Tweetstorm: On Adversarial Thinking

2 minute read

If you find WORDS helpful, Bitcoin donations are unnecessary but appreciated. Our goal is to spread and preserve Bitcoin writings for future generations. Read more. Make a Donation

Tweetstorm: On Adversarial Thinking

By Ragnar Lifthrasir

Posted January 12, 2020

A thread/rant on the the importance of thinking critically and adversarially about Bitcoin claims and ideas, and the dangers of failing to do so.

This isn’t directed at anyone specifically so please don’t make it personal. Let’s stick to ideas and arguments please

Below is an example of robotic repetition of unquestioned simplistic dogma as a mantra of faith and an excuse for inaction and critical thought.

In this instance it’s HODLmonomania. (Yes I HODL and recommend it). The danger of this monomania is what follows from it…

  • Don’t develop and use @btcpayserver, a self-hosted, open-source bitcoin payment processor to build a circular Bitcoin economy. Just HODL.
  • Don’t develop and use the Lightning Network to give better privacy for censorship resistant and faster payments. Just HODL.
  • Don’t build a network of people to informally buy and sell bitcoin to escape the KYC/ AML and surveilled 3rd party Bitcoin exchanges. Just HODL.
  • Don’t use bitcoin to pay for Bitcoin products and services to spread adoption of bitcoin, create a circular bitcoin economy, and offer an alternative to exchanges to acquire bitcoin. Just HODL.

We can see how reducing all of Bitcoin to one monomania keeps bitcoin from progressing, gives an excuse for inaction, narrows the scope of Bitcoin’s purpose and abilities, and discourages rigorous intelligent discourse.

Memes are for humor, not orthodoxy.

Here’s an example of an extraordinary claim, that feels good to believe, but lacks empirical support and isn’t evaluated with common sense.

If you owned all the BTC currently in circulation, 18,144, at today’s price of $8,087, then you’d have a net worth of $147 billion. Jeff Bezos is worth $131 billion. From when he started Amazon & it was worth $0 to today he had a “wealth transfer” of almost the market cap of bitcoin

There’s many more extraordinary claims about Bitcoin that require extraordinary evidence, or at least critical thinking, but lack either. These claims have become givens, unquestioned, and widespread.

Some other examples: Lightning Network can replace Visa and MasterCard. Bitcoin solves inequality. Bitcoin will become the world’s reserve currency. Bitcoin will end wars. Bitcoin will prevent governments from collecting taxes at a mass scale.

As much as we hope some of these claims come true (I do!) we make bitcoin weaker by burdening bitcoin with unrealistic expectations, setting up bitcoiners for disillusionment, and lulling into inaction and dangerous overconfidence.

Humility is the beginning of wisdom.

To make Bitcoin and ourselves stronger we need to think like the software engineers who contribute to Bitcoin. They peer review, mercilessly seeking flaws. At their tech events they talk about every which way a proposal can fail. They think adversarially. They’re conservative

Stressing muscles makes them stronger

Testing & reviewing codes reduces the risk of exploits

Thinking critically about ideas & claims focuses our limited resources on what’s realistic & achievable. It also helps us let go of future fantasies to focus on the present.

Subscribe to WORDS

* indicates required