Soul In The Game
totes emosh, guys, totes emosh
So that was pretty wild, huh?
Did you guys sleep? I didn’t sleep much. To my eternal shame, at one point of my jet-lagged, emotionally-and-physically-drained-lying-in-bed-not-sleeping at five in the God-damned morning, we decided to have a little impromptu international diplomatic summit with the President of El Salvador. I was awake for that and I didn’t go because why would I check Twitter at five in the morning when I’m in my sixth straight hour of failing to go to sleep? To whit: what even is life? Is any of this really happening?
Speaking of which, I think we should declare June 8th, El Día Del Salvador. That’s how it works now, right? Bitcoiners declare things and the whole world listens? This literally translates as, The Day of The Saviour, but would likely be stylized in English as, Saviour Day. And if the prophetic overtones here aren’t really your thing, don’t worry, Bitcoin is nothing if not inclusive! Know instead that Dzambhala, God of Wealth in Mahāyāna Buddhism, smiles upon the good people of El Salvador this day.
It’s all Jack Mallers’ fault really. What an asshole. I was doing just fine taking years off my life expectancy by strip-mining my metabolic capital with caffeine, alcohol, adrenaline, heat acclimation, and sleep deprivation, until he had to go and throw in dragging the developing world out of poverty.
AND THEN! get this, right: then he goes and has a beautiful family who hug him and they all cry and like, I’m trying not to cry but I’m crying and I can’t cry because I have to go sing a sea shanty! It was totes emosh, I tell you.
And are they even going to make any money from doing that? I don’t know how Strike works if I’m completely honest, but surely their voracious venture backers are demanding they scalp the El Salvadoreans, right? Not as much as Western Union but … like … surely a little? Like half as much? maybe undercut by 15 bps and corner the market? I dunno, somebody DM me if they actually understand this. Payments isn’t really my thing.
So anyway, I sadly failed my covid test and I had to go home, and even though I missed Nicolás “El Jefe” Cartero’s inaugural roundtable for the Bitcoin Monetary Fund, I did eventually get back to normal day-to-day life. One might say I grew my metabolic capital above its rate of depletion and hence am verifiably “sustainable” and ESG-friendly.
I then noticed two things. The first is boring and probably happened to everybody: mainstream coverage of the conference was vapid, vacuous, and tactlessly antagonistic. But — and I’ve really thought a lot about how best to articulate this — meh. C’est la vie. Reject nocoiner orthodoxy. blah blah blah.
The second is dope as shit: I had a backlog of content kindly provided by truly amazing and inspiring people I met for the first time in Miami and who were usually shocked to learn that I am neither 50 years old, 13 years old, nor a squirrel. There’s too much to shill here lest this drift away from a confessional and into mere anthology, but I will highlight the following as perfectly making the point that follows:
This is legitimately the single best podcast episode I’ve ever heard, on any show, about anything. I’ve listened to it twice already and I plan to listen for a third time just to take some final notes to follow up on. Not only is Joel clearly brilliant, but Marty catches himself a few times nearly inadvertently insulting Joel by saying it’s weird that Joel is a farmer, and yet he may be the most insightful guest Marty has had on.
(you’re brilliant too, Marty, it’s just I’ve listened to you a lot so I sort of get you now, whereas I just met Joel and it was AWESOME. And I’ll come on TFTC soon, I promise, just as soon as my friend’s submarine resurfaces …)
What I knew he really meant, and he knew he really meant, and — I think most importantly — what Joel knew Marty really meant, is not that it’s weird that Joel is a farmer. It’s weird that Marty had that reaction to Joel being a farmer. And let’s be honest, so did we all. Not because of Joel — who is scarily smart and couldn’t possibly give that impression on his own — but because everything sucks. Or rather, I can’t remember who said this but, Bitcoin Is For Foxes, Joel is an überfox, and late fiat society has taught us all to instinctively worship hedgehogs for absolutely no good reason.
The real reason is that the hedgehogs are in charge and they make the rules. Which is actually kinda messed up wh-LOOK BUNNIES CUDDLING SO CUTE!
One might be tempted to say that the difference between the mainstream coverage and Marty’s podcast is that Marty is right and they are wrong. Or that Marty is smart and they are dumb. Or that Marty is good and they are bad.
But I think the main difference — the most important difference — is that Marty cares and they do not. It may sound trite but I wouldn’t underestimate this. Aside from anything else, it’s poor tactics: the nocoiners, and even the precoiners, are not themselves stupid. Some of them are frighteningly smart, and almost all of them are still fundamentally good people (I think? like I really do think that but I am prone to naïve optimism so discount appropriately).
The people who run Western Union are almost certainly very smart, very accomplished, and — I have no reason to disbelieve — perfectly good people. They are just working with old (fiat) tech that compromises their ability to do as much good as they might and gives them shitty incentives so it likely doesn’t even occur to them to try to figure out how to do better.
But there is no chance in hell they care as much as Jack, or Marty and Joel, or — to really make the point — Ross:
I had the honor of shaking Lyn Ulbricht’s hand when I was introduced to her as the keynote speaker soon to present. She introduced herself as if I didn’t know who she was, and the very first thing she said to me was to apologize for not knowing who I was.
I mean, come on, like that matters? Really?!? Surely it shouldn’t matter in the slightest to Lyn Ulbricht who some random kid is? Some happy, healthy, and free kid …
Except that it does matter — not because of me — not in the slightest — but because it proves that this amazing, inspiring woman cares.
