Three Straightforward Elements: The right way to Educate Your Grandmother Bitcoin

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A defining feature of the digital age has been the advent of digital entities of incredible complexity that manage to maintain such simplicity that your grandmother can use them.

As is well known, the iPhone is delivered in a box without a manual. It is so well designed and natural in its function that a child is able to skillfully navigate the user interface and fill your camera roll with weird selfies or empty your bank account with a few loose settings in the App Store.

The same applies to organizations based on algorithms. Google, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, among others, have highly intuitive user interfaces. To the layperson, certain phrases or visual inputs are expected to produce certain types of results, and the “feed” itself has a non-random feel to it that even the most casual scroller can perceive.

There is a machine behind the pixels, but you never see it directly.

You never really need that.

You’re not cracking your iPhone to understand how best to use it or looking into the code base of your favorite social media platform to understand which selfies and tweets to post (although every influencer knows which posts are with the algorithm work well). . With this in mind, the technical innovation is almost completely hidden and the focus is on the simplified experience you get through the product itself. A simple example is Google: the innovation was keyword indexing, but the value and user-side experience was natural language search.

Nobody cares about your extensive tech directory, but everyone wants to know how to bake a cake or make a martini.

When we think about how product development typically works in companies, we run into a problem when we apply the same usage logic to Bitcoin. We typically conduct surveys, talk to customers, study usage data, and advocate within our organization developing X or Y products or services to better serve customers.

But the nature of Bitcoin is decentralization. There is no one to send the survey to, no master list of phone numbers to call. In contrast to the centralized idea, build, beta test, and launch techniques of most companies around the world, innovation at Bitcoin is nascent.

So how do we get our grandmothers to grok bitcoin like the shadowy supercoders we always wanted? In a world in which tech companies have always deliberately developed products and refined them for a specific audience (see: the Facebook “Like” button), everything happens precisely through the creation of Bitcoin.

There is no perfect user experience solution for Bitcoin these days, no killer app that neatly puts it all together, but by presenting and explaining how three key elements of Bitcoin work in your physical space, I claim that you are even teaching your grandmother can Bitcoin through tea and brownies.

Part 1: The Mining Rig

Intuitively, we should start our journey with the mining rig.

Whether you go down in the basement, on the covered patio, or in the side courtyard to open your black box mining enclosure, you should start the Bitcoin journey with proof of work and decentralization.

Your mining rig is there, converting electricity to digital security and processing the transactions of the entire network, preserving digital scarcity and immutability alongside hundreds of thousands of other miners scattered around the world. From this point of view we understand decentralization and lack of permission.

We are participating in a digital game and this machine is running the code that allows us to play the game. Nobody can stop us from turning our electricity into digital endeavors, nor can we violate others’ rights to play this game.

And do we play this game out of the goodness of our heart? No!

We play this game because by playing the game we secure our own participation and at the same time earn a financial reward for playing. The more efficiently we can play the game, via cheap electricity or climate that is conducive to mining, the greater the reward. Everyone knows the rules of the game and anyone who cheats will be instantly disqualified from the game’s rewards via the code itself.

We have just described a Nash equilibrium, a state in which our incentive is to play the game as efficiently and fairly as possible because cheating in any way can only harm us.

So we see that mining is a game that is about securing and using computing power efficiently and creatively.

Part 2: the knot

If we come from the back yard or the basement, we can go to the router or office where our node lives.

It can be a Nodl, Umbrel, Start9 or even an old laptop with Linux and Core, it doesn’t matter. What is important is that our knot allows us to explore the state of the participants in the game. In this sense, we are the arbiters of the Bitcoin network.

When we log into our node, we see our current block height and all verified transactions that live in each block in the chain. By using a block explorer like mempool.space (often from our node) we can dive into the transaction data that we know is 100% accurate and verified on the blockchain. (I also recommend https://symphony.iohk.io/ for exploring the Bitcoin blockchain, it’s an incredibly beautiful audio and visual representation of Bitcoin)

Here we have immutability and verifiability. Each node runner keeps an eye on the status of the game being played and rejects all transactions that do not comply with the rules of the code. Because of this, not only can they review every transaction that has taken place on the Bitcoin blockchain, but they can also be confident that in case they want to send a transaction to the mempool and be included in a block, according to the rules of the game.

We made the hard working security team and the always attentive referee come true. So how do we take part in this transaction game now?

Part 3: the hardware wallet (or the signing device).

Maybe you’re in the office now, went into the safe, or turned the wrong stone you have in the factory next to your window.

Here we have the hardware wallet, made by various manufacturers with an assortment of bells and whistles. Some look like vintage calculators, others like sleek Apple products, all of which serve the same basic purpose: to protect a digital secret that you and only you need to know in order to transact on the Bitcoin network.

Regardless of your wallet interface, you should be able to operate with your own node on the network. (Note: without going down a rabbit hole here, the main difference between using your own node and a wallet interface that doesn’t require a node is that when you use your own node, you submit and verify a transaction yourself, and when you don’t use a node, just trust someone else to broadcast your transaction so they can see every transaction you make.)

And what about this “digital secret”?

This digital secret, mostly stored as a set of 12 or 24 random words, enables you to create a wallet with public and private keys, the secure digital accounts that allow individuals to use Bitcoin.

Nobody in the world has a set of secret words that are just like yours. Just as you protect your house with locks and a security system, you have to protect your secret words so you don’t leave the front door open and just let someone inside.

To get a transaction into our secure digital account, we just need to share the public address (like a PO Box or a home address) and individuals can send Bitcoin to us.

To send Bitcoin to someone else, we use our private key to sign a transaction to the recipient’s Bitcoin address (their mailbox or home address). Then we send this signed transaction to the above mentioned miners to include our transaction in the upcoming one they are blocking mine.

By creating and protecting a “digital secret”, we can use the Bitcoin network both to store our assets without anyone stealing them and the ease of use of sending them to anyone anywhere in the world Push of a button.

Put everything together

In just three physical devices – the miner, the node and the hardware device – we encapsulate the operation of the world’s most powerful value-added network and are moving ever closer to finding this “killer app” that enables billions of people of all ages to kill Grok Bitcoin fast.

I don’t think we have the metaphors to fully teach Bitcoin to the masses, but I believe we are crossing a communication divide that links cypherpunks, core developers, and thousands of lines of code to the average lifespan of average people around the world.

It is our job in an emerging system to build these metaphors and convey them to the network of humanity to better educate others about the massive positive externalities of assured value and hard money.

This is a guest post by Robert Warren. The opinions expressed are solely their own and do not necessarily reflect those of BTC Inc or Bitcoin Magazine.


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