Bitcoin: A complex (decentralized) social network

Here is an excerpt from Connor Murray’s blog post, Bitcoin: A complex (decentralized) social network. Read the full piece on Powping.

Note: This piece was published over two years ago when Bitcoin acquired the ticker (BCH) and became known as Bitcoin Cash. Bitcoin Cash and the ticker BCH now refer to Bitcoin SV and BSV.

This piece conveys what I have learned from studying Complex Social Complexities, a textbook by Fernando Vega-Redondo. As it happens, Bitcoin may be the most complex social network we’ve seen in history, and Vega-Redondo’s book allows you to understand why. My sincere thanks to Dr. Craig Wright for the recommendation of reading and to the countless individuals who have helped me shape my understanding of this network. I would also like to thank Christopher Ames for his help in making this much more readable. I hope this helps to understand and appreciate the innovative network with which we all interact.


How do you read this article? How did it get from my laptop to your screen? By the time you read this, I’ll have posted it on, tweeted the link out, and posted it in various other channels. At the time of writing, The BCH Boys podcast has 750 Twitter followers. Some of those followers have thousands of followers, and others have less than 100. Every person who may come into contact with this piece is a “niche” in a large social network. Looking at it this way, we could guess that we have 750 connections with 750 nodes. But are we? How many of those characters are logged in at the time we tweet the piece? How many of those characters will scroll right past the tweet and not even notice? How many will re-tweet to their followers (more goals), continuing the broadcast? If our intention is to spread this article as far as possible, the connections between people are more important than how many followers we have. When we tweet, only the people involved will see the tweet. You will only see this article if the people you follow share it. In Twitter’s social network, a tweet from Kanye West or Donald Trump would be more valuable than a tweet from almost anyone else because of their big following. In this way, not all goals have the same reach. The most valuable goals in the social network for the author are the most connected goals because they disperse the information contained in this piece into a larger set of goals than the less connected goals. If I want to maximize the reach of this article, I should target all nodes with high connectivity in the social network. In computer science, we would say that the edges, or the links, are more important than the number of nodes in a network. We call each node with a high number of loops, highly connected.

Bitcoin does not function differently. If you are a trader, you want the entire Bitcoin network to see your transaction so that the customer cannot pull off double spending. It is in your interest to broadcast the transaction to the highest connected nodes because more of the network will see the transaction faster. Not by accident, the most connected goals are ultimately the miners in the network. If you’re a miner, you’re in a race with every other miner in the network competing to solve the next hash puzzle and win the block prize. The thing is, you only get that block reward if the majority of miners start mining at the top of your block. As a miner, you have a clear motivation to be highly connected with the other miners in the network, so you can announce that as quickly as possible to the rest of the network when you find the block reward. Dr. Craig Wright has been adamant that what this creates is an almost complete small world network. Is he right?

To read the rest of Connor Murray’s piece, head over to Powping.

New to Bitcoin? Check out CoinGeek’s Bitcoin for Beginners section, the ultimate resource guide to learn more about Bitcoin – as originally envisioned by Satoshi Nakamoto – and blockchain.