My Little Penny – Bitcoin Is Magic

“Change for the machines.” – Synners, Pat Cadigan

Theodor Adorno regarded the occult as a politically quiescent denial of alienation through a regression to animism.

“Occultism is a reflex-action to the subjectification of all meaning, the complement of reification. If; to the living, objective reality seems deaf as never before, they try to elicit meaning from it by saying abracadabra. Meaning is attributed indiscriminately to the next worst thing: the rationality of the real, no longer quite convincing, is replaced by hopping tables and rays from heaps of earth.”
– Theses Against Occultism, Theodor Adorno

And this is true, although as always it would be wrong to attribute a more general feature of human psychology uniquely to a single religion.

The Baudrillardian Disneyland of religion is the cargo cult, in which Melanesian islanders re-enact the long-ago observed activities of departed American troops in order to cause the vehicles that delivered wartime supplies to return. To the outside observer it is obvious that both the occult and cargo cults fall foul of the distinction between correlation and causation.

The occult, like philosophy, suffers from the semantic fallacy. This is the equivalent of the pathetic fallacy for meaning, the projection of cognitive structures of logical rather than emotional significance onto the external environment. Magick extends this with the adolescent male power fantasy of imposing one’s will directly on reality, of reducing the amount of work one has to do to get what one deserves. In this it resembles economics.

Modern economics uses statistics to model reality. Samples are drawn from populations, and various tests are used to ensure that conclusions about these samples accurately represent the wider population. Policy based on these conclusions can then be applied to the general population safe in the knowledge that they will almost certainly only be wrong a specified percentage of the time. Statistics is the state religion of economics, bringing revelation and absolution back from the numeric plane.

In “Qabbala 101″, Nick Land describes the assumptions of Kabbalic gematria. It is possible to detect a signal from outside the system from traces within the system. And this can be done using mathematics to find the contingent numeric properties of words, by counting their length or by mappings of their consonants to numeric values. In this way the text can refer outside the text. Get the numbers right and you get your cargo or impose your will. To an outside observer the obvious problem with gematria is that there are lies, damn lies and statistics.

The popularity of cryptocurrencies represents in no small part a reaction to the financial crisis and austerity. That reaction takes the form of a retreat from conventional economic and political action, and represents at least an economic occult. A de-supernaturalised magic (like a de-supernaturalised economics…) has a cognitive remainder. It is a means of modulating human experience and affecting human behaviour. Belief in imaginary entities, whether thoughtforms or money, is not necessary for them to have effect.

Without the coercive power of the state backing them, cryptocurrencies’ re-enactment of the rituals of fiat currency amount to cargo cults. In their attempt to circumvent the work of economics and banking they resemble magick. But in their use of mathematics they resemble the Kabbalah. Accounts and transactions in Bitcoin are represented and protected using cryptographic hashes, a way of using mathematics to both conceal the content of and prove the identity of a piece of information. This takes place in the blockchain, a data structure built and validated by machines across the Bitcoin network. The blockchain is a fiat currency hors-texte, a monetary outside.

The Bitcoin protocol that constructs the blockchain is a set of meaningful actions that are the embodiment and amplification of human intent. It is a ritual. As with copyright in AI, the benefit of intent accrues to its human initiator. This isn’t the first time a massively distributed electronic ritual has taken place, the Dalai Lama pointed out in the 1990s that having Avalokitesvara’s mantra on your hard disk is like having a prayer wheel on your computer. In the case of Bitcoin this ritual consists of the endless mathematical and network operations that build the blockchain.

This is why Bitcoin is magic. Get the numbers right and you can signal outside the system. Get the numbers right and you can map the results back onto society from the numeric plane. Get the numbers right and you will receive the cargo you ordered. It’s a ritual to transform society.

Via Netbehaviour, last year.

