Third time's the charm
I first came across Bitcoin in 2013 and dismissed it quickly. I was the yuppie the fiat system worked for, and my libertarian friends said crazy things all the time. Why would I take this any more seriously? They also bury gold in the backyard and I was not about to follow suit. Again in 2016, some of my smartest friends started talking about Bitcoin. I dismissed it again arguing that scarcity was impossible when bits could be replicated - there would be other chains. The block wars had me building false confidence in this thesis. I was not smart enough to dig deeper into the network effects and consensus mechanisms to gain conviction, but I was also smart enough that I wasn’t going to “ape it” or “throw a chip in”. Finally, in 2019, I realized my skepticism was unfounded and I was merely avoiding studying Bitcoin because, well, I had taken a stance against it a couple times already and it was a hard to understand topic. This did not feel right.
So, in August 2019, I started to study Bitcoin, first as a user. I created an exchange account. I used the testnet and played with multisig. I bought a little bit. I watched Andreas Antonopoulos’ videos. It was a frenzy in my mind. The possibilities were endless. We had a seizure-resistant, censorship-resistant, scarce asset. You can walk through metal detectors with billions of dollars undetected. This was going to be a real protest against unfair use of authority, and I wanted to be involved.
That winter, I enrolled in a couple student-run courses at [email protected]. The students were generous enough to let me audit. I was the only one in the classes who was not in their 20s. It must have been awkward for them, but they were kind to me. They were patient with my questions and enthusiasm. I learnt a lot about Bitcoin and Ethereum in those three months. But not actually understanding the cryptography was starting to feel weird.
So I proceeded to study Cyptography I by Dan Boneh. After 6 gruelling weeks of studying and coding, I was starting to understand the underlying primitives that made Bitcoin possible. Now, I wanted to start contributing to Bitcoin and go from being a user and student to a Bitcoin Core Developer.
This when I came across Amiti’s post on Onboarding to Bitcoin Core. The idea that I’d never really feel ready because Bitcoin is a massively multi-faceted invention. To understand it completely, you need to understand game theory, distributed systems, cryptography, economics, and much more. This is why studying it is really hard too - you need to suspend your disbelief in some areas, go deep in others and then repeat this for all the pieces. It’s not something we can study linearly and so immersion is a better way to learn in Bitcoin. All that resonated with what Amiti recommends i.e. clone the repo, run the tests and start small. I did that and have not looked back since. See merged PRs; open PRs
Bitcoin is a continuous journey of learning and quite honestly, a discovery of what you truly believe the world should look like. I am convinced I want to do this for a very long time, know what I want to work on next and am going to seek funding to make it financially sustainable. It’s quite the dream if it comes true - working on something you truly believe in and being able to support your family while you do it.