My favorite Onion article of all time (from 2010) is U.S. Economy Grinds To Halt As Nation Realizes Money Just A Symbolic, Mutually Shared Illusion. It starts off with some Bernanke brilliance.
“Though raising interest rates is unlikely at the moment, the Fed will of course act appropriately if we…if we…” said Bernanke, who then paused for a moment, looked down at his prepared statement, and shook his head in utter disbelief. “You know what? It doesn’t matter. None of this—this so-called ‘money’—really matters at all.”
“It’s just an illusion,” a wide-eyed Bernanke added as he removed bills from his wallet and slowly spread them out before him. “Just look at it: Meaningless pieces of paper with numbers printed on them. Worthless.”
This is not a new idea. From William Gibson’s book Neuromancer, one of the most important sci-fi books ever which established the idea of cyberspace in 1984.
“Cyberspace. A consensual hallucination experienced daily by billions of legitimate operators, in every nation, by children being taught mathematical concepts… A graphic representation of data abstracted from banks of every computer in the human system. Unthinkable complexity. Lines of light ranged in the nonspace of the mind, clusters and constellations of data. Like city lights, receding…”
Back to the Onion article.
“Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) finally shouted out, “Oh my God, he’s right. It’s all a mirage. All of it—the money, our whole economy—it’s all a lie!”
Now, ponder Bitcoin.
“I’ve spent 25 years in this room yelling ‘Buy, buy! Sell, sell!’ and for what?” longtime trader Michael Palermo said. “All I’ve done is move arbitrary designations of wealth from one column to another, wasting my life chasing this unattainable hallucination of wealth. What a cruel cosmic joke,” he added. “I’m going home to hug my daughter.”
“A few U.S. banks have remained open, though most teller windows are unmanned due to a lack of interest in transactions involving mere scraps of paper or, worse, decimal points and computer data signifying mere scraps of paper.”
I just read Kenneth Rogoff’s The Curse of Cash: How Large-Denomination Bills Aid Crime and Tax Evasion and Constrain Monetary Policy. I literally have zero cash in my wallet. On a daily basis, I’m dealing with very large sums of money across multiple companies, but it has completely become a functional abstraction to me.
As I did a fairly sophisticated transaction on my computer yesterday that moved cash into a cybercurrency, I had the phrase “money is a consensual hallucination” echoing in my head. Math and computers are helping reinforce this. And the government is watching.
If you are interested in understanding the business implications of blockchain technology, William Mougayar‘s new book – The Business Blockchain: Promise, Practice, and Application of the Next Internet Technology – is a must read.
I’ve known William for about five years. I almost invested in his company Engagio (there’s now a different company by that name) but decided not to. However, our friendship developed and he’s been an amazing host anytime I’ve been in Toronto.
Several years ago William became obsessed with Bitcoin and then the Blockchain. In January 2016 he launched his new book effort around the Blockchain on Kickstarter and I quickly backed him at the GENEROUS Supporter level.
++ 50 E-BOOKs of The Business Blockchain.
++ 50 E-BOOKs of Centerless.
++ 50 Print copies of Centerless.
++ Your Name in the Acknowledgements for BOTH books, and on the website.
++ Invitation to Slack private channel
++ 45 mins Conference Call Discussion with your team to discuss your Blockchain strategy.
You will receive the digital copies of the first book in March 2016, and the second book in June 2016.
I love Kickstarter. I have such a delicious habit that allows me to exercise my poor impulse control whenever I feel like it, which if you think about it too hard, is a little contradictory.
William ended up getting a publishing deal with Wiley (through the same editor that I work with and had connected with William a while ago.) Wiley did a great job cranking things out extremely quickly, breaking all the normal publishing time frames, and the book comes out in a week (you can pre-order it on Amazon now.)
I read a draft a month or so ago and gave William a blurb for the book, something I rarely do anymore and only when I’ve read and commented on a draft. But when a friend asks and I’ve had a chance to read the draft, I’m game to do this, like I did for Steve Case’s recent excellent book The Third Wave: An Entrepreneur’s Vision of the Future.
On Sunday, after my two hour run, I laid on the couch and read the production copy of William’s book. He’d cleaned it up a lot since the draft version I’d read and it flowed quickly. While I know plenty about the blockchain – both technically and from a business perspective – I read it with beginners mind, assuming I knew nothing about Bitcoin and the blockchain, other than how to spell them.
It’s a quick read, but has a lot of depth. William is a good writer so it’s easy to read, especially for a book around a topic that is hard to get into. As a bonus, the footnotes and bibliography are solid, giving you lots of places to go if you want to explore more.
If you want to understand the blockchain from a business perspective, this is the book for you.
If you are interested in the blockchain or bitcoin, go support William Mougayar’s new Kickstarter The Business Blockchain Books.
William is writing two books on the blockchain. We had early discussions with him about doing them via FG Press, but since we’ve decided to shut down FG Press (more on that in a later post) we encouraged William to explore different options. He chose to launch on Kickstarter, which I think is an awesome place for an domain expert like William to do this instead of going the traditional publishing route.
I’ve gotten to know William over the past seven years. I originally met him through his previous company Engagio. We weren’t investors, but I was an early and active user and fan. We get together ever time I go to Toronto and I’ve enjoyed watching him engage deeply in the Toronto startup community, while building deep expertise around the blockchain (and corresponding technologies). He also publishes a really useful blog called Startup Management and has been making seed investments in a number of companies, especially around the blockchain.
I just supported his Kickstarter. Fred Wilson did also – and wrote about it at Let’s Give William A Big Advance.
I agree with Fred – let’s support William’s new books and learn a lot more about the blockchain in the process.