Baltic Honeybadger 2023 in Riga – Conference Recap
At the start of September 2023, bitcoiners worldwide gathered in Latvia’s capital, Riga, for the annual Baltic Honeybadger (BH23) event. Compared to the other Bitcoin events I have visited, BH23 caters strictly to the Bitcoin-only crowd with a solid emphasis on deep dives into tech, philosophy, privacy, and macroeconomics. The influence of the wider crypto / web3.0 / NFT / DeFi community was 99% absent from the event.
Baltic Honeybadger Discussions on Bitcoin’s Open-source Funding Landscape
Alex Li, Ben Price, Abubakar Nur Khalil, Josie, and Pavlenex had a fascinating talk about the funding landscape for Bitcoin’s open-source contributors. 20-30 core developers maintain and develop the Bitcoin base layer that, at the time of writing, stores over 500 billion USD worth for millions of people around the world. For developers who are not independently wealthy, grants provide the necessary income to keep working. Most core developers would get much higher salaries working in the private sector but choose to work on Bitcoin as they see the work more meaningful.
Insights and Innovations from Baltic Honeybadger: From Mining Dynamics to Macroeconomic Trends
The Bitcoin mining industry panel featured the inventor of Proof-of-Work, Adam Back, who provided fascinating insights into the dynamics of the mining industry. Bitcoin mining is one of the world’s most fiercely competed industries, where the skill to find the cheapest electricity combined with sharp execution of miner acquisition and infrastructure management play vital roles. Mr. Back presented an interesting factoid that the unused hydropower in Quebec, Canada, could power the whole Bitcoin network.
Bitcoin magazine’s Pro-tier analyst Dylan LeClair presented an exciting take on Bitcoin’s relationship with broader macroeconomic trends. Some of the striking slides from his presentation included the projection of US federal debt held by the public to reach 200% of the US Gross Domestic Product by 2053.
Baltic Honeybadger’s Celebration of Bitcoin Culture: From Global Impact to Acoustic Rock
Bitcoiners often describe Bitcoin as an open-source digital sound money alternative to the debt-based fiat system based on central banks, and the graphs shown in the presentation gave the listener the impression that such an alternative is needed.
On the more bizarre side, Maxim Orlovsky presented their “blockchain-replacement” idea Prime, which proposes a model where bitcoins would move to a 2nd layer where the decentralized ledger validation happens with a privacy-preserving non-blockchain-based system. Despite the speaker’s enthusiasm, I predict that this idea can become a fringe experiment at best.
The author of the book Cryptosovereignity, Erik Cason, gave an energetic speech on the importance of resisting the ever-growing digital panopticon many governments are building. He presented Bitcoin as a viable solution for ordinary people to peacefully fight against government and central bank initiatives, such as CBDCs (Central Bank Digital Currencies). While Bitcoin in its current form is not private by default, its pseudonymous core principles still give people more privacy than fully controlled records of people’s financial activities, which CBDCs would implement.
Some of the most inspiring talks at the conference explored how Bitcoin provides financial inclusion and helps electrify rural areas in the global south, with Bitcoin miners tapping into abundant stranded energy sources, such as hydropower. Abubakar Nur Khalil and Anita Posch gave first-hand examples of how Bitcoin empowers African people with close-to-zero power in the legacy financial system. A troubling statistic from Posch’s presentation showed how the cost of one loaf of bread in Zimbabwe went from one ZWL to 4,000 in four years.
On the networking side, I met surprisingly many Finnish bitcoiners, some working on innovative new Bitcoin products, such as Samuel Harjunpää from the hardware wallet developer Xellox.
The event ended with the Satoshi Rockamoto party, where I had the opportunity to play with my acoustic rock project, The Higher Low. Talking with passionate and digital freedom promoting bitcoiners until 3 am was an inspiring experience. I recommend the Baltic Honeybadger conference for anyone wanting to dive deep into this thriving technology and culture.
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CEO, Oivan Group