In this episode Saifedean talks to software developer and author Gigi. They start by talking about Gigi’s book 21 Lessons: What I've Learned from Falling Down the Bitcoin Rabbit Hole, and why Gigi’s most important lesson is “you will not change bitcoin, but bitcoin will change you”. They move on to discuss the relationship between bitcoin and time. They cover how bitcoin solved the problem of reaching decentralized agreement on time and how bitcoin, as an unparalleled savings technology, serves to lower human time preference. The Q&A touches on topics such as the mind-boggling security of the SHA256 cryptographic hash function and threats to bitcoin’s future.
[00:03:40] Saifedean Ammous: Hello, and welcome to another episode of the Bitcoin Standard Podcast Seminar. Today's guest is an anonymous person who is around the Bitcoin scene and has been for a while and has produced some very interesting work. Some of you may know him on Twitter, his handle is @dergigi, and Gigi is a blogger and a software engineer. Before getting into Bitcoin he used to be a full-time software developer, and he's written 21 lessons, What I've Learned From Falling Down the Bitcoin Rabbit Hole.
He has also launched several Bitcoin related projects, such as bitcoin-resources.com, bitcoin-quotes.com and the German podcast with a long German name that I'm not going to butcher and pronounced and make myself into a joke. So Gigi, thank you so much for joining us.
Gigi: Hello, Saif, thanks so much for having me.
Saifedean Ammous: All right, so first of all I want to talk about your work and on Bitcoin, we're going to get to all of that, but I guess before that could you tell us a little bit more about [00:04:40] the person behind the Twitter account without doxing yourself too much, perhaps?
Gigi: Of course! Yeah, I'm from Austria. Austrian through and through, and I discovered Bitcoin quite late actually. My first contact was kind of early, so I studied computer science and I've been in software basically for the last 15 plus years and some of my software, and computer science friends, they discovered Bitcoin, but I think they didn't really understand the gravity of it. And I just missed it for the first couple of years. It took me a very long time to take a second and a third look. And once I started to realize that this is actually an important thing, I fell further and further down the rabbit hole.
And I, as you mentioned, ended up writing 21 lessons because I found the things that I learned, they were kind of important. Then I wanted to, I just had to share it with the world [00:05:40] and the people. And yeah so this is my background. I choose to stay kind of anonymous or pseudonymous because I think privacy is important online.
And I want to kind of also showcase to people that actually possible to stay more hidden than the regular person that broadcasts everything on Facebook, so I worked in the software industry related to non privacy technology. I worked in the passport industry and wrote software for border crossing checks, stuff like that.
And so this is in part, why is this very important to me, because I think we have to regain our privacy as well.
Saifedean Ammous: Yes, fantastic. So your background was in software engineering, you weren't into Austrian economics even though you're an Austrian, right?
Gigi: Exactly. I had no idea about economics, I never heard about Austrian economics.
I knew [00:06:40] the tech side of Bitcoin very well. I knew my cryptography, I knew my computer science. I knew what a hash was, I knew what public key cryptography was and so forth. But I was missing that Bitcoin, like the biggest puzzle piece that I was missing was that Bitcoin is actually money.
And I had no idea what money was. Yeah, it took me several years to catch up to you guys, and the, the (???) of the world. I'm glad that I discovered this world. And I'm very happy that I have a more profound understanding of money than Ihad before.
Saifedean Ammous: Yeah, it always struck me that Austrians seem to know very little about Austrian economics. I've been to Austria and I've known a lot of Austrians over the years and every time I mention it to them, they look at me like I'm just somebody who is weird. Well, to be fair, I feel weird to be talking about Australia economics to random [00:07:40] Austrians I meet, but they think I'm much weirder than I actually am.
What do you mean there's an Austrian economics. Like we are just another country and we have the same economics as all other countries. And there's very little knowledge of Hayek and Mises. I know there's a Hayek street in Vienna, but it's a pretty tiny street somewhere pretty obscure.
He's not very well-known, which is kind of sad but you know it's not something that is, Austrian economics is not really relevant to Austria in any particular way. So it's as sad as it is anywhere else, I guess.
Gigi: Yeah, that's true. And to be fair, I think thanks to Bitcoin, there is now a renewed interest and the German podcast that I helped launch is called Einundzwanzig which is just the german word for 21.
[00:08:40] It's not as complicated, but to be fair every German word is kind of complicated and long. But the community around the podcast in the German speaking world, of course everyone has to learn their Austrian economics now. And there are a lot of people in Germany and Switzerland and Austria.
There are thousands of people now that are actually reading Mises and Hayek and and Rothbard and so on and so forth. And it's all thanks to Bitcoin. So that is quite beautiful, that there's a renewed interest because of the orange coin.
Saifedean Ammous: Yeah, so tell us you know, in your book 21 Lessons, what are the most important lessons or the ones that you think are most relevant to this seminar and this audience?
I presume, the lessons you've learned about Austrian economics as somebody who just came in new, what did you find most interesting?
Gigi: Yeah, I think learning about money and the history of money was definitely very interesting, but think, especially what we want to talk about, I think lesson one is actually the most important one. [00:09:40] And lesson one is that you don't change Bitcoin, but Bitcoin will change you.
It is the unmovable object. So no matter how hard you try to change Bitcoin, you have to align with Bitcoin and with the values and properties kind of embedded in it. And I felt this firsthand. So I was very opposed to Bitcoin I would say, just from my previous worldview did not align with Bitcoin.
And so I had to burn off a lot of myself and change my views quite a bit, quite drastically to align myself with Bitcoin. And of course I would say it was for the better, because there's a certain kind of truth embedded in Bitcoin and just wrestling with the truth, it will humble you over and over again, and it will change you in the process.
Saifedean Ammous: Yeah, one way that I like to think about it is that each Bitcoin block [00:10:40] is a global reality check where everybody in the world who deals with Bitcoin has to come to consensus on the terms of Bitcoin, every 10 minutes. It's like everybody around the world has to bend the knee of the Bitcoin protocol and say yes I agree to these consensus rules, please keep my coins.
Don't take away my coins. It's an incredible exercise in humility in a sense. If you're operating Bitcoin, because you're part of this thing, and every time you think, alright maybe let me change it. Any other avenue of the world, say you're part of a bank or you're part of a political organization, or you're part of a sports team or whatever.
You see something you don't like, and you immediately think, hey I can fix this, I'm going to make this better, I'm smart. And then you proceed to try and fix it, and then you run into conflict with others or maybe you succeed, maybe you fail, but Bitcoin is just out of this [00:11:40] world and it just sits there and it doesn't care. Every 10 minutes you need to bend the knee to the current consensus protocol parameters.
And you essentially learn to be humble, I think from that. Because you can't change it, but you can benefit enormously from just playing along with it.
Gigi: Yeah, absolutely. And I think as you also wrote in The Bitcoin Standard, it is best understood as like a force of nature. The Sun is rising and Bitcoin blocks will continue to come in.
That's the way to understand it. And that's why it's so humbling because nature is something as well. If you ever learned to surf or anything like that, the ocean will humble you. And the same is true for Bitcoin. It's very relentless and it won't stop and it won't change for you.
And I think that's why a lot of people in the tech world and it was after awhile, They just fail to understand this aspect because they think it's just software, you can change software and you can launch your own version, and so on and so forth. But what those people fail to understand [00:12:40] is that changing Bitcoin is not an exercise in software engineering, it's a social exercise.
You have to convince everyone who is running a fully validating node to adopt your new rules. If you want to change the rules of Bitcoin, it's not an engineering task, it's very different. And just because we have this intransigent minority of toxic maximalists that just will not change the 21 million, no matter what kind of cookies you try to give them.
It's a very, very hard task. And a lot of people have failed as we've seen in the fork wars. And I think people will just continue to fail. And this is also why I think Bitcoin will continue to change people in part. Because it is unchangeable, you kind of have to align with it. And of course as you well know, there's also the lowering of time preference.
And I believe a large part of it is also the adoption of responsibility that you kind of have to take on if you want to use Bitcoin properly.
Saifedean Ammous: Yeah, [00:13:40] to stick to the immutability issue, it's something that I keep thinking about, and I'm not sure I have a set answer on whether it's really the software and the nature of the network that makes it immutable, or if it actually is the intransigent community. Because I go back and forth about this because yes, there's a lot of loud people on Twitter who will make fun of you and destroy you basically, if you try and mess with their magic internet money.
But I think there's a good case to be made that the only reason that they can do this, that they can discuss this in that way, that they can afford to remain intransigent is because of the network. But then again, you look at the other altcoins and you see it's very easy for them to be changing.
And [00:14:40] I think it might be just the self selection process that happened with Bitcoin and shitcoins, wherein, if you understood that 21 million is enough for everybody, and then anybody who's going to make another extra shitcoin is essentially engaging in inflation.
You're a different kind of person from the person who says, oh wow, shiny new money. Let me make my own, or let's find where the next one is going to be. It's a different thought process. And obviously I'm biased here, but I think it's a much deeper thought process when you understand, woah this thing only works because there's this fixed number of Bitcoin and we have this scarcity that is attached to it and nobody can change the supply.
And so the value here is that we have one neutral monetary protocol. And so if you don't see the neutrality of the protocol, then you think, all right [00:15:40] well let me make my own shitcoin. And then you think that's going to be equal to it but that's a very superficial understanding of it.
