The Sovereign Individual ~ by James Dale Davidson and William Rees Morg
The Sovereign Individual is one of those books that forever changes how you see the world. It was published in 1997 but the degree to which it anticipates the impact of blockchain technology will give you chills. We’re entering the fourth stage of human society, shifting from the industrial to an information age. You need to read this book to understand the scope and scale of how things are going to change.
As it becomes easier to live comfortably and earn an income anywhere, we already know that those who truly thrive in the new information age will be workers who are not tethered to a single job or career and are location independent. The pull to choose where to live based on price savings is already more appealing, but this goes beyond digital nomadism and freelance gigs; the foundations of democracy, government and money are shifting.
The authors predicted Black Tuesday and the collapse of the Soviet Union, and here they foresee that the rising power of individuals will coincide with decentralized technology nibbling away at the power of governments. The death toll for the nation states, they predicted with extraordinary prescience, will be private, digital cash. When that happens, the dynamic of governments as stationary bandits robbing hard-working citizens with taxation will change. If you’ve become someone who can solve problems for people anywhere in the world, then you’re about to enter the new cognitive elite. Don’t miss this one.
Choice Quotation: “When technology is mobile, and transactions occur in cyberspace, as they increasingly will do, governments will no longer be able to charge more for their services than they are worth to the people who pay for them.”
Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind ~ by Yuval Noah Harari
Whenever I want to impress on someone how good this book is, I ask: “Do you want to know the fundamental difference between humans and monkeys? A monkey can jump up and down on a rock and wave a stick around and screech to his friends that he’s seen a threat coming their way. ‘Danger! Danger! Lion!’ A monkey can also lie. It can jump up and down on the rock and wave a stick around and screech about a lion when there is, in fact, no lion. He’s just fooling around. But what a monkey cannot do is jump up and down and wave a stick around and screech, ‘Danger! Danger! Dragon!’”
Why is this? Because dragons aren’t real. As Harari explains, it is human imagination, our ability to believe in and talk about things we have never seen or touched that has elevated the species to cooperate in large numbers with strangers. There are no gods in the universe, no nations, no money, no human rights, no laws, no religions and no justice outside the common imagination of human beings. It is us that makes them so.
All of which is a rather magnificent preamble to where we are today. After the Cognitive Revolution and the Agricultural Revolution, Harari guides you into The Scientific Revolution, which got underway only 500 years ago and which may start something completely different for humankind. Money, however, will remain. Read this book to understand that money is the greatest story ever told and that trust is the raw material from which all types of money are minted.
Choice Quotation: “Sapiens, in contrast, live in triple-layered reality. In addition to trees, rivers, fears and desires, the Sapiens world also contains stories about money, gods, nations and corporations.”
The Internet of Money ~ by Andreas M. Antonopoulos
If the two books mentioned above help us to understand the historical context in which Bitcoin first appeared, then this book expands on the ‘why’ with infectious enthusiasm. Andreas Antonopolous is perhaps the most respected voice in the crypto space. He’s been traveling the world as a Bitcoin evangelist since 2010 and this book is a summary of talks he gave on the circuit between 2013 and 2016, all tightened up for publication.
His first book, Mastering Bitcoin, is a technical deep-dive into the technology, aimed more specifically at developers, engineers, and software and systems architects. But this book uses some choice metaphors to explain why you can’t ban Bitcoin or turn it off, how the scaling debate doesn’t really matter and why Bitcoin needs the help of designers to lock in mass adoption.
“When you first ride your brand new automobile in a city,” he writes, “you are riding on roads used by horses with infrastructures designed and used for horses. There are no light signals. There are no road rules. There are no paved roads. And what happened? The cars got stuck because they didn’t have balance and four feet.” But fast forward one hundred years and the cars that were once ridiculed are absolutely the norm. If you want to swim around in the philosophical, social and historical implications of Bitcoin, this is your starting point.