In 2016 I bought a 21.co bitcoin mining computer after hearing Balaji give a talk at Stanford about a concept called the "machine payable web".
At its core, the machine payable web is the idea that by equipping web services with bitcoin wallets developers can create experiences that enable humans and machines to pay for services across the web in a much more capital efficient, secure and private way. Opening up the addressable market for potential bitcoin holders beyond humans to autonomous machines that can make spending decisions without the need for active human inputs. I didn't realize it at the time of purchase but the mining device turned out to be very unprofitable, though the initial capital spent was relatively low and the lessons learned by playing around with it were worth more than I paid for the device, so there was some positive EV extracted. On top of this, it was too early for bitcoin to fulfill the needs of the machine payable web at that time.
In 2016, it was too early to enable the machine payable web because the lightning network didn't exist yet. Lo and behold, seven years have passed, the lightning network has been live for five years, the ecosystem has matured incredibly well over that period, and the emergence of AI over the last eight months has created a Goldilocks scenario for the machine payable web to be brought to life in earnest. It seems that the Lightning Labs team has recognized the Goldilocks scenario sitting in front of the market right now because yesterday they announced the launch of a new set of tools building on their L402 protocol that will make it easy for those building AI products to create gated API access using a lightning paywall.
You freaks may not realize it yet, but this is pretty massive. The ability for AI companies to incorporate gated API access via the lightning network is going to do wonders for capital efficiency, user and company information security, extensibility, and accessibility of all involved. AI companies no longer have to worry about credit card charge back risks. Consumers no longer have to over pay to compensate for that charge back risk. The market will be able to hone in on efficient pricing down to micro-pennies priced in sats. Individuals with no access to credit or debit cards will be able to have access to these tools. Competing open-source LLMs will be able to better compete with walled garden LLMs. And if L402 is widely adopted across the AI space and across sites that AI companies are attempting to data scrape to feed their LLMs we could see some measured and methodical growth across the space and assuage the fears of those opining on "run away AI".
It will take time for L402 to get implemented widely, but the ball has been set in motion. Over the course of this month developers from around the world are participating in Bolt.Fun's Ai4ALL hackathon tournament that revolved around the integration of the lightning network with AI products and tools. I won't be surprised if something that catches the eyes of those hacking on AI outside of the bitcoin world comes out of this hackathon.
The machine payable web is currently experiencing it's "idea whose time has come" moment. The idea has been around for awhile, but the infrastructure wasn't ready for it until this very moment. We're entering uncharted territory that should reap massive benefits for bitcoin, humanity and AI.
Bitcoin is so much more than digital gold. Most people just don't realize it yet.
About to mow the lawn.
Enjoy your weekend, freaks.