The Art of Conversation

>> January 15, 2020

>> Blog Post #11

Went back to school tonight. They were having a small classroom type of workshop on the “Art of Conversation”.

I’m a shy person. Not the kind to break the ice effortlessly when surrounded by a crowd of unknown people. Like a lot of shy people, I’ve often looked at those who make it seem easy with envy. So, I thought the topic might be interesting and I decided to push myself a little.

#1 push yourself out of your comfort zone

Another benefit of doing this is to network. Now “networking” is a word that I have grown to hate. To me it carries, in most contexts, a negative connotation. What was once a perfectly normal word with no positive or negative connotation has become sullied by some sort of utilitarian, “let’s all pretend to be friendly to advance” kind of vibe. Get on Linkedin and network makes me want to….

But I saw just a few years ago the tremendous benefit of going out more and meeting new people with no specific plan in mind. New faces, different conversations, ideas, creativity. It really got me started on my whole research into Bitcoin. And I stayed and met people because I genuinely cared. I wasn’t playing a part or making any effort to impress. In doing so I’ve grown my network.

So, networking and networking are two different things. The difference is about how genuine and true to yourself you are in the process.

#2 be true to yourself

So I went to the event, thinking that a relatively interesting topic, surrounded by people I didn’t know but who were probably in the mindset of looking for something different from their everyday life might lead in to potentially interesting encounters.

As it turns out, it did not.

The event was pretty interesting and at least I wasn’t bored. I pushed myself to go, which is positive. I picked something that was out of my comfort zone, which I think is a good way of me kicking myself in the butt a little – never a bad thing. The last beneficial element was that I introduced some randomness in my life.

I often feel that so many of the good things in my life owe so much to luck, that one of my goals overall is to introduce more randomness in my life. You don’t do that by sitting at home. You do that by meeting people in different places at different times and engaging in conversations. Once in a while magic happens. Whether it’s creativity, a new project, something you learn, odds are it was not purposely planned beforehand.

That tonight did not turn out exceptionally well is the norm. I’m glad I went, as by doing so I feel I’m increasing my odds of good things happening to me in the future.

#3 Randomness is good for you – look for it.

I’ll finish this off by just highlighting one aspect of the event which I thought about a little on my drive home. The woman leading the workshop gave all sorts of advice on how to have better conversations. One of them was to let go of some of your fears, to reveal yourself a little more for who you are. I know I haven’t always done that, but I believe it is probably something I should try to work on a little more.

Good things probably happen more often when you put a little more of your hopes, dreams and values out there.

#4 Fear not

There’s a little swagger about me as I see myself approaching my life with this outlook.

Owning Stuff…

>> January 14, 2020

>> Blog Post #10

I had a few pints of stout at the pub with a good friend of mine yesterday. It was really nice to catch up as we probably see each other every other year now and live on separate continents. As we gave each other a quick rundown of what had been going on in our respective lives over the last two years he said something that surprised me.

“Of all the people I know, you were the last one to continue to buy CDs”

I paused a second, out of surprise, smiled and we continued with our conversation, which actually didn’t have anything to do with ownership, or property but rather art.

Today, as I was taking my daily stroll in the woods and across the countryside, the thought just crossed my mind again. On a side note, I’ll probably have to write something at some point about the benefits I have found personally in taking a walk every day. Things really happen in your mind, when nothing seems to be happening.

So, what was it that struck me? It wasn’t so much the content, as I immediately felt that the statement was probably true. It did carry the warmth that comes with the feeling that you are talking to a good friend, the kind that probably knows the most trivial details about you – or embarrassing stuff. No, what I think made me pause, was that I took a second to analyze an old behavior through a different set of eyes.

I know for a fact that I kept buying CDs way after most people stopped doing so. I’d then burn them so I could also have them on a computer and transfer them on all sorts of electronic devices. That includes minidiscs if you’ve ever heard of those.

The reason I bought CDs was a mix of liking the object and enjoying unwrapping it, looking at the artwork inside, etc. I also had doubts about the quality of MP3s at first, or about the durability of digital objects and I enjoyed property of the media and the content.

Streaming came later, as an obvious service that extended a deep trend in society to stop owning stuff and just pay for service as you go. I’ve never used a streaming platform or actually I’ve never paid for one. And I probably never will as long as there are available alternatives to purchase music and own it once and for all.

I think continuing to buy CDs was the first sign that for certain things that mattered to me, I would strongly refuse to rent them. Why pay a tenth of a cent every time I listen to my favorite album for all of eternity while I could pay more, once, but never have to worry about it again? My hunch was that if I did the math, renting would be a bad deal. Obviously, I am very conscious that no one else in the universe still listens to full albums, but hey, what can I do about that?