And I think it selects for the people who get it, which is, oh wait there's only going to be 21 million. I better get as many as I can and try and see how this thing works and learn how to do it. So it's interesting. What do you think?
Gigi: Yeah, I think Bitcoin definitely self-selects and I think we saw this also early waves, it selected for the craziest people first kind of. You had to be deep into crypto anarchy, the cypherpunk to be on board in the first couple of weeks or months.
And I think it continues to self select. I think it's still a selects on kind of the extreme personality traits. I believe the last couple of years, you have to be very disagreeable to get into Bitcoin. It's just such an alien technology. It's so far removed from [00:16:40] the mainstream understanding of things that you had to kind of be willing to say fuck you to everyone else then just to get into Bitcoin.
And I think you also have to be very open to new ideas to think that this funny internet money can rule the world. But I also think you mentioned shitcoins versus Bitcoin, I think there is a huge difference between all these communities and I think Bitcoiners in general, as you mentioned, they understand that this is, Bitcoin was introduced as kind of a gift to the world to fix all kinds of issues and to enrich humanity and shitcoins are introduced to enrich a small group of people. That's true for every single shitcoin. And it's just the groups of people that are different, but Bitcoin is truly the only project that had this immaculate conception and came out of nowhere and monetized spontaneously, and had no pre-mine or anything [00:17:40] like that.
And I think big difference now is, Bitcoiners in general, they want to eliminate (???) and shitcoiners just want to be the ones who are printing money. I think that's the biggest difference.
Saifedean Ammous: Yeah, I've tweeted this one before, somebody was saying something, usually there's the shitcoiner who's going, we're all fighting on the same team and we're all together and we shouldn't be negative to each other and we should all you know, sing kumbaya together as we bring this new world of digital decentralization.
No, we're not here to do a decentralization. Like I don't care about decentralization as a goal itself. I'm very happy with all kinds of centralized things that I use. Everything that I use is centralized and it's going to remain centralized. And as that's just the division of labor. So decentralization is a tool that you use in a certain context and the end goal is not to make this thing decentralized.
The [00:18:40] end goal is to end seniorage, and that's ultimately what it comes down to. Shitcoiners just think, let's give everyone seniorage as if that could work. It's kind of Keynesian thinking, if everybody could print their own currency or if every company or every neighborhood or every country or a city could print its own currency, then everybody can be the Fed, everybody can be Goldman Sachs, everybody can win from the Cantillon effect.
And you know, it's going to be a while until people learn this lesson, but eventually if everyone can print their money, then nobody can. That's really the solution to it. In fact, Hayek and Rothbard both. I think both of them used to say that all that we want in separate contexts, they both mentioned is that, all they call for is simply not letting the government have special privileges in terms of money, whatever the government can do, others can do. And if others can do the same thing, then you know, if everyone can print their own currency, then soon enough we'll realize why everybody chooses [00:19:40] of the harder money.
So it takes a lot to get that. And I think it's interesting what you said about the open-mindedness, that people conflate open-mindedness with being easily influenced or easily impressionable or gullible. If you're open-minded, then you have to listen to everybody. And Bitcoiners, I think strike this balance perfectly, which is you're open to new ideas, but you're not open to getting gaslighted into believing into stupid bullshit, because people are emotionally manipulating, which is essentially the pitch for all shitcoins, including fiat coins.
Ultimately fiat coins come down to nationalism, as well as idiotic Keynesian virtue signaling about helping the workers and the children and all of that stuff. It takes a very good balance where you are open to considering the [00:20:40] possibility that this magic internet money that seems like a very stupid thing because it's weird, that might actually be a real and yet at the same time, you're willing to tolerate friends and family and all sorts of people telling you you're an idiot and you're crazy, and you're a scammer and you're a Ponzi schemer. And to have the clarity and the strength of mind to be able to put that beside you.
It's easy to think that you're not influenced by others, but you're very influenced by others. And I think if you look back, you'll see that a lot of your actions were influenced by the people that you're interacting with. And it takes a lot of consciousness of it in order to be able to overcome it.
So it's definitely a self-selecting bunch, I agree with you on that one.
Gigi: Yeah, and I think it also still selects for engineers. And I think it has to do with what you've said about open-mindedness, what [00:21:40] keeps you in check and what keeps a good engineer in check is reality itself.
You basically build something and if the bridge still stands up there a hundred years, you're a good engineer. If you falls down after 10 days, you're a bad engineer. And I think engineers kind of internalized that there is a base reality and you can find out how things work and there is truth, there's truth to be found.
And I think if you study Bitcoin from first principles it becomes kind of self-evident that this thing cannot be killed, Bitcoin maximizes for survival and you can't call it decentralization because that's basically the same thing in this context, if it's maximally decentralized, only one node, if only one notes survived the nuclear holocaust, we're still good to go.
We're good to go. If we have one copy of the letter and one copy of the source code we're good to go. We can start where Satoshi started. And of course, the only thing that you can't copy in Bitcoin is the difficulty.
So difficulty will remain high and we will have to find [00:22:40] some miners to crunch the numbers. But I think that's where our engineers have a benefit because it's definitely possible to understand Bitcoin from the ground up from first principles.
And then you just land at the point where you understand that Bitcoin is so insanely resilient and so secure and so strong, and just this impenetrable tribal fortress of validation, as has been said before, you will have to live with it. There is no way to outlaw it because Bitcoin is just thought and speech, I can, store 12 words in my head and I can receive Bitcoin, no problem.
It's just thoughts and math. That's all it is, and it's very hard to outlaw this. And again, the law only works if you can enforce it. And so if you can't enforce it, tell me how to enforce, how to outlaw me having 12 words in my head. That's very difficult.
You will have to live with Bitcoin and Bitcoin won't go away.
Saifedean Ammous: Yeah, I [00:23:40] definitely agree on the engineers. I studied engineering myself in undergraduate, and it was mechanical engineering has nothing to do with well, I did learn a little bit of software engineering, but I'm not a software engineer and a lot of Bitcoiners, and I think particularly toxic maximalists come at Bitcoin from an engineering background. Just off the top of my head, I know Michael Saylor, Lynn Alden, and I think there's a similar kind of, it's a similar kind of framework of thinking about things. And what you said about the bridge is exactly it, the bridge either stands or it falls.
And if it falls, nobody cares about all of your excuses. They didn't give me the metal that I asked for, or that shipment was late and I had to make do with something else. None of that counts, the bridge has to stand. And so there's a very real sense of truth. And this is why, you can get philosophical about the truth and subjectivity and reality and [00:24:40] relativism and all of that stuff, but ultimately, if you want to do anything with your life more than just remain in the same puddle of blood where your mom birthed you until you die.
If you want to do anything, you need to understand reality in certain clear concrete terms. You want to figure out how to get out of bed without falling and hurting yourself, and there's a way to do that, and there are wrong ways of doing that.
People just get tired, I think from the thought processes that go into more complex things and then they get thrown off and then they start thinking all these kind of ridiculous, philosophical questions about, well, what if truth is not true?
And how do we know and well, that's very nice, but you know if you'd like to eat and excrement and you know, manage to do those two [00:25:40] things separate from each other, without them mixing with each other so that you could survive for a few more days so that you can stay alive.
There's an objective reality you can deal with and you do things right, and then things will work. You build the house properly, it'll keep you safe in the winter. And you know, Bitcoin is like that. It's just an extension of smart, productive engineering applied to the question of money. It's by far the most astonishing I think technology ever made for money.
If you think of things practically like an engineer with a clear understanding of truth, I think it's hard not to be awed by them. I would guess you're far more likely to find, I think if you were to measure percentages, you'd probably find more engineers among Bitcoiners than among shitcoiners because of just truth and reality.
Gigi: Yeah, I would definitely agree. And [00:26:40] I think it's just also different kinds of people because of different kinds of priorities and worldviews. And in general, in Silicon valley, there's still this move fast and break things mentality, and you just cannot do this in Bitcoin, you must not do this in Bitcoin.
Every engineer in Bitcoin knows and agrees that first of all, the backwards compatibility is of utmost importance. You must not hard fork, period. That's the whole value proposition of Bitcoin is that this thing will live for the next couple of hundred, couple of thousand years.
And so this is also where the low time preference comes into play. We want to build structures that last for a very long time and building structures in cyberspace that last for a very long time is really hard. I think also here, Bitcoin self-selects for the best and most careful engineers and for the most capable of cryptographers.
And we see this all the time, other networks go down. If the network goes down, it's not a network, it's not a [00:27:40] decentralized network, it's a server. If your networks can be paused, it's not a network. If your network can go bankrupt because the company behind it goes bankrupt, it's not a decentralized network.
So all of those projects are a joke compared to Bitcoin. If you just look at the track record and especially if you look at the difficulty, everything else doesn't even register everything else pales in comparison completely. I hate price charts, I don't look at price charts at all.
I stopped doing that a long time ago, but I still look at the hash rate charts from time to time. It's just absolutely insane how high the hash rate is for Bitcoin and nothing else even registers. And I think those are the metrics that count. You want to look at security, you want to look at stability.
You want to look at uptime. You want to look at critical box and things like that. Nobody ever lost Bitcoin because of Bitcoin and the network. You only lose Bitcoin because of user errors. You only lose Bitcoins because you leave it at [00:28:40] some exchange that gets hacked or you get hacked.
Or most people I think lose Bitcoin because they forgot the password or lose the seedphrases and stuff like that.
