Homer, Alexander the Great, Shakespeare, and many others have been glorified to the status of god. They stand among several heroes in this painting (who else can you identify?). The newer versions of hero-worship are more personable. Boosted or diminished with a single post on the Internet. Satoshi Nakamato made such a post in 2008. The whitepaper spawned a cult that represented more than just a pseudonymous hero.
Crypto as Religion
The creation of gods has carried into each generation with religion. Even before organized religion, the first "gods" were theorized to be hallucinations people had about dead rulers whose authority they still craved.Satoshi's glorification as a god presents similar pros/cons to any religious masthead.
The creation of fictional heroes isn't original. However, the notable past ones have all been attached to religion. These religions have always clashed with science. This time, science is the new religion. The bible is a whitepaper, the preachers are the miners, and the followers are decentralized nodes.
While science may be reason to rejoice, it doesn't necessarily mean better. Groupthink will always be plagued with issues. Past ideologies have also tried to establish a "new religion". An extreme example is the Jacobin Club during the French Revolution. Logic and social rights were enforced with a guillotine and thousands were murdered.
Most religions are based in mysticism. Crypto isn't as much
A spiritual quest for hidden truth is less hidden with underlying mathematical proofs. Instead of having stories with abstract values of virtue, Satoshi's are more measurable. However, mysticism exists regardless of religion or lack thereof. The lack of unified meaning still leaves a lifetime of questions and searching, even for an atheist.
Less mysticism leads to less room for interpretation. This leaves less space for personal connection. Religion's malleability contributes to its success. People are more likely to preach what they can interpret for themselves.
Religion means longer shelf-life. The oldest stories are all mythology.
Crypto as a religion will last longer. Early on, stories may have less of a chance of staying around because they need to be picked up and sermonized. Bitcoin leaped over this and now has millions of users. Religion presents A+ network effects when it works.
Hero Worship or Idea Worship?
"Great minds discuss ideas; average minds discuss events; small minds discuss people" - Eleanor Roosevelt
Satoshi is misinterpreted as a person. In actuality, he represents a movement. This bypasses the average/small minded discussion. The hunt for the actual identity of Satoshi isn't meaningful. Many people in the early cryptocurrency movement are viewed as possible creators. Another person in this group would have created a similar currency eventually just as Edison's competitors with the lightbulb.
A common belief is that history can be explained by the actions of several great men. But, the "Great Man Theory" story is often a mythology. It's convenient to believe. It does not consider the underlying environments people were exposed to: Renaissance Italy for Leonardo Da Vinci, the Song Dynasty for Yue Fei. Satoshi's environment was prior cypherpunks. They created inspirations for Bitcoin such as Hashcash.
Virtual Celebrity vs. Real Celebrity
The internet creates a barrier of privacy that allows Satoshi to remain anonymous. This phenomenon creates an opportunity for virtual celebrities. Virtual celebrities are becoming more common. They have already been used in official marketing campaigns. Satoshi's role as a virtual celebrity means much more than that though.
A theme throughout history has been criticizing people. As Will Durant described, "we delight to show that living geniuses are only mediocrities, and that dead ones are myths
Virtual celebrity avoids cancel culture. Key ingredients of cancel culture such as past history and personal relationships are not known. This leads to less of the two bottom arguments in the Hierarchy of Disagreement.
Also, the common saying "familiarity breeds contempt" is voided. Although it is difficult for a saying to be entirely true, this phrase has been shown true in certain fields. These fields, such as politics, are affected by Satoshi's influence.
Children grow up idolizing individuals. Astronauts, youtubers, and actors are commonly admired generational talents. This worship is important for future inspiration, regardless of how much career aspirations change with maturity. The idea of Satoshi being a popular childhood hero is absurd. This is an important downside of idea-worship instead of hero-worship.
A Satoshi Future presents a paradox. More privacy and transparency. Less privacy and transparency. More upside, more downside. Beliefs that crypto worship is inherently good or bad are silly. Clearly, there's nuance.
Will Satoshi Save Us?
No, he won't. Satoshi's current achievements and ideology won't help you understand yourself. But, maybe the future coins will.
The scientific heroes of the past have helped create bridges. These bridges have created endless paths that people take to create new chains of invention. Paths can be taken that help us understand ourselves. These involve psychology. However, they are still in the early stages and less useful.
Another future chain may be health based coins. Health coins can help you understand and save yourself. But, these struggle with the same problems as psychology: too early, not useful yet.
Even with all the change Satoshi brings, you still have to wipe your own ass, workout your own body, and save yourself.
Image 1: Ingres, The Apotheosis of Homer
Image 2: Kevin Simler, "Here Be Sermons, https://meltingasphalt.com/here-be-sermons/
Note: This essay borrows heavily from "The Greatest Minds and Ideas of All Time" by Will Durant.
Thanks to Keagan Stokoe for reading a draft of this