The idea of crypto-currencies goes beyond the life of Bitcoin, for there are many sorts of similarly decentralized currencies born, in vitro or not even a sparkle in its founders’ eyes. Where one crypto-currency ends and another begins will prove to not be so clear.
Their varying traits will be diversly subtle. A common anecdote reads as such: let’s say you have an axe. Let’s say you behead a man with that axe one day and this breaks the axes’ handle. So you go to the store and buy a new hardware store handle to fit to the blade.
Then, one day splitting wood, you break the axe head. So, off to the store you go to replace the axe-head. Everything is again in the right place, until you arrive home to find…the man you beheaded. He takes a long look at the axe you’re holding and exclaims, “That’s the same axe which beheaded me!”
The catch is, Is he right?
This riddle goes back to at least ancient Greece, where the historian Plutarch asked basically the same question by telling a story involving an aging ship and an adventurous crew.
The riddle has been regarded by philosophers ondown through the ages as a dead end of sorts, since any given person’s answer hindges not on any actual attribute of the axe or ship in question, but on how the answerer chooses to define the word “same.”
So, if you deconstruct the Bitcoin code and then put it together in new, yet reminiscent patterns, do you have Bitcoin or something totally new?
Consider a set of identical twins. Lots of anecdotes claim that sets of twins share the “same” tastes in music, pets and mates – even if they’ve never met -they still remain distinct individuals, and could have presumably hit on those tastes for disparate reasons.
Parents and close friends tell one twin from the other by tiny differences in behavior which over time become increasingly significant. And so therefore, despite the genes – and the womb – shared by a set of identical twins, they can’t share every-little-thing in common.
What separates each twin is an inner mental world. Each disctinct from not only one another, but also from every other on earth.
Moreover, researchers are now beginning to understand that tiny variations in brain development begin to lay the foundation of each twin’s individual personality a long time before birth.
And a new study has uncovered that prenatal variation add up to different personalities event in animals engineered to be genetically identical – that is, twins that are exact clones.
This and other discoveries throw into question our current understanding of the “nature versus nurture” debate, but also the nature of the individual itself. Not to mention the implications it has for the diverse possibilities awaiting a world of decentralized, competing currencies, which are most likely to be virtual due to the “global village” scenario the people of earth currently live amidst and within.
Confucius wrote, “By nature, men are nearly alike; by practice, they get to be wide apart” – but in the West, Plato and Aristotle
began the debate by taking stances at opposite ends of it: Plato noted tht individual was a perfectly heavenly formed marred by earthly struggles; Aristotle proposed that the newborn mind was a blank slate.
In Shakespeare’s The Tempest, Prospero paints the monster Caliban as “a born devil, on whose nature nurture can never stick.” He’s basically saying that an individual’s nature must be shaped by social interaction.
Since James Watson and Francis Cick explicated the structure and behavior of DNA, most scientists have understood that “genes load the gun, but environment pulls the trigger.” In other words, DNA does not encode individual traits; it rather encodes instructions for building kinds of biological structures should the right circumstances occur.
A bitcoiner might understand this better in programming terms. Much of your DNA might be describable as a nested hierarchy of “IF-THEN” statements, each waiting for a signal to execute the code within. Many of those signals come not from the DNA itself, but rather from the environment in which it unzips.
And so, in a world of decentralized cryptograhic currencies, it appears that a exact copy of Bitcoin could be introduced to the world with different results than the first incarnation of Bitcoin. Even if Bitcoin were unleashed once more in the wild, same code, its lifetime (the environment) would put different pressures upon it than the Bitcoin unleashed on Halloween in 2008.
Likewise, any sort of decentralized currency unleashed today, all-encompassing of its genetic differences from Bitcoin and its different life experience cements the entropy-laden nature of the novel world of decentralized virtual currencies.