Su Shi was a government official and one of the most respected poet of the Northern Song dynasty in China, twice exiled for his criticisms of imperial policy. In 1082, he pondered about mortality and change at the Red Cliff, the place where General Cao Cao was defeated by his enemies 800 years earlier, expressed in his immortal Former Ode on the Red Cliff.
He first realized the insignificance of human beings in comparison with nature:
Mayflies visiting between heaven and earth, infinitesimal grains in the vast sea, mourning the passing of our instant of life, envying the long river which never ends
But then, he considered the matter from a relativism perspective that both an individual and nature can be constantly changeable and immortal:
Have you really understood the water and the moon? The one streams past so swiftly yet is never gone; the other for ever waxes and wanes yet finally has never grown nor diminished. For if you look at the aspect which changes, heaven and earth cannot last for one blink; but if you look at the aspect which is changeless, the worlds within and outside you are both inexhaustible, and what reasons have you to envy anything?
If we live in a simulation in Jorge Luis Borges’s world, an infinite series of Babylon Lottery determines each of our next move in the infinite Garden of Forking Paths, and each of our next expression drawn from the infinite Library of Babel.
As Vladimir Lenin said, there are decades where nothing happens, and there are weeks where decades happen. What makes our times particularly turbulent is that we are simultaneously at the late stages and transitional moments of three big cycles:
- Carlota Perez’s technological revolutions / financial capital cycle (50-60 years)
- Strauss–Howe generational cycle (80-100 years)
- Ray Dalio’s empire / reserve currency cycle (200 years)
If you don’t understand these cycles and how they interact with each other, you can’t understand what’s coming at you. Collectively, they explain the U.S.-China strategic rivalry, the clash over Hong Kong, political extremism across the world, and the rise of Bitcoin. It is in moments of greatest danger like ours where once-in-a-lifetime opportunities lie.
The other day I was reading Albert Camus’ classic The Rebel. His exposition of Nietzsche’s philosophy pretty much sums up my state of mind amidst these turbulent times – think in terms of an apocalypse to come, not in order to extol it, but in order to avoid it and transform it into a renaissance.
To borrow observations from crypto thought leaders Nic Carter and Ryan Selkis, the past week has seen the world gradually coming to terms with the reality that the next decade will look incredibly bleak. The coronavirus, while not the Black Swan in itself, is going to bring our already fragile systems – deep distrust in governments, overstretched monetary policy, and social polarizations – on the brink of collapse.
But like Ryan Selkis, I remain optimistic and excited, not because people are suffering, but because crisis brings opportunity to revamp broken systems. In the coming months and years, we will only see more dysfunctional monetary stimulus and financial turmoil. For me, I’m going to stay even more committed to Bitcoin and crypto, as decentralized finance is our best bet to a more ethical, resilient, and self-empowering post-crisis future.
To accurately characterise Bitcoin and predict its trajectory in the decade ahead, it helps to revisit the message embedded in its genesis block: “The Times 03/Jan/2009 Chancellor on brink of second bailout for banks”.
Bitcoin kicked off the blockchain revolution and became a poster child of fintech. Over time, it is regarded as a monetary technology for its value as sound money. Eventually, people will realise that it is the most promising Dissident Tech of our time. This occurs in the context of the enormous social problems and inequalities created by the Cantillon Effects of unprecedented global liquidity – a redistribution from the poor to the rich.
In other words, Bitcoin is a technological breakthrough, but it is first and foremost a political and ideological movement.
October 31 is a day celebrated around the world in many different cultures. It originates from the ancient Celtic spiritual tradition of Samhain, and has always been a symbol of death and renewal. It turns out that history is filled with landmark events on this date which propel human civilization forward.
On October 31, 1517, Martin Luther nailed his Ninety-Five Theses onto the door of All Saints’ Church in Wittenberg, criticizing the indulgences of the Roman Catholic Church. It started the Reformation which would later lead to the separation of Church and State. Exactly 11 years ago, on October 31, 2008, a link to a paper authored by Satoshi Nakamoto titled Bitcoin: A Peer-to-Peer Electronic Cash System was posted to a cryptography mailing list, challenging the authority of central banks and their monetary policy abuses.
History will look back on the Bitcoin whitepaper as the beginning of the separation of Money and State. For all libertarians and sovereign individuals, myself included, it is an aspiration worth striving for.
As a polymath and Bitcoin maximalist, I see Bitcoin as a portal to ideas of great thinkers of which I’m a student: Gustave Le Bon’s crowd psychology, Eric Hoffer’s fanatical mass movements, Nassim Nicholas Taleb’s antifragility and skin in the game, Friedrich von Hayek’s distributed knowledge and monetary competition, Jorge Luis Borges’ illusion of reality, Friedrich Nietzsche’s will to power, John Nash’s game theory, and much more that I’m yet to discover. It never fails to amaze me to see how these ideas, through Bitcoin, are playing out everyday right in front of our eyes, and I’m grateful to be part of the greatest social revolution of our time.
It is a very common clever device that when anyone has attained the summit of greatness, he kicks away the ladder by which he has climbed up, in order to deprive others of the means of climbing up after him. In this lies the secret of the cosmopolitical doctrine of Adam Smith, and of the cosmopolitical tendencies of his great contemporary William Pitt, and of all his successors in the British Government administrations.
Any nation which by means of protective duties and restrictions on navigation has raised her manufacturing power and her navigation to such a degree of development that no other nation can sustain free competition with her, can do nothing wiser than to throw away these ladders of her greatness, to preach to other nations the benefits of free trade, and to declare in penitent tones that she has hitherto wandered in the paths of error, and has now for the first time succeeded in discovering the truth.
When Friedrich List wrote these paragraphs in The National System of Political Economy in the 19th century, the U.S. was a newly industrializing nation. Today, it is at the pinnacle of technological achievements. Here are the hard truths about national economic development: climbing your way up requires unorthodox tools; staying on top takes hypocrisy to deny latecomers those very same tools.
John Atkinson created irreverent summations, in the fewest words possible, of some of the most famous works of literature. Here are my own for the Four Great Classic Novels of China:
- Romance of the Three Kingdoms: Empire splits into three parts. Then reunited.
- A Journey to the West: A monk, a monkey and a pig take forever to get to India.
- The Water Margin: 108 outlaws vs. government. Government wins.
- The Dream of the Red Chamber: A rebellious rich kid is spiritually awakened.
Fanatical experiments cannot be sustained without creativity. To paraphrase a wise man from the last century, the way the Nazis or the Communists sell their holy causes is no different from the way capitalists advertise their Gucci bags or cigarettes. The techniques we found in the imperialistic tendencies of the Nazis and the Communists are in fact based on the methods of industrial enterprises.
Today, when theorists in Beijing talk of socialism with Chinese characteristics, they are perhaps admitting that the success of the authoritarian experiment will always depend on the creativeness proceeding in the outside non-authoritarian world. If there were no free societies outside of China, they might have found it necessary to establish freedom by coercion.