The White Paper
By Satoshi Nakamoto
Guide by Jaya Klara Brekke
Introduction by James Bridle
Edited by Ben Vickers
In the wake of the 2008 financial crisis, the mysterious Satoshi Nakamoto published a revolutionary white paper that described a simple peer-to-peer electronic cash system that would later become Bitcoin. In the decade since the launch of the digital currency, the nascent blockchain technology behind Bitcoin has been heralded as having the same radical potential as the printing press or the Internet, in particular presenting extraordinary challenges to traditional banking. Yet the paper contains no reference to existing political ideas, monetary or economic knowledge. Why?
James Bridle’s introduction situates Bitcoin within an obscure historical movement of decentralisation, powered by the ideologies of encryption, showing how blockchain is part of a wider project to redraw the maps of political possibility. The White Paper returns to Nakamoto’s canonical text as a Rosetta Stone that reveals the far-reaching implications of decentralisation, with crypto-economist Jaya Klara Brekke’s guide demonstrating how it can serve as the compass for a rapidly shifting terrain of contemporary techno-politics.
Inside The White Paper:
- James Bridle introduces the historical trajectory of cryptography and how it gave rise to the blockchain.
- The original Bitcoin: A Peer-to-Peer Electronic Cash System white paper by Satoshi Nakamoto.
- An extensive guide and discussion of the white paper by Jaya Klara Brekke that elucidates the fundamentals of the paper and examines how bitcoin has developed over the course of a decade.
- The appendix brings together a succinct collection of pivotal exchanges and dialogues in the early development of the blockchain technology from between 2008 and 2011.
Jaya Klara Brekke writes, does research and speaks on the political economy of blockchain and consensus protocols, focusing on questions of politics, redistribution and power in distributed systems. She is the author of the B9Lab ethical training module for blockchain developers, and the Satoshi Oath, a hippocratic oath for blockchain development. She is writing a PhD with the preliminary title Distributing Chains, three strategies for thinking blockchain politically.
James Bridle is an artist and writer working across technologies and disciplines. His artworks have been commissioned by galleries and institutions and exhibited worldwide and on the internet. His writing on literature, culture and networks has appeared in magazines and newspapers including Wired, Domus, Cabinet, the Atlantic, the New Statesman, the Guardian, the Observer and many others, in print and online. He lectures regularly at conferences, universities, and other events. New Dark Age, his book about technology, knowledge, and the end of the future, was published by Verso (UK & US) in 2018. His work can be found at http://jamesbridle.com.
Satoshi Nakamoto is the identity used by the unknown person or people who developed Bitcoin, authored the Bitcoin white paper, and created and deployed the first Bitcoin implementation. As part of the implementation, they also devised the first blockchain database. Satoshi Nakamoto ceased public involvement with Bitcoin at the end of 2010; their last public post was made in 2014 as a rebuttal to claims on the ‘true’ nature of Satoshi’s identity. During Bitcoin's peak in December 2017, the Satoshi Nakamoto identity could lay claim to a fortune worth over $19 billion, making Nakamoto possibly the 44th richest person in the world at that time. To this day both the public identity and Bitcoin wallet attached to the identity of Satoshi Nakamoto remain inactive.
Ben Vickers is a curator, writer, explorer, publisher, technologist and luddite. He is CTO at the Serpentine Galleries in London, co-founder of Ignota Books and an initiator of the open-source monastic order unMonastery.