The Terraforming of Bitcoin: A Speculation on Viable Planetarityby@espectaculativo
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The Terraforming of Bitcoin: A Speculation on Viable Planetarity

by EspectaculativoJanuary 31st, 2024
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Bitcoin harms the environment through its mining mechanism, but through the Terraforming plan we can transform this harm into a self-sustaining loop where bitcoin creates a perfect match between financial means and ecological goals.
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Fire in the Hole

Bitcoin has become such a phenomenon that almost everyone has a basic idea of what it is: internet money that presumes a decentralization mechanism, with an extremely volatile value price. Yet, another well-known Bitcoin fact has popularized its mechanism, in a decisively pejorative fashion: its climate impact.

Bitcoin’s mining mechanism is itsPharmakon. A Pharmakon is at the same time a cure and a poison. It’s a cure because it assures beyond doubt the legitimacy of its encryption, and it's a poison because of the amount of energy it consumes.

To avoid long paragraphs retelling the story of Bitcoin’s energy consumption, we can summarize them in the following points:

Of course, as Jai Paul argues, it would be unfair to blame climate change on Bitcoin’s energy usage - the cryptocurrency can’t help the use of fossil fuels in its mining. Yet, the consequence remains the same: to produce Bitcoin, there doesn’t seem to be any other option than just accelerating the climate change trend to the limit, shaking the earth until we can barely survive the turbulence.

But this grim prediction is not the only possible outcome. Bitcoin can shake the earth in more than one way; it can even terraform it to the benefit of the whole of humanity given a set of procedures, a path to follow, and a plan to implement.

What Is Terraforming?

Terraforming is the name Benjamin Bratton, philosopher who specializes in computer science and design, gave to the plan of creating an artificial planetarity that can sustain life on Earth [1].

Differing from the current geopolitics that subsumes technology to politics, Bratton proposes a perfect union between geotechnology and geopolitics: the capacity to engineer the world for a better outcome for our species.

Why would Bitcoin need to be part of this plan? For starters, because it’s here to stay. The genie was let out of the bottle in 2008, never to be put back again. The benefits of Bitcoin greatly overcome its downsides: planetary commerce without intermediaries. Yet, for BTC to truly shine, it needs more than these overly known benefits - it needs to fit in the plan of a viable world.

How can Bitcoin be part of this plan? Its feature as a store of value and reward mining mechanism function as a stable economic incentive for green energy development. As this paper explains, by providing a constant influx of funding using green energy that can’t get stored (and makes it difficult to be profitable), Bitcoin achieves an economic goal in the bigger plan of escalating green energies.

This incentive can seem confusing since it was not the purpose of Bitcoin to accelerate green energy development. Yet, in the terraforming scope, an alliance is necessary when the current state of affairs is an opposition between financial goals and green energies: why invest in an unprofitable enterprise when the current fossil fuel economy thrives?

If Bitcoin adoption is to expand to fulfill its promises, assisting in the perfect union of finance and ecology is a path worth taking. As Bratton states:

We want to design for the subordination and inclusion of the financial media into a planetary geoeconomics whose models attend to the abstraction of matter and interchange: economics as a subroutine of ecology. [2]

If the profit motive is preventing the full development of green energies, a technology that rewards those who use it circumvent the traditional fossil fuel economy in favor of a self-sustaining loop fits perfectly into the plan.

You can see an example of this terraforming on the geothermal project happening in El Salvador. After making Bitcoin legal tender in his country, President Bukele is incentivizing its mining through volcanic energy.

By attracting investment and issuing volcano bonds to promote both mining and geothermal energy, El Salvador’s project is a perfect example of how financial media and ecological infrastructure can go together, both promoting the country’s self-reliance and setting an example to other countries that still depend on international financial hierarchies and polluting energy systems.

May the Earth Shake at Its Core

Sometimes technologies emerge for one purpose, but in fulfilling that purpose, they come to reveal not only that the purpose is not what we thought it was, but that the world in which that purpose exists is also different. [3]

Bitcoin has changed the world; for better and worse. Becoming the first currency that can be used worldwide without banks or other hierarchical intermediaries is a historic achievement by any standard. Doing it by consuming an entire nation’s amount of energy is another impressive feat; one everyone in the Bitcoin community has to deal with.

In this sense, Bitcoin has shaken the earth at its margins, and will certainly do it at its core by changing the nature of our commerce and ecology. The point of no return at this time is how will this core shake: accelerating our current climate catastrophe or providing fertile economic soil for green energies?

The Terraforming plan shows us a map to follow for the second option, the one where Bitcoin fits into and promotes a sustaining civilization.


[1] Bratton, B. H. (2019). The Terraforming. Strelka Press.

[2] Ibid. Chapter 5. Regime: All Your Base

[3] Ibid. Chapter 4. Automation as Ecology