payments - Of Couriers, Bankers, and Bitcoiners

Series 21: The Enlightenment of Money

Protest against stereotyping cryptocurrency as high-risk

Harnessing innovative technologies in order to create practical solutions appears to be natural, not to say being a human habit. Protesting against over-simplification is a legitimate approach when regulators and banks go against one’s personal interests by hanging onto “financial stereotypes” (e.g. “Bitcoin is high-risk”). That`s why Bitcoiners must speak up when hearing such superficial statements. The bottom line is that freedom is a personal matter for many cryptocurrency users. They favor liberal forms of money because the functionality of legal tender is limited in many respects.

Cost-Effectiveness and Ethical Behavior Must Unite

I believe that cost-effectiveness and ethical behavior must be combined to create a better form of money. The bitcoin pioneers and fans, such as myself, are not alone in our beliefs. Luckily, “I am not the only one”, who thinks this way. There are a gazillion of engineers and other thinkers joining me around the globe. In the minds of many, this ideal can be achieved through innovation. My practical experience with bitcoin payments shows that money laundering can be fought more effectively with blockchain technology than with conventional means. Hopefully with the right amount of time and regulation, the noble aim of creating a superior kind of money can be realized in the long run. In fact, we are getting closer every day.

Rebellious Bitcoiners and Grown-Up YUPIDs

Unfortunately, not everyone in the Bitcoin community offers sympathetic consideration to anti money laundering concepts. Acting out in the form of near-hysterical “shit- storms” against regulators or conservative bankers is trendy among some. Beyond that, hostile debates on social media and Bitcoin forums are not uncommon among developers. The Bitcoin believers are not necessarily a fellowship. The number of crypto-followers maintaining a healthy level of togetherness despite sporting arguments is limited. Collegiality and passion for fruitful exchange are few and far between. Oftentimes, the arguments are dominated by vanity, indifference, whateverism, sarcasm, cynicism, irony, and technocratic schisms.  

Finding Allies to Do What Needs to Be Done

As a result, it’s hard to find constructively minded allies in this realm. Consequently, very few people are working to promote serious dialogue with the established financial old guard. There is no legitimized Bitcoin body advancing the matter and addressing financial regulators globally. But what about the original intent? What if Satoshi wants YUPIDs and bankers to talk openly? The reality is that entrenched opinions are rather unswayable; some Bitcoin users become recalcitrant when discussing AML compliance. So far, I can't figure out why they are so vehemently opposed to the prevention of illicit transactions, even though a risk-based approach to discussing this subject seems self-explanatory. Still, do they have any ideas about how to stop profiteers from committing serious crime in the absence of regulation?

Owning Funds Freely

Let me ask the bankers and regulators out there: What do you truly know about Bitcoin, and what is so wrong with using a decentralized payment system? The flow of cash through coins has operated this way for hundreds of years, and even longer when you take historic payment systems such as shells, gold, jewelry, or wartime commodities like bread, cigarettes, and phone vouchers into account. Essentially, money is a means to an end. Holding funds freely and transferring their value at your discretion goes hand in hand with independence. It is a matter of freedom and it is a relative of “privacy”. Both freedom and privacy were brought to us more than 200 years ago, in a package better known in the Western world as the Age of Enlightenment. The question is who is willing to reconsider humanistic values in the name of digital progress? Not me.

Getting to the Heart and Mind of the Matter

In my opinion, bankers and regulators need to step back for a moment to look at the big picture. The scale of the Bitcoin revolution within the traditional system has to be considered with both heart and mind. Looking at Bitcoin through the eyes of a triangle-shaped conception of the financial world implies limited insights into concepts utilizing two-party transfer systems without middleman. It is time to open our minds to the unheard of. Look, the last century was dominated by a simplistic understanding of how certain pivotal parts of the brain centrally control the mind and body. Scientists have since discovered that the nervous system is much more complex than previously thought. It is self-organized in a decentralized manner, similar to peer-to-peer networks where everyone is communicating together. One for all, all for one.

The Digital Age of Enlightenment

This analogy pertains to Bitcoin, which is also decentralized like the smartest system of all – the brain. Funds are sent directly from person to person, allowing a new level of freedom of financial movement across the globe. It could be a healthy cash flow if everyone plays by the rules and is sanctioned if necessary, even though the penalties must be proportional and prudential. Imagine, money moves almost naturally, just like the signals in our nervous system try hard to make the best of everything shine. Certainly, the movement of digital cash is different from our physiology. More importantly, it is unlike the current banking system, where central hubs route payments the way police control traffic at intersections. But the blockchain functions more organically than transport-related systems usually do – ideally, without traffic jam. In this regard, Bitcoin paves the way for the age of digital enlightenment of money.

To be continued. Further Reading:

M. Möser. “Anonymity of Bitcoin Transactions.” Münster Bitcoin Conference, Münster, Germany, July 17-18, 2013.

J. Angel and D. M. McCabe. "The ethics of payments: Paper, plastic, or Bitcoin?." (2014).

K.S. Graf. “On the origins of Bitcoin: Stages of monetary evolution.”, Oct. 23, 2013.

G. Miscione and D. Kavanagh. “Bitcoin and the Blockchain: A Coup D’état Through Digital Heterotopia.” Humanistic Management Network, Research Paper No. 23/15, 2015.

C. Smith et al. Brain, mind and consciousness in the history of neuroscience. Springer, 2014.