Working Bottom Up
Why don’t people “get” Bitcoin and the movement it’s spawned? Because they don’t understand the foundations off of which it is built. This new technology is like a sword. First you must train your hands to use the sword. Without understanding why this technology was created, its history and the problems it was created to solve, without knowing the names and the struggles of the people who created it, you’ll have a weak understanding of what this movement is really about, and how you can wield its technology most effectively. Our curriculum is designed to be the most effective way to learn, get up and running, and take flight. But this isn’t just because it’s necessary to understand underlying concepts first in order to understand the ones built on top of them. It’s structured this way in order to achieve a certain effect. The whole way up you should be keenly aware that we’re building toward something. We call this way, “working bottom up”.
Paul Graham elucidates this idea in the context of programing:
“It’s worth emphasizing that bottom-up design doesn’t mean just writing the same program in a different order. When you work bottom-up, you usually end up with a different program. Instead of a single, monolithic program, you will get a larger language with more abstract operators, and a smaller program written in it. Instead of a lintel, you’ll get an arch.”
What’s so special about working this way? It’s more powerful.
“The biggest disadvantage to a post and lintel construction is the limited weight that can be held up, and the small distances[gaps] required between the posts. Ancient Roman architecture’s development of the arch allowed for much larger structures to be constructed. The arcuated system spreads larger loads more effectively, and replaced the post and lintel trabeated system in most larger buildings and structures, until the introduction of steel girder beams in the industrial era.”
Underlying misconceptions or gaps in knowledge prevent you from building higher. Salman Khan describes it with the metaphor of building a house: “I saw this in the early days working with my cousins. A lot of them were having trouble with math at first, because they had all of these gaps accumulated in their learning. [A]t some point they got to an algebra class and they might have been a little bit shaky on some of the pre-algebra, and because of that, they thought they didn’t have the math gene. To appreciate how absurd that is, imagine if we did other things in our life that way. Say, home-building,“ you’d partially build a foundation, a first floor, a second floor, and, “all of a sudden, while you’re building the third floor, the whole structure collapses.”
When you learn bottom up you end up with an understanding that can support more weight than one where ideas are just slabbed on. This allows you to build higher, and empowers you to break through to new levels. This is why people with a strong bottom-up understanding are so powerful: they’re able to keep building up and up until they can finally stick their head above the clouds and reach game-changing new insights.
Producing this head-above-the-clouds experience is part of what our work is all about.