John Vallis — Bitcoin Rapid-Fire | The Erik Cason Series (Parts I & II)
Part I on YouTube: https://youtu.be/NOedvO-I2Qk
Erik Cason: What I’m realizing more and more is that we’ve just stumbled in to — I don’t even know how to describe it — it’s a Renaissance, but it’s so much more, because what I’m getting through from the work with Heidegger is that this is about the entirety of the world spirit coming to terms in recognition of what the cost of statism has done. And also that we’re trapped in this infinite cage, that there’s literally no way to extricate ourselves from it except through cryptography, just because the panopticon is too large, it’s too powerful, it’s too all-seeing, and the only way to technologically reverse it is to rebuild the web with its backbone being built on top of cryptography. And Bitcoin seems to be this nascent backbone of it. And Dhruv Bansal actually really influenced my thought in terms of thinking 200 years out, that Bitcoin has very little to actually do with a monetary and exchange policy as much as it has to do with an energy transfer network, because that’s essentially what we’re doing, is: we’re making energy transformed from being this fiat lie and actually being fundamentally embedded through energy, which energy money is the thing that humanity needs if we’re going to get to space, particularly if we’re going to use this massive amount of energy to get ourselves out there. And so I’ve just been thinking more and more about how it’s much more about this facilitative function for energy, and that because of the way all of these things bond up together, it opens humanity up to this totally new world that was never possible before Bitcoin, not just on the side of challenging and pushing back on the state, but creating this mechanism for us to actually have the market means to open up space exploration, which seems to be the next horizon of humanity.
John Vallis: Yeah I couldn’t agree more. I mean, the state is just a parasite that’s leeching off of what otherwise could be a far more flourishing system of of exchange and interaction and innovation and all that kind of stuff. So it’s certainly not the end — it’s more of a means to an end to at least greatly reduce it, and then see what comes as a result of the system that takes its place and all that kind of stuff. It is interesting that it’s almost a given that one of the highest ideals for our civilization is to go out into space. I can appreciate why — and let’s just forget the whole climate change disaster, we need a second, we need a Plan B — but let’s just assume it’s because there’s something of great worth or value out there. Don’t get me wrong — I dig it. It’s cool and I like to watch it and it’ll be awesome if my grandkids like fucking vacation to Mars or wherever the fuck someday, but I don’t know. I’ve got a lot of questions. From a curiosity standpoint I’m super intrigued, but man, this world could be so fucking amazing if we just fix a few things. We live on a goddamn paradise planet. One of the things that just like blows my mind about this place — it doesn’t rain very often, but occasionally there’s a shower, like an afternoon shower or something like that, and there’s rainbows all the fucking time here. So I’m walking down the beach, there’s a beautiful ocean breeze, the sun is out, the water is amazing, the beach is incredible, there’s almost nobody on the beach, and then a fucking rainbow is just shooting across the sky and I’m like, This is too amazing — how is it that this is the reality that we live in?
Erik Cason: It’s funny, I have the same thing like on the opposite side, because I’m on the West Coast — same thing. Like, I go for these walks on these extraordinary cliff sides. You might have seen some of the pictures I’ve had on Twitter. And this is what I do every morning: I go out and I go for a walk out on these bluffs and all these astounding views where I can see for a hundred miles, and the clouds are coming in, the mist is changing, and rainbows. And yeah, I’m like, Why would anyone want to sacrifice this? In addition to the fact like, Well going into space is cool, but I feel like this is the same liberal nonsense that’s getting applied elsewhere. It’s like, Oh we’ll go to space — No! You’re gonna go to space as a fucking slave and you’re gonna get cancer and all sorts of horrific shit. Humans weren’t ever bound to be there! And furthermore, your stupid bullshit of trying to get off this planet to save it is the same idiocy of like, Hey, let’s make nuclear weapons to save humanity. Like, what? You fucking idiots. Which is like the gain of function research, too. It’s like, Let’s make the most deadly virus that humanity has ever seen to try to fight — Oh shit, it got out, you guys, dang.
John Vallis [5:08]: But it’s also like: What are you hoping to find out there? Or more importantly: What are you hoping to find that could even be conceivably better than what’s available here? Maybe there’s something?
Erik Cason: That’s sort of the irony is to like go look around everywhere in the fucking solar system just to be like, Turns out Earth is a pretty great place for people to be! And I also think it’s dangerous, because to me, the other thing about space that’s so important is: space is the final frontier of war. And that’s fucking scary to talk about, particularly in our state-based totalitarianism thing. In my mind, we have to get into space simply to front-run and get in front of the ability of states to put nuclear weapons up there and start fucking with each other. I guess the best I can hope for is an Ender’s Game sort of reality where some space entity presents itself and goes: Look, give us all the nuclear weapons and we’ll be in charge of it in space moving forward, because you people are all fucking morons. Whether or not that happens, I don’t know, but I also know that where we’re at today — particularly with COVID and the state and totalitarianism and the panopticon — it’s very clear to me that things are accelerating in a very dramatic way. In addition to like — this is an extremely unique position that humanity’s ever been in. I very sincerely believe that the direction we’re moving, we’re talking about an actual existential threat to humanity itself. Because the big thing is like —
John Vallis: Just before you go on with the big thing, let’s just roll into this.
Erik Cason: All right. Do you want an intro or anything?
John Vallis: No, no — I feel like we’re into it now anyway, so we might as well just keep going. But I just wanted to let that now we’re into it, so go on.
Erik Cason: We’re going. Okay, we’re going. So a great example is the Chinese genocide of the Uyghur people. To me, this is such the quintessential genocide because it’s not about killing people — it’s about hollowing them out. It’s about obliterating their culture and creating these free bodies — not in terms of freedom, but in terms of: they’re vacant, they’re almost like puppets that can be occupied — and to me, this is what the totalitarianism of the panopticon is about. And this was the first example that truly captures how powerful it is, because — very different from the Nazi genocide of just trying to eliminate the Jews, and very different from, say, the Serbian genocide of like, Let’s just try to rape out all of the Muslims — this is, in my opinion, a much more horrific and final creation of what the panopticon wants, is to be able to watch everybody all the time for whatever reason it wants, abduct them, put them in re-education camps, destroy any idea of culture, sovereignty, individuality. And I think that’s where we’re going, and that’s sort of what vaccine passports are about, because not only is it not about the vaccine passports, but to me the bigger one is that you now have a segmented population that will not comply, and it’s about making sure that those people that don’t comply get put in whatever sort of authoritarian camps that are created. And so with this being what’s going on, I think that we’ve actually — and this is why I talk so much about the theological and the eschatological stuff — to me, this is actually eschatological. Because if you put all humans in this same modeling of what’s going on in China and how the Uyghurs are being treated, this creates something that, in my opinion, we’re not humans anymore. We’re some sort of biological machine. And that’s what the state wants. It really fears the idea of self-sovereign individuals that can think and do things outside-the-box and react. And again — now it loops us back to Bitcoin and why it’s so important is: to me, this is literally messianic, because I can’t think of anything else that can realistically resist the capacity and ability of the state. In addition, I’d like to connect the fact of 3D weapon printing and cryptography in the way that there’s a deep relationship between these two, in the way that these two things together can kind of self-propel a revolution that’s beyond revolutionary — messianic, in that it changes the entire framework of how statism operates.
John Vallis [10:06]: Naturally I have a lot of questions, but one of them: In terms of the current time we’re in — and I think there’s a lot of blame to go around and it’s inevitable that there are a variety of agendas at play, everyone’s playing to their incentives, and maybe the case that those with the most power and control in society have their own agenda playing, to their incentives, and are largely responsible for many of the things that we would be critical of today, but—do you think that there’s some malevolent intent there? Or is it some kind of unconscious, improperly-oriented animus? Like an energy, almost — a possession of some kind — that’s fostering this perception that you articulated in how these people might view other people, and how they therefore might want to control or manipulate them. Do you think it’s deeper than simply political and economic agendas, and it’s actually fundamentally how you construe your world and how you see the other?
Erik Cason: Absolutely, yeah. It’s the latter one, and I’d say it’s almost this subconscious — it’s pretty much viewing the world from this fear-based and terror stance that actually manifests from that viewpoint. It’s sort of like staring in the abyss for too long, that the abyss stares back into you. And so I think that people that are engaged in all these things — like Anthony Fauci for example — I think all the shit he said he sincerely believes, that he thought tens of millions of people were gonna die and all this kind of shit, and that if we don’t implement the panopticon and vaccine passports, then all this crazy shit will happen. None of it’s true! And it’s kind of embarrassing to think of the sacrifices that are created in that, but this is just part of how people govern themselves when you govern purely through fear. And to me, that’s the entirety of what COVID has been about. And I would also connect it to fiat money, is: it’s always about fear. It isn’t about enabling and empowering — it’s about the fear of what happens if we don’t do XYZ, ABC, and it’s really important to understand that this fear predication of governance, that’s one of the things I’ve felt very strongly about what’s going on here in the United States, is I’m so hungry and desperate for true leadership, of someone to say, Look — yes, it’s a disease, people can catch it, whatever else, but to say — look, we’re not willing to sacrifice our forms of life anymore. It is important for us to quite literally face the world openly and to not hide behind something. And I think that’s a big part of what’s going on, is that the entire apparatus of politics at this point in time is only occupied by people that understand this game of utilizing fear to manipulate people. And I think it’s quite extraordinary actually that I have a very difficult time recalling any politicians that operate in a different direction about really trying to empower individuals at this point in time. And not to say that there aren’t malevolent people out there, I just think the vast majority of people don’t engage in that in any sincere way, and I think mostly what’s going on right now is just the banality of evil at play. People are like, Look, I follow orders — to me that’s the highest value. I’m not supposed to look at these other questions — that’s not my obligation. And it’s no surprise that, this deep into statism, that we would find that most people that are part of that occupy that same place of where it’s not their duty to question those things. And I mean the best example of that is: to me, I’m violently anti-war, and anytime I talk to people about the idea of taxation and how it’s absurd to pay this money so that bombs can be used to go blow up brown people — and there’s always the prattle that they utilize to try to justify everything that’s going on. It’s just jibber-jabber, and at the end of the day they don’t address the actual topic of: what’s happening is immoral and wrong. So yeah, I think it’s this unconscious thing that’s operating from a place of — and I don’t think it has any words, actually — like I think it’s a purely emotional experience of fear, and that’s why it’s so subconscious, is because it just permeates throughout the entirety of their being, is inherently how they respond.
John Vallis [15:13]: Yeah, that’s kind of my thinking on it too. And it’s interesting: in one of your pieces, actually, you quote Carl Schmidt and you say, All significant concepts of the modern theory of the state are secularized, theological concepts. And I do wonder — I want to not overstate the detrimental effects of a lack of faith or spirituality, because even in eras that ostensibly had high prevalence of such beliefs, the state was very overbearing and tyrannical, or at least it had the capacity to be. But it does seem like today this fear that we’re talking about — where does that fear come from? Why does it manifest or fester? And what, typically, have been or could be the different things that would assuage that fear or recontextualize it in a way that’s more healthy and allows for perception and behavior that is more moral or more collaborative or more freedom-oriented? And I do think, it seems to me, that it’s fairly rational that, if you want to exacerbate that fear, then the materialist, reductionist worldview is a pretty good way to do it, because you’re left in a position where you think everything is mechanical, there’s nothing after this, there’s no meaning, and so basically this is my one shot and there’s no higher order to derive wisdom from. So therefore: this is one shot and I’m the final arbiter, basically. And those two things taken together, I feel like, instill an incredible fear of death, and two, leaves the door very much ajar for each individual to become — and want to become — a tyrant, because there’s no higher authority, let’s say. It’s all a competition or battle for the authority to be invested in individuals. And I think that the modern construction of the state seems very reflective of that — to me. So this is why I think I’ve framed it in this way before, in that — and this will be very unappealing to some people, but — there does seem to be a spiritual battle happening here as well. And you just referenced that to a certain degree, and you have in your work as well. But what’s your take on: if we agree that a lot of the seeming malevolence that’s emerging in the world today or that’s prevailing, dominating in the world today comes from that fundamental fear rather than the antithesis which may be love or some allegiance to something higher, something more comforting, where do you think that comes from? And what do you think it’s manifesting?
Erik Cason [18:33]: Well I think we’ve inherited it, and there are several successive generations of the inheritance of this, and I think Nietzsche was the first to really hit the nail on the head with the death of God. And to be clear, he wasn’t talking about like, Now there is no longer actually any God, he was talking about the entire worldview of the way that we were able to approach reality — now we had slayed God in that approach to reality, and we had replaced it with scientificism. Which was great — we got tons of shit from that mode of thinking. But, as he also says — I think it’s in The Gay Science p.126 where he references the death of God — he also points out that this has unchained us to the horizon, that now we go into the sort of physics and mathematical view of the world where the Earth is no longer the center of the universe. And everything changes according to that mathematical and physics worldview, which then — initiating from where Nietzsche was when he wrote that — we went through several imperialist wars and then to the actual Great War that then led into World War II. And all of this was part of a catastrophe of both this death of God, but taking science as this thing that could do horrific crimes against humanity on untold scales never before seen or experienced before. And now we’re 70 years past that where we’ve fully taken on this nihilistic viewpoint of all the things that you’ve talked about. And I think it’s really funny because we’re obviously fucking miserable — like so, so utterly miserable — including even in the most selfish, deepest acts of like, I got three hookers and a shitload of blow and I’m just drugged out of my fucking mind. I’m like, This is just so far away from the transcendental experience of the love of God, yet this is sort of the panic that we have towards all that shit. And I think it’s really unique and interesting, because this is the conclusion that we get from a nihilistic viewpoint where the state has assumed for itself the right and role to be a God: it assumes the right and role to have rights over people’s bodies, over their minds, over the things that they say, and it’s literally put itself in place of God, and there’s a whole bunch of people out in the world who regard it as such. Like, that’s why it’s okay for the United States to blow up 30 children at a wedding party — no big deal. They’re God — they can do that! And while I think a lot of the world has swallowed that, I think there’s this whole other portion that can’t even take it. Like, it’s such a cruel and despicable and deplorable world that I think it was this last year that between the 18–50 crowd, the only thing that killed more people than self-suicide in 2021 was drug overdose. It’s extraordinary to think of the amount of true suffering and deep suffering and unspeakable suffering that’s happening because of this lack. And with that being said, it’s also extraordinary that, in the depth of all of this, and in the darkness and the evil, that out of the darkness this ray of light shines, that somehow Satoshi Nakamoto had this immaculate conception of what is Bitcoin: he was able to deploy it, get it out to people, get the network going, have it not get destroyed. So to me that is a literal miracle, that he was able to do that in this day and age in the way — because think of all of the things that could have gone wrong? All the places that he could have fucked up his forward secrecy, that Hal could have not participated, none of the cypherpunks could have got it, that there could have been a 51% attack that destroyed the network, that three-lettered agencies could have discovered this early on and did that — all this shit, and somehow it didn’t happen. And then there’s people that are like, Well, Satoshi could be one of these three-lettered agencies — sure, but even if he is, we still have all of the first principled shit that we can build out from. And to me, that’s what’s so important is that this was about allowing a form of thought entering into the world that was created from first principles that actually proves that Man is a decent person, and that using asymmetric cryptography in order to interact with this metaphysical Other, helps to open an entirely new world because we’re able to ask, What does it mean that my being in this world where evil seems to reign supreme and that nihilism of this kind that it can’t seem like there can be a God with this sort of horrific shit going on, that within all of this, we can be delivered this new mode to store our wealth outside and beyond these powers of evil and wrath? To me that’s messianic. The fact that, even if the state chooses to destroy me, they can’t have my wealth. And that is so fundamentally different, and particularly when we look at the fact that we exist in an advanced, globalized, technological, capitalist world, the fact that in the depth of that, I can now extricate my wealth? It’s just so perfect. And I have to imagine that this is part of God’s grand plan, because if somehow we got something like a Bitcoin 500 years ago, it doesn’t really matter so much! Fiat money hasn’t come to take over everything, there’s still an ability to actually push back against the state and the power of the purse. And so it was only through extreme fiatism that Bitcoin would actually have its full capacity of power. And to me, that’s so extraordinary! I think even if we had somehow managed to stay on a gold standard all the way till now, Bitcoin would not be nearly as substantial or powerful as it is today. And that’s really important — and then the secondary irony of Bitcoin is that, from first principles, it has all of this cryptography which is the thing that allows for us to disable the panopticon in the most powerful way. So I think all these things are really important from a first principled standpoint, and this recovery from authoritarianism to truth.
