Lesson 20

Cypherpunks write code

I see you're trying to invent something.

Like many great ideas, Bitcoin didn’t come out of nowhere. It was made possible by utilizing and combining many innovations and discoveries in mathematics, physics, computer science, and other fields. While undoubtedly a genius, Satoshi wouldn’t have been able to invent Bitcoin without the giants on whose shoulders he was standing on.

“He who only wishes and hopes does not interfere actively with the course of events and with the shaping of his own destiny.” Ludwig Von Mises

One of these giants is Eric Hughes, one of the founders of the cypherpunk movement and author of the cypherpunk manifesto. It’s hard to imagine that Satoshi wasn’t influenced by this manifesto. It speaks of many things which Bitcoin enables and utilizes, such as direct and private transactions, electronic money and cash, anonymous systems, and defending privacy with cryptography and digital signatures.

“Privacy is necessary for an open society in the electronic age. […] Since we desire privacy, we must ensure that each party to a transaction have knowledge only of that which is directly necessary for that transaction. […]

Therefore, privacy in an open society requires anonymous transaction systems. Until now, cash has been the primary such system. An anonymous transaction system is not a secret transaction system. […]

We the Cypherpunks are dedicated to building anonymous systems. We are defending our privacy with cryptography, with anonymous mail forwarding systems, with digital signatures, and with electronic money.

Cypherpunks write code.” Eric Hughes

Cypherpunks do not find comfort in hopes and wishes. They actively interfere with the course of events and shape their own destiny. Cypherpunks write code.

Thus, in true cypherpunk fashion, Satoshi sat down and started to write code. Code which took an abstract idea and proved to the world that it actually worked. Code which planted the seed of a new economic reality. Thanks to this code, everyone can verify that this novel system actually works, and every 10 minutes or so Bitcoin proofs to the world that it is still living.

Code excerpts from Bitcoin version 0.1.0

To make sure that his innovation transcends fantasy and becomes reality, Satoshi wrote code to implement his idea before he wrote the whitepaper. He also made sure not to delay any release forever. After all, “there’s always going to be one more thing to do.”

“I had to write all the code before I could convince myself that I could solve every problem, then I wrote the paper.” Satoshi Nakamoto

In today’s world of endless promises and doubtful execution, an exercise in dedicated building was desperately needed. Be deliberate, convince yourself that you can actually solve the problems, and implement the solutions. We should all aim to be a bit more cypherpunk.

Bitcoin taught me that cypherpunks write code.


Down the Rabbit Hole