Object 1: CBS article headline
June 2, 2021
Published February 2021, this CBS article highlights the highly volatile valuation of Bitcoin which made thousands around the world insanely rich, justifying the Bitcoin fever. This object raises interesting questions about how we ‘know’ and how we determine whether something has improved or not.
People are obsessed with bitcoin, and automatically consider it an improvement due to the feelings associated with it: self-expression, excitement, power. This is because bitcoin offers a thrill equivalent to gambling, is extremely efficient, allows people to create an identity in a financial space and as the article demonstrates, enables regular people to become millionaires, with over 101,554 accounts having $1 million+ worth of bitcoin. The psychology behind how we determine whether current knowledge is an improvement upon past knowledge is demonstrated effectively by bitcoin. Humans tend to ignore the drawbacks of new technologies, such as the detrimental environmental impact of bitcoin, and automatically deem the technology an improvement when it serves our self-interest and helps us achieve things that previously seemed unachievable by past knowledge systems (eg: paper currency).
At the same time, bitcoin received a positive welcome as it is the first form of decentralised cryptocurrency, and there isn’t any past knowledge system available for comparison. Since it is the first revolutionary technology of its kind, it took the world by storm. As there aren’t any direct previous models to compare it to, its shortcomings (volatility, little to no regulation) and potential threats (lack of authorities which allows illegal content to be shared through its blockchain without censorship) were conveniently overlooked in the face of its ability to make people rich, with over ‘8,110 accounts with $10+ million worth of bitcoin’. This enriches the exhibition as it shows the difficulties in fairly assessing new knowledge when direct links with past knowledge or prior models don’t exist.