For those interested in my book, Gradually, then Suddenly is now officially with the printers. It has been a long road to complete, but I'm proud of the final work product that will soon start shipping. Thank you to everyone who supported my crowdfund. Your books will be the first to ship, and I'll be making an announcement in the next two weeks or so where everyone else will be able to purchase copies.
My hope is that the Gradually, Then Suddenly book will help more people all over the world come to understand bitcoin, and I'm incredibly grateful for all the individuals who helped me along the way in its production, one of whom is Proof of Paint–an artist who fittingly works under a pseudonym. I shared the final cover design last week on Twitter, with a brief explanation that the art is meant to be an allegory of the individual's journey to bitcoin. In advance of the formal release, I wanted to share more about its inspiration.
In its totality, one piece of art wraps from front cover to back cover, over the spine. On the back, there is an individual viewing the painting–as if in a museum. It is meant to have the more literal effect of being a "painting within a painting."
The front cover captures an individual caught at sea in the middle of a violent storm, tirelessly rowing to escape the crashing waves. There are also two birds flying in the same direction, instinctively fleeing the storm and ultimately creating a guiding trail to safety which continues on the back. The individual is peering over his shoulder as rays of sunlight begin to shine through the storm clouds, hitting his back and face. The light contrasts the darkness of the storm, and the storm itself is meant to represent the fiat system–caught in the fiat storm. The individual is attempting to get out of the storm but he's rowing with his back to the ultimate target, inherently limited in his ability to see where he's going or how to get there.
Being caught in the fiat storm is the beginning of everyone's journey to bitcoin, which is why it is the front cover. The bow of the boat bleeds over onto the spine leading the reader to the back, and the storm ends suddenly on the spine–meant to represent the gradual escape rowing out of the storm in a lifeboat followed by a more sudden breaking of the storm itself, which connects the art to the title of the book. The title–Gradually, Then Suddenly–is a common adaptation of how Hemingway described the process of going bankrupt. In the introduction, I explain that it is also how government-backed currencies hyperinflate and how individuals typically come to understand bitcoin. Gradually, Then Suddenly.
Once out of the storm, the individual in the boat on the back cover–which is meant to be the same individual at a different point on the journey–is tired but relaxed, now in calm waters and observing a statue that harkens to Lady Liberty. It is not meant to be the literal statue in New York but instead, a symbol of hope and freedom. In The Road to Serfdom, Friedrich Hayek explains that "Money is one of the greatest instruments of freedom ever invented by man. [...] If we strive for money, it is because money offers us the widest choice in enjoying the fruits of our efforts.” Often lamented as the root of all evil, sound money is actually a tool that creates an incentive for each individual to produce value for others by providing a medium to store that value into the future. And the consequence of sound money is far more profound than meets the eye.
The incentive to produce more for others than one consumes from others afforded by sound money has deep moral significance beyond money merely serving as an economic tool to coordinate trade. While at the same time aligning economic interests to more efficiently facilitate trade among all market participants, sound money–which the fiat system is not–empowers the individual. Money as an economic good ultimately affords each individual with the ability to pursue their own interests and to be compensated in a medium that can be converted into value produced by any range of other individuals, each able to specialize in their own pursuits and interests. When money stores value indefinitely into the future rather than loses value, that is collectively what creates the incentive to produce value in the present and what affords a level of economic freedom to the individual which is otherwise not possible–both in how one spends time to produce value and how or when one chooses to exchange that value in the future.
Bitcoin represents a return to sound of money. It is a form of money that can't be printed, and it solves the problem of quasi-governmental central banks all over the world printing massive quantities of money and unilaterally debasing savings. While it is admittedly difficult to see and understand, bitcoin is the best form of money to ever exist for the principal reasons that it is finitely scarce and permissionless. It is controlled by no one, and it can't be printed by anyone. A finitely scarce form of money will store value better than any other form of money–and especially those that are engineered to lose value. More fundamentally, bitcoin provides each individual with the greatest incentive to produce value and the ability to carry that value into the future indefinitely.
Because money empowers the individual more so than any other economic tool, it follows that bitcoin is one of, if not, the greatest instruments of freedom ever invented. Beyond the economic incentives, it is also cathartic to finally be able to save in a form of money that effectively stores values–one that works in your favor rather than against it. It allows one to get off the hamster wheel–to stop running harder while seemingly staying in the same place or worse. Saving in sound money that maintains purchasing power (or increases in purchasing power) allows you to pursue interests that otherwise might not be practical or possible. Over time, if your money properly stores value, you will work on what you want to work on, rather than working to keep up and pay bills. That is a big part of freedom.
When the individual breaks through the storm and begins to understand bitcoin at an intuitive level, it becomes apparent that bitcoin is far more than money. It is a beacon of hope and freedom, but also a tool to realize the latter. The individual on the back cover is calm and at peace, facing toward the statue and contrasted to the individual on the front cover who has his back to the target. By the end of the book, my hope is that the reader will begin to truly see bitcoin for what it is and beyond just its first order application as money. Understanding bitcoin as money is not the end of the journey, but rather the beginning of another. And it is also the best path–possibly the only viable path–to escape the fiat storm.
Finally, the person viewing the painting is meant to be an individual observing or looking back on their own journey, at whatever point in the future that might be–one year, two years, or ten years down the line. It is intentionally not clear exactly what part of the painting the person is viewing. The person is positioned in such a way to be observing an individual element or to be seeing the full picture. The reality is that one typically can't see the fiat storm until one sees and understands bitcoin–understanding bitcoin is practically a necessary input to understanding the dollar (or any fiat currency).
Prior to bitcoin, most people never had a reason to consciously consider or question what money is at a fundamental level. Bitcoin helps each individual understand money–distinct from finance, investing or economics–and consequently to really see the brokenness of fiat currencies for the first time. That happens over time and after one has made it out of the storm.
Trust the Process
Working on this book has been both incredibly rewarding and at times, exhausting. It is daunting putting words in print–uneditable and permanent–for all the world to judge, far more so than releasing an article online. I expect this to be my only book, and I wanted everything about it to be as intentional as the words themselves (and especially the cover)–one chance, one opportunity mentality for each individual who picks it up and endeavors to understand bitcoin at a deeper level. My broader hope is that the collective work will bring many more people to bitcoin. On the shelves, it will not immediately standout as a book about bitcoin, but it is the most fitting work of art I could imagine for the text–which is why I wanted to share the inspiration behind it and the story it is meant to tell.
Thank you again to Proof of Paint for working tirelessly to create such an important piece of the puzzle and one that fits hand-in-glove. It is an objectively beautiful work of art, and it is the perfect finishing touch that helped bring everything together. And again, for those interested in purchasing the book, be on the look out for an announcement in the next two weeks of where it will be for sale.
If you are a contractor or business that wants to be set up to receive bitcoin payments, reach out to us at Zaprite. I'm part of the team and we're here to help.