John Vallis [25:30]: Yeah I want to come back to a lot of that, but I want to stay on the state and fear a little bit for a while. And keep in mind: we have unlimited time in this thing, so we can stay on any one of these things for as long as we want. But we were talking about space exploration before we started, or maybe I’ll include that in the beginning, but among other things — and again, I’m not like against exploration, it may indeed be an inevitable human impulse to extend the domain of the known, as it were , but— it is in a sense also trying to just get as far away from the self as possible, right? Like, as we’re kind of talking about this ignoring the fundamental drivers that are fostering our perception and therefore the culture that we contend with in our political institutions and all that kind of stuff, and it almost seems like the ethos or the mantra of modernity or technological, materialistic innovation is just to keep complexifying and pushing outward almost in order to avoid having to have the same sort of robust effort directed inward, because it’s far more frightening — the inward than the outward. And I do think that’s part of the issue plaguing the world today, and you referenced how what Nietzsche said about the death of God and the enlightenment and there was all this good stuff out of it because look at all this great innovation and blah blah blah that came from it, but it came with a cost, right? But this is something I brought up in one of our previous discussions, but I don’t think we’ve properly answered the question: To what end? Why is it good that we have more creature comforts today? That we live to be 80 instead of 60 or 50? That we can talk like this versus me and you gotta walk 100 miles to get together and have a picnic together? Why is that better? Because we have this — the de facto narrative is one of progress today, especially amongst the more rationalist, materialist, reductionist sort of group, right? Like, human history is basically a linear line and it’s been a few up and downs — the Dark Ages were a little bit of a stagnation — but it’s basically been from the bottom left to the upper right of progress. And I’m not convinced that that’s been the case. We tend to highlight — like, we look at the ways in which law may have evolved, we look at ways in which obviously technology or architecture or systems of philosophy or religious thinking or what have you — we impose our narrative of progress onto those things and say, See? That’s progress! These are all the marking points of progress. But to my mind, to sum it up perhaps in an oversimplified way, it’s like: Sure, we can have a colony on Mars and we can have Netflix and iPhones and all the rest of it, but to your point about how unhappy people are today and the figures around suicide and drug overdoses and depression and all that kind of stuff, if our moment-to-moment experience of life is not better — and we will have to at some point define what that is, or at least attempt to — then how can we claim any kind of progress? Why is it de facto better that I have 20 more years to live if my moment-to-moment experience of life is worse, not better? And so I’m interested in exploring this aspect of things with you. And before I share any more of my thoughts, I want to hear your immediate reaction to that.
Erik Cason [29:34]: Yeah to me this is also why it’s metaphysical and why it seems to have such dynamic and immediate tensions, essentially, with truth about who we are and what we are, is that: all of this idea of progress, it reminds me of Walter Benjamin in his Theses on the Philosophy of History, which was the last thing that he wrote before he committed suicide because the Nazis had caught him — he has in that this idea. He has a painting from Paul Klee called the Angelus Novus, and it’s very interesting because it’s this piece of modern art and the angel is moving away from something. And in the essay Walter Benjamin says that this angel, his wings are caught in a gale of progress that makes it so he can’t close them, and he’s being blown through time. So the idea is that he’s falling from heaven, and the way that his wings are open, the wind is pushing him through history so his back is moving away as he’s falling from heaven, and that this is the idea of progress. And that’s sort of what progress is: it’s this catastrophe on top of catastrophe on top of catastrophe on top of catastrophe that we’re told is “progress” because we live a little longer, we have more shit. But if you look at stuff like statistics around suicide: since we started recording them in the 1890s it’s up and to the right. What does it mean? And to be clear: suicide was considered such a sinful and horrific thing to do — and it still is today — but when we came from a more religious society, it was much more rare to happen. And I think that that’s part of what modernity is about, is that — and yeah this is just pure propaganda — if you tell people long enough that what’s going on is progress, they believe it’s progress. I think that there’s another ethical form where if you told people this they would smash all your shit and they would physically attack you and they’d say, Fuck you! Like, you’re clearly trying to manipulate me and lie to me and force me to accept that. And that’s part of the problem with where we’re at today is like: we’re so deep in the world of sycophantry and guile and lie that it’s just a natural part of what we do as people. And we don’t want to hold people responsible, we don’t want to have them — like, we all understand it. And to me that’s much more about a collapse of language than anything else, and that we can’t manifest or actualize anything we want to say, even if we mean it! And that’s one of the reasons why, again, Bitcoin is so powerful, because it is this actual institution of cryptography that forces us to maintain the commitments that we make, whether that’s sending out a transaction or putting something in an OP_RETURN or whatever else, and it’s extremely important to understand that now we have this relationship with technology that we can actually enter into that relationship freely in a way that’s never been possible before in all of human history, because this is really just about a protocol of liturgy towards our own wealth. And we had to make this liturgy — Satoshi made it for us and we can all verify it for ourselves — but the absolute demand of this liturgy was necessary because there’s no other way to get back to truth and to have that kind of accountability towards it. And I also want to emphasize — and this is why I think we can recover all of this, too — is that I very sincerely don’t believe there’s evil dudes out there being like, Ha-ha, I’m gonna get more money from — No! It’s just fucking lobotomized. It’s all these shithead VCs on Twitter who are like, We’re all doing the revolution with NFTs! And look! You can own it! And they sincerely believe that — they think it’s super-great that you can own an NFT and this is gonna change the world, but it’s just the same lobotomized bullshit of: that they’re so deep in to the mess that they’re in, they can’t realize that this is all just fucking nonsense versus what’s really going on.
John Vallis [34:10]: Yeah. So one of the things that I feel, especially today, a lot of people remark that history doesn’t repeat but it rhymes, and it seems like we always repeat the same mistakes of history, right? And all it takes is a slight change in circumstance for us to assume that it’s different this time. And I think that illusion of progress is part of the reason why we continue to make that mistake, because we say to ourselves, No, we’re better now — we’re not as stupid and dumb as we were back then. Those stupid dumb people who fill in the blank did, believed whatever — they believed in religion, they only used stone tools, they didn’t have kale shakes or whatever the fuck. Like, that illusion of chronological progress increases the propensity for us to fall to hubris in our assessment of the past, and our propensity to engage in the same mistakes that we had done in the past. And it boggles the mind today to see there’s not even that many differences — a lot of the behaviors, a lot of the rhetoric, are identical to mistakes that we’ve made not even 100 years ago, and they’re being made again in very rapid succession, with very little pushback from the majority of people. And so again, before we really dig into the meat of Bitcoin’s role in all this, I want to hang out and really discuss and explore underlying motivations. So for example, back to that point about: What is progress? What is worthwhile? What makes something worthwhile? How do we judge something as being progress? And that’s a real tricky question, and I’ve brought up this example on one of our calls also before, but I think we both share an interest in ancient civilizations and all that jazz. And one that seems particularly paradisal to me — and of course I know it wasn’t but just if you look at art and architecture and whatever we can derive from our investigation of history — the Minoan culture seemed pretty sweet, right? It seemed like it was not a very warfaring or war-oriented culture. They lived on an island, of course. 2000 BC, lots of trade — that seemed to be maybe what fostered peace — everyone looked really healthy, wore cool clothes, had lots of amazing food. Like, it looked like a pretty badass culture. And on what basis do we just de facto assume today that we are more advanced in any other way than our technological implements?
Erik Cason [37:05]: It’s a culture that’s based upon fear — that’s my answer. It’s absolutely a culture based on fear.
John Vallis: Today, you mean?
Erik Cason: Yeah. And because of that culture of fear, we look at the Minoans and we go, Oh God! They could get diseases! Or, They could get sick! Or, They’re gonna die before they’re 38 years old! And so a large part of our society is based upon, frankly, callousness. And it has to be, because there’s been this total closure of the world where we now live inside of the cultivated garden, the box that they have for us — you can’t wander off the trails. Because everything is so fear-based that we need to make sure that we’re “safe”, and to us this “being safe” is what progress is. And it’s this lobotomized idea, because go back to these Minoan ideas and you go, Hey, if you go into war and you lead your people and right as the war gets started you’re stabbed in the head and gone — what do you people think of that? They’d be like, Oh, fucking glory! I led my people, I went to war, and then I went off to the Minoan version of Valhalla — that’s fucking it. When you talk to people about that today — two things: one is that modern war isn’t war at all, it’s like hyper-killing, and I think it’s fucking hilarious when people are like, I’m a soldier and I’m super brave because I shoot somebody from 500 yards away with my rifle — Fuck you! You’re not brave at all! You’re actually a huge pussy! Being brave is like going up in front of the guy that you need to kill and locking eyes with him and ramming your sword through him and watching his life leave him, because that’s what all of our ancestors did, and they honored each other with that form of war. And I think also if you’re like, Hey check it out: here’s your high-powered rifle that you can use to assassinate this guy from two clicks away — they’d kind of be like, Ummm, this doesn’t seem to be a very honorable tool. And this is part of it, because this idea of progress has disposed of everything else, because it’s just progress in terms of this idea of a classic liberal sense. And I want to be very clear when I use that: it’s not a right-left liberalism, but it’s the classic liberalism that manifested the nation-state as we know it and a lot of Western culture, and specifically, our culture shifted with this death of God, of where it no longer wanted to be about achieving these high ideals through art and the Renaissance and all these other things, but it collapsed into itself because it became about the modernity of the state, how the state can become this welfare device, how it can provide health for us. And that’s very troubling, because that shift of the state becoming God also became a shift that the state has responsibility for your body, for your health, this idea of “progress” and what it demands as “progress”, and I would point out that “progress” has happened absolutely from the perspective of the state — it’s infinitely more powerful than I think anybody in the 1800s could have ever imagined they would be. And to it’s progress: it sees more, it knows more, it “understands” more, and it’s about all this gathering of data. And I think to me that’s one of the great errors that has been presented, is that through the “dataization” of what’s occurred that we can be like, Oh look! Less children are dying in the 20th century than the 18th century, so we must be better. Well it’s interesting because my response to that is like, Okay, so before 1800, about, I think it was actually like one in four children died before the age of five. Like, that’s horrific and it’s wrong and it’s terrible and we have to do everything to prevent that, right? Well, what I’d counter is that because going through this experience of — likely, if you have a child, there’s a high probability that they could die — if you have a child that dies, you’re probably going to have a lot higher value towards the life of children when you encounter it. It’s probably also going to emotionally affect you to be different to think about those children differently. It’s also going to have you approach life in a totally different way knowing that your child could die pretty readily or quickly. And same thing goes with all the other health ailments. And this kind of brings us back to the beginning of all the stuff that we were talking about of: we have this very inauthentic relationship towards death where we don’t think about it, we don’t consider it, we don’t allow for it to be part of our society. And that inauthenticity has permeated everything, and that’s why fear is such a fundamental component of this society, is because it absolutely demands and needs to have fear as a predication, because, if we authentically deal with the idea of death, that means we have to authentically go through the angst that occurs with it and to try finding meaning in our life now currently today with the knowledge that we will die. And to me everything in modernity is about preventing those thoughts from happening. It’s about trying to make it easier, more comfortable, to try to avoid it. And I think what’s so interesting for myself from a personal standpoint is watching people that are very old going through the process of death as I understand it, and feeling that it’s really unfortunate how many people that, as I watch them go through these stages of death, it’s not this courageous meeting of death — it’s this struggle to cling to life, so much so that I think about my own grandfather, who I loved dearly and thought was an extraordinary man, but because of the way he clung to death too because the way that this culture made it, he was a shell of himself by the time he was dying. And I think that there are many ancient cultures that I think, if they saw that idea as opposed to greeting death, that they would find that something very specifically horrific and disgusting. Like, they would almost see it as some strange bridge between not being quite alive, but not being quite dead. And I think that that’s really important because by not authentically dealing with death in a meaningful way, we’ve produced an entire society of inauthenticity that is based around fear, and because it’s based around fear it goes to authoritarianism because it can’t have any self-conviction of the self, because if there is self-conviction of the self, you’ve dealt with the fact that you’re going to die and you can be authentic towards it and you can move through the world in that way.
John Vallis [44:16]: A lot there. One of the things that’s interesting, just on that point before I go back to a few others, is: I think that’s why so many of the at least mystical components of a lot of historical religions, or mystery schools, or however you want to characterize them, had as one of their most sacred rites was something that helped you die before you die, as it’s called. So helped you contextualize your mortality better so that you can bring more life into your experience of now, and not have it be diluted or deprecated in some way by your fear of your inevitable non-existence — something like that. And that’s why it was so critical, because if you are going to lead a a full life and gain access to the good that life holds that we’re able to experience as human beings and conscious human beings, then you have to contend with that aspect of the inevitable trajectory of your life. And I agree that I think, in culture today, we’ve neglected it so much to our detriment, and that is partially why there’s so much motivation to fill life up now with things and to avoid as much as possible that inevitable event on the horizon which is our individual extinction — dying. So we hold on to every last breath and they jack us all full of tubes for five years just so we can live one more day — and for what? For no real reason. And I think one of the results of this primary adherence to this progress narrative is science — and I don’t just mean like medical science, but science in all its forms — being seen as the highest good, being seen as the most worthwhile pursuit, being seen as the highest authority. And all of that I think leads to perhaps a consciousness that’s more distracted, but not one that is more grounded in the perception that’s going to elicit a joyous experience of being. And so off the back of that, I want to go back to the the Minoan example because I’d really love to get your thoughts on this: I mean if we look at these two civilizations, I’m really curious to know — it’s still something that I am exploring and working out in my own mind, but — what is it that distinguishes the two in terms of quality? What would you think is the qualitative difference between, if you were a person existing in that civilization four thousand some odd years ago, or one in this one today? And the reason why I ask that question is because, if this notion of progress is debunked, in a sense, then I think that then the door is open for us to investigate and explore a redefinition of progress, and to explore what, if any, progress we’re achieving? And I do want to move on to that next — and I have thoughts — but if we’re kind of pulling this thread of like, Who cares if we have iPhones and 20 years on our lifespan, on average, if that life is more miserable? If, as you said before, there’s less honor, there’s less joy, there’s less love, there’s less meaning, then it’s not progress at all, or that’s a misuse of the term — it would be a regression of some kind. At least in my mind it would be, because we’d be optimizing for the attributes or metrics that don’t actually improve one’s quality of life one’s experience of consciousness. So what do you think in terms of qualitative differences between then and now?
Erik Cason [48:59]: Great question. I think the primary one is going to be the richness of life that is taken upon when risk is inherently baked in to a life being lived. And I think that this is very important, because in the Minoan culture, you go out, you get malaria or something — now you’re dead. That that’s just how it is. And I think that because of the fundamental risk that’s at play, that there’s a totally different form of life that’s had that we’re completely blinded to. And I think it’s so hard to try to address this progress point when we’re so embedded into it because we don’t — and this is part of the problem of language today too is that we’re so, so deep into it that there’s almost no way to try to extricate having a different perspective. And I guess to serve one of the examples is: in modernity, we can dataize all of this in such a way that we can go, Look, you’re hitting every single point where you’re supposed to be happy, that you’re supposed to have progress. Well, this is such an amorphous thing. And a great example is the founder of Zappos: he was rich guy, had big community around him, lots of people — like, he lost his fucking mind and burned himself alive in his house. There’s so much suffering that’s going on that we can’t grapple to with this data stuff, that we don’t include it or think about it because we can’t grapple on to it or consider it. Like, misery is such a great idea: how do you qualify what is misery? We can get all the shit around it, but I’m talking about the actual subjective experience of being miserable. And I think because in modernity we don’t have these data models to grapple on to that, that’s one of the ways that we can sort of dispose of it, with this idea of progress. And furthermore, I think that to me this is a part of the idea of: What is your soul? And what does it mean to you? And to most people that’s sort of this laughable thing because they live in the nihilistic world. And so I think in order to be able to try to debunk this idea of progress, we first have to debunk this idea that there is no higher power, because I think if you can get through to that point — and when I say a higher power I don’t even mean God, I just mean that there is something that is beyond the state and is more powerful, and there’s something that’s non-sensual about this place, everything isn’t as it meets its eye and it isn’t all materialistic — you can do with yourself whatever else you want with that, but until we dispel of the notion that the world is only material shit, I don’t think we can ever address this issue of progress. Because at the end of the day, that’s what’s happening and that’s why people are so fucking miserable, is because our souls are suffering — we’re not connecting to each other, we’re not loving in the way of agapē, we’re not creating community, and more importantly, we’re not able to take on a fundamentally different form of risk because of the kind of thought that we have. I think probably the best example is the term risk we’ll talk about in financial profiles — that’s not an actual risk! Risk is: you incurring bodily harm that could destroy your existence in this world. And so I think these obfuscations of the idea of what risk is, exactly, and how we deal with it, is also part of this callous and fearful mindset of, We always need to be trying to acquire safety to try to get everything in a place where it’s standing reserved for us if we need to try to grapple onto it and use it. And all of this has transformed the world in a really fucked up way. And with that being said: as dark as all this shit gets, the other part can’t ever be extinguished. It’s just fundamentally impossible because that’s the true essence of humans, and the pursuit of trying to discover, What is truth? What is the meaning to our life here? What does progress mean? And I think particularly when we also divide the idea of progress of the whole of society from progress for myself — and I realized that those have absolutely no relationship whatsoever to each other with the exception of how it can flow out from me, but I can’t get it from society. It has to be something that’s discovered from within me, and with that discovery, because of how it empowers me, it can flow out from me, but the stuff flowing into me from this society and these ideals of progress, it can’t create a positive flow.
