Although many entrepreneurs and investors would like to see Bitcoin become a mainstream phenomenon, the roots of this technology can be found in the fringes of libertarian and anarcho-capitalist political thought. While plenty of Bitcoin companies are attempting to bring fast, digital payments to the world through the use of cryptocurrency, the main point of this invention is still to allow for open, censorship-resistant transactions.
This simple point about why Bitcoin is useful is often overlooked in the cryptocurrency community these days, but it has been brought back into the spotlight in a new documentary. The documentary, Ulterior States, comes from Tomer Kantor, and it’s a compilation of interviews and footage from Bitcoin’s early history (2012-2015).
Decentralization is the Point
As soon as Ulterior States starts, it’s clear that the political implications of Bitcoin are going to be the main focus of the documentary. To many of the individuals featured in the film, the point of Bitcoin is that it removes the need for centralized authorities in one of the main aspects of everybody’s lives — money. These points of centralization have caused serious problems throughout history, as Third Key Solutions CTO Andreas Antonopoulos explains in the first few minutes:
“I think there’s certainly a disparity of justice going on, which is a theme that’s been occurring really for centuries. But when it starts affecting the middle class, people notice that there are multi-tier justice systems. And some people have always been getting away with the worst crimes, and some others never get away with anything. It’s becoming quite noticeable in the States and most Western-developed nations now — how there are multi-tiered justice systems. But it’s no different from the past. It’s just that the middle class used to not be part of the lower justice tier. The lower justice tier has expanded to include them.”
It’s odd that more people aren’t still focusing on the key points of decentralization and censorship resistance with Bitcoin. After all, it still appears that the closest thing to a killer app for this technology — at least up to this point — has been Silk Road.
Creating an Alternative to the Current System
For many, Bitcoin is viewed as a tool for avoiding those injustices from the past. Having said that, Bitcoin should not be viewed as a tool that will be used by everyone and lead to some form of ultra-enlightenment. As Dark Wallet’s Amir Taaki noted in the documentary:
“The goal is not to save the world because some people don’t want to be saved. What we have to start to do is to start to think how we can carve out a safe operating space for the future, where we as freedom-loving people can survive, thrive, and grow.”
In other words, Bitcoin is not a tool for tearing down the current system — it’s a tool for avoiding the current system completely. For the crypto-anarchists who are involved with Bitcoin, the technology can potentially be a cornerstone of creating entirely new systems of government rather than attempting to convince democratic populations of the errors in their past judgments.
Why Focus on the Politics of Bitcoin?
Ulterior States takes a different approach than most other Bitcoin documentaries, as it doesn’t try to track the history of the Mt. Gox fiasco or even explain how Bitcoin works on a technical level. Instead, this documentary is about the fundamental point of decentralization and disintermediation. When asked about the film’s focus on the political roots of Bitcoin, Ulterior States Director Tomer Kantor provided the following statement to Inside Bitcoins via email:
“The film is looking at the community and the reasons that made Bitcoin popular from the perspective of me as the filmmaker. Decentralization . . . and being uncensorable are the backbone of the network. These are the reasons that made Bitcoin popular. The financial instruments and disruptive VC money came after the rise in popularity, as a means of making mostly centralised profits. It might help [bring] Bitcoin to the mainstream, but it didn’t [add] to [its] rise [in] popularity.”
You can watch the entire documentary below:
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