In April I went to the Event Horizon energy and blockchain conference in Berlin.
Among the many speakers there, one of the most interesting was a former pro kitesurfer.
He had spent ten years of his life competing as a kitesurfer, and then gave it all up to train as a doctor.
Usually, those stories go the other way around, don’t they? It’s usually a rich and successful lawyer, doctor or businessperson who suddenly quits to chase their dreams and a life of adventure.
Not for Julian Hosp. By 2011, he was a qualified trauma surgeon, working out of Australia.
However, he soon realised the world of medicine wasn’t for him. He wanted to help people, but he was also “a born disrupter”. So in 2012, just one year into his medical career, he quit and moved to Asia.
By 2014 his future business partner introduced him to bitcoin, and the rest is history. The two of them went on to found TenX, which currently has a market cap of $181,531,078.
The idea behind TenX is to make spending cryptocurrency as easy as spending fiat (GPB, dollars, euros, etc). It basically issues you a card you can top up with crypto and then spend on like a normal bank card.
TenX had some problems with its card issuer in early January, but it all seems to be running smoothly now.
The interesting thing about Hosp’s presentation was he barely mentioned TenX. He used his presentation to outline the problems and opportunities in crypto.
He riffed on the usual challenges people talk about in these presentations:
Is crypto just a solution in search of a problem?
Is bitcoin really a currency, or is it really a hedge?
How many public cryptocurrencies do we really need?
But then he brought up a more interesting challenge:
If no one person is in charge of a crypto network, how do we decide on its rules?
The answer is, the rules are laid out in way in advance when the code for a crypto is created.
The people creating it have to think far into the future. They have to design rules for their creation that will stand the test of time. Rules that could eventually shape the way society functions.
This idea immediately reminded me of Isaac Asimov’s Foundation series. If you’re not familiar with the series, here’s a synopsis:
The mathematician Hari Seldon spent his life developing a branch of mathematics known as psychohistory, a concept of mathematical sociology. Using the laws of mass action, it can predict the future, but only on a large scale.
Seldon foresees the imminent fall of the Galactic Empire, which encompasses the entire Milky Way, and a dark age lasting 30,000 years before a second great empire arises. Seldon’s calculations also show there is a way to limit this interregnum to just one thousand years.
To ensure the more favorable outcome and reduce human misery during the intervening period, Seldon creates the Foundation – a group of talented artisans and engineers positioned at the twinned extreme ends of the galaxy – to preserve and expand on humanity’s collective knowledge, and thus become the foundation for the accelerated resurgence of this new galactic empire.
The Foundation series is arguably the greatest science fiction of all time. It even won a one-time Hugo Award for “Best All-Time Series” in 1966.
It’s striking that the way bitcoin was set up is eerily similar to the way the Foundation was set up in the books.
It was done in secret, with only a small group of people privy to what was going on. And it was done to try and fix the problems in a bloated and outdated system, which was heading for ruin.
Asimov actually got the idea for his Foundation series from reading The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire.
In his own words:
I wanted to write a short story about the fall of the Galactic Empire. I had just finished reading the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire [for] the second time, and I thought I might as well adapt it on a much larger scale to the Galactic Empire and get a story out of it.
And my editor John Campbell was much taken with the idea, and said he didn’t want it wasted on a short story. He wanted an open-ended series so it lasts forever, perhaps. And so I started doing that.
In order to keep the story going from story to story, I was essentially writing future history, and I had to make it sufficiently different from modern history to give it that science fictional touch. And so I assumed that the time would come when there would be a science in which things could be predicted on a probabilistic or statistical basis.
Satoshi Nakamoto – bitcoin’s secretive creator – came up with the idea for bitcoin as a response to the corruption and corporate greed of the banks. The “too big to fail” mentality.
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He (or she) wanted to create a new monetary system that couldn’t be controlled by governments or corporations, but by the users.
Nakamoto wanted to create a system that couldn’t be diluted or manipulated by those in power. One that would answer to the laws of mathematics, and not to the whims of any man or woman.
Just as Seldon did in the books, Nakamoto wanted to create a Foundation for humanity to build on.
Did he succeed? Well, I guess we’ll have to wait and see.
Until next time,
Editor, Exponential Investor
PS If you’re a regular reader, you can probably tell I’m a fan of sci-fi. I’ve managed to read many of the “top 100” sci-fi books. But I’m always looking for suggestions. If you have an all-time favourite sci-fi book or film, let me know in the comments below.
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