MODERN TECHNOLOGY HAS burst into our lives, giving us unprecedented access to more information than we have ever had before. In addition to this information we are bombarded with more varied opinions than we have ever known before. Our minds and our ideas are rapidly changing. Some of this new knowledge is helpful. Some of what we learn is misleading. Some material is downright lies. It can lead us down paths we never would have journeyed down otherwise.
What we learn provides the foundation for what we believe, and these beliefs are extremely powerful. From religion to science to propaganda, these beliefs influence who we love and who we hate, the sacrifices we are prepared to make, the things we wish to build, and what we are prepared to say no to. When an outcome does not align with what we believe should happen, it can send us to the depths of despair. Sometimes this despair can rapidly dissipate when we are introduced to a new piece of information that dramatically changes our perspective.
Our beliefs also manage our society. They influence the politicians we support and these politicians in turn are responsible for the rules and laws they make for our society. The only influence we have to affect these laws (unless we put effort into campaigning or fundraising, which may or may not be effective) is who we believe we should vote for.
Now we have computers. These computers allow someone to program in a series of rules and operate in a way so that no one else can change them. Increasingly, the use of these computers is having a substantial impact on how our society progresses. Is this a good thing? Maybe, if we use the right rules. But what are the right rules? Have we reached a point in society where we have become so out of tune with what reasonable rules are that we are in danger of programming in all the wrong ones?
What if these rules relate to our money?
I recently met with a friend who had made the decision to take control of her pension. She was worried about how things were looking in the financial markets. For many months she studied to understand the rules for Small Self-Administered Pension Schemes in the UK and completed all the paperwork. Then the government changed the rules through the Financial Conduct Authority. Effectively saying to her and anyone else wanting to follow a similar strategy—you can’t do that anymore!
What are the outcomes for society when the rules of the law conflict with the rules of the heart?
If a heart says,
“I want to be prosperous, successful and protect my future,” but the law says,
“No, you can’t do it that way!”
We live in a world with rules crowding in on us from every angle. It is becoming suffocating. When all avenues to freedom close off, where do we go and what do we do? How did we even end up here?
These are very important questions, the outcomes of which will have serious consequences. Are we aware enough and informed enough to make the choices that will make our future a happy, successful, and prosperous one? Or are we headed down a dark and foreboding path, a digital prison from which all chances of escape are lost?
Technology in itself is neutral. It is how we use it that will make all the difference. A rule that is good for one person can be very bad for another, leading to unfortunate unintended consequences for many. For this reason they need to be considered very carefully.
From my own perspective, I believe that the rules programmed into Bitcoin, as a new technology, are taking us closer to the better path. That is why I have chosen to focus on Bitcoin here.
This book started as a “how-to” book that explained to business owners how to accept bitcoin payments in their business. Attempting this in my own dental business gave me some important insights that I felt I could share with others. Then, as the book evolved, I realized that there is so much more to the story. Accepting payment in bitcoin is the easy part. Understanding why you should is another story entirely.
In the lead-up to writing this book, I spent time in the Bitcoin community, making friends at conferences, getting acquainted with some well-known names, and learning more about the technology and its history. The story of how the technology of Bitcoin came into being is interesting in itself. The belief system that keeps the technology going is a revelation.
I find the tale fascinating. As I have experience running my own business and insight into working in health care, public and private, I decided to include my personal journey with Bitcoin—how I became interested in it and what motivated me to take a serious look at the technology. As part of this story I have gone to some lengths to explain how the financial system currently works and the effect that this is having on our legal system and on our welfare system.
To help structure the information, the first section of the book is titled “Why?—The Past”. This is the story that led me to my interest in Bitcoin. The second section is titled “How?—The Present”. This goes into the technology of Bitcoin more deeply, showing you how to accept bitcoin as payment in your business. It also outlines why you would want to do this. The third section, titled “When?—The Future”, discusses the implications for a future based on Bitcoin and other blockchain technologies.
This book is not designed for traders or speculators, nor for those wanting a deep analysis of the Bitcoin technology, although these groups are still likely to find my story interesting. My main aim is to give you a clearer idea of the features and benefits behind Bitcoin. For those of you currently unfamiliar with Bitcoin, I want you to have the ability to accept Bitcoin payments, either as an individual or a business, immediately when the need arises, and to understand the implications of doing so. In a crisis, you will need this information quickly and in a digestible style.
This book features many ideas on the financial system, politics, and the law. I use my own personal story to make these topics more relatable and easier to understand. My aim is to provide you with an overall picture, the essential elements of what I believe it would most benefit you to know.
