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The philosophy of Bitcoin and digital money


![]( #### More and more people are getting into the crypto space, but fewer new-comers understand the philosophy behind the earliest cryptocurrencies. I consider myself to be among the early adopters (2011-2012), and still remember how people used to talk about it. We did not like cryptocurrencies, because we wanted quick money. We **loved** cryptocurrencies, because it promised us more freedom and less corruption. #### #### In this post, I would like to write a short philosophical background of Bitcoin's early beginnings. As you will see, it's all about privacy, freedom, and transparency. #### ## Cryptographers and the Cypherpunk movement In the 70’s and 80’s you had cryptographers who were concerned with **privacy** and who developed such things as **untraceable e-mail** and **signatures of untraceable payments**. These signatures verify the sender of the payment. Then in 1992, a group of people in Silicon Valley came together to discuss cryptography and implications thereof. This group of people became known as The Cypherpunks. They were concerned with government intrusion into our privacy and wanted to limit government involvement in our private lives as much as possible by creating widely dispersed computer systems that cannot be shut down. In “A Cypherpunk’s Manifesto” (1992), you can read: > “We don’t much care if you don’t approve of the software we write. We know that software can’t be destroyed and that a widely dispersed system can’t be shut down.” Notable member of the group is [Julian Assange](, founder of Wikileaks. The philosophy of the Cypherpunks was neatly described by Timothy May in 1994 when he writes that digital money is the weakest link at this point and that > “… We believe the expansion into cyberspace, with **secure communications**, **digital money**, **anonymity and pseudonymity**, and other crypto-mediated interactions, will profoundly change the nature of economies and social interactions. > Governments will have a hard time collecting taxes.” ## A Declaration of the Independence of Cyberspace ## In 1996, a similar sentiment was expressed at the World Economic Forum Davos by John Perry Barlow who wrote *“A Declaration of the Independence of Cyberspace”* asserting that > “Governments of the Industrial World, you weary giants of flesh and steel, I come from Cyberspace, the new home of Mind. On behalf of the future, I ask you of the past to leave us alone. You are not welcome among us. You have no sovereignty where we gather. > We have no elected government, nor are we likely to have one, so I address you with no greater authority than that with which liberty itself always speaks. I declare the global social space we are building to be naturally independent of the tyrannies you seek to impose on us. You have no moral right to rule us nor do you possess any methods of enforcement we have true reason to fear.” ## B-money: The first digital money ## In 1998, Wei Dai, another person who was on the Cypherpunk mailing list created the pseudonymous digital money called ‘B-money’. We can view it as a precursor of what is now known as Bitcoin. He wrote that > “I am fascinated by Tim May’s **crypto-anarchy**. Unlike the communities traditionally associated with the word “anarchy”, in a crypto-anarchy the government is not temporarily destroyed but permanently forbidden and permanently unnecessary.” ![]( - *Wei Dai* ## PayPal ## In the same year of 1998, PayPal was founded as Confinity. What many people don’t know is that PayPal had initially always wanted to create a new currency that would compete with the government currencies of the world like the USD. This is what the founder, Peter Thiel, had to say about Bitcoin: > “Bitcoin is what PayPal was supposed to be.” Let’s skip a decade, go to an economically tumultuous time. The world was heavily suffering from a great economic crisis when suddenly, in 2008, Bitcoin finally emerges. ## Bitcoin ## A pseudonymous person who calls himself Satoshi Nakamoti publishes a whitepaper saying that he has created a purely peer-to-peer version of electronic cash that would allow online payments to be sent directly from one party to another without going through a financial institution. ![]( Satoshi has also mentioned that > “Governments are good at cutting off the heads of a centrally controlled networks like Napster, but pure P2P networks like Gnutella and Tor seem to be holding their own.” He also calls it > “… very attractive to the libertarian viewpoint if we can explain it properly.” No one knows who Satoshi Nakamoto is, but we can see from his whitepaper that he was extremely familiar with the works of those from the Cypherpunk group. ## Conclusion ## With regards to the above, it is clear that cryptocurrency was initially created from a philosophy that 1. Seeks privacy and maximum (economic) liberty for the individual 2. Allows for voluntary economic exchanges 3. And seeks a way out from the clutches of governments and banks In one word, we can say that it’s a philosophy of decentralization. More specifically, the philosophy is also known as **libertarian anarchism**, **anarcho-capitalism**, **agorism** and **voluntaryism**. ## References ## A Cypherpunk's Manifesto: A Declaration of the independence of Cyberspace: Cyphernomicon 2.13:
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