Colloquium Events

Colloquium: Bitcoin Alchemy

4 May 2021. Tuesday. 3 PM. London Time. On Zoom.

Title Bitcoin Alchemy

Speaker Andrew M. Bailey, Philosophy, Politics, and Economics, Yale-NUS College, Singapore

Abstract If there’s one thing ordinary people know about bitcoin the asset, it’s that it has a price, and that the price is up (or down, as the case may be). More technically-minded audiences know a bit more about bitcoin the protocol and why it takes the peculiar shape it does. My topic is the relationship between these two items: in what ways, and for what reasons, do design choices at the network or protocol level interact with the price of its native asset? I’ll argue for three claims. First, the protocol (think here of bitcoin’s hard supply cap, difficulty adjustment, and regular halvings) predictably engenders volatility in the price of its native asset. Second, that volatility solves one important bootstrapping problem — and creates others. Third, that solution paves the way for bitcoin to make good on its most fundamental promise — to be a censorship-resistant and disintermediated base monetary network. I deploy a framework of negative and positive liberties to advance my third claim. Together, my arguments substantiate (and qualify) the slogan that bitcoin is a machine that turns greed into freedom. I close with reflections on what general lessons about system design follow from my thesis, should it be correct.

Bio Andrew M. Bailey is an associate professor at Yale-NUS College (Singapore) and teaches modules across the humanities and social sciences, with a special focus on money. His most research on cryptocurrency aims to understand and evaluate bitcoin and its promise in a way that integrates philosophy, politics, and economics.

Zoom Link

Meeting ID: 668 413 8396

Passcode: mdx