Bitcoin: Answer to Ancient Legend?
The Philosopher’s Stone
Centuries ago the term “Philosopher” was defined as: those that sought for the truth in all things. The prophesied Philosopher’s Stone is not a stone at all. The term “stone” is used metaphorically much like bitcoin is not actually a coin. It is claimed, in ancient legends, to be the source of enormous wealth and contains the ability to extend life itself. Legends that speak of this mysterious substance are found in many cultures by various names dating back to the time of antiquity. The life-long quest for its discovery has consumed many centuries. Countless lifetimes were spent in the quest of its discovery, second only to the quest for the Holy Grail. Are the legends and clues held in volumes of centuries-old manuscripts only an illusion? Or is it possible that there are hints of truth or science buried inside?
Hundreds, or perhaps thousands, of the best scientific minds throughout the last thousand years spent much of their efforts in pursuit of the Philosopher’s Stone. The first mention of the stone has been traced back over 2,000 years ago. A documentary episode from the series Decoding the Past was presented by The History Channel in 2006 called “The Real Sorcerer’s Stone”. Several experts were interviewed regarding the legend including Professor Lawrence M. Principe from the Johns Hopkins University, who said:
“Think about someone who can make gold. They could rule the world and tear down old social and political structures.”
Professor Principe also explained that the legend told of the unbelievable quality that could extend the life of anybody who consumes even a part of it.
History credits Sir Isaac Newton for inventing calculus, defining the first laws of physics and inventing the first reflecting telescope. This was in addition to being in charge of the Royal Society, the Master of the British Mint and creating a new fixed gold standard for currency and world-wide commerce. Not as commonly known was that he also secretly dedicated an even greater portion of his life (by some accounts over one million words) to the discovery of the Philosopher’s Stone using the secret science of alchemy. In this, he joins a long list of some of the brightest scientists of his day. This discovery was made, perhaps ironically, by the father of Keynesian Economics – John Maynard Keynes. He purchased Newton’s volumes in the 1930s. The relatively secret non-published works relating to Newton’s efforts in alchemy were hidden away by the Royal Society over a century earlier.
The mystery scientist of the modern era credited with creation of the Bitcoin protocol and network as well as bitcoin the currency is known by the pseudonym Satoshi Nakamoto. There seems to be no indication that he was trying to create or discover the Philosopher’s Stone. The theory of why the name Satoshi Nakamoto was used was explained by computer scientist, Ted Nelson. Satoshi in Japan means “clear thinking wise”. Naka is “ inside” and Moto is “foundation”. In total, Nelson interprets the name as: “I am one who sees in depth”.
Alchemy – The Cryptography of the Past
With the discovery of elements and metal mixing, concoctions of every sort were combined chemically, and the legend of the Philosopher’s Stone evolved into the idea of turning lead, iron and copper into gold. Through the gained knowledge of these activities and processes, alchemy became the precursor of modern chemistry and the scientific method. Many believe the science field of chemistry today owes its existence to the quest for the Philosopher’s Stone.
The kings and government leaders in centuries past were fearful that if the Philosopher’s Stone were to be created it could devalue or destabilize not only their own currency and riches, but could also disrupt the value of all commerce. Because of this, they outlawed the research and the practice moved underground, but continued. Although at this same time, many of the same rulers secretly hired alchemists to create the Philosopher’s Stone for themselves. Finding the recipe was considered to be the Magnum Opus or “Greatest work” of one’s lifetime.
As alchemists were creating mixtures and compounds that hadn’t existed before, their powers were seen by the common people to be magic. As in all things deriving from the nature of man – there were good and benevolent men who created medicines and advanced the science, but there were also scammers, tricksters and poisonous murderers who used some of their knowledge for dark pursuits of the occult.
Because of the restrictions by governments, the scientists communicated with each other in code and riddles. This was the cryptography of their day. They also communicated in allegory stories and symbolism. These symbols preceded the table of elements.
Cryptocurrency – The Alchemist of Today
In the modern era, the financial cryptologists have similar goals: the power to create wealth that must be done in secret because those in power would be fearful of the loss of their power over money. Cryptologists communicate in secret using codes as well. They applied and bettered their tradecraft for 25 years. Essentially what the cryptocurrency creators sought was the technology and formula to create gold 2.0 based on cryptography. The ability to harness this technology is essentially the modern day Philosopher’s Stone – although they may not have realized it in those terms at the time.
