Bitcoin and Adams Law of Slow Moving Disasters

Scott Adams, Dilbert creator, is an innovative thinker. One of his ideas is “The Adams Law of Slow-Moving Disasters.” As he puts it, whenever humanity sees a slow-moving disaster approaching, we find a way to avoid it.

Examples of this include:

  • Thomas Malthus predicting the world would run out of food due to increasing population, and humans everywhere living in poverty. What actually happened was farming technology improved and food became more abundant than ever.
  • Experts claiming oil wells would dry up and global oil supplies running out. Instead, advancements in drilling led to new ways of extracting it from the ground and supply increasing.
  • Everyone anticipating the Y2K computer bug to destroy computer programs and wreak havoc on the economy, as computers then could only display the final two digits of a year (so year 2000 would be indistinguishable from 1900). In reality, fixes were implemented and everything was dandy.

Adams believes we’ll find a way to avoid climate change disasters in the same vein.

What’s interesting to me about Adams Law is how it relates to Bitcoin.

Bitcoin has been locked in a scaling debate for years now over the ideal blockchain size, which is ultimately a debate over what Bitcoin’s intended purpose should be. One faction wants Bitcoin to be a global currency system akin to Visa, so they want bigger block sizes to process more transactions per second at lower fees. The other side wants Bitcoin to be more of a secure store of value and global settlement network for moving large sums of money around with larger transaction fees for greater security.

The culmination of this unending back-and-forth led to various hard deadline dates set this year (2017). Most notably, August 1 is the date Bitcoin’s blockchain potentially splits and hard forks into two.

The uncertainty around all this and worries over Bitcoin’s future recently caused its price to fall from ~$3,000 USD to a low of ~$1,800. It’s since rebounded all the way up to as high as ~$2,800 after Bitcoin miners signaled for BIP 91 and locked it in. Bitcoin’s future still isn’t set in stone yet, though, as miners now have to actually use BIP 91 (not just signal for it), and a fork called Bitcoin Cash seems to be imminent despite despite the first step of the compromise solution (BIP91) locking in already.

Despite all this drama and continued uncertainty, as a holder I’ve pretty much turned a blind eye towards it. I have no intention of liquidating any of my holdings nor felt much panic. The only thing I’ve done is add btc through the ups and downs. I see this whole debate as another example of Adams Law of Slow Moving Disasters playing out, and regardless the outcome – whether Bitcoin soft forks or hard forks or which solution reigns supreme – Bitcoin will continue to be a bigger and bigger part of our world.

Time will tell, of course. Let’s revisit this piece in 5 years and see where we stand.