But there is something else to it.

It has to do with the nature of what often falls under intellectual property laws.

Pick your favorite song and think about how much you love it. You should be able to hum it, since it’s your favorite song. You know it by heart. There are no new surprises in it. Thinking about it probably makes you want to listen to it right now.

By owning it, you can, whenever you want. By not ever owning the media that stores it whatever that media is, you will remain at the mercy of people who will be willing to lend it to you for a price.

I don’t want the rights of the music. I want to own the right to exercise the experience of feeling love for “knowledge” I already possess. I already know the song. I already know I love the song. There is no novelty, just the right to experience a feeling that is mine, that belongs to no one else, including whoever wrote or interpreted the song. I will not become your recurring paying customer for it if I can purchase it once, compensating the creator and all the people who made it happen until I took possession of it.

So, in a way, this is an example of how I naturally took ownership of things that mattered very much to me years ago. Buy the CDs, make backups, don’t scratch them, keep them clean, and ordered etc.….

That ownership and responsibility wasn’t much of an effort at all, because I knew why I was doing it and how much those CDs meant to me.

These days I’m taking ownership and responsibility for other things, but you might guess where this is heading next 😉

Opt Out

>> January 9, 2020

>> Blog Post #9

It’s time to make a push.

Make a stand, be heard, push the boundaries, create space for the future you want for others & yourself and are committed to building.

I’ve had a strange feeling this year. I’ve felt that I knew the answer to a question while having very strong doubts about the answer at the same time. I don’t know if it’s intuition versus caution (my system 1 vs system 2 struggle that I introduced here) or only that I probably need to think about it more and have more of a game plan.

“Opt Out” – messages that are as simple and as loaded as this one are so powerful.

I have been attending a fascinating conference for a few years. It is called the Hackers Conference Paralelni Polis or HCPP. The Institute of Cryptoanarchy, Paralelni Polis, is a hacker space that was created a few years ago by hackers, artists and activists in downtown Prague. (this my very approximative description – don’t shoot me). Anyway! It’s a place that promotes and encourages freedom, experimentation and activism.

Each and every year the HCPP conference brings together a very committed crowd of people of all horizons that probably only share their wish for freedom. There are talks, workshops, parties for a few days (and it’s the only conference that is smart enough to have NO morning events – just saying) and each conference is held under a specific yearly theme.

Opt Out

This year’s theme – Opt Out – immediately hit a nerve. It’s probably the best theme they ever chose. No! It IS the best theme they ever chose. (2018 – “New Order”, 2017 – “Liberate”, 2016 “Decentralized” for some examples).

Opting out, is choosing to withdraw yourself from a situation, an environment that is not suitable for you. For people like myself, who have become convinced over the past few years that the way our current systems, countries, governments work is morally unethical and unacceptable, opting out is an evidence. I have already slowly taken some steps that remove me from the daily control that was exerted on me although I had never approved it. Yet, there is further to go.

Opting out is therefore exercising your free will, reclaiming some liberty. But it is also deepening your knowledge about just how much you had unknowingly accepted or taken for granted and embarking on a lifelong journey.

But at some point, you wonder what there is to build, or at least I do. Removing yourself from one world doesn’t mean you need to abandon everything. It means you want it differently. And what does not exist in a format you can accept; you have to build another way. My gut feeling is that next year, or maybe further down the road, HCPP will choose a slogan that will capture the essence of what there is to build and how to build it with others.

Opting out doesn’t mean being by yourself. Opting out means you care about certain values, that might be more important than comfort or material things. It does not in any case mean you do not want to build relationships and a society with others who share those.

So, the question is how small is this crowd that you will be building with. Is it small and in need or remaining “underground” or is it an early manifestation of the street getting ready for a change of scenery?

I will reserve my answer as I ponder a little more.

Satoshi Index’s Content

>> January 8, 2020

>> Blog Post #8

What should you expect to find on this website?

My goal is to build content around topics that interest me. I want to write, collect, organize and get creative.

Fields you should see regularly covered include social sciences, politics, current affairs. There is no set limit on the various topics I might touch on, but do expect to read a lot about Bitcoin, liberty, privacy, education – with a heavy focus on educating children – money, critical thinking, risks, etc.…

At first, you will probably only see blog posts as I get accustomed to this new writing enterprise. However, in time I do have a few ideas to present content in a few other formats that I hope will be of interest.

I’m also looking forward for opportunities of discussing certain of these themes with anyone interested. I guess group study is a thing and I’ve never tried it. If there is any topic you’d be interested in, please let me know if the comments.