John Vallis [54:16]: That’s what I’m getting at here, is trying to define or discern or elucidate or gain clarity around, What is progress? Because if we don’t have that, then we’re flying blind. Like, what are we orienting ourselves to if not progress? And of course, as you just said, there’s the individual domain and then perhaps there’s a collective domain. And I think there is a relationship between the two, although we can explore that in a couple minutes. And I think this goes back to — and this is another thing that really annoys me about our current time, but — we have all of these ancient traditions and there’s a lot of wisdom and insight, hard-fought, that comes from our investigation of our ancient cultures and traditions, and they’re done away with so willy-nilly, just by virtue of the fact that they came before our current elevated, more along the chronological progress timeline of today. So I think a lot of our predecessors were like, Yeah sure, they lived in marble houses instead of wood and fucking asbestos — Okay, does that make them any less capable of inquiring into the nature of being? Into the nature of value? Into orienting oneself in alignment with what might be most worthwhile? I don’t think it does! And I think it’s amazing — this is another thing — like, not only did they pursue those questions, basically, What is the meaning of life? What does progress look like? And as we said before, one of the ways that they they engaged that was you have to die before you die in order to kind of relinquish the material primacy, the primacy of material versus the primacy of something immaterial, and dying before you die and having that experience of perhaps ego death is one of the ways to do that. I look at something like Eleusis, right? I presume you’re familiar with the Eleusinian mysteries. It seems like these were ongoing mysteries even prior to the ancient Greek world, and then they were integrated into the ancient Greek world and survived there for thousands of years, and then perhaps after the fall of the ancient Greek world, they disseminated throughout different pockets throughout the Mediterranean, and further afield. And in other regions of the world and in other ancient cultures, there’s similar institutions that were erected. And to me it’s mind-blowing — whether we’re talking about the Eleusinian mysteries or whether we’re looking at ancient Indus valley civilizations like Harappa and Mohenjo-daro — and you look at what constituted the bulk of the writing and the iconography and the art of these periods, and it was like such a devotion to those inquiries and to the insights and wisdom that were derived from them, and to holding them up as the utmost important experiences or practices or systems of the culture. And to me it’s so amazing, because we have so little of that reverence in our world today, and it’s amazing to me that — and like you and I might be able to say, Yeah of course, those experiences are really important — but even for someone like myself, I try to empathize with being a member of a civilization for whom that was always front and center. There were other pursuits of course — there was daily life and architecture and trade and all this kind of stuff. But the front and center thing that you would see in the temple walls and in the only available texts and in the the core of the civilization of which you were apart were these pursuits. And it’s almost amazing to me, given my assessment of human beings in the world today, that we did such a — fallible as we were, and ups and downs as we had — that we managed to maintain the elevation of these inquiries for so long in so many regions in such a way, because we seem to today have dismissed them so thoughtlessly. Because, again, I think those pursuits — ultimately you boil it down and they are trying to answer the question, What is progress? I.e.: What should I be striving most for? What is the most worthwhile thing to strive for? To orient myself my life around? What’s the most worthwhile pursuit? That’s what these practices and these systems are trying to answer. And we can definitely delve into what some of those answers were in different places in the world, but, one, I think that’s amazing that it was so preserved in its proper elevation, in my opinion, for so long. But I still wonder: Are we any more advanced? If we’re going with this kind of definition, perspective, of progress today than we were if we were just two dudes hanging out eating figs on the corner, on the beach, in Minoan-era Crete. Are we by any valid measure more “advanced”? Or have we achieved any progress whatsoever from that time?
Erik Cason [1:00:26]: So my direct answer is No. Actually it’s the opposite: it’s not progress that we’ve had. Human progress is fundamentally and distinctly different from technological progress. And that’s one of the key problems. So when we talk about, We’re in a “progressive” society — yeah, with technology — not for fucking humans at all. I mean like, objectively speaking, I can go, Check it out: the technology we have, not only is it bad for us as people — it’s killing us, it’s enslaving us, it’s destroying the world, and it’s opening up the existential threat to not only all of humanity but all of biological life itself — that is absolutely fucking bonkers. I talk to our fig-eating friends 4,000 years ago and tell them that, they go, Whoa dude. Who knows how any of that crazy shit could happen, but the idea that people could blow up the entire world itself — like, get out of here. And it’s really important to get that, because that sort of infection of our mind has bled into us. We’ve been taught that this is what progress is when it’s anything but, and I think that the most ironic thing is: anybody you talk to about this, if you could try to get them to move away from the mind and just talk about the actual feelings and experiences of their body towards thinking about that, I think almost anyone would acknowledge that this isn’t a fun, happy world of greatness and play and wonderful progress. I feel like there’s a real truth that we know inside of our bodies and as our experience in this world that there’s something deeply, deeply, deeply wrong. And so like I think this false notion of progress, we’ve fooled ourselves that because we can get these datasets, that we can say, Well, we’ve got some more shit, that we truly believe that we are better. But I think the sincere experience of people’s bodies and who they are — like, there’s a handful of people that I could say, Oh, that person is truly happy and they’ve had personal progress for themselves in folds and magnitudes. The only people I know about that do this are people that are super focused on their own spiritual development, they meditate hours every day, and this is a big part of their commitment of being in the world. And it seems to be directly because they are focused on their spirituality and developing that for themselves individually and finding others to help them with that. And that’s not encouraged or cultivated anywhere in our society, and frankly it’s almost laughed at. And this this goes back to the other conclusion — I got this from Leo Strauss: We’re not even in Plato’s cave anymore. We’re in a cave underneath Plato’s cave. Like, that’s how fucked up everything is. It’s like, we can’t even get to a place to see the shadows because we’re underneath the cave — that’s how fucked it is. And I think it’s really, really important for people to meditate on this, because for all of human history — and I guess the to address your idea — I don’t think these values were held high for that long. I actually think that is what was absolutely and completely normal, and that’s part of being truly present. If you’re truly present, you realize you’re alive and that you’re here and that this is a meaningful experience that you need to concentrate on and try to understand and explore. And that’s not found anywhere in this society unless you go and actively seek it out. And so I think it’s really, really important to realize that like we inherited a society — and again, getting back to Nietzsche and the death of God — that’s the dividing line where we came from: God is dead. People don’t think about or are concerned with this anymore — let’s move forward with technological progress in place of personal and spiritual progress, which has inverted all of these functions. So like, Yeah sure, we have material progress abound, and that has came at the direct personal spiritual suffering of each and every one of us, to have to go through this world as it is.
John Vallis [1:05:05]: Yeah. This somewhat reminds me of the Gnostic — and I guess most, in my mind, represented in the philosophy of condemning the material world rather than holding it up as perhaps we do today, but condemning it. And I’m not promoting that view per se right now, but just to say: I think part of the motivation behind that type of philosophy was recognizing the primacy of the internal world and deriving peace and joy from the landscapes and the wellspring, perhaps, of meaning in there, and making the material world subservient to it. But also, perhaps why they condemned it is recognizing the tendency to attempt to manipulate the material world as we do — we try to meet our needs, we try to make our lives more comfortable, more convenient, we try to expand our domain of control, we try to make things more convenient, we try to give ourselves more time, etc. — but the propensity for that process playing out to ascend to the top of a type of value hierarchy or a meaning hierarchy, and therefore the latter, the internal, where perhaps we might agree where it’s genuinely to be found becoming subservient to those material, technological pursuits, and that inevitably leading to bad outcomes, and why it may for them have constituted basically the basis for their faith because they saw it as being such an important dichotomy or pitfall to avoid. And that’s an interesting take on things and it’s worth noting that they were all massacred in the Albigensian Crusade — I believe it was Pope Albigensian, and someone will have to fact check me on that, but — he sent out the boys to clean them all up because they weren’t thinking in line with the dominant orthodoxy at the time. But it does bring to light in my mind this question of, Okay, if we agree, for lack of a better term, that true meaning and true progress is to be sought and derived from within — and we’ll just shelve for a moment the notion that we exist in relationship to our environments and culture, and so there is, in my opinion, a feedback loop there that has to be mediated in order to foster whatever internal state we’re looking for, but let’s just shelve that for a moment and say that we agree that that’s where the nexus of ultimate value is, and meaning is, and therefore should be the domain of our primary concern. But we also have this proclivity or tendency or impulse — perhaps unavoidable — to manipulate the outer world to conform to certain elements of ourselves. And it would seem that we try to manipulate the material world to conform to the areas where we’re deficient, because otherwise why would we do it? So we say, I don’t like sleeping in the rain so I’m going to build a hut, or, I get sweaty all the time so I’m going to build air conditioners. And so all those things that have their genesis internally, we then take the material world and we try to make ourselves less deficient vis-a-vis those discomforts, let’s say, and then therefore we construct a world that is primarily based on what were once deficiencies, and then we inevitably just keep doing that to continue shoring up, addressing, or even discovering new deficiencies that our manipulation of the material world can alleviate. And so then perhaps as a result of that, we construct a material world that is primarily a manifestation or even a reflection of our deficiencies rather than the opposite of our deficiencies — the things that are, for lack of a better term, we know and love about ourselves or that we have under our own control and dominion and we’re at peace with, for example. And so that makes me think like, Well, why is it that we have this impulse to manipulate that world? Let’s say that maybe that’s one of the pitfalls. But does that mean that it’s condemned entirely? As in, perhaps, the case of the Cathars? Well, from the perspective of the modern world it’s really hard to say that, and maybe that’s only because we’re so attached to all the creature comforts of the modern world. I love air conditioning, I love Netflix, I love iPhones — it’s all awesome, but as we’ve been exploring: Are those the metrics by which to assess worthwhileness, of quality? Of value? Of progress? And if the answer is, No, well then what should the proper relationship to technology — i.e our manipulation of the material world — be? And to me there seems to be a potential answer to that question — and this is my long-winded way of posing it to you: Maybe it’s the case as we’re evolving — we’re apes, then we’re neanderthals — and there’s a notion of participation mystique which basically is describing the tendency or the circumstance of early humans to basically have less of an individual identity and therefore be more identified with the group. As in pack animals, for example. And as our consciousness develops, it individuates further. And as culture becomes more complex, it allows for more individuation of consciousness because it allows for a more complex array of things to ascribe and associate with your consciousness, i.e allowing you to become more individuated. And another side-note on that is like, Well, are the things that you associate with your personality really you? Or is there something behind all those things that is “really you”? But we’ll leave that one for now. So is it the case that we’re increasingly becoming individuated as a result of technology? And that’s why the process — even though it can lead us astray, but — that’s why the impulse for that, the curiosity and the desire to manipulate the material world, is almost seemingly inevitable, because it does lead to further individuation? And in my mind — again, with many pitfalls — maybe that’s necessary for the further experience of liberation? And as I touched on very briefly in the piece I recently published: Perhaps liberation is one of the primary values. If we’re looking for an idea of progress, let’s say on an individual basis, maybe the experience of true liberation — liberation from your thoughts, liberation from your fears, liberation from your attachments — is one of the highest ideals? And it seems somewhat circular here because you could say, Well, wouldn’t you almost have it by default as a result of that participation mystique? Because you’re not being drawn away or to or reliant upon all those material creature comforts? And the answer is probably Yes there, but you’re still too much bound up with the group. And so maybe our impulse for technology and technological advancement is to individuate ourselves more and more and more over time such that we are more able to pursue liberation, which paradoxically unifies us back with the whole, if you believe in a philosophy that ultimately everything is unified in some capacity. So, yeah — thoughts?
Erik Cason [1:13:47]: So I think this is a place that there’s a very interesting and unique division, is that I think this individuation through technology — I think that progress was once true up until we started to get into the digital era, and that all of this technology then became this panoptic, communistic thing that wants to actually like homogenize all people, make them all the same, and put them all together in the same way. But what’s deeply ironic about it is that: With the actual achievements of cryptography and the finality of what the web is, it actually allows for this total recovery of the full individual through cryptography and anonymity. Like, now there’s this ability to be a total individual in a way that nobody can touch or know or understand it all. And to me, this is what’s so metaphysical about all this is that there’s these extremely deep tensions in interplay, and this is one of them: Through technology, we’re clearly achieving these huge and monumental changes that allow for us to be so much more powerful, but at the same time it’s very much capturing us and making us reliant upon it and having us be weaker, so much so that now being produced in society today, we are these sort of vacant bodies — we’re taught that we are useless and that we can’t do any of these things on our own. And I think it’s so interesting because these other societies that existed long before this progress was like, Hey, I want a hut because I don’t want to live in the rain. It’s like, Well, we’re going to sleep in the rain because it makes us stronger or more powerful or more connected to the nature or whatever else. And this is part of the viewpoint of modernity is that this idea of being comfortable is progress itself, when it doesn’t also acknowledge that the creation of those comforts cuts off other things. And another example would be like this way that we’re so pedantic about trying to add more years to our life and that’s this ultimate quest and we can do that with technology and by bonding to it — but the truth is: That’s removing something from us and ourselves and our relationship to ourselves. And so I think this dynamicism of technology, at the bottom, is really interesting because it sort of extends this promise to us of like, Hey, we can make things easier, you can progress more with us. But as we enter into a relationship with it, it breaks us down and makes us weaker and more reliant upon it, and that could go totally into a slavery kind of territory. However, because of the way that the interweb is manifesting both cryptography and pseudonymity and total anonymity that there’s almost this dividing function where we get the most radical form of individual and we get the most radical form of communalism. And to me this manifests itself in Bitcoin with Satoshi Nakamoto: Satoshi is this anonymous person who nobody knows and hopefully nobody ever will know, and I’m in a free relationship with him vis-a-vis cryptography because of how we interact with each other. And to me, this is this Heideggerian idea of the first truly free relationship with technology that we’ve ever created, and it also happens to be messianic because it is the first truly free relationship with technology that we’ve ever had. And so it reunifies these two divisions that have been happening with technology for a very long time, in my opinion.
John Vallis [1:18:01]: Yeah that’s a very interesting point. So I want to comment two things: one is perhaps evolution of consciousness is a better stand-in for individuation. You can go back to cave paintings 40,000 years ago or you can go back to the earliest icons or dolls or statues of various kinds that were made, and because so little articulation was available to them, articulation of many kinds — words, concepts, forms — their representation of the emergence of those ideas or images in their mind took a very, to us now, rudimentary form. And this is part of the process of culture, which is why I say this it’s a relationship and a feedback loop, because as culture complexifies, we’re more able to express the contents that are bubbling up in our consciousness. And so if you go back 200,000 years ago, there’s basically no representation: there’s very basic rudimentary beginnings of tools and that kind of thing, and as culture develops, we develop in tandem with it, and we end up using the languages and the images and the skills and the knowledge and all that kind of stuff to continue to investigate or mine ourselves. And culture is both an externalization of ourselves and a means by which we can continue to do that — which, side-note, is why it’s so important that it’s predicated on the right principles and systems which right now it’s really fucking not—and there you go: We have a culture that’s not such a good feedback partner. But what you said there was really important. So technology maybe just raises the stakes — it doesn’t fundamentally change the game. So yeah it’s either going to be used to enslave you or to free you. It doesn’t matter if we’re talking about the first hand painting or drawing or the first coherent phrase that was used or the first hand signals to use or whatever — there’s always going to be good and bad. And it may be the case that if we accept that technology is going to both reflect and help us to make material what’s happening inside of us — you know, we’ve been talking about these somewhat esoteric concepts around spirituality which I know we’re both interested in and we pursue them and we have our own practices and that kind of stuff, but — maybe the purpose of technology is to help us to externalize that state, but the ability to do that doesn’t come without the pitfall of being able to externalize [pause]. Let’s bring it way back to the beginning: Technology will allow us to make material, to transform our material bodies and reality and not just the inner landscape, into Fear, to use an all-encompassing term, or into Love. If we’re going to use that as the polarity or the dichotomy between the two essences, two foundational energies — and they may not be but just for the sake of this discussion — and so it is our impulse for technology to continually strive toward finding ways to make our exterior experience reflect our interior experience, and reflect the best elements of our interior experience. Can we define progress as: The successful accomplishment of that, of turning the best within us into the material world? Somewhat of the idea of the manifestation of the Kingdom of God on Earth. Is that one of the points of technology? And the reason why I particularly bring this up with you is because you focused on — in your work: One of the qualities that makes Bitcoin messianic and why it has such an ontological power is because of the answer to the question, Why is cryptography even possible? What does it say about reality that this type of cryptography is possible in that it is a tool to preserve the sovereignty of an individual or of information more than it is a tool to squelch that? And so I’ll give you a chance to respond to that, for sure. My direct question is: Is it possible that the impulse for technology, for our pursuit of technology and the material manipulation required for that, while rife with downsides and pitfalls and being led astray in that domain, is it to try to make the outer world reflect the inner world as much as possible? And is that a worthwhile pursuit?