Saifedean Ammous: Absolutely. One of the dumbest memes going around in the crypto sphere is the idea that Bitcoin is old and decrepit and sclerotic while all the innovation and smart engineering is taking place on all these shitcoin scam networks like Bitconnect and Ethereum or whatever they're called.
And I think that's absolutely hilarious because these networks very clearly cannot even keep themselves up and running, and we've seen them get hacked in the most hilarious ways. And I think, in particular, for instance you could think about Ethereum when when the DAO hack happened.
I think the real hack was not the DAO hack. I think the real hack was the reaction to the DAO hack. I think the real failure of the [00:29:40] Ethereum system was not that people managed to take money from the stupid smart contract, which happens every week, or if not every day, because all of this code is just high time preference people trying to find new stories for explaining why they're moving around their fake ledger entry coins from one centralized ledger to the other.
And if you can manage to break that, and then lead to the system moving to hard fork the blockchain, then you've invalidated the entire use case for the motion. And of course it continues to survive because there's a lot of easy, stupid money around. And because there's a lot of hype and a lot of marketing and it piggybacks on Bitcoin.
It piggybacks on the bias that people have, that if there's a Bitcoin, then there must be another one, just like if there's a Burger King, there must be a Mcdonald's. But you know, in [00:30:40] terms of engineering, I think it's incomparable and I think time preference is a great great way of explaining it. We see this happen over and over again.
People just come into shitcoins with some strange idea and then they think, yep I'm just going to do this with a shitcoin and that's going to work and then it doesn't work. They expect that the simple idea that they came up with, which is 80% or 90% Bitcoin, and then adding some irrelevant bells and whistles that just add security weaknesses.
They expect that to be as functional as Bitcoin. They want their blockchain out there competing with Bitcoin, when it's been really four guys who looked at the code before it was launched and with predictably hilarious consequences as always.
Gigi: Yeah, I think that's true, and I think the lowering of time preference definitely [00:31:40] plays a role.
As we said, you want to build solid structures that last a long time into the future. And I think most people that are gambling on the shitcoin casinos have been launching ICO's and other projects. They just want to maximize the US dollar gains in a short period of time. So it's basically all just gambling and cashing out in my opinion, I also agree with you that the DAO reversal was way worse than the DAO hack because that's what for me drove the nail into the coffin of this project because it was code is law and then oh no the code doesn't do what we want and it's us five people that make the law.
And so what are we doing? Doing things in a decentralized way is way, way more difficult and way less efficient than doing it just on one server and one Excel sheet. And basically if you can change the rules, what are you doing? And, I think what also most people fail to realize is that in the end, everything comes down to decentralization [00:32:40] in Bitcoin.
Like that's why Bitcoiners run their own nodes, that's why you have to hold your own keys. Not your keys, not your Bitcoin. Those sayings, they all exist for a reason because if we fail to keep the decentralization alive, then Bitcoin I think will be a failed project in the long run because it will run into a situation where you have one master node and then it's very easy to change the rules.
It is all interconnected and interrelated. And I think that's also a big difference to every other project because every other project has like 50 nodes on (???). There are no raspberry pi's running, any other projects, it just doesn't exist.
Saifedean Ammous: Yeah, and the competition for these kinds of dApps, decentralized apps. The competition for them is AWS. And AWS is about a millionth cheaper than using these decentralized networks for very good reason, for the same reason that [00:33:40] I discussed in The Bitcoin Standard, why a Bitcoin transaction is more expensive than a second layer transaction, if you're just willing to trust in somebody, you can run a 14 billion, what was it, I think 2 billion transactions a day on a laptop or something like that.
I forget the exact numbers, but you know to do some Elon Musk level engineering, you can 10x everything, if you just run it on your own laptop but then good luck with the security of it. And that's really, ultimately what compromises the model, but enough about shit coins. We're not here to talk about shitcoins, who cares.
We're here to talk about time and time preference. One really powerful idea that you've introduced in a brilliant article is called Bitcoin is Time. And I think that's a very powerful way of thinking about it. So why is Bitcoin time?
Gigi: Yeah [00:34:40] I actually took the other side of the coin. I'm not talking about time preference in this article, I'm talking about literal time and the problem that Bitcoin solved is the problem of timestamping. There was no way to tell the time in the decentralized networks without relying on the central clock.
And so this was what let all other projects before Bitcoin fail. I mean, there were a lot of attempts to do something like Bitcoin before Bitcoin, and they all relied on one form of a centralized server or another. And since we are talking about lectures, you only can't do lectures in a digital space.
There are no tokens in a digital space, no matter how many shitcoin people will convince you that there are tokens. Token is a complete misnomer. You only have data, and data is only, is basically a ledger, always. There are only data entries. There are only ledger entries.
That's the only way you can do money in an informational substrate. I really liked what (???) said once. He said in Bitcoin, the map is the territory. And that is so true. [00:35:40] I'm not even sure if he knows how insanely true that is because with every other list, if you make a list of things, if you move from the real world into the informational realm, the map is never the territory.
You will always have the disconnect between the real world, the physical world and the thing that you put on the list. And this is a huge, huge problem. And this is basically the Oracle problem. And this is also true for time. That's why in every other system you can always do timing attacks.
You can just rewind your clocks or say it's in the future and you can modify your timestamps. And then your whole system doesn't work because everyone in a decentralized system is supposed to play nice, right? So all the timestamps have to match up. And if there are large discrepancies then the system can't handle it.
And that's why Bitcoin introduced its own notion of time, which is the timechain. And I hate the term blockchain for many reasons, but I also hate it because there's the famous saying of blockchain, what is a blockchain, it's a chain of blocks, so it's completely meaningless, but if you call it a timechain, it becomes insanely [00:36:40] obvious that it has to do with time.
And this is actually what Bitcoin's internal time is based on, is the block height. It is tick, tick, every 10 minutes, the next block comes in and the only anchor to the real world is the difficulty adjustment, with a moving window that adjusts the difficulty in a way so that we match 10 minutes of human time and just solve so many problems at once.
It solves, as you know, the issuance problem. That's why we know when the last Bitcoin is going to be mined approximately. But another thing that Nick Sabo, like he hit his head against the wall for about 10 years to solve this problem.
And it's about coming up with an algorithm that is stable in terms of computation. So crypt-analytic stability. So if you come up with a computer problem, you want to have, unforgeable costliness when it comes to money. So you want to have something that is hard for computers to do, so you can have something like a digital coin.
The problem is [00:37:40] computers get faster and faster all the time. So if you mine a digital coin 15 years ago, then it's completely worthless because your birthday card, the chip in your happy birthday cards can mine it for you like 15 years later. And this always was a problem.
And this is also the beauty of the difficulty adjustment, that it takes into account that more people are going to mine and the computers are going to get fast and that we're going to have a graphics cards and asics and all that jazz. And so it solves so many problems at once. And I think viewing proof of work and Bitcoin through the lens of time and just realizing that it is actually a decentralized clock, it will help you to understand how profound the invention of Bitcoin is because you can dismiss every other idea outright.
Because every other idea, like proof of stake or proof of space, or what have you, there are many really stupid ideas in shitcoin lands that want to solve similar problems in a different way. And it just doesn't work, period. It doesn't work from first principles. You can always do timing attacks and you have no [00:38:40] way of telling a decentralized time.
And it's even more tricky than that because of relativity. We don't have a fixed time on Earth in the first place. Synchronizing clocks across earth is an impossible problem. The light radius of earth is 50 minutes. So if you would enlarge it, then it would become more obvious, but you cannot.
There is no simultaneous, there are no simultaneous events on Earth, like it's a difficult concept if you're not well-versed in physics and relativity, but it's true nonetheless. That's why we have to update the timestamps of GPS satelites all the time, because they are fighting this problem.
Saifedean Ammous: Yeah, I think this is a great example of what we were mentioning earlier in terms of the differences and the engineering mentality, all of these proof of buzzword programs that you see in shitcoin land, it's the exact example of bad engineering where you start not with a problem that you're looking to solve, but you're trying to find a solution that looks in a certain way.
You know, the problem has been solved by Bitcoin, but it offends your silly brainwashed sensibilities that Bitcoin uses electricity because you've spent the last 30 years consuming stupid television and university press releases telling you that electricity is bad because electricity is making the world, the Earth burn down and we're turning the planet into a hell hole.
And we're killing the polar bears because we're using electricity. And you know [00:40:40] it's nonsensical to just approach, all right we solve this problem, but how do we do it in a way that allows me to virtue signal in the way that I like.
Gigi: It's very similar to cargo cooled engineering, if you know the term. You see their world war planes land, and they bring all the nice cargo and to bring all the supplies.
And one day they leave and they never come back. And so you think you know what you're doing and you're building an airstrip and something that approximates a microphone and headphones and some antennas and a tower. You want to make the planes land and you build your own planes out of bamboo and they just don't fly and nothing happens.
And it's just because you don't understand the engineering and the problems in the first place. You don't even understand what you're trying to solve. And I think a lot of people that want to do proof of anything about work, they don't understand what Bitcoin solves in the first place. And it's decentralized timestamping.
Bitcoin is a decentralized clock. And if you don't solve this problem, there is no other [00:41:40] way to solve it, I'm convinced of that. I'm convinced of that because in the realm of information, if you're dealing with a ledger, if you're dealing just with pure information, all you have is the transformation of this information, you have nothing else.
