Michael Saylor is the leading advocate for Bitcoin, Co-Founder and Executive Chairman of Microstrategy, author of The Mobile Wave: How Mobile Intelligence Will Change Everything, and founder of Saylor Academy, which provides free education to students. He took the stage to accept The Atlas Society's Lifetime Achievement Award at our 6th Annual Gala and gave a rousing speech on Bitcoin as "an economic machine based on a truth machine poised to emerge as a freedom machine." We invite you to join over 140K viewers who’ve watched the speech HERE or check out the transcript below.
Ayn Rand’s stories are stories about the struggle of the individual against the collective and they’re gripping. When I first read Atlas Shrugged, I couldn't put the book down. It became a 12 and then a 14, and then a 16 hour-a-day exercise. Human nature doesn't change. That struggle existed a hundred thousand years ago. That struggle exists today. What does change is technology. A hundred thousand years ago, an enraged human being could maybe kill 10 other people. And today, an enraged human being can kill a hundred million people. So as technology advances, our thoughts about ethics and morality and technology and civility have to evolve.
Today, we struggle with the challenge of authority. You know, Lord Acton said, absolute power corrupts absolutely. And, the only difference between absolute power today and absolute power 10,000 years ago is today we have a company that listens to everything a billion people say. We have another company that answers the questions that 4 billion people ask. We have companies that deliver the food and all of the goods that you need to survive to hundreds of millions of people. We have one company that delivers all of the business software to 80 million corporations and directly serves billions and billions of employees.
Now, if I asked you the question, “If you got ejected out of the third biggest country in the world, or if I denied you privileges to live in any of the five largest countries in the world, would your life go on?” Probably. Now, what if you actually got canceled by Apple, Amazon, Facebook, Google tomorrow? The question is, would your life go on? What? Stop and think a little bit about what happens if they simply turned off your account, seized your photos, turned off your messages, took your documents. What if Microsoft just denied you access privileges?
Could you run a business? Could you work?
A big question. I used to make the joke: Apple's the most valuable company in the world because there's never been a company in the world as valuable as Apple. It legitimately is the most valuable because it can change the lives of a billion people over the weekend by shipping some electricity. And that is not something we struggled with a hundred years ago. So the question really is, what happens if this goes on? Companies get bigger, we've got big tech. Governments get bigger as the companies get bigger. When the company serves 3 billion people, that means one bureaucrat can make one phone call to that company and potentially turn off all of the information flowing to all 3 billion people over the weekend, right? This is a new idea and it's a disturbing idea. The story of Atlas Shrugged is the story of individuals struggling against the collective and eventually they realize it's a corrupt and a rigged game, and they can't succeed at it. The solution that John Galt offers is to withdraw from the corrupt economy. So, should we follow John Galt's example?
Should we just withdraw from a corrupt economy? Can we? Well, obviously we haven't. To paraphrase George Patton: You don't win wars by dying for your country -- you win wars by making the other guy die for his country. And, we don't want to be martyrs, we want to be winners. And that is the challenge we face today. There's no point in going on strike unless you've formed a union first. Just going on strike without the organization in advance is just self-inflicted martyrdom. Bitcoin is a union. I'm going to leave the thought and continue with my speech. We'll come back to it at the end.
There's a freedom saga in the history of the human race. What is that saga? Somebody grows up, they struggle against the collective, life is oppressive. They can't farm, they can't live, they can't worship, they can't celebrate, they can't breathe. So what do they do? Well, they go over the horizon. Beyond this horizon. We travel somewhere over the hill. After that, we go to the new world. We get on a ship. If you're a Hugenot, if you’re a Protestant in a Catholic land, if you're a Catholic in a Protestant land, if you're a second son, if you're a Quaker, at some point you get on a ship, you go to the new world. What happens after you settle the new world, if it gets too oppressive on the east coast? Go west, young man, and we go west. We want to get away from too many politicians, too much government, too many well-intentioned individuals trying to help us with more laws, more government services.
