But beyond the hysteria and madness of the markets, to truly understand Bitcoin’s meteoric rise and fall, one has to understand something about the underlying technology, since a big part of it is likely related to how novel the Bitcoin protocol is.
There is a fundamental alienness to Bitcoin, which is amplified by the sheer scale of what it’s trying to accomplish. At this point it’s not far-fetched to say these entities, these cryptocurrencies, are the most interesting technological objects of the millennial generation. They are futuristic even for our futuristic times. In learning about them you are thrust into a tumbling wonderland where a thing most familiar and indispensable, money itself, is being interrogated.
Bitcoin As Hyperobject
The philosopher Timothy Morton uses a term to describe “events or systems or processes that are too complex, too massively distributed across space and time, for humans to get a grip on.” He calls such things hyperobjects. Morton goes on to say that black holes are hyperobjects; nuclear materials such as uranium and plutonium, with their deep-time half-lives, are hyperobjects; global warming and mass species extinction are hyperobjects. We know, we live with, the local effects of these phenomena, but mostly they are quite literally beyond our ken.
Bitcoin is such a hyperobject, the first of its kind.