God Is Dead, Bitcoin Lives10 min readReading Time: 7 minutes
A philosophical discussion based on ideas popularized by Friedrich Nietzsche with Bitcoin as a new-world mythology to replace current beliefs.
God is dead, Bitcoin lives. This is to be the bedrock of a new mythology since that is exactly what Bitcoin is — myth.
Friedrich Nietzsche is a German philosopher and is credited with the popularization of the statement “God is dead,” in his book titled “Thus Spoke Zarathustra.” The idea originated in his earlier work titled “The Gay Science.”
Critics misunderstood Nietzsche’s meaning. He intended to show that a post-Renaissance age of reason requires humanity to break the shackles of monotheistic theology, which is used to justify a universal set of morals that is altogether limiting.
“What he’s pointing to is what he thinks is a historical fact — European society is no longer as dependent upon religion as it once was.” – Dale Wilkerson, professor of philosophy at the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley and author of “Nietzsche and The Greeks”
Nietzsche’s movement against organized religion and its universal set of morals requires the creation of a new set of values, one that is capable of achieving the status of “übermensch,” or “overman.”
Nietzsche’s idea of the overman is recognition that our previous systems of values limit our capacity of knowledge which prevents us from achieving intellectual growth. Therefore, a new set of values must take its place in order to bring about the overman, the next step in human evolution.
“All beings so far have created something beyond themselves; and do you want to be the ebb of this great flood and even go back to the beasts rather than overcome man? What is the ape to man? A laughingstock or a painful embarrassment. And man shall be just that for the overman: a laughingstock or a painful embarrassment …” – Nietzsche, “Thus Spoke Zarathustra”
This article seeks to explore a new mythology that will allow humanity to become the overman. First, we consider the deviation from modern religious beliefs.
Abandon Eternal Life
Nietzsche is often referred to as “the great destroyer” for making a habit of attacking things he vehemently opposed, namely morality and Christianity. This characterization leads many to believe Nietzsche simply attacks without providing a positive change. I would argue this was not the case, and Nietzsche offered us a glimpse of the path forward.
As an atheist, it was not an actual death of a monotheistic God that Nietzsche had in mind, as he didn’t believe in God’s existence at the time of writing. Rather, Nietzsche’s disdain refers to Christianity’s need for what Nietzsche refers to as “other-worldly” desires. These other-worldly desires callously demand a life beyond our own which steals our capacity to enjoy the one we presently experience.
“A new pride my ego taught me, and this I teach men: no longer to bury one’s head in the sand of heavenly things, but to bear it freely, an earthly head, which creates a meaning for the earth.” – Nietzsche, “Thus Spoke Zarathustra”
A need to possess a life beyond the one we know is what Nietzsche opposed, yet he seems to recognize that humanity was propelled forward by religion as he calls for a new system of belief to do the same. This progression is made possible because universal morals force shared values to transcend time and space. But, what if one does not agree with this universality?
While Nietzsche strongly proposes that we abandon the need for other-worldly desires, we are also met with the responsibility of replacing those values and the way it is transferred with something capable of universality that does not interfere with individual experience.
Therefore, we must create a system of more. In order to create a system of more, we must become more. In order to become more, the overman must conquer man.
“I teach you the overman. Man is something that shall be overcome. What have you done to overcome him?” – Nietzsche, “Thus Spoke Zarathustra”
To Conquer Man
Nietzsche thought religion, Christianity in particular, was a repulsive manifestation of authority and called it an “immortal blemish on the human race,” in part due to the limiting nature of subjective moral standards imposed by religion.
Opposition to religion is easily understood when one recognizes a moral standard dictated by humanity is inexplicably intertwined with the base desires of its author. The link between author and moral standard shows one is required to accept the premise that the author was acting in good faith and serving the needs of the many instead of the few.
This universal moral standard asks the author to act against themselves, serving neither selfish need nor pleasure. Hence, a reliance on good-willed human nature and the inherent subjectivity of experience must both be conquered in a way that not only prevents bad faith, but removes its possibility entirely. Therefore, a new system that brings about the overman must both remove human subjectivity and serve the needs of human nature.
Bitcoin removes the subjectivity of human experience.
Across the world, Bitcoin collects data from all participants on the network and finalizes a block of transactions to be solved (mined) roughly every 10 minutes by algorithmically forcing the vast majority of users to agree on a current state of consensus. This process is known as proof-of-work and requires the expenditure of resources like electricity for mining bitcoin.
The energy requirements emerge as many people around the world are competing for consensus and trying to solve the block, earning them the block reward (bitcoin). Competition in the mining process drives energy use.
Energy expenditure is required to maintain a decentralized network by forcing an actual output of the participants in the network. If the consensus is not globally distributed through energy expenditure as it is in Bitcoin, then an authority is required to attain consensus. Through this process, authority is removed.
The removal of authority is the removal of human subjectivity. The absence of authority emerges through placing consensus in the hands of an algorithmic majority, meaning no single entity can increase the amount of bitcoin that exists. Neither can a singular entity dictate change over the protocol or its rules of consensus. Removing authority removes humanity.
