How to teach Bitcoin to your grandmother
A defining characteristic of the digital age has been the rise of incredibly complex digital entities, which manage to maintain such simplicity that your grandmother can use them.
Famous, the iPhone arrives in a box without instructions. It’s so well designed and its function goes without saying that a child is able to deftly navigate the control interface and can fill your camera roll with off-angle selfies, or drain your bank account with a few loose settings in it. App Store.
The same goes for organizations based on algorithms. Google, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, among others, have very intuitive user interfaces. To the layman user, certain word strings or visual inputs should produce certain types of results, and the “flow” itself is non-random. to feel to which even the most casual scroller can sense.
There is a machine behind the pixels, but you never see it directly.
You never really need it.
You don’t open up your iPhone to figure out how to best use it, or look at your favorite social media platform’s codebase to figure out which selfies and tweets to post (although every influencer knows which posts will work well with it. ‘algorithm). In this sense, technical innovation is almost completely hidden and the simplified experience you get from the product itself reigns first. A concrete example is Google: the innovation was keyword indexing, but the value and experience on the user side was natural language search.
Nobody cares about your full technical index, but everyone wants to know how to bake a pie or make a martini.
When we consider how product development typically occurs in businesses, we run into a problem applying the same logic of use to Bitcoin. We normally run surveys, talk to customers, study usage data, and advocate within our organization to create an X or Y product or service to better serve the customer.
But the nature of Bitcoin is decentralization. There is no one to send the survey to, no master list of phone numbers to call. Innovation in Bitcoin is emerging, as opposed to the centralized ideation, build, beta testing, and launch techniques of most businesses around the world.
Then how To do we ask our bitcoin grok grandmothers like the dark super coders we always wanted them to be? In a world where tech companies still have intentionally developed products and refined them for a defined audience (see: the Facebook “like” button), everything happens exactly via emergence in Bitcoin.
Today, there is no perfect user experience solution for Bitcoin, no killer app that ties everything together neatly, but by showcasing and explaining how three key elements of Bitcoin work in your physical space, I claim that you can start teaching even your grandmother. Bitcoin on tea and brownies.
Part one: the mining platform
Against intuitively, we should start our journey with the mining rig.
Whether you head to the basement, covered patio, or side yard to open your Black Box mining enclosure, you should start the Bitcoin journey with proof of work and decentralization.
Your mining platform is here, converting electricity into digital security and processing transactions across the network, maintaining digital scarcity and immutability alongside hundreds of thousands of other miners scattered around the world. From this point of view, we understand decentralization and the absence of permission.
We are participating in a digital game, and this machine executes the code that allows us to play the game. No one can stop us from converting our electricity into digital efforts, and neither can we infringe on anyone’s right to play this game. Game.
And do we play this game out of the goodness of our hearts? No!
We play this game because by playing the game we guarantee our own participation while getting financial reward for the game. The more efficiently we can play the game, through cheap electricity or climates suitable for mining , the greater the reward. Everyone knows the rules of the game, and anyone who cheats is immediately disqualified from the in-game rewards via the code itself.
We just described a Nash equilibrium, a state where our motivation is to play the game as efficiently and fairly as possible, because cheating in any way can only hurt us.
Thus, we see that mining is a game of securing and deploying computing power in an efficient and creative way.
Part two: the knot
Coming from the backyard or basement, we can walk to the router or the office, where our node lives.
It could be a Nodl, Umbrel, Start9 or even an old laptop running Linux and Core, it doesn’t matter. What matters is that our node allows us to explore the state of the participants in the game. In this sense, we are the referees of the Bitcoin network.
By logging into our node, we see our current block height and all verified transactions that live in each block in the chain. Using a block explorer like mempool.space (often from our node), we can dive into transaction data that we know to be 100% accurate and verified on the blockchain. (I also recommend https://symphony.iohk.io/ for exploring the Bitcoin blockchain, it’s an amazingly beautiful audio and visual representation of Bitcoin)
Here we have immutability and verifiability. Each node runner monitors the state of the current game and rejects any transaction that does not follow the rules of the code. Because of this, they can not only verify every transaction that has occurred on the Bitcoin blockchain, but they can be sure that it should. they or they want to submit a transaction to mempool and be included in a block, it would be executed according to the rules of the game.
We made the hard-working security team and the ever-attentive referee real, so how do we now actually participate in this transactional game?
Third part: the hardware wallet (or signature device).
Maybe you’re in the office now, or heading to the safe, or flipping that faux stone that you keep in the plant by your window.
Here we have the hardware wallet, made by various manufacturers with an assortment of bells and whistles. Some look like vintage calculators, others look like sleek Apple products, all serving the same basic purpose: to protect a digital secret that you and only you need to know to transact on the Bitcoin network.
Whatever interface your wallet looks like, you should have the ability to transact over the network using your own node. (Note: Without going down a rabbit hole here, the main difference between using your own node and a wallet interface that does not require a node is that when you use your own node you are broadcasting and verifying a transaction. yourself, and when you are not using a node, you trust someone else to broadcast your transaction, which allows them to see each transaction you make.)
And what about this “digital secret”?
This digital secret, most often stored as a set of 12 or 24 random words, is what makes it possible to generate a wallet with public and private keys, the secure digital accounts that allow individuals to use bitcoin. .
No one in the world has a set of secret words exactly like yours, so in the same way that you protect your house with locks and a security system, you must protect your secret words, so as not to leave the door open. open entrance and let anyone inside.
To receive a transaction on our secure digital account, all we need to do is share the public address (like a PO box or home address) and individuals can send us bitcoin.
To send bitcoin to someone else, we use our private key to sign a transaction at the recipient’s bitcoin address (their P.O.box or home address), then we broadcast that signed transaction to the miners we mentioned below. above, to include our transaction in the next block they mine.
By creating and protecting a ‘digital secret’, we can use the Bitcoin network both to store our wealth without anyone being able to take it from us, while having the ease of use to send it to anyone. , anywhere in the world, with a single click.
Put it all together
In just three physical devices – the miner, the node, and the hardware device – we encapsulate the operation of the most powerful value network on the face of the earth, and we move ever closer to finding this “killer app. “which allows billions of people, of all ages, to quickly grok Bitcoin.
I don’t believe we have the metaphors yet to fully teach Bitcoin to the masses, but I believe we are going through a communication chasm that connects cypherpunks, Core developers and thousands of lines of code with the average lifespan of the average human across the world.
It is our job in an emerging system to build these metaphors and disseminate them to the network that is humanity, in order to better educate others on the massive positive externalities of secure value and hard money.
This is a guest article by Robert Warren. The opinions expressed are entirely their own and do not necessarily reflect those of BTC Inc or Bitcoin Magazine.