Well, in the 20th century, Peter and I are both aeronautical engineers. We read every science fiction writer and the great romantic science fiction tomes from Heinlein, et cetera, were all about: Earth being too crowded -- we’ve got to get off this planet. We;ve got to go to space. Elon Musk channels this aspiration every day. But in general, we all grew up thinking in the seventies and the eighties: go to space. Now, the problem is, it turns out to be fairly expensive to go to space. We didn't quite make it. We figured out how to send millions of people to the new world, and we sent millions of people west, but we couldn't yet send millions of people to the moon or Mars or the next habitable G-type star. So where is the next frontier for those thirsting for freedom? Cyberspace. And here I pause and I ask you to, like Steve Jobs said: Think different. Thinking conventionally will get you killed. You will be martyrs and not winners.
If you want to die for your country or die for your cause, you can do that by thinking conventionally. If you want to win, you need to think unconventionally. We have to embrace new paradigms. In the 21st century, you can choose where to locate your body, your friends and family. You can choose where to locate your mind. You can spend your time on Twitch or Netflix or YouTube or Reddit or reading whatever you like. There's infinite choices. You can be wherever you want to be with any group you want to be with in cyberspace in your head. You can also choose where to locate your business, your P & L. Where do you generate cash flow in order to pay your expenses? You want that to be a streaming YouTube channel? You want that to be a bakery on Venice Beach? You choose, there are consequences.
And finally, you can choose where to place your wealth. That is, what will your bank be? How will you store your life savings? Every dime that you earn this year will be stored, where? You don't have to work where you live, and you don't have to think where you live, and you don't have to store where you live. If you live in Venezuela and you make money in bolivars, or if you live in Argentina and you're making pesos, you don't have to save your pesos in an Argentine bank. You could choose to place your wealth in a different location than your business interest, while your mind is in one place and your body is in another. The idea of crypto, the great achievement of Satoshi Nakamoto, is the concept of creating a truly decentralized network, giving it to billions of people, allowing people in a decentralized way, protect that network, support that network, serve that network, benefit from that network, transcending the constraints of a CEO, a corporation, a country, a city, a company. What if we could create something which is truly a utilitarian, egalitarian and economically and philosophically empowering computer network created on the strength of the power of cryptography.
And cryptography is a machine with a mechanical advantage instead of a Roman construction crane with a 180-to-one mechanical advantage that lets you move a one-ton block with your hands -- we're talking about cryptography where it becomes billions or trillions of times harder to break the code than it is to create the code. It's a trillion-to-one advantage. It's a quadrillion-to-one advantage. If you can create a mechanical advantage in cyberspace, then you can create something which is going to transcend beyond the reach of the collective. And you finally have a tool with which to fight back.
Bitcoin is a shining city in cyberspace, and you can go there once you understand it. Bitcoin and Objectivism, they have a common cause. Ayn Rand, in 1959, said: “I'm for the separation of state and economics, in the same way and for the same reasons as the separation of church and state.” Whereas, Hayek, in 1984, said: “I don't believe we shall ever have good money again before we take the thing out of the hands of the government. That is, we can't take it violently out of the hands of the government. All we can do is by some sly roundabout way, introduce something that they can't stop.”
Clearly, both movements are thinking about separating economics from the state and from the collective.
The difference is for thousands and thousands of years, the technology for doing that was imperfect. The technology of gold to separate the power from the state doesn't work when they just shoot you and take your gold. The technology of cows or tobacco or fiat currency or buildings, they don't work that well to separate economics from the state. So although this was an ideal and aspiration, we never had the technology to realize it.
January 3rd, 2009 is the singularity. That's the point at which Satoshi Nakamoto developed the technology to transfer value through space without a trusted third party. Now, people say that a lot. They say he solved the Byzantine Generals problem. But if you can transfer something of value through cyberspace without a trusted third party, that means you can manifest something of value in cyberspace without a trusted third party. That means you can create and store and transfer energy in the digital realm. The creation of digital property, digital money, digital energy, and digital matter was therefore effected on January 3rd, 2009. Most people don't realize this, but Satoshi opened a portal from the physical realm into the digital realm. And energy began to flow into cyberspace, bringing life to a formerly dead realm, consisting only of shadows and ghosts. Bringing conservation of energy and matter, objectivity, truth, time, and consequence into the digital realm, delivering property rights, freedom, and sovereignty that is separate from the physical and the political realm, to humanity.
