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THE COST OF A LESSON

by Brandon Lam 2 months ago in bitcoin

Hope comes at a cost

THE COST OF A LESSON
Photo by Tara Evans on Unsplash

The Cost of a Lesson

I am Satoshi Nakamoto.

Or rather… I am what’s left of “Satoshi Nakamoto.”

Allow me to explain.

No, I am not the developer of Bitcoin. I never wrote a single email or forum post authored by “Nakamoto,” and I was not at all responsible for the advent of Bitcoin — those accomplishments belong to my mother.

My mother possessed a combination of foresight and optimism that led her to believe a pseudonym would be necessary to protect her identity as the originator of a revolutionary idea.

In hindsight, I am appalled that my mother chose a masculine pseudonym. She detested the notion that men were superior to women — especially intellectually. When I asked her about her decision, she explained that, “The point of a pseudonym is to hide one’s identity. Satoshi Nakamoto will be the perfect pseudonym because it aligns with what the public will want to believe: that it was a man who created Bitcoin.”

Yet, considering that we are Japanese, I found it rather ironic that she still insisted upon a Japanese pseudonym. If she really predicted a future in which individuals would try to determine her identity, wouldn’t it have been wiser to choose a French or perhaps a Spanish pseudonym?

But my mother was proud of her culture in that way.

She used to say, “One day, people will want to know who was responsible for the inception of Bitcoin Even if they may never know the truth... even if they may assume that it was a man, at least they will know it was a Japanese person who started it all.”

Oh, the things my mother cared about... I will never understand.

As I reflect on it now, there were probably a number of other motivations behind why my mother chose not to be associated with her brainchild.

I’m not sure Bitcoin would ever have made it off the ground floor if people knew who the creator was.

Because my mother was a wicked, wicked woman.

January 9th, 2009

I had always had my doubts, but on January 9th 2009, I became sure that my mother did not love me.

To be fair, I’m sure that in my mother’s twisted mind, there existed some sort of rationale for her actions that day. I don’t believe that my mother thought of herself as a bad woman.

But who really does?

That morning, I awoke to the sound of the front door slamming behind my mother as she returned home.

She had been working late for months now, and sometimes would leave me — as an eight year old child — home alone while she was out. My mother had been neglecting me for years at this point, so I was taken aback when she thrust open my bedroom door just a few moments after her return.

Usually, my mother wouldn’t even say hello upon returning to the house. She would go straight to her office, and would absently acknowledge me as I left for the bus.

I rubbed my eyes — not completely sure if that muddy, shivering woman who I saw in my bedroom doorway was actually my mother.

Up until that moment in my life, if you had asked me to describe my mother, I would have only had good things to say about her. As an optimistic and loyal child yearning for love, I would not have told you about her callousness or neglect. And as a precocious child, I may have described her as “brilliant and ambitious” to describe her. And those descriptions — although not complete — would have been true.

But ambition can be a beast.

My mother’s ambition was the reason why she was emotionally absent for most of my childhood. It was the reason why she had no friends nor any semblance of a relationship with any of her kin. Ambition devastated her marriage, which in turn destroyed my father.

And ultimately, on that snowy morning of January 9th, ambition changed her nature.

“Get up,” she commanded as she pulled her phone out of her pocket.

“Ma?” I asked, “What’s going on?”

“We’re going somewhere,” she said bluntly as she began to scroll through what I assumed was her emails.

“But don’t I have school today?” I asked as I hurriedly scrambled out of bed towards my dusty dresser.

Ma was stern, and even in my confusion I knew to obey quickly to her orders.

She didn’t respond, so I decided to put on my uniform anyway. I figured it couldn’t hurt, and I understood that my mother was done talking.

My mother began to walk away, and I understood that was my cue to hurry up. I haphazardly pulled on the rest of my uniform, plucked a coat off of the ground, and threw my backpack on my shoulder as I sprinted out of my bedroom.

I ran up the long hallway that led to the front door, and looked out of a window to see my mother was already walking towards her car. I sprinted to the kitchen and quickly stuffed a banana in my coat pocket before heading out the door.