Crypto Currency “alchemists” would include Adam Beck , David Chaum and Nick Szabo among others. They also wrote in riddled coded language called C++ and PGP that few understand outside their exclusive community. Governments are extremely concerned about the ability of cryptography and those who practice it as it exposes their dirty secrets. The arts and knowledge of cryptography allowed Edward Snowden and Julian Assang to expose unpleasant truths about secret government abilities.
Some governments of the world are still fearful that digital currencies such as “Gold 2.0” could make their national currencies devalued. Is there a parallel from today’s leaders to those of the ancient past? Could bitcoin disrupt government currencies in ways that parallel the ancient? Is this just simply history repeating itself or do these actions and reactions transcend through time?
Is Bitcoin Really the New Gold?
Bitcoin is commonly compared to gold and holds many advantages. It has economically intrinsic qualities that go far beyond that of the relative uselessness of gold itself as it can be used all over the world and can be publicly accountable. Bitcoin currency has so many common qualities of gold that it is often called the ‘digital gold’, or even more commonly, ‘gold 2.0’.
Bitcoin can be used by anybody with an internet connection to conduct private transactions with anybody else in the world. If required, it can be used discreetly from governments’ control in the ways alchemists of old continued the science while staying out of government interference in countries that required discretion. Digital currencies that adhere to the core principles of bitcoin are increasingly viewed as the future of money. Digital currency may outlast and transcend those governments that would try to ban it as more people discover the freedom from personal privacy invasion. The power described for a Philosopher’s Stone may be more powerful than any one government can control. But like the old scammers and tricksters that used alchemy to remove people from their wealth, bitcoin too has had the same kinds of unscrupulous people that will attempt defraud owners of bitcoin. Some things never change.
How is bitcoin created? Where is the magic? Strictly speaking bitcoin is added into existence as an incentive to those running the computer hardware that processes and collectively verifies all of the transactions on the world-wide network. The hardware that does this is transferring energy and electricity by using incredible computing power to maintain the network and in effect create gold 2.0. The computer hardware is constructed with circuits, on motherboards using copper connections inside metal cases. Most of the typical computer is derived from iron, copper and other base metals. In this, one might argue that it continues to fit the descriptions of legend.
Peter Marshall, historian and author of the book entitled “The Philosopher’s Stone”, describes the prophecy regarding the location of the Philosopher Stone as “being everywhere and nowhere at once”. If asked today where bitcoin exists – could there be a better answer? He also says it is complex enough for the smartest men, but simple enough to be considered child’s play. Programming bitcoin took incredible brain power, yet any child can click “buy with bitcoin” on a web browser to use it. Do current scientific beliefs and the laws of matter and motion make such quests for the Philosopher’s Stone now seem silly?
Could the ancient prophecy predicting the Philosopher’s Stone be true? Did Satoshi Nakamoto discover or unknowingly create the Philosopher’s Stone after most of the world quit believing in ancient legends? Bitcoin surely can’t be THE Philosopher’s Stone because it lacks the other vital ability listed in the ancient text: the ability to extend life, right? As was mentioned before, even one small part of it could extend one’s life. That of course could never happen with bitcoin.
Except… it did.
On August 28, 2014 –Hal Finney was declared legally dead. An early bitcoin supporter and adopter, he spent (consumed) some of his early mined bitcoin to purchase equipment and storage needed to put his dying body into cryopreservation. His intention is to be awoken once a cure for ALS (Lou Gehrig’s Disease) is found, thereby extending his life.
Hal made many contributions to the computing world and bitcoin in general during his life. Did his final action complete the final requirement that would allow us to know and recognize bitcoin as the Philosopher’s Stone? Did fate set his destiny so the Philosopher’s Stone prophecy could be fulfilled?
Could one predict the ramifications of the possible connection between The Philosopher’s Stone and bitcoin if word of this spreads through a Twitter viral firestorm? Has the nature of human emotion and desire for wealth changed that much in the last 2,000 years? If only one in a thousand people find this theory plausible, the resulting rush to own a piece of the legendary Philosopher’s Stone would create a world-wide historic event remembered throughout the ages. Would the insatiable desire of people to behold the promises of the Philosopher’s Stone be much different today than the last 2,000 years?
People will believe what they choose to believe and follow that which gives them hope. Even the most skeptical, which might view these connections and observations as ridiculous and would put no faith in fate, prophecy or legends…might pause and consider how many of Earth’s seven billion people might get a tingle in their spine and will choose to believe. After all, that’s how money itself works.