Introducing Satoshi Index

>> January 7, 2020

>> Blog Post #7

I’ve taken a little time to introduce myself and some of the motivations I had for writing here in this public space that I have named Satoshi Index. But I haven’t yet explained what Satoshi Index is and what I have in store for this site.

Satoshi’s renown as a first name has probably risen incredibly over the past 11 years as it is the name of the creator of very popular Bitcoin.

However, this is not a site about either Satoshi Nakamoto or Bitcoin. Rather it is a site that will most certainly contain a significant bitcoin content, but also a lot of elements that have not direct link to it.

So why did I choose this name?

First, I’ll have to admit that it was relatively random and didn’t really know where I was going with.

Second, I instantly was happy that it was a .com and fairly easy to recognize or memorize, or at least I have hopes it is.

Third, it felt like a nice testament of what bitcoin symbolizes for me personally. Let me explain this a little more.

A few years ago, I went back to school as I felt I needed to expand my horizon quite a bit and felt board at work. Something was missing even though I did not put specific words on it. As a lot of things in my life, the decision to go back to school was mainly due to luck. Indeed, while I had since the end of college thought that one day, I would probably be happy to come back to school, it wasn’t something that I was pursuing at that specific time at all. While a pleasant thought to contemplate, I could have very well taken the idea of going back to school to study geopolitics – something that has always interested me greatly – to my grave. Actually, the odds of the idea remaining exactly that, just an idea were disproportionately high.

But one night, while reading the paper by the fireplace, I came across an ad for a new program being launched in a prestigious school and centered around digital transformation. Its content and the way it was structured was extremely compelling. I applied the next day.

Now I’ve never been a fan of school. I had always been a very average student at best and I’m not sure this time was any different. However, this time around I actually enjoyed the school experience tremendously.

Most of the professors were absolutely fascinating and getting back to learning was at that time an incredible breath of fresh air. I’m not going to expand on the reasons of all of this too much as it really seems to me that it’s a mix of the program’s quality, being around people I didn’t know but who just like me we very willing to learn and discuss, and breaking my routine. But one thing I know for sure is that it felt like an awakening.

Long story short, as part of the program each student had to write a thesis, and you might have guessed by know, the topic of mine was Bitcoin. I had heard about bitcoin and blockchain in the news but had never understood what it was exactly. But I started reading about it more during the program as I wanted to pick a research topic that was both current and had some future potential.

There are two elements to the way I approached bitcoin that probably played a large role in me falling down the rabbit hole.

The first element is that I started my research in a slightly historical way, focusing on the people that either created, or participated in the beginnings of Bitcoin, or their forefathers. I quickly ended up learning about the cypherpunks and was thoroughly impressed.

The second element is that the technicality of bitcoin was clearly above my paygrade and not understanding how it worked was bothering me. I read and read more, but it still escaped me. I found the same information over and over again in every newspaper or online article and ended up determining that the people writing these probably didn’t understand much more than I did. So, what I did was to a local bitcoin meetup to see if I could meet people who could explain it better to me. And once again, I got lucky. The people I met were bitcoiners. They were smart, knowledgeable, willing to share their love of bitcoin and a couple of them were actually extremely clear in their explanations. I came back for the next meetup and the next one after that and ended up not missing a single one in the next couple years. I was hooked.

Learning so much, meeting so many new faces, opening my mind about a few topics along the way made me feel like I had just awakened from a very long slumber. I haven’t gone back to sleep since. And I hope I never will, because I have renewed energy and interests. Many of them go way beyond bitcoin or have nothing to do with it.

But Bitcoin is a passion and it is a great symbol of some of the changes that happened in me and that mean so much to me.

Satoshi Index should therefore be seen as an homage to the people who defended and still defend certain ideals and values whoever they may be. Satoshi is one (or maybe several) but there are others that I admire and should be included in that homage.

My homage is simple, you contributed to wake me up at a certain point in my life and for that I sincerely thank you.

What I do here, is my own and I claim no lineage whatsoever.

I guess I rambled on enough in this post that I will actually leave the presentation of what I will be doing to tomorrow…

Let’s just focus on the homage for this one.

Personal Risk Assessment

>> January 6, 2020

>> Blog Post #6

A couple of years ago I read an article that made quite an impression on me. Someone had posted a link to it on one of the bitcoin forums I read daily and the description he made of it triggered my interest.

I believe the link I had received was for the post on the ZeroHedge website, but after a little search I found the original article to be this one.

