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Why are anthropologists more interested in Bitcoin than economists?



While mainstream economists are known for bashing Bitcoin, anthropologists, on the other hand, are increasingly interested in it. I'm an anthropologist and economist who went down the Bitcoin rabbit hole. I wrote this article to clarify my thinking and why the two disciplines reacted so differently to Bitcoin. Anthropology is a social science concerned with understanding culture through participatory observation or ethnography: cultural immersion in the social world being studied. This research approach is at the heart of the discipline, capable of forcing practitioners to 'go out', expose themselves, and experience the culture being studied as a native. Perhaps this explains why anthropologists often have bitter disputes with economists, who understand the world in terms of numerical aggregates and abstract models. Mainstream economists' view of the world is top-down, based on deductive reasoning based on their models and assumptions, which are heavily influenced by classical Newtonian physics and its concept of "celestial equilibrium" and lack the insights from thermodynamics. The "systems perspective" that emerged and influenced engineering (Alizart, 2020). Anthropology, by contrast, deals with both deductive and inductive logic, but mostly focuses on the latter. Observed and experienced real-life evidence leads to the formation (and readjustment) of theoretical frameworks: first the evidence, then the theory, and so on. Another key element of anthropology is its focus on "emic" (people's subjective beliefs and experiences of the world) over "etic" (objective truth). Therefore, anthropology believes that objective measures such as various economic growth parameters are meaningless if separated from people's experience and life reality. Looking "out there" gives anthropology a superpower: the ability and necessity to be open to other belief systems, to challenge one's own mental models, to be receptive to additional insights, and thus to form a more nuanced and holistic view of the world . ADOGE releases the governance token AmazingTeamDAO: According to official news, the MeMe token ADOGE will announce its entry into the game layout at 20:00 on April 14, and release the governance token AmazingTeamDAO. [2022/4/14 14:25:05] Anthropology's superpower is its openness to other belief systems, and thus its ability to form a more nuanced and holistic view of the world. Anthropology has a long tradition of writing about exotic “others,” and Bitcoin is certainly a new kind of exotic “other” for most of the world. Therefore, anthropologists approach Bitcoin culture as they would any other culture: without judgment, with an open mind to challenging their own preconceptions about it. Anthropologists have ventured into the world of Bitcoin miners, holders, speculators, native Bitcoin merchants, and more. This allows them to understand the beliefs and perspectives of the community by looking beyond their own perspective. Many anthropologists have also been inspired by the ethos and beliefs of these communities from their research, which I explain in more depth in the next section. Contrary to this, mainstream economists continue to view Bitcoin from their ivory tower. Nobel laureates Paul Krugman, Nouriel Roubini, Steve Hanke, and many others have systematically dismissed Bitcoin as a bubble, tulip, or speculative asset, and rarely Consider how people actually use and perceive it today. The momentum of South Korea’s bitcoin buying has weakened sharply: Jinse Finance reported that the sudden change in the situation in Russia and Ukraine has put pressure on global risk assets. In South Korea, the price of virtual currency, which was extremely popular during the epidemic, fluctuated violently, and the price of Bitcoin, which was sought after by many investors before, plummeted. South Korea's largest virtual currency exchange said that the trading price of Bitcoin on Thursday fell nearly 6% compared with the previous trading day, falling below 43 million won, or about 226,000 yuan, the lowest value in the past six months. Due to the high market value of Bitcoin itself, a slight drop can cause huge losses. Therefore, this has triggered panic among individual investors, and the momentum of buying has weakened sharply. (CCTV Finance and Economics) [2022/2/27 10:18:54] Economics as a discipline is locking itself in an echo chamber, isolated from other perspectives and receiving little feedback from the outside. Furthermore, it lacks the methodological tools to understand culture. No wonder it mistakenly dismisses Bitcoin’s meme culture as an irrelevant tribal phenomenon. But the heart of the economist's fallacy is epistemological: what is accepted truth, and where does it come from? Does it come from "upper" (referring to the state or God), or from "lower" (local popular belief)? When it comes to money, who decides what is money (truth about money)? The way mainstream economics lives is by