We often meet Bitcoiners who claim that Bitcoin is unstoppable and have already “won”. We happen to agree to them. But the endgame has yet to be played and there are still two possible paths. One thing is simple; the other is difficult.
The easy way out, positive narratives about Bitcoin outweigh the negative. We are witnessing a peaceful mass adoption process based on people’s expectations for enormous individual and societal benefits from money that is difficult to print, censor, or steal. This is the path we seem to be going here at the beginning of 2021 as regulatory barriers fall and Bitcoin’s popularity rises.
But the hard way remains open to us. In this way, Bitcoiners are vilified as self-righteous and arrogant winners who are identified with the phrase “have fun staying poor” and who are angry or even attacked by their less fortunate neighbors.
One of us believes that the hard way is more likely than the easy way. Regardless of the probabilities of each path, we want Bitcoin and Bitcoiner to take the easy path. If we can increase the likelihood of that outcome by even a percentage point, it is worth the effort. To this end, we have come to the conclusion that following the easy path requires an understanding of human psychology that we only recently discovered.
Inspired by research by the cultural anthropologist Richard Shweder, the psychologists Jonathan Haidt, Craig Joseph and Jesse Graham developed the “theory of moral foundations”. Like any psychological theory, it must be taken with a large grain of salt. But bitcoin proselytizers can learn something from this that can help them get bitcoin the easy rather than the difficult path.
The basic idea behind the theory is that most human actions are not driven by cold, calculating, rational behavior, as could be observed in the fictional “Homo oeconomicus”. Instead, our intuition determines our actions and our logical thinking follows such intuition. To illustrate the idea, the psychologists invoke a picture of an elephant with a rider. The elephant represents our human intuition, which is generally the driving force of our actions. It represents thought patterns that have proven adaptable as humans evolved and struggled to survive. While the logical rider can influence the elephant, as soon as the elephant moves in one direction, it gains momentum that is difficult for the rider to reverse. It becomes easier for the rider to construct logical arguments that justify the direction the elephant is already moving.
The psychologists cite evidence for six main foundations of driving intuition. These basics are (1) caring / harm, (2) fairness / fraud, (3) loyalty / betrayal, (4) authority / subversion, (5) holiness / humiliation, and (6) freedom / oppression. Each foundation is believed to be rooted in the social dynamics chosen by evolution. in the The righteous spirit (2012) applies the six foundations to politics and uses the framework to explain why conservatism in the US has proven to be surprisingly resilient, as it is based on all six principles while liberalism is mainly based on only two ( Diligence / harm and fairness) / fraud).
Just as Haidt recommends that political leaders try to target as many of the six foundations as possible when selling their policies to the public, Bitcoiners should base their narratives on the benefits of Bitcoin for individuals and society on as many of the six foundations as possible. Each of the following six sections contains a direct quote for each of the foundations (1) The righteous spirit, (2) an example in bold italics, and (3) our thoughts on how the foundation is mapped to Bitcoin.
1. Care / damage
“The Care / damage The foundation was developed in response to the adaptive challenge of caring for vulnerable children. It makes us sensitive to signs of suffering and distress; it makes us despise cruelty and care for those who suffer. “
The righteous spirit, Page 178
We react viscerally when a defenseless creature (especially a child) is threatened with harm.
The clearest negative bitcoin narrative on the Care / Harm basis is global warming. Bitcoiners are all too familiar with the “Bitcoin will boil the oceans” criticism and require a strong response.
Neoclassical economics suggests that government policy is the solution to the “negative externality” of greenhouse gases. Such solutions come in two main categories: “whips” and “carrots”. The “sticks” category includes the taxation of CO2 emissions and the limitation of total emissions (e.g. “cap and trade”). In the “carrots” category, subsidies are paid to manufacturers and buyers of solar panels, wind turbines and batteries, as was the case with Tesla.
From our point of view, guidelines with “sticks” are mostly doomed to failure in the long run. This is because a large portion of global greenhouse gas emissions today and in the next decade will come from poor middle-income countries. Think coal-fired power plants in China and India (which emit large amounts of carbon) and deforestation in Brazil and Indonesia (which release carbon and destroy carbon-sequestering vegetation) to provide pastures for methane-emitting animals.
For countries like this, policies to limit or tax carbon emissions are simply not calculated. Their leaders must prefer to lift the masses out of poverty as soon as possible. The increase in the price of energy through taxes or emission caps makes this difficult. In addition, the rich countries already had to emit Multiples Today there are more tons of carbon per citizen than they have industrialized and built up wealth in the last two centuries. It is part of giving poor countries an equal opportunity to catch up with rich ones a lot more Carbon emissions per citizen in these countries. From a fairness point of view, rich countries who want to convince poor countries to emit less have no foothold if they are not prepared to write gigantic checks. And many of the largest rich countries cannot even agree on measures to limit their own emissions, let alone clean energy in developing countries.
So when the whips are out, we have carrots, and the relevant one subsidizes the development of cheaper green energy. In particular, the subsidy must lower the production costs for clean energy to zero. When a technology is still in its infancy, it can make sense for the government to pay directly for research and development. ARPANET, an important precursor to the Internet, is a classic example.
