Bitcoin doesn’t want “anonymous” (I)

A regrettable necessity

How do you feel about anonymity? To me it is all very stressing, and not the kind of stress with which we sacrifice the present moment for a future peace. Any effort in the direction of anonymity seems to encounter an equal force in the opposite direction – perhaps more newtonian than governmental – that puts us right back where we came from, in the open, and that confirms our inevitable condition both in the economy and in life: we want to be.

One cannot “want to be” and “want not to be” at the same time; just like one cannot have property rights without identity, nor an identity without property rights. It is not difficult to imagine how looking to die we can end up achieving “eternal life”. The same happens with anonymity and possessions. Even if you were an incorporeal entity, you would go about trying to satisfy your needs, and sooner or later society would draw a real profile of you, just like Google takes your digital fingerprint.

It is a pity that there are so many thinkers at odds with the public nature of Bitcoin, and trying to solve it as if it was a design error (see ‘Zerocoin’). The idea that the accounting ledger of Bitcoin, the blockchain, is accessible to all is a real beauty. It is compatible with human nature and our ancestral past in the extreme, which is probably testimony to the evolutionary success of the invention.

Our economic heritage

Human beings are not very good at being “individuals”; but we have become good at creating characters that self deceive about a thousand things, including “individuality”, and knocking our heads against the wall of reality. In our distant past no one was a stranger. Even though there existed some abusers and governors, as there are now galore, nobody could survive in solitude; tribes stayed sufficiently small to make survival sustainable, and even allow more time for leisure than there exists in our modern society. They all knew each other and knew about each other’s properties and acquisitions. The concept of “I” was blurred by that of “others” inasmuch as our belonging to the group was a need as imperative as feeling good in one’s own skin.

Thus, the recording of economic activities has been a common duty for thousands of years, resulting from the interest that each member of the tribe has in the rational administration of scarce resources – just as it happens with Bitcoin. A strong and deflationary currency is to an advanced society what a water well was to the bushmen of Africa (one of the most representative societies of our evolutionary past); and the knowledge by all of the way money moves is a guarantee of good management like never before in history since civilization has been burdened with internal violence, governments and their bad currencies.

Could fiat money come out of a tribe or a small and self sufficient community such as the bushmen? Of course not.

In the future Bitcoin world, a loan, say, will not only have to be backed by the same rational and objective factors as now, but also by a trustworthy monetary circulation. To give an obvious example, if you go about wasting or losing bitcoins, it is precisely your lack of anonymity that benefits us by marking you as a bad economic agent, in the same way the bushmen wouldn’t give the custody of a water well to someone who is known as a water waster.

The need for anonymity – not privacy – is an aberration that surfaces as a response to the aberration of irrational authority and the deficient development of a complex society. The destiny of a civilized, global humanity will be to organise itself rationally and with awareness as a group, just as our ancestors did (hunter-gatherers keep being the most successful adaptation of man, in spite of its lack of technological development) or it will not be. Bitcoin is not only a mechanism for that, but its very value and integrity depend on that.

The future

In a future internet, with its IPv6 and its immense range of addresses, anonymity will be an even larger annoyance. Why bother changing and distributing addresses when there are more than plenty? Why do it when, on top of that, countless benefits arise from assigning univocal IP addresses to all kinds of online devices?

How come nobody realises the governing will be less lucky than the governed in their attempts to identify the users of Bitcoin? There’s a reason for that I will address later. The way the Bitcoin foundation winks at regulators could be understood as a way to make them accept the cryptocurrency, tempted by its public nature, so they will end up prey to a kind of auditing anyone can do from their own personal computer. This happens because we are not used to universalizing all these moral judgements, which are meant to be universal, and forever seeing ourselves as a slavish or paranoid herd: is it is “bad to use all your bitcoins for your own benefit” (i.e. justifying taxation) then it is bad to use them for your own benefit, isn’t it? Now we can easily see who is actually doing that and betraying their own principles.

Exactly what this “own benefit” means, what democracy means, inflation, taxation, the “welfare” state… all of that will be very clear once governments and their false morals succumb, along with the rest, to the lack of anonymity that Bitcoin provides, and a network that evolves just as networks can evolve and take hold in nature: without anonymity.