What the Bitcoin brotherhood is really talking about

803
Bitcoin brotherhood
Hannah Rosenburg

Leading Australian cryptocurrency figure Dr Prash Puspanathan recently attended a gathering of the world’s most devoted Bitcoin believers. In this exclusive column for Micky, he reveals what’s on top of their agenda…

The fifth annual Anarchapulco conference was held on the 14th -17th February 2019 in Acapulco, Mexico. For those unfamiliar with the event, this is a gathering for the world’s premiere line-up of thinkers and activists from within the anarchist paradigm, engaging in four days of extensive talks, workshops and discussions.

As an invited speaker, I had a unique inside glimpse to the conversations that dominated both the stages and the after hours chatter. Cryptocurrencies were front and centre throughout this conference; their place cemented by their role in the Anarcho-capitalist movement.

Do current prices really matter?

For a relative outsider, typically exposed to conversation around the financial aspects of the
industry, the deeper, darker, ideological underbelly was an interesting change. This offered
me a fascinating insight into the thoughts and motivations behind the developers and
activists driving this industry from its core.

A key observation, was just how little was discussed with regards to price points, market
movements and trends – of which the media has been obsessed. The conference attendees
were predominantly developers working on core crypto projects, entrepreneurs building
new verticals within the industry, and industry veterans advising existing projects.
Speculative investors were noticeably absent.

Bitcoin
The Anarchapulco conference was held in February 2019.

To that effect, the price discussion meant precious little for those working on the core
building blocks of the industry. It was a refreshing and encouraging change in sentiment.
One thing that became very clear to me was that the future of this industry depends so much on the infrastructure that is being developed and needs to remain the priority for
the future.

Along similar lines, another encouraging and seemingly overlooked fact was the open
source nature of this ecosystem, and the potential for exponential growth that it brings with it. Due to the free-flowing nature of information sharing in this open source paradigm, as the user base grows, so too does the cognitive equity being poured into the system.
This is a stark contrast to the conventional closed loop, centralised technologies which have
a far more fractional input of developmental intellectual property (IP) over user base. As
such, this could never compare to the magnitude of the rate of IP being created in this
space.

Bitcoin Brotherhood
Dr. Prash Puspanathan, CEO of Caleb and Brown.

The infancy of cryptocurrency

The adolescence of this industry continues to be demonstrated by an ongoing lack of
consensus from within the community, particularly on issues as primordial as the core
blockchain architecture of Bitcoin. On the surface, the recent “Bitcoin wars” seemed to
considerably undermine investor confidence.

Certainly, from the point of view of the traditional financial industry it appeared a
counterproductive and internal battle that reeked of immaturity within the ecosystem.
However, perspective from the developer community was surprisingly at odds with this
sentiment.

Bitcoin Brotherhood
Hannah Rosenburg, Chicago Blockchain Institute

Hannah Rosenberg, Managing Director of the Blockchain Institute in Chicago spoke about
how the very fact that decentralisation sits at the core of Bitcoin’s ideology, means that
competing ideas and perspectives are essential for the balance of power. “This setup has
survived disagreements and an influx of new community members because it has an
effective, multi-jurisdictional, balance of power between invested groups, or sub-
communities with skin in the game. Developers, miners, merchants, users, exchanges and
wallets, etc.”

Further, Rosenberg makes the assertion that as there is no one way to enforce consensus,
consensus must be achieved through influence, economic incentives and game theory. She
argues this is much preferable to our current system of achieving consensus using lawsuits
and/or guns – “Forks [in ideology] are not failures. They are an alternative to guns.” When framed in this manner, it seems hard to argue against.

Personal Privacy is a Major Concern

Given the demographic of the attendees, privacy was a recurring theme throughout the conference agenda. Particularly, the declining sanctity of our personal data and the potential role of cryptocurrencies in preserving this basic human right.

Privacy coins such as Monero have not had the greatest uptake from the investing community, with some traditional investors even shying away from them due to their association with the potential for stealth.

Bitcoin brotherhood
Joshua Marriage, Cloakcoin

However, Joshua Marriage – the Australian representative for Cloakcoin, a privacy coin
originally conceived in Germany – disagrees with this stigma. He believes we are “careening
towards a cashless society run by surveillance capitalists who trade our personal data like a
dirty commodity.”

Heavy words yes, but he hints at a greater sociological concern that extends beyond finance.

We are allowing capitalism to alter the morphology of the way we establish trust, and that
soon we won’t be able to transact with each other without having to trust a rent seeking
third party. He articulates the role of privacy-preserving cryptocurrencies as giving us the
opportunity to keep the benefits of cash alive – via private, permission-less, peer-to-peer
digital transactions.

Is there a correct answer?

Anarchapulco wasn’t a conference for pundits or technical analysts pouring over trading
charts. Quite the contrary, it would more appropriately be categorised as one for idealists
masquerading as ideologists, and conspiracy theorists under the guise of anarchists.
However, it did not set out promising to provide answers, but rather to ask questions.
Particularly in a rapidly evolving cryptocurrency industry that renders answers obsolete as
soon as the questions get asked, it is often more insightful to ask the difficult questions than to attempt to answer them.

It asked many of the right questions, and in doing so revealed a core of the community that is constantly evolving, adapting and expanding from the edges of this technology in multiple facets.

The rot of declining industries has been a lack of innovation; one certainly true of the
traditional financial services industry that the Cryptocurrency industry seeks to supersede.

In contrast, it appears the core of this industry, raw and riddled with the tempestuousness
of youth as it is, bristles with vibrancy, dynamism and a quiet defiance. That bodes very well for the industry in the long term, regardless of what lies ahead.