The reason why I’m posting it here is that one of the examples hit home for me. The main point in this article is that people don’t assess risk properly. I personally don’t believe the most interesting part is the financial implication of not getting rich as it is not one of the things that I give the most importance to in life. What I thought was really interesting was the downside risk and how my personal assessment of it was skewed.

A lot of people, at least where I come from, tell you that quitting or losing your job is terrible, especially when you have a house and a family because you might not be able to manage. I’m keeping the argument fairly generic, and it’s actually not very well worded, but the main point here is that the argument always feels very definitive and that it’s always fairly vague.

When I look about it today, I feel that the intuitive way that a lot of people receive that argument is “You should be fucking scared, cause you risk going from 100 to 0”. And no you don’t.

Once I saw that my biggest downside risk was to stay in the professional situation I had and not to either have to:

  • flip burgers for a few weeks / months – say a 20% chance and honestly, I think that would be unfortunate
  • work the same job elsewhere for a 30% salary cut for a year or so – say a 30% chance
  • work the same job elsewhere for the same salary – that leaves 50%

I saw things more clearly and almost immediately my mind started working for the benefit of one, and only one thing: me

I could have failed to try.

Now worse thing that could happen to me is fail while trying.

Let me know in the comments what you think of that article and if you too have fallen into that assessment trap. I’ll definitely come back to this as I am convinced that it has a lot to do with how we are educated and how society is actually happy when we are trapped in that situation as some people benefit from it. Just not you.

Questionnaire de Bernard Pivot

>> January 5, 2020

>> Blog Post #5

While I’m getting all setup here and organized for a year of writing, let me take the opportunity to introduce myself a little more.

I’d like to do so by using a simple questionnaire that I personally refer to as the “Bernard Pivot Questionnaire” but that has been used in various formats by others, most notably by James Lipton during his “Inside the Actors Studio” interviews. (for those who don’t know it – here is the first example I stumbled on while looking it up).

There are a few different versions of it out there, so here’s my own mashup of it.

  1. What is my favorite word: dream
  2. What is my least favorite word: must
  3. What is my favorite drug: sugar
  4. What turns me on creatively, spiritually or emotionally: driving alone at night
  5. What turns me off: arguing
  6. What is my favorite curse word: connard
  7. What sound or noise do I love: fuzz
  8. What sound or noise do I hate: phone
  9. Who would you like to see on a new banknote: an empty portrait
  10. What profession other than my own would I like to attempt: writer (here’s my attempt)
  11. What profession would I not like to do: garbage man
  12. If you were reincarnated as some other plant or animal, what would it be: a bear
  13. If Heaven exists, what would you like God to say when you arrive at the Pearly Gates: I would like him to give me stats about my life

Feel free to chime in with your responses to this questionnaire in the comments section below.

Laws Come & Go – Morals Remain

>> January 4, 2020

>> Blog Post #4

Laws come and go

Morals stay

Or at least they have a better chance at posterity.

Seems like the palpable discontent that people have in a lot of countries these days is targeted at governments or very large corporations.

This corrupt politician, this cheating chief executive something. You’ve all heard these stories. Worse, this is just the tip of the iceberg, and needless to say most of us know that a large majority of these people get away with what you and I could not.

Sometimes the stories are even more complicated. With people getting away with what you feel is wrong, deep down inside of you. Yet somehow, whatever they have done is not condoned by law.

This is where personal values and morality are important. Not the bullshit kind put out by PR professionals on behalf of well-paying companies in need of a little reputation brush-up. No. Personal values. What you stand for. What you are willing to accept. What you would agree to do or accept be done to you.

And sometimes, when corruption becomes rampant in society, when the powerful feel they can live according to different standards than you or me, you have to think hard about what is accepted by law and what is right.

I feel that the gap between what is right and what is legal is widening. I think it’s a sign of the times. And I strongly believe that in these times, it is important to focus on what feels right.

Think of it. At some point of time, slavery was legal.

Try to take a look at the world today and at your life. Think about it for a week or two while you read the news or listen to stories you hear at work of at dinner time. Is this right? Do I agree with it? And if you don’t think about what you feel you should be doing.

People around the world are standing up for very different reasons. But it often comes down to fighting for what is right.

Perspective #2

>> January 3, 2020

>> Blog Post #3

I’ve introduced a few elements in the two previous posts that might need some additional explaining. All seems very clear to me as these are topics that I have been thinking about daily for a few months, but I haven’t given a thought to how I would express them yet.

In Perspective #1, I staged a fake conversation happening in my head between two parts of me. Now tell anyone that there are several voices or people in one’s head and they’ll say you’re crazy. You couldn’t be further from the truth.