My mother had both hands on the wheel and was staring blankly ahead as I jumped in the car. Her expression suggested that her mind was somewhere else.

She began to pull slowly out of our icy driveway. The land was still coated in the snow from the day before.

Ma had still not told me where we were going, but I knew better than to ask her. We always drove in silence — my mother demanded that I not interrupt her thoughts when we were in the car.

I peered out of the backseat window. I strained my eyes to see if I could spot a child making a snowman or a family snowball fight that would indicate that today was some sort of holiday that I had not known about. Instead, I spotted my school bus making its normal stop at the corner of my block.

Ever the optimist, I thought that perhaps Ma didn’t want me to have to wait for the bus in the cold. This wouldn’t be in her nature, but I held on to the thought nonetheless.

My thoughts turned towards the banana that I had stashed in my pocket. I quickly devoured it and stuffed the peel in my backpack. I looked out the window to see if my mother was making the right turn at the end of our neighborhood which would indicate we were heading towards school.

Instead, she turned left, and I began to wonder what exactly was going on this odd morning.

Curiosity got the best of me, and I dared a question, “Ma, where are we going?”

I clenched my fists and edged closer towards the door — bracing myself for the possibility that Ma was in a bad mood, and that violence might be coming my way.

Instead, I was surprised by what seemed like a calm response, “No, we’re not going to school,” Ma said without even a bit of resentment in her voice.

Relaxing my muscles, I allowed myself to think that maybe Ma had a surprise for me. Maybe she was finally coming around. After all, I had just finished my first semester of 3rd grade with all A’s just like she told me to.

“It’s time that you learned what I’ve been working on,” Ma said, “It’s time that you learned about Bitcoin.”

I was taken-aback. My mother did not usually initiate conversations that weren’t immediately pertaining to my basic needs. I wasn’t sure how to react, so I remained silent knowing that my mother would continue on until I had something to contribute.

“I’m sure you’ve noticed that I’ve been working nonstop lately. I’ve been building towards this moment. Today, I launched the first open-source Bitcoin client,” Ma announced.

I bit my lower lip wondering if I was supposed to know what an open-source Bitcoin client was.

My mother looked in the rearview mirror and discerned my thoughts, “I know you probably don’t know what that means, but today is the day I start to teach you about Bitcoin. All of it.”

Thankful that I was not expected to give an astute response, I instead asked, “Well, what should I know first, Ma?”

Ma looked back ahead and paused as if thinking to herself.

“Well... I thought we should start with the most important lesson first,” she said as pulled the gear stick to park.

I was so preoccupied with our conversation that I had not realized that we had arrived at our destination.

I peered past my mother through the windshield at what appeared to be an abandoned factory building. Looking around, I noticed that we were the only car parked in an empty lot.

A tear started to force itself out of the corner of my eye, and my stomach felt like it was twisting upwards towards my heart.

Deep down, I knew.

I knew that this was the moment that my optimism would either be validated or crushed.

The First Lesson

I followed my mother into the abandoned building — across a door that was hanging off of a single hinge. The building was enormous. On the right, the entire wall was lined with shattered windows that stood about ten feet apart. Each window extended from the floor to the ceiling — almost like empty pillars. I was comforted by the grey light that shone through the windows from the cloudy day of the outside.

Tables were lined in rows across the middle of the floorspace. Ash, dust, torn cloth, and what looked like sewing machines were scattered across the tabletops. On the left were little doorways that led into tiny box-shaped offices.

We were walking towards the back of the building where a long staircase was hidden in the shadows.

“Ma, where are we?” I asked

Ma ignored my question, “It’s important for you to understand that Bitcoin is a part of a larger plan. Bitcoin will be the crowning accomplishment of my existence, but it may take some time before my vision will be realized.”

We had reached the bottom of the stairs at the back of the complex. I hadn’t at all been listening to what my mother was talking about. I abruptly stopped walking and looked back towards the broken door through which we entered, and began to sob.