Erik Cason [1:24:01]: I think that’s the initiating point, that essentially the purpose of technology is to transform ends that we desire into means that we have in order to do that. And I think that for all of human history, from the initiation of that position, it almost always goes awry, which pretty much leads out to most of humanity, but there’s these interesting recoveries where we come all the way back around and we’re able to actually present something new and substantial and profound, and that’s these level ups in human consciousness that are really, really important.
John Vallis [1:24:49]: So are you saying that those level ups that are achieved through technology end up, through a feedback process, fostering the continued evolution of consciousness? I guess that’s kind of what I was getting at too. Is that what you’re saying?
Erik Cason: Yeah. And it’s this super sloppy, fucked up process where we almost have to make every single possible mistake beforehand until we can recover it back. And once we do recover it back, it’s pretty badass because we had somebody like Jesus who showed up and he was like, Hey, check it out: you don’t have to kill animals every single time you want something. I’m just gonna die this one time and that’s fucking done. And to be clear: that was a technological progress through this idea of spirituality that was able to be displayed. And same thing with when we got the printing press. It was like, Hey, check it out: you don’t just need to believe what the priest says because we can like print this shit out and you can read it for yourself. And these are almost mistakes that upgrade our consciousness that are really, really important. And I think that’s also where we’ve came back. And just on your point about what cryptography does: to be clear, all of the abilities and capacities of Bitcoin, cryptography, and all these things, have always existed in the universe, they were just discovered later on once we had all these much more deep understandings of how mathematics and these things work. But to me, this is one of the things that displays that God truly loves us. It’s like: Why the fuck does math — this fundamental aspect of physics — have this ability to protect us in such a way, and that we were able to discover it and deploy it and all these things? And also that it was developed — through the hyper war machine of the state and its prattling paranoia to need to try to protect itself beyond all else —it somehow delivers to us this piece of technology that can actually protect us in a way that no institution, thing, government, person, has ever been able to do except for God. That’s part of what it is, is that it’s bonding us back into His will in this really important way. And to be clear, it’s His will not because he was like, Hey! Check it out! I’m God! Willy-nilly — I want this thing to have worth. No! Because this is part of the entirety of how the universe has always operated at its base, that cryptography happens to have worth waiting for us to discover it to rescue us from all of this fucked up nonsense. And to me, it’s so extraordinary that this is delivered through technology. And part of the reason why is because we’re so, so deep into this technological progress — and I talk about this idea of a totalitarian panopticon that can capture all of humanity, and that’s very much where we’re at — and within all this, Bitcoin was delivered to us, this understanding of cryptography, and the potential to utilize this technology and these techniques to recover all of this shit, and to actually have us enter into a totally different world where we can individually protect ourselves through cryptography, and we can still have all of this crazy and cool stuff that’s going on with the web. And so I think technology is the way that we get to these higher and higher forms of consciousness, but it’s almost always — I don’t want to call it a mistake, but just a glitch in some way. And to me, the quintessential example is with LSD being developed. Albert Hofman wasn’t out to find something to help give people a different experience of the world. I think he was developing —
John Vallis: He was working for [Beyer?].
Erik Cason: Wasn’t it for hypertension or something like that?
John Vallis: I think so. Something like that. But he was working for a big pharmaceutical company trying to make a product for hypertension or for ostensibly an illness of some kind. Maybe even a modern illness.
Erik Cason: Well, he did discover something that helps with modern illness quite a bit. But to me, this is like the slapstick way that this whole world works, and it very much reminds me of Dante’s Inferno, that this is just this fucking comedy, and also now we’re in the seventh layer of hell and everything’s horrific and terrible. And God’s like, Hey, check it out: there’s this trap door that I put right here at the very bottom for you to get back out to the top if you want to. It’s pretty profound that he does that. And to me, this is part of how he loves us so profoundly: he doesn’t just want us to arrive in the world that’s great, but he wants us to go through all of these motions to discover why there is reason about the world, in the same way that Abraham had to angst over the fact that God was asking him to do this thing that seemed unconceivable — and that’s the human condition. And for me personally, I don’t know what I would do without Bitcoin. And it’s not because of the money, it’s because of what it’s activated inside of me. It’s this ontological process that we start asking about value and progress and meaning and these things reflect in and affect us and then it happens to other people too which is fucking awesome and amazing and so wonderful to be here and to share in these things. And also sharing in these progresses and these things, it’s entering into our relationship, in my opinion, with infinity. And I say infinity because of the way that I get to become somebody that I didn’t expect myself to be, that I couldn’t have thought to be, and I think maybe likewise for you and many others. And that as we interact with it, it empowers and changes us in ways that were fundamentally inconceivable and impossible before.
John Vallis [1:30:51]: I totally agree and we will definitely crack into that further into this. But the Hoffman example is funny, and your comment on God having a slapstick sort of humor — it also makes me think of this quote that’s something to the effect of, The truth is not long hidden, because when you mentioned the LSD example, my first thought is: How many other things weren’t by happenstance discovered that are just waiting there in the ether for us to stumble upon and fundamentally change the entire world? And maybe there’s a bunch, or maybe because the truth is not long hidden, maybe that molecule and that experience had to emerge in the world by some order that we cannot comprehend, and it just so happened, perhaps because of the humor of how that force operates, it came through a humble chemist in Switzerland doing work for a pharmaceutical company, and he just gets a little too close to it, and on his bike ride home, a whole new domain of consciousness — or maybe not new because of course there was psychedelic compounds in use throughout the world, but — that that access point became available to the world because of that. Is that happenstance a coincidence and you win some, you lose some? Or is it the truth asserting itself in some slapstick or comedic sort of way? And the other thing I wanted to mention is: we‘re talking about this process of technology and how it’s messy, basically — that’s the basic point. Maybe we do inch forward to progress in some of the ways that we’ve been exploring, but it’s so hard-fought and it’s so messy and it’s so fraught with peril. And I think this is precisely why these mythological and religious narrative stories have been constructed in the way they’ve been, and this is effectively the argument that Eric Neumann makes — a former student of Jung — and a psychologist, and he looks at the mythical stories of various religions throughout time similar to Joseph Campbell and Jordan Peterson’s work, where basically the overarching structure is finding usefulness, finding something that works, finding something that brings stability and order to your experience of reality, for some — even if difficult to define — good, and then having that order become stultified in some way or become corrupted in some way, and then having it shift from being something beneficial to being something detrimental. And then the process by which that dynamic is updated is the energy — or in these stories, the regenerative hero the messiah character — who, rather than being the force of good order or the force of corruptive chaos that is playing out in this dynamic, is the one that optimally mediates between the two to make sure that they constantly have a method of updating so that we continue to move forward and not destroy ourselves. So that even if we only gain an inch of progress every 10,000 years or whatever it is — real progress — that that is the state of consciousness or the animus or the energy or the idea that allows for that process to continue to take place in a method that serves us rather than destroys us. And it’s just so interesting to me that — and I didn’t intend to weave it that direction today although I’ve been thinking about these concepts a lot lately, but — the veracity of that framing continues to emerge in my mind when we talk about these things and we’re trying to ask ourselves these questions like, What is the purpose, the benefit of technology? What does progress mean? How is it mediated? How do we engage it properly? And it always seems to be a recurrence of that dynamic. And of course, not surprisingly, I think that’s why — even though most people may not interpret it this way or even realize this — why those stories were so central and constructed in that way, because whether or not they’re contending with the Internet in 2021 and the state panopticon, or whatever challenges technology was both overcoming and creating in 3,000 BC, that overarching framework was the most optimal one to mediate the dynamic optimally.
Erik Cason [1:36:07]: I like this idea of the hero’s journey a bit, because I think that’s what’s happening for all of us right now, is: we all have to go through our own hero’s journey of trying to understand this reasonless world, find Bitcoin, recover it, use that to reintegrate and essentially be able to move progress forward. And to me what’s so interesting is that this has been a constant story repeatingly throughout all of human history, but again, in my opinion this is the moment of humanity, because now we’re dealing with these technologies and we’re at such extreme places that we’re also dealing with the metaphysical stuff. And one of the biggest ones is with how big the world is, how many people there are, how much stuff is going on. It’s really hard to say anything of certainty anymore, and I think one of the things that Bitcoin and Satoshi did was essentially from this first principle thing and be like, Look, our physical bodies and the materialism of the world is this huge problem because it instigates violence and the state instigates violence and all these things. So utilizing cryptography and bonding it into our economic wealth, we now have this ability to abscond from physicality. And to me this is this radical break from everything else, because once we take physicality off the table, there’s no way to instigate violence against each other, which is pretty much what the entirety of human civilization is about, is about how we can utilize these different techniques of violence against each other. And what I’m talking about with the totalitarian panopticon is: this is a form of discrete violence that’s so, so powerful that it actually augments the entirety of life. And to be clear, the man who came up with the panopticon, Jeremy Bentham, who was regarded widely as one of the most astounding philosophers of the 18th century, he said about the panopticon, This is the most powerful idea that I have ever had, and is the most important idea that’s been had thus far. And I think that that’s astounding because he really recognized how powerful it was to have an apparatus that people couldn’t tell if it was monitoring them or not, which is where we’re at. And so in this progress we have to deal with this exact question of: How do we have privacy? How do we get to do all these things ourselves? Bitcoin actually answers from this fundamental space and place that’s so important. And also going back to the slapstick notion of God: I absolutely believe one of the things in my own transcendental experiences with LSD that I got is that I think God is the funniest — that’s his entire mode of operation is through this really slapstick sense of humor. That’s really extreme — so much so that when we die we’re like, But God? How could you let the Holocaust happen? I think he’d be like, What do you mean? How could I let it happen? You guys are the ones who did all of it! And furthermore, if you didn’t know about all the shit that happened in the Holocaust — like, he has good reasoning for all of this stuff. And I mean the Holocaust isn’t the best example. I don’t know how to explain it other than in my personal life, and I think Gigi’s one of the best people to talk to about this: there are these serendipities and synchronocities that are happening far too often and frequently that are really funny and also extremely profound. And I don’t know what to really do with that other than realize that God just has this great sense of humor. And I also think that’s frankly why Bitcoiners are finding themselves where they are. I don’t think any of us really had this strong expectation to be part of the vanguard of this global monetary revolution that’s really about something totally fucking different from money, which I’m convinced at this point is really about the common wealth of what it is to be human.
Part II on YouTube: youtu.be/BpnW15G0Kuo
John Vallis: They take everything at face value — there’s trust everywhere. And the fucked up thing is: I don’t know if we’ve used this example in a discussion we’ve had, but it’s like if your butcher gave you rubber instead of a steak one day, you’d literally never go back. You’d be like, I can’t trust you anymore — you tried to scam me by giving me rubber instead of steak. But the government and big business and the media can lie to you over and over and over and over and over again and be caught in the lie and be fined and be this and that and all that jazz, and it does not affect even a shred your willingness to trust in them. What’s up with that?
Erik Cason: The best I can make of it is it’s a form of long-term abuse of Stockholm Syndrome where you have to believe that this is the actual truth. And this is what I was talking about with my mom, because my mom being a liberal, she’s super anxious and she always wants to make things right and make people comfortable. And this is what I told her as well: I was like, Look, I get it: this is really, really fucking dark and it’s super hard to look at it, because how is it possible that a handful of people could release an ineffective vaccine that can severely and irreparably harm people globally? It just seems way too up to engage with. And I try to point out: that’s exactly why it’s evil, is that there is no logical process to be applied to it. It’s just the banality of some fucking greedy pieces of shit that can’t think for themselves, decided that this was okay because everything else is criminal and corrupt and we blow up brown people and there’s no responsibility, so why should we care? And it’s really interesting because I’m starting to really believe that justice itself is an actual impossibility with the systematic structures that we have. And at the very end of that long essay of Walter Benjamin’s that I really love —
John Vallis: Hold on, hold on. Before you go further, because I feel like we might be getting into some meat here, and we’re moving out of personal territory which probably means that we should kick things off. Let this be the official start, and because justice is actually — I wasn’t going to start with justice because I wanted to start where you left off last time, but I’d like to hear the remainder of your thought there. So go ahead.
Erik Cason: So the impossibility of justice in this world — there’s a systematic structure that’s created in order to actually prevent this, and it’s really interesting because like, All right, guy gets caught raping some girl, goes on trial, is found guilty, gets a death sentence. People are like. Well great, that’s that’s justice! Well, no — in my opinion, justice would be the immediate response: if he’s caught, you just chop his head off. And this interlopes into some territory that is very tenuous and scary to me, because I want to make absolutely clear: non-violence is the only radical vehicle that we have to actually change the systems, and thankfully Bitcoin and all of this stuff is non-violent. But us as individuals, we have to call attention to individuals that are corrupt, that are liars, that are abusing their power, and we need to figure out ways to actually not only withdraw the capacity of them to have any power over us, but to call real responsibility. And I think something that’s super important that we forget is that these motherfuckers have names and addresses and they live in our community and participate with us. And the way that I think we deal with this is when you come across these corrupt assholes, it’s being able to call them out, being like, Oh, I know you — you’re Brian. You’re the police officer that beat up my wife at that protest. Hey everybody! This is Brian! He’s a piece of shit! He beat my wife up at the protest. Everybody, come tell Brian what you think about him. And this is actually a tactic that was used by Otpor. They were this resistance group in Serbia in the late 90’s against the Serbian regime. And what they started doing was, when the cops would come out and beat them all up at the protest, they would document who the cops, were what district they’re in, and then they would literally go to the kid’s schools and be like, Hey! This is Jeff! It’s Todd’s dad Jeff was beating people up at the protests! And well, how does everybody feel about? Tell Todd so he can go home and tell his dad.
John Vallis: So, because it may seem we’re coming at this from left-field let’s put a temporary pin in justice, but I want to come right back to it back to it soon. But we finished off the last one with you saying that Bitcoin is about more than just money — it’s about the commonwealth of what it means to be human. And that’s quite a line to leave off on, so I was hoping that you could expound somewhat on that, and we’ll come back to issues around justice and stuff like that afterwards.
Erik Cason: Yeah, so I think one thing is: first, we’ve got to take into account the general history that has put us here, and that we have the Internet, that we have these totalitarian states, they’re very, very powerful with militaries that are magnitudes beyond the powers of any other military before. What is the promise that cryptography delivers to us in all of this? And specifically asymmetric cryptography and the ability for us to communicate and hide our identities, and now with Bitcoin, to actually be able to hide wealth as well. In my opinion, this makes for a totally new form of actual commonwealth in in one aspect: in how we actually hold in common our actual value together — my Bitcoin is worth the same as your Bitcoin and is as liquid and exchangeable as one another, and so holding that in common. But also, the actual root word of commonwealth is res publica in Latin, and that actually means the public thing. And that was part of the classic idea of what the state was, was that it was the most public thing that there was. When you take a step back and think about living in a globalized capitalist society, money actually is that most basic common public thing that we share. It is the most base contract that there could possibly be. And so with what we’re creating with Bitcoin is a renewal of this commonwealth, but it’s global, it’s open, it’s for everyone, and we can all share it together, and the assurances of Bitcoin as an institution that provides its promises, at least over the last 13 years, has presented itself to be immovable. And this is extremely important because, if we are able to escape the lies of fiatism and the fundamental authoritarianism that’s latent in every single state, we have to recreate a new form of commonwealth — that inherently is a social contract at the very bottom. And Bitcoin is the very first digital social contract that is about money. And so there’s these two layers that are immediately set on top of each other: so essentially, Bitcoin the network is the commonwealth that creates this sort of new collectivism, and then Bitcoin the monetary unit is like this extreme individualism that exists within that. And it’s these two things operating together: because we live in this technologically advanced, globalized, capitalist world, it allows for us to make a new digital commonwealth that essentially anybody can join from any walk of life with any means or modes necessary. And that’s pretty radical, because now my collective wealth is shared with people from China, Mumbai, Buenos Aires — anywhere. And it’s funny because I’ve always been really hesitant about touching on this topic, but one of these really interesting inversions that happened at the very bottom is: I actually think Bitcoin is a form of really radical and secret communism, but it’s communism through an anarcho-lens, which allows for it to actualize and manifest itself in a completely different way from how we understand “communism”, because really what’s happening is there’s a synthesis between extreme capitalism and extreme communism and a Hegelian sense in that they destroy each other and they’re creating something vastly different from anything we’ve seen before.
