[FoRK] Reminder: ZSF launch event tomorrow! Please help spread the word if you can!

Eugen Leitl eugen at leitl.org
Fri Nov 16 12:22:50 PST 2012

On Fri, Nov 16, 2012 at 10:33:59AM -0800, Gregory Alan Bolcer wrote:
> You keep changing the subject.

Well, I'm trying to figure out the rationale behind your
objections to BTC, so I'm sampling a bit randomly.

> The idea that all money is equivalent is the argument bitcoin wants to  

Bitcoin users are not a single entity. In fact, there are several 
factions within it with mutually incompatible motivations.
That's not a bug, it's a feature.

> make. You asked for flaws in that argument, so I played devil's  
> advocate.  The flaw is that bitcoin is not accredited and the amortized  

What do you mean by accredited, specifically? I realize that some
people tend to define money in a very special way, usually 
reaffirming their biases. I see money simply as naturally scarce tokens, 
signifying debt. Whether it's cowry shells, or bits of
silver bar cut off with axes, or bits, I don't really care. 

> value is being fed by criminal activity.

What does criminal specifically mean? That classification varies
both over space and time. Let's look at the Silk Road, which 
probably still constitutes the bulk of transactions made in
BTC today (a mere 2 MUSD/month, apparently), though they should 
become quite insignificant in future, given growth in the BTC
economy, and resulting network effects which make the goods
available to buyers willing to spend BTC progressively
more attractive.

Why I personally see absolutely no issues with people buying
and selling drugs I'd rather wish the Silk Road weren't there.

In fact, I'd wish the BitCoin did not quite see that explosive
growth. It's not healthy, as the underlying economy doesn't
grow that rapidly. On the other hand, the Prohibition saw rapid
growth in certain areas, and rise of new players. So maybe it's
all good, after all.

The main problems I see is the overproportional impact of
early adopters, at least those who hoard their stash instead
of bringing it into circulation. Also, those users who actually
wish to spend their coins often can't, since it's not available
in the bitcoin market, at least not directly.

> The legal argument against Napster was that it was solely a criminal  
> enterprise, whose only purpose was to steal copyrighted material, and  

You're looking at formalities again. Copyright is a rather new, and
rather counterproductive idea, and sharing is certainly not stealing.
Somebody seeing his established, parasitic business model suddenly 
going down the drain through technical innovation, big fucking
deal. Happens all the time, one think they should have gotten
used to it.

> the criminal activity was not separate from the purpose of its being.  

I don't even know what criminal activity means. I understand
the Mexican drug wars, the people who fund wars, and such,
but it's all done in regular fiats. Bitcoin's reputation is
lily-white in comparison.

> Further, everything that it was and will ever be, would never evolve  
> past the ability to steal copyrighted material. (You can agree or  
> disagree with that, but that was the determination that led to its  
> downfall).

Yes, you can buy laws and make really nice public witch burnings.
But unfortunately there is no witchcraft, in reality. Just because 
you have a good business lobby it doesn't mean you have a case in 
the moral court.

> That's not to say that bitcoin (or Napster which failed to do so) can't  
> evolve past a criminal enterprise.  I was simply pointing out that it  

The BitTorrent, which forked from MNet, a way too ambitious project
for its own good, is a protocol. Protocols can't be possibly a criminal
enterprise, whatever 'criminal' happens to mean this decade. 
That way, TCP/IP is way waaay waaaay more 'criminal', and we should
shut down the Internet. And be it just because of bronies.

> hasn't done so thus far and the mechanisms it's using are incentived so  
> that investors have a vested stake to cover up or remain willfully  
> ignorant of that criminal activity.

A friend of mine had no money on him, so I bought him a beer,
and he paid me in BitCoin, from smartphone to tablet, over 3G,
instanteous transfer. Was that criminal, somewhere, under some
lunatic court of law? I don't know, and couldn't care less.

> In the RISKS part of the transhumanist/bci portfolio, the  
> over-dependence on bitcoin should be spelled out as a specific risk,  

Yes, very much so. I don't think that's the plan, though.

> unless of course the ZS people truly believe they are post-logical and  
> true believers, which would make them a cult and not the ultra-logical  
> transhumanists they truly believe.

Logic is overrated. 

> I'm not claiming what you state below, only that the market which was  
> set up has yet to evolve past the tipping point.  Do you believe bitcoin  
> has evolved past a criminal enterprise?

BitCoin is a cryptographic system, implemented in a system that is
open source, and used by real people for things they find useful.
Some of their activities you might find objectionable. In fact, so
do I. But this whole idea that the cryptosystem, protocol and
its implemenation can be 'criminal' just smacks of cathegory error.

People do things other people find objectionable, this hasn't changed
for the last few million years we've been around. The tools themselves
are good or bad only instrumentally, never morally.

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