See, I’ve been reading through the excellent “Thinking, Fast and Slow” book by Daniel Kahneman recently. It’s the second time I read it. Or actually it’s the second time I read through the first half of it as I tend to read several books at the same time and some of them necessitate a lot of effort to digest. In any case, this book is extremely interesting, and I definitely recommend it strongly. It deals with how the brain works, or actually how two systems within our brains work: system 1 and system2. System 1 is the “Fast”, intuitive, automatic, unconscious system that runs your brain when no effort on your part is required. System 2 is the “Slow”, reflexive, logical, calculating system that will drive you when you have to apply yourself to a specific problem.

My staged conversation in the previous blog post was therefore system 1 sending a problem over for system 2 to ponder as it required some effort to deal with. At the end of the post I said I’d like to give more room to system 1 to drive my life while also training system 2 to reason better.

I’ll post a detailed review of some of the readings that I enjoy or love on this site. It is one of the things I want to develop and host on Satoshi Index. Thinking Fast and Slow will definitely be one of those readings.

Perspective #1

>> January 2, 2020

>> Blog Post #2

I’ve never really written before. I’ve often started a few things here and there or just thought about it, as I’ve always envisioned writing to be a pleasure, but it is not something I am experienced in.

So, here are a few quick thoughts about me writing that are as basic as they come, yet they are a clear consequence of me not thinking about things in the same way as I would have done a few months ago.

Trivial yet life changing (in my case)

My reasoning has changed within the past months. My perspective on issues or blocking points has changed. The most logical explanation I have for this is simply that I have grown to see things differently. I have seen that there are other ways than the way in which I was stuck and that resembled a set of fairly narrow possibilities.

Let’s try to take a look at some of the reasoning that has been going on in my head this year. Obviously, I’m just illustrating what I believe is the thought process nowadays.

My spontaneous self: “I feel like writing. I could write something, a book, a blog, articles, whatever.”

My reasoning self: “Wait a second, I don’t know how to write. I have no skills there.”

My reasoning self, challenging itself: “Well actually I do. I just wrote a few sentences.”

My reasoning self: “Yeah sure, anyone can do that. But you have no style.”

My reasoning self, challenging itself: “Rome wasn’t built in a day.”

My reasoning self, challenging itself: “Practice makes perfect.”

My reasoning self, challenging itself: “One step at a time, don’t try to fool me into thinking that if it is not perfect and complete within 1hr it will have to be considered a complete and unquestionable failure.”

My reasoning self: (no response)

My reasoning self, challenging itself: “I’m doing this.”

My spontaneous self: (excitement)

A few observations on the discussion here:

  • I believe that a few months ago, the “reasoning self” voice would usually win a very large majority of these discussions after a single argument.
  • Whatever actions were let pass (the minority), would be stopped further down the road at the first bump on that road accompanied with a unconscious message of “I told you so” or “you should have seen that coming” that would only reinforce its authority in future arguments.
  • Whatever was left, the minority of the minority, does not represent much.
  • See how the “reasoning self’s” arguments seem to be built like uncontestable brick walls. They are actually the exact opposite. What is “I don’t know how to write” supposed to mean. I know my alphabet. I know how to put letters together to form words. I know quite a few words, in various different languages. I know grammar, spelling etc.….  So, I most definitely know how to write.
  • Parents will marvel at their kids’ abilities to learn to walk, read, write and somehow a voice inside your one head would lead you to believe that you can’t do this or that. And you could actually fall for that.
  • The one that I call “my reasoning self, challenging itself” is whatever voice I have started to listen to more this year. It kind of kicked in naturally through reading, observing other people do inspiring things that were probably not that difficult for them, reassessing the risks I was taking or not taking.

When you look at the discussion above, I clearly see that there are two very interesting options that are offered to which I believe are equally good and very reassuring:

First, I should listen to my intuitions more. Intuitions are natural and the constant noise in today’s life sometimes mask them. Yet if I had listened to it in the example above, I wouldn’t have had to listen to the bs that what thrown at me by the “reasoning self”.

Second, I should continue training my reasoning self to actually reason better and detect the flaws where they exist. When you see how gross the fallacies are in its reasoning, I can’t help but think that it can’t be that hard to just do a little better. And that would already be a big deal.

I can’t help but wonder if maybe somehow, I had not just forgotten how to challenge my own statements, how to challenge myself. Is it possible that I had simply stopped learning?

There is pleasure in accepting challenges

There is pleasure in learning

I enjoy pleasure

What the f*** was I thinking in cutting myself from these?

So here I am.

I am not trying to be perfect

I am not trying to impress anyone – myself included

I am doing this for myself first and foremost

I am taking it one step at a time

I am doing this because I know I will find pleasure in it