As soon as a technology can be turned into a usable product, the private company takes the lead. Here is Bitcoin today. Because electricity cannot flow efficiently further than a few hundred miles, most of the potential sun and wind assets on earth are stranded – think of uninhabited deserts and windy regions of the oceans. However, Bitcoin Mining allows these otherwise inaccessible assets to be brought online as all that is required is an internet connection and basic utility support. At remote, but otherwise ideal locations for the generation of renewable energies, potential production facilities in the form of bitcoin mining facilities can suddenly be used on site. Locations that would not be economically viable due to their excessive distance from population centers can now be developed profitably.
This increases the units of solar panels and wind turbines sold worldwide. The additional sales increase manufacturers’ revenues, which increases their profits and funds their research and development budgets. This lowers the average cost of production for solar and wind capacity, freeing up more stranded renewable resources, driving research and development forward, and the positive cycle drives the cost of renewable energy towards zero. The same pattern has been found in numerous other industries, and renewables should be no different. Indeed, as Conner Brown articulates Bitcoin: a brave American futureThis process could lead to both national energy independence and a permanent recession in hydrocarbon-based energy production.
Bitcoiners need to educate people about this issue and avoid starting passively on the back foot. When speaking to someone who is researching the environmental impact of Bitcoin, it may be useful to start by asking, “Can you please explain to me how we can beat global warming without Bitcoin?” (That is, defend your damn sticks arguments and I’ll answer with my bitcoin carrot.)
2. Fairness / Fraud
“The Fairness / fraud The foundation was developed in response to the adaptive challenge of realizing the benefits of collaboration without being taken advantage of. It makes us sensitive to signs that another person is likely to be a good (or bad) partner for collaboration and mutual altruism. It makes us avoid or punish cheaters. “
The righteous spirit, Page 178
Most people place a high value on fairness; B. To take more than your fair share or to cross the line.
Most of the bitcoiners we know (ourselves included) believe that bitcoin will have tremendous benefits to society in the long run. To fully understand this thesis, one must read Jeff Booth’s brilliant book The price of tomorrow (2020). In short, technology, entrepreneurship and economic progress are all about making things better, faster and especially cheaper. Home lighting, long-distance transportation, communication and billing have become orders of magnitude cheaper over time. So in the long run, consumer prices experience dein an advancing economy – the consumer basket of goods becomes cheaper. This effectively makes consumers richer and better off as their money buys more.
However, the central bankers tell us we must have in theflation. So in vain they are swimming against the natural current of deflation, printing money, lowering interest rates, and creating the huge debt bubbles we see today. Bitcoin fixes this. It provides deflationary money that corresponds to the natural state of a successful economy: consumer price deflation.
In the short term, however, Bitcoin has a perceptual issue when it comes to fairness. Many people still view Bitcoin as a typical pyramid scheme in which the early adopters benefit disproportionately and get rich on the back of the latecomers. It doesn’t matter that the early adopters suffered from ridicule, hostility, and fluctuating price volatility. Anyone who has experienced the vicissitudes of a multi-year Bitcoin bear market has likely suffered enough psychological pain to “make” their Bitcoin fortune. But the uninitiated will have difficulty understanding this. Furthermore, the recent wave of billionaires and wealthy investors accumulating Bitcoin doesn’t help the fairness narrative, as many will now argue that Bitcoin was conquered by the rich.
To make the world safe for bitcoiners, we need to convince skeptics of the long-term societal benefits of bitcoin while emphasizing that the concentration of bitcoin ownership is not significantly worse than that of any other capitalist company (with Appendix A showing the giant’s concentrated holdings are internet companies) and most of the already rich people who got into Bitcoin came to the party relatively late. In addition, people who own a lot of Bitcoin today are likely to pull something off over time as the price goes up, just as the shareholders of successful companies do.
To help skeptics understand the societal benefits of Bitcoin, it is necessary to explain how debt-driven economies lead to (1) unnecessary overconsumption, (2) negative incentives to save (as money saved loses purchasing power over time), and (3) misallocation of capital and lead destruction as large corporations that should fail will be sustained, while job-creating startups compete for competition.
3. Loyalty / betrayal
“The Loyalty / Treason The foundation evolved in response to the adaptive challenge of forming and maintaining coalitions. It makes us sensitive to signs that another person is (or is not) a “team player”. It makes us trust and reward such people, and it makes us hurt, lock out, or even kill those who betray us or our group. “
The righteous spirit, Page 178
People can act violently against their competitors, but a special level of retaliation is often reserved for “traitors” of the group.
We can see both a pro-bitcoin and an anti-bitcoin narrative based on loyalty / betrayal. After his career in the old financial system, Andy has no doubt that his support for Bitcoin, coupled with his criticism of the banking industry, has alienated some of his friends and contacts who are still part of the old system. Given the number of people generally employed in legacy finance (banking, wealth management, insurance, etc.), there is a sizable cohort of people who will lose (at least relatively) to the rise of Bitcoin. The “sanctity” of the existing old financial system is therefore threatened and can strike back.
