Truth, Goodness, Beauty. The ancient Greeks identified these three transcendental virtues as the requisite underpinning for individual fulfillment and broader societal flourishing. They also believed that all humans have innate capacities that correspond to each of these values. Logos (reason) allows access to truth, ethos (morality) to goodness, and pathos (emotion) to beauty.
I believe each one of us resonates most strongly with one of these three virtues. Some people are naturally inclined to seek out truth, others goodness, and still others beauty. You can think of the archetypal scientist, servant, and artist, with each one of us being composed of some unequal mixture of the three. While these three virtues are all critical for life to thrive, there exists a natural order among the three. Understanding the dependencies this order implies can inform the proper structuring of successful human organizations.
The natural order begins with truth, flows to goodness, and ultimately comes to fruition in beauty. Mahatma Gandhi said it well when he said “Truth is the first thing to be sought for, and beauty and goodness will then be added unto you.” If this is true, then the best and most beautiful societies are first and foremost built on foundations of truth. The stronger the foundation, the grander and more beautiful the result (*). Since societies are fundamentally a continual and ever-evolving exchange of value between interdependent entities, the medium of said exchange is the foundation. All actions, all complexity derives from the properties of this medium of exchange. Bitcoin’s rules-based system lays perhaps the strongest foundation conceivable and therefore its success is paramount for life on earth to take its next great leap forward.
Life is mysterious and miraculous but in many ways it is also discernible and rational. While life’s origins remain unknown, it is clear that life unfolds and proliferates according to a set of unchanging universal physical laws. That is to say, life itself is downstream of truth. The periodic table, the laws of gravity, thermodynamics and magnetism all provide a stable and predictable matrix upon which complexity self-constructs. Without these bedrock truths, nothing so complex as an amoeba would be able to exist, much less evolve from scratch. But thankfully amoebas did evolve and so did humans. The universe is a richer place for it.
Life is good! If you have a soul or even an imagination, chances are you agree that the universe would be tragically boring if no life existed. There is thus something ineffably right and deeply good about maintaining and nurturing life in all its myriad forms. Not all actions contribute to sustaining life however, and the ones that do not are often lacking in goodness, untethered from truth. Bad actions undermine life’s ever-increasing complexity, reducing things to simpler states. War is a prime example of this and is predicated on the falsehood that every action does NOT have an equal and opposite reaction. Implicit in the logic of war is that by stealing with force the life and livelihood of other people, the victors can enjoy a more abundant and fruitful existence. While this may be true for some individuals for some amount of time, it neglects the fact that every individual is part of a larger whole which is inclusive of all life, even of their innumerable descendants. The net effect of war therefore is greater impoverishment for life on earth and thus contrary to all parties’ interests. Peace on the other hand is good because it acknowledges the truthful oneness of all life. With peace comes trust and trade, specialization, increased complexity, and the flowering of civilization. Good actions then, rooted in truth, lead to flourishing which is another way of saying beauty. This is true on all scales, from the molecular level to the cellular level, all the way to global human civilization. Truth leads to goodness which produces beauty.
The goal then if one wishes to live in a better, more beautiful world, is to anchor oneself as firmly as possible to truth, to tap into that deep truthful flow of life. Life is good. Go with the flow. Easy. Done. Reality however is messy and confusing. There are many overlapping currents, most of which are man-made and ephemeral, but the current of truth is deeper and all-powerful. Mystics and wisemen throughout history have found it and tapped into it. Breaking through the noise to find this current and maintaining the conviction to remain attached despite the countervailing forces requires uncommon courage and strength. Sadly the great masses of people have often been too preoccupied with basic needs to attain this level of human fulfillment, and hence societies built upon truth have proven to be rare, fragile and brief. Could it be then, that the pervasive ugliness of today’s culture, the failure to achieve greatness, the acceptance of trash as art, and the enshrinement of victimhood as a virtue stems from our collective unmooring from truth? I believe so. The fiat money paradigm we exist in today profoundly pollutes the communication and transfer of value between all economic actors and depends upon ignorance to persist. It is a house of cards built on lies. Bitcoin fixes this.
