Set in Stone: Reading Satoshi’s v.0.1.0
Sep 29, 2020·14 min read
Published pseudonymously on October 31st 2008, Satoshi Nakamoto’s whitepaper has taken on a mythic status with the blockchain community. Poured over and scrutinised linguistically and referentially, it has over the course of the last decade become the cornerstone of blockchain’s culture, a foundational document for Bitcoin’s history.
But what of Satoshi’s code? Is that this not the true document? The original text?
The following words situate Satoshi’s founding code as the text of historical importance, drawing parallels between it and major historical or founding documents of civilisations and cultures past. In doing so, questions are raised regarding the nature of digital code as literature, code as a political statement and the ever present question of the digital original and where to locate it.
Though too early to say how Satoshi’s code will affect real and systemic structural change in the world, it undoubtedly has achieved for the first time a glimpse at an alternative model to a global capitalist financial system now over 400 years old. Even in the case of potential failure — this will be a powerful legacy.
For the first time in centuries, a global monetary system exists outside of the control of the state.
There have been few other inventions in the twenty-first century that rival the transformative potential of Bitcoin or its story. Bitcoin, in this view, is a outlier, not because of its inherent technological innovation (as many notable technologists have commented, much of the technology used has been in place for decades), but because of what it is innovating, and how it went about it. The radically provocative act of making one’s own money — a currency that is largely pseudonymous, difficult to tax, borderless and close to impossible to shut down — presents a major existential and conceptual threat to not just the economic welfare of sovereign nations but their very reason of being. Money is, in short, the one thing we the people are prohibited to innovate. For without a centrally controlled money supply and therefore taxes, the state ceases to function.