assuming that money is "legal tender," that is, that its value is determined by the final judgment and formal decree of the state. Anthropology, by contrast, is more interested in people's opinions and beliefs, so there is no problem accepting Bitcoin as money because, ultimately, people believe it is money, and they use it as such. Blockchain company SurgePays announced the price of public offering of 19.8 million US dollars, and it will be listed on Nasdaq soon: On November 2, blockchain financial technology company SurgePays, Inc. announced the pricing of its underwriting public offering of 4,600,000 units, each unit The public offering price is $4.30, and each unit consists of one common share and one warrant to purchase one common share at an exercise price of $4.73, with a maturity date of three years from the date of issue. The common stock and warrants are immediately detachable and will be issued separately. The common stock and warrants are expected to begin trading on the Nasdaq Capital Market on November 2, 2021, under the symbols "SURG" and "SURGW," respectively. SurgePays expects gross proceeds of $19.78 million, excluding underwriting discounts, commissions and other estimated offering expenses. (Globe Newswire) [2021/11/2 6:26:20] At the heart of the economists' fallacy is the belief that money is fiat money (because the state and its expert economists say so), which means they don't Fully recognize the power of collective decision that people have. Anthropologists are also interested in Bitcoin because it presents no threat to the status quo of the discipline. Anthropology is primarily a descriptive discipline, concerned with understanding how things are, rather than "messing things up". Economics, by contrast, is about prescribing and "interfering" with the economy: the economy needs to be "stimulated", then "stabilized", and employment needs to be "maximized". Therefore, Bitcoin, which cannot be controlled in terms of monetary policy, greatly limits the scope of economics on the economy. Bitcoin may well be challenging economists' core beliefs, or their relevance. Having said that, however, this is not true of all economics. For example, there are heretical approaches that are more from a systems perspective, such as the Austrian school, which flips epistemology on its head, arguing that truth and economic activity arise from the economic behavior of individuals, rather than from states, which are not seen as essential to economic life. fundamental. NFT platform OneOf will release NFT for Grammy: Golden Finance reported that Tezos blockchain-based NFT platform OneOf signed a three-year cooperation agreement with Grammy. The platform will release NFTs for the 64th, 65th and 66th Grammy Awards. The NFT will include digital collectibles celebrating Grammy winners and nominees, details to be announced in January. [2021/11/1 6:25:28] After looking at the basic methods, theories and epistemology of anthropologists, what kind of views do anthropologists hold on Bitcoin? Anthropologists recognize bitcoin as money, first and foremost "because that's what people call it, [and] many people use it as money" (Kavanagh et al.). The study of Bitcoin miners reveals the level of excitement and creative energy (Calvão) surrounding the Bitcoin space, and it is this ethos and ethics of the Bitcoin community that may infect the world. A study by Kinney showed that Bitcoin adoption by individuals follows a unique process: First, adopters discover the value of Bitcoin on their own terms. Next, they reflexively overcome the challenge of their initial perception of value. Finally, they reaffirm their embeddedness in the system through a ceremony of commitment (Kinney), such as the "Laser rays to $100,000!" phenomenon on Crypto Twitter today. This also reaffirms the importance of group identity to the social construction of Bitcoin as money. NFT project BAYC plans to launch tokens in the first quarter of next year: Jinse Finance reported that according to official Twitter news, the NFT project Bored Ape Yacht Club (BAYC) plans to launch tokens in the first quarter of 2022. Launching an ERC-20 token is easy and only takes a few minutes, the tweet said. Building a legally compliant token and setting it up in a responsible, sustainable way is much more complicated. They are working with blockchain technology company Horizen Labs (which has its own ZEN token) and the legal team at Fenwick & West LLP to develop plans to launch the token. [2021/10/9 5:48:49] Thus, the value system and rituals of the Bitcoin community mature Bitcoin and help establish it as a currency. As the Bitcoin community has also clarified, Bitcoin is not only backed by technology and numbers, but also by memes. Anthropologists reject the notion that Bitcoin is just speculation. Bitcoin is an asset that the owner holds for a long time. Bitcoin is not only backed by greed, but also by community, faith, and belonging (Morucci). The meaning of Bitcoin is "loose enough to mean a lot to community members, yet specific enough to bind the community