Is Bitcoin Too Hard To Understand?
I’ve spent a huge part of the last three years explaining Bitcoin to general audiences and the most common form of resistance I encounter is: “Bitcoin is too complicated. The masses will never understand it.”
It’s a fair argument. Bitcoin is complicated and if you want to reach a competent understanding of the big picture then, at a minimum, you’d better get ready to learn about peer-to-peer networks, cryptography and the history of money.
It’s for this reason that I find it bizarre when I hear from friends in the space that Bitcoin is “inevitable.” There’s a belief that one day the masses will suddenly realize the merits of Bitcoin and adopt it on their own. This is certainly not what happened with me. To get to an understanding of Bitcoin I was comfortable with, I had to spend hours with articles, books, podcasts, videos and debating the concepts online. This content had to be produced by other people. Maybe if Andreas Antonopolous didn’t upload 500 videos or Nathaniel Popper didn’t write Digital Gold, then I might still have been in the crowd saying: “lol scam.”
There’s a counter-belief as well, and it’s that Bitcoin is simply too complicated for mere mortals to understand, and that mass adoption will only happen when Bitcoin and the Lightning Network are so simple that grandmas can use it. In The Gates of Bitcoin, John Carvalho calls this the “Grandma’s Razor Fallacy”: the elitist belief that new tech is too complicated and we need to protect people from it for their own good. He also points out:
We’ve seen this play out over and over in Bitcoin’s 11-year story. In 2011, Wikileaks learned how to use Bitcoin very quickly after Visa, MasterCard, PayPal and Western Union cut it off because of threats from the U.S. Senate. Despite Satoshi Nakamoto himself gatekeeping and telling Wikileaks NOT to use Bitcoin to circumvent the U.S. government, Wikileaks did it anyway and it’s estimated…