Bitcoin as a Vehicle for Personal Growth
There seems to be a problem here
Often times when talking with people about Bitcoin, I get a lot of questions about safety and security. This usually leads to a discussion culminating with the questioner’s realization of their own ignorance of how money actually works. This bothers me. Why does society know so little about something that literally affects almost every aspect of their life? Whatever your dream is, whatever you’re trying to accomplish in life, it probably involves money. The current infrastructure of money could be the most deeply-rooted part of our society and, simultaneously, the most misunderstood. People are quick to criticize and question the validity of a new currency or transaction system—while blindly trusting the system they currently use— even though they know almost nothing about it. Sometimes, people can even be hostile towards anything that challenges this system.
This reoccurring situation of blissful ignorance has lead to a lot of thought on my part, and as I’ve dug deeper and deeper, it seems to stem from a common desire to offload personal responsibility. We aren’t attempting to solve problems, or even understand problems; we simply leave it to someone else to think about. We assume that someone else is better equipped to handle the issue and, subsequently, don’t think about it at all. The only time it becomes front page news is when it turns bad and is likely to cause a negative effect on one’s life. We aren’t worried about out debt until we can’t afford to make minimum payments, so we rack it up until then. When it comes to that point, it is often asked, “why didn’t anyone tell me that this would happen?” Maybe even a “how has a system like this been put into place that takes advantage of people like me?” This has led me to question our core fundamental behaviors and what motivates them. Does the current infrastructure of money, how we fundamentally transact value on a daily basis, reinforce the behavior of offloading personal responsibility, or is this just a symptom of natural human behavior?
We don’t need to worry about that, someone else is doing it for us
I think, deep down, I am attracted to Bitcoin because it puts the onus for financial responsibility squarely in the hands of the individual. This idea, taking personal responsibility for oneself, is something I find to be extremely valuable in personal development. With Bitcoin, if you lose your password, you’ve lost your bitcoin. If you don’t secure your bitcoin, and someone hacks you and steals them, you’ve lost your bitcoin. There isn’t someone you can complain to to get it back. It is your fault, and you have to deal with that. This seems scary and a potential downside to most people. Why? Because most have never had to worry about taking responsibility for their own personal wealth, they’ve offloaded it to others and trust that is secure. It has always been someone else’s job to fix whatever mistake they’ve made with their money. I think that by changing the very basis of how we transact value (i.e. Bitcoin), we can bring back a bit of that natural education towards securing yourself from threats outside.
You might be thinking “does this really matter?” Here are just a few examples of how this line of thinking can deter you as an individual:
1.) “If it isn’t my fault, then someone else can handle it.”
- This only hinders our ability to understand the world, as well as the people around us. Every time this crosses our minds, we feed a natural tendency to not take part, to isolate ourselves.
2.) If someone else will always fix it, then I need not worry about it, or even think about it.
- This is the entrance to corruption, people don’t take advantage of others if they know they will be caught. If they do, then they’ve done it long enough to feel a significant power advantage, so as to not be punished.
- If you have a problem with something you purchased or service you’ve requested, you tell your credit card company or bank, and they issue you a chargeback. Cool. The problem with this is days later the money is taken from the provider, without a way to rectify the problem. By letting someone else take care of it, you deprive the provider to better his service, or understand the problem. With Bitcoin, there are no chargebacks. It is just as if you handed someone cash for a service. If there is a problem, a dialogue must begin in order for it to be solved, with allows things to improve.
This is subtly and profoundly changing us
Now, I’m not writing this to point out my personal problems with how we interact socially. I’m trying to say that maybe the infrastructure of money influences how we interact with people a little more than it did previously. I mean, think about it. We move our money in a very dehumanizing way. You don’t even have to talk to anyone to purchase things. You just swipe a plastic card and it’s yours. That number in your online banking is then a little bit less, until it gets bigger when your job auto deposits some more numbers in. No human contact. To further this, I have always felt as though modern societal norms attempt to drive focus towards trivialities, and subtly teaches the masses to “leave all important decisions to someone more qualified than you.” For instance, many know about current affairs with celebrities who contribute nothing of real value to society but are unable to name their state congressmen.
Here’s the problem with this trend. A society raised in this culture doesn’t cultivate responsibility, which stifles many aspects of personal improvement. If no important decisions are ever left up to the individual, then how do they learn how to deal with important decisions? They don’t, or their solutions are trivial (not even worth the words they use to communicate the solution). If our children think this way from the beginning, we are shaping little humans to not care about their fellow man. Here’s an example that’s a little more concrete. If a child breaks a beloved toy through improper care or negligence of some kind, and the solution is to replace the toy, then a child can never learn to take care of his belongings. By depriving the negative emotions of loss, you never learn the ability to accept the consequences of personal actions. I think the core idea of this childish example is reinforced in many aspects of our lives, starting from childhood and continuing through adulthood.
