§1.15 — If money, nevertheless, demands to be discussed, now more than ever, it is because something huge is happening. So, really, how big is Bitcoin? This question – however awkwardly stammered – sets a backdrop to every discussion of the topic. If it could be answered exactly and comprehensively, we would know everything – seriously, everything – at least up to the epistemological horizon of man. Since Gödel, we have known that whatever can be known at all is precisely detailed in some yet-unknown number. Because the blockchain is a transcendental reality criterion, its ultimate summation is necessarily ontologically exhaustive. Whatever it doesn’t – in the end – include, can only be nothing. That is, however, to get ahead of ourselves.
§1.16 — The size of Bitcoin lends itself not to one question, but to several, and all tend to rapid complication. When posed as a vague query, regarding Bitcoin’s importance – or historical impact – the challenge posed is obviously daunting, in the way of all futurology. This does not, however, mean it can be long avoided. The question does not differ in principle from the kind of risk assessment speculative markets are continuously compelled to make (with mixed success, at best). It is, indeed, in large – and predominant – part a bet on the future, of exactly this type. If it is ineluctable, it is because the distribution of potential outcomes involved allows of no neutral position. Whatever happens to Bitcoin will matter to everything. Even the possibility that it might not matter much, matters enormously. Shorting the Bitcoin future already offers enough space to thrive within – or in which to die.
§1.17 — A more highly-resticted – and (at least superficially) simplistically quantitative – version of the question is easier to answer with facile confidence. No more than 21 million bitcoins will ever exist. The scale of Bitcoin is therefore intrinsic to its identity, and inseparable from its value. To purchase a bitcoin is to acquire one 21-millionth (and in fact a little more) of some as-yet incompletely determined ‘X’. On this basis, the immediate value of Bitcoin is analytical, which is to say, an exact re-statement of a quantity already given in its issuance. How much is a stock of 21,000,000 bitcoins worth? Of course, BTC 21,000,000. Naturally, a tautology this crude can at first only appear as nonsense, or – at best – as a semantic evasion. There is, however, nothing trivial about the disturbance it insinuates into the world.
§1.18 — Instead, and especially in the early stages of the currency, a synthetic valuation is called for, as determined by exchange rates. Typically, this will reference the world’s principal reserve currency, the US dollar, as a unit of account. At any point in time, therefore, the entire bitcoin stock has a determinate market value. Estimated in this way, the ‘scale’ of bitcoin amounted to around 70 billion dollars (in late 2018). The complex equivalence between this – comparatively paltry – financial evaluation, and the appeal of the Bitcoin business as a venture capital opportunity, let alone as the core technology of an industrial revolution, presents a challenge of commensuration for which no existing road-map is even approximately adequate. It is unprecedented for the principal infrastructural innovation of a techonomic long-wave to take the immediate form of an investment vehicle. Extraordinary nonlinearity results.