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FQXi FORUM
October 19, 2019

CATEGORY: How Should Humanity Steer the Future? Essay Contest (2014) [back]
TOPIC: Regarding Bitcoin, the Internet of Money and Economic Progress by Harlan Swyers [refresh]
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Author Harlan Swyers wrote on Apr. 10, 2014 @ 17:18 GMT
Essay Abstract

In releasing Notice 2014-21, the IRS has declared virtual currency to be property. While this may be a disappointment for some people who wished cryptocurrency to be treated the same as regular currency, the classification as property has placed virtual currency, such as Bitcoin, on par with precious metals as a means of storing equity. This is an ultimate development of current classically based information technologies and has an enormous impact on developing and emerging markets around the world which are striving to implement microfinance schemes that hold the promise of bringing a large portion of Earth’s population out of abstract poverty. The transportability, transferability, liquidity and relative security of cryptocurrency opens the global marketplace to people who would otherwise be forced to work through a long line of intermediaries. This holds potential for further advancing the utilitarian maximization of the state of happiness for portions of the planet that are currently struggling with meeting basic needs.

Author Bio

Hal Swyers holds a M.S. in Environmental Management from the University of Maryland University College. He studies physics and mathematics as a personal hobby and all content provided purely reflect his own opinions and should not be construed to reflect the opinions of others.

Download Essay PDF File

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John Brodix Merryman wrote on Apr. 11, 2014 @ 02:17 GMT
Hal,

You and I both build arguments around the primal importance of currency to the modern psyche, yet we take it in opposite directions. You make the point that bitcoin and other digital currencies would be quite useful for extending the monetary and financial framework further into the developing work as well, as provide an emotional refuge from the vicissitudes of increasingly...

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Author Harlan Swyers wrote on Apr. 11, 2014 @ 10:07 GMT
John M,

Thanks for taking the time to read the essay.

This is undoubtedly a difficult topic and generates a lot of viewpoints. My own is that people are the fundamental generators of value, and we have to keep that central role clearly aligned in order to prevent drift to non-human actors. Unfortunately, at present, there are huge portions of humanity that are not represented in any direct way within the financial community. This unfortunately allows and even encourages significant financial chicanery.

I would point you to the recent movie "The Wolf of Wall Street", and then ask yourself how you go about getting a series 7 license. If you find a viable nationwide loophole, please let me know.

I do appreciate and share some of the fundamental concerns you bring up, however, I am a pragmatist at heart and try to keep my attention focused on how to understand problems by looking at what actions can be taken now, with my mind set on how that would allow a goal to be achieved.

Best

hal

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John Brodix Merryman replied on Apr. 11, 2014 @ 11:34 GMT
Hal,

My view is the crash is inevitable, so it's much more a matter of what lessons there are to learn from it. If you read my entry, you will find it far more radical than just arguing money as a contract and therefore far-fetched, but having watched this circus for several decades now, I long realized people only hear what they want to hear and what will directly benefit them and that the only time for any real change is when this status quo breaks down. As Stephen Jay Gould named it, 'Punctuated Equilibrium.' So normally I wouldn't try to pack all that into one essay, but having entered every FQXI contest, but one, I figured,' Why not?" Let them have a piece of my mind! So the brevity is a consequence of not taking the contest completely serious, even if the subject matter ultimately is.

Regards,

John M

Sparks, Md.

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Author Harlan Swyers replied on Apr. 12, 2014 @ 18:05 GMT
John,

I think change is always inevitable, however, I do not believe that humanity is necessarily doomed, it simply will evolve and probably in very radical ways. I think Kurzweil is somewhat prophetic when he talks of how the mind will eventually be further and further removed from physical reality. How long this will take is not very clear, but it is something that will be topical for some time to come.

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John Brodix Merryman replied on Apr. 13, 2014 @ 01:49 GMT
Hal,

I don't think its doomed, just due for a reset of some of the more unsustainable practices. If I was to predict a singularity of consciousness, it would be one more integrated into physical reality, not removed from it. The older I get, the more I sense my sense of self is just a form of cell membrane in a larger beingness. The problem being that it is a bottom up elemental awareness, not some top down ideal form. So we are that constant pushing upward and outward, with the occasional slips and falls, some quite spectacular.

Regards,

John M

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Wilhelmus de Wilde de Wilde wrote on Apr. 11, 2014 @ 15:01 GMT
Harlan :

Mankind is the "reference" for the exchange of "effort"...

This is how I would like to describe any system of exchange , even LOVE

As we are with 7 billion now there is no longer any base like gold for the reference and indeed it is the valuation of another one's effort that gives the base for "exchange", this method however is no longer individual but is determined by the "group". I wonder if we will ever be able to chnage the base of economy we have by now, one thing is sure it does NOT work...

In my essay the economic structure is only a temporal illusion of our consciousness and there is HOPE,

I hope Harlan that you can take some time to read and comment on my thread and also eventually give it a rating...

regards

Wilhelmus

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Author Harlan Swyers replied on Apr. 12, 2014 @ 17:58 GMT
Wilhelmus,

Will read your essay and reply there.

You bring up a good point about group values. I have a pet theory that group intelligence is often averaged over the membership of the group (dependent on certain hierarchical relationships albeit). This is why small groups with highly intelligent members can outpace larger groups when it comes to innovation, etc. However, large groups fundamentally have more resources at their disposal, so there is a competitive edge for large groups in many cases.

In digital economies though, a lot of group activities can be relegated as contributions to background noise. Individual to individual (e.g. peer to peer) is now able to rest on the surface of the "bulk" noise and avoid some of the "signal" loss when it comes to shared values between individuals. Entire societies can flourish in the virtual world and only see the "real world" as a source of some predictable trends and random noise.

