Bitcoin And The Great Filter11 min readReading Time: 7 minutes
Bitcoin doesn’t just “break all your models.” Bitcoin breaks all cycles.
This article originally appeared in Bitcoin Magazine’s “Moon Issue.” To get a copy, visit our store.
Energy money is the catalyst and tip of the spear for an intelligent sentient species’ transition from a Type 0 into a Type 1 civilization on the “Kardashev scale,” which measures the energy and technological mastery of a society.
ALL intelligent sentient species are on this path, whether consciously or unconsciously, and must reach this point before they are eliminated by:
one or a series of megalomaniacs pushing the “red button”; some artificial abomination of intelligence that interprets our poor behavior and thus biological life as inferior; an asteroid; or the fiat-funded, sterile authoritarian gulags they build on their quest for centralized, efficient utopias.
This is known as the Great Filter. Energy money initiates a step change in how organic intelligence can operate and forms a critical step on the journey beyond the Great Filter.
WHAT IS THE GREAT FILTER?
Enrico Fermi was a mid-20th century physicist and Nobel laureate who, upon reflecting on the vastness of the cosmos, famously asked, “Where are they?”
With the practically infinite number of stars and planets in the universe, it seemed like there should be other intelligent species or civilizations capable of developing radio astronomy or interstellar travel, yet to this day, no evidence actually exists.
The Fermi paradox is the term used to describe this lack of evidence for extraterrestrial life in the face of a universe that should be, by the numbers, bursting with it.
While many have proposed solutions as to why this paradox exists, in the 1990s, Robin Hanson postulated a theory that has become known as the Great Filter.
The Great Filter theory suggests that intelligent sentient lifeforms must realize a series of critical steps on their way to becoming an interstellar race and at least one of them must be highly improbable, or their interrelated, path-dependent nature means that they must occur in a particular order and must all happen before a major cataclysm.
Hanson suggested some basic hurdles (or steps) paraphrased below:
A planet capable of harboring life must form in the habitable zone around a star (often referred to as the Goldilocks zone). Life itself must emerge.Those lifeforms must be able to reproduce.Simple cells (prokaryotes) must evolve into more complex cells (eukaryotes).Multicellular organisms must develop.A method of increasing genetic diversity (e.g., sexual reproduction) must take hold.Complex organisms capable of using tools must evolve.Those organisms must develop advanced technology needed for space colonization. (Many believe this is roughly where humans are today.)The spacefaring species must go on to colonize other worlds and star systems, while avoiding destroying itself.
But I believe that he was missing crucial elements. I believe that the discovery of energy money is the prerequisite for this grand goal. Energy money initiates a step change in how organic intelligence can operate, because the map truly represents the territory, in high fidelity.
Bitcoin is our energy money. It is our zero-to-one moment. An incorruptible scorecard in the grand game of life. A time and energy superconductor enhancing economic (human action) and behavioral feedback loops, enabling coordination across time and space in a way never before achieved.
It is our tool to get through the Great Filter and we need to remember that so we don’t get lost in the minutia.
I’ve taken the liberty of adapting Hanson’s work into what I believe is more accurate, with an emphasis on what I’ve added to his general list.
A planet capable of harboring life must form in the habitable zone around a star (often referred to as the Goldilocks zone). Life itself must emerge, perhaps as an extension of the randomness inherent in quantum realm (i.e., proteins).Those lifeforms must be able to reproduce (e.g., RNA, then DNA in our case). Simple cells (prokaryotes) must evolve into more complex cells (eukaryotes). Multicellular organisms must develop. A method of increasing genetic diversity (e.g., sexual reproduction in our case) must take hold. Complex organisms must evolve into a species capable of repeatedly transforming potential energy into kinetic energy (capable of using tools). The complex, tool-wielding species must discover fire (heat energy), thus shortening their intestinal tract and redirecting energy toward the brain. The increased brain size of this species and the interconnectedness of neurons must reach a point where consciousness emerges and they are able to communicate on abstract terms. This species must develop a tool for measuring time, energy and scarce resources, enabling them to cooperate and coordinate across space and time (money). The species, using this technology, must develop complex societies that culminate into the advanced technologies required for space travel. The species must discover and transition onto an energy money standard before it destroys itself. The spacefaring species can finally master and harness the energy of their star system and then go on to colonize other worlds and star systems.
I am convinced step 12 is not only the one most missing from any analysis by physicists all throughout history, but it is the most important and difficult to achieve in light of the technological advancements of an intelligent species and its propensity to want to “control” the uncontrollable.
Physicists have mastered the empirical study of matter and, through that success, have forgotten to account for the very real and very significant complex, random process of life; humanity perhaps being at the tip of this “process.”
As a result, they blindly believe that we can just fit reality into a series of models or equations, and as such, engineer our way through the Great Filter without accounting for the complex nature of human consciousness and intersubjective reality. Along this path, they sanitize the very life out of life.
In our dimension and in our timeline, we’ve had warnings from both sides of the academic spectrum, from Newton to Einstein, Huxley to Orwell, Nietzsche to Rand and Schopenhauer to Oppenheimer. They’ve all reminded us that false actions, arrogance and flying with “wax wings” can only lead to disaster.
