Craig Warmke (N. Illinois University) on what Bitcoin is, and other philosophical questions

Craig Warmke is an assistant professor of philosophy at Northern Illinois University. He has written several papers on the subject of Bitcoin, both pertaining to the question of what Bitcoin actually is. We cover Craig’s papers (linked below) and explore the role for philosophers in Bitcoin.

  • How Craig realized there was an opportunity for philosophy in Bitcoin
  • Other philosophers writing about Bitcoin
  • Why philosophers don’t take Bitcoin seriously
  • The Bitcoin-related questions where philosophers can weigh in
  • The risk of epistemic trespassing
  • Why Satoshi may have been wrong when they defined an electronic coin as a ‘chain of digital signatures’
  • How Satoshi made a critical engineering decision which differentiated Bitcoin from prior e-cash systems
  • Why units of Bitcoin cannot be tracked over time through the ledger – and why this matters
  • Why Bitcoin tracks quantities of a substance, rather than discrete, individual units of Bitcoin
  • Craig’s stylized model of Bitcoin
  • Why Craig describes Bitcoin as ‘fictional substance in an ongoing and massively coauthored book’
  • Why Bitcoin being ‘fictional’ does not delegitimize it at all
  • How Craig’s model extends to stablecoins
  • Why Bitcoin’s liability-freeness is so important, and distinguishes it from other monetary assets
  • The practical significance of determining what Bitcoin is
  • How Craig’s analysis helps demystify chain splits
  • How ETH 2.0 sheds light on the debate over Bitcoin’s identity
  • The greatest threat to Bitcoin
  • Is Bitcoin the protocol a democratic phenomenon?
  • Are there knowable facts about what the nature of Bitcoin is?

Referenced in this episode: