Growing up, I read mysteries and pirate stories. Buried treasure, hidden behind cryptic puzzles. I read Dan Brown novels about secret societies and great meanings hidden in small messages. In the modern day, it seemed that this romantic notion of secrecy – that great wealth can be hidden in small messages – was over forever. Your money sits in bank accounts, with brokerage firms, in contracts, and so forth. Hiding a treasure? Owning something that only you have control over? Good luck.
I felt some sadness that this era of simple mystery and treasure seemed over. (To be fair, more transparency is also a good thing.) But Bitcoin changes this: you can store an arbitrary amount of wealth behind a single private key. And you can turn that single private key into a twelve-word passphrase. You can destroy the key, and remember just those twelve words.
Suddenly, your identity is your memory is your money is your speech.
Turn your passphrase into a song or a poem and write it down, there’s your cryptic puzzle hiding a treasure. Split it into pieces and hide them with seven objects in obscure corners of the world, there are your horcruxes. There’s the substrate for true ownership, for guarding treasure, and for the mystery stories of old.
The simplicity of Bitcoin – that ownership of a few words, short enough to be remembered, can store arbitrary, uncensorable wealth – re-creates that romantic notion of secrecy. The old map pointing to vast treasure is new again.