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Bitcoin is an open source peer-to-peer electronic cash system that's completely decentralised, with no central server, trusted authorities or middle men. The availability of bitcoins can't be manipulated by governments or financial institutions.

Bitcoin is the first truly decentralised currency and has paved the way for hundreds more to compete together in Cipherspace over the coming years. This is one of the key factors in the transition of global society into the post-nation-state economy talked about in books like The Sovereign Individual and which is coming to be known by agorists as The Second Realm.

The value of the bitcoin approximately depends on the size of the network, and essentially gives you a 1 / 21000000 share in the value that can come out of this network and its ability to facilitate trade. When gold was the dominant currency, it seemed that it represented physical value while bitcoin is a looking glass that shows us what money really is: social value.

Bitcoin is the first online currency to solve the so-called “double spending” problem without resorting to a third-party intermediary. The key is distributing the database of transactions across a peer-to-peer network. This allows a record to be kept of all transfers, so the same cash can’t be spent twice–because it’s distributed (a lot like BitTorrent), there’s no central authority. This makes digital bitcoins like cash dollars or euros: Hand them over directly to a payee, and you don’t have them any more, all without the help of a third party.

You can find a couple of good introductions to bitcoin are here and here.

Organic Design statement on Bitcoin (2014): Bitcoin/Organic Design statement [more]

How it works

In a p2p computer network there are no servers, the entire network is composed of users running instances of the application on their computers. Each running instance offers a small amount of processing and storage resource to the network so that it can deliver the services it was designed for such as redundant storage, anonymity or voice-over-IP applications.

In the case of a p2p currency system, some of the services the network is designed to offer are privacy, verification, authentication, currency creation and transfer of ownership. To ensure a reliable and tamper-proof system requires a lot of resource, and that amount is proportional to the amount of coins in the network. The network is able to pay the users for the resource they offer by making the coin-creation process part of the network protocol itself instead of being handled by a central trusted authority. This creates a natural and incorruptible link between the supply of currency in the network and the demand for it.

Even aside from the ability to exchange bitcoins for other currencies, it still makes a very useful tool for independent organisations and groups because it allows them to trade and settle accounts amongst themselves independently and privately. It effectively gives them a "bank" that has a trustworthy system of accounts that can't be tampered with and requires no corruptible central authority to operate. See the following links for more detailed information about how it works.

Bitcoin was born on January 3rd, 2009, at 6:15PM Greenwich Mean Time, which is when Satoshi Nakamoto mined the first 50 coins, known as the "genesis block."

The Bitcoin Wallet

The term "wallet" is actually a little bit misleading because the information representing coins and transactions are actually stored throughout the entire network (in the blockchain), not in the wallets. The wallet actually stores private keys that give the wallet-holder the ability to spend coins in the network that are confirmed as being currently associated with one of your private keys. A bitcoin address that you show to other people in order for them to send you money is the public half of one of the private keys in your wallet.

This means that it's very important to back up your wallet and to remember the password you've locked it with, because if you lost access to your wallet you'd no longer have control over any of the coins in the network that are associated with your addresses. You must back up your wallet whenever you create a new address, but there's no need to back up your wallet every time you receive new coins, because these are not stored in your wallet. For example, you could have a bitcoin wallet on a computer that's never been connected to the network and be paid into that wallets address for years before you got around to connecting it and checking your balance.

Note: these days there are deterministic wallets available which allow you to backup your wallet with a single password or phrase, and you don't need to create a new backup even when new addresses are created in your wallet.

Bitcoin stats, charts & tools

Work for Bitcoins

Other projects on the blockchain

It has been a hot debate for years amongst the bitcoin developers as to whether or not the blockchain should allow the storage of data not related specifically to bitcoins. Even Satoshi himself weighed in on this debate saying that,

Quote.pngPiling every proof-of-work quorum system in the world into one dataset doesn't scale. Bitcoin and BitDNS can be used separately. Users shouldn't have to download all of both to use one or the other. BitDNS users may not want to download everything the next several unrelated networks decide to pile in either.
— Satoshi Nakamoto

Eventually projects started to store custom data in the blockchain in exotic ways which began to bloat the blockchain, so the developers in mid 2014 added the OP_RETURN opcode to the official set of executable codes which allows 40 bytes of custom data to be added to transactions. With OP_RETURN, Bitcoin's long-running debate over acceptable uses of the block chain has received some much needed clarity. Applications can now inexpensively add a 40 byte data payload to transactions using the OP_RETURN script function. On a technical level, OP_RETURN doesn't enable anything that wasn't previously possible. Instead, OP_RETURN provides a standard interface through which new services can potentially be layered onto the block chain, and a central point of focus for future work on integration tools.

Here's a list of various projects and ideas that extend the functionality available in the blockchain.

Further reading on bitcoin

Economics & Liberty articles

Other sites about Bitcoin

How bitcoin can help the world

Interesting articles about Bitcoin

Related news

Segwit2X and BCash

Craig Wright throws in the towel (but not really, unfortunately he came back)


I’m Sorry

I believed that I could do this. I believed that I could put the years of anonymity and hiding behind me. But, as the events of this week unfolded and I prepared to publish the proof of access to the earliest keys, I broke. I do not have the courage. I cannot.

When the rumors began, my qualifications and character were attacked. When those allegations were proven false, new allegations have already begun. I know now that I am not strong enough for this.

I know that this weakness will cause great damage to those that have supported me, and particularly to Jon Matonis and Gavin Andresen. I can only hope that their honour and credibility is not irreparably tainted by my actions. They were not deceived, but I know that the world will never believe that now. I can only say I’m sorry.

And goodbye.
Dr. Craig Wright

See also