“In its first incarnation, a proof of a theorem is a spoken message, or at most a sketch on a chalkboard or a paper napkin.”
– De Millo, et al. Social Processes and Proofs of Theorems and Programs
Concept #1: Everyone Breaks Promises
– Tarō Gomi
It takes a high degree of stoicism to thrive in the profession of arms. Our profession requires servicemembers to become intimately acquainted with the flaws of society. They are trained to project power – to kill their peers – to preserve zero-trust and egalitarian control over what are fundamentally trust-based and inegalitarian Rules of Law. When the systemically flawed nature of our rules-based order inevitably reveals itself, the military must make the repair. Like a plumber called to fix a ruptured septic tank, servicemembers are placed into situations where they must confront what civilians do not want to see: themselves. Humans are filled with the most repulsive sights, sounds, and smells that a person can endure. And when our servicemembers emerge from the fray, their hands covered in gross, putrid waste, people reel at the sight. And that is under the best of conditions, if they execute our job flawlessly with perfect information, without the additional mess of any mistakes.
War is messy, but demonstrably necessary. People who seek peace by attempting to construct rules-based alternatives to property ownership are noble and worthy of applause. Trust-based rules of law are certainly more efficient. They promote abundance and minimize waste. But as a system-theoretic process analyst I also recognize how trust-based, rules-based order is inherently flawed, and how no amount of good faith can fix it. Rules require us to trust that individual people, both outside and inside the boundary of our booming society, will not act in their own self-interest under the most tempting possible circumstances. The more our rules-based society succeeds, the riper and juicier the target. It’s only a matter of time before some link in the chain becomes too tempted to take the fruit of our rules-based success. It could come from the outside, or from within. But rest assured, it will come.
And that’s why war is unfortunately very necessary – because trust is demonstrably inadequate at protecting citizens against endogenous and exogenous threats of a booming, productive, but powerless society. We don’t need to prove this quantitatively, just look around. Everyone breaks promises, and after those broken promises inevitably result in the breakdown of our rules-based order, everyone bleeds.
Concept #2: Accepting the Things we Cannot Change
“God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference…. taking this world as it is and not as I would have it.”
– The Serenity Prayer by Reinhold Niebuhr
We must strive to develop the wisdom to learn the difference between the things we cannot change and the things we can. This endeavor begins by acknowledging the role of power and the Law of Nature. Nature is ruthless, but she is equally ruthless. She doesn’t show favor to our rules nor our conscience. The epitome of Justice, Nature is completely blind to the bias of these subjectivities. Instead, she sees phenomenon like energy and its transfer across time. In her court, she makes her judgements on property ownership using power. And for that reason, she is fair, because power doesn’t discriminate against any living creature, for any reason. We are all equally subordinate to watts.
As a military officer, I believe the Law of Nature is something we must give our highest respect. I believe no one but the most prideful, hopeful, juvenile, oblivious, and ridiculous can disrespect the Law of Nature. From a national strategic security perspective, it is both my ethical and fiduciary responsibility to believe these things. I am paid fees and subsidized by the public to have the serenity to accept the Law of Nature as being incontrovertibly true, and then maximize our power projection capability.
One only needs to study history to see how the power lottery never ends. It is the base layer of functioning society regardless of whether or not we have the luxury of living in a trustworthy society that lets us forget about it. Our rules-based order only works insofar as we can project power to preserve our access to our rules-based order. Intellectually lazy people might call this coercive. They are oblivious to the fact that life itself is the embodiment of a power competition against the coercion of entropy, that no rules-based order, the most notable of which is life itself, has ever existed without winning the power competition, and that the only physical signature of “ownership” is the power projected to preserve one’s access to property. If you claim to own anything, if you claim to be a citizen, if you recognize the existence of nations, then you tacitly legitimize the role of power in establishing social consensus on property’s “legitimate” owner.
Thus, the laws of Sapiens, as inspiring and well-intentioned as they are, can’t overrule the Law of Nature, regardless of the manner in which we write them or the domain from which we write them – especially if that domain is cyberspace. We don’t see it because we are too comfortable in our nested, rules-based control loop that we forget about the outer, power-based control loop. We forget how the state of ownership and chain of custody of virtually everything with mass, particularly the mass we monetize, is written in blood, not ink. This is the tragedy of good power projection and deterrence. The better we get at it, the less often we are reminded about why we need it. Thus, I can think of few things more insulting to the devotion of those who sweat and bleed out watts for us – more systemically hazardous to our society – than to not have the serenity to solemnly accept the Law of Nature for what it is.