You only have computation and computation requires energy. And that's one of the axioms that Bitcoin is built upon. If computation would not require energy, Bitcoin would not work. If we would find a way to do computation without using any energy, the security model of Bitcoin would break down.
And I'm convinced that proof of work is the only thing that works to do decentralized timestamping. And that's why I just dismiss everything else outright, and I understand the other systems quite well. I think my understanding of them is above average when it comes to Bitcoiners, because I studied them for a very long time.
And I thought there was another way, I thought about this very deeply for many years. And I came to the conclusion- there is no other way. You have to use energy because all we have is information, and all we have is the transformation of information, which is computation.
Saifedean Ammous: Yeah, I think a useful metaphor here to tell people is that [00:42:40] it's not that proof of work is one way to reach a destination, it's more like proof of work is the right key for this exact lock that we're looking to unlock.
And so this is what we're trying to achieve. We're trying to find a way where we can have decentralized timestamping, where we can make the quantity of issuance and the consensus parameters independent of the computing power. Where the thing readjusts always, regardless of the computing power.
So the problem pertains specifically to computing power and to energy consumption. So the solution has to be at that. This is what the lock looks like, and so the key has to look exactly like the lock in order for the lock to turn. That's just how it is. And you know, trying to awry that is cargo cult engineering for the lock.
If we just get a bunch of sticks and stones and put them into the lock, maybe it'll open. No, you need the exact key and the exact key has to attack the [00:43:40] problem from where it is, which is, as you very well explained, the time and the energy component.
Gigi: Yeah, and the beautiful thing is that all you need is time.
Bitcoin doesn't know about the energy. It's only by probabilistic nature that it knows about. But what Bitcoin does, it really adjusts only for time. So if more Bitcoiners mine, they are going to be faster and then you have to adjust the difficulty, so you're going to hit the 10 minute window again.
All he cares about is just adjusting the average that it takes to mine a new block, up or down to 10 minutes, that's all he cares about. And you solve all the issues just with that, because if computers get faster and faster and faster, it doesn't matter, you just makes it harder to mine. And you also solve the issuence problem. So it's such a beautifully engineered (???).
And if you remove just one thing out of Bitcoin, it all falls apart. So it's a very minimal solution, but it's such a beautiful solution and it solves like three impossible problems.
Saifedean Ammous: Yeah, and in an engineering perspective, I think it's really bringing to the digital realm what [00:44:40] gold solves in that problem in the physical realm. The reason gold continue to be money through thousands of years is not because it's solved the proof of stake problem or the proof of space problem, or the proof of whatever shitcoin buzzword is going on these days.
It's because it solved the proof of work problem. That's the problem that existed with money in the physical realm, and it exists with money in the digital realm. Gold's proof of work required you to find the rarest occurring element in Earth, and it required a lot of costs to refine it and turn it into a monetary medium.
And it meant that, because of the fact that the thing was incorruptible, because gold didn't ruin or rust or corrode or dissolve, it meant that we were constantly stacking up a stockpile of gold, so that new gold production, the faster we produced gold, the bigger the stockpile became and therefore the smaller, the new production was in [00:45:40] relation to the existing stockpile.
So therefore ensuring that we're always not being inflationary. So that's how the problem of money was solved in the physical world. And that's how in the digital world Bitcoin saves it. And it's exactly, proof of stake is exactly like central banking.
Gigi: It's the legacy system. You can also call it the legacy system.
Saifedean Ammous: It's the exact way in which gold was corrupted and turned into governmental shitcoins, was through the introduction of essentially central banking, which is a proof of stake system. Instead of the banks just holding gold and offering receipts in gold and then allowing gold to move faster.
No, let's just let the banks issue debt that is as good as gold because it is guaranteed by the central bank. And then we prevent any competitors and therefore, and this is what, this was one of the ideas that Keynes had.
One of the [00:46:40] impressively stupid ideas of John Maynard Keynes, which is, look at all the wasted money and resources that go into running the gold standard. We pay people to dig under the ground to get gold out, and then we pay them to transport it and refine it. And then we transport it to banks and then we pay people to lock it in vaults underground and lock it up. Well, Vitalik Buterin of the 19th century comes along and says, I have a better idea.
We should just forget about this gold and have the banks trade their own liabilities and have the central bank guarantee those liabilities. One century of death and destruction and waste and capital being wasted away and hundreds of millions of people die because you've allowed people to just make their own money and Bitcoin fixes this.
And there's nothing the shitcoiners can do.
[00:47:40] Gigi: Yeah. I think Bitcoin fixes this in two interesting ways, because first of all as you said it's not physical, it's digital. It lives purely in the informational realm. That's why you can teleport it. It has no mass and that's a big advantage over gold as you know and write about so often.
And I think that's where the personal responsibility comes in and just understanding all these things, that's where the lowering of the time preference and the personal responsibility comes in. Because once you understand, okay we now have the same thing as gold, but in the digital realm, and it's a little bit different because it's absolutely scarce and you can only do absolute scarcity in the digital realm.
That's another thing I'm convinced about because everything else you can just make more and mine more and so on as forth, but the beautiful dance that Bitcoin kind of orchestrates, it will lead to 21 million. And this is non-negotiable. If Bitcoin increases this limit, it's a failed project. And so if it is Bitcoin, it has 21 million [00:48:40] Bitcoins.
And once you understand this, Bitcoin kind of becomes the ultimate judge. And you talk about this often as well, in terms of just what else could you do to just stack more Sats and earn more Bitcoin? Do I really want to go to college? Do I really want to, I don't know, buy this new car and it's just the ultimate judge of your opportunity costs.
Once you understand this it changes your life completely. Like that's when people start selling the chairs and get a second job and do whatever they can to get their hands on a larger pie of the 21 million cake. Because we're still in the monetization phase and we're still in the reward era.
So new Bitcoin is still mined. It doesn't matter how hard you work, three years from now, you will not work 10x as hard as you do now. And that's painfully obvious, I think to every Bitcoiner. So you just try to be [00:49:40] like, I made my peace with that a long time ago. I just try to be as productive as I can.
And consume as little as I can. And this must be enough, I cannot do more. In terms of personal responsibility, I think that's what's really fascinating because as we all know not your keys, not your Bitcoin. That becomes painfully obvious once you lost your keys in Mt. Gox or somewhere else.
But also to to really understand what you're holding on, what you have to participate in the Bitcoin network. And we saw this in the block size debate, we saw this in the fork wars, we saw it now with taproot activation as well. And you also want to validate your incoming transactions if you truly use Bitcoin you want to convince yourself in a trustless manner that this is truly Bitcoin that your holding. So to use Bitcoin properly you also have to run your own node.
And I think all of that, just holding your own keys and doing Bitcoin storage properly, and of course, there are shared custodial solutions, (???) evolutions and all [00:50:40] these problems are being solved, but I still think that it forces you kind of to take responsibility of this part of your life.
And in turn, if you're able to do it, you will see that you actually can't take on the responsibility and this will kind of extend into other areas of your life. And I think that's why we see, Bitcoiners getting more healthy, Bitcoiners starting to work out, Bitcoiners starting to change their diet and Bitcoiners starting to raise a family and things like that.
Saifedean Ammous: Yeah, absolutely. I agree with this entirely and I think the connection between what we were discussing earlier about the solution of the timestamping problem and the lowering of the time preference and the personal responsibility is really direct. The solution to the mining issue and to the scarcity problem and to the timestamping problem is what allows this network to continue to operate every 10 minutes, is what keeps slapping you with the fact that, hey it's still running.
Every 10 minutes there's a new slap, you check your computer [00:51:40] every day and yep. Every 10 minutes, there's a new dose of reality. And then it gets into your consciousness, very deeply, the idea that this thing is there and it's going to be there and it's stable and it's reliable. And then finally, I think for us, for our generation, we finally have something that we can look at into the future and know that it's going to be there, that it's going to be stable.
Because if you really think about it, this is what gold used to be for people up until the 20th century. You could always save for the future because you could always buy gold and you knew that your gold coin, whatever happens, you could pass it on to your grandchildren and they could spend the 200 years later, their great grandchildren can spend it 200 years later and it will have still gone up in those 200 years because that was money.
But then when that stopped being money, we don't have that. You look all over the world, people don't have an opportunity to save, and so they don't have a way for [00:52:40] providing for the future. And this is something I talk about in my next book, The Fiat Standard, which is available for pre-order now, as well as The Principles of Economics, which is coming in a few months, when you're able to provide for the future, you start discounting the future less.
You start thinking, Hey, actually, you know what, if all of this money that I'm wasting on stupid bullshit that I don't need today, if I would just collect this money over three years, if I'd done this over the last three years today, I would have had this much money, wow. This Bitcoin thing actually is reliable and it works and it's different.
Some people will say, well stocks can also give you returns, but it's different. Stocks have a lot of risks and they involve management fees and they involve judgment and selection that you need to know what you're doing. And you know, the number go up technology in stocks is nothing like the number go up technology in Bitcoin. Arguably, stocks don't keep up with inflation.
If you really think about inflation in real [00:53:40] terms, think about the house that you would ideally like to live in. If money was not an issue in your town, what is the best house that you would want to live in? And then look at how much the price of that house has gone up over the last 10 years and see if your income or your stocks have managed to keep up.
And the answer is almost always no, well, not almost always, but I mean for the vast majority of people it's no. Few people can of course beat it, but the majority of people cannot. And so you don't see that the things that you want in the future are attainable for you, because how do I get to them?