Bitcoin is like a universal API for truth. It provides a standard, global, unstoppable portal to access truth and this portal is open to everyone on the planet. While some may say it’s just a glorified spreadsheet, this misses the profound implications that global dynamic consensus entails. I say dynamic because there’s actually not much value in simple, static, global consensus. We all agree that the sky is blue, yet that is not especially useful, much less the basis upon which to construct a thriving civilization. It doesn’t do anything towards unlocking latent human potential.
The magic of Bitcoin is that there is a new global consensus achieved every 10 minutes, and any human that plugs into the network can literally contribute to each change in the consensus. Furthermore, any human can peacefully maintain a piece of this consensus through HODLing and need only relinquish this control through consent. It’s more than just property rights, it’s also the right to transfer these rights to anyone else in the world. It’s worth considering that for a moment. It’s something like granting every human in the world the ability to implant a thought into every other human’s mind every 10 minutes. While the analogy is far from perfect, it does point to the vast increase in individual agency that Bitcoin ushers in. Universal transferable property rights that no one can mess with is a huge deal because it empowers every human to reach into themselves and deploy their talents towards fruitful endeavors. This is true because those individuals now have the unalienable right to hold onto the just rewards of their labors. But it also tears down walls by opening an economic connection between every single human being. A fully connected human population of 8 billion people would imply roughly 32 quintillion connections. The network effect of this is staggering to consider as is the remaining potential for growth. If you assume there are currently 100 million people who hold bitcoin, then its journey to 8 billion participants would result in the current number of possible economic connections to multiply by 6,400 times.
I contend therefore, as many others have, that if society migrates to a bitcoin standard, that an emergent order predicated on truth and embodying goodness will prevail. The result will be a proliferation of beauty and ultimately an explosion of human flourishing. This doesn’t just happen however. It requires that we act and that our actions be rooted in truth and thus facilitate its spread.
For that reason I’ve begun a project called the Bitcoin Tree Forum, the aim of which is to experiment with new forms of civic organization tied to Bitcoin. The Bitcoin Tree Forum is meant to promote low time-preference behavior and is thus focused on directing human action and value towards projects with long time horizons and beautiful results. Running a public node and planting a grove of long-lived trees such as giant sequoias are the first and most accessible steps towards that worthy goal. In my next piece I will introduce the concept in more detail. I’ll be the first to admit that this concept is aspirational, experimental and vaguely quixotic, but nonetheless it is my hope that 1000 years from now people will look upon Bitcoin Tree Forums as one of the many examples of Bitcoin’s beautifying impact on society.
In previous centuries, societies used religion as a shared portal to truth and therefore as a way to mobilize human capital. While one may argue today with the veracity of some religions’ claims, religion nonetheless was a shared idea with shared truths that bound many disparate individuals together. This had an enlivening and enriching effect on society, however was vulnerable to becoming unmoored as scientific advancement undermined some religions’ claims and therefore attractiveness. This process has been playing out for over 100 years and has contributed enormously to the fracturing of society. This is not to suggest that religion is bad or unworthy of pursuit; quite the contrary. In its most sincere expression religious organization can bring out the very best of humanity and connect individuals to the most profound truth. I believe thriving religious communities are necessary for a healthy society. The diverse globally-connected world we live in now however precludes any one religion from serving the role as global social anchor to truth. Without this anchor humanity can not reach its full potential. Bitcoin is not a religion. But because of its universality, neutrality, and transparent objectivity, it is an idea that can replace and even advance some of the social benefits that religion traditionally serves.
This is a guest post by Fangorn. Opinions expressed are entirely their own and do not necessarily reflect those of BTC Inc. or Bitcoin Magazine.