This is a rapidly changing area of study—new technological developments are occurring all the time. Some ideas that are new to you may require you to do further research. There are many sources of information available, but few that tie everything together. This book aims to provide that summary, to furnish you with more clarity on where the world is likely to be going in the future, and in doing so, instruct you on how you can regain some control in a situation of ever increasing financial strife.
With the economic system teetering, it is wise to be prepared. This book is designed to assist you in this. If you think everything is just fine—you really need to read this book!
For more information about me and the way I can help you and others learn more about Bitcoin, please visit my website at www.satoshispage.com.
I WAS FIFTEEN years old and all I could hear was a low groan coming from the upstairs bathroom. Shifting my weight from right to left, I hovered at the top of the landing. It is a terrible thing to hear someone you love suffering, and not know what to do.
My father was still at work and my five siblings were downstairs. I was now home from school and my mother was in labor with her seventh child.
Four hours later, as the drama unfolded upstairs, the entire Local Health Authority appeared to have arrived at our house: three doctors, six nurses, and five emergency medical responders. I watched as they came downstairs and carried a scrawny little bundle out of the front door.
Lucy—my little sister.
That was the last time I saw her. Three days later, she died.
My mother developed diabetes during her pregnancy. As a result, her doctor insisted that she was high-risk and must go to the hospital for a caesarean section, as she had before with her sixth baby. My mother—who had a terrible birthing experience with her sixth baby but a very straightforward time with her third, fourth, and fifth— refused. The thought of a repeat experience of the last birth filled her with terror.
Her doctor, in his efforts to persuade my mother to do what he believed was the right thing (or what the NHS [UK National Health Service] demanded of him), cajoled, threatened, and finally struck her off his register, massively increasing her anxiety. Because she refused to cooperate. It was a holy mess.
My mother acted as responsibly as she felt she could, while staying true to what she felt was right. She researched the issue. In doing this she discovered that there were plenty of other women who had managed a natural birth after a previous caesarean section. She diligently followed the instructions she had been given to manage her diabetic condition, stabbing her finger every morning to keep an eye on her blood sugars and adjusting her diet.
The result was as it was, however. Almost everyone blamed my mother for ignoring the doctors and thinking she knew best. It was heartbreaking. The distress forever etched in my mind, after the event, by watching a solitary tear roll down my father’s left cheek as they said prayers for our family at the local church.
My mother was thirty-six by the time she had her seventh child. She was told about all the dire consequences of her actions, including the possibility that the child could be handicapped. My mother’s philosophy, in spite of her anxiety, was that nature has a way of taking care of these things. Interference would likely make things worse. Nature should be allowed to run its course.
In this case it did. I still wonder, though, if a kinder, more understanding attitude from the medical profession, rather than a dictatorial one, might have helped the situation.
So began my perplexing observation of our society.
I considered a career as a doctor. But I didn’t have the stomach for these life-and-death dilemmas. At the time there were constant reports in the newspapers of how young doctors were working such long shifts that they hardly got any sleep. As a teenager, I really valued my sleep. Medicine clearly wasn’t for me.
I became a dentist instead.
You may think it is unusual for a dentist to be writing a book about Bitcoin. But there are particular reasons why my career and interests have led me to this point in history.
Let me begin.
As I was growing up, my father was a naval officer. So I was given the opportunity to go to a private convent boarding school for two and a half years at the age of twelve. I loved this school. But the school had to close after the stock market crash of 1987—the first example of how a financial crisis would affect my life. So my secondary education was completed at the local comprehensive school instead. I then studied for my A-levels at the local tertiary college.
There were a wide range of careers that I could have chosen at the age of sixteen. Yet my choices were mainly influenced by the things that surrounded me at the time. When I went to the dentist, I was impressed by the environment. What amazed me even more was that my father, who always seemed to struggle to pay for everything, had no problem sending us into this space-age environment to have our teeth checked. Because, for some reason, this service was free.
It seemed like it would be fun to spend my days playing with futuristic equipment and helping people at the same time. I had a very clear idea of what I thought I would achieve by choosing this profession: grateful patients and beautiful smiles. This contrasted, however, with what I saw as I looked around me. If this sophisticated service was available for free, how come there were so many people who had teeth that looked bad, whereas the Americans seemed to be well-known for their white, sparkly, bright smiles? There was a mismatch here that I didn’t fully understand until many years later, after I had spent much time studying the impact of politics, finance, and the law on the subject of health care.
In 1992 I set off for university, full of wide-eyed dreams, full of joy and wonder at the sophisticated career that I was entering. It wasn’t long before reality kicked in. I became more and more disappointed. Being a dentist is hard. It isn’t just intellectually challenging, because the system has been made so convoluted; it is physically and emotionally challenging. I remember my first day on the clinic floor, dressed in my white coat with a mask around my face and gloves on my hands. Discovering that my nose was itchy and I was unable to touch it.
