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Orange Pilling Has Stopped Working

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Originally posted on Medium.

In the context of bitcoin, “normie” means something like “don’t know, don’t care.” And “normie” comes from “normal.” In other words, normal people don’t care about bitcoin, at least not enough to use it.

Lack of exposure is not the problem. Bitcoin now regularly appears in the headlines of mainstream media, like USAToday, Fox, Forbes, The Economist, Le Monde, you name it. The term bitcoin generates more search traffic than other terms most of us are sick of hearing, like kardashian.

Search results for "bitcoin" and "kardashian"

But even though virtually every human and most seagulls have heard of bitcoin, fewer than half a million use it daily.

And it’s not for lack of effort on the part of the bitcoin community. We’ve written books, blogs (so many blogs!), recorded videos, organized conferences and meetups, and hosted podcasts (so many podcasts!) preaching the value of bitcoin. We put more effort into converting the nocoin infidels than most religions, but our beautiful temple remains sadly empty.

Educating the world about bitcoin has succeeded in building a community of knowledgeable, dedicated, enthusiastic people from the fields of tech, economics, politics, and finance, but orange pilling has taken us as far as it can. Like many strategies, the marginal gains of educating the world were remarkable in the early stages, but they’ve flattened.

Orange pilling has stopped working.

Show, Don't Tell

I realize how controversial this claim is because orange pilling is so popular. It’s a strategy that has served us really well over the past 15 years. And most bitcoiners like education. We tend to be critical thinkers who devour blogs and books and podcasts to learn more about our passion and keep our minds sharp.

But we don’t research every topic, nor do we have to. I know very little about what a good workout and eating healthy do to my body on a cellular level, but I feel the benefits of both. In fact, our world is so complex that nobody can really understand all the important facets. How many welders and virologists or aeronautical engineers and app developers really understand each others’ fields? Most people are ignorant about most useful topics, and that’s just the way it is in a highly complex world.

Expertise, however, is not a precondition of enjoyment. I use all kinds of products and technologies — TikTok, AI assistants, and even water-treatment plants — simply because they make my life better. That’s all I really need to know. No technical understanding required.

All you need to benefit from a technology is utility. It just has to improve people’s lives somehow, whether they understand it at a granular level or not. We can tell people about bitcoin’s benefits until we’re exhausted and they’re annoyed. What matters is how they actually experience it. We should stop telling them how great the bitcoin economy is going to be and start showing them. Less theory, more practice.

Think of remote work. In the 1970s, big companies like IBM were merely toying with the idea, experimenting with a few workers at a time. Then technology happened: broadband & WiFi, corporate VPNs, cloud storage, cheap and powerful computers for pockets and desks. And don’t forget all the software: Zoom, Teams, Slack, Meet, SharePoint, etc.

But even just a decade ago, remote work was something many had heard of, but few had tried. It was growing at just a few percent per year. Enter COVID. Rates doubled, then tripled. Now 67% of us techies work mostly or entirely from home.

Yes, COVID was a shock, but pandemics are nothing new. The last one revolutionized the geography of work because of the tech. The technology had become really useful, and the pandemic just gave us the occasion to realize it. Would the revolution in remote work have happened eventually without the pandemic? Almost certainly, if not as fast. Would it have happened eventually without the technology? The question doesn’t even make sense because the technology defines how we even think about “remote work.”

Useful technology changes behavior, habits, and society. Sometimes radically.

We bitcoiners need to learn, internalize, and remember this lesson. The orange pills have stopped working, at least at our current scale. Experiences are what change people’s minds, and we build those experiences with technology, not conferences. As soon as we start delivering experiences that surpass anything fiat can do, people will adopt bitcoin automatically. Until we start delivering such services, no amount of books and blogs will change their minds or habits.

Orange pills were once medicine; now they're just candy. (Image: George Hodan)

Where to Start

So if the key is to improve people’s lives, whose lives are we talking about? There’s a big difference between a corner store in Hyderabad and outdoorsy Canadians. Different interests, different needs.

Think about the revolutionary technologies of recent decades: the television, the PC, the internet, the smartphone, Facebook, AI. They all took root in the same demographic: people with disposable income in developed countries. Facebook took this approach to the extreme by first opening only to students attending elite Western universities. And now it’s your aunt’s favorite technology. Another lesson.

So the way forward is to leverage bitcoin’s strengths as a borderless, open, censorship resistant, and — most importantly — P2P currency in order to improve the lives of affluent people with money to spend. Give them better ways to transact directly with each other.

In practice, this will often mean adding bitcoin to apps they use anyway. It might also mean disintermediating services they’re already using. Like connecting gig drivers to passengers directly without Uber taking its cut. Like connecting artists directly to fans without Spotify and the record companies taking their cut. Like paying Dashers directly without DoorDash taking its cut.

The winning formula is to insert our tech into an existing, suboptimal user experience, just like the iPhone did with the digital camera. Utility improves the UX, and the UX drives adoption. The incumbents’ margin is our opportunity. This is the essence of disruption.

Let me also clarify that better gadgets for affluent Westerners are not more important than giving people in developing countries access to modern financial services and shelter from their governments’ corruption. That’s vital too. It’s just that affluent Westerners are a more effective way to move the market and propagate the technology. They’re the gateway drug, the beachhead to mainstream adoption. But yes, changing the whole world and improving the lives of everyone in it with bitcoin remains the ultimate goal.

Utility > Education

Education is important for people who need the inside-baseball-level information — entrepreneurs, engineers, investors, etc. It’s usually easier to improve a thing if you understand how it works than through random trial and error.

To just use a thing, though, all you need to know is how, not why. Dozens of animal species use tools to make their lives better. A few of them might have a vague idea of the tools’ operating principles — thick stick = strong and rigid; thin stick = light and flexible — and that’s enough. All of us use countless technologies already without understanding them, simply because we like the experience.

We don’t really have to conduct much research about how to improve people’s experiences with bitcoin. It’s easy to find which apps are most popular. Many, if not most, if not all of them could be improved with borderless P2P payments, right? That’s the whole idea, right? So let’s add our borderless P2P payments to them or rebuild them with our tech. If we do it right, and bitcoin really is better (which of course it is), then we won’t have to convince people anymore. They’ll just adopt it and convince each other.

Disclaimer: This article is provided for informational purposes only. It is not offered or intended to be used as legal, tax, investment, financial, or other advice.

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