The Hidden Messages in Gilfoyle's Bitcoin Presentation from Silicon Valley

Vlad Costea
  • During the episode, Gilfoyle's presentation gets cut short, though we can see how the slides get fast-forwarded to get to the main point.
  • Thanks to the generosity of show's producer Alec Berg (and his savvy brother Henry), we have access to the entire presentation and have an insight on Gilfoyle's mind.

There are three things that Bertram Gilfoyle will defend with true passion: medical marijuana, Satan as a biblical depiction of rebellion against tyranny, and *censored* cryptocurrency. This is the statement which precedes what might just be the most memorable and positive presentation about Bitcoin and cryptocurrencies that we've ever seen on television.

However, the entire presentation is cut short and Gilfoyle (along with thousands of crypto geeks who wanted to see everything) appears to be upset that his work does not receive proper attention.

Thankfully, the journalists from Business Insider Australia have managed to convince the show's producer Alec Berg to send the slides that get shown during the presentation of our beloved bearded Canadian. As it turns out, the text was inspired by the work of Henry Berg, an engineer and Bitcoin guru who just happens to be the brother of the show's producer!

The slides themselves are divided in four major sections: a brief history of money (with a classification and examples), the dematerialization of money and the emergence of cryptocurrencies, a brief history of Bitcoin and its impact on society, and the importance of Pied Piper Coin (the cryptocurrency which the show's protagonists create to raise funds).

Part I: Money from Aristotle to Marco Polo

if you've ever listened to any lecture or presentation by Andreas Antonopoulous, then you already know all about the six characteristics of sound money: durability, transferability, divisibility, scarcity, recognizability, and fungibility.

In other words, a currency must be physically stable so that it doesn't rot or melt, easy to pass on and exchange from a person to the other, friendly with subdivisions which allow for payments of smaller values than the unit, scarce for the sake of maintaining value, clearly recognizable in order to avoid confusions and misunderstandings during trade, and fungible so that every single unit can be substituted.

What you probably don't know is that this clear and concise classification was made by Aristotle, around 350 BC, and the Greek philosopher has got it all so right that the criteria haven't really changed since. When we talk about Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies with limited supply, the only major point of criticism can be found in fungibility - we can't get back the lost coins, nobody can recover forgotten keys, and the supply has to adapt accordingly.

According to Gilfoyle's presentation, humanity has operated with various currencies since the days of Mesopotamia. Explorer Marco Polo returned from his journeys with detailed information about money in the Far East, which ranged from grains of salt to banknotes and cowry shells. Even tobacco used to be used as currency in Virginia during the US colonial era, while South Carolina accepted rice and the Hudson Bay Company would utilize pelts as means of exchange.

Part II: Dematerialization of Money

This is where it gets interesting, as the Canadian Satanist credits Western Union for taking the first step towards making money virtual. Back in the second half of the 19th century, the American company had basically connected both coasts of their country and offered quicker and more secure money transfer services. Does that sound familiar? Well, we're getting there.

The next slide is both the most hilarious and most bold in terms of affirming what has value. It's funny because the producers have embedded "Satan, prince of the world" in order to enforce Gilfoyle's trademark beliefs while making a point about hash functions, and it's bold due to the fact that it affirms that an unlimited supply takes away any value.

Here we can also find a classification of scarcity, which can be enforced by nature (resources like diamonds and gold), or by humans (via central banks). Bitcoin is introduced into the discussion with a cunning statement: the kind of cryptos solves the scarcity problem with the power of mathematics.

Part III: A Brief History of Bitcoin and Its Impact on Society

Gilfoyle gives us a brief insight on Satoshi Nakamoto, and we can see that he's also wise enough not to include Craig S. Wright on the list of potential "suspects". Instead, he points out that Elon Musk has denied being behind the brilliant cryptographer.

The next slide is the most relevant in order to explain how Bitcoin transactions work and why the mechanism is similar to the one Pied Piper is using in order to create a completely decentralized internet. It's a pity that they didn't include this in the show, it would have been mind-blowing to have a more in-depth explanation. Who knows, maybe someone became inspired to work on a similar project, much like how the compression algorithm from the first three seasons got replicated.

Then we see another bold statement: "there has never been a cheaper and faster channel to send or receive funds". The example given is that you can send funds to someone across the border within minutes, while resorting to bankers would subject you to the usual "business hours" treatment. Also, the lack of middlemen makes it all much more convenient and fair to the participants.

The compelling argument in relation to the unbanked is that crypto allows people from developing regions of the world who may or may not be subjected to oppressive regimes to have the equivalent of a bank account in their pockets and participate in the global open market. The possibilities are truly unprecedented, and it's a way of delivering global justice at an international level. This section smartly ends with a rhetorical question: "Have you read any headline from Venezuela lately?".

Last but not least, we catch a glimpse of Gilfoyle's libertarian mindset. Perhaps that the most memorable quote from the last couple of slides is "Netizens should be able to pay for any good they want. In any way they want. Without any government looking in. Some call that money laundering, others call it smart shopping."

"Netizens" are part of the character's personal financial and technological utopia, where all internet users are autonomous and benefit from privacy. They no longer are bound to a government, but to a universal and neutral network that doesn't oppress them. Instead, it enables free trade and uncensored exchanges between its users. Doesn't that sound like one of the many crypto utopias?

Part IV: Pied Piper Coin

"There is a 98.745% chance of making 100x profit"

Bertram Gilfoyle

The plan is simple and brilliant: Pied Piper Coin is a reward for all the users of the decentralized internet (aka PiperNet), and it's a financial incentive to support the network with their computing power. Even basic actions like signing up or using the provided apps will be rewarded, and it's even implied that users can buy "lambos". 

PiperNet even takes pride in taking down costs to run the network by using its proprietary crypto, and claims that users own their own personal data, so there is no need to clear the cache or delete the browsing history. The algorithm also offers a quicker experience for users who show ADHD symptoms, and the accessibility is promised to be greater than in the case of the old Hooli-developed internet. 

After offering the promises of a decentralized and fair system which pays everyone like it should, Gilfoyle makes a personal note to the Pied Piper CEO in order to end his presentation: "Personal politics not aside, Richard - this is the economy conceived in an anarchist's dream. It's fair, ubiquitous, and thus, unstoppable."

In conclusion, it's a pity that the show's producer's didn't show more of this presentation and only fast-forwarded it to get only to the final remarks. It makes a compelling case about the need of cryptocurrencies in the financial world, and basically argues that these little anarchist inventions have the potential to take away the government's power in order to build a completely free and decentralized internet. These promises are far beyond fantasy and exaggerated television plots, as such a project might just get created in the near future. It's only a matter of time, and only the prince of the world (or his holier creator counterpart) know exactly when we're going to have such a utopian society where using the internet can help you buy Lambos.


If you'd like to read the presentation slides, please access Carrie Wittmer's article on the Business Insider Australia website.