“This is my very definition of hell,” I thought to myself, but there was no going back now.
It turns out that, unlike most of my friends and family, a large majority of society appears to hate the dentist. I even had a dentist friend who kept a tally chart behind the door of his office when he first graduated, so that when someone came in and said “I hate the dentist!”, he would put a tick on the tally chart and say “Excellent—you are the fifth one today!” He was clearly able to cope with this better than I was.
Having now spent many years in the dental profession, I think much of this attitude is down to how powerless people feel when subjected to the dictates of an authoritarian profession, similar to the experience of my mother with the medics. With life itself apparently dependent on these unsympathetic authority figures that can cause you pain, I would be inclined to hate them too, especially if I had a history of appalling experiences, which—as I have sadly learned from speaking with them—many of my patients have had.
I had very limited comprehension of this when I decided to become a dentist at the beginning of my journey. I studied well at university and learned to be the best dentist that I could. I was fortunate that I trained in London and received one of the most outstanding educations in the world, available at that time, to become a dentist. Five years of being a student took a big toll on my finances, though, because I had to fund myself through the process. Even though university fees didn’t need to be paid by students while they were in school, after not earning anything for five years and still having to pay my living expenses, I was £60,000 in debt by the time I graduated.
It is only now that I understand more about finance, and the way in which the financial system works, that I fully realize what a burden this was at the time. My parents used to joke that they brought all of us up on credit cards. The immediate moment was what I was taught to consider. Compound interest? I had no clue.
Graduating was a huge relief. I was now free to go out into the world to earn a living. But then, of course, my understanding of how the world worked was still only just beginning.
Through the 1970s and 1980s, dentistry in the UK had been provided, in the main, through the government-funded National Health Service (NHS). But in 1992, just as I decided that I wanted to enter this esteemed profession, the government made the decision to cut the fees they would pay dentists. So by the time I qualified in 1997, private dentistry was starting to emerge as a legitimate career option, as dentists increasingly rejected their NHS contracts and sought to regain some control over their future.
As I entered the profession this drama was playing out and is still ongoing today: a constant—and very tiresome—seesaw and debate over what the dentists want compared to what the government believes they should have. I left the drama behind and moved into the private sector, where I could provide my patients with what I felt they really needed, as soon as I could. This meant they would have to pay more for my services—often significantly more—than they would have to pay if they had received the same item of service on the NHS.
This was problematic. Private dentistry was only just beginning to gain a foothold in the UK. Finding a good place to work, with a business model that balanced what I wanted to deliver as a dentist with adequate financial compensation, was tricky. I worked for small family businesses. I worked for large chains of dental practices. I hoped they would have better management models and goals. Sometimes they did, sometimes they didn’t. For a while, I had to take a hiatus and go back to working for the NHS. This lasted a very short time before I was starting to look for a way out again.
In spite of the difficulties, I experienced quite a varied and interesting career over the first ten years. But eventually, I no longer felt satisfied working as an associate dentist for someone else. Nowhere that I had worked had allowed me to deliver the dentistry I wanted to deliver in a satisfactory way. Although I had never intended to run my own business, I finally reached the stage where I realized that was the only way that I could deliver the dentistry that I wanted.
I found a small room inside a smart hairdressing salon that looked like it would suit my purposes as a place to start. Establishing the legal agreement was very trying, however. The agreement was not just going to be with the hairdressers, but also with their landlords. Negotiating the lease took eighteen exhausting months. By this stage, I was eight months pregnant with my first child, wondering whether I should give up on the whole thing. It certainly felt like the whole universe was conspiring to stop me in my tracks. Little did I know the dramas that were unfolding behind the scenes in the financial system.
I had seen the long queues outside of the Northern Rock Building Society in the summer of 2007, but I was completely clueless as to what was going on. All I was really interested in was finding a way in which I could work in peace and have things under my own control. I wanted to provide the best service that I could to my patients and pay my bills with a degree of consistency.
Finally, by December 2007, my little business was open, and my daughter was born in February 2008. Everyone thought I was mad.
To me, however, having worked for a number of private dental businesses from their opening, I understood that it would be quiet in the beginning. I knew that I had the ability to build my client list and a successful business regardless of the circumstances, and in the end that is what I did.
What I had not bargained for was the financial crisis of 2008. As a dentist, I had never had any problems at all with borrowing money from the bank. In fact, this had been part of my contingency plan when I started my business. I had a small amount of savings, but most of the business, the equipment, and materials were funded through lease agreements over five years at a range of 11 to 15 percent interest rates. I didn’t really look too closely at this at the time. I didn’t anticipate money being a problem, I just wanted to get the business up and running.