I could put the money in cash or in a savings account, it won't get there. Bonds aren't going to get there. Stocks maybe, but it's not gonna be that lucrative to tempt you to forgo present consumption. I think that's the key thing. So maybe I can put it in stocks and maybe my stocks will go up, but you know, [00:54:40] maybe they go down and in five years time, I'm up 10% or 15% or 20% or 50%.
But in five years time, inflation has gone up 70 or 80% because that's just what money does. The house that you wanted to buy is just continuously moving out of your reach, just like the carrot hanging from a stick in front of a donkey. So no matter how hard that donkey runs, they're just not going to get the carrot.
And you know, some donkeys obviously do get the carrots, but it can be pretty exhausting for the majority of the donkeys. And so Bitcoin just allows us with this technology where you can provide for you your future, and then suddenly, hey actually I can have that house in three years. I can have that thing that I want if I just save more in Bitcoin and then suddenly start thinking about, well what am I going to do when I have that house in five years time? Maybe I should be healthy.
Gigi: Exactly, and I think it's even more than that because stocks are [00:55:40] fine I guess, but every company will go bankrupt. Every company will go away. And I truly believe Bitcoin will not go away. And this is the deep security that you talked about.
I know Bitcoin will be there for you. I know Bitcoin will be there for me. And I was so convinced that I built my whole future around it. I wouldn't have a kid now if it weren't for Bitcoin, because I knew no matter what happens, like even if my government fails me completely and my bank fails me completely, or my company fails me completely or whatever, a lot of things can fail you completely.
It's very unlikely that Bitcoin fails you completely. If you manage to take care of your private keys and you have a couple of Satoshis to your name, just like you can truly build a future around it, then you have some security there. And this is what allowed me to just step back and allow myself to say, okay I really want to do this.
I want to raise a family and I'm ready to become a dad. And I wouldn't have my daughter, if it weren't for Bitcoin, I can very confidently say that. It is because of the deep security that the Bitcoin network provides. I know that Bitcoin will always be there and there is nothing [00:56:40] anyone can do about it, and if I need to rely on the Bitcoin network, so be it. Then it's going to be there for me.
Saifedean Ammous: Oh, I agree entirely. I think me starting a family very much had to do with Bitcoin. The two things came into my life at around the same time for a very good reason. As I basically submit to Bitcoin and figured out, yep this is it, this is what it is. Immediately like looking back right now, it's almost like there was a control knob for time preference in your mind.
And somebody just dropped that control knob. You know, it was it at 11 before they dropped it to one. And now suddenly I started discounting the future much less. And I started thinking about the future, caring about having a family, caring about all these other things. It makes life so much richer when you start thinking about the future because you know what happens eventually in a few [00:57:40] years later the future catches up with you and so you reap the things that you had sowed in the past.
And so once you make that shift, obviously initially it's difficult, when you start saving more, you start cutting down on expenses and it can seem frustrating, but eventually or family for instance is another example. Having a kid that can be frustrating initially. Changing a lot of filthy diapers has been a big part of my life as I've been writing the books.
But it pays off in the long run and the long run eventually catches up. Eventually they get toilet trained, and they start keeping themselves busy and then you start enjoying their company and then you start enjoying having a family together and yeah, it pays off. It's a much richer way of living because you're building things that last, you're building things to [00:58:40] pay off into the future.
I think as I get older I'm beginning to realize these are the things that make the human experience important in the long run. They're not things that you care about when you're young, when you're young, you're easily impressionable and you're after every little flashy, plastic toy out there.
And then when you're older, you've already tried many cars and no matter what new gadgets they put into cars, each new car is less rewarding and less interesting than the older one. And what you're looking for are things that had required you to have invested seriously back in your youth.
I think it drives the haters crazy, the Bitcoin haters, it drives them crazy to see this, but it's [00:59:40] one of the very few places in the world where you see a culture of people that are concerned about the longterm. It's quite striking. When you listen to Bitcoiner podcasts, or you hear about conversations on Bitcoin Twitter, everybody uses the term time preference, like it's normal to use it.
When really before Bitcoin came around, there was only just a bunch of weird Austrian economists that everybody thought was weird. Some other economists would mention it in passing. It was a mathematical term in their textbooks, but it had no significance on the real life. And now among Bitcoiners, everybody talks about time preferences as if it's just a normal thing, like it's a Yankee's game.
Gigi: Yeah, it's one of the things that just got me reality hard. And now we see headlines of central bankers and other people not coming to terms with the general population just knowing what fiat means, for example, that's another term that Bitcoiners kind of made popular again, [01:00:40] and I'm fine with not using fiat.
We can call them cockbucks or shitcoins or whatever we want, that's perfectly fine as well. But I think what's so striking to me is getting to know other Bitcoiners and just seeing this experiment play out over and over again. Bitcoiners, they lower their time preference. Once you really understand it and get into Bitcoin and your personal balance sheets is Bitcoin mostly, spending your Bitcoin is no fun. If you're forced to spend Bitcoin, that's not a good time. And I think also, just taking care of your own finances and just taking care of your own key management, taking care of your own node, it allows you to see what you're capable of doing.
And we see this over again, Bitcoiners, they start companies, they take matters into their own hands. And we see this now, even with ranches and other things. The stuff that Untapped Growth is working on and other people and [01:01:40] people are actually scouting for and building citadels.
That's not a joke. They are getting their hands on land. I assume if the Bitcoin thesis continues to be correct, I assume that this community if you want to call it that, will continue to grow. There will be more sovereign individuals. And we see this also, with flag theory and just Bitcoiners trying to be mobile, getting a second citizenship, trying to get land in various areas, trying to build houses in various areas and all of this is playing out.
And I think it boils down to, as you were saying, the lowering of time preference, but also the adoption of radical responsibility. Bitcoin shows you that nobody will come in and save you. Nobody will give you Bitcoin. You have to earn your Bitcoin. The only way to part with your Bitcoin is voluntarily, someone has to offer you a service.
Someone has to put in the work, you can earn Bitcoin only through proof of work. That's the only way you can do it. There is no money [01:02:40] printer that you can get close to. There is no other way. There is no cheap way to acquire Bitcoin. And I think this shapes people as well, and you have to put in the work and then you put in work in other areas as well.
Saifedean Ammous: Yeah. And I think the fascinating point here is that fiat, it markets itself as a cheaper solution to the problem of gold mining, but of course, as I was quoting Keynes earlier on this, but Mises of course, had a perfect response to this, which is that if you want to compare the cost of gold, you shouldn't compare it to the cost of running ledger entries on central bank papers and balance sheets.
You should compare it to the cost of the consequences of having cheap money. And so Mises says when you compare the cost of mining gold to the cost of inflation, that's when you realize the cost of mining gold is the lesser of evils. And that's really the [01:03:40] fiat hack. And I discuss this in detail in The Fiat Standard, because The Fiat Standard, I spent years thinking about this and writing it out and fleshing it out and you see that it's just by corrupting money and making it so that you can get money or some people can get money without having to work for it.
You undermine the entire function of money as a saving mechanism. You undermine people's ability to provide for the future and you've undermined their sense of responsibility and sense of fairness and justness. And you've undermined their incentive to work hard and you've strengthened their incentive to be dubious characters, to go around and try and find a way to print money.
And so people move more and more toward this kind of world where we are looking to get closer to the printer rather than looking to be more productive. And then it's just a degradation of [01:04:40] time preference across all aspects of life. You see it in architecture, you see it in people's manners, you see it in people's mores, you see it in the way that people dress.
Even you see it in art, you see the music, you see it in products. You see how people are just consuming heavily and constantly churning through stuff that they don't need. Because even though the stuff they don't really need, they needed more than they need their national governments depreciating fiat.
It's why really Bitcoin is the anti-fiat technology in a very real sense. It's because of proof of work and because of mining. All of the fiat of the world, all of the ones, I say this in The Fiat Standard, all of the world's governments, all of the world's religious authorities, all of the world's spiritual leaders, all of the world's scientists and academics and computer scientists and physicists and health authorities, everybody who has a self important job in the planet who thinks of themselves as being in a [01:05:40] position of authority.
All of those people, if they all got together, all the religions and all the governments and everybody in a self-important position, anywhere in the world, they all got together and agreed the next Bitcoin block shouldn't contain a transaction or the next Bitcoin block should add more coins or the next Bitcoin block should not come at all.
They can just simply do what Bitcoin has always recommended, which is cry harder. You can't stop it. People will find a way to mine the block and the block will come and they will find a way of adding their transactions to it and will continue to operate. It's powerful, searing truth that just comes to the world and forces everybody to reckon with it.
And it's amazing.
Gigi: Yeah, absolutely. And I think most people, especially most legislators have not understood some basic facts about Bitcoin because when we think about mining, we [01:06:40] think about plugging in Asics, but the nature of mining is just finding a large random number. You can do it on pen and paper.
It's very inefficient and you will never find a valued block in time, but there is no magic sauce happening in mining. Even outlying mining, it's a very weird concept because you, in essence, outlaw math and outlawed numbers. And for mining as well, I mean we see this in China, there's some rogue mining operations have been going on still, even after the ban, which trucks full of Asics driving around, finding the next power outlet, having a satellite connection somewhere somehow.
And this is all you really need for mining. I think that's what most people still underestimate, you only need a communication channel and some energy you can tap into. And I think just in Bitcoin in general, and I hope to write about this in the coming weeks.
