Knut Svanholm


The Black Swan

I remember clearly the first time I encountered a black swan. Two black swans to be precise. They seemed a relaxed couple, paddling along in a pond outside a castle in the town of Palma, Mallorca. The pond was circular, had walls made of cobblestone, and was completely green from all the algae that covered its surface. Being a somewhat lost twenty year old, who had worked his way to Mallorca from Stockholm on a schooner, I had never seen or heard of black swans before and thus never even considered the possibility of such creatures existing, let alone finding them in Europe. The surprise i felt must have been much like the feeling the first explorers who had the same experience felt when they first laid their eyes upon such an anti-expectation of a bird. Considering the metaphorical meaning of a so called black swan event, chances are that they felt exactly as I did.

A black swan event is a metaphor that describes “an event that comes as a surprise, has a major effect, and is often inappropriately rationalized after the fact with the benefit of hindsight.” according to Wikipedia. In other words, it describes an event that no one thought would, or even could happen, that happened anyway. The creation of Bitcoin and the subsequent disappearance of Satoshi Nakamoto combined, was definitely a black swan event. These events playing out the way they did makes Bitcoin a truly rare gem. Before Bitcoin, digital stores of value were thought impossible due to the very nature of data. Data could be copied and therefore even a unique program could easily be duplicated, ensuring that data could never function as a substitute for a physical asset. This would have been true for Bitcoin as well if events hadn’t played out they way they did. There’s a big chance that decentralization would never have been achieved had Satoshi been around longer. If he (or she, or they, or it) had been, people would have known his identity and his background whereupon it is very likely that they would have guessed his intentions or labelled Bitcoin something else than what we now know it as — sound money. If Satoshi was still around his comments would have had a great influence on decisions in Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies. We were so lucky that governments and regulators were as ignorant and dormant as they were during Satoshi’s active period. Chances are that we would have never gotten this far had they paid just a little more attention.

The altcoins constitute the “often inappropriately rationalized after the fact with the benefit of hindsight” part of the Bitcoin black swan event. They all try to recreate something that was, in hindsight, an obvious one time phenomenon. Altcoins are all somewhat akin to the Star Wars sequels, half-baked attempts at re-creating a truly special moment in time for the sake of profit. Just as movie sequels, they may be fun for a while but they rarely stand the test of time. A short term game is played for quick profits, sacrificing quality for quantity. Bitcoin is the antithesis to this sort of behaviour and in that sense, also the antithesis to the altcoins.

I still remember those black swans on Mallorca but i have a hard time remembering any single moment in which I saw a white swan even though i must have seen thousands. If you’re indifferent to birds in general you might not notice a black swan at all. If you’re indifferent to the value of scarcity and the laws of supply and demand you might not notice the magic invention right in front of your eyes — Bitcoin. Unstoppable, uncensorable, immutable, global, peer-to-peer. You either see it or you don’t. Events like these are extremely rare and it’s very likely that no one alive today will ever get a chance like this again. What are you waiting for?

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