John Vallis [8:53]: Can you unpack a little bit that comparison? Because if you’re saying it’s like communism but it’s not at all like communism —
Erik Cason: Yeah that’s a pretty misleading statement. So what I’d say is that when we talk about communism, this idea of Karl Marx is about how we can collectivize everything — and actually backpedaling a little bit: something that’s really important to understand about what communism is, is that communism originally started as a workers movement. I understand the term communism is extremely scary because of the violence and totalitarianism and the absolute horrors that it initiated throughout the 20th century, but historically we need to understand that the communist movement originally started as a synthesis of both anarchism and communism as a single movement. And essentially what happened was at the First International where the Communist Manifesto was declared and Marx wrote all his shit out about it, that was the first presentation of communism. At the Second International, when they showed back up, the anarchist contingency led by Bakunin, he essentially confronted Marx and he was like, Yo, what’s all this bullshit about hijacking the state and using its violence for ourselves? And Marx was like, Yeah, that’s how we should fucking do it! And he was like, No — fuck you! The state is the first thing that we need to destroy before anything else. We can’t create a communist society if the state exists. So that’s where the split between anarchism and communism manifested itself. And now what I see Bitcoin as, with being this synthesization between capitalism and communism happens through the collectivism that is Bitcoin. The collective network that we share, and how it protects our property rights, is a universal given thing that collectivizes our shared wealth, so that the rights that I have from the Bitcoin network are the exact same as your rights from the Bitcoin network. And furthermore, because of the way that we have to communicate through our private keys, that anonymizes our transactions in such a way that it homogenizes everything, so there’s this sort of collectivism to the wealth that is created through that. However, because of all the anonymized features that are baked directly into it and the pseudonymity that can be used, those features also bring in all of the individualistic aspects of, essentially, capitalism, and then, utilizing the energy aspect of how Bitcoin is created, that introduces the market mechanisms. So in short, in my opinion, it allows for this new synthetization between aspects of capitalism and aspects of communism, kind of taking the best of both worlds, smashing them together, and creating something radically and different and new that we haven’t seen before. And I think it’s extremely important, because while it has many of these same features that we could call communistic, because it’s deprived of this ability to identify people, and, frankly, that the physicality of all of this is completely abrogated, it breaks the back of those fundamental mechanisms that have always been so terrifying when you get these collective apparatuses coming. And to me, that’s also the messianic aspect of Bitcoin, is that, through breaking away from this physicality, there’s a complete abrogation of violence that allows for the system to frankly be messianic, because not only can it not be destroyed, but furthermore, utilizing violence as a system to try to control it just won’t work, which is fundamentally different from all other things we’ve ever encountered before.
John Vallis [12:50]: Yeah I think it’s one of those cases where I know you’re trying to say, but we need updated language, and that’s part of the reason why we have these discussions, to try to determine if there is — like commonwealth, I think, is a far more applicable language, because in a sense we all share this earth, we all are acting in relation to a certain amount of shared capital, and shared not in the fact that we all own it, but shared in the fact that it’s what’s guiding, directing, judging, and allocating all of our behaviors and resources. And then we vie as individuals for places in the hierarchy, broadly speaking. And so there’s that commonwealth idea, and then there’s the sovereignty or the divinity or the wealth of the individual who seeks to engage that commonwealth to determine who and what becomes elevated in relation to it and to one another. So when you say something like it’s paradoxically communism and capitalism, that’s what comes to my mind. But as you were speaking, one of the things that came to mind, and I’d like to get your take on, is the idea or the process of value flowing into something is really fascinating to me, and maybe we don’t give it much thought in day-to-day life, but here we have something with the qualities of Bitcoin — as you’ve articulated here and in the previous conversation — and all that’s happening is that more people are moving their value, and to your point about a social contract, they’re also moving their willingness to be bound to that value just over from one system to another. So, over from that system that you were describing of coercion and enforcement and all that jazz, over to a system which is far more egalitarian, far more individualistic, far less coercive, and really I mean there’s nothing physically in the world happening — it’s just because of the attributes of these two mechanisms or systems, people are just shifting what they’re willing to be bound by. Let’s say money is almost something that I agree to allow you to use to direct my will in certain relative amounts. So that’s part of the contract. It’s like, I’ll dig a hole if you pay me $100. So you can co-opt my will for $100 if what you want me to do is dig a hole. If you want me to climb a tree and put up a satellite, well it’s gonna be $1,000. But it’s a mechanism for allowing us to determine what I’m going to allow you to co-opt my will for. And it’s just fascinating that all that’s really happening is that we’re making that mental shift into another mechanism or system, that we value the attributes of that system more and we feel better about being bound to the attributes of that system more, but the question is, Why? Or even like, What do you make of that process? What is it that causes you to just change your mentality around which contract you’re going to be bound by, effectively?
Erik Cason [16:51]: That’s a great question. Well I think again taking history into context here, there’s that great quote that, like The best way to keep people in control and power is: let them know there’s no other solution. And that’s what’s been going on with money for so long, it’s that most people —
not only have they not thought about it, but — they never thought that there was any possibility of optionality with it. So I think, first of all, is actually getting to the idea that you can have optionality. And this conversion process I think is really important, because to me this is part of the ontology of what’s going on, is that that shift from this fiat system into this new one is part of this process of a true practice of actual self-care. And when I say self-care, I don’t mean as an aesthetic form, but I mean as a true ethical praxis of saying, What is, first and foremost, the greatest thing I can do for the care of myself? And I think for most people, as you start to accrue this information, we go, Okay, there’s this fiat system where there’s probably tens of thousands of examples of the amount of lies, changes, appeasations, guile, that is inherently baked into it. And then we have Bitcoin, this very simple system that’s been running for only 13 years, but within that, it has maintained its order, frankly, religiously. I think you and I both have a conviction along with anybody else who knows and understands the network that there’s not going to be more than 21 million coins and that can get produced, and furthermore, that the continued energy usage is going to keep going up and into the right as we expect it to. So I think a lot of this is first understanding there’s options, and then looking at the differences and weighing them all out, and then realizing that like, Oh, this system over here is a highly abusive one that lies to me and it’s inconceivable to be able to actually get any base reading on it, because it’s always fluctuating and changing, versus the system of Bitcoin that has permanence, that has truth, that has consistency. And actually I got high and just started writing something out yesterday about the integrity of Bitcoin, that this is a system that has the utmost integrity and transparency, and so once people start weighing all these things, I think it becomes a pretty interesting and easy process to start applying Gresham’s Law in the way that Bitcoin becomes your savings — it is the ultimate thing that you want. And it’s not to say that maybe you don’t have fiat money or shitcoins or other things, but Bitcoin is the fundamental savings vehicle, and that’s the thing that you want to acquire, and you know and understand it because of the assurances and power that it gives you. And I think for all of us, the building of all the scaffolding of information to start understanding this and synthesizing it is really important. And then that final conversion where you go, I’m ready to put my wealth into Bitcoin and that this is my subjective choice, I actually think that this is an extremely important personal moment for individuals — it’s like a lightning strike after this long roll of thunder, that is the gathering of all of this information. So much so that that lightning strike I actually think is this recognition of the actual being of the essence of the world spirit itself, because it’s this recognition and acknowledgement that, as human beings, we can organize ourselves on a global level in a way that doesn’t involve violence, which that, in my opinion, is messianic.
John Vallis [20:45]: Well let’s dig into that then, because we’ve talked about this quite a bit, and I just wrote a piece about it, and it seems to be emerging a lot more in the discourse. Now obviously, we self-select for the stuff we listen to, so there’s a bias there for sure, but before I give you my comments on that, can you put a bit more meat on that bone?
Erik Cason: Yeah, so a few things: one, as I will be extremely pedantic about: history, again, has to inform the path that we’re in. And when we zoom out in the current world that we’re in with the place that statism is in, the place that technology is in, it’s extremely fucking dark, and it doesn’t seem to have an exit. We seem to be moving into a world where a global digital panopticon will be deployed that can identify everybody everywhere for all purposes for any reason — and that’s terrifying. And without Bitcoin, the idea of resisting that seems utterly impossible. With Bitcoin, the potential to resist it presents itself. And now as that potential continues to present itself as we’re seeing in the world today and with the way that Bitcoin is continuing to have an impact on the global political agenda — the key example being El Salvador adopting it as legal tender — this starts to accelerate things. And there’s a term in international relations that they use called brinkmanship, if you’re familiar with it? And it’s essentially the escalating of dangerous scenarios in order to try to achieve a favorable outcome for yourself. And that’s what the states are going to start doing towards Bitcoin, is: they’re going to continue escalating to try to get a favorable outcome either with shitcoins or centralized digital currencies. And again, as this escalates, Bitcoin will continue to push back and show how powerful it is and how it can’t be co-opted, and that’s going to actually force the state into an existential crisis with itself. And this is because of the state using the state of an emergency — and I have a great essay about this called The Sovereign, The Subject, and Crypto Power — essentially, as the state declares a state of emergency like what we’re in today, it gives itself a right to label enemy combatants and to deprive them of any forms of legality. Again, this is probably where we’re going with Bitcoin and Bitcoin owners, and that the states are just going to try to attack them directly utilizing this. But as you and I both know, their methodologies to be able to use the protocol in such a way that even if they do physically attack you and destroy you, that they can’t get your wealth. To me this is the part that’s messianic, because now when you attack and destroy somebody instead of them capitulating and you need to give all your wealth away you, can actually have a set of dead man keys that can get triggered that say, You know what? I’m actually going to give all of my money to — I mean shit, for this example we can say the PLO or the Taliban or whoever the hell you want. And it’s really important because that absconding with wealth and the recovery of it is something pretty unique in human history. Sure, people could go out into the forest and dump gold under a particular tree and tell somebody about it to go recover, but as we know from history, a lot of those get recovered centuries later, and whoever was hiding those funds wasn’t able to recover it. I think that it’s not so much about Bitcoin as much as it is about this global Schelling point that utilizes cryptography and that can protect us in a totalizing capacity against the omnipotent power of the state.
John Vallis [24:25]: Yeah. I didn’t do a great job articulating it a few minutes ago, but it I guess it’s because I’m still trying to comprehend what Bitcoin’s price signal — let’s say we price it in in US dollars — what that’s telling us? And to the messianic point, one of the reasons why I think that has a certain degree of resonance is because, if we look at messiah characters throughout history, and perhaps there’s several ways that that word can be interpreted, but oftentimes it’s a representation of some kind, a symbol, an anthropomorphized figure, a hero, that kind of thing, who, by the power of certain principles, is able to affect certain change, or who is even able to ascend to the highest value. And as a result: conquer, rectify, rejuvenate, revivify, whatever the circumstance or setting is. And their presence is often apocalyptic in the interpretation of that word of being like a revealing of something. And usually, as far as my interpretation is concerned, the two main principles — and there are others that you can tease out from their behaviors and all that jazz, but — the two main principles of that character just always seems to be truth and the sovereignty or freedom of the individual. And on the basis of invoking or using those two things, or interacting with one another on those terms, that’s how you bring about the revivification, the rejuvenation, of whatever it is, just the scenario or circumstances that’s playing out. And the degree to which you maximize on those two qualities, you increase the the power of the hero and the likelihood of the ability of the hero to generate a favorable outcome — something like that. And it’s unavoidable in Bitcoin that when you see it, when you study it, when you interact with it — I mean it’s very architecture and how we’re able to interact with it seems to be predicated or have instantiated in them or seems to deliver the same two things: it uses an immutable, incorruptible form of truth — a verifiable truth — in order that people can establish greater sovereignty over the most concentrated form of their personal capital outside of their body that there is, which is their money. And so in that sense, I think that’s part of the reason why there’s so many relations to these two ideas, because they’re both the archetypal or the maximal representation of those two principles used in the world in order to bring about or foster a great change or a great rejuvenation. And so it’s interesting to see the parallels, but it’s also interesting to watch the revaluation play out, to see people come to appreciate the value of those two primary principles, and possibly others. And as a result of that, to make the determination that they’d rather be bound by and leveraged and embody those principles rather than whatever attributes or characteristics were contained in and the implicit agreements thereby in the former system or the former thing that they placed the most value in right outside of their body i.e the form of money. And I don’t know how to articulate how special that change in agreement and value is, because it’s obvious — like, an easy way to say it is like, Yeah, people want to adopt a money that has less violence and coercion, and of course they don’t want to be stolen from all this kind of stuff. But the act of doing that, I’m trying to get in the middle of that process where people make that switchover, not just because it’s practically better for them — it is that too, obviously — but to try to tease out exactly what’s going on there. And I think a lot of the reason why a lot of religious vocabulary gets put around Bitcoin is because a very similar process is taking place to choosing or aligning yourself with certain fundamental or highest values or principles because of the good — both for you and the people you interact with — that it delivers. And so in both senses, it’s fundamental to your system’s evaluation, and therefore the behaviors that stem from them — something like that. I think you know what I’m trying to get at?
Erik Cason [29:55]: Yeah, I would even go so far to say that very few of us actually had true systems of value that we could concretely connect to anything before Bitcoin. And I think that’s one of the reasons why Bitcoin seems to change us and allows for us to strive, because it does represent all these things. And one of the other things I think is interesting is just the feelings of this system versus this — like, this system of fiat feels abusive, it feels corrosive, it feels lying, it feels confusing, like the colors and feelings that come out of it are dark and bad and hard. Everything over here is bright and happy and potential and great. And also, this process of conversion — that’s not only the most important thing for them but I think the most important thing in human history. And I get that that’s a huge statement, but I very sincerely believe: today, if people were to accept Bitcoin into their heart in the way that you and I have, and that we’re to get that globally, the world is a radically fucking different place immediately. And it’s not to say that it’s an unrecognizable world, but things change in a very, very dramatic and radical way, so much so that I think, in the same way that when we had the great Renaissance that ushered in a lot of these epic changes, and we saw from the 16th to the 17th century these massive technological changes across the board — life seemed to have gotten better, and a higher fidelity than it ever had before. I think that exact same process is going to happen again with Bitcoin, and that by the time we get to the 23rd century, the improvements to human life will be so radical and beyond what we conceived before that it would seem almost impossible. And most of that, in my opinion, is going to come from the rising tides that Bitcoin creates by renewing the classic liberal economic ideas of what Western culture represented, and pushing that back out into the world, because I think the self-sovereignty of people’s wealth and the ability to empower individuals like this not only is a spiritual conquest but an economic one as well in so far that, by everybody controlling their wealth and having their subjective opinions and ability to participate in the market having more substance and power than it did in a fiat system, that’s going to create a lot more wealth than we ever thought was possible before. And it’s really, really important because, again, this conversion where we make the the switch from being in a fiat system to a Bitcoin system, in my opinion, is the exact same switch of moving from the hatred and fear of the state and the punishment that they can incur upon you, to making the subjective choice of loving yourself enough to utilize the system of Bitcoin that you know and understand will protect your wealth outside and beyond any powers that the state can give. And also, for me personally, this idea of loving my children and my ancestors enough to put their wealth in a mode that can’t be evaporated or stolen, and it is to truly honor yourself in a form of self-respect that says, No! Nobody can steal my wealth, my life force, the accrual of what I have done for myself — for any reason. And that I truly believe is a messianic power, because we’ve never encountered that in our world. And being able to do that through technology and being able to extend that out into the future that we’re going to have is astounding and profound and powerful and loving. And even talking with you about this, the thing that I want to hit on the most is: it’s not about the wealth, it’s not about the money, it’s not about even the assurances — it’s about the changes we have inside of ourselves when we can bond towards that and have the assurance and esteem to then confidently move forward and say, We will change the world using this — we will do it together, and it will be done non-violently. That’s messianic to me.
John Vallis [34:43]: Yeah I totally agree. It’s so fascinating because everything is a relationship — we’re just constantly in relationship with all the different objects and ideas that we perceive. As you were saying about the darkness of the fiat world, like when you think of it imagistically, it’s dark, it’s scary it’s damp, moist, foggy, however you want to characterize it. And you think a bit about Bitcoin and it’s colorful and it’s smiling and it’s light and it’s all that kind of stuff. And isn’t it fascinating that our relationship to an object — and this obviously again is why we wind up in religious territory so much, because — it can be just a relationship to an idea, but the power and salience of an idea can fundamentally change who you are, can fundamentally change your behavior, can fundamentally change your view of the world and the future. As you just articulated, this this thing is going to dramatically change so much about us — and our cohort of current and early Bitcoiners are the primary or first exemplars of that — and we’re still trying to understand it and digest it and all that jazz. But what’s going on there in your mind when an idea or a thing — material or not — is encountered that has that type of effect on the human psyche, on human consciousness, and the behavior that stems from it?