Concept #3: Finding Courage to Change the Things we Can
“The future is already here. It’s just not evenly distributed yet.”
– William Gibson
But what about the things society can change? Does society have the wisdom to recognize the difference between the things they can and can’t change? Assuming they do have that wisdom, can we expect society to summon the courage to actually make the change? I am optimistic about this; I believe we can. This optimism is why I devoted my time to developing a grounded theory about Bitcoin. I believe that understanding the sociotechnical importance of proof-of-work digital assets and the national strategic importance of Bitcoin is critical for developing the wisdom we need to see the difference between what we can and can’t change, and summoning the courage we need to change it.
We begin by accepting that we cannot change the Law of Nature. The baked-in systemic security of power-based control has no equal, and is essential to the preservation of rules-based order. Power is the only egalitarian solution life has for determining fair ownership of any resource – for determining the right pecking order. This has been empirically true for four billion years. Power-based control is also the only solution we have to patching up the flaws of our rules-based order. This has been empirically true for six thousand years.
But that doesn’t mean we can’t change the form of this power projection competition. Digital property indicates that objects don’t require mass to qualify as being property. Proof-of-work indicates that power doesn’t have to be derived kinetically from the energy of force displacing mass, to preserve zero-trust and egalitarian access. We. Can. Change. This. We can now achieve zero-trust and egalitarian control over property using electric power projection, from the energy of a charge as it passes across a resistor. And then we can monetize that property and usher in a new era of peace by preserving the benefits of war, but eliminating its harmful side effects.
This is not a new or radical idea. Nicola Tesla laid it out for us 120 years ago. Ford and Edison talked about it too. Perhaps they were just missing the computers, the software, the math, and the network to make it happen. But now we have all of these technologies. So why are our lawmakers not seeing the opportunity? Why do we keep calling proof-of-work bad for the environment? The social benefits – that “S” in the ESG attack on Bitcoin – are unthinkably good. So why do we keep focusing on the “E?”
We have the ability to create a new form of warfare – that power lottery we use to determine who has access to monetary property. Insofar as we fight each other to defend our access to our wealth, we can make that fight bloodless. The critical enabling technology for it is right here, in plain sight. We are building armies of machines with massive computational firepower, placing them in warehouses, and having them compete against each other electronically, exactly as Tesla predicted. We are supplementing kinetic firepower with electric firepower, and competing in a way that does not require humans to place themselves on the receiving end of that firepower. For the first time in human history, we are discovering trustless, egalitarian, and non-lethal control over monetary property.
The sociotechnical implications of proof-of-work digital assets are huge. There are major national strategic security implications of Bitcoin – the world’s most widely-adopted proof-of-work digital asset defense protocol. Today’s kinetic superpowers should be taking Bitcoin extremely seriously and summoning all of their capacity to produce responsible strategic policy that actually understands this technology for what it is, and postures their nation to thrive in this new era of strategic power competition. Like all examples of when new power projection technology emerged in history, the future of digital warfare will be highly path-dependent; the first nations to adopt it will be asymmetrically rewarded, and there will likely be no second chances.
But this is about more than what nations choose to do; this technology is transnational – it taps into something much deeper. If the theory is valid, then this non-biological evolution is significant on a much broader timescale than the rise and fall of nations. Finding a surrogate to war means Sapiens have discovered their digital antlers – a way to continue the power projection game to establish fair pecking order; but like antlers, do it using special protrusions (ASIC infrastructure) that will not threaten our mutual extinction, like nuclear-tipped kinetic power does. With this change, life will be able to continue to do what it does best: reward its most clever and resourceful power projectors, bring order to chaos, and maximize its ability to resist the inevitable course of entropy. So our responsibility as Sapiens – life’s peak predators & abstractors – demands that we endeavor to understand this technology’s potential. That endeavor begins with having the wisdom to see why this technology is worth every watt.