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  • Ioni Appelberg
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  • Ioni Appelberg
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About The Artist

There’s a good chance you have come across Ioni Appelberg’s work and contributions to the Bitcoin space even if you don’t recognise his name.

Ioni is a medical doctor from Sweden who began his journey in finance through forex trading and later turned his full attention to Bitcoin. With a love for teaching, he began to make animated videos on Bitcoin and finance to empower financial growth but more than anything to aid the understanding of money.

Powered by a passion for autodidactic learning, a love for exploring rabbit holes as well as a drive to teach, Ioni keeps outputting great content. Not just an animator, last month he also had a stellar article published by our friends over at Citadel21, which you can check out here too.

Speaking to Ioni is our good friend and talented Bitcoin film maker, Richard James.

Hope you enjoy!

THE INTERVIEUW PART 1/3

"You Are Not Prepared."

Ioni Appelberg

So runs the opening line of Ioni Appelberg’s most recent piece, a video collaboration between himself, author Knut Svanholm, and narrator Guy Swann. The trio have made themselves a name creating content that explores the possibility—or more accurately the inevitability—of hyperbitcoinization.

Knut’s words, Guy’s voice, and Ioni’s distinctive animations draw you in and lead you down a mind-bending path. Together they have popularised an idea so awe-inspiring that it has become a meme of its own: Everything there is, divided by 21 million.

Bitcoin is designed to pump forever. The world switching to a Bitcoin standard is just the beginning. Bitcoin is finite, but human ingenuity is infinite: there is always the possibility of more capital, more productivity, more efficiency. It will all have to be divided by 21 million. To own Bitcoin is to own a claim on the future productive output of humanity, in perpetuity. Our limited brains, unable to properly comprehend exponentials, cannot really understand what this means, nor what the true value of one Bitcoin might someday be.

"Today the average person in the west is richer than the richest of kings, just a few hundred years ago because we have created more wealth. That’s what we do: we invent stuff, we produce."

Ioni Appelberg

The more we invent and produce, the larger the economy grows. And the value of that economy has to be somewhere. It doesn’t just float about in the ether. It’s preserved in some medium–the money. If humanity collectively decides to store its wealth in Bitcoin, then every new capital good that we produce, its value has to flow into Bitcoin. If you said that Bitcoin would stop growing in price, that’s the same as saying that we’ve invented everything there is to invent.’

THE INTERVIEW PART 2/3

Appelberg’s distinctive skill is to take complex topics and make them digestible. “One of my passions is to teach,” he says. ‘Teaching and making content available to other people is a creative process that I really enjoy. It sharpens me, it sharpens my ideas.’

The process often starts with the written word. ‘Writing is for me the best form of thinking. Because when you externalise thoughts in written text, that’s when you see all the other angles that you may not have thought about. My philosophy, my approach, is always to re-package an idea so you can teach a complex topic to a child. Because there are very few ideas that are too complicated even for an 8-year-old to understand.’

"I took the time to cultivate sound fundamentals before I took my content public."

Ioni Appelberg

It is obvious from Appelberg’s work that he has thought deeply about Bitcoin, and developed his ideas over a long stretch of time. Everything about his work helps the viewer on a journey towards understanding. The detailed, hand-drawn style of animation, the rhythm, the sound design—all the elements reinforce each other in synchronicity.

‘The videos that I have today, they look simplistic. But the journey to get there was a messy one. In order to get to simplistic, you have to go through chaos.’ Appelberg’s work embodies wu wei, the paradoxical ‘doing-by-not-doing’ of Taoist philosophy. There is no ‘doing’, because after a long and trying journey towards mastery, subject and object have finally merged into one. The artist has dissolved into the canvas.

‘I have a huge respect for martial artists,’ he says. ‘I trust the discipline of a martial artist. If they wanted to learn a new skill, I would trust them to be able to do that, because if they have been able to have the discipline required to learn a martial art, they would be able to learn basically anything.’

THE INTERVIEW 3/3

Appleberg’s journey in animation and video production followed a similar path. ‘I work as a primary care physician. I don’t have any background in either animation or coding or programming. I don’t have any particular skills from my past that have helped me here, besides the passion for teaching and being able to re-package an idea into something that is digestible to a bigger audience.’ This story should inspire anyone who has an idea or a dream, but has been holding back through fear of failure, or not knowing where to start. The mindset of the beginner is to be celebrated, not feared. Every journey begins with a first step.

