I Seem To Be A Verb

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I seem to be a verb.” — R. Buckminster Fuller

Reading “Bitcoin: Ringing the Bell For a New Asset Class” by Chris Burniske and Adam White, what comes to mind is a quote from R. Buckminster Fuller — “I seem to be a verb.”  Fuller, the inventor of the geodesic dome, an icon of forward-thinking, postmodernism, was one of the most progressive thinkers of the twentieth century. Fuller’s advice to students who wished to apply themselves to solving the world’s problems was to think ahead twenty-five years and figure out what needs doing.  His other, lesser-known inventions included the Dymaxion car (three-wheeled), Dymaxion house (factory-built) and pressurized shower which only used one quart of water.  Fuller was solving problems of over-population, water shortages, and material scarcity long before they were global concerns.   Fuller loved to lecture.  I attended a marathon three-day, eighteen-hour event given at Town Hall in New York City.  He was also a prolific writer.  This quote was also the title of a book he wrote.

Fuller was recognizing that we are, in a sense, a work in progress, that everything we did or hoped to do should be seen as being in motion, in a state of wanting to be.  He coined the word ‘synergy’ to mean ‘the whole is more than the sum of its parts.’

What does all of this have to do with Bitcoin and a new asset class? Burniske and White did an excellent job of using the language of economics to identify and evaluate traditional asset classes, then went on to explain how bitcoin is the same and how bitcoin is different.  The four features used to describe assets were: investibility, politico-economic features (value, governance, and use cases), correlation of returns: price independence and risk-reward profiles (returns and volatility).  Bitcoin’s explosive popularity growth and unique use cases set it apart from other asset types.

geodesicBitcoin’s open-source, non-governmental, communal nature is unusual and largely an unknown for the economists and traditional Wall Street investors.  Bitcoin shows itself to be distinct and separate from any other asset class as far as price independence.  So far, so good.  That’s how Bitcoin is the same and different from other asset classes.  But much like Fuller’s need to express our role in society and in the universe, something still is missing from Bitcoin’s definition, that makes it distinct.  It goes without saying that Bitcoin serves a different purpose than other assets.  In a changing environment, its purpose may well be an essential difference.

We live in a dynamic world;  one in which everything is changing.  Everything is in flux.  Everything is in motion.  We use calculus to determine next steps as much as we once used addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division.  Relationships fluctuate in a continuous dance of ebb and flow.  Fiat currency no longer is able to keep up with these dynamic systems.  We have computerized functions speaking to other computerized functions.  These computers have needs, too.  They need, in addition to behaving in response to one another, to remunerate one another.  We need cryptocurrencies in order to do that.  Fiat currencies no longer work.

For example, my subscription to word-processing software needs to be updated monthly.  Certain very expensive features are only billed when I use them.  I rent processing time from a supercomputer by the micro-second.  My social media advertising budget pays for click-through’s only when they lead to sales.  The list goes on and on.  My financial world is dynamic.  My money needs to be dynamic, too.  Bitcoin wallets can be set up to make payments in fine detail; eight decimal places, to be exact.  Other cryptocurrencies can be designed to make payments as a result of a contractual agreement, then change the terms of that agreement, and then continue to make payments without interruption. If we wish to be part of this future world, we need the currency that is able to live in this world, too. Neither gold, nor dollars, nor stocks nor bonds can do that job.  Bitcoin, on the other hand, is able to live the dynamic life this future world requires.