“I’m s-s-scared,” I managed to utter between frantic chokes. I was experiencing a whirlwind of emotions, fear just happened to be the only one that I was able to articulate.

The sad truth was that I was still clinging to an ounce of hope. Maybe this was just Ma’s botched attempt at trying to demonstrate her love. Perhaps my instincts were wrong, my anxiety was unjustified, and I was ruining what could be a sacred moment between my mother and I.

I started to tear violently at my hair — unable to control my inner turmoil.

My mother was staring at me apathetically, “It’s natural to be scared... and that’s why we’re here.”

She grabbed my wrist and continued her march up the stairs.

By this point, my legs had given out. I didn’t fight Ma as she dragged me up the steps. I still didn’t know what was happening, but I felt death lingering on the horizon. I closed my eyes tight and screamed as loud as I could. I didn’t want to hear or see what was about to happen to me.

Then — suddenly — I felt myself thrown into the hair. A second later, my face collided with a surface and my mouth was filled with gravel and snow.

I spat pebbles out of my mouth, but lay belly-first on the ground.

Nothing happened. I’m not sure how long I lay there. Looking back at this moment, I don’t imagine that I could have been lying there for more than a few seconds before Ma would have lost her patience, but it felt like I had been lying for hours.

Eventually, I picked up my head and looked up.

For the second time that day, I wasn’t sure if I could trust my eyes.

We were on top of a rooftop — notably about two feet from the edge — and a few inches in front of me was a swing.

It appeared to be brand new, and as I shifted my head side-to-side I noticed that the legs of the swing set dove into the foundation of the rooftop.

“Why would a swing be on the edge of a building,” I thought to myself.

I pushed myself up and looked behind me — half expecting my mother to have disappeared.

But I wasn’t so fortunate.

There my mother stood, with a gun in her hand.

“Have you ever wondered why you didn’t end up with your father?”

I blinked quickly. My entire attitude towards my survival had suddenly changed. Perhaps I was concussed.

I quickly tried to process what my mother said. In fact, the thought had occurred to me during the lonely nights that my optimism had sometimes faded. The truth was, I had never met my father. I was alone for my mother for as long as I had known. She had told me long ago that she and “Dad” separated before my first birthday.

“Yes, I have,” I answered through bloodied teeth.

“It was because of this moment. I always knew that I was destined to be legendary, but for many, greatness doesn’t arrive until after one is buried,” Ma said as she cocked her gun.

“Unlike other more vain people, I don’t need to experience my impending legacy while I’m alive. I am satisfied knowing that what I had set out to accomplish was accomplished. That’s why you’re here. Now get on the swing.”

This time, I heard everything that my mother had to say. With every word, my heart hardened, and I became more resolute in my will to live.

At my mother’s last words, I turned towards the swing and pulled myself up by the seat. I grabbed the steel chains on either end of the swing and swung myself into the seat. Without being directed, I kicked my legs forward and began to swing.

I looked beneath me and saw a five-story drop to an empty white lot below. Curiously enough, about twenty feet away — atop a separate shorter building — was a giant sandbox. And in the sandbox... was full of sand — not snow.

I looked back at my mother, realizing that this was where she was this morning while I slept.

When I looked back at her, I saw the gun pointed at me. I was kind of confused as to why she needed the gun at this point. She could have easily killed me if she wanted to. Nonetheless, I remained fixated on her, knowing that this was not all that she had planned.

She gazed back at me, then began, “The first and most important lesson you need to know about my vision for Bitcoin relates to timing. We will only have one opportunity to execute and implement my strategy. In order to prove to me that keeping you alive has not been a waste of my time and effort, you have one opportunity to live.”

I knew what she meant.

I looked back ahead at the sandbox ahead of me. I re-calculated the distance to the next building. It looked to be about a ten-foot drop to the sandbox. Twenty feet across, ten-feet down... I think I can actually do this.

Suddenly, I kicked forward harder and gained momentum. Immediately the rush of cool air sent waves of adrenaline through my body. I gripped the steel chains harder, realizing that I was a few trembling finger-tips away from death.

