With more and more people from all walks of life jumping into the unschooling revolution, Erik Finman’s story is illustrative of a shift in thinking on education. Bitcoiners are no strangers to the freedom first philosophy, either. Whether it means selling everything one has and hitting the road as a family, growing and selling food to become more self-sufficient, or holding 446 bitcoins as a 20-year-old, folks are beginning to see the connection between decentralized money and permissionless learning.
A 12-year-old, future unschooling advocate at an Occupy Wall Street protest learns about Bitcoin while running from the cops. He invests. Later, the independent Erik Finman will become the supposed “world’s youngest bitcoin millionaire” at age 18. That’s not where the story ends, though. The high school dropout has since gone on to launch education startups, satellites into space, and become involved with big influencers and ideas in the crypto space, proving once again that independent, natural learning has a whole lot more to offer than his teacher’s advised route of working at McDonald’s, or a “cultish” adherence to BTC maximalism.
Unschooling: Kind of a Big Deal
Botangle Aims to Replace Public Schools
In 2015, Finman sold $100,000 of his BTC stash and dropped out of school to work on Botangle, about which the independent learner stated in an interview with Wired:
Its mission is to replace the public school system because of my terrible experiences in it.
Finman has also stated that if “I ever decide to ever have kids I will never send them to school.”
Botangle’s mission was to pair learners with educators online, furthering the already swift current of change in that direction, due to the decentralized learning capabilities afforded by the mere existence of the internet itself. Finman sold Botangle for 300 bitcoins when he was 17, but has since bought the brand back, citing his love for the name.
Space Time Capsules and Coinbits
In 2018, Finman led Project Da Vinci, an initiative of teenagers to create a “global time capsule”, collecting video from individual submissions worldwide to send via satellite into space. Finman teamed up with Peter Diamandis, founder of the X Prize foundation, adding significant momentum to the innovative project.
LAUNCH!!! A @RocketLab Electron rocket launches from the Mahia Peninsula in New Zealand with ELaNa 19 for NASA. #ThisOnesForPickering pic.twitter.com/u7HCNK79yE
– Michael Baylor (@nextspaceflight) December 16, 2018
The capsule was launched into space on December 16, 2018, as part of NASA’s ELaNa (Educational Launch of Nanosatellites) program. As a brief aside here, the crux of the unschooling philosophy is the exploration of ideas. This stands in stark contrast to obsolete, centralized educational approaches, where rote memorization of carefully pre-selected “facts” is the aim. As such, it makes sense that unschoolers and entrepreneurs like Finman always seem to be launching new projects; they’re not trying to memorize the past for a test, but to shape the future.
In May, 2019, Finman also launched Coinbits, an onboarding app designed to help everyday people invest in small amounts of bitcoin via dollar cost averaging (DCA), using transaction roundup mechanisms when purchases are made. The Coinbits website states:
“Blockchain solutions like Bitcoin are leading the way, but the problem is the knowledge gap between cryptocurrencies and the every-day person. We’re building CoinBits to do our part in helping ensure the collective interests of people around the world are informed and have access to this future economy.”
Unschooling Open Mind: From Staunch Maximalism to Active Solution-Seeking
In a recent interview with Youtube channel Invest Diva’s Kiana Danial, Finman, who in 2017 had called Bitcoin Cash a “fraud” on Twitter, detailed four problems he sees with his previously championed BTC at present:
- Transactions are too slow.
- Transaction fees are too high.
- The devs are “very cultish” with too much infighting.
- It’s “too hard to get into.”
Finman maintains in the interview that the reason people have not moved away from BTC, though “it could totally get to that point”, is simply brand marketing and familiarity, claiming “there are 10, 10X better technologies than bitcoin BTC that already exist today.” After claiming that “Bitcoin is dead, it’s too fragmented”, and commenting positively on bitcoin cash in an interview early last year, the young dynamo is now reportedly “converting all my crypto money into this coin.” The coin he references is metal, as Finman is gearing up to become a big investor in the Metal Pay platform.
After investing in bitcoin at age 12, Finman’s life became tolerating school, eating, sleeping, and trading crypto.
Innovation, Unschooling, and Decentralized Money
While the media obsesses over the “bitcoin millionaire” aspect of Finman’s story, there’s a far more compelling narrative here, just below the surface. Finman’s independent spirit, which led him to invest in bitcoin at 12, is exactly the type of thing that is not typically encouraged in public schools. In public school, kids would read about bitcoin 10 years after the fact, and be told what to think of it. Finman invested, traded, and bet his parents he could turn it into a million bucks, and if he did, he wouldn’t have to go to college. That’s a big difference. The difference between living actively, and passively acquiescing.
He joins a long list of high school and college dropouts. Tech “losers” like Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, Michael Dell, and Spotify’s Daniel Ek. Entertainment and arts nobodies such as Quentin Tarantino, David Bowie, George Carlin, and Keanu Reeves. The list goes on, of course. Due to the decentralized nature of cryptocurrency, it’s little wonder innovators and unschooling proponents like Finman turn to the tech in enthusiasm. Speaking again to Investment Diva on Facebook’s Libra, the young entrepreneur remarks:
Although it’s cryptocurrency technology, you know it’s also very centralized so it’s very anti the spirit of cryptocurrency.
He goes on to elaborate that in regard to the global economy and currency competition “It’s all the game on who wants to have the one-world decentralized currency. Right now the U.S. dollar’s the closest thing we have to the one world currency. Rome … they were the one world currency for a while.” When questioned by Kiana Danial about Iran’s development of a national crypto, Finman replied that oppressive regimes like the U.S., China, and Iran use whatever money is available, implying it’s not crypto’s fault for the inhuman behavior.
The Spirit of Permissionless Learning
One of Erik’s teachers once told him to “drop out and work at McDonald’s”, because he didn’t like school. Founder of pioneering democratic free school Summerhill, A.S. Neill, wrote in his 1960 book of the same title:
A child is innately wise and realistic. If left to himself without adult suggestion of any kind, he will develop as far as he is capable of developing.
Well, as far as that goes, Erik Finman has done alright. His capabilities surpass McDonald’s-fry-cook level by some measure. A.S. Neill also wrote that he would rather Summerhill school produce a happy street sweeper than a neurotic brain surgeon. This is another thing. Who gives a damn if someone works at McDonald’s or if they’re a 20-year-old entrepreneur? That’s the whole point of unschooling: decentralized, permissionless education for the individual, regardless of what tradition and culture may dictate. So far, Finman’s life has been a textbook example.
Op-ed disclaimer: This is an Op-ed article. The opinions expressed in this article are the author’s own.