In the title of this course, "From Homer to Satoshi Nakamoto: An Introduction to the Western Canon" I included the name of an author that we have not yet covered. That author is Satoshi Nakamoto and he is important because he's the pseudonymous author behind the introduction of Bitcoin to the world via the white paper titled, "Bitcoin: A Peer-to-Peer Electronic Cash System."
Using several of Calvino's definitions of a classic from our last lesson, I will make the case that Nakamoto's white paper, frequently referred to as simply "The Bitcoin White Paper," belongs in the Western canon of literature.
Firstly, the Bitcoin White Paper is a classic because it exerts a unique influence, both when it is remembered and when it is hidden in the folds of memory. Every hour, over 10,000 transactions occur directly on the Bitcoin blockchain. As of January 29, 2023, Bitcoin has a market capitalization of $447,862,247,542 USD, which is currently 33.53% of the market capitalization of silver, and 3.52% of the market capitalization of gold, according to 8marketcap.com. All this from a currency that, in its infancy, could be obtained with the computing power of personal computers. While every early adopter has their own Bitcoin stories, the origin story everyone should know is in "The Bitcoin Standard" by Saifedean Ammous. Ammous writes:
"On November 1, 2008, a computer programmer going by the pseudonym Satoshi Nakamoto sent an email to a cryptography mailing list to announce that he had produced a 'new electronic cash system that's fully peer-to-peer, with no trusted third party.' He copied the abstract of the paper explaining the design, and a link to it online. In essence, Bitcoin offered a payment network with its own native currency, and used a sophisticated method for members to verify all transactions without having to trust in any single member of the network. The currency was issued at a predetermined rate to reward the members who spent their processing power on verifying the transactions, thus providing a reward for their work. The startling thing about this invention was that, contrary to many other previous attempts at setting up a digital cash, it actually worked."
Secondly, the Bitcoin White Paper is a classic because it has a place in the family tree of great ideas, and is recognized as such by its readers. At the Bitcoin 2022 Conference in Miami, the computer scientist, legal scholar, and cryptographer Nick Szabo outlined the great ideas leading up to the Bitcoin White Paper and the creation of Bitcoin. Szabo's talk, which was titled "Pioneers Of The Years Before Bitcoin," touched on many great thinkers and innovations that paved the way for Bitcoin. Pioneers in computer science such as Robert Sostak and Leslie Lampore were responsible for developing the Byzantine consensus. Ralph Merkel invented the Merkel Trees. Whitfield Diffie and Martin Hellman were independent inventors of public key cryptography. Other important names include Tim May, Wei Dai, Hal Finney, Adam Back, and our conference speaker Nick Szabo, too. The complete list of Bitcoin literature by these great thinkers is well documented by the Satoshi Nakamoto Institute at nakamotoinstitute.org/literature/ where it's introduced with the message that "Bitcoin was not forged in a vacuum. These works serve to contextualize Bitcoin into the broader story of cryptography and freedom."
Thirdly, the Bitcoin White Paper is a classic because it puts the concerns surrounding inflation, the possibility of hyperinflation, and the threat of collapsing fiat currencies of the present moment into perspective, making them seem less important in comparison to the timeless idea of sound money. By introducing the concept of a peer-to-peer electronic cash system, Satoshi Nakamoto presented an alternative to traditional fiat currencies that are subject to the mismanagement of central authorities. The idea of sound money, or money that holds its value over time, is a timeless concept that has been sought after by civilizations throughout history. Bitcoin's decentralized nature and algorithmically-controlled supply make it resistant to inflation, providing a form of money that can maintain and even increase its purchasing power over time. By highlighting a new way of transacting value without intermediaries or government-issued money, the Bitcoin White Paper challenges the status quo and presents a vision for a future where individuals can take control of their financial futures.
In conclusion, "Bitcoin: A Peer-to-Peer Electronic Cash System" written by Satoshi Nakamoto is a classic for three reasons. First, because it exerts a unique influence, both when it is remembered and when it is hidden in the folds of memory. Second, because it has a place in the family tree of great ideas, and is recognized as such by its readers. Third, because it puts the concerns surrounding inflation, the possibility of hyperinflation, and the threat of collapsing fiat currencies of the present moment into perspective, making them seem less important in comparison to the timeless idea of sound money.
Read the white paper:
To better understand the significance of Bitcoin, read these books:
Read "The Bitcoin Standard" and "The Fiat Standard" by Saifedean Ammous.