Liz Louw: Writing the story of Bitcoin


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How do you explain Bitcoin to a general audience? That was writer Liz Louw’s challenge as she set out to produce What is Bitcoin?, an ebook for the London-based Bitcoin investment company Bitstocks.

Liz is not the first to confront the problem. She quotes Satoshi Nakamoto himself, who found that “writing a description for this thing for general audiences is bloody hard. There’s nothing to relate it to.”

As a digital marketing and content strategist, writing about business was already one of Liz’s professional skills, but this job meant more to her than just another assignment. The book represents “the fruit of at least three years of research” and is not the kind of “impersonal, objective piece” that she is sometimes asked to turn out, she says.

Liz decided to address the complexities of the subject by looking for narratives. So to help readers understand the principles of Bitcoin she went back to the story of Craig Wright’s work for casinos, before he wrote the White Paper as Satoshi Nakamoto.

How could he solve the problem of making the gaming in online casinos auditable, and making players confident that the system was fair? The principles of Bitcoin were designed to answer those questions. Centrally, designing a system that was “open, public” was key to the solution: “its simplicity - that is the breakthrough”.

When it came to maintaining the computer network behind Bitcoin, again, it is the principle of honesty that makes Satoshi’s system work: “the marvel of Satoshi’s creation is that it enforces honesty through an incentive scheme that makes it more worthwhile to play by the rules than to play dirty.”

Having looked at the origins of Bitcoin and the way it works, Liz’s book ends with ideas about the future. She writes about Bitcoin enabling “the fourth industrial revolution” - the other three being, in order, machines powered by water and steam, electricity, electronics and information technology.

In particular, Liz describes a grand vision of what the data-recording capabilities of Bitcoin will enable: “sooner or later, we will get to the stage where we can interact with computers with access to all of the data that humans have emitted throughout the entire history of humanity. Everything humanity has ever produced will be on the record, available for us to interact with.”

Liz hints at some big announcements to come from Bitstocks that will build on this idea - a pivot from money to data, it seems. “We’re starting to refer to Gravity [Bitstock’s app] a data bank.” The buying and trading of Bitcoin, “that’s the first offering we have,” she says, “but there is much more being built behind the scenes.”

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