Technology and invention
We need to redefine two special words that are often spoken as synonyms – technology and invention.
Technology is something that never goes away once it’s released. An invention is something that, once invented, is destined to become “not invented” or become obsolete. We can say with confidence that inventions like the iPhone or Facebook will become archaic and replaced by something fresh that will be made obsolete by something fresher.
Compare this with technologies that only increase in performance, utility and necessity from the start. They are rare; so much so that entire generations pass without a new one appearing. Primitive man lived a life in constant repetitions of the same. In their early stages, they are difficult to identify as they are not immediately useful. There is stability in this ignorance: there is no immediate benefit to the tribe in drawing attention to an extremely powerful tool that has the potential to undo the existing hierarchy.
Some examples of inventions include camera, microwave, birth control, satellite, airplane, GPS, and smartphone. The invention is powered by the Company. An invention spreads quickly. At the direction of a central party, processes can be refined and scaled faster. But as we’ve seen with these inventions (and companies), failure can be as quick as success. Inventions are rarely an obstacle to collaboration as the market is defined by choice and variation. Because it is a product, consumers can choose different “types” of cameras or smartphones without making an explicit mistake. A consumer’s choice of a particular company’s product does not hinder their ability to collaborate (or conflict) with those who choose another. If, for example, the governments of two warring nations preferred different smartphone vendors, this would never affect the potential for a peace treaty – but it would also not offer a significant advantage in total war.
Technologies are different: money, paper, glass, gunpowder, the Internet. Once these cats are out of the bag, they cannot be put back in again. There is no society that can hinder their rule. Your benefits will go beyond anything in the foreseeable future. They emerge incredibly slowly (it is estimated that gold took over 1,000 years to monetize). You are global. And for long-term survival and cooperation, They are not optional. When the governments of two warring nations argue about the usefulness of gunpowder in warfare, we know who will win.
Who finds these technologies most useful and why? Anyone for any reason. But they play a special role in conflicts and power struggles.
Plebeians and rulers
We can understand history as a double power struggle.
a. Rulers against rulers (warring states or factions)
b. Plebeians versus rulers. Plebeian refers to a “commoner” in ancient Rome (in this case we use plebeian to refer to any “commoner” throughout history.)
The mistake of historians is to see the conflicts between ruler and ruler as the most effective. What really moves the needle is that each succeeding generation of plebeians is better equipped to defend (and insult) rulers.
It is a strategy of current rulers (especially their academic branches) to distract us from this other, more ubiquitous conflict – plebeians versus rulers. Their advantage is that they draw on the historical ruler versus ruler design in the classroom, largely because it gives any plebeian a limited, double option. In the power struggle, you have to choose oneand this one is not you. The strategy of disguising this power struggle is better understood if we look at the medieval example dominated by a conflict between ruler and ruler.
Suppose a knight troop trudges into a village and demands accommodation. The peasants understand the dominance of the knights from afar as men with extreme knowledge of weapons who act on behalf of a divine ruler (remember, this plebeian probably cannot read and definitely cannot fight). Your only viable option is to please the gun-capable man acting in the name of the divine ruler as quickly and smoothly as possible. When the knights leave, the plebeian can again do what he does best – without knowing anything useful. There is a great distance between knights and plebeians in terms of knowledge, training, and physical space. In this case, the knight is more refined, learned, and better in every way. Technologies change that.
Information and distance
In a world without internet, the de facto ruler is the first to get or collect the guns and train and organize as many men as possible. The fate of the plebeian is sealed. However, the ruler’s advantage is not in commanding better trained soldiers, but in keeping the weapon skill information asymmetrical. The knight’s advantage is not the ability to easily kill a plebeian, but the ability to easily kill 40 plebeians at a time (see, The sovereign individual for more on this).
Suppose the plebeian becomes more efficient and a trained knight can only kill 20 plebeians. This changes the performance dynamics. Suppose it becomes twice as efficient over and over again. Let’s say he starts using a new tool – one of the knights I dont know. These is the story of the story. A similar story is playing out today.
The power always lay in the information asymmetry that used to require great distances. If the distance required to transmit information is removed, the very existence of any ruler is immediately threatened. I don’t think this will lead to any kind of anarcho-capitalist utopia without a ruler, at least not anytime soon. We have given the perfect hand for a world ruled by a kind of “techno-pirate”.
The new revolution
The Cantillon Effect is constantly debated among Bitcoin admirers: “Money … is not neutral. Those who benefit most from an increase in the supply of money have been those with access to credit and assets or those who have provided products and services to those who have. “That said, those who have access to the newly created money first will benefit the most.
There’s also a cantillon effect with technology. In power struggles, those who first have access to the new technology are victorious over those who falter. What differs between the Cantillon Effect in money and technology is the spread and repetition of the Monetary Cantillon Effect throughout history. The emergence of a new technology is an extremely rare occurrence that we have not been trained to recognize. However, as long as a small fraction of the plebeians can recognize such an emergence, they must acquire the necessary tools to defeat the rulers and change the dynamics of power. With advances in information technology, it goes without saying that a plebeian who recognizes such an emergence today is far more likely than a medieval one – and always more useful when the rulers miss it.
But information technologies throw another wrench into performance dynamics. What medieval farmers failed to see was that their main advantage came from their greatest disadvantage – their distance. Had they owned the internet, physically recording when they could communicate online would have been a strategic mistake. Physical gatherings certainly have advantages. One of them is pooling expensive and useful resources, but gathering them in large groups gives the ruler a clear point of attack. So that the plebeians can pool resources on-lineYou need something that works perfectly and is inherently impossible to “invent” or “make obsolete”. Bitcoin is that technology. It will never go away and unleash a new class of “plebeian techno pirates”. This pooling of resources without the physical limits of distance is an unprecedented phenomenon in humanity.
When you have sovereign control of your Bitcoin, you are one of those people. In the decades to come, you will quickly have a power that entire dynasties have never tried – I encourage you to use your powers forever.
The current rulers are the humiliating invention about to become obsolete. The competent plebeian techno-council finally has every tool to become what it should be – a permanent technology. If you’re okay with my portrayal of history, it should be obvious who is going to win.
This is a guest post by Henri. The opinions expressed are solely their own and do not necessarily reflect those of BTC, Inc. or Bitcoin Magazine.