Names can be both liberating and confining. When mankind gives something a name, we mark it with a label that helps us discuss our shared environment and experience. At the same time, a label can obscure something in preconceived notions. Labels can make it more difficult for us collectively to understand what something is.

In 2008, a pseudonymous inventor named Satoshi Nakamoto released a white paper titled “Bitcoin: A Peer-to-Peer Electronic Cash System”1. The paper outlines a novel distributed network system, called Bitcoin, that acts as an immutable digital ledger. There are many ways to describe what the fundamental innovation here really was. For the context of this article, perhaps it is best to describe the innovation as the creation of a computer system that controls a database, which can only be added to or modified depending on the quantity of physical energy (in the form of electricity) supplied to it. Unlike standard computer systems, where linguistic…

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