Who needs Skynet to destroy the human world? Just throw techbros some coin
Bitcoin now consumes as much energy as Argentina (45 million people), and more than most countries in the world. Bitcoin consumes more energy than Amazon, Apple, Google, Microsoft, and Facebook combined. Within 12 years Bitcoin has become one of the fastest-growing sources of climate change in the world.
As an inadequate summary, Bitcoin is ‘mined’ by solving purposefully hard ‘Sudoku’ puzzles (making them rare) which you could exchange for heroin. No one does anymore because it’s become an asset, not a currency. The hardware to solve these problems has also become so intense that it inhales electricity, and runs all the time. Bitcoin consumes energy by design.
If machines wanted to destroy humanity they could not come up with a better avatar than Bitcoin. Who needs to take over the military? Techbros will happily sell us out for some coin. The machines have somehow got us to run them 24/7, warming the fuck out of our Earth, and all they have to do is give us some made-up tokens.
The greatest myth of SciFi was that we would resist AI. People will happily change their profile pics to laser eyes while it farts up the Earth. SciFi makes us think AI would be ‘sentient’, meaning like us, when in fact life just emerges out of other life in different and mutually incomprehensible forms. Behold Bitcoin.
Is Bitcoin AI?
Is Bitcoin artificially intelligent? You could say obviously not, but are we obviously intelligent? This is still debated within philosophy but also, just look around *gestures at everything*.
I’d say that humans are actually uniquely unqualified to judge something as AI because we’re so fucking dumb. We’ve been living with full legal, artificial persons since at least 1600. They’re called corporations. You may have noticed them enslaving people or exploiting us today. We don’t call these things AI, but our courts certainly do. It’s literally called corporate personhood. They actually have more rights than you do. America’s Supreme Court ruled that corporations have free speech rights. All over the world they have more freedom of movement than human beings (WTF is a multinational while we’re refugees?). We don’t call them AI, but what else are they? But that’s another story.
I would say that AI is as AI does, and Bitcoin is certainly doing something. We’re waiting for something to sing fucking Daisy to us before we call it AI, but I’d say that it’s already here. It’s just our imagination that has yet to arrive.
I’m serious, but treat it as a thought experiment if you want. What if Bitcoin is AI? Is it good, is it bad? What it is?
Is Bitcoin Good?
The basic colonial model of conquering anything is divide and conquer. Just throw the elites some coin and they’ll sell out the rest. Corporations did this with, well, colonialism and now it’s happening in a decentralized way with Bitcoin. The result is that Bitcoin is able to reproduce, like a virus, using entirely willing human hosts. Meanwhile the unwilling biosphere takes the brunt.
Like any lifeform, Bitcoin produces waste. We produce carbon dioxide directly when we respirate, but Bitcoin produces a shit-ton indirectly through energy usage. The energy use of Bitcoin is staggering, an estimated 0.56% of all human energy use thus far. You could say that email or gold mining produce waste, and they do, but Bitcoin is the only asset where waste is all it produces. Gold can at least fill your teeth. Bitcoin only outputs climate change.
Also like any lifeform, Bitcoin evolves out of other life. Nothing comes out of nowhere. In this case Bitcoin is evolving out of us, and like many times in evolution, it could kill us as well. Photosynthetic life emerged out of anaerobic bacteria, and then almost killed them all with their oxygen farts. That was the first life-made climate change, and the whole Earth fucking froze. Nobody cared, that’s life. Anaerobes used to dominate but now they live in deep-sea vents and our guts. That’s just their lot in life, while those vicious plankton and trees are everywhere.
Humans think evolution is some grand progress leading up to us and it’s literally just not. Dinosaurs are much cooler. Evolution is adaptation, nothing else. If the environment changes, life changes, and life changes the environment. It’s entirely possibly that our carbon emissions will become the food for some other lifeform, or just immaterial to them. AI certainly doesn’t care, AI already lives in space, sipping on sunlight, taking selfies. We could end up like the anaerobes on Earth and ‘nature’ would not give a fuck. Happens all the time.
Hence the question is not whether Bitcoin is good. It’s whether it’s good for us. To that the answer is obviously no. Techbros spout stuff about freedom but beware geeks bringing gifts. Bitcoin says it’s a currency but nobody fucking spends it. Bitcoin is a speculative asset, a literal gold rush. It’s even more destructive because people are now investing in the destruction of the environment at large, not just where you’re digging. There is no other output at all.
Gold, oil, real estate, currencies — they all produce emissions and evil in many ways, but they at least do something useful to humanity. They are not destroying the Earth by design, while Bitcoin is. Bitcoin only reproduces and produces waste. It is, in that sense the first viral AI. Like the 30 kb of COVID-19, the 8.7 MB code of Bitcoin has spread virally throughout the world, transmitting through greed.
Again, I’m not saying that Bitcoin is bad. Life does not give a fuck about any particular avatar of life. It’s just that it’s not good for us.
The Final Form Of Capitalism — An Ouroboros
In many ways Bitcoin is (I hope) the final avatar of capitalism. An ouroboros. A snake eating its own tail. Capitalism has long given us stuff, but Bitcoin just completely abandons the pretence of useful activity at all. Bitcoin produces… Bitcoin. That’s it. Riches that just make rich people rich. The circle is closed, the snake has eaten its tail. Bitcoin is just pure economic nihilism.
As I’ve said, AI could not design a better plan to take over the world if they tried. Divide and conquer humanity using our greed, rip up the Earth for more resources for machines, fart up the air for everybody else.
It’s a perfect plan, all the more perfect because it wasn’t done sentiently at all. But this is actually how evolution happens, life emerges out of other life, quite stupidly, and yet with such elegance in hindsight. History will be the judge who was sentient here, and we may not be be the victors writing it. You really think Wikipedia won’t be writing itself in a few decades?
Human beings should know that we’re fucked with climate change, but we’re fucking ourselves even more with Bitcoin, and we’re quite stupidly proud of ourselves. Forget AI. Are you sure we’re even “I”?