together". The fact that this community is a new type of organism (Quittem), and that Bitcoin's valuation is hard to pin down, means that everyone can project onto it their chosen meanings and desires. Bitcoin tells us all we want to believe, both enthusiasts and critics (Kavanagh et al.). So, Bitcoin has the ability to create political institutions. It has the ability to project our primal human passions, even in ways that disrupt current political, economic and social systems (Caldararo). For example, for the Bitcoin community both in cyberspace and offline, Hodling is a way to combat state-controlled devaluation of the currency’s value (Morucci). Furthermore, a study of a Bitcoin coffee shop in Slovakia showed that the staff were able to get "newbies" to accept Bitcoin. Bitcoin provides coffee shops with a large degree of power and freedom from the control of state "Big Brother technology" (Tremcinsky). Interestingly, others have also concluded that Bitcoin can help us overcome the entrenched corporate power created by the centralization of new technologies, which is currently in the hands of a small number of tech companies (Caldararo). Anthropologists have criticized the Bitcoin community's belief that Bitcoin is completely trustless and completely "run by numbers." According to anthropologists, this is impossible because we are social creatures, which means that the socio-cultural layer of Bitcoin plays an important role in determining whether it has value, and what that value is. The formation of democratic communities in the digital economy remains embedded in social relations. So, the idea that Bitcoin is not mediated by any institution is considered an illusion (Tylor and Bill Maurer). Giacomo Zucco has a similar stance, declaring that a puritanical stance only against Bitcoin must be maintained, whereby all cryptocurrencies other than Bitcoin are described as “shitcoins” and not worth owning. “You need dogma, you need taboos, you need social agreements to force people to be better.” (WBD Podcast). This further emphasizes that the "social layer" of the Bitcoin protocol is just as important as the technical layer. Anthropologists have noticed that since the advent of Bitcoin, people have raised serious questions about the nature of money, which has important implications for society and humanity as a whole. Even if it fails, Bitcoin is a fascinating "breakthrough experiment" that helps reveal how money is implicated in social order, and how particular values and practices emerge (Kavanagh et al.). Dodd writes in his book The Social Life of Money that money has changed over time, and we are seeing it change again. Money is becoming more and more decentralized, and Bitcoin is likely to play an important role in the future of money. "The era when money is defined by the state is coming to an end. Money can and probably will be organized in different ways." - Dodd, "The Social Life of Money" Anthropology is far from perfect, as a framework for understanding Bitcoin, it has some Limitations: Anthropology lacks the quantitative toolkit needed to understand and study on-chain activity to gain many behavioral insights from on-chain activity. We need technologies that advance anthropological understanding of the digital world so that it remains relevant and discussed more broadly with other disciplines. Anthropology has always been a highly diverse discipline, welcoming perspectives, theories and methods from very different perspectives and from other disciplines. However, over the past few decades it has been experiencing increasing homogenization towards hyper-reflective, highly theoretical and over-philosophical schools that often lose touch with people's everyday lives. Anthropology lacks a systematic view of the macroeconomy and does not do enough to understand the fundamentals of the current monetary paradigm. This has also led many anthropologists today to believe that markets are simply dysfunctional, that the system is simplistic capitalism or neoliberalism, and that there is an insufficient understanding of the broad role that central banks play in the economy. Like the rest of academia, anthropology can not only afford to be wrong, but can continue to be wrong and pretend to be right. Anthropology need not be afraid to become more applied in practice, because by doing so it can develop its methods and frameworks, and this is what the hybrid discipline of design anthropology is doing today. The key takeaway here is that anthropologists have a lot of interesting things to say about Bitcoin. By comparison, economists' commentary often appears trite and ignorant. Anthropologists recognize that Bitcoin has played an important role in leading us to rethink what money is, which in turn has had many implications for social life. At the same time, anthropologists also recognize that the social dynamics and communities surrounding Bitcoin, its memes, and the sociocultural elements of the Bitcoin phenomenon are critical to its success.


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