Art For Algorithms

art-for-algorithms

My first article for Furtherfield as guest editor is now online:

Rob Myers takes a look at how we can subvert the operation of the algorithms that the Digital Humanities, corporations and governments use to read, see, and draw conclusions about human expression by treating them as the true audience for contemporary art and literature.

http://furtherfield.org/features/articles/art-algorithms

The Art Of Management

1e997476-b186-4794-6dbb-525ac4845ab1

I have an article about the Management Theory context (I promise it’s much more interesting than that might sound…) of socialist Chile’s “Cybersyn” system at AVANT:

http://avant.org/media/art-of-management

A big thank you to Stephen Fortune for suggesting I write something and for improving it so much by editing it.

Critical Coins

dogeart
(Illustration from: http://ofdoge.wordpress.com/2013/12/05/art-doge/, copyright the artist.)

To make the process of art reviews and criticism more transparent and quantifiable, we can use cryptographic asset tokens to represent critical opinion and valences.

See here for how:

http://robmyers.org/critical-coins/

Art Coins (Coloured) – Crypto Token Art

colourcoinbalances

Dogeparty crypto asset tokens representing different kinds of art.

See here: http://robmyers.org/art-coins-coloured/

Easier Dogecode

I’ve added a Dogecode runner that uses dogepartychain.info‘s API rather than requiring a local dogepartyd instance to be running. You can get the runner as part of the Dogecode source code here: https://github.com/robmyers/dogecode And you use it like this:

dcrunw DFibwNZvuJaHM9bD6x1WA63urkHiE4tWzF

which will fetch the program encoded as Dogeparty tokens at the specified address (DFib…) and run it locally. Here’s some addresses to try:

DCvDS9g9VUZ94MSLbWi4zWRtxHrXeEctZ3

DFZkhTXwAWW7PqBvVkohCFWobipqw3xmAn

DFibwNZvuJaHM9bD6x1WA63urkHiE4tWzF

DQuineX1BTF4ZD6DQxxsbUgVttmR4LvrdY

Dogecode

dcrun -u rpcuser -w rpcpassword DCvDS9g9VUZ94MSLbWi4zWRtxHrXeEctZ3
Hello World!

Cryptographic asset tokens can represent all kinds of things.

Including computer programs. Introducing…:

Dogecode

(There are several other projects called Dogecode. This isn’t them).

Dogecode takes computer programs in the Brainfuck programming language (chosen for simplicity of encoding):

++++++++[>++++[>++>+++>+++>+<<<<-]>+>+>->>+[<]<-]>>.>---.+++++++..+++.>>.<-.<.+++.------.--------.>>+.>++.

and translates them into a csv file of token amounts using dcc:

INCB,8
JFOR,1
INCP,1
INCB,4
JFOR,1
INCP,1
INCB,2
INCP,1
INCB,3
INCP,1
...

which are then sent to a Dogeparty address (slowly) as a series of token transfer transactions using dcsend:

Sending lots of tokens. Make sure you really want to do this.
Waiting for token state to synch
Row 1: INCB,8
Waiting for token state to synch...........
Row 2: JFOR,1
Waiting for token state to synch.............
Row 3: INCP,1
Waiting for token state to synch........
Row 4: INCB,4
Waiting for token state to synch..................
Row 5: JFOR,1
Waiting for token state to synch.......................
Row 6: INCP,1
Waiting for token state to synch.......................
Row 7: INCB,2
Waiting for token state to synch......
Row 8: INCP,1
Waiting for token state to synch......
Row 9: INCB,3
Waiting for token state to synch......
Row 10: INCP,1
Waiting for token state to synch.....................
Row 11: INCB,3
Waiting for token state to synch..............
Row 12: INCP,1
Waiting for token state to synch.....

The transactions encode the program on the address, which can then be fetched and run as seen at the top of this post using dcrun.

For more details see the whitepaper.

Update: There’s an easier to use runner and more examples here.

Blockchain Aesthetics 2

Visualizing Bitcoin blockchain transactions – click on each image to run in your browser.