Unfortunately, modernity’s vanity and desire for comfort and control, all which stem from its collective fear, have conspired to drown out those voices of reason and replace them with a never-ending stream of meaningless noise designed to conform its constituents by numbing them into submission.
In a bid to control everything, fearful humans and the institutions they make up seek to sterilize the variance and randomness out of life so they can reduce it to a set of repeatable empirical processes. They abstract everything to the point that things are neither physical nor metaphysical, and everything is relative. Only then can they feel empty enough to be “comfortable.” Huxley explores this phenomenon in “Brave New World Revisited,” a series of essays written 27 years after his seminal novel by the same name.
The blind pursuit of sterile empirical ends at the expense of life, at the hands of collectivist megalomaniacs, is humanity’s greatest threat and the only way to fix that is to reintroduce consequence to human action. To fix this, the map must accurately represent the territory so we’re all playing the same game, by the same rules.
When you finally become powerful enough to enslave, obsolete or blow yourself up, perhaps an asteroid is the universe’s way of pressing the cosmic reset button.
The discovery of energy money marks the point at which the science of matter is able to speak to the study of what matters. In this way, it enables, if not a unification, at least a direct relationship between physics and metaphysics.
I call it energy money not because it’s some literal battery that’s “storing” energy in containers full of miners. I call it energy money because it’s the only form of scorecard (money) whose validity is priced in actual energy expenditure. The feedback loops between the cost of validation, the risk of fraud, and the demand in the market by humans seeking to cooperate on a functional standard all tie into work.
When resources, energy expenditure and the input of time are tethered to something that cannot be faked, co-opted or cheated, intersubjective value can be accurately measured and market signals, that is, prices become real. We begin to discover once again what things actually cost, and as such we as individuals and societies can make more accurate value judgements.
The behavior at the level of individual realigns toward natural order (arguably the definition of morality) and, at scale, results in functional, useful coordination among members of a society.
Without something like Bitcoin, intelligent sentient species cannot utilize their resources effectively or efficiently enough to become a meaningfully spacefaring species before wiping themselves out!
They cannot reach the point of energy mastery required to actually reach for the stars because 99% of what they do is wasted.
Reconciling physics and metaphysics means an intelligent, sentient species can make accurate value judgments and thus precisely measure and use the scarce resources it has toward maximizing energy output and minimizing time wastage.
Without such a high-fidelity transmission mechanism, the quantum wastage is not only too high but completely unknown. As a result, the road to serfdom via the incessant fear of loss and the knee-jerk reaction to “control it all” will prevail.
Bitcoin fixes this.
THE RENAISSANCE 2.0: MATTER MEETS WHAT MATTERS
Many, including myself, have called Bitcoin “the second Renaissance.” As I wrote in a previous article for Bitcoin Magazine, “Bitcoin, Chaos and Order“:
By tying the physical to the metaphysical, Bitcoin reunites matter to what matters. As such, it has the capacity to heal the world in the most deep and meaningful of ways.
This is both right and wrong.
Right because Bitcoin will do this, and we will experience a renaissance of thinking, creativity, science, art, exploration, philosophy and more.
Wrong because it diminishes the magnitude of this discovery. It implies that it is another cyclical event similar to the Renaissance of yore. The reality is far more grandiose.
I would venture to say that every major enlightenment event along our timechain of human history was a “pre-echo” of sorts, culminating in Bitcoin.
Whether it’s the legends of Atlantis, the philosophy of the ancients, the gods of Egypt, the rise of Christianity, the Renaissance, the Age of Enlightenment or the Industrial Revolution, they all represent life reaching for this point of “Aufklärung,” through the vessel of humanity.
This may be the first or millionth attempt at crossing the Great Filter and I cannot but find myself in awe of the sheer gravity of this moment.
An incorruptible, fixed supply of money is as close to perfect not because of the number of transactions per second it enables, but because of how closely it resembles or embodies the physical laws of nature and the universe.
By enabling humans to effectively measure, manage and transact the product of their labor, it means value can be created, transformed and transmitted with minimal distortion, and it trends toward the elimination of waste and falsehoods.
One cannot celebrate fake facts in the face of an economic reality tied to the physical laws of thermodynamics.
Bitcoin permits maximum fidelity in human action to permeate society, and as a result, feedback loops are shortened so that trade-offs are more evident, consequences are inescapable, and risk can no longer be hidden and subsequent losses socialized (moral hazard). Everyone’s skin is now in the game, and we all play by the same rules.
This framework unifies matter and what matters because the lies necessary to separate the two can no longer exist.
The study of what matters, the pursuit of truth, of principles and of meaning can once again be anchored to reality, and vice versa. The study and evolution of matter can operate within the framework and toward the ends that matter.
This will have profound implications for humanity and marks what may be the most important fork in the road since Homo sapiens separated from other hominids.
“Bitcoin fixes this” means we fix the money, to fix human behavior, to fix the world in time to progress beyond the Great Filter.
On a sound foundation, we can know what things truly cost and we can make accurate value judgments in order to engineer and innovate our way forward.
With Bitcoin, the next chapter in humanity’s timeline can truly commence.
As Scarface would’ve said, had he been a Bitcoiner: First we fix the money. Then we fix the world. Then we get the galaxy.