Appelberg’s first exposure to Bitcoin was in 2015. ‘It took some time before I was pulled in,’ he says. ‘I had a shitcoin journey, like most people. I’m not ashamed of it. It helped me mature, it was a vital step for me in my process. I own my failures.’ But soon it became clear to him that Bitcoin was something different, something unique. Nobody knows what Bitcoin is yet . . .

"We have discovered this amazing property of the universe, that we have then later constructed into a new invention called Bitcoin. The discovery being absolute scarcity."

Ioni Appelberg

This idea now exists, and it’s going to continue to exist because it now exists in the human consciousness. This idea will likely exist forever, like every other good idea.

There’s something about Bitcoin that falls short of being described in words. To simply call Bitcoin an ‘invention’ is to sell it short. There is something about absolute scarcity that goes beyond human ingenuity, towards the metaphysical: a window into what lies beyond, a glimpse of the infinite. Appelberg’s work inspires you to take a step back, and think. He allows you a view down into the rabbit hole, a preview of how deep it goes. It’s up to you to decide if you want to dive in.

________________________________________________________

Check out Richard James’ fantastic chat with Ioni (linked above) where they talked about Ioni’s journey from medical professional to going down other unrelated rabbit holes, videography, his collaboration with Knut Svanholm and of course Bitcoin.

Go give him a follow on Twitter here. Thanks for your support!

Video Collection

Bitcoin’s price curve will not be S-shaped
Bitcoin and the separation of money and state
Bitcoin: Everything there is, divided by 21 million
First Publication On Citadel21 VOL11

Discoveries

Some discoveries are so powerful that they change the course of history. Sometimes a discovery lays a new path for mankind to walk into the future. Some discoveries even close the doors to the ways of the past, because when the genie is out of the bottle, there is no turning back. And sometimes, some discoveries have the power to transform the entire human civilization and change everything.

Here are four examples to get us started.

Mathematics

Some 5000 years ago in ancient Mesopotamia, people had begun to study patterns in the skies, to formulate calendars, and to record time. Interestingly, these endeavors required a tool that had not yet been invented, namely mathematics. Mathematics has always existed. It is an inherent part of nature and the universe. In other words, the Mesopotamians did not invent mathematics – it was merely discovered. All they did was codify it.

Many mathematical problems remain unsolved. Some are thousands of years old and remain unsolved even though the sharpest minds of our species have worked hard to unravel their mysteries. The solutions are out there, in the universe. They simply have to be discovered. So far, mathematics has provided indispensable tools to improve the human condition and make our civilization more prosperous.

One of the first use cases for mathematics was metrology, which is to say it was used to count and measure things. When the Mesopotamians began to study the skies, to formulate calendars and to record time, they used basic arithmetic, algebra, and geometry. Needless to say, these were humble beginnings for one of mankind’s most important discoveries.

It is reasonable to assume that the ancient Mesopotamians failed to see the full spectrum and potential of their powerful discovery. If they could have seen how mathematics has been harvested to advance civilization in the last century alone to cure disease, land people on the moon, and build the computers we use today, it would have appeared as nothing short of magic to them. It is truly mind-blowing how some discoveries like this, given enough time, can foster technologies that have the power to reshape the entire human civilization.

The Analytical Engine

In the 1830s, Charles Babbage, an English mathematician and inventor, discovered that punch cards could be used to program machines. The significance of this discovery was not fully understood at the time, but with this idea Babbage had sown a seed that to this day continues to change human civilization as we know it. This rather strange idea of using punch cards was born when Babbage was improving upon a simple calculating machine commissioned by the British government. However, Babbage conceived something far more revolutionary; he conceived a general-purpose computing machine: the first digital computer. 

He called his machine the Analytical Engine. It was steam-driven, had a memory unit large enough to hold one thousand 50-digit numbers, and was run by one attendant. Although arguably rudimentary by today’s standards, this machine was far more complex than anything built before it in the history of mankind.