Joel argued convincingly in the TFTC episode that there are seemingly uncountably many paths to Bitcoin. It doesn't take any specific academic background or professional experience to come to appreciate what is essentially just sound, programmable money and open source freedom. You don’t need to have gone to a conference and you don’t need to have run Silk Road — much as these might accelerate your journey. You need none of this because the material is frankly not that hard.
Joel’s route in was farming; mine was capital markets; we had a delightful conversation about the conceptual links between farming and capital markets. So delightful, in fact, that I later bought a book called “Dirt”. I’m not sure I knew why at the time. I think he incepted me:
Whatever your academic background or profession, it has likely been messed up in some or other way by the total perversion of incentives brought about by Federally-and-hence-globally mandated ultra-high time preference. If you don’t care then you don’t care. I don’t know what else to tell you. If you care, you look into it, and if you poke around for long enough or piss people off with awkward enough questions, there is a reasonable likelihood that you will eventually find your way to Bitcoin.
Joel did. I did. You probably did too. Unless you are a complete noob, in which case this is a bad place to start, FYI. Take Marty’s advice and, “turn off Wet Ass P***y and turn on a Bitcoin podcast.” Listening to the one linked to above would be a wonderful first tumble down the rabbit hole.
I sometimes wonder if my Grandpa would have taken such a tumble and become a Bitcoiner. We have a family story about how he threatened to quit his job as chief counsel and vice president of a bank because he disapproved of a new mortgage lending practice he believed to be unethical. The details are somewhat lost to legend now, unfortunately, given he passed away many years ago. But we know he got his way. They didn’t do it, and he didn’t quit.
This would have been in the early 70s, so very possibly a textbook case of wtf happened in 1971?. His employer was probably starting to feel the pressure of high-time-preference finance but he, as nothing more than a good, strong man, would not stand for it. He cared about his short-term payday a little, sure — nobody’s time preference is zero, after all. But he cared about his ethics and the effects of his actions on his community far more.
I take it back — I don’t wonder if he would have been a Bitcoiner; I know he would have. I just hope he would have been proud of me.
I recently snarkily tweeted — as I am wont to do — something to the effect that: I used to wonder why Bitcoiners knew so much, but then I realized, people who know things become Bitcoiners. But it’s more than that. It’s not just that Bitcoiners care. It’s that people who care become Bitcoiners. I really don’t believe it is all that helpful to say that Bitcoiners care. It’s probably largely true, but it gets the causation backward.
And isn’t this really just a way of making time preference less formalistic and mechanical and instead tangible and emotional? If you have a high time preference you almost by definition don’t really care about the things that really matter. If you have a low time preference you almost by definition do.
As I was mulling all of this over, Elizabeth Stark messaged me out the blue and then gave me a call. This is just the kind of thing that happens to me these days, and, given I missed El Jefe’s summit, I kinda felt like I deserved this one.
But seriously (no, actually seriously, I swear!), Elizabeth has been my personal hero for the better part of three years. This was totally surreal.
She is clearly a genius, and as cool as that is, that’s not why she’s my hero. She’s my hero because she could have spun her intellect into making a bajillion more dollars than she has by selling out to Wall Street or Silicon Valley at pretty much any point in the last seven years. But she never did, and I believe she never will, because there is no doubt in my mind that she cares.
Not to say she’s a big ol’ victimess or anything: she founded and runs an awesome sauce company that has been backed by Jack Dorsey, amongst others. She’s hardly poor or unaccomplished. But my point is that she chose the hard path, the better path, and the truer path. She has enough skin in the game to lead a perfectly comfortable life, but she also has something invaluable that nocoiners never will: soul in the game.
And this is why we are going to win.
That’s what we talked about (well, we talked a bit about DeFi too but you’ll all have to wait for the product of that to drop. I’d say maybe 1–2 months but don’t hold your breath).
We talked about what motivates us. We talked about the times we thought about giving up. We talked about the things we want to build, that we hope we can build, and that we are enormously grateful for having the opportunity to build. We talked about number of people go up. We talked about how it turns out she decided to commit her life to Lightning in Edinburgh, and that I am therefore duty-bound to go to the place in question and talk them into putting up a plaque.
And the single best thing about this piece of history is that there is a feature of this “place” that is just God-damned perfect in terms of tying in with Bitcoin memes, lore, culture, etc. — but I can’t identify the feature without doxxing the place, which I would prefer not to do. I therefore resort to the following next-generation Zero-Knowledge Proof to convince the reader beyond a shadow of a doubt (and remember, I math real good so this is powerful stuff):
Elizabeth will make an obvious confirmatory gesture in a public appearance in the near future. Keep an eye out. It’ll be totes emosh.
But more importantly than any or all of these details, we just talked.
If you’d told me this a year ago, I wouldn’t have believed you. If you’d told El Jefe a year ago he’d be granted this noblest of ranks by a sitting head of state, he wouldn’t have believed you. If you’d told Gladstein a year ago he’d meme volcano mining into reality, he wouldn’t have believed you.
If you’d told any of us that Bitcoin would be legal tender a year ago …
… I dunno, actually, we might have believed you. Maybe not intellectually. Maybe we wouldn’t have bet on it (“proper structuring” notwithstanding). We may not have been rationally optimistic enough to put skin in that particular game, but I’m pretty sure our souls have been in it all along.
To whit: what even is life? Is any of this really happening?
Yes. It is. Number of people go up 🧡
Totalmente emocional, chicos, totalmente emocional 😊
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