Bicycle for the Mind
Steve Jobs's quote about the personal computer motivated me to dig into the possibilities of building on Bitcoin. I recapped my thoughts in this post.
If you grew up on the internet or have spent significant time researching internet culture in the past 30 years, you would have found the title of this article. It was a statement made by Steve Jobs.
In case you’ve never heard of it, here’s the TLDR. Jobs first spoke about this in a presentation he did in 1980. The quote was the result of a personal experience from Jobs. He described how he was reading a Scientific American article. It was a study of the efficiency of motion of various animal species.
The study compared all living things on earth and concluded that the most efficient species is the condor. Humans were way down the list unless they used a bicycle. If we cycle to places, we inevitably become the most efficient traveling species measured in kcal/kg.
Jobs was fascinated by this study because it showed how a tool could unlock the human mind and that we as a species need to build tools that allow us to push the human race forward. He concluded that the computer was the ultimate bicycle for the mind. In his eyes, it was Apple’s mission from now on to offer the best version of the personal computer to everyone on Earth.
The whole presentation is amazing because Jobs had a clear vision of the future, and he was spot on with many innovations or ideas that would later lead to things like the browser, email, and even smartphones. There is another interview with Jobs about ten years later, where he went into more detail. His ultimate goal was to make the computer the best tool to push the human race forward.
Jobs’ statement was set up to position his company Apple as the best solution to getting a computer and unlocking your mind. Nowadays, in 2023, the personal computer is nothing new for many of us. We’ve gotten used to the internet and modern technology as a society.
The internet was born to give everyone the same opportunities and access to information. This created a whole new economy, culture, and society, from chatrooms to social sites or blogs. We’ve all seen the strives in the last 15 years especially.
Absolute power corrupts absolutely
Unfortunately, that growth came with sacrifices. We all know how centralized the distribution and control of information is these days. You can still create a website or blog, but it’s hard to drive traffic if search engines and social media platforms are gatekeeping access to it.
Also, the company Apple which was intended to be the solution and unlock human minds, is nowadays the ultimate gatekeeper. Just look at the monopoly they have on the Apple App Store. The very thing Jobs wanted to destroy was the thing Apple became.
Why is that? A lot of people think a power grab compromised Apple. I don’t believe that this is the case. The issue is Fiat money and the incentives that come with it. The more powerful you become, the more you or an organization wants to strive for influence in society.
That very thing unlocked a lot of positives; think about we engage on this blog; without the internet, it wouldn’t be possible; it is also the Trojan horse three letter agencies have used and abused. So on one end, we have the personal computer as a tool to unlock the human mind, but on the other end, you have to be careful that this tool is not influencing you in any shape or form. Whether that be with official narratives or with access, you get to the information.
The internet and, with it, the capability of decentralized protocols are available but still control a significant portion of society today. It’s good to organize and build a better version of a community but not to replace it or offer an alternative.
What we need is an open protocol not controlled by a centralized entity and built with the community in mind. The rules should be clear for everyone involved, and you should have the option to build on top of that protocol. Ideally, integrating it into different fields. Does this description ring a bell? Bingo, Bitcoin!
Bitcoin is the modern bicycle of society
It took me some paragraphs to get to Bitcoin, but the above story was necessary. Why? Because we live in a short attention span society and often forget how quickly we evolved in just 15 years.
The personal computer has become a daily habit, and I’m saying habit because we all engage with our phones hourly. Fifteen years ago, you just had a phone to be available; these days, you can build an entire career with just your smartphone. We take these devices for granted and don’t think about the fantastic innovation which took place thanks to the personal computer or the internet as a whole.
Whether you call it internet culture or the evolution from Web 1.0 to Web 2.0, in both cases, users could do more each time new products hit the market. Those could be memes on Reddit that eventually make their way over to Twitter. Or how a small website called YouTube has evolved from a video share service to a place where we watch live sports and news events. We also saw a shift from web browser-based applications to the mobile landscape and the stuff in between with tablets.
On the surface, a lot has changed on the application and user end; however, underneath the internet and modern society is still functioning the same way. Yes, there is the case to be named that its core is still decentralized; however, a few companies have captured most of it. This is true for any field: social media, digital media, shopping, and finance.
The process always involves a centralized entity, and the user has to either hand over data or pay fees to use the service. These entities set those fees and only change in one direction, up. There is very little privacy, and we step into a world where we have to identify ourselves for everything with our government ID. The early days of having anonymous IDs or no identification are long gone. Users must accept that the world works this way and there is nothing they can do. Or so we thought!
And that’s where Bitcoin will play a crucial part! I’m not going to argue that you can use Bitcoin as a currency; there are other people online who make that point daily, but I’m here to tell you that you can use Bitcoin to build an entirely different ecosystem from the one we see now.
Yes, payments and engaging in a financial transaction are the beginning. Our society exists around finance and the economy. Therefore we need a peer-to-peer solution that works and which has no rulers.
With Bitcoin, there is no need to ask a bank or service provider to use your coins; you can do this. Assuming you have your wallet’s private keys. You can also transact on top of the Bitcoin blockchain to speed up transactions at a low cost or even build layers to incorporate micropayments into communication programs. If you don’t want to engage with Bitcoin’s volatility, you can use services that enable transfers with a real-time settlement with your local currency.
This is just the beginning. Whether you like NFTs or not, Ordinals and new token standards have shown that builders can also build products on top of Bitcoin. We probably won’t see a future where everything is built on top of Bitcoin, but all of the incentives we saw in the early days of the internet - ownership of data, being able to interact with everyone, organizing decentralized communities - are available on Bitcoin.
And here’s the kicker. Everyone involved in the community is profiting. If fees on the main chain go up because of Ordinals or new projects on Bitcoin, the miners who are constantly working to find new blocks get rewarded. If more people use Bitcoin or the Lightning Network - its layer two solution for micropayments - developers can gather more feedback and improve the experience. We can even go as far as trying to challenge known business models like the subscription or ad model because, from now on, every user would have the choice to reward creators and publishers directly.
The possibilities are there, and for the first time in a while, Bitcoin allows us to build an alternative system to the one we live in. It’s far from perfect, but it’s our best shot at returning to the fundamentals of the internet and the idea that a tool can unlock the human mind.
I know that Bitcoin is a big topic, and there are many things to learn. If you’re still struggling or unsure where to start, don’t look further and head to the Bitcoin Manual website.
Alternatively, you can also get in touch with me on Twitter or Nostr via my public key npub15w99e58vynflyrzgwzsr9svcjyym7yrufn5xfr7ut2wyfy43hrcqslyz93.
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