The Analytical Engine was a product of the industrial society, but it was inherently different from all other inventions of this era. It was digital. As research on digital machines progressed, society began to change, and an entirely new kind of society emerged: the digital society. The change from an industrial economy to a digital economy is one of the most radical changes to society in human history. And we owe it all to one man and his punch cards.

Splitting the atom

In 1918 at the university of Manchester, Ernest Rutherford split the atom. The splitting of the atom is a scientific achievement that, like the codification of mathematics, completely changed the course of history. The splitting of the atom was an extraordinary discovery because it provided mankind with an entirely new source of energy, powerful beyond anything previously known to man.

Rutherford’s discovery consequently inspired the construction of the nuclear power plant, aimed at harvesting the energy that is released when the nucleus is split. Interestingly, the efficiency of nuclear energy is exponentially higher than that of any other energy source known to man. For example, one gram of uranium in a nuclear reactor is often said to produce as much energy as three tons of coal. Looking forward, nuclear energy may not only be a solution to mankind’s energy problem; it may be the only solution.

Antibiotics

In 1928, ten years after the discovery that the atom could be split, doctor Alexander Flemming returned from a holiday to make a curious discovery in his London laboratory. He discovered that a fungus had contaminated a culture plate that he accidentally had left uncovered while on vacation. The mold, to Flemming’s surprise, had killed off the bacteria in the culture plate. Dr. Flemming was later able to identify the species of the fungus as Penicillium notatum. This happy accident was the discovery of the first and historically most important antibiotic, commercially known as Penicillin.

Before the discovery of antibiotics, the deadliest diseases worldwide were pneumonia, diarrhea, wound infection, and infections related to child birth. This was the state of things for thousands and thousands of years, from the time of hunter gatherers to industrialized society.

Antibiotics changed this.

Today, heart disease is the leading cause of death globally. Cancer, as a group, comes in at second place, and accidents at third. Pneumonia is the only infectious disease still in the top ten, ranking number nine just after kidney disease, and just before suicide.

When Sir Alexander Flemming discovered that the deadliest diseases known to man since thousands of years could be fought effectively with mold, mankind began to walk a path towards a more prosperous, and a less threatening future.

Mathematics, the digital computer, the splitting of the atom, and antibiotics. These are extraordinary discoveries that deservedly have been studied thoroughly, patiently and with great scientific curiosity. The technologies that have been developed from these discoveries have changed the course of history, and mankind would be on a very different path were these discoveries never made.

Now, here is how it all comes together.

The virtual world

When the digital computer was invented, we learnt about a second world that exists right beside our own physical one; a parallel world if you will: the virtual world. The physical world is a world where things have a physical manifestation, like the flesh and blood of human beings. And the virtual world is a world where things have a different kind of manifestation, a digital, non-tangible manifestation. For example, in the digital world we have games like World of Warcraft and computer viruses like Mydoom. In the physical world we have board games like chess and the SARS-CoV2 virus. Atoms and molecules on one side, and ones and zeros on the other.

The physical world is sometimes mistakenly called “the real world”. There is nothing more real about the physical world than the virtual world. A physical photograph is no more real than a digital photograph. Paper dollars are no more real than digital dollars. A win in a game of chess is no more real on a physical board than on a virtual board. The physical world is tangible, and the virtual world is digital. The idea that one of these worlds should have a higher claim on realness is just an idea, and the further we become immersed in the digital world, the less legitimacy this idea will have.

The physical and virtual worlds are, in a sense, two different dimensions with different laws and possibilities. Perhaps the most obvious yet striking feature of the virtual world is that it is non-physical and unbound by the laws of the physical world. For example, in the virtual world, any file can be perfectly copied an infinite number of times. A digital image could thus, in theory, exist forever and in any number. This is fascinating because it is in direct opposition to the laws of the physical world. A physical object, say a gold coin, cannot be perfectly copied an infinite number of times due to the laws of physics and chemistry. The laws of the physical world make the gold coin naturally scarce. Curiously, these laws do not apply in the virtual world.

The virtual self

Here is another fascinating idea. As a species, we are moving deeper and deeper into the digital realm. What is interesting is that we are not just creating a virtual world as a complement to the physical world. We are creating an entire virtual civilization for the future of our species. The move away from the physical and into the virtual is the uncompromising, unstoppable course that mankind is on. And the journey has only just begun.

