Internet (cyphersphere), Bitcoin and AI thread. What do these have in common?
In the late 1990s, we started to interconnect. Mailing lists, news, IRC. These were the first social networks, later converging around free and open-source projects. Not only software, but content.
We also created a parallel communication networks, something I call cyphersphere. We used encrypted chat (SILC, IRC-SSL), PGP mailchains, mixmaster and anonymous remailers. All this created a form of organic mastermind groups, people exchanging culture, opinions, ideas and results of their work. It is what Peter Russel describes in his 1983 video Global Brain. We became interconnected. The original Global Brain / Gaia ideas of one-ness or unity perceive it as becoming one brain, which is not what we see now.
Thanks to polarization, we see that we interact, but also ideas and tribalization disconnects us. I see this as natural. This relates to the brain. Maybe you have heard figures that “we only use 10% of the capacity of our brain”, which is misleading. Why?
We do not need all of our capacity. Specialization and *focus* of the parts of our brains are a superskill. BTW: This is the exact idea of why current AI works. In a paper “Attention is all you need”, the transformer architecture was introduced and it allowed the blossoming of AI.
Why use all of the brain’s capacity, if we can use those parts that we need? As biological brain and as an artificial neural network, it saves computational capacity and energy.
If we perceive our interconnected brains as a form of consciousness, we do not want to be united.
A group of Bitcoin developers focus on developing Bitcoin, another group of permaculture enthusiasts focus on growing great food. The tribes and polarization allows us to direct our attention and the “global brain” thus works better. Comparative advantages and specialization.
Internet created connections among the brains of humans. Bitcoin allows us to direct this energy. It enabled a “cyphersphere of value” – a parallel information and communication network, which allows to manage scarce resources without a manager, in an emergent way.
This is a big deal. First of all, we do not have to deal with islands denominated by fiat currencies and central banks. Communication between someone using Nigerian Naira and Argentinian Pesos is almost impossible. With Bitcoin, it becomes one network, one protocol.
This enables cooperation, but we still have specialization. Now a software developer can interact with other software developers not only on pro bono basis, but they can direct their energy using money.
But also, this enables communication between the Bitcoin developer and permaculture enthusiast. One grows food for the other, the other writes software for everyone.
OK, so we can communicate (in cyphersphere in groups as closed or as open as we need).
We can use financial communication with Bitcoin – permissionless, global direction of human creative energy and other scarce resources.
So we have a global brain, that can focus energy and attention (and again: “Attention is all you need” – if you can communicate).
Now let’s add the third part – AI. With technologies even before AI, we were able to greatly expand our capabilities.
Technologies extend the possibilities of our bodies. A naked person alone in the environment can maybe grow some food and discover seasons. Add some technologies (such as basic tools) and cooperation, and capabilities grow.
Now we have communication with just the right group of people, trading allows the direction of energy and the technologies allow us to expand the capabilities of our bodies and minds.
A tractor or an agricultural machine can help us grow more food than if we used our bare hands. A good computer, connected to Internet, with a search engine and wikipedia can expand what our minds are capable of.
If we look at human individuals, our brains did not grow much (they are limited by the size of birth canal of our mothers). But the abilities of our consciousness are growing.
How many “IQ points” (although a very problematic measure, I will stick with it for now) are added just by having a phone with access to Google, WikiPedia, a calculator, the right Signal group or a virtual ruler do we get? What about a mapping application?
Now add all sorts of AI. And I’m not only talking about large language models such as GPT-4 (or LLaMA, Bloom, …). I am talking about translation (DeepL), image generation (Stable Diffusion, Midjourney), speech recognition (Whisper), audio enhancement (auphonic), …
These all add to the capabilities of our minds. It’s like if we grew a bigger brain. These expand our consciousness greatly. We are not naked people, alone in wilderness, we are modern people with smartphones in our pocket, connected to Internet and amazing tools.
1.) Internet, cyphersphere <- connecting minds, communication, creating global brain (fragmented, not united)
2.) Bitcoin <- attention, energy, scarce resources
3.) Tech + AI <- expanding consciousness of each individual, accelerating our capabilities.
Now the common question is – there are bad people out there. They can use all three to do bad things.
(And thus we should ban/monitor/regulate all these).
Where is the flaw in this? As Paul Rosenberg said in his newsletter (recommended reading), the model of rules and rulers has been tried for centuries. Simply adding new rules, exponentially, just does not work.
So what does work? Thankfully, all three greatly expand our capabilities and add security. And there are orders of magnitude more good people out there than really bad people. There are some people that are confused, very few psychopaths, most people are good.
That means that if these technologies widely expand our consciousness (and abilities of our bodies in general), and at the same time good people have been widely more creative and productive (simply because they focus on productive things), the good part will grow more and faster.
It is because all three aspects – internet, bitcoin and AI have positive feedback loops. Bad people can do bad more effectively, but there are simply not so many network effects and acceleration of individual capabilities. If someone is not productive, doing 2x won’t help them.
Not even 100x. Small number times 100 is still a small number. If someone is productive and creative, and does good, each of these technologies introduces positive feedback loop now.
Please note that I am not talking about future, this is already happening.
The states (a value-destructing force) basically suck wealth out of society, but they are still too slow given how fast we grow.
Cyphersphere (both internet and bitcoin) even allows us to separate the creativity from the watchful eyes of the states and escape this value-destruction in many areas.
It is not perfect, but it is happening.
I don’t know what will happen with the future. Maybe AI will kill us all. But what is happening right now is that we grow as individuals, we communicate as organic communities, create together. And the energy flows – between individuals, between groups. Attention is focused.
If you are interested in positive look at the interplay of internet, Bitcoin and technologies, check out Cypherpunk visions and trends 2023-2025 (my e-shop, Amazon).
And for more of these, give me a follow at Twitter (@jurbed), Mastodon (@firstname.lastname@example.org) or Nostr npub1m2mvvpjugwdehtaskrcl7ksvdqnnhnjur9v6g9v266nss504q7mqvlr8p9