It's [01:07:40] very hard for me to make any sense of the world, if the world outlaws Bitcoin. And if legislators come together and say, you cannot do certain math operations. You cannot have 12 words in your head. And when it comes down to it, that's all that Bitcoin is. Bitcoin is just numbers and you can have Bitcoin in your head.
And I think that's also, you spoke about how gold was in the end centralized. And I think the unconfiscatable nature Bitcoin, if you secure it properly, this is still very underappreciated, because the fact is that governments and powerful people cannot step in and take your Bitcoin.
If you secure them properly, they have to torture you, and it doesn't matter if you use a sophisticated multisignature setup or if you have a password in your head or even your private keys in your head, in the end, they have to torture you. So there is no way to forcefully take your Bitcoin if you've secured it properly.
And this is something that we never had before. Everything that exists in the physical world can be taken away [01:08:40] from you. So this is such a novel concept that I think most people that make the laws, they just haven't wrestled with this fact yet. And I think we will see some interesting legal cases where they have to personally, I think we already saw that, there was some forced hodlers with some interesting stories, you might be able to shut down the operation and you might be able to imprison the person, but you won't be able to get the Bitcoin.
And I think that's an interesting fact of this thing.
Saifedean Ammous: Yeah, it's absolutely amazing. Keep in mind the fact that the Bitcoin early adopters have had their minds blown, but they are almost certainly the people that are most likely to have had this realization.
So either you came at it from a libertarian perspective or from an Austrian economics perspective or as a software engineer, you have a kind of [01:09:40] inkling about how powerful software can be. As much as it blows all of our minds, I think we are still the people that are going to have their minds blown the least by the implications of this.
There are people out there who think their government creates reality. They really do exist, they think life is all about you vote for the best people, and then the best people create the reality that you want and anything in this reality that you don't like is because of the evil bastards in power.
And it's only about finding the right bastards to put in power so that they can then create the reality that I want. Imagine how those people are going to come to terms with Bitcoin.
Gigi: I think we already see this, we saw it in the last couple of years and I think we're going to see it with increasing intensity.
And there is a nice term for it which is called Bitcoin Derangement Syndrome. And it can take many shapes and forms. And if you are raised on the fiat mindsets and all your life, you've been plugged in into the fiat matrix, you will [01:10:40] have a very hard time. And I think there are some people that are just not flexible enough mentally to accept the reality that Bitcoin represents, that they are going to lose their mind.
We've seen it already. There are some people that legit went crazy and did not come back, and I think this will continue to happen. And I also think Bitcoiners are not immune. I think some Bitcoiners, they turn crazy as well and have some very weird ideas or just got bitten too hard or took too many orange pills, phrase it however you want.
But it's like Bitcoin has the tendency to drive people mad. It can definitely do that.
Saifedean Ammous: Absolutely, I think we see it with a lot of the Bitcoin haters. Like you look at people like Nouriel Roubini, Peter Schiff. Well, Peter Schiff, maybe not. I think Peter Schiff probably still has his mind. He's just shilling his own business.
And if you think of what Peter Schiff does as marketing for his fund, it's enormously successful because the alternative is you would be just one [01:11:40] of the many gold funds that have been performing terribly over the last 10 years, but he gets his name out. So maybe I Peter Schiff is a bad example, but I think Nouriel Roubini is a great example.
I think the most powerful example this year has been the same Nicholas Taleb who has just completely lost his mind. I mean, it's not even funny what he's doing at this point is. And I think in his case in particular, probably some of it has to do with me, but I think the more that I think about it, I'm beginning to see it outside of the context of, I'm beginning to get a little bit less convinced that it is about me.
And it's more just about Bitcoin in particular. It's about what has happened in Lebanon with Bitcoin, because he's coming to the realization, he was completely blind to this possibility, even though I spent six years trying to talk this into him, but he's just a complete idiot who won't listen to anything new.
And [01:12:40] I was just trying to explain to him how Bitcoin works and how useful it is for people whose governments are ruining their lives with inflation. And then 2019 comes about, and the Lira begins to collapse and I'm there. And I'm constantly trying to explain to him, you should tell people to use Bitcoin.
I'm not Lebanese, and I just left Lebanon. I don't know many people there and I'm not a well-connected, so I don't have anywhere near the kind of audience that he would get in Lebanon. But he could have made a huge difference. 2019, he was going around talking about how reform can work and how we can fix this.
And he's he was calling for capital controls and he was saying, the Lira's fine, there's not going to be a big collapse. So then you think about him standing and in retrospect the reason is he's good buddies with the people who are in power in Lebanon right now. He likes to think of himself as being the [01:13:40] hero that is helping out the poor people, but really he was looking out for his buddies in power because, you're telling people to continue to use the Lira and you're telling people there are capital controls, where we stop you from accessing your money is actually for your own good.
And you don't tell people about Bitcoin. You don't tell them that Bitcoin is a solution. And then the leader goes on to lose 95% of its value over two years. It's compared to the us dollar while Bitcoin does about 5x over those two years, it goes up by five fold over those two years. So you can imagine just the, how shocking this would be.
I mean, essentially what he's been going through is the vicious lashing out at everything around him to prevent that reality from manifesting in his mind. To prevent that realization from happening. It's just, if I keep shouting hard enough and if I keep blocking those Bitcoiners on Twitter, if I keep calling Bitcoin stupid, and if [01:14:40] you go on CNBC and tell the world that Bitcoin is stupid, right?
The Bitcoin black paper that I argue that Bitcoin is going to go to zero. I could get Bitcoin to go down to zero before I have to think about the possibility that maybe I was wrong before I have to think about that shit. Maybe actually, if in 2019 or 2018 or 17 or 16 or 15 or 14, if I'd taken an orange pill and learn to learn humbly, if I hadn't just dismissed this thing as, oh well, Saif is talking about this thing, and there's a bunch of nerds on the internet, and I'm going to write an intro to Saif's book, but I'm not going to even read the book and I'm not going to even know anything about Bitcoin, but you know, I'm Nassim Taleb and I'm very smart and I can figure out things.
And I'm just going to get this free option on Bitcoin. If this Bitcoin thing works out and Saif is right then, my name is out there on the book and I'll get the credit for it. And I could say that I [01:15:40] thought it was a good idea. And if it doesn't work out who cares. In both cases, he's not doing any effort, he's getting off being lazy, zero proof of work, fiat mindset, and he's going to collect the rewards for that.
And then of course the opposite happens, which is that Bitcoin doesn't fall apart. Bitcoin keeps succeeding and it turns out that, maybe you should have actually paid attention to it. Maybe you should have read the book. Maybe you could've gotten a lot of people's lives fixed if they could put a part of their savings in Bitcoin, back then in 2019. I mean, this was when the banks were insolvent and they stopped offering dollars and the price of the dollar started to go up in the black market.
If you've known monetary history, that this never resolves itself, except in one way, number go down, the value of the currency is going [01:16:40] down. There's obviously far more liabilities for dollars in the country than there are dollars. And a lot of people are holding onto Liras that they expect to have more purchasing power.
And so this thing is going to resolve. So I think we're going to see so much of this. And I think Lebanon is kind an interesting case study as a kind of prequel for what's going to take place in more and more of the world as people's minds break, because shit, this thing was actually there all along, but I was laughing at it like a fucking idiot on the internet.
Gigi: But that's why it's so hard. That's why it's so hard. I think you hit the nail on the head when you said he lacked the humility to admit that he was wrong, but Bitcoin makes this especially hard. I mean, it's very hard to step up and say, okay, I was wrong about this, I changed my mind, you guys were right, about any topic.
This is really hard. It takes a lot of character [01:17:40] to this. It takes a lot of character to admit that you were fooled, that you were wrong, that your understanding was lacking, whatever. Especially if you're a credentialed and smart person, but Bitcoin makes this depending on your timeframe, 100x as hard.
Because of you missed out, you could be rich, you could be a multimillionaire. You are not only wrong, but you're wrong and poor as well now. And so this is what Bitcoin does to you. And I think this is why he's such a great case study as well, because we will see this over and over again.
And then you will have to use your grand intellect to tell everyone that it's not you that was wrong. Everyone else is still wrong and Bitcoin will go to zero. And it's just totally absurd. And that's also why no naysayer like nocoiner will ever name a price. Like at what price do you admit defeat?
Saifedean Ammous: This is my criteria. This is why I'll never take any nocoiner who doesn't name a price as being serious. Because there is a price at which Bitcoin is bigger than the [01:18:40] entire global bond market. There's a price at which Bitcoin puts bonds out of business and nobody buys bonds anymore.
And that's it. We don't have a bond market anymore. So if everybody in the world's dumps all of their bonds and buys Bitcoin, and then a Bitcoin is at say $10 million a coin, would you still think is going to zero and everybody's bonds are going to zero. If you answer yes, you are a fucking moron and you're not worth talking to. You're not worth the attention to. And this is the question that I asked for Hanke and he kind of had the decency to not answer yes.
He said, well, blah, blah, blah, made a bunch of noises, but then essentially it didn't break through. It didn't get into his head. He refuses to let that fact come into his mind. And he's just continuing to say, well speculative goes to zero. I will add though, in case of Taleb, there is another reason why I think his particular case of Bitcoin derangement syndrome is just so nasty, which is [01:19:40] his entire career was made out of the fact that he basically never made a public call, never had skin in the game on anything. And all he does is just call out people for that.
