Nowadays, we deal with computer networks all the time. We chat and talk on networks. We get information on networks and we spend our free time on networks. Perhaps we even get our food from networks. Not only do we use these networks, but we have come to fully rely on them. It’s getting tough to live these days without an internet connection and a mobile phone and at the same time these networks are becoming an integral part of our lives.

Communication mediums in a network are not generally “smart.” The network itself, like the internet, only sends packets from one end to the other without caring what these packets actually are. As Bitcoin expert, Andreas Antonopoulos explained at the “Innovation and festival of the Commons” event:

“Internet is a dumb a network.”

Antonopoulos uses the word “dumb” since internet’s platform TCP/IP only roles as an intermediary among nodes in the network. On the other hand, there are some centralized organizations and services who interpret these messages and create useful and sensitive data in a smart way. They can solve your problems and provide you services with a few buttons on your end while they take care of the complicated backend part.

These networks are considered to be “smart networks.” For instance, some dumb devices are able to get the weather forecasts (e.g. weather app on your phone) and this requires a smart network since your device is not able to process all of the information to obtain the given weather forecast.

During his speech, Antonopoulos describes the two options in designing a network:

“There is a question of whether to make a dumb network support smart devices or to make a smart network support dumb devices.”

He gives an example of a phone network as a smart network, which introduced so many features such as caller ID and call waiting. Therefore, in order to make the experience better, service providers could just upgrade the network rather than the users’ devices.

Antonopoulos argues that smart networks have a big disadvantage in that they have to be upgraded from the center out where innovation occurs only at the center by one player (centralization) and is only integrated once a feature is needed by all the subscribers and users.

This is contrary to dumb networks where innovations occur at the edge instead of the center. This means that smart users with smart tools and devices are able to further develop it. Thus, the technology grows faster and there is a fair chance for anyone with the right knowledge to further build on these ideas.

“Bitcoin is a dumb network that is supported by smart devices and it puts all the intelligence on its edge,” adds Antonopoulos.

Generally other services or applications such as online banking only allow users to log into their account and issue a transaction along with a few other features. This model is not open for improvements and does not encourage other innovative minds.

Bitcoin uses a simple non Turing-complete script language, which only handles some basic features. However, we have seen so many innovations (e.g. Bitcoin 2.0, smart property) and creativity in the Bitcoin space, since this open-source “dumb network” can be expanded by any creative individual(s) anywhere in the world.

So yes, Bitcoin is dumb and that’s precisely why people love it, because we are all offered the same chance and opportunity to build smart services on top of it without being hindered by the rigidness and inertia of centralized control. 

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