Most of the world, myself included, ignored this chain reaction for the next decade. It happened, it flickered, it burned. We ignored it except for the OG Bitcoin Cipher punks. And they can tell you that everybody thought they were crazy. In March of 2020, the world came to a grinding halt. Suddenly billions of people woke up to the prospect of an economic collapse, losing faith in their institutions and their governments. On August 10th, MicroStrategy, struggling with this existential crisis, adopts the Bitcoin standard. At that point, I concluded, the road to serfdom is working exponentially harder for a currency growing exponentially weaker. And we saw an escape from economic slavery in the form of what we thought was digital gold. But as I've explained, it turned out to be much more than digital gold.
On September 18th, after fully adopting the Bitcoin standard, and after talking to some more Bitcoiners, I had this epiphany. I went to Twitter and I posted the following: Bitcoin is a swarm of cyber hornets serving the goddess of wisdom, feeding on the fire of truth, exponentially growing ever smarter, faster, and stronger behind a wall of encrypted energy. And I think Ayn Rand would understand what I was saying.
What it means is, for the first time in the human race, we have unleashed a freedom virus, a truth virus. We've unleashed a sovereignty virus, which is also a monetary virus. And as you know, and as Heinlein once said, the only way to fight a virus is with another virus. You can't take it on. You can't take it head on. Bitcoin is something special. Galt's Gulch is the Bitcoin network. Rather than removing your labor from a corrupt economy, you should remove your money from a corrupt economy. Bitcoin's a protocol to create free ideas, free economies, and free assets beyond the control of corrupt institutions. It's a fast, fair, and equitable method to settle the differences of 8 billion people. We say in the Bitcoin world: Fix the money, fix the world.
Success. We want to succeed. This is the end of my speech. We could talk about the struggle and the human misery, and we could talk about the reasons why, and what people think about it. But ultimately it doesn't really much matter. I don't want to be a martyr. I don't want us to die for our country. I want us to be the winners. Success requires courage, clarity, and commitment.
Look, there's 20,000 cryptos. There's one that’s 95% dominant, which is ethically sound, technically sound, economically sound. Bitcoin is Rearden Metal. It's the hardest substance in the universe. Most people don't know this. Most people are afraid of it. Never done that before. When we bought Bitcoin, we bought 250 million. No one, no public company had ever bought any.
People thought we were crazy. So then we bought another 175 million. People thought we were crazy. Then we bought 600 million more. People said: You can't stand on it, it'll destroy you. It's like standing on a bridge made of steel. And I concluded it's the perfect engineered material to solve our problem, but people are living in fear. And how are we going to get them to not be fearful? And I was reminded of Andrew Carnegie's example. It's like, build the bridge. Go stand out in the middle of the bridge. You build an airplane, fly the airplane, show people that it's not going break. That's what MicroStrategy did. We said, Well, if it's good for a hundred million, it's good for a billion. If it's good for a billion, we might as well go for 4 billion, right? And at some point people will realize that they have more to fear by not embracing this technology than by embracing it.
Right now it's a $400 billion asset. There are $400 trillion of other assets floating around in our current fiat system. They're leaking energy, they're corrupt, they're inefficient, they're controlled by the collective. Bitcoin is 0.1% of the human race's liquid energy, 99.9% of the world doesn't get it. They're not there. That 99.9% haven't moved to Galt’s Gulch. That means you're still early. So plug in yourself, your company, your organization, your agency, your product, your service, your family, or your ideology.
I said to you at the beginning of the talk, Bitcoin's a union. The union gets more powerful as more people join. And in the war for the future of money, it's going to be won with money. As the money moves into the network, the monetary union gets more powerful. Everybody that joins the network has that much more power. And your only hope against the oppressive force of the collective is to unionize your own activities and organize your activities with people of like ideology that believe as you believe. More money, more people, more power.
So in closing, Bitcoin is an economic machine based on a truth machine poised to emerge as a freedom machine. It's the best choice we have to save our civilization and realize the ideal world envisioned by Ayn Rand and the Objectivist movement. Join us. Thank you.