And so he fishes for any person on Wall Street who made a mistake and had a bad quarter and then goes after them, and unleashes has internet bullies at him, and essentially portrays this guy as the root of all evil or the personification of evil.
Because look at this evil Wall Street person, who's taken a lot of money from the clients. And then he put it into this thing, which didn't work and he lost money. He's a failure, he's a liar, he's a fraud. And that's what he's been doing for his entire career, essentially, without ever sharing any of his own calls, so he's never shared a public [01:20:40] track record of his own trading. So we have no idea if he's actually a good trader or a bad trader.
And I think, the fact that he doesn't share his track records suggests, more likely that he's a bad trader. It was a very comfortable gift that he had for him because he had such a big cult of people around him on the internet that could go and bully anybody.
You couldn't even hear anybody ask him back, well why don't you show us how well you did in the last quarter? But Bitcoin, ended up being the one call that he did make. Ended up being the one public call where he actually now has skin in the game. He's never been in that position.
He's always like the football fan who shows up when the game is over and says, that coach is an idiot, he shouldn't have played this guy, he should have played that guy, he should have went with four defenders instead of five defenders and man marked Lionel Messi, and then he would have won the [01:21:40] world cup.
It's very easy for you as a football fan to come up with a Monday morning quarterbacking and a lot of TV analysts make their job like this, but ultimately the best TV analysts are the ones who have worked in this job and have had their chops proven, they went to the world cup, they won the world cup, they made the semifinal.
They don't have to have won the world cup with, they made the semifinal which is a huge deal. They won a Champions League, they have the experience and the track record that shows that they know what it takes, but the opinions of fans are endless. And he managed to always portray himself as essentially being on a par with the managers while sitting with the fans without actually making any calls without ever having a team selection actually take to the field.
He never had to pick millionaire players and manage them and make sure that they're all happy with their wives and girlfriends. And they all like each other [01:22:40] and they all pass the ball to each other and that they all train properly and eat properly. And then have to pick all the formation.
He never had to do that. So he can always waltz in and say, yeah, you did the mistake because there's always a loser. Somebody is going to have to lose. We always have to have a winner and loser and somebody is going to make a bad trade. Although, with monetary policy these days it's hard to lose a trade.
But he's managed to just basically do that. And it's you know, it's fascinating how Bitcoin is just the, what's that flower that catches the insects, what is it called?
Gigi: Venus flytrap.
Saifedean Ammous: Yes, it's like that for liars essentially, and for hucksters, because it is just an endless black hole of truth.
And if you come near it, you will be drawn into its vortex and you will either submit to truth and be honest, or you will just [01:23:40] very obviously be exposed because it's a very simple thing. It does one block every 10 minutes, and it has a set of balances. And all of your noise won't buy you one Satoshi on the next block.
And if you don't have a Satoshi on the next block, who cares about your opinion and every time you express an opinion without buying a Satoshi on the block, you're being an idiot. I am sorry, because there's no other way of putting it because if you have an opinion on this, it doesn't matter.
It doesn't move anything. You're just wasting energy, literally. Opining on Bitcoin without buying Bitcoin is wasting energy. Because you could have just put that energy into Bitcoin. You could have washed dishes during that time, made some money, put it into Bitcoin, and then you would have been on the network and then you would have counted for something in your life.
To be off it and then having opinions about it. It's just an amazing trap. To watch Nouriel Roubini has been calling Bitcoin a scam since [01:24:40] $58. This Bitcoin is at 58, so he's done a 1000X. He could have done a lot in his life. If he'd just taken the humble position, let's put 10 bucks on this every week, just in case I'm wrong.
He would have had a very lucrative insurance policy against him being wrong. But you see that it's not rational and it's not self-interested. And most importantly, it's very short-sighted, it's fiat people, they don't think in the long run. Well, what if you're wrong? What if you're wrong? Not only have you destroyed your reputation, but also destroyed your job, it's going to be destroyed, your fiat career of working for parasitic institutions like the IMF is going to be hopeless. Your university's likely to be hopeless. So it's a very big risk that you're taking with no potential upside.
The potential upside is if [01:25:40] Bitcoin dies and then everybody forgets about Bitcoin. You get to go around saying, hey I'm the one who.
Gigi: I told you so yeah. It's an interesting phenomenon. And it's especially interesting that the person that said don't don't tell me what you think, show me your portfolio, never showed his portfolio. Portfolio is always out of the question. I see more and more the benefit of just ignoring all this noise because in the end, if you truly think that Bitcoin will go to zero, just be my guests and short it. There are many people like me that no matter what value I produce, most of it will land in Bitcoin.
So just buy pressure alone, the insane buy pressure of Bitcoiners all around the world will make sure that your shorts will get killed. And I think that's also what a lot of people kind of underestimate coming from fiat and mainstream [01:26:40] media world, they don't know the momentum that is behind this thing.
The people that are actually building. The people that are putting their whole life energy into it, the people that truly want to see this succeed and will do everything to make it succeed, kind of. And it's also, like I'm prepared for whatever comes. If Bitcoin dies and goes to zero tomorrow, I'll be fine.
I have a certain skillset. I'll be useful no matter what. I don't believe that this is highly likely, but it's not like, because I think the mainstream media often portrays it, there's some crazy people and weird online drug people that sit on the couch and speculate on funny internet money, that is not the case at all.
We are building The Bitcoin Standard for our kids and for our grandkids. And we are building things that are going to last long into the future. And there are some proper engineering and some proper blood, sweat and tears put into this. And this is also I [01:27:40] believe why it's going to work.
There are amazing people working on Bitcoin. It's evolving all the time, and I'm constantly blown away by the innovation that is happening in and on top of Bitcoin. And we haven't seen anything yet. I truly believe this is like Brady likes to say the Dawn of the Bitcoin Renaissance.
I think we haven't even started yet. The things that are currently built on top of Bitcoin and the things that are enabled by Bitcoin are so amazing that we will look back on this era, like 10, 15 years from now, and it will be very hard to believe.
Saifedean Ammous: Yeah, I think if you're blown away now, wait until you see what's going to happen to the world that's built by second generation of Bitcoiners.
People who grew up learning about these ideas from their parents when they were kids and where it had their mind free from a lot of the fiat brainwashing bullshit of imagining the world is built by fiat. But I want to go back to one point you made about [01:28:40] your own buying pressure. I think this is a point I should be making more often.
But I don't make more often, which is that Bitcoin really only needs for the new marginal demand every day to, in order for a number to go up, in order for the price of Bitcoin to go up, you want the new marginal demand to not drop by 50% every four years. So four years from now, if the marginal demand on a day equivalent to today, four years from now, if the amount of new buying is roughly equal to the amount of new buying that we have today, then the price is going to be higher.
If the amount is equal to half of the amount that we have today, because there's going to be a halving from now until four years from now. And so the number of Bitcoin that's going to be produced four years from today is always going to be half of the number of Bitcoin that we have now. As long [01:29:40] as new Bitcoin demand doesn't drop below 50% of what it was four years ago, number go up.
That's why we've never seen the Bitcoin price go down over a horizon of four years because over a horizon of four years, you're going from a place where you have X Bitcoin being produced everyday to X^2 Bitcoin being produced everyday. And so it's never happened, there's never been a period of time that had a Bitcoin price lower than the price four years ago, that has never happened because the marginal production on those two dates is always 50% less in the later date.
This is I think what drives the nocoiners mad, which is, yeah you can shout and scream until you're blue in the face, and even if you convince a lot of Bitcoiners to stop buying in, you need four years, you need to make them [01:30:40] drop by more than 50% over four years in order for the price to stop going up and for the network to continue to grow.
So good luck with that, and you're talking about people who have already witnessed a lot of gains and a lot of improvements in their life from Bitcoin. So they're highly happy with the experience. The vast majority of Bitcoins, if there was a website where you could rate Bitcoin, you would give it five stars.
The vast majority of Bitcoiners have had a five-star experience with Bitcoin, and they're going to be repeat customers. They're going to come back every time they have a bunch of fiat they don't need for the next few months, or for the next few years, they're going to stack Sats with it. It's going to take an enormous effort from people like Roubini and Taleb to be able to bring that demand down by more than 50%.
But you know, they should definitely keep trying. And I definitely urge them to keep trying to cry harder and harder because [01:31:40] surely one day crying hard will solve this.
Gigi: I think it's even worse than that because Bitcoiners are also highly motivated and just having experienced the power of Bitcoin firsthand, I mean especially the censorship resistant properties and the possibility that you can earn money no matter where you are. You can receive Bitcoin, no problem. And if you can run the useful services online, you will get paid and you will be able to make money.
I don't want to go back to another world where I need to, give up a blood sample and a DNA sample to to be allowed to have a bank account and things like that. And I think Bitcoiners are highly motivated also to switch jurisdictions, to start companies somewhere else.
They're highly mobile, they will become more wealthy and more powerful as time moves on if the Bitcoin thesis continues to be correct. And I think people just underestimate what they're dealing with here, and [01:32:40] the world is a big place and Bitcoiners are all around the world. In the big country and we also have a very US centric view of the world, but Bitcoin is way bigger than that.
Bitcoin is way bigger than Bitcoin Twitter. Like I always like to joke that Bitcoin Twitter is like 200 people and that's not too far from the truth. But there are people as we've seen now in China and also in some other places in the world, you never see them online. They don't appear on podcasts.