Effectively, you can't change human nature, but it is becoming increasingly possible to manage some of its lesser qualities.

Only time will tell what the future holds...

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Wilhelmus de Wilde de Wilde replied on Apr. 14, 2014 @ 14:32 GMT
The danger of democracy...

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William Amos Carine wrote on Apr. 12, 2014 @ 22:31 GMT
Dear Swyers,

This is very well written and argued. I would like to see more science involved in the closing pages, though! It seems to me that there is an ever far removed trend to economic and scientific thought from what is around us everyday. Money might have once been a barter or lump of some outstanding mineral or element, but not is going digital. Science may have once been used...

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Author Harlan Swyers replied on Apr. 13, 2014 @ 12:41 GMT
William,

Thanks for reading, and for the kind words.

I have looked at questions of interstellar trade using Krugman's model which you can read about on my blog The Furloff.

Now I am not a arbiter of happiness, if someone says they are happy or unhappy there really is nothing I can do to determine if they are telling the truth or not, but certainly I can tell people are happier going down to the grocery store to buy some bologna for a modest price then sitting outside starving for a few days, chipping out some arrowheads and hoping some small game comes within 20 yds of their downwind position. At least I am happier, because I have better things to do with my time. Although I suppose its possible some people are happier without a full belly, I don't know.

On this alien thing though, if you take a look at Jared Diamond's Guns, Germs and Steel he makes a good case that success of early advancements in civilizations was highly influenced by environment. For the most part I agree with the idea that random factors really do determine whether a species advances technologically or not. Whether life has emerged on other planets is one thing, but there is not one defensible piece of evidence that there are other technically advanced species in our galactic neighborhood. This is probably a good thing.

The network being built around cryptocurrency is more than just about money. The argument I make is not that money buys people happiness, but that having cheap access to global trade will ultimately improve the lives of people who can't overcome the barriers that trap them in poverty. Hopefully people agree that helping people is a good thing.

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John C Hodge wrote on Apr. 14, 2014 @ 14:03 GMT
Thanks for your essay. It is thought provoking.

I think fulfillment is as much a goal for many as happiness. Indeed, those seeking fulfillment seem to drive change, new products, technology, etc.

I think the Pareto model is an incorrect model for out society. This model is a zero sum game. The advance in technology and our power implies a positive sum game. It is possible for both parties in a transaction to win and be better off. I understand many who would have the rich be taxed to transfer payments to the poor use a zero sum model to justify such a procedure. Indeed, I think such transfer payment have a negative long term effect on the nation. I suppose that is a subject of another debate outside FQXi.

The cryptocurrency is new. It’s only a matter of time before governments get in on the act. When that happens, the rules will change to government control (if possible). Government control is oriented to larger government. The rapid rate of growth of cryptocurrency is because the government is not yet in the game and, unlike barter, it is transportable.

If we note some consistent behavior, we should ask what is rational in the behavior. Just labeling a behavior that falls outside one’s line of reasoning as irrational is missing some very important fact of the situation.

Hodge

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Joe Fisher wrote on Apr. 14, 2014 @ 14:30 GMT
Dear Mr. Swyers,

I quite enjoyed reading your excellently written essay, and I do hope that it scores well with the judges in this competition. I do have a minor quibble about something that you proclaimed, and I hope you will not mind me mentioning it.

You wrote: “As an intelligent social species, our ability to show empathy is a powerful regulator of social behavior and serves us well in ensuring that irrational excesses do not impede the diversification and development of humanity as a whole.”

You are aware that American residents fired off about a million bullets in the past year. Most of these bullets were fired at shooting ranges and by hunters. About 13,000 people were shot to death. About another 100,000 people were wounded by gunfire.

I do not wish to be unduly cynical, but I fear that expecting Americans to act sensibly with guns is comparable to expecting turtles to perform Olympic qualifying pole-vaults.

With my highest regards,

Joe Fisher

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Anselm Smidt wrote on Apr. 22, 2014 @ 16:47 GMT
Nicht stark auf Physik.

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Author Harlan Swyers replied on Apr. 27, 2014 @ 12:28 GMT
hallo,

Sie müssen sich schwarze Löcher ein wenig näher zu studieren. Sie finden diese Themen sind eng verwandt.

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Hoang cao Hai wrote on May. 9, 2014 @ 02:39 GMT
Dear Author Harlan Swyers

Very special and exciting when you mention "money and virtual money" in this contest - it is very close to real needs should always latent abilities "disease" if we do not accurately assess the nature of it.

In this contest I only give 10 points to the article that I read .

But looks like there has been a breakdown in the assessment grading so I can not give point for you ? I will evaluate you when the problem is fixed .

Hải.CaoHoàng

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Peter Jackson wrote on May. 13, 2014 @ 16:45 GMT
Harlan,

Having had a look at the bottom few essays for moderation and interest I seem to be getting myself into a bit of a spot. Yours is certainly too well written and argued to be at the bottom, but I've found that, to possibly a lesser extent, for most others and your position has slipped. You shall have redress.

Your subject was quite unexpected for a fundamental physics site, but not really invalid as advancement in the short term depends fundamentally on commerce and exchange. I was also fascinated to learn of bitcoin. Thank you.

I hope you'll read my essay too - removing the nonsense from QM! If only it could penetrate the current belief system.

Very best wishes

Peter

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Hoang cao Hai wrote on May. 14, 2014 @ 02:06 GMT
Dear Harlan

Incidents in my evaluation had to be overcome, 10 points to cheer for your passion.

Hải.CaoHoàng

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Don Limuti wrote on May. 24, 2014 @ 21:52 GMT
Hi Harlan,

I like very much your high aim and out of the box thinking.

Breaking open the economics headlock, is a way to steer the future.

Thanks for the fine essay,

Don Limuti

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