September 15, 2008, was the last time I received a loan from a bank. Although I desperately needed one after that and applied many times, I could not get one anywhere. For me, this was exceptionally bad timing. Nine months into my business, my savings depleted, I was exhausted from trying to run a business and look after my new baby. And I suddenly found myself more strapped for cash than I had ever been in my life.
In the end, the only way the business survived was because I was able to continue to pay for the expenses of the business by using my credit cards and moving the balances to a new credit card offer until I had used up the maximum limits on all of them. This bought me another year. Although things were improving and the outlook of the business was brighter, my cash flow was extremely tight. There were days when, if something had gone wrong with an individual patient’s treatment and I had been unable to charge them for my work that day, I would have been bankrupt the following week. It was a very stressful state of affairs, but by some miracle I survived.
Eventually, things started to get easier and I could breathe again. I was able to take on a business coach who helped me make the business more productive. But I never wanted to be in that situation ever again.
It is sometimes hard for others to appreciate, I think, exactly what goes on behind the scenes of some businesses. Imagine, if you will, a busy day in a dental office. Nervous patients. Explaining complicated treatment and plans. Delivering tricky treatment procedures. Managing equipment. Negotiating with engineers, suppliers, landlords, staff, banks, and credit card companies. I could go on. In the midst of all this, the dental nurse arrives in the operating room to announce that the card machine isn’t working again. This was one of the most frustrating aspects of my life at the time.
Clients were charged for each item of treatment as it was completed. If the client left without paying this would affect the cash flow of the business. Most of the time we knew the patients and they were very understanding. But sometimes we didn’t. When the card machine played up, we had to ask clients to go down the road to withdraw some additional cash, because usually we were charging for treatment above and beyond what most people were carrying around at the time.
One of the other issues that we encountered were glitches in the operation of the banks. It only happened a couple of times, but it was enough to stimulate my thinking on such matters. Before I owned my own business I didn’t really understand how things like card machines worked. I had never needed to know.
It turns out there are companies that manage the acceptance of payments through a card machine. It is then the bank’s task to transfer this money to the business’s bank account, usually within a few days. If there is a problem with the banking intermediary, this directly affects the business. At the time there were reports in the news of people not getting their wages on time, direct debits not being processed, and all sorts of other issues. In my particular case, when the banks were having problems, any payments I had taken that day wound up being delayed, beyond the normal time delay, by an additional period of three to five days.
Fortunately, by this time my cash flow issues were mostly resolved, so I was able to handle this blip. But if this had happened at a different stage in my business development, it would clearly have been a serious crisis to deal with. Happily, I was able to analyze the situation much more calmly. I reflected on the vulnerabilities within the financial system. I concluded that if there were ever a problem with the cash flowing through the business, due to problems with the banks, there was the potential that my business would not survive. It was this conclusion that first made me look for alternatives.
I recall hearing about Bitcoin fairly early. It was mentioned in the news occasionally at first, and then began to be featured heavily in media coverage when the price was increasing exponentially in 2013. I saw a clip of a Netflix series called The Good Wife where Bitcoin was mentioned. I wasn’t strongly motivated to research it, but it was definitely within my consciousness. I knew that it existed.
By 2015 I finally managed to sell a house I had been trying to sell for seven years. For the first time in a long time, I had some money I could save. This was a very precious thing to me and I wanted to make sure that I looked after it as well as I could. By this time interest rates were becoming ridiculously low. I was also conscious of the concept of inflation, the way in which prices continually tend to creep up. I knew that it was important that I had some kind of inflation protection for my savings.
So I started learning about money.
I went to see a financial adviser who showed me a chart demonstrating the exponential rise of the stock market. I was skeptical—I had heard that my maternal grandmother was generously well-provided for by her late husband when she was widowed, but then lost it all after receiving bad financial advice.
“What happens if the stock market crashes?” I asked. “You DON’T sell,” came the reply.
“Good grief,” I thought.
Anything that has done nothing but rise for one hundred years with only the occasional blip seems suspicious to me. There was something not quite right here. So I started to learn more about money. How money is debt. The difference between Keynesian economics and Austrian economics. This eventually led me to the concept of sound money—money that preserves its value—and the historical importance of gold and silver in this role.
I realized that as a business I was never going to be keen on accepting gold and silver coins in exchange for my services. It was hard enough getting to the bank to deposit cash, let alone bags of metal. Not to mention the difficulties in establishing whether the gold and silver offered was genuine. Clearly, this was not going to be the future for business transactions. So at this point, I was looking for something else.
Where was the digital solution?
It was already there in the back of my mind.
It was Bitcoin.