Crypto is all about autonomy — financial autonomy. For the individual, it fundamentally comes down to financial literacy, something that is not widely taught in public schools. The Powers That Be would prefer us to be dependent on them for our financial well-being, but the promise of crypto gives us another option. To understand the full potential of cryptocurrencies, it’s necessary to understand what autonomy is and what that means for us as free-thinking individuals.
To put it simply, autonomy is the capacity to make an informed decision without external manipulation, at least according to philosopher Immanuel Kant. To illustrate the application of autonomy and how that helps us understand crypto, we’re going to look at everyone’s favorite example — the Jedi of “Star Wars” fame — and how they approach autonomy. When viewed in the light of Kantian philosophy, this thought experiment reveals the heart of crypto.
Throughout the “Star Wars” series, the Jedi consistently commit what we would consider moral transgressions through lying and Force-manipulation. For our argument, the problem is that lying to and manipulating people is a violation of autonomy. It’s an external manipulation that interferes with the ability to make an informed decision. But using the force to influence the minds of stormtroopers gets a moral pass in our society. The end justifies the means — the Empire is evil, so lying to and influencing them through the Force is ok as long as it’s for the greater good.
Kant disagrees. To him there is an absolute, objective right and wrong. The end doesn’t justify the means. If that was the extent of it, we could accept the philosophical difference and move on. But it’s not that simple.
The Jedi tend to lie to and manipulate almost anyone, even good people, and even other Jedi.
Just a couple of examples — Qui-Gon Jinn lies to Watto, a slave owner, and tries to Force-manipulate him. Obi-Wan Kenobi lies to Luke about his father’s identity and that he has a sister and her identity. Even Yoda participates in this one. There are plenty of others.
According to Kant, it’s clearly wrong, but the Jedi don’t seem to make that distinction. It’s this interesting quirk of Jedi morality that leads us to understanding something foundational about crypto.
A look at Wikipedia’s Kant page shows how clearly Kant’s view of autonomy demonstrates the Jedi principle at work that we need to understand:
“Immanuel Kant (1724–1804) defined autonomy by three themes regarding contemporary ethics:
1 – autonomy as the right for one to make their own decisions excluding any interference from others.
2 – autonomy as the capacity to make such decisions through one’s own independence of mind and after personal reflection.
3 – as an ideal way of living life autonomously.”
Look closely at these three themes, and you’ll realize they apply very well to how the Jedi live and conduct themselves except for one not so insignificant detail: The Jedi disregard the clause in theme 1 – “excluding any interference from others.” They’re fine with interfering with others because of theme 2. The Jedi heavily promote meditation, oneness with the Force, and mindfulness.
My ”independence of mind” (or mindfulness) cancels out any attempts to influence me. But this mindfulness is my choice. This is the Jedi Principle of Incumbency. It is incumbent upon the individual to determine their own level of autonomy. Thus, it’s irrelevant if someone tries to influence me through lying or Force-manipulation. If I have been diligent and mindful, their attempts to influence me are nullified by my ”independence of mind and after personal reflection” as spelled out in theme 2. If I haven’t, well that’s my own fault. If a weak-minded stormtrooper can be influenced by some desert hobo waving his hand around and speaking falsehoods, that’s his own fault. According to the Jedi, we each choose our own level of autonomy.
This is where Kant and the Jedi part ways, and this brings us back to the real world where we actually have more in common with the Jedi philosophy than Kant’s.
In our own lives, we choose our own levels of autonomy, too. Especially with regards to our finances and our data. And unfortunately, most of us abrogate that autonomy and give it over to third parties such as banks, credit card companies, credit rating bureaus, insurance companies, government agencies, etc. Crypto requires us to exert more of our own authority and actually gives us the potential capability to retain all of it.
If only we knew what to do with it.
Most of us lack even basic financial literacy. We’ve been given crypto, but without the knowledge to use it properly, most people will continue to relinquish their financial autonomy to the Empires that seek to keep us subservient and limit our potential.
Consider this simple equation:
Financial literacy + crypto = financial autonomy.
Don’t think of crypto as merely a speculative asset class to profit from, or an interesting technology that will upgrade industries. Think of it as the foundation of the financial system of the future. We need to have the financial literacy to know how to use that. To truly take advantage of the potential that crypto presents to us, we need to live more autonomously as Immanuel Kant or the Jedi would have us do. We need to apply the Principle of Incumbency to our own lives, level up our autonomy, and start using some of those Jedi skillz to recreate our world.