🗞 NewsThis week marked the 10 year anniversary of the publication of the Bitcoin Whitepaper by Satoshi Nakamoto. Amidst 1,000 thinkpieces on "Bitcoin at 10", there was a useful impulse in the community to review the history the of crypto movement. At a mere 8 pages, the whitepaper itself is surprisingly approachable and a great place to start. If you've read the paper before, now is a good time to refresh yourself. If you haven't, well, stop what you're doing and take 20 minutes to do so. You won't regret it. Link.
Satoshi first announced the whitepaper on the "cypherpunk" mailing list, a now-famous community for those who saw cryptography as a way to enhance privacy and self-sovereignty. Initial reactions to the paper were skeptical. A number of list members immediately (and correctly) pointed out that Bitcoin had an inherent limit to its scalability. The first positive voice was Hal Finney, who would go on to be the second person to run a node and mine Bitcoin. He also received the first Bitcoin transaction in history, sent to him as a test from Satoshi himself. Link.
Finney-- a gifted cryptographer and computer scientist-- also became the second person to contribute to the Bitcoin codebase, fixing a number of early bugs. More than one person has suggested over the years that Finney may have been Satoshi, or at least part of the team that was Satoshi. Sadly, Finney died in 2014, succumbing to ALS. Despite the disease, which left him paralyzed toward the end of his life, Finney continued to write code and contribute to the community. Satoshi or not, his story is quite inspiring. Link.
Sometimes, it's hard to believe that Bitcoin, and thus the entire blockchain world, is only 10 years old. At the pace things are moving, a month in crypto feels more like a year. As a result of this frenetic pace and the huge influx of people over the last two years, we're at risk of forgetting the history of the movement which birthed Bitcoin, and the ethos of decentralization that undergirded it.
Don't get me wrong. It's easy to swing too far in the other direction as well. We shouldn't over sentimentalize what is, at the end of the day, a technology. Nor should we lionize members of the early cypherpunk movement, nor treat their ideology as sacrosanct. I'm an engineer first. Show me the code, I say, and more than anything that is what Satoshi did.
Still, with the rise of the internet over the past two decades, we've gotten a taste of what it's like when technologists concern themselves only with technology and profits. We're starting to realize the results aren't universally great. I still believe crypto will be as important as the internet itself. I'm hoping, this time around, those of us at the forefront will be more thoughtful and reflective about what we're building.