There was a time, not too long ago, when the physical world was not just the preferred, but the only place for doing all the things that make us human: art, work, scientific research, dating, and spending time with family and friends. There was a time, not too long ago, when we had to physically move our bodies to go to a physical bank to pay our bills with physical money.

There is no visible end in sight to the digitization of the physical world. We have already moved our art, jobs, laboratories, social lives, and our banking and finances into cyberspace. We have moved our journals, collections of movies, literature and records, and, dare I say it, our sex lives, into cyberspace. But perhaps most fascinating is this: we have moved part of ourselves – our identity into the virtual space. Yes. Whether we realize it or not, most of us are already immersed in the virtual world to a degree where we have cultivated a separate, virtual identity on the Internet and on social media. This is a new and intriguing social phenomenon because a person’s virtual self is in many ways a unique person. Interestingly, your online persona may have different traits and opinions, different personality and psychology, and even different hopes and dreams than your physical self.

Virtual money

Mankind has lived through three societal Ages: The Hunter-gatherer Age, the Agricultural Age, and the Industrial Age. And now something radically different has begun to mature; a fourth age, rooted in the rise of cyberspace: The Information Age. 

In the Industrial Age large groups of people had to cluster around large factories in big cities. At the time, factories were the most efficient way to grow production and grow the economy. But the Internet changed this, completely. In the Information Age, the global economy will be uploaded to the digital high seas, and mankind will experience freedom and economic growth like never before in human history.

In the Information Age, the need to cluster around metropolitan hubs will be great reduced, because the Internet is the metropolitan hub. Unbound by jurisdiction, you will be able to work from any location in the world – a location of your own choosing, be it on a beach in Southeast Asia, in a New York City café, or a cabin in Northern Scandinavia. And more importantly, with cyberspace as your workplace, you can own your own time. This means that you can wake up to your own alarm clock instead of someone else’s. This type of freedom has not been experienced by humans since the age of hunter-gatherers when the rules of society had not yet been invented.

Here is the important part.

Perhaps the most important change that society will see in the transition from an industrial-based economy to an information-based economy is the rise of an entirely new kind of money. The leap from state-controlled paper money (the dollar) to cybercash, like Bitcoin, will be the greatest leap in the history of monetary evolution. The leap from the dollar to cybercash will, in fact, be greater than the leap from both glass beads to gold coins, and

from gold coins to the dollar. This new kind of money will exist only in the virtual world. It will have no physical counterpart. It will be impossible to censor, and it will be resistant to inflation. Unlike the dollar, virtual money will be controlled and owned by you, and no one else.

But there is a problem.

The problem with cybercash is that all things digital can be copied, even money. Money that can be copied, counterfeited, or whose supply can be easily increased without cost, is very unhealthy money. The opposite is also true: the harder it is to make more of it, the healthier the money. The dollar is unhealthy because it can be expanded infinitely at virtually no cost. Gold is healthy because it is naturally scarce, making it hard and expensive to produce. And herein lies the problem with cybercash. There is no thing in the digital world that would work as money, because nothing is naturally scarce in the digital world. Scarce precious metals do not exist in cyberspace. This is why creating cybercash is a challenge.

Artificial scarcity

When Alice sends an image to Bob, Alice keeps the original and Bob gets a perfect copy. This is fine when sending pictures, but less than ideal when sending money. The way that the traditional financial system solves this is by having a bank in the background of every transaction. When Alice sends $100 to Bob, the bank credits $100 to Bob’s account and subtracts 100$ from Alice’s account. Without a bank in the background to manage the transaction, the funds would just have been copied; Alice would have kept the original $100 and Bob would have received a perfect copy of the $100, as with anything digital sent from point A to point B. Digital dollars are not scarce. Banks simulate scarcity by managing transactions.

Similarly, the supply of dollars is only artificially limited. In fact, central banks can create more dollars, in any amount, at any time, out of thin air, by the push of a button. The whim of a banker with a license to print is all that is needed for more dollars to come into existence. The only reason central banks ever stop pushing the button on the printing machine is that an endless expansion of the dollar supply would weaken the dollar significantly. However, if history has taught us anything, it is this: if people can bypass restrictions to create more money, they will, and if not right away, then eventually.

