Blog posts and analysis pieces discussing Bitcoin in one context or another are increasingly common. Publications, Medium pieces, and leading industry figures provide some insightful analysis of the multi-faceted legacy cryptocurrency.
However, it is the more discreet proliferation of Bitcoin in professional fields and scholarly papers that serve as a stark indicator of its capacity for driving empirical innovation. The underlying technical components of Bitcoin are often overlooked as mainstream media tends to focus on high-profile announcements and market analysis while ignoring the methodical advance in complex — and esoteric — fields.
Bitcoin’s propensity to stimulate research and development in cryptography, Austrian economics, and distributed computing is powerful.
As part of a tweetstorm of interesting Bitcoin data trends, Jameson Lopp highlighted how Google Scholar articles mentioning Bitcoin have surged from 83 in 2009 to 14,400 in 2018. Moreover, Bitcoin’s mentions in cryptology e-print papers — which consist of extensive propositions and analysis at the forefront of cryptography — have increased from one in 2011 to 26 this year.
A Foundation for Further Advancement
These numbers may seem insignificant at face value, especially considering that the juxtaposition is based on mentions rather than direct topic coverage, but there is perhaps no better signal of a technology’s robustness than its use as a foundation for advancement.
Bitcoin itself was built taking influence from previous research, cryptographic literature, and attempts at creating sustainable digital currencies. The Nakamoto Institute’s literature section is a testament to the works that preceded Bitcoin. An entire industry emphasizing privacy and sound money free from coercive control has seeped into the mainstream as Bitcoin has continued its adoption among the curious and principally driven.
The late Tim May and the cypherpunks viewed cryptography as one of the last safeguards of privacy. Since Bitcoin’s inception, several significant innovations in cryptography have emerged, particularly with the ongoing research and development of zero-knowledge proofs (i.e., bulletproofs and zk-SNARKs) and protocols like Mimblewimble.
Retaining a public blockchain’s permissionless and censorship-resistance while providing a high degree of privacy provides ample practical incentive for building on Bitcoin’s conceptual foundation with enhanced cryptography.
These developments are not only related to cryptography either. The increasing attention paid to fractional-reserve banking, money issuance, value, and the once overlooked Austrian school is also prevalent among literature today (i.e., The Bitcoin Standard), often citing Bitcoin as the fuel for the next wave of innovation.
Bitcoin has transitioned from a fringe concept to a reference point for several blossoming and cogent fields that supplement a broader movement towards privacy and self-sovereignty.
While a suite of other methods from prices to user numbers provide compelling measurements for Bitcoin’s sustainability and growth, it is perhaps the advances in the underlying technical fields referencing Bitcoin that are the most revealing of its potential and lasting impact.