Erik Cason [36:23]: Well I mean this is truly about a very radical form of thought. I have a great essay about this, but I sincerely believe that Bitcoin as a form of thought is the most important thought that has ever been had. And that then Satoshi being able to present that and push that out in the world was a technique and a presentation of his art that was done in such a substantial and astounding way that this became the most valuable object, the most valuable piece of art that has ever existed. And you could say the same thing about maybe the idea of God, because when we start to talk about these things — is it an idea? Is it an object? And I would actually go back to Aristotle and I would say that this is ousia — that’s the Greek term for substance, and I actually think Bitcoin is the very first substance that operates as a digital, physical bridge, and that because of the way that there’s this inherent energy that’s tied up with every single unit of Bitcoin, we have this new substance that has bridged the gap and allows for us to reach into the noosphere, the space of ideas that come from the mind. And so being able to interact with this substance, if you will, and seeing what it has and how it can transport across the world and it can be protected from any physical violence, that opens us to a radical new possibility that was completely impossible before. And so if you start in the year 2010 and think about how we try to recover ourselves from the absolute terrorism and authoritarianism in the state, there isn’t an exit. There’s no idea. There’s no conceptualization to be able to dislocate them — but then Satoshi gives us Bitcoin, and it becomes the Schelling point of organization where we understand: not only can we escape the horrors of statism, but we can actually disengage it and stop it! And what’s even cooler is that this is only the preliminary part — it’s just the resistance. Once we have the nails in the coffin in the state and it’s clear it’s dying, the next part is like, How do we produce this radical and beautiful world? And it’s going to be really different from statism, and I don’t think any of us have any idea what it looks like, but we see the potentiality there and the organizational process is possible, and doing it through Bitcoin as possible. And so again, this messianic idea is about unlocking a form of thought in its deepest purity from first principles that has us go, Oh, as human beings in a world completely defined by statist violence, we now have a capacity to intellectually and physically resist them in a way that’s so dramatic and powerful that it can completely disengage their framework of violence. And that’s messianic — Blessed are the peacemakers — and that’s truly what it is. This is a methodology of peacemaking. We can make it so that the idea of the fiat wars that we saw throughout the 20th century and the absolute catastrophe it was, we can at least push back against that with the power of the purse, which is so, so important, particularly in the West. We haven’t had an encounter with modernized warfare without fiat money, and so much to an extent that I don’t think modern warfare is even possible unless you have the ability to use fiat money and the seigniorage that is inherent to the state.
John Vallish [40:21]: Yeah, interesting point there when you talk about the introduction of brand new capacities. And this is effectively the role or influence of the evolution of technology: technology improves and then a new domain of capacity opens up and then there’s the process of having our consciousness flow into or invade that new capacity and determine what it means for our perception of the world. And so technology is very much a consciousness-expanding enterprise but also phenomenon. And so if we relate this to the psychedelic realm as we often do, that’s another domain where the expansion of consciousness — and we can get into or not get into what might be going on there, but for the sake of this particular point just for argument’s sake, let’s say — an expansion of consciousness is actually occurring, but then oftentimes you find that people also after such a thing fundamentally alter their perspective and therefore behavior that follows from it, because new domains, new possibilities, new areas for the consciousness to flow into and inhabit and utilize have emerged. And so we touched on this a little bit in the first talk because we were talking about the relationship between the development of technology, beit stone tools or writing or what have you, to influence the development of consciousness. And here we now have, and as you were just saying, a very interesting point, where we have a bridge now. We’ve always been interacting with the digital world, but it seems like we’re maybe bridging it more and more, and now we’ve bridged it maybe in a sense that gives it more stability and possibility than it ever had before. And so a simple point is: if you if you now know that you can leave money to your great-great-great-grandkids, that you can still have your will be executed 100 years from now, what does that do to your consciousness? Because now you’re thinking about a term, in terms of years — the relevance of your consciousness has just been extended, because now your will can actually be applied 100 years from now, where, for all intents and purposes, prior to that, it could not be. Because — sure, you leave gold to whomever, but someone digs it up, someone steals it, someone does that. Now, you’re able to, with a high degree of confidence, express your will in multiple other domains of space and time. And so now that those those domains are relevant to you it, it expands and impacts your consciousness. And that’s just one simple domain. If we were in the domain of the power of certain ideas — let’s say the stability or the immutability of certain ideas like truth and freedom, for example, I mean now we’re talking about some of the most powerful ideas that there are. Again, this is why they’ve been invoked so consistently in the religious domain. And now if those ideas have taken on a greater salience because now they’re actually more relevant because now they’re actually being used to instantiate and foster certain things regarding our life and our time and our will in the here and now and into the deepest futures that we’ve ever been able to conceive, well naturally that degree of expansion is going to cause a lot of reframing and shuffling of our consciousness and our behavior. So it’s interesting how these technological developments greatly influence the evolution of our consciousness. It certainly seems like with the advent of Bitcoin, at least, that we’ve been given a gift. Because, as I said at the beginning of this rant, everything is a relationship, so we could be very much oriented by the darkness of that fiat regime — and many have been, you and I included — prior to Bitcoin, we got a lot of signals from that domain and they’re not good signals, and they probably had a very negative effect on our lives and our moods and our mentalities and all that kind of stuff. And now with the advent of a technology that is built upon and imbued with such principles, now we have a technology out in the world that has a magnetism, like there’s a gravity to it that wants you to establish a relationship with it, and it would seem that the qualities of it mean that relationship is an extremely beneficial or healthy or productive one, and so the process continues, where: technology emerges, we develop a relationship to it, and based on its qualities, it expands or contracts, to use fairly broad terms, our consciousness. And again, the perspectives and the behaviors that flow from it. And so of course the reason why we’re probably so enthusiastic about Bitcoin is because not only for all of its practical and pragmatic earthly uses, but because it seems to be such a dramatic innovation which establishes or helps to constitute such a dramatic improvement in, expansion, exploration of consciousness, and as you said in our last one, what it means to be human. That’s the very process that’s unfolding if we accept that technology definitely influences us, and it has at least capacity or the possibility to cultivate in relationship with us an ever more expanded consciousness, and whatever benefits might be derived from that. And it seems like we’ve arrived at an innovation and a relationship to an innovation that is having perhaps the biggest effect on our consciousness that any innovation has ever had, and a very positive one. And as you were saying just now, we can’t really anticipate what the effect of that will be because it’s bringing us along, it’s changing our sense of space and time and possibility and perspective. It’s upgrading that more than we’ve ever had in one go, and I think it’s really difficult to predict what the outcome of that will be. But it seems like it’s positive, and I hope we’re right in that assessment.
Erik Cason [47:57]: Yeah, I struggle to see any way that it’s not positive, in addition to the fact that consciousness expanding is good, and I think one great way to do it is — you and I both know, trying to describe a psychedelic experience to somebody who hasn’t had a psychedelic experience is extremely difficult, because there are things that you experience see and feel that not only don’t have a linguistic capacity, but your mind literally cannot conceive of the possibility of how something like that could ever even work or function, so you have to directly witness it and understand it to have that consciousness expanding. And I think the same thing goes for trying to understand what exactly Bitcoin is, and then having all the certain things set in place to have it click to understand like, Oh, this is actually a very unique and different and profound thing that we haven’t had before, and then taking all of that and connecting it to the total historic situation that we’ve found ourselves in. I think not only is it difficult, but going through it is a very emotionally tumultuous process that — I haven’t heard of people noping out from it yet, but — I’ve heard of a lot of people that struggled a lot with it and that they had to come back to it.
John Vallis: What does noping out mean?
Erik Cason: Oh, just being like, This shit’s crazy — I can’t — like, no way. I have to imagine that normies hear, Messianic Bitcoin, and they’re like closing that article — can’t read that shit. And I get it. And to me, again, this is a recovery from nihilism, because we’re born into a place where the state is God, that there is no point, that we’re supposed to use fiat, you do your 9–5, go through the misery, drink yourself stupid — all of it. And so when us fucking weirdos show up and we’re like, Hey, may I share with you the good news of Satoshi and how — and they’re like, Fuck you! Magic Internet Money isn’t gonna fucking save humanity from — like, look at this: we’re drone-bombing fucking brown children in Yemen! And you think Magic Internet Money is gonna save us? Fuck you! And I absolutely understand it — it seems absurd. But then again, we live in a totally absurdist world where — like, look at the fucking idiocy of people walking around in the middle of fields with masks on, and that shit. So if this is how retarded the world is, why the hell can’t Magic Internet Money be part of that? And again, this is like that slapstick thing of what God does — Hey, check it out: we’re gonna be rescued from the totalitarian panopticon by Magic Internet Money! It’s fucking crazy! Who made this? I don’t know — some Internet person who’s anonymous. And I love it — I think it’s great, but I can totally get how normies come along and they’re like, Uhh, this doesn’t work for me. Which, on that note too, I just gotta say: I always hated normal culture. It always just rubbed me really wrong, like sporting event stuff — I just I never got it. It was this weird cultural thing that I couldn’t fit into and it was just hard and the whole thing was hard. Nobody ever wants to celebrate you or encourage you to go on your own weird marches. Whereas with Bitcoin, there’s just this total opening where I feel like we’re in some insane Burning Man party where everybody’s celebrating how weird and crazy other people can get, and it’s extraordinary. It makes me feel so great that this confederacy of weirdos has popped up that all want to defend their same process and cause, and that we know and identify each other pretty readily and quickly. It’s just so much fun and so exciting and engaging versus the world before. Like, even if I took the pre-Bitcoin world and thought about the greatest and the highest being that I could be, it pales in comparison to what’s going on here.
John Vallis [52:14]: Yeah. Obviously I share that sentiment — it’s amazing. And there’s so many awesome qualities about it all. One of the amazing things is I think part of the reason why there’s that mentality — and there’s many reasons, but — one is: I think there is a genuine sense of discovery or search or journey amongst us all, and we realize we don’t know the proper method to explore or discover or engage this, so if you’ve got the balls to go and be weird and explore these super-odd ideas that otherwise would make you an outcast, in here I think there’s at least a tolerance for it, if not an exuberant support of it, because everyone has different perspectives and ideas and that kind of jazz. And there’s a tolerance but not a blind acceptance — those ideas can and should be challenged to the utmost extent so that we can refine them to try to get to the closest approximation of truth possible. But I just love how everyone recognizes how difficult this thing is to wrap your head around, so there’s a huge willingness to be like, Hey — let the tether out and get crazy and we’ll see if you can bring anything back from crazyland we can integrate into our understanding here.
Erik Cason [53:40]: And I want to point out: that only manifests with a group of people who love and respect each other as sovereign individuals who can be different and have different ideas. And then the deepest irony of what you also said is that then we engage in the deepest sincerity of the scientific method in order to do that. And it’s just super funny that here we are doing this over this thing, and meanwhile crazy fiatworld is like, Obey the science! Which means, Obey the scientist, motherfucker.
John Vallis: Yeah. And in a lot of these religious stories, when they talk about the messiah, the second coming, the apocalypse, all these ideas, it’s very often couched in something that you’re not going to notice, which it gives me an extra smile about all this stuff too. If we’re in the realm of alchemy, the thing of greatest value that’s going to come and revivify and rejuvenate everything, you won’t recognize it when it shows up. And I feel like what’s happening here is a pretty good example of that. But I want to go back to something I’ve been really not articulating well today, but it’s this idea that we’re talking about the shift in value from the fiat system to Bitcoin and what’s happening in that process, and the role of technology at serving to expand our consciousness. And just to reiterate the point first: if we were in a cave right now having this conversation, there’s a whole world or universe of ideas that, simply because they’re not relevant to us, they don’t emerge in our minds. There’s no capacity to act on those ideas in any way. So they don’t enter our mind, we don’t use physiological resources on them — they’re just not available to us. Like, we wouldn’t be in the cave 40,000 years ago talking about storing our wealth for a hundred years on the Internet, as an example, because none of that exists. And so as technology incrementally or even exponentially grows, it expands the domain of our potential action. And as a result, because all action is imbued with relevance and meaning, it expands our world of meaning also. And I think that’s part of what’s happening with Bitcoin: people look at it and they assess it and they recognize that the qualities and characteristics and attributes that it has — and the possibilities contained within them, though yet to be expressed — greatly expands the possibilities for action and interaction, and therefore for relevance and meaning. And so the felt sense of that — before it’s perfectly comprehended and articulated — the meaning is almost preceding the possibilities of the action. So it’s almost like there’s a subconscious recognition of the enormous novel, new landscape of meaning that’s just emerged or just been opened up, and we can’t yet see all the different actions that will be possible in that realm, but there’s a tremendous felt sense of meaning from that expansion. And so in a sense, if we take that as true and we look back on this transition that’s happening, it is very much — and I explore this concept a little bit in the piece, but — it’s very much people going from a far more limited realm of potential action and meaning and relevance, and they’re shifting their orientation to one that’s far more expansive, i.e less limited — it’s more liberated. And I do think in all the study of religious doctrines and traditions and spiritual things and experiences, mystical experiences and all that kind of stuff, one of the primary values seems to be expansion. And maybe a mystical experience is expansion into the everything — expansion until there is no more limitation and you unite with everything and the idea of the self dissolves and all that jazz. And I think on many different domains of action and existence and perspective, we seek to transcend limitation so that we’re less limited vis-a-vis our ideals or our goals — that’s what we’re always trying to do, like we’re trying to remove the impediments to the things we want — and it’s fascinating to see or wonder that maybe this dramatic change that we’re seeing instilled in people is at least partially due to a subconscious or felt sense of a dramatic expansion of consciousness, meaning, and possibility.
Erik Cason [59:12]: Yeah. I think you hit it on the head, and I would say that process right here — this is a transcendental moment of awakening where a human being recovers themselves from the nihilistic world that we were told exists: that there is no God, there is no purpose, there is no meaning, that the state is superior, that we have to deal with infinite war, that violence is an inherent part of human problems. And that we convert over to the understanding of the Bitcoin world and its possibilities where all of those things can be disengaged, and that a new world comes about, and that it does expand our consciousness in a very radical way that, again, I think is the same process that happens when somebody converts from being an atheist or agnostic to acknowledging that there is a higher power — a truly transcendental moment of recognition of: Holy shit! That people are good, that the state isn’t all-powerful, that there is meaning and purpose and truth to the world. And I don’t think that can be understated in how powerful, important, radical, transcendental, and empowering it is, because it’s not just about like, I recognize this thing and the world gets better now — it’s that that old world is eviscerated in terms of: now there are new potentials that have been unlocked that make it so that all of this shit that seemed like it was impossible to get beyond, now not only is it possible to get beyond, but we have an actual tool and solution in order to do that. And the activation inside personally of knowing that there is a method and capacity to resist and change — to me, that’s the most profound thing, is to come into Bitcoin to get this stuff, to recognize it, and then to find that there’s this whole community assembled of people that want the same things, that are striving for the same thing — that’s extraordinary, because you feel like you’re participating, that you’re part of something, that you have real friends, that you see something beyond the massive statism. And it’s so profound and warming and deep and purposeful and meaningful. And I think, for the same reason that you and me are here, is that when you feel it, you just want to give yourself to it and give and give and give and to ask yourself to rise to the occasion. And I think this just about my own writings and podcast appearances and stuff and that so much of it has resulted from not just the positive feedback that I’ve gotten from people, but this real urge and desire that in my mind it’s the same way that I want to go door-to-door like a Mormon trying to convert people. It is the same process: I want to knock door-to-door and be like, Hello, here’s your card of 100 free satoshis — let us tell you about the glory and grandeur of our lord and savior Satoshi Nakamoto, and how he connects us like the brethren of Jesus. And I think we’ll get that too in like 20 years, because again this is all super, super young. And what I wanted to point out what you said earlier about this idea of getting to reach out to 1,000 years into the future and to connect with your grandchildren or whatever else — I just want to point out that the classic societies had access to that. Think about Brutus, who murdered Caesar: he had a chain of connection to his ancestors that led all the way back to the foundation of Rome, which was 408 generations. And so Brutus was held into an obligation from 408 generations before. That’s madness, in my opinion — in a great way, that you’d actually be connected to that. And he was connected to that vis-a-vis the Gods and the obligations that he was held to through the Gods. I only point that out because there are other societies that came before us that had the same sort of long-term thinking, low-time preference that allowed for their society to be created. And again, this is one of the problems that Bitcoin is going to recover us from, is that we are in such a short time preference society that it has literally destroyed huge swaths of the planet, endangered humanity — it’s just done all this super-crazy fucked up that’s pretty funny when you look at it directly, including all these corrupt pharmaceutical assholes that are hurting people. It’s really amazing that there are guys out there that are prescribing fentanyl left and right and there’s never a thought that people are gonna kill themselves with it. They don’t think that that’s a problem or their responsibility. And so I think it’s really important that all of this, in the historic context that we’re approaching it from — and again, this is why I also think it’s messianic — all this shit lines up too easily! Like, why the fuck did we get all of this in 2010 right at the edge of the implementation of this state panopticon? It’s just weird to me that we get all of this right now — we got it just in the fucking nick of time, because even if Bitcoin was produced today — too late, not getting it out of the box. It’s wonderful. And again, I feel like I just started this really, really fucking good book and I just finished the first chapter and we’ve only physically met with each other on one real occasion — same with so many others — and then to think like, What’s gonna happen 20 years out when my kid and Francis’s kid are good friends or some shit, and they’re called into an obligation to do — and this is part of what I’m working on: I want to develop religious liturgy that we give to our kids or our grandkids or whoever else so that, essentially, I die, they get some notification like, Oh shit, Uncle Eric died, and I’ve been summoned to Citadel IV to do the key signing ritual. And they show up, they don’t know anybody, nobody else knows, there’s another dude like, Hey, I’m Francis’s kid. And it’s like, Oh hey, I’m Eric’s kid. All right, and then the priest comes up he’s like, Welcome! With the love of Satoshi, let us begin our ceremony! You laugh, but people do this shit in Catholicism and all kinds of other religions, and we have such loaded viewpoints about them. So I think one of the reasons why we talk incessantly about this religious thing is — it feels almost sacrilegious, like sinful in some way to engage in this dialogue and these ideas — but it’s just because it’s loaded up with all of our own bullshit. And I think it’s interesting, like my mom made an off-key comment about something my son drew about how he loves and values God, and she was raised in a hardcore Catholic household and so she was very nasty and pejorative to it. And I pulled her aside and I was like, What the fuck, mom? Don’t ever be pejorative towards God in my household — that’s not okay. But you’re playing organized religion! I’m like, we don’t talking about that — we’re talking about God! And I just think it’s really important to understand all of this in a very human context, that we’ve been brought to. And furthermore, I want to point out: fiatism is what destroyed our God. That’s why God is dead, is because of this whole viewpoint, and that was a sacred idea that belongs to each of us. And in the Gnostic tradition, I very much believe that we all have this inside of us — we just need a spark. And I think for a lot of us that spark is Bitcoin. And it’s really profound and powerful and substantial, because I think there’s so many people out there that are lost and wandering that have succumbed to the nihilism, and I hope that they’ll look at this and see that this can allow for them the same sort of recovery. Because to me, the individual soul’s recovery from that nihilistic viewpoint to this other one — like, this is the most incredible and important process that has ever happened in human history, because of what is occurring, and the changes that it will allow for all of society to have. Because once we’re all on a Bitcoin standard and we know and understand what it is, it fundamentally shifts our entire viewpoint of society, in that there’s no longer this explotionary characteristic that is inherent — it really becomes one about creating consensualism with one another.