They don't talk with the religious people online. They just do their thing. They like Bitcoin because of the things it enables and they like Bitcoin because it's hard censorship resistant money, they like Bitcoin because it's insanely useful and it's freedom enabling. And all these properties I think make Bitcoin far superior than all the alternatives.
And I think Bitcoiners don't want to miss it, for that alone. If some Bitcoiners have to get into politics like CoinDesk and other people are working on that to make Bitcoin friendly jurisdictions a thing, [01:33:40] then so be it. And we now see the fruits of this labor. We see Texas, we see Miami, we see other places where Bitcoiners and Bitcoin companies are invited because those people that make these legislations, they know that Bitcoiners will bring talent, will bring money and will bring other resources.
And I think we are going to see this thesis play out now. I just think most fiat people don't know what they're dealing with yet.
Saifedean Ammous: Yeah, but I think we should definitely encourage them to keep crying harder and maybe it'll work. Maybe that'll convince Bitcoiners to stop.
Gigi: That always works, cry harder and have fun staying poor.
Saifedean Ammous: Exactly. All right, I have one more question about the SHA256 algorithm. You've written about that and about just how secure it is. You've written quite eloquently about it. Could you give us a little rundown of why the SHA256 works?
Gigi: Yeah. That's strong cryptography in [01:34:40] general, but the numbers in Bitcoin, they are so large, like our brains cannot make sense of how large those numbers are.
And as one of the chapters in my book, 21 Lessons is called Strength in Numbers and it Bitcoins security, Bitcoins strenght truly lies in these insanely large numbers. For example, your private key is just a random number and the security of your private key stems from the fact that you cannot go from the public key to the private key.
You would have to brute-force guess the private key and because it's such a large number, even if you build a perfect computer that only uses one quantum of energy to flip a bit and you build a Dyson sphere around the sun and you let these computer guess this number for 5 million years, you're still at 0.1% chance only to find this number.
I'm making these numbers up now. But the point is that even with a perfect computer that we cannot build yet, like [01:35:40] computers are good, but they are far from perfect. And even if you consume the energy of the whole sun to do computations, those numbers are so large, just crunching the numbers, just counting up to the number that is your private key, it will take until the heat death of the universe or until the star explodes, at least. It's insane at the same is true for all security in Bitcoin. SHA256 same principle, like the numbers are just so insanely large.
You're basically trying to find a needle in a haystack and to be able to find this needle. The amount of computation you have to go through, it's absolutely boggles the mind.
Saifedean Ammous: Yeah, it's an amazing thing. I only really understood Bitcoin and thought that Bitcoin could work once I got over my laziness and my technical incompetence and [01:36:40] decided to shut up and try and understand those things.
And obviously I don't claim to be an expert on these issues and I don't write about them because I've not studied them at a professional level where I feel comfortable explaining and writing all these things extensively. I mean, I write about them in The Bitcoin Standard as a way of sort of communicating the essence of how they work.
But it's really important, I think for a Bitcoiner to just buckle down for a few weeks and read about this stuff, read how it works. Even if you're not going to end up working on it, even if you're not going to become a software engineer, just understand the basics of how it works so that you can understand why it works, why it is reliable.
And I think figuring out just the magnitude of the numbers involved and the odds of guessing the right number or guessing the private key correctly is an essential part of understanding the Bitcoin [01:37:40] value proposition in my mind.
Gigi: Yeah, absolutely. And it just goes to show also that Bitcoin security does not rely on some obscure mathematical trick or anything like that. It relies on the base reality of our universe. Like we know that to count numbers, you need to flip it. And even if you could flip bits perfectly and use all the energy of the Sun, it still wouldn't help because you would take too long, this will take your millions of years still.
And that's how big those numbers are. That's how the Bitcoin security is.
Saifedean Ammous: Yeah, all right, well Peter has a question for you, Peter you want to go ahead?
Peter Young: Yeah, thanks Saif, and thanks to you was really interesting discussion. I've really enjoyed listening to this. I had a question about the risks to Bitcoin in general, because obviously in this conversation, we're talking with quite a high degree of confidence about the future of Bitcoin.
And you were saying earlier that [01:38:40] all companies eventually are going to go bankrupt, but you think that Bitcoin will continue to function well into the future. So I wanted to ask what your number one risk would be that you'd highlight to Bitcoin succeeding. Is there something that kind of keeps you up at night in terms of thinking about maybe from a sort of engineering perspective that you think there might be some sort of problem with the Bitcoin network, or maybe it's from a kind of state perspective, states acting against Bitcoin in some way that could make it very difficult for users?
What would you say is the biggest risk that Bitcoin faces at the moment?
Gigi: Great question. I don't have anything that really keeps me up at night, but I think the biggest risk is still social and political. Bitcoiners are the enemy. Bitcoin is terribly bad and we have to outlaw it and just make it insanely difficult to use Bitcoin.
And I think the biggest risk is [01:39:40] that the same thing happens to Bitcoin what happened to the internet, to the open internet in particular. The internet was captured by Google, Amazon, Facebook and some others. And I think if we are not careful and if we don't focus on the core value proposition of Bitcoin and the responsibility that adopting a Bitcoin standard entails, which is to hold your own keys and run your own node, then the same thing can happen.
If everyone only uses Coinbase and nothing else exists, it's very similar to a situation in some countries, but in most large parts of the world, only Facebook exists, only Google exists. The people don't know about the internet or the open internet. And I think we could end up in a similar situation.
And of course, what this would entail is all kinds of fractional reserve banking, other things. And as I've said before, if you only have one node in the whole network, then you basically again have a server client relationship, [01:40:40] not flat network structure.
Peter Young: Yeah, thank you.
Saifedean Ammous: Anybody else have any other questions?
Gigi: I actually have an add on to this. I wrote about this in my book as well, Bitcoin is not completely trustless. It's trust minimized all across the board where it can be. So there are still "attack vectors" in Bitcoin, for example, the elliptic curve cryptography that Bitcoin currently uses.
It could have a mathematical backdoor in theory. There are those very strange things that we just don't know about. You can think about this as a software product that has the zero day exploit, it's just a bug in the software, a bug in the encryption scheme whatever, that no one knows about.
And you could make use of that too, attack the system. It's highly, highly unlikely, but you cannot know what you do not know. So there are always some things, some [01:41:40] mathematical or even physical breakthroughs that could undermine some of the core principles of Bitcoin.
If we would have free energy, free computation, that's as I mentioned before, one of the core axioms of Bitcoin is that computation needs energy. If that doesn't hold, then Bitcoin falls apart. The same is true for mathematical assumptions. P does not equal NP. We assume in Bitcoin, that some of the problems, the mathematical problems that Bitcoin is built up around, we assume that they are very easy to verify if you have the correct solution, but very hard to find the solutions.
So it's one of the millennium problems in mathematics. If those two complexity classes are equal or not. So this is still unknown. There is no mathematical proof. The proofs that P does not equal NP. And if this does not hold all encryption goes out the window. Everything that we've built around in the realm of information, everything that computers do basically will stop to work.
And so [01:42:40] there are those kinds of things, but again, I have nothing that keeps me up at night. I think it is possible to understand Bitcoin from first principles. And also keep in mind that only one part of Bitcoin is technology. Bitcoin is also biology, and I think that's where the attack vector is larger.
Saifedean Ammous: Yeah. Ultimately all engineering is social engineering at the end of the day. Cause it's all for humans.
Gigi: That is true.
Saifedean Ammous: Okay. Well, Gigi you thank you so much for joining us. This has been absolutely fascinating. And where can people find out more about you and your work? Tell us more about your websites and stuff.
Gigi: I think the easiest way is just to follow me on Twitter @dergigi, and you can read my shit posts and just gather basically zero insights on there, but maybe have some fun along with some other Bitcoiners. I also have a website dergigi.com where I post all my writing. I try to stay away from medium and and [01:43:40] other publication mediums nowadays.
I try to self-host as much as I can. And you can read my book for free online 21lessons.com and you can of course buy it as well. But all of my stuff is released under a creative commons license, so you can modify it, translate it, remix it, and people actually do so this was one of the best decisions I ever made.
And, there are now virtual reality worlds where you can read the audio book of 21 Lessons while hopping like a rabbit through some tunnels with your friends. So I think all of that is amazing. Thanks to everyone who worked on that.
Saifedean Ammous: Yeah. And I should add, one of your best articles is a letter to friends and family who I think the title is a letter to friends and family who don't have Bitcoin or haven't discovered Bitcoin, or something like that.
Gigi: Yeah. Dear family, dear friends, a letter to all the still don't have any Bitcoins or something like that. It was translated to, I think almost 50 languages now. And it resonated with a lot of people. I just try to [01:44:40] distill it down to what the Bitcoiners are preaching, just buy small amounts regularly.
Don't try to trade this thing, like trading will just hurt you. Stay away from shitcoins and just have a very long time horizon and hold your own keys.
Saifedean Ammous: Yeah, I should've mentioned maybe earlier, but in my website saifedean.com, there's an Arabic page where I translated what I have my book available for free download in Arabic, as well as a bunch of articles that I chose.
And that was one of the articles that I chose and I got a translator to translate it to Arabic and it's posted on the website. So thank you for writing that and thank you again for joining us today.
Gigi: Thank you for having me and thank you also for translating the article and including it, that's amazing.
Saifedean Ammous: Cheers. All right, have a good day.