Why don’t we care about this?
Now, humor me that it is possible that our money system influences the way we interact with each other negatively. How has this happened, and why does it continue? I think it could be due to our outdated view of money. It seems to me that most people carry around the same monetary ideals of a person that lived in medieval times would have, probably because that is the societal education we receive about money. For example, when we hear the story of Robin Hood, we automatically paint a picture in our heads that includes little cloth pouches of gold coins attached at the hip containing a person’s money for the day. If they wanted to buy something, they fished out the right amount, the vendor bit the coin to test metallic malleability (thus validity), and a transaction was made: bread was purchased, people were bribed, snake oil was sold, etc. We’d assume that people didn’t carry around all of their personal wealth in that pouch because that would simply be irresponsible– they weren’t dummies! If you were robbed in those days you lost everything, and you couldn’t do anything about it. Filing an identity theft claim with your bank or credit card holder was obviously not an option. But people understood this, and they kept their personal wealth safe somewhere. If they had a good amount of money, we’d assume they kept a large portion in the local bank, stored in a safe and guarded by people with weapons. It was harder to access because you had to go to a physical location to make withdrawals, but inconvenience is the price you pay for security, right? I would venture a guess that the VAST MAJORITY of people hold these same assumptions when thinking about our current time and place. Perhaps we tell ourselves that the current system is simply the same thing, but has had layers and layers of convenient tools added on top that allow us to check and access our money in the bank. That, my friends, is where things go awry.
It isn’t what you thought it was
Fast forward to modern times where there are major differences. Our society is not aware of the consequences of the current system because they think money behaves in much the same way as the medieval example. Our views are outdated. In these imaginary “olden days,” there were tangible goods that represented personal wealth, which could be taken or used whenever desired. Today, if everyone wants to actually take their money out of the bank, everything would fall apart. Banks aren’t holding all of the physical money; they’re holding an IOU, which is not actually tied to anything physical anymore. It is simply a digital number recorded and maintained by someone else. I’ll write more on this later (this thing is long already!), but just google fractional-reserve banking, and then start crying. If you want to watch something, this is a great documentary. But trust me, things probably aren’t working they way you think they are.
Why Bitcoin then?
Because the Bitcoin network, with its digital cash-esque vibe, puts the responsibility directly in your hands and thereby cultivates a more self-aware financial picture/landscape for the individual. It, ironically, puts the financial system closer to we as people think about money. Our pouches of money are our cell phones, our vault at home is a paper wallet we have stored offline, our banks are ourselves or some trusted online wallet with advanced security practices. Now, with Bitcoin, the technology is concurrent with the times. In a world where cryptocurrencies are the norm, personal asset security is commonplace. It HAS to be. The idea of knowing where your money is and how it is secured is a thought process that MUST occur. The responsibility is back in our own hands, and not left up to others who will misuse it. A child raised with these ideals hammered into him from his surroundings grows up taking responsibility for his own wealth. Maybe because of this, his ideals towards personal responsibility in general are improved.
Outside of the sociological impact, we are in desperate need to upgrade the way we transact value to get in line with today’s technology, which is constantly pushed towards the idea of convenience. Every aspect of life has become faster, easier. We have 1-click purchasing with quick deliveries. Your refrigerator can remind you that you are running out of yogurt, and then place an order for you to have it delivered in a few days! This is all well and good, and I love convenience, but the transactional foundation this is built upon is essentially a piecemeal tricked-out Pony Express. The very core of exchanging value is archaic. We moved away from delivering letters to sending emails. How about we do the same for money?
Because of this all-encompassing technology in our lives, the security of everything we deem important about our wealth isn’t even considered by the vast majority. It is left to someone else. It is ASSUMED safe, when in reality it isn’t. Or at least not nearly as safe as we wrongly presume. The current infrastructure involved with the storage of personal wealth doesn’t reinforce personal security practices, which is leaving people wholly inadequately prepared to secure themselves in a the modern world. Why else is it that identity theft is so prevalent? It is because it is SO EASY to manipulate the ignorance of people’s security practices. Bitcoin helps solve this problem because it forces you to worry about your passwords and the security of your money. These are just a few reasons why I have chosen to adopt bitcoin now, and why I will continue to help the people around me learn more about the system, how it works, and why it is so much better than what is currently in use.