Daily Balajisms – Technical Truths vs Social Truths
Viruses don’t care about beliefs. Birds don’t see borders.
Balaji Srinivasan distinguishes technical truths from social truths. A diameter of a virus doesn’t change with belief. Cryptography is based on math and not on institutional prestige.
These are examples of technical truths. They are based on symmetry – two plus two equals four in every part of the world and in every position of social hierarchy.
Social truths depend on collective beliefs. They are our mental software and are underpinned by continuity and a particular local tradition.
We collectively agree where the national border is or who the current president is. But birds are not aware of our country’s borders or the politically correct language of the day.
Balaji says, there is a spectrum between technical truths and social truths, and bitcoin illustrates that well. Crypto is money backed by math, not by men with guns. But its value depends also on collective belief of lots of people in its present or future value and utility.
Balaji talks about the importance of technical defense and social defense in the current central bank crisis and fiat crisis. He posted his BitSignal tweet to warn regular people to get on the bitcoin lifeboat when they still can – before the digital lockdowns of CBDCs or quasi-CBDCs are enacted and fiat-to-crypto bridges are burned.
Balaji says, “buy bitcoin, get it off exchanges and move to a crypto-friendly jurisdiction”.
Within the US, to places like Miami, or even better, outside the US to places like Dubai, El Salvador, or Singapore.
The first part of “buying bitcoin and holding it locally” is the technical defense. But it is not enough, because you don’t want to be a bitcoiner in a crypto-hostile country. Therefore, you also need a social defense - choosing exit (over voice or loyalty) and moving into a high-trust community that is aligned around same values.
Crypto’s proposition is “every user is a root user”. I call this root cosmopolitanism. Rootless cosmopolitanism is illustrated by “people of anywhere”, working from New York or London for a global corporation, without forming local ties.
Modern nationalism and populism is a counter-movement to this trend, with “people of somewhere” focusing on improving a single location, they call their home.
There is also a rooted cosmopolitanism idea by Greg Thomas – “people of everywhere” have multiple places around the world, where they have deep ties with local communities.
Crypto enables root cosmopolitanism – a truly global trade and a permissionless way to transact, form communities and write (crypto)history. Balaji posits rule of code versus the US-dominated rules-based order. He says that the first rule of the rules-based order is that the US is making all the rules.
Often technical truths are masked as social truths or vice versa. The prestige institutions and power hierarchies are using technical language to intimidate their subjects and obfuscate zero-sum nature of their activities.
Traditional finance weaponizes math for opacity. Bitcoin is a de-weaponizing money backed by math. Bitcoin is in the middle of the technical truths vs social truths spectrum.
Bitcoin is also the first example of cryptohistory – incorporating the essence of technical truths and science (independent replication, symmetry) and the essence of social truths (collective belief, continuity).