Want to Understand Bitcoin? Understand War.

Bitcoin is the continuation of policy with other means.

1.1 Setting policy with other means

“War is merely the continuation of policy with other means.”

– Carl von Clausewitz

In the early 1800s, General Carl von Clausewitz – widely acknowledged as perhaps the most important classical strategic thinker – closely examined the nature of war and defined it as a paradoxical trinity comprised of three parts: First, war is made of the same “blind natural forces” of “primordial violence” observed in nature. Second, it contains “the play of chance and probability” that rewards “creative spirits.” Third, it is a calculated instrument of national policy used to solve political disputes.

This paradoxical trinity of warfare is noteworthy for several reasons. The first is because it acknowledges violence as a primordial phenomenon – something that has existed since the beginning. Combining this observation with what we know about biology, it should be noted that the primordial violence baked into warfare has played an essential role in evolution and predates humans by approximately four billion years. It is observed in every corner of nature, at every scale.

The second reason why the trinity is noteworthy is because it acknowledges how the natural forces levied during violent activity are intrinsically “blind” and therefore unbiased and indiscriminate. Combining this observation with what we now know about physics, we should note that the “natural force” observed in violence is simply brute-force physical power (watts): most commonly generated using kinetic energy transferred per unit time to displace some kilograms of mass with some newtons of force. We can independently validate from our own experience that brute-force physical power indeed acts on everything indiscriminately. It does not appear to have any discernable favorites or bias, no capacity for misrepresentation or counterfeiting, and all objects appear to be equally subordinate to its cold and callous effects.

Third, Clausewitz’s paradoxical trinity acknowledges war as a game of probability, the outcome of which tends to favor creative and clever people who play it. Combining this observation with the previous two observations, it follows that war can be accurately described as an indiscriminate, probabilistic, brute-force physical power game – a lottery. Moreover, winning this brute-force physical power lottery is not exclusively dependent on finding ways to amass larger quantities of power; it’s also about finding different strategies for projecting power in increasingly more creative ways.

It was from this point of view that Clausewitz made the aforementioned assertion for which he is famous: “War is merely the continuation of policy with other means.” But what does this mean exactly? It means that even though war is inherently violent, nations do not go to war merely for the sake of demonstrating their capacity for violence. Instead, Clausewitz reasoned that nations seek to leverage the blind natural forces of violence as an alternative means to settle legitimate political disputes. In other words, war is a mechanism for nations to establish policy by engaging in an indiscriminate brute-force physical power lottery rather than the traditional method of adjudication.

But why would nations prefer something as destructive as war when formulating policy when they have the far less wasteful and far more energy-efficient option of peaceful adjudication? The answer is deceptively simple: because they don’t trust the judge; because they don’t respect the judgement. When this happens, war gives nations access to an independent courtroom with a perfectly impartial judge who has no capacity to be manipulated by emotion or corrupted by false interpretations. War is the judge of last resort, delivering incorruptible judgement and a very decisive ruling based on the indiscriminate and systemically independent phenomenon of brute-force physical power.

1.2 Engineering a non-lethal judge of last resort

With Clausewitz’ definition of war fresh in our minds, let’s consider what it might take to engineer a non-lethal or digital equivalent to warfare as another means for nations to settle their legal disputes. We would first need to figure out a way to harvest the utility of indiscriminate brute-force physical power, but filter out the useless and wasteful death and destruction. One way to do this could be to capture brute-force physical power electronically rather than kinetically. After all, the kinetic energy of force against mass-based infrastructure appears to be the leading cause of war’s destructive emergent properties. To that end, it could be feasible to create a profession dedicated to capturing electronic brute-force physical power for the purposes of using it for strategic defense. This makes rational sense considering how producing kinetic brute-force physical power for strategic defense is something nations already do via their military industrial complexes.

But stockpiling electronic brute-force physical power alone is not enough to satisfy the criteria for achieving non-lethal warfare because it’s missing Clausewitz’s second ingredient of war: a game of chance that favors creative spirits. Therefore, in addition to inventing a mechanism for producing brute-force physical power in a non-lethal way, we would also need to build an arena in which power producers can compete against each other in a zero-trust and egalitarian game of chance that doesn’t require judgement or support from any corruptible human in-the-loop. To that end, it does seem feasible that people could build and adopt a Geneva-Convention-like protocol that establishes agreed-upon standards for electronic power projectors to compete against each other globally, using the internet.

Assuming these first two ingredients could be sufficiently engineered, then the only thing left to fulfill Clausewitz’s definition of war would be for nations to actually begin utilizing this brute-force physical power lottery protocol as a calculated instrument of national policy to solve political disputes. It is from this context that I present a grounded theory on the national strategic security implications of Bitcoin and its ongoing nation-state adoption. Have you ever considered that Bitcoin isn’t merely a new form of money? Maybe Bitcoin represents the invention of non-lethal, digital warfare, and the first legal dispute for which it is being used as another means to settle policy… is monetary policy.

One response to “Want to Understand Bitcoin? Understand War.”

  1. Jason you’re brilliant! I’m thrilled with what you write and express. I’ve never consider before listening to you and my university geopolitcs class that warfare and military was a medium to achieve consensus, rule of law, protection of property and sovereginty.

    Like

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