John Vallis [1:08:16]: Yeah. I laugh because I know something to that effect is going to happen. It’s inevitable, because the things of the greatest meaning — and again, we’ve gotten away from that in in this day and age to our detriment, but — I think it’s inevitable that the things that are of the utmost meaning, they become ritualized or made sacred in some way, first of all because you’re inspired to do that. If they really are truly meaningful, you want to celebrate them, and then you want to also remember them — you want to try to transmit their importance. And this is where a lot of religions probably get led astray, because perhaps in an altruistic attempt to remember what is most meaningful and important, it becomes dogmatic and rigid and authoritarian and all that jazz, and then you get the institutions of religion that co-opt or corrupt the ideas or the insights at the base of religion. And so it’ll be very interesting to see all these play out, and which rituals appeal to people most, and how they evolve and change. But I’m sure it’s going to happen, and I wrote a relatively — not silly — but not a very serious article around the time of the last halving in 2020 where I was just starting to pick up and investigate what these changes that were occurring in people as a result of engaging with Bitcoin were all about. And I mean it’s obviously happening really fast — you compare that type of change to anything, either evolutionarily or even historically or culturally, like the turnarounds that people are having and the ways in which their minds are being expanded and how old topics are being refreshed and renewed and looked at once again — it’s tremendous! So to your point: What are we gonna look like — forget 40 years — like, in 10 years, 5 years? If we pursue this current track that we’re on in such a way for 5 years, I don’t know where it’s going to end up, but most likely we’re gonna have a more refined understanding then than we have today. And it’s relevant, because I think one of the reasons why we’re pursuing that is because we realize the validity or veracity or realness of that refined perception. Like, you made some comments about it a few minutes ago: it’s how you feel. You feel full and satisfied and expansive and alive and energetic and grateful and hopeful and loving — all these things are being derived from a greater clarity around certain ideas and certain things. And so of course you’re going to want to keep building — you’re going to keep going in the direction that satisfies or delivers that more and more more and more and more, and I think this is part of the result of the search for truth. This is why truth, love, and God all seem to converge so often, because you pursue either one of them enough and they all collapse into the same thing. And in our modern day and age, as you were saying, about how taboo religion has become, like people pooh-pooh it and think that it’s some stupid superstitious vestige of the past, or a pragmatic, practical way to shoulder the suffering of life — it’s not real, but it’s useful sort of thing. But I think we’re coming to the appreciation that it’s neither of those things — there’s something really, really genuinely fundamental and valuable here. In fact, probably of the utmost value. And the degree to which things guide us or take us closer to those things, we gravitate towards them — and this is the case we’ve been making with Bitcoin — and we do that because the closer you can get to that thing, that it, that truth, that love, that God, whatever it is, it has a material impact on your experience of existence, your experience of reality. And it would seem that the more an individual does that, and then the more an individual amidst a collective does that, the better experience of reality or life those individuals and people have. And back to the the point I’ve been sloppily trying to explore with you for most of this conversation so far is: we’ve been talking about how our value seems to move in the direction of the greater expanse of meaning. We seem to orient ourselves or place our focus or pursue the areas that grant us greater meaning, greater positive affect. And so the things that do that become elevated in our value hierarchy. And we talk about the role of technology and the expansion of consciousness, but it’s really interesting to consider: well what is it when a technology elevates or instantiates more than ever has been the case the values that have traditionally been at the very top of that hierarchy? So let’s just say for the sake of this discussion it’s truth — and I actually think that’s the case. To what degree is consciousness expanded when truth has been — our shift toward orienting to that, the value we ascribe to that, is somehow related to the capacity for truth to deliver this sort of sense and feeling that we’ve been talking about. And so if it’s actually the case that what Bitcoin represents is like a profound form of truth or an absolute truth, and the technology has allowed us to engage it in a completely novel way, then it would seem to be that all this value that’s being ascribed to it is in some capacity or something akin to our reaction and our being pulled toward the expanded potential of truth and the capacity that Bitcoin has to reveal that. I’m fucking this way up, as you can tell.
Erik Cason [1:15:41]: I really appreciate what you’re saying, and it reminds me a lot of that essay I sent you on Heidegger’s The Question Concerning Technology. And it’s interesting that you said there at the end what it reveals, because are you familiar with the word [aliothea?]? It’s a Latin term. It’s what they used for truth, but what it actually means is revealing or unveiling. And Heidegger’s The Question Concerning Technology is all about what’s the true essence of technology and how do we unveil that to ourselves? It’s a very fascinating essay. But in the very beginning of what he says is: for us to truly understand the essence of technology and what it introduces to human capacity, it leads through language in a way that is truly extraordinary. And then the following sentence he says: And through this, we will be able to achieve a truly free relationship to technology. And a lot of the essay he’s talking about this idea that he calls inframing. Heidegger makes up a lot of his own words just in order to allow for it to execute in his own philosophy much better, and so he’s super fucking hard to read, but it’s interesting.
John Vallis: I read 70% of that. It was tough though.
Erik Cason: You’d just be like: What the fuck is this garbage? How is this nonsense — ? Well it’s really interesting because this essay has actually become a pretty critical piece in my whole metaphysics. And you know what’s really fucked up and weird is I got this book way before being involved in Bitcoin — my wife just had it from an undergraduate class that she had. And I remember I picked it up and read it when I first got really interested into Bitcoin because all this stuff came crashing into me and I was like, I gotta figure this out. And I was like, Fucking Heidegger’s a philosopher — he must be pretty smart and this is clearly a piece of technology so let’s read The Question Concerning Technology to try to figure this out. And in my first reading, I was like, What the fuck? I can’t do anything with this? This is fucking nonsense! It’s garbage! None of this shit makes any fucking sense! And in all honesty, it’s only after 10 years of reading really deep and hard philosophy and getting a pretty good framework in Greek and Latin terminology that I can finally go back to Heidegger and read it and be like, Wow, this is profound! As opposed to like, This is nonsensical garbage. So this idea of inframing is the way that we actually enter into relationships with technology that aren’t free — they actually capture us and enslave us in some way. And I think where we’re at in modernity, we’re in the deepest possible place that we can be with that inframing, to where it can actually capture all of humanity in a way that we could never escape from. And furthermore, one of the other deep ironies of this is that I actually think — and inframing is the way that we get captured by technology and then he calls the turning is where we actually recognize this essence of technology and we can engage in it in a truly free relationship. And so in my opinion, crypto is actually inframing, and Bitcoin is the turning. And that’s the relationship to them, because cryptos is
all this centralized garbage that’s empowering the state, making it more powerful, and is fundamentally different from all the things that we want to do with Bitcoin, whereas Bitcoin is a truly free relationship with technology where we enter into that relationship through first principles utilizing asymmetric cryptography at its most base level. And so because of the way that we enter into that relationship with Bitcoin, the way it protects our wealth, the way that it’s individualized, that we’re the only one that can utilize that in order to access our wealth — in my opinion, this makes it our first truly free relationship to technology in so far that, by us engaging with this technology, the amount of power we have radically expands, and it subjectively allows for us a totality of choice that’s very different from other forms of technology before it. And including on that, this recognition of all these things and the capacity to enter into this relationship is the truly transcendental process of understanding that there is an ability to recover ourselves from nihilism, and that there are things such as the permanence of truth, meaning, justice, and the ability to get closer to them, which I think for a lot of people is a pretty novel concept right now.
John Vallis [1:20:26]: 100%. And I want to ask you a follow-on question about that. But to just sum up what I’ve been trying to say — and it links into this, obviously — but what you just said made me think about it in more basic if not more detailed terms and I agree with you and I think it’s very fascinating the point you just made, but if all tech fosters expansion of consciousness and therefore meaning, how much expansion does an absolute truth foster? Because you could say there’s all sorts of tech that is more or less irrelevant, although it still expands the domain of meaning, but some tech just doesn’t foster that great of an expansion. But how much expansion does absolute truth foster? And if the idea of God and truth being almost interchangeable, if that’s palatable, then how much expansion of our consciousness, of our potential world of meaning, should we expect in a tech that has this relationship to truth? I guess that’s somewhat what I’m trying to be articulating. And I think the answer, even though I obviously cannot articulate it, is big, and this is why we end up in this territory with these conversations because maybe some of the greatest meaning that we are as yet capable of comprehending, it seems to be expanding that domain in particular rather than something more mundane.
Erik Cason [1:22:32]: I don’t think it’s just big — I think it truly is infinite, because I think the way it expands consciousness, when you truly get the potentiality here, it opens us to a world that not only was impossible before, but is truly infinite in terms of these ideas of world peace, of potentiality. All openings get opened, and it becomes so expansive that it renews the totality of what it means to be human from the segmented and closed off world that statism has given us, and its rules and regulations and rigidity — this disposes of that and it opens humanity up to a totally different, new, wild, and crazy possibility, including stuff like transhumanism and all this other weird shit that I’m not sure about.
John Vallis [1:23:29]: Yeah. So what do you do with that? I’ll recount a funny — well this happens a lot, lately, but — I think one of the outcomes of this transformation or being affected in such a way, because you’re seeing things with a renewed or expanded perspective and that you know that you’ve been living in a sea of lies, a sea of deceit where you’ve been told a lot of things and you’ve been conditioned in a lot of ways, but now that you’ve stepped out of the cave you realize a lot of was a lie. So you do need to look at everything again with this fresher perspective to try to reorient yourself and ground yourself in a greater sense of truth than ever before, and so that’s partially responsible for this interest and this renewed inquiry in such a broad array of things. I think it was this morning — it might have been last night — I was walking on the beach and I was just like, Man I need to start studying physics. I don’t know enough about that stuff. And not because I feel an obligation to know, but because all these fundamental concepts that constitute our our experience of reality, that’s one of the domains for better understanding how that all works. And if you’re trying to achieve an integrated perspective grounded in the greatest form of truth that you can, then you can’t really leave something like that off the table, at least that seems to be the impulse behind having had that thought in that time. And don’t get me wrong, I didn’t go home and buy all the books or get online and dig into all these physics courses, but I think the reason why I make the point is just that when I was in high school I hated physics. I was like, I can’t stand this, because it was complex and I didn’t get it and everything, but because those concepts have a new relevance for me, I want to understand how all these things work more so than I did then because all that has more meaning for me now. My desire to expand into it, to learn about it, has come to the surface. And I think that’s happening for a lot of people in a lot of different domains. So my question to you is it seems like something like that is is occurring as well, but what do you do with that? Not how do you not burn yourself out with this, but you mentioned a few minutes ago maybe some people getting burnout a little bit when you touch something like this or when you’re a part of a process like this. How do you rein it in so that you channel it and engage it properly?
Erik Cason [1:26:31]: That’s a great question. I’ve been at this for 10 years and I’m not sure if I do have an answer, and I think that this is part of that whole transcendental process again, is that it’s about what moves and inspires. The Greek word for creativity and production is this word Poiesis, but what’s really important is that it has this really deep and powerful relationship to our creativity and how we can gather things together and then produce things. And I think for most of us, this itching, this question — I think about Morpheus’ phrase like, You’ve always known something was wrong with this reality. Like a splinter in your mind, it just sits there and mocks you and you have to get it out. Well, this is part of that process. I love that we get to orange pill people like this and being like, Yeah, you’re right. There is something wrong with the world — it’s horrifically wrong, and we can tell you all about how it’s wrong and how you can change it, but you have to do that work. You have to make that choice, and it’s not gonna be easy. And I think it’s funny, we’ve talked about this before that you take the orange pill and you’re like, Yeah, I’m going to be rich! And you wake up in a spaceship like eating gruel and you’re like, What the fuck? This isn’t what I signed up for? And that’s really important because that is part of the process. We come in for Number Go Up, you start buying Bitcoin, you read about all this shit and you start realizing like, Oh, I didn’t just join the thing to make a bunch of money — it turns out I’ve joined some revolutionary vanguard to change the global monetary system. That wasn’t really the first plan action. And I do think some people might pull away from that, but I think honestly most people see it and it’s like this really exciting thing. And I think the purpose and glory here, that’s what connects us to this infinity that has us want to keep pushing. I probably think about this several times every day, but just the position that you and I and others occupy, and how special this is in the concourse of human history. To me it feels like getting to be one of the founding fathers, and it’s really profound and badass, because even if this all blows up and melts down, it’s still phenomenal. There’s a great quote from Teddy Roosevelt’s Citizenship in a Republic about the man in the arena and his struggle. I fucking love that quote because near the end of it he says like, It’s better to have gone into that arena and struggled valiantly and failed than to know the timid cold of those who never try. And to me this is what’s so important is like, Think of how fucked up fiat money is and all of the crazy bullshit it’s engaged, and we’ve got a shot to change it. I mean it feels like walking into the dragon’s den and having the three-headed crazy thing come up to eat us, but it also feels badass to look to your right and left and find others who are like, Fucking shields up, bro! And in all honesty, this 5, 10, 20-year thing — I do think that this all plays out to this truly eschatological conflict. I tell Ashley about these crazy fantasies I have, and I really want to find somebody to write a graphic novel with, because we got high and I was telling her about some of my crazy — because I just wanted to get super insane at the end, so I was telling her like, Oh yeah, at the end we’re engaging in this space war with this borg-like apparatus that’s absorbed most of humanity and now it needs to destroy all Bitcoiners and because we’re already in space and have our satellites they can’t take out the networks. And in the conclusion, eventually we fling tungsten bars down onto planet Earth and disable their nuclear energy capacities. And at this point, the global collective that is the Bitcoin network takes it upon itself for the protection of humanity.
John Vallis [1:30:52]: Surely there’s an illustrator listening to this or out there in Twitterland that — you’re saying you wanna write it and get someone to illustrate it, that kind of thing?
Erik Cason: Yeah and to participate, because one of the other things that I want to do with it is just sit down with you and sit down with Francis and Gigi and everybody else and just talk about it and get their ideas and integrate — and I just want to make it this really fun and insane thing because I just want to touch across all the religious rituals that I want to create, the potentialities for all of these other things. And part of why I bring this up is that the infinity that is the human creativity that comes from the inspiration when it encounters truth — because what’s so important is that if we think about these classic pieces of art that were created that were so profound and astounding and magical, we really need to connect back to the idea that there was no aesthetics of art in the ancient Greek or Roman societies — that didn’t exist. These were actual practices that people did to get closer to the Gods themselves to try to reveal truth itself. The importance of this goes to show that art more than anything else is what can produce truth because of the profound statements that they are. And to me this is one of the reasons why what the timechain of Bitcoin is is so profound and astounding is it is this presentation of the ongoing evolution of Satoshi’s art where he gathered together these extremely important pieces of cryptography and database structuring and timestamps in order to produce this piece of truth that’s so radical in our world — not only does it become the most valuable economic object that’s ever been created, but from the observations of folks like you and I, it seems like it’s the most valuable spiritual object that’s been created at this point in time because of the way that it forces us to contemplate what truth is about and how that contemplation reflects on us. And I think, as more and more people come to do this, as our beings encounter this form of truth, we come to the same recognitions that others have, we recognize this conversion for them, this recognition for them, and that that starts building this thing together, that in my opinion — once it accrues a certain amount of power — it moves itself beyond the event horizon where it forces the totality of its cause and starts to present itself, which is fundamentally the defeat of fiat money and the eschatological process that is engaged with that. Because to be clear, destroying fiat money, that immanentize the eschaton more than anything else, with the eschaton being the unveiling for how the apocalypse presents itself.
