Cryptocurrency isn’t backed by precious metals or the guarantees of the state. Does it matter?
This question of foundations was a major concern for the philosopher Richard Rorty. He sought a new direction for philosophy, away from the belief that the truth of statements could only be judged by how well they correspond to a mind-independent reality. Rather, he saw philosophy — and social thought in general — as simply conversations we hold with each other as we invent new forms of shared understanding.
That is how I see cryptocurrency: an invention that facilitates new forms of social relations. It’s a highly contagious meme, a rapidly spreading social game, a complex system bootstrapping itself into ever more complex forms. Born from humanity, it now lives a semi-autonomous life.
I have no interest in making moral judgments about any of this. I look to John Gray here: technology evolves rapidly, but human nature does not keep pace. Technology doesn’t make us more or less moral. It simply enables new forms of expression.
There is no ultimate foundation to secure claims of truth and value, whether we are speaking of philosophy or bitcoin. In this gap lives our freedom to invent.