One funeral at a time

Given the countless number of articles about the energy consumption of the Bitcoin network, I also started to suffer from a certain FOMO to write something about it. The unaffordable know-it-all in me hates it when someone is wrong on the internet, so there was no other option than to write this blog post. A discussion I had recently on this topic made me feel like putting my thoughts on paper because I think it’s clearer this way. I will paraphrase excerpts from this discussion to get my point across. For the impatient, there is a TLDR at the end.

Een nederlandstalige versie van deze post kan hier worden teruggevonden.

There is enough energy to go around

-> Bitcoin consumes too much energy, it is not good for the climate.

<- Bitcoin does indeed consume a lot of energy, but energy can come from climate-friendly sources.

-> It doesn’t matter, we have to live more energy-efficient anyway.

<- ?

Encouraged by politicians who think it is a good idea to shut down nuclear power plants to build gas plants in their place, some people think that “we should all live more frugally”. This is fundamentally wrong. To take this argument to its absurd extreme, the best scenario for “the planet” is if all people were to commit harakiri at the same time. What should we do then? I think the s-word has already been abused way too much to fulfill political agendas, but we must produce as much energy as possible in a sustainable way. We must then consume this energy in an efficient way, to create maximum prosperity for a maximum of people.

We must produce by:

My nuclear energy plea is one for another blog post, but you have already noticed that I am a fan. We must consume by banning things from life that inherently emit greenhouse gases:

So to summarize: it is our moral duty to consume as much energy as possible in a sustainable way, because that is the only way to create as much wealth as possible for as many people as possible. Producing energy from fossil fuels creates wealth in the short term, but destroys it in the longer term. Anyone can use this energy then use it for whatever they please, be it Christmas lights, GPU rendering, or mining bitcoins. A personal opinion about the usefulness of some activity that is carried out with the energy is no longer relevant at that moment.

Whataboutism versus the Nirvana Fallacy

<- The classical system also uses alot of energy

-> Another favourite of the bitcoin mob: whataboutisms.

A frequently heard counter argument used by bitcoin advocates in the energy debate is that the classic financial system also uses a lot of energy. A striking example is that the European Central bank literally prints money and hands it out to oil giants.

This is correct, but it is also a fallacy: this is called whataboutism. Whataboutism is not a valid argument, because it says nothing about what one is actually trying to defend.

Whataboutisms can however be used to illustrate the invalidity of another argument. That “other argument” in this case is a Nirvana Fallacy. This fallacy consists of attacking an idea on the grounds that it is not perfect. An alternative is presented that would be better, but upon closer examination, this alternative turns out to be a purely theoretical construction and can never exist in the real world. In this case, the user is trying to argue that bitcoin wouldn’t be necessary at all in a world where:

Unfortunately, that is not our world as all these things are the harsh reality today.

It has long become clear to me that there cannot be a purely political or military solution to all of the above problems, and that the only way is to think out of the box and accept that bitcoin can be a possible solution, and that the energy consumption in that case is a reasonable price to pay.

What have the Romans ever done for us?

-> Bitcoin is only used as a casino to enrich insiders

-> All stories about bitcoin being used for good are fabricated

In this part I would like to give an anthology of feel-good stories to offer a bit of counterweight to anyone who proclaims that bitcoin is only used for speculation and enriching early adopters.

Well this was it. Maybe I convinced you, maybe not. To be honest, I don’t really care. I know bitcoin will eventually triumph, and I am inspired by the words of the physicist Max Planck:

Eine neue wissenschaftliche Wahrheit pflegt sich nicht in der Weise durchzusetzen, dass ihre Gegner überzeugt werden und sich als belehrt erklären, sondern vielmehr dadurch, dass ihre Gegner allmählich aussterben und dass die heranwachsende Generation von vornherein mit der Wahrheit vertraut gemacht ist.

Max Plank, Wissenschaftliche Selbstbiographie, 1948


I lied, there is no tldr. Just read the post.