Note from the Editor: This letter is the latest in an ongoing series of open letters to Ross Ulbricht hosted by Bitcoin.com.
How’s the weather in NYC? It was overcast here in New Hampshire today. The power went out in the small town where I live, and even after it was turned back on, our ISP remained down for hours. It put a serious cramp in producing The Daily Decrypt, a crypto newscast I started 2.5 months ago. I mentioned it on the postcard I wrote you over the weekend. I’m not sure if you’ve received it or not yet, as I left it in the kind care of Tatiana Moroz, and we were in Mexico City for the Latin American Bitcoin Conference at the time.
Allow me tell you about a former roommate of mine. The darling smoked cannabis practically every day — if she could, every hour! “Pride and joy” might be the best way to describe her feelings toward the pungent plant. I never saw her grin so widely — or relax so completely — as when she’d just partaken.
She even declared a holiday every time she made a purchase: it was “New Weed Day!”
It was pretty cute and funny, actually. While I don’t have a huge affinity for cannabis myself, it made my life better in that the plant provided me with a happy roommate. She was even cleaner and did more house chores after smoking! So the smell was well worth it.
There was only one time in our house when New Weed Day wasn’t joyous, and that was during the actual cannabis delivery. It was tense and uncomfortable. Buyer and seller surreptitiously but continually glanced out our windows to check for police. New Weed Day was particularly dampened once when the seller noticed a cop car parked in front of our house. The car and its occupant remained there for minutes, which felt like hours. Everyone in the room froze as they watched to see what the potential predator would do.
The cop left, eventually. But not before ruining New Weed Day.
It was some time after this incident that my roommate told me about “the days of Silk Road.”
“You bought from Silk Road?” I gaped. I’d never met anyone who’d used it — or at least, I’d never had anyone take the time to tell me they’d used it.
“Oh, sure,” she responded, smiling wide at the memory. “It was great. Packages delivered right to your mailbox. You walked outside, safe in your own front yard, and got the mail. That was it.
“And it was the best quality weed I’ve ever had.”
She went on to tell me about Silk Road’s reputation ratings. How she could always feel relatively confident that she was getting the best quality for the best price. That there would be actual recourse of reputational damage if any sellers were foolish enough to ship bad product.
“It was pretty great,” she finally trailed off, visibly longing for the days of mailbox deliveries. I felt a small surge of anger on her behalf. Anger that my stoner roommate could no longer feel safe purchasing her favorite thing. Anger that her cannabis seller would have to keep coming over, making New Weed Day uncomfortable by repeatedly looking out our window. I felt sad that the substance which made my roommate smile so wide and wash our dishes so happily was risky to acquire.
But once you know something, you can’t un-know it. She had known a freer market in plants, and she wasn’t about to forget that taste of freedom anytime soon. And that’s thanks to you, Ross.
I don’t think you’re a martyr, and I don’t think you’re a saint. You’re better than either of those — you’re an entrepreneur.
A risk-taker, by definition. The only kind of person who ever actually moves this world forward. Who delivers goods and services valuable enough that other people are willing to give up their wealth in exchange.
I don’t particularly know what to say about you being in a cage, Ross, other than to provide you with the blackest of humor in my confidence that you’re in good company. I don’t know how many more cagings, assaults, deaths, and genocides will occur before decentralized technologies save humanity from its small but insanely violent streak.
But I do think it will happen.
I’m increasingly convinced that centralized violence is indeed more powerful than disparate individuals, but that decentralized networks of those same individuals can and will be more powerful than the centralized violence. I’m convinced that only technologies of the “swarm” — like cryptocurrency — can extinguish the lure of the voices of the truly violent few. And if this happens, you will go down in every history book that matters as a major player in the salvation of our swarm.
Have you heard of a book called Biocentrism: How Life Creates the Universe? It’s blowing my mind. Let me know if you’d like a copy.
Amanda B. Johnson
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