Issuance of money therefore needs to be restricted by unbreakable laws such as those of chemistry, physics or mathematics. A pinky-promise from a nefarious central bank to not print evermore money will not do. Unless protected by unbreakable laws, money will eventually suffer the monetary equivalent of cancer: it will suffer from an unstoppable, uncontrollable growth in supply. The dollar already suffers from a dormant malignancy. It is then but a matter of time before the disease becomes manifest. When it does become manifest – when hyperinflation strikes and the supply begins to grow uncontrollably – the dollar stops working, people’s life savings become worthless, and society collapses.

The fact that no one knows how many dollars there are in the world, and the fact that the printing machines have run amok since the 1970s and made the increase in dollars go up like a hockey stick, is quite disturbing. It is the author’s opinion that this means that we have lost control of the disease, and the cancer is already spreading. Artificial scarcity is a treatment with a long-term failure rate of 100%. Artificial scarcity is not scarcity; it is a pinky-promise and a prayer.

An important discovery: digital scarcity

Gold is healthy money because it is hard and expensive to mine. It is protected from the cancer of hyperinflation through the unbreakable laws of chemistry and physics which prevent greedy humans from making more of it out of thin air. If the virtual world is ever going to see healthy virtual money, this attribute has to be replicated for the digital space. Scarcity simulated by a third party like a bank does not work. Cybercash has to be naturally scarce to work.

This raises an important techno-philosophical question: can naturally scarce, uncopyable money even exist in the digital realm where everything is infinitely copyable by nature? Is true digital scarcity at all possible, or does it violate the laws of the virtual world?

In 2009, Satoshi Nakamoto answered this question. Following the financial crash in 2008, Nakamoto sent a now notoriously famous email to a cryptography mailing list. The first line of the email reads:

“I’ve been working on a new electronic cash system that’s fully peer-to-peer, with no trusted third party”.

Nakamoto had discovered a way to create digital scarcity. And with this discovery, he created Bitcoin. Bitcoin, at its core, is the result of the discovery that true digital scarcity is actually possible. The fact that true scarcity now exists in the digital realm is nothing short of remarkable. It is bizarre, it is extraordinary, and by all means quite marvelous. Prior to Bitcoin, digital scarcity existed only as an idea. This idea has since been brought to life in the form of Bitcoin. When Bitcoin was invented, it was discovered that true digital scarcity was not only a figment of sci-fi imagination, but that it could actually be created. There is no doubt in the author’s mind that Satoshi Nakamoto deserves both the Turing Award, the most prestigious award in computer science, and the Nobel Prize in economics, for this amazing discovery: the Turing award for discovering and creating true digital scarcity, and the Nobel prize in economics for creating the difficulty adjustment, which underpins the hardness of the best money the world has ever seen.

As Saifedean Ammous puts it in his influential book The Bitcoin standard: “Bitcoin is the first example of a digital good that is scarce and cannot be reproduced infinitely. While it is trivial to send digital objects from one location to another in a digital network, as is done with email, text messaging, or file downloads, it is more accurate to describe these processes as copying rather than sending, because the digital objects remain with the sender and can be reproduced infinitely. Bitcoin is the first example of a digital good whose transfer stops it from being owned by the sender.”

The importance of this discovery cannot be overstated. Like mathematics, the Analytical Engine, the splitting of the atom, and antibiotics, Bitcoin is a paradigm-altering technology, and the full spectrum of its potential has yet to unravel. No one knows what Bitcoin is yet, which in itself is absolutely fascinating. For now, the one thing that can be said with certainty is that Bitcoin needs to be studied, not feared. Like any new potentially paradigm-altering discovery, Bitcoin deserves to be studied, thoroughly and patiently, by the natural and the social sciences alike.

No one knows exactly what a world running on a Bitcoin standard would look like, but the genie is out of the bottle, and the door to a future without Bitcoin has been closed forever. Where this path leads mankind cannot be known in advance, but we cannot go back. We cannot un-discover digital scarcity. We cannot un-invent Bitcoin. Bitcoin continues to live its life one block at a time, and it cannot be stopped. All we can do is let it breathe, and watch it unfold.

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