To state it differently, the removal of subjective authority is the conquering of man. This attack on authority may look to only affect the world of finance, but the separation of money and state is to take the grandest tool of oppression from the oppressor. Bitcoin does not simply remove authority from finance, it is a stepping stone for the removal of oppression.
Now, we must consign Bitcoin to human nature.
Nietzsche took an interesting perspective on the idea of human nature, or rather, the absence of it.
“Let us be on our guard against saying that there are laws in nature. There are only necessities: There is no one who commands, no one who obeys, no one who transgresses. When you know that there is no design, you know also that there is no chance: for it is only where there is a world of design that the word “chance” has a meaning.” – Nietzsche, “The Gay Science.”
In sharing the naturalist perspective with Nietzsche, one might say that the evidence of nature is all around us, but our sublimations of nature manifest man-made associations that are not truly present. The only purpose integrated into a naturalistic understanding of being is necessity.
Hence, if nature does not consign us to laws associated with being human outside of one’s own necessities, everything else associated with human nature is nothing more than hedonism, or the will to pleasure. Simply put, in human nature there is only necessity, all else is hedonic.
Therefore, in order to encapsulate the misconception of human nature, Bitcoin must serve both necessity and hedonism. The necessities of nature to sustain human life are commonly known: food, water, air, shelter.
An important distinction to note at this point is that bitcoin doesn’t need to be one of the necessities; it needs to serve all of the necessities. Bitcoin serves necessity by enabling commerce to achieve the necessities of human life, but it’s more than just that.
As society has pegged itself to the continuance of a world economy, crises such as war and disease have created opportunity for authorities in control of the economy to generate more wealth for themselves, devaluing wealth for the vast majority of economic participants. Bitcoin not only enables commerce and trade to continue, but it resists a central authority’s ability to devalue the wealth of others.
Without control of the vast majority of Bitcoin, no single entity can exert control over its monetary policy. Simply stated, decentralization means the monetary policy cannot be changed which guarantees wealth will not be deteriorated as it is in our current regime.
This means not only does Bitcoin serve the basic necessities of humanity as we discussed earlier, but it also empowers our hedonistic desires by providing wealth generation for all participants through a capped supply of monetary units that likely creates a deflationary environment.
As demand and adoption of bitcoin grows, the fixed issuance of units of bitcoin allows for stable growth, if one assumes any adoption growth rate over time leading to hyperbitcoinization. Should this adoption occur, eventually bitcoin becomes the monetary unit of account, meaning the asymmetric gains from early adoption would lessen over a long period of time.
However, in an environment absent the asymmetric gains provided by early adoption, hedonistic values would still be served by preventing the devaluation of wealth over time. Consumers would be left with more capital to experience the open market at a higher level since a central authority would not be devaluing their wealth.
A steep bitcoin adoption curve also means higher amounts of large-scale transactions on-chain. This means the fees charged by miners could also continue to increase. Adoption supports the continued growth of the ecosystem by providing a means of accruing further wealth over time for the miners as more people demand use of Bitcoin, which offers hedonic value.
One could also argue that energy expenditure is a hedonic activity. That is to say, the endorphins released from exerting force cause a great deal of euphoria. Similarly, the setting of small goals as a daily activity allows one to experience recurring release of serotonin. Combining the acts of energy exertion, goal attainment and wealth generation to participate in bitcoin mining or accumulation nearly creates a symbiotic relationship with necessity and hedonism.
Regimes come and go. Monetary regimes are no different. As Nietzsche states the age of reason in a post-Renaissance world calls for the abolition of religion in order to progress humanity to its next form, we too must recognize our own age of reason as it relates to the world of not only finance, but authority.
Belief in the U.S. dollar and its requisition as the world reserve currency is waning. Fiat currency no longer holds value in a reprehensible inflationary environment in which the only answer for economic worriment is the creation of more currency.
Economics was already a soft science, that is to say that observable change is not actually achievable in the world of finance. Financial analysts may claim reason for the madness and certainly, one cannot argue trends within the system. However, neither currency nor commerce are necessary to the basic elements of human life.
The world of finance is a game we have all agreed to play. Natural forces are not present in the world of finance. We will find neither chemical imbalances with the bond market, nor the biological makeup of a stock.
The rules have been made up from the very beginning, and there is absolutely nothing stating those rules cannot be changed again.
The religion of centrally planned economies benefacting a small authority is dead. The religion of authority being necessary to achieve quality of life values is dead.
In the death of fiat currency and unnecessary authority, we are bonded to the responsibilities of something more. A mythology of epic proportions that allots the next step in humanity to propel what it means to exist has sprung forth and enabled a system that transcends humanity. Bitcoin is not the final answer to everything. Bitcoin is only the beginning of the myth.
This is a guest post by Shawn Amick. Opinions expressed are entirely their own and do not necessarily reflect those of BTC Inc. or Bitcoin Magazine.