Bitcoin: Not the Currency of the Future (Part 2)
Although my last article on Bitcoins was never meant to be a two-parter, the volume of discussion it generated on this blog, Reddit, Twitter, and elsewhere was more than enough to warrant a response. Among Bitcoin’s detractors, the consensus was that the article didn’t go far enough, whereas Bitcoin’s supporters responded with a wide array of criticism. Most of the coherent arguments though, boiled down to two points: First, Bitcoins are software and their technical issues can be corrected over time, and second, the idea that I was fundamentally wrong about deflationary currency and that it is in fact a good thing. Although the responses to these arguments seem intuitive, it is understandable that fanatics and people buried under the weight of thousands of dollars in sunk-cost fallacy Bitcoins could see otherwise. But that article was never meant to convince the Bitcoin zealots, it was meant for those of you on the fence, caught up in the excitement of logarithmic growth charts and fancy mining rigs. If that’s you, and you haven’t quite yet drunk the Kool-Aid, keep reading.
Bitcoin: Not the Currency of the Future
I’ve been following Bitcoin for a few years now. I was there when it first peaked (and crashed) in 2011, and then peaked and crashed again in April of this year. I read along as Laszlo trekked across the country on Bitcoin and bought the infamous $2.5 million pizza (just a $1,000,000 pizza now), and watched in amusement as Bruce Wagner bumbled his way through the first BitCon. I’ve read countless articles and forum posts alternately attacking and applauding Bitcoins, and countless more articles analyzing the whims that drive the Bitcoin market. All too often, the issue of Bitcoin’s viability as a currency is muddied by non sequiturs, strawmen, and ad hominem attacks from both sides of the debate. Despite all the confusion, misunderstandings, and poorly-guided rants though, when boiled down to the essential facts, things don’t look too good for Bitcoin.
Humanity’s Path to Peace: Technological Peace Theory
Among the most well-accepted ideas in political science is “democratic peace theory”, which basically theorizes that democracies are less likely to go to war with one another. Although there is significant disagreement over the definitions used (for democracy, war, peace, etc.) and over the reasons why, the theory is generally borne out well in terms of quantifiable data, regardless of how it is examined. Like so much of political science though – with its massive scope – democratic peace theory struggles to establish controls on the vast mountain of data it draws from. Far beyond simple political motivators, there are numerous other factors that cloud the simple distinction between states and how they interact with one another.
Perhaps the most overlooked alternate explanation though is the one that optimistic science fiction has been hinting at for years: technology. Science fiction has long envisaged a future free of war; liberated by remarkable advances in technology. As much as this notion – a sort of technological peace theory – has come to be mocked in dystopian fiction, the crazy fact is that it appears to be true. Looking at the data, it seems like a quantifiable certainty that the more technologically and industrially advanced a state is, the less likely it is to go to war, particularly with other, similarly-advanced states.
Transhumanism in Developing Nations
As the imminent emergence of a transhuman society begins to take to shape and moves increasingly from the realm of theory to fact, transhumanists and futurists are going to have to start asking some hard questions. No longer can we focus simply on the technological challenges of creating such a future, but we must also consider what those technologies imply for society and the international community. Much has been written and said about the threat of uneven distribution of these technologies, and concerns over such inequality have made their way into everything from futurist fiction to academic critiques. Little has been done to address these concerns though, and what has been done tends to focus on inequality within the developed nations that most futurists are from. Despite this, it is of paramount importance that we focus strong attention on the technological and infrastructural gap that exists been post-industrial and developing nations. Unless we take strong, positive action to address these issues, transhumanism will not be the global revolution we hope it to be, and we will instead take the form of the techno-oligarchs that we fear.
Future Wars and the Digital Insurgency
Everyone who followed the events the Arab Spring and the Occupy Movement last year could tell that something big was happening. To most people, the “big things” were the events themselves; they saw the toppling of the Tunisian and Egyptian governments and the large, international Occupy protests as landmark events in activism. Those who examined the events more deeply, however, saw that their true impact was not so much in their immediate effects, but in what they implied for future revolutions and guerilla movements. Military leaders, in particular, would do well to take note of these events as they offer strong hints as to the means by which future insurgencies and low-intensity conflicts will be fought.
It is often remarked that generals always fight the last war, and this is unfortunately very true. Modern militaries though have gone to pains to correct against this trend, and have begun to demonstrate remarkable foresight on a strategic level. Predictions concerning hybrid warfare in specific seem increasingly prophetic, and the ready acceptance of this by many military leaders is encouraging. For all the strategic foresight that is being demonstrated, however, the future tactical situation is being almost entirely overlooked.
What is Transhumanism?
Defining transhumanism is a tricky subject. Depending on what website or what book you choose to consult, you’ll find yourself with wildly varying answers. Even stranger, each of those wildly varying answers is often just as correct as any other.
The real trouble is this: transhumanism has come to embrace such a wide range of ideas, philosophies, and technologies that it is difficult to pin it down to any specific definition. Even the fundamental principles of transhumanism – ideas such as bioethics and personal freedom – are themselves massive ideas. The essence of transhumanism is often lost in the chaff of its own expansive scope.