Each hash as instructions for a turtle graphics pen:

turtles

Life games with each hash as the starting board state:

lifes

A Chernoff Face of each hash:

chernoffs

Cellular automata with each hash as the initial row:

cellulars

Quadratic curves with the bytes of each hash as the control point co-ordinates:

beziers-not-really

Essay Corpse – Accelerate Aesthetics

(This essay wouldn’t gel and I abandoned it. “XXXX…” means “do more here in the next writing or edit pass.”
Do get “Speculative Aesthetics” and “Class Wargames”, they are both wonderful books.)

Urbanomic’s “Speculative Aesthetics” is a freshly mined block of well-contextualised ideas, including some insightful discussion of Accelerationism’s relationship to aesthetics. That relationship is one I’ve been thinking and writing about in ignorant parallel.

 

I do not understand (I mean that literally: I’ve tried to parse the arguments and failed) the idea of overdetermined adherence to a teleological ideology as “freedom”. Whether the eschaton is religious, political/economic or technological, I don’t regard submission to its inevitability as freedom so much as a kind of Dice-Mannish false blamelessness. The fruit fly that buzzes in an endless repeating pattern through a featureless space is neither free nor showing free will. But then nor is the liberal consumer or subject of history in any absolute sense, however right Popper was about totalitarianism.

 

Abstraction is a word that describes many different phenomena, XXXXXXXX

 

At the same time as reading (or “reading“) “Speculative Aesthetics” I’ve been reading Richard Barbrook’s excellent”Class Wargames” book. Barbrook’s history of Guy Debord’s “Game of War” casts the game convincingly as a pedagogical tool for inoculating the political Left against the temptations of vanguard politics. Debord’s game represents the field and forces of battle at the time of the Napoleonic wars at a high level of abstraction compared to the average SPI/GDW-style wargame , making them a general representation of armed conflict. In order to win, one must recapitulate the tactics of Napoleon or Trotsky, with their attendant sacrifice and bloodshed. Having played at being Napoleon, players can both defeat them and will understand why they wouldn’t want to become or follow such a leader in real life.

This indicates the value of Acceleration’s strategy of abstraction, from specifics to generalities and back. Failing cloning, there will not literally be another Napoleon. But there will be scenarios in which another clever general might need to be defeated, either on the battlefield or in politics. There’s nothing Accelerationist about a board game, but there is about its use to create a distributed clever general. And it’s in distribution that Accelerationism can avoid vanguardism.

 

The legacy of CCRU can easily be painted as sitting uncomfortably with Accelerationism’s emphasis on rationality. But the irrational, imaginative, mystical, fictional nature of much CCRU/Orphan Drift/Nick Land output is rational – it can be rational to use irrationality when there is no rational means of achieving a rational end. This is instrumental irrationality, and it’s a standard part of creativity. Creativity theory tells us why – if thinking sensibly is leaving you stuck in a rut then thinking irrationally may get you out of it. Whether surrealist games, Edward de Bono’s “lateral thinking” or chemically assisted imaginings, XXXXXXXXX.

 

This is a very different kind of abstraction from the Real Abstraction of Marxism, or the representational simplifications and distillations of Data Visualization. Accelerationist aesthetics must achieve a new kind of abstraction via either a CCRUian instrumental irrationality as a mythological attractor and search space exploder, a Debordian detournement and redemption (rather than gentrification) of data visualization , or a remix of both.

MYSOUL

20141110080048_Komar&Melamid_We_Buy_and_Sell_Souls_5

I have placed my soul on the blockchain, representing it as a cryptographic asset token.

The MYSOUL token is on the Dogecoin blockchain as a Dogeparty asset:

http://dogepartychain.info/asset/MYSOUL

I’ve divided it up into 100 units. This is more efficient that having a single token to represent the soul and transferring it to a single owner, as competition within the market will both reduce costs and allocate this resource more efficiently than a monopoly could.

To make ownership of my soul more accessible, I’ve also created a MYSOUL asset on the Bitcoin blockchain with Counterparty:

http://www.blockscan.com/assetInfo/MYSOUL

This is also divided up into 100 units. Counterparty is more expensive for transactions than Dogeparty, but is more widespread, so it’s good to have both options.