Innovation as Protest

I’ve walked with the Occupy marches in both Portland and Boston, but couldn’t help but feel as though the only people who could meet our demands were not us. If those people, namely politicians and politically-connected businesspeople, didn’t submit to the movement’s demands, we had no recourse. We were like infants complaining about what was for dinner. How can we take our futures into our own hands, so no bureaucrats, whether from big corporate or big government, can hope to control us?

Bitcoin, a digital fiat currency, represents a tremendous and innovative step towards that freedom. Bitcoin uses a peer-to-peer system that accomplishes two important ends:

  • The currency’s rate of growth is hard-coded, so all users can always know how much currency is in existence, helping price signals to be more accurate. This replaces the need for a central bank.
  • The currency is mostly anonymous. (I say mostly because accounts can be tracked with some sleuthing if users are careless.)

Because transactions are anonymous, state agents cannot currently track them, whether for regulation, taxation, or prohibition. Consider what that means for the drug market: by enabling the development of a market where individuals can trade goods without fear of being shot or jailed (because the state will never know it was them), Bitcoin has effectively legalized drugs for anyone willing to use Bitcoin. Folks like me want to decriminalize, even entirely legalize drug use because:

  • It would stabilize nations like Mexico and Colombia where cartels use violence to resist prohibition efforts. Without prohibition efforts, violence becomes unnecessary.
  • It would improve the market for such goods, making them cheaper, better, and more understood (which would help folks avoid overdosing and otherwise harming themselves unknowingly).

Bitcoin has made this possible without legal action.

Places for similar innovations abound. Consider education: higher education is widely overpriced, and the return on investment diminishes every year. My friends in the state argue that this means we should further subsidize education to curb price growth, but this ignores or even exacerbates the systemic issues with education, like institutional incentives to land alumni with jobs. If post-secondary education is so problematic, why not just find a way around it?

Consider Skillshare, which connects folks wanting to teach a one-time class on anything (really, anything) with students. By making the accumulation of skills and knowledge easier, Skillshare helps people build their own education so they can vouch for themselves, rather than needing to rely on some institution to vouch for them. Other companies, such as CodeSchool, offer a similar if more industry-specific model.

But who’s going to respect your education if you don’t have a degree? This is easier to do in technology because you can let your accomplishments (code you’ve written, projects you’ve worked on, etc.) speak for themselves, but folks in other trades aren’t so lucky. This is where my Resumoid concept comes in: companies post jobs in the form of tasks, users apply to the job by submitting a solution to the task, and once the job has been resolved (whether you get it or not), your solution to the problem goes on your profile. Over time, this builds a sort of portfolio, so people can see what you can do, based on your own abilities. It will take decades for degrees to diminish in importance, but through entrepreneurship and technology we can provide individuals ways around traditional barriers.

Plenty of things about the world could be better, but I’m not taking my protest to the streets. We can change the world ourselves, no bureaucrats necessary. Innovation is my protest.

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