As a pain doctor I always paid attention to my patient’s words. That is why I found asking a patient ‘what is your pain score on a scale of 1–10’ silly. It assumes linearity (4 is double than 2) and presupposes that all numbers mean the same to different people, regardless of context. Obviously the scale does not capture the ‘meaning’ of pain shaped by experience, history and culture.
So in order to understand the ‘aboutness’ of pain, instead of asking silly questions (and consequently ordering silly tests and giving silly treatments), I made a habit of asking my patients Phenomenological questions.
For those not familiar with Phenomenology (the study of ‘phenomena’), it is the Objective Science of Subjectivity and is a way to investigate the ‘aboutness’ (meaning) of anything (like Pain, DNA, iphones, capitalism and even blockchain).
Since explaining is a central concern for phenomenologists who devote most of their time to scrutinize first-person perspectives, structures of experiences and intentionality, Phenomenology explains things without recourse to theory, deduction, or assumptions and explains them simply as they are (real or not), without ‘scientifying’ them. Husserl called it going “back to the things themselves” (Husserl, 1901).
According to Husserl once shedding assumptions (a state he called suspension or Epoché) you need to ask only two questions:
- What does this thing mean to you in its presence? (aka essential reduction)
- What does this thing mean to you in its absence? (aka essential or eidetic variation [eidos=essence])
So what do the answers for blockchain look like?
- What does blockchain mean to you?- decentralization? disintermediation? empowerment? trust? innovation? making money fast?
- What does a world without blockchain mean to you?- centralization? waste? coercion? mistrust? being bored or poor?
In order to explain blockchain we must use the why question and recall the circumstances around the emergence of Bitcoin, the first and best-known cryptocurrency for which blockchain technology was invented.
Bitcoin was designed by Satoshi Nakamoto to solve the double-spending problem for digital currency using a peer-to-peer network. It emerged on the heels of the 2008 financial meltdown and in its genesis block (block number 0) mined on January 3rd, 2009 was embedded the text:
“Chancellor on brink of second bailout for banks” (The Times)
This is important because although we often describe Cryptocurrencies, Distributed Ledgers and Distributed Autonomous Organization as disruptive technologies (table below), the message “second bailout for banks” embedded in the raw hex version suggests that rescuing the banks was a problem for Satoshi and that perhaps bitcoin’s purpose was to replace fractional reserve banking.