I closed my eyes and felt the trembling through my body, “If I don’t jump, I’m dead anyway.” I opened my eyes, and — a moment later — I released.

This time, facing death, I kept my eyes open.

I focused on the sandbox in front of me and extended my arms towards it.

As you probably know by now — considering that I am writing this — I made it to the other side.

I crashed over the edge of the sandbox and slid a few feet before my momentum lapsed. I looked back towards my mother who was staring at me from behind the swing I had just launched from.

I looked around at the rooftop I was now on and spotted a doorway at the other end of the rooftop.

Then, I ran.

A moment later multiple gun-shots rang out and a bullet pierced my right hamstring.

“So that’s what the gun was for...” I thought as I crashed to the ground.

The Blueprint

“Don’t worry... your mind is where your true strength lies. Your leg will heal,” my mother said nonchalantly as she tossed me into the back seat of the car.

I grimaced as I landed roughly on my mother’s leather seats.

From the moment my blood spilled on the interior of my mom’s 2001 Volkswagen Passat, I had the profound realization that my life was no longer in danger.

Yes, I might have been trapped in a hellish, lonely nightmare, but I had conquered the proving ground that my mother had established. She now acknowledged me as an asset that she could utilize towards the realization of whatever “vision” she had.

Obviously, Ma never let me return to school out of the fear that I would reveal her abusive and pathological behavior. In fact, I never stepped foot outside again for years.

Once we returned home, Ma barred my bedroom window and installed a new metal door with a digital lock to effectively barricade me from civilization.

As the years passed, Ma invested her time in developing my understanding of macroeconomics and code, which solidified my belief that she now saw value in me — even if it was as a weapon rather than as her daughter. Ironically, the conversations that I had once longed for were now dreaded as Ma was constantly trying to indoctrinate me in her philosophies that inspired the creation of Bitcoin.

As it turns out, Ma’s intentions for Bitcoin were not just to revolutionize currency, but to revolutionize how wealth was accumulated across the world.

According to Ma, that whole episode with the swing was essentially a twisted metaphor designed to teach me a penultimate lesson: Revolution is like a swing. There will always be windows that are ideal for revolution, and there will be times where revolution will not flourish — just like how there was only a small window for me to jump from the swing.

You just have to be patient and wait for your window.

In and of itself, I thought there was some merit to the lesson. Obviously, the cost that I paid to learn the lesson was a source of resentment for me.

Coinciding with Ma’s strategy of patience were the following philosophies and beliefs that she believed would prove to be fundamental to Bitcoin’s evolution:

Trust in traditional forms of currency always fade during inevitable periods of doubt and crises. Each time trust wanes in another form of currency, Bitcoin will slowly and intermittently gain value.

As Bitcoin slowly gains value, it will eventually gain the attention of investors who understand the value of a functional and limited commodity.

Eventually, the wealthiest and greediest individuals in society will see an opportunity to corner the Bitcoin market. One or more individuals will amass enough Bitcoins to significantly decrease the supply of Bitcoins and artificially drive up its price.

Once Bitcoin has become the currency of the wealthy rather than the currency of “the people,” Ma planned to unleash her 1.1 million shares that she mined at the outset of Bitcoin’s beginnings.

The wealthy investors would be crippled in a legendarily catastrophic event. Ma recognized that this would not eliminate wealth inequality and it may not even affect the wealthiest individuals in the world.

“Dumping my share of Bitcoins won’t erase the problem of wealth, but it will create a seed of doubt that will last forever. History will always remember what happened to some of the greediest individuals who invested in a currency that does not generate any goods and services.

Maybe then, they will learn that investment shouldn’t be a mechanism for people to gain wealth without having to contribute anything.”

Unfortunately for my mother — and as she prepared for — she will never see her vision come to fruition.

The weapon she molded in me ultimately became the weapon that led to her own undoing.

Now, as the heir to the bitcoin fortune, I am what’s left of “Satoshi Nakamoto.”

I will decide the lesson Bitcoin will impart on the world, and only I will decide the cost of that lesson.

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Brandon Lam
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