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Inside Bitcoin – review

May 16, 2015

One of the things that was sort of depressing at the Inside Bitcoin conference was how much smaller it was than last year.  It was about half the size, and there were about half a dozen booths rather than a dozen ones.  The basic issue is that the price of bitcoin is a lot lower now than it was a year ago, and it’s becoming more and more obvious that the bubble phase of bitcoin is over.  It’s really scary when this sort of thing happens, because part of you is thinking “OMG, I’m just an idiot for getting involved with this.”  Also if you have a group of passionate people in a shrinking pool, people start getting annoyed at each other, and that increases the “soap opera” quality of human relationships.

But at that might, you have to think about what it is that you really believe.  Also looking through history helps.  Every new technology that I can think of has passed through the “valley of despair.”  I’ve lived through the internet valley, the biotech valley, and the microcomputer valley, and so the fact that we are marching through the bitcoin valley scared me a little less because I’ve seen this before.  Also, going a bit deeper, you think back to stories of the people settling the American West or the story of Moses and the Isrealites.  Ultimately, walking through the desert stops being scary because you look bad at what you are leaving and you realize that there is nothing there.  You’ll either die in the desert or reach the promised land, and while the second case is preferable, either is better than staying where you were.

The funny thing is that even after you reach the promised land, history does not end.  You stay for a while, but things chance, and eventually you or your descendants are forced by circumstance to head across over the desert, and so you keep moving, and that is what makes us human.

There is one very odd fact about human beings.  If you look at the distribution of primates in both Africa and South America, one thing that you will find is that primates stop at the river.  Once you have a barrier there, the primates just stop.  Oceans and waterways have the same affect.  There is a sharp boundary between Asian species and Australian species, and that stops right at the location where there was water.

At some point in Africa several tens of thousand years ago, a person or group of people did some that had never happened in the history of the planet, or possibly the history of the universe.  They looked a river, and decided to cross it.  The first person that did it probably drowned, but eventually someone crossed the river, and the moment a breeding pair crossed the river, the planet belonged to us.

What makes us human is that we can imagine that there is a better world across the river, across the desert, across the ocean.  Sometimes we happen to be wrong, and we die during the journey, but there have been enough cases where we we were right to make the journey worthwhile.  When that unknown person crossed the river, they were probably looking for a bit of food or trying to escape some predator.  They had no idea of what they would see once they crossed the river, but it was just clear to them where they were going was better than what they were coming from.

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