John Vallis [1:33:58]: Yeah I want to piggyback on that one final point you were making, because I’ve had — I’m sure you have as well, but — every now and then, we all have the thoughts at some point like, Am I crazy? Am I going crazy? Am I just crazy about this thing? Am I overdoing it? And I think we said right at the beginning about how there’s this culture and environment where there’s an allowance, an acceptance of that, because of the recognition of how important it is to discover truth. And if you just think, if you’re exploring any concept or idea or truth outside of the previously affirmed or confirmed base of knowledge, even if we’re not restricting ourselves to mainstream narratives, but just the known corpus of knowledge — if you’re pursuing things and experience things outside of that then you’re on the fringes. And so on the fringes, you’re going to feel like you’re on the fringes because the thing that you’re potentially exploring for potential meaning, potential truth, potential usefulness, is not going to have the padding or the context of all the other stuff that’s come before it that’s allowed it to be properly integrated into your psyche and into the culture, into the to the society, and all that kind of stuff. So it’s always the case that when new novel things are being explored, and particularly such things that are deeply meaningful or deeply relevant or have grand implications, then you necessarily lack the context and the the feelers and the stability to allow yourself to feel the same degree of stability that you would feel in the domain of the already. And so what I wanted to ask you — and I think we’ve maybe already covered it but I’ll ask you one more time just in case — when those feelings or thoughts crop up where you wonder if you’re being less objective or less critical or less clear-thinking than you might or ought to be, how do you frame what’s happening to you and in you in order to ground yourself in truth to the extent possible?
Erik Cason [1:36:53]: I think a lot of that is a really subjective and personal process, because going crazy is fucking hard. And just on that note: when I got into it, there wasn’t any content. There was no other fucking crazy Bitcoin people. It was me. I feel really lucky — I showed up at Coinbase and pretty quickly I found other people, and my best friend today who I love so dearly, we met at Coinbase. He was part of their security team. And it was really funny because I think it was literally like, Hello, I’m Erik Cason. I’m here to tell you about Bitcoin and how great it is. I have my own crazy perspectives on it. And he was like, Oh yeah, I’m really interested in the philosophy of Bitcoin. And he was like, Have you heard of this individual Carl Schmidt? He’s a German philosopher. He wrote a lot about sovereignty. And it was hilarious because nobody’s ever asked me about Carl Schmidt — nonetheless like I’m a scholar in him so I was just like, Yeah actually I’ve read all of Carl Schmidt’s work like I’m pretty informed about it. And from there it’s just been ever since. He’s like my Burning Man buddy in what we do. And so to answer your question, I think one part is finding other people that you can connect with and empathize with. I think the second is that there is no way to exit the box of society without seeming crazy. That’s why it’s a box and that’s why you seem crazy when you start to leave it. And I think the other one is: ask yourself what’s really crazy, Magic Internet Money or the state of the world? And again, these put us up against some really, really hard stuff, and I want to empathize at how difficult it is to come to terms with a lot of those things. And I hope that you’ll have the courage to move through it, because I think that all of this goodness that we get from Bitcoin — and I do want to emphasize the fact of that it’s also unknown as well and it’s unknown in a really positive way that includes what I would call the mystery, but — that’s really threatening, and I think that that’s why a lot of people choose the authoritarian route because shit stinks but it’s warm, and they’ve been told that that’s safe and it feels safe to them. And it goes to show how powerful this process of propaganda is. People are getting their fourth, fifth injections of this stuff and I feel like I’m shitting and bashing on all the vax stuff so much and I just want to go back and say, Look, whatever your opinions are, whatever you want to do with your body, that’s your own business and I want to honor that first and foremost before anything else, but we really need to consider what it means that maybe these powers aren’t telling us the truth, that maybe all these ideas of safety they gave us aren’t true. And for me, one of the things that I really got with my own transcendentalness of Bitcoin was a sense of security and safety that’s beyond anything I’ve felt before. Because of who I am and the activities I’ve engaged with in my life and how I present myself, I have a very deep existential fear that I’m just gonna get fucking black-bagged at one point in time. And that includes prior things I was doing from before Bitcoin, and so knowing that if I am black-bagged, that there are methods to recover my Bitcoin and protect and help my family — that’s allowed for me to engage in Bitcoin in a very different way. And I also think in the future politically as well because — not to scare you or anything but I honestly think most of us early Bitcoiners — and to say this with the religious garb: I totally think we’re gonna fucking die for our cause and I think it’s almost inevitable. I don’t think we really have a choice in it. Because I also think that right now we’re still in this phase where the state doesn’t understand what’s going on in addition to all this crypto noise, is like the greatest thing ever, because they’re letting Bitcoin into the state and they don’t understand how dangerous it is. And I think when that moment comes, which I think is going to be some combination of having hyperinflation, a terrorist attack facilitated by Bitcoin, along with a couple other things, they’re absolutely gonna flip the fuck out. And I honestly think it’s gonna be like, Anyone who holds Bitcoin is a criminal, we’re sending fucking SWAT teams into your house to get you and your private keys, we’ll do enhanced interrogation tactics to get that Bitcoin from you because we must stop the hyperinflation and we have to take all the Bitcoin from the Bitcoiners. And I think what’s going to be really interesting is that who knows who it’ll be, but somebody’s going to lock and load and be like, All right everybody, on me — civil war starts now. And again, I really hope none of this happens. I hope we figure out a non-violent and peaceful resolution to all of this. From being a historian, I just don’t have a reference where the state came up against stuff like this and they were like, Hey guys! They got better technology and stuff than us so pack it up and go home — no war today! I just don’t have reference points for that happening with the state.
John Vallis [1:42:23]: I know, and totally rational perspective to have. Call me naive — maybe I’m just an eternal optimist or something like that, and maybe part of that is because we’ve never had something like this before with these qualities, and maybe it has the power to deal with those forces that you just articulated in a way that previously hasn’t been dealt with. That’s my hope, that things don’t get the way that you just described, and that things will surprise us on to the upside in terms of how things shake out and how things transition. But to my final comment on wondering if you’re crazy sort of thing — and I’ve been on the fringe for most of my life so I have a fairly strong sense of like —
Erik Cason: You’re a black sheep and you never really expected to be a white sheep.
John Vallis: Right, exactly. And I’ve been comfortable I guess on the fringe for most of my life but I did read when I was 20, something like that, like just after high school, a lot of Krishnamurti, his philosophical books and stuff like that, Jiddu Krishnamurti. And one of his quotes, which I think I’ve mentioned several times on the pod before and which I’ve used as a kind of a mantra — I never doubted myself, but when I started to feel the pressure of being an outsider, there was two things that I would remind myself, and one was a mantra that I conjured up myself, which was, I’d rather be tormented by the truth than coddled by ignorance. And the other one was a Krishnamurti quote, and he would always say that, It’s no measure of health to be well-adjusted to a profoundly sick society. And I very much agreed with that. I thought like if I did feel like I was normal, that would be the biggest warning sign, because I look out and do my best to see with clarity what’s going on and I see a lot of problems — a lot of beauty, too. Love breaks through and beauty breaks through and truth breaks through and the smile on a child’s face and the joy of reuniting with a partner and a beautiful landscape — I’m not trying to characterize the world as having been all dark. But as far as culture and society is concerned, there were a lot of forces at play that I thought were constructing and construing a society that was, to use his terminology, profoundly sick. And the bigger concern for me would have been if I felt comfortable and normal amidst all this stuff. And so that’s really the tension: in a day-to-day basis, you’re being forced to act as though everything is normal and fine to get by and to go to work and to go to school and to interact socially, but then in the back your mind, you know how many things are fairly dire, or to put it way too lightly, need to be improved. And so the tension of operating in those two worlds invokes the imagery of the hero’s journey, again. You’re having to walk gingerly on the fringe of things so that you don’t fall off one way or the other, and you keep being oriented by your pursuit of truth. In terms of how awesome it feels, which we’ve been discussing throughout this conversation, it’s like: someone was saying that they were feeling a bit down lately and I was like, Dude, I get you because the world over the last two years is as crazy as it’s ever been, if not the most crazy, whereas 13 years ago we had nothing to combat that. Now we have the sword of truth in Bitcoin to actually confront the dragon with. It’s a time to be as optimistic as ever and as dedicated to using that as ever. And so to have found that sword, that tool, and to have found the other people that have been on a similar journey, either a very long time or a very short time but nonetheless found their way to a very similar path, it’s probably the most gratifying thing I’ve ever experienced. It’s amazing. But what I love about it too is it also comes with a certain sense of obligation. I don’t feel an obligation to educate or anything like with this podcast or anything, but an obligation to be truthful to that pursuit, like pursue that journey and walk that path with integrity and continue being oriented by the truth, and continue trying to refine your perception of that thing that that’s orienting you is. That’s what I feel the most obligation to.
Erik Cason [1:48:01]: I feel like our relationships with each other inspire that, and that’s what has us reach beyond ourselves. And with this truth, it’s really interesting to think about the conceptualization of dying for something, and it’s very difficult because we don’t want to die — that’s not something that is on our schedule. But sincerely, the idea of somehow: you get caught in a situation where you need to die for Bitcoin — again, it sucks to die, but if I was to die in this context, I have to admit, on the way to the gallows or whatever, I would feel pretty fucking satisfied. Because we’ve reduced death to this absolute callous and disgusting pursuit of protecting our life at all costs beyond anything, and we now have a society that has decided to sacrifice the youth in order to give the old a few more years of life — it’s horrific, it’s wrong, it’s extremely destructive to what our society is. And truth is, we don’t need to participate in it anymore, and we have a method and way to resist it and to fight back. And again, we’re at the very first chapter of all this stuff going down, and when that all goes down, I think some of us are going to get destroyed. And as fucked up as it is, I think that activates something really powerful because they destroy us and our money goes off and bonds with other people and acts as a ghost to rectify us — that’s going to be a very, very powerful event in human history that speaks to the power that is Bitcoin. And a lot of us are here and participating in it and it’s fucking incredible. And even though I talk about all this dark stuff, on a personal level, with other people and Bitcoiners and where we’re at — like, fuck man, it is so much more beautiful and profound and special than I ever thought. I love these people and I love getting to party with them and have conversations and go deep and share. And we all got vibes of that in Miami and we’re gonna get a lot more of this next year and the year after. And to go against the balanced thing that there is no Bitcoin community, which I agree with to some extent — all of us could be included. But with that being said, there is a communal aspect here that we share in in the glory of what we’re trying to create and pursue together. And it truly is profound and spiritual and great and all of this warm fuzzy shit and it’s extraordinary. I could have never imagined a life for myself that was this rewarding and profound and deep and delightful and special, particularly in this world. And then the extra cherry on top is like, I sincerely believe that we’re helping immanentize the eschaton and bringing this technology to liberate the entire world from the fucking antichrist that seems to be occupying all spaces of power. I pinch myself every day and go, How the fuck could God love me so much — like me? Like, retarded me with all of my fucked up-ness? I’m a really anxious person and I also have pretty low self-esteem, and I’m getting a lot better because I have all these feelings and I just think to myself, How is it possible God could love me this much that he could have allowed me to discover this thing, to understand it, to choose it, to integrate it in my life, and then for all that, then he gives me more wealth than I ever thought that I would have. I was always just a poor working guy — I thought I was gonna be scraping by my entire life. And not that it’s profound amounts of money, but it’s more than I had before, and it’s more than anything I thought I would have, and that it allows me to live a life that I’m not in the machine doing shit I hate, crushing my own soul. And then I have this power and beauty and capacity to create and have other people give to me. I don’t know what to say about it — it’s so profound and it’s such a gift that, that same obligation you spoke of, I sincerely feel like I don’t have any choice: I have to do this, not only as an obligation of my God, but to try to honor in some pathetic and in a pittance of a way of how he has rewarded me. And I think others feel that and it’s all fucking crazy to talk about in this context, but here we are. And it’s beautiful, and I feel powerful and proud, and it’s exciting to share. And I hope other people hear this and they hear it as well, and I want them to know: come, participate, offer Bitcoin whatever special perspective you have, because I guarantee you have it, and you have an ability to impact and influence other people in the same way that you and I are. So I hope that other people hear this and take it seriously and really think profoundly about what is it that we’re going to do here as human beings with our limited time on this Earth before we die? Because for me, I want to make it so that fiat money has ended so that all people everywhere have the true potential to be free and to make those choices for themselves.
John Vallis [1:53:30]: Amen brother, amen. And I will actually put a pin in it now despite the fact that I want to go on a bit, but one of the things I do want to go on with is: you mentioned your personal idiosyncrasies like low self-esteem or other traits we pick up as we go through life to make it easier to go through life, and maybe we all have blindspots, biases, unresolved issues that maybe get repressed because who wants to dig up that kind of shit? Or maybe they’re being slowly worked on? And one of the ideas or phenomenons or senses that’s been coming to me recently is — and you’ve heard this idea before that, Love conquers all, and you hear it in love songs and pop songs, in religious scripture and you’re just like, Yeah — I’ve heard it so many times I just accept it. But I guess I had never really tried to investigate what that means. This is coming from someone who — and this is probably going to require far more explanation than I can or should do on a sign off, but — it seems to me like existence or reality is somehow constructed via love, via union, something like that. And if you’ve had mystical experiences or used psychedelics in certain ways or any of a number of other practices, this is not an uncommon assertion. So I’m saying this from the perspective of someone who thinks that way, but still has never really spent much time thinking about a statement like, Love conquers all. And as we said a little bit earlier, love and truth are so often used interchangeably, and maybe that’s because if you follow the truth path far enough, that’s where you wind up. Truth is like the pathway or the highway to the ultimate. But to bring myself back to the original point: when we encounter these things that bother us internally, these imperfections that we might perceive about ourselves — and we all have them, you hang on to them and some get resolved through the course of time and effort and others seem far more difficult to resolve and maybe they become cemented as almost parts of ourselves that seem difficult to transcend or something. And lately I’m starting to think more about that idea of love being a grander and greater and more powerful force than the force of those things that might be holding you down or back or under or in pain or something like that. And I feel like I’m at least partially being brought to these considerations, again, through this thing that is Bitcoin, and that’s incredibly bizarre. But as we’ve been discussing at this point, not entirely unexpected. But maybe next time we can dig in to that a little bit and I can get your thoughts on it, if you’ve spent any time thinking about something similar.
Erik Cason [1:57:10]: Yeah I think I have, and I think that would be a pretty interesting place to start next time is talk about some of the personal impacts that it’s had on us, because I’d really like to go into talking about — to me, one of the things is extricating yourself from this system and taking wealth into your own hands. I feel like it’s such a defining and personal feature about this praxis of self-respect. And through engaging in it, it starts forcing an ontological process, because I truly believe that that holding Bitcoin in the way that you and I understand and hold it is the very first of an entire new ethics of self-care, and that ethics of self-care, as it produces itself as an actual liturgy that can be witnessed, it transforms itself into a religious thing because of the true ethics that we’re demanding to be proven and verified through cryptography. And that process reflects on us. And just a quick note on the messianic Bitcoin piece that a lot of people know now: I felt really, really nervous about publishing that because I felt really crazy, and it was just from engaging with my friend Jesse and with Joe Rogers from Bitcoin Magazine that they really encouraged it and pushed me to do it. And I think that’s important because that’s the other aspect here, is that as our beings come to recognize what Bitcoin is and we’re interacting with other beings who recognize that as well, our interactions are going to encourage each other in a loving way that’s going to help us expand and strive towards that betterment. And ultimately, I truly believe that this is love in the agape sense because it is allowing for us, again, to engage in a relationship with infinity, because it’s asking for us to go above and beyond anybody who we expected to be before and anything we would have expected of ourselves before. And I want to do that. I want to strive for that. And I want to have that ability not just for the recognition, but for how it leaves me feeling. And I think that that’s what we’re all discovering together right now, and that’s going to become this really big and powerful tumultuous thing all the way up until we find ourselves at a coordinated point in time in front of all of the Federal Reserve saying, Your power ends today, and we’ll have the conviction with each other to do that. Maybe I’m crazy, but I sure as hell like being crazy better than being in the box.
John Vallis: Yeah we’re both a little crazy, but somebody’s got to do it.