Conversely, those of us who have gone to great lengths to educate our family and friends about Bitcoin have managed to help some of them benefit from Bitcoin’s growth. Nothing creates bonds of trust, loyalty, and gratitude than helping people who are important to us use a tool that provides them with financial security. These “tribes” of people are potentially a strong grassroots effort that fosters strong loyalty and support for the larger bitcoin superstructure worldwide. We all must continue to help the people we value understand Bitcoin and use it to improve their social circles.
4. Authority / Subversion
“The Authority / subversion The foundation was developed in response to the adaptive challenge of building relationships that benefit us within social hierarchies. It makes us sensitive to signs of rank and status, and to signs that other people are or are not behaving properly because of their position. “
The righteous spirit, Page 179
Most people respect authority and are concerned with maintaining order.
Of the six foundations, this is Bitcoin’s weakest. For the significant part of humanity who tend to respect authority, Bitcoin may initially look like toxic waste. Bitcoin aims to challenge governments’ ability to control money. This is the opposite of what we would expect from a typical citizen who obeys rules.
In this category, bitcoiners have to rely on the sad fact that governments have forgotten their currencies and inflated the largest debt bubble in history to maintain the Ponzi scheme of debt and state claims. We need to highlight the shortcomings of the existing monetary system in such a way that anyone who listens will find it inevitable. Fortunately, the government has already done most of the work for us, and it is likely to continue to do so. All we have to do is amplify the existing signal.
In addition, there are already numerous books, articles, videos, podcasts and other media outlets supporting the event that a world in which Bitcoin plays a prominent role will be more orderly than a fiat-based world. For any skeptic of non-government sponsored money, there are likely several pieces of content that resonate.
5. Holiness / deterioration
“The Holiness / deterioration The foundation initially developed in response to the adaptive challenge of the “omnivorous dilemma” and then to the broader challenge of living in a world of pathogens and parasites. It encompasses the behavioral immune system, which can keep us wary of a variety of symbolic options and threats. It enables people to invest in objects with irrational and extreme values, both positive and negative, that are important for group bonding. “
The righteous spirit, Page 179
Cultures, religions and societies sanctify certain things like religious structures, relationships like marriage and the human body.
We can see both a pro-bitcoin and an anti-bitcoin angle based on holiness / humiliation. For some people, government money can be a somewhat sacred concept. Governments are certainly adept at pouring money into proud nationalism.
The US government is making efforts to associate money with sacred images and symbols. On the $ 1 bill, we see the American bald eagle; the eye of providence; the image of the revered first president of the country, George Washington; and the words “in God we trust”. What all these things have to do with good money is questionable, especially since the ongoing devaluation of the currency means that one dollar bill no longer buys much. But the mere repetition of exposure to such images must evoke a mental association between the dollar and sacred images and concepts. Perhaps this helps explain many people’s initial hostility towards Bitcoin, as it is viewed by some as a threat to the sacred dollar.
On the other hand, Bitcoin’s “flawless conception”, its history of origins and growth in Hollywood script quality and its ardent supporters give Bitcoin a sacred aura. We believe that by carefully observing important “rituals” like performing a full knot, managing our own private keys, and spreading the Bitcoin “gospel” to others, it can achieve holiness in the minds of the masses.
6. Freedom / oppression
“The Freedom / oppression Foundation… developed in response to the adaptive challenge of living in small groups with individuals who, if given the chance, would dominate, bully and limit others. The original triggers therefore contain signs of attempted domination. Anything suggestive of aggressive control behavior in an alpha male or female can trigger this form of righteous anger, sometimes called “reactance.” This is the feeling you get when an authority tells you that you cannot do something and you feel you want to make it even stronger. “
The righteous spirit, Page 200
People in free Western societies, particularly in the United States, value freedom highly and often respond with genuine hostility when their freedoms or those of others are violated.
Among the six foundations, freedom is the real cornerstone of Bitcoin that bitcoiners have to rely on the hardest. Money that is difficult to print, censor, or steal is a powerful tool for freedom and against oppression. Whether it’s storing values from corrupt regimes in hyperinflationary countries or escaping oppression by safely crossing the line with the savings in a brain wallet, Bitcoin is hugely popular with anyone who values freedom.
In a world where governments and corporations are constantly interfering with personal freedoms through surveillance and direct control, Bitcoin shines like a beacon of freedom. This is a particularly powerful narrative for anyone living in a Western democracy that values freedom. As residents of societies that value freedom, we will rely particularly heavily on the freedom foundation.
Until recently, many of us Bitcoiners relied too much on our logical, rational thoughts to keep people interested in Bitcoin. How many people could we have reached in the past if we had relied on the theory of moral foundations to understand human motivation?
While this framework may not be perfect, we believe it can be a powerful tool to win the hearts and minds of the masses and take the easy path to Bitcoin adoption. This road may still be long, but it promises to be less arduous than the alternative. Will you join us
This is a guest post by Andy Edstrom and Peter McCormack. The opinions expressed are solely their own and do not necessarily reflect those of BTC Inc or Bitcoin Magazine.