A fascinating narrative about Bitcoin emerged this year around the physical security offered by its proof-of-work consensus method. This narrative originated from Jason Lowery, a commissioned officer in the US Space Force and a US National Defense Fellow who is enrolled at MIT and whose full-time job is researching bitcoin for the US Department of Defense (DoD). His opinions on this matter are his own and do not represent those of the DoD.
As part of his master’s degree, Lowery plans to write his dissertation on how proof-of-work miners are functionally identical to the role of military and as a substitute for war in terms of building global consensus on the current state and chain could be used of freedom and digital property. What is special about Lowery’s thesis is that, as an evolution from the biological and physical patterns of the universe and life itself, it fits the proof of work.
Lowery explains that billions of years ago our world was nothing more than a few unicellular organisms. Over time, the state and the chain of control over resources swayed in favor of multicellular organisms that involuntarily cooperated. Animals evolved and expressed projection of power to resolve disputes over resources – everything from antlers to dominant behaviors. Fast forward to millions of years ago and we have the rise of the hominids. One of these types of hominid, Homo sapiens, developed the cognition for abstract thinking and the ability to scale trust and collaboration beyond Dunbar’s number by sharing a common set of beliefs.
“The game of life is a game of power projection. It’s usually a kinetic force projection. A great way to get better at projecting power is to work together. Cooperation itself is a predatory competitive advantage … The story is a running ledger written by the people who won the kinetic proof-of-work game. ”
–Jason Lowery, “Bitcoin Fixes This # 73”
According to Lowery, projection of power enables people to declare the legal authority to define the chain of custody of property, and should those authorities become oppressive or weak, projection of power allows challengers to defy those authorities and reassign the chain of custody to write . By definition, this is a permissionless protocol. Failure to project power means having to tacitly trust a third party to define what property is.
Lowery argues that the military is an extension of this four billion year old game of power projection in order to achieve consensus on what the legitimate state and chain of custody are. Whether we are talking about the boundaries of our backyards or our own nations, those boundaries are set because power at one point or another in our history has been projected to offset authority, which in turn enables us, our own state and ours own control chain to determine resources that we can control. Military are projecting kinetic power to make it too expensive not to work with the people who control the military. Without the military or some form of power projection, it is worth seizing property and resources.
Without the defense of property, there is no property of anything. In other words, the military is a way of maintaining an unauthorized structure of control over property, and the signing of legitimate rules of law is a tacit affirmation of the historical struggles that led to the establishment of those rules of law. We use the rule of law to avoid constantly fighting over any disagreement, and working together leads to increased power projection. Without the ability to project kinetic force, there is no way to have permissionless control over physical resources.
“The power of every bullet, the power of every bomb, the power of every engine behind every tank, every truck, every ship, every submarine, every airplane, the power behind the heartbeat of every soldier of every military who has ever served the world will be measured in watts in the truest sense of the word. These watts are spent on defending property. Defending the rule of law. Defend whatever needs to be defended. And yes, it is extremely inefficient to have a huge standing military that does nothing but sit there defending your rule of law or whatever you want to say you own it. But it is even more expensive than creating a standing military to be ambushed or conquered by another military. “
–Jason Lowery, “Bitcoin Fixes This # 73”
What does this have to do with Bitcoin? Force projection need not only involve kinetic energy, in which force is exerted on the mass in order to displace mass. It can also be electrical by applying a charge to a resistor. In either case, the rules of the game and the underlying physics are the same – both forms of power projection are measured in joules per second or watts. The only difference is how this energy was derived. With Bitcoin, people are monetizing a new form of property, effectively transforming war from a kinetic power projection game to an electric power projection game.
Humans apply kinetic evidence of work to preserve the state and the chain of custody in the physical world and physical resources. And while water, air, and land will always remain in what Lowery calls the kinetic “meat room,” money need not be limited to the physical realm.
Money can be moved from the physical realm to the electrical realm and the same principles and permit-free control structure can be applied to the proof of work. As a substitute for kinetic force projection, nobody is bleeding from consensus on proof of work. Better still, the projection of power does not rely on coordinating or questioning belief structures. With the monetization of Bitcoin, people no longer have to wage wars to protect, confiscate, or legitimize money property.
This transition gives us additional benefits. Kinetic power projection games are infrastructure-destroying competitions that usually end in ruins and death. While an electrical proof-of-work competition in Bitcoin is a competition to build infrastructures that increase the security of the network and encourage energy abundance.
The effects of this second and third order transition are only just being understood. For example, Lowery points out that energy abundance can lead to cheaper desalination, reducing the need to wage kinetic battles over freshwater.
Lowery says humans are too good at projecting kinetic power and the ability to refute the authority of the oppressors – ruling the state and custody chain over money – has become impossible with the proliferation of nuclear weapons. We are guaranteed to fail if that happens. His thesis will therefore argue that humanity has lost its permissionless control structure over money.
Bitcoin provides a solution to this puzzle. As Lowery puts it, bitcoin and proof of work are the equivalent of human antlers built on top of a nuclear-resistant digital defense infrastructure to project power to reclaim a digital, permissionless control structure over money and digital property .
Bitcoin is not going to end the war – we will always need kinetic force projection to claim ownership of physical resources. However, Bitcoin enables globally neutral digital money that prevents monetary oppression and dematerializes the kinetic power projection game required to enforce contractual fiat currencies based on the legitimacy of the rule of law by the military. Lowery is fascinated by Bitcoin because it obeys this law of force projection that he sees in all of nature and in all biological systems. It creates what Lowery calls “mutually assured preservation,” where competitors are incentivized to work together and everyone benefits from their competitors’ productivity.
This is in stark contrast to kinetic power projection games that culminate in mutually assured destruction. By deregistering monetary property from the spoils of war and subscribing to Bitcoin, one can participate in a beneficial migration that elevates civilization, fosters competitive cooperation, and enhances our ability to project constructive power as a species while maintaining a permissive control structure over money. In a world where nuclear weapons have prevented our ability to counter an oppressor should it emerge, bitcoin is not just a national security imperative, but an imperative for all of humanity.
Lowery will continue to refine his thesis and has invited the Bitcoin community to join and discuss with him as he refines his theories. It will be interesting to watch his ideas develop and help us change our perspective on the importance of Bitcoin to humanity and our ability to own money and property in the digital realm.
This is a guest post by Level39. The opinions expressed are solely their own and do not necessarily reflect those of BTC Inc or Bitcoin Magazine.