Secrets of the Shibes


YS and Teacher, Lina Theodorou.

“Bad Shibe” was a response to the question of what an anarcho-capitalist cryptocurrency-based society might look like, a world with the Internet but no government, with money and property but no robber-barons. Its immediate literary forebears are “Down and Out In The Magic Kingdom”, which is also about an economic utopia, and Michael Moorcock’s foreword to one of their “Jerry Cornelius” collections, which talks about those stories’ impressionistic technique. YS, the protagonist, is a naive tween because there are only so many times your viewpoint character’s need to have their world explained to them can be stolen from “Day of The Triffids”. They are bad at providing details about their world because they are oblivious, and to avoid getting bogged down in details of how the world works rather than the impression that it works. The other characters are essentially expositional – a parent to provide a longer historical view, an older sibling to provide information about the current society, a teacher to defend some of the wider trends, and a shopkeeper to provide swords and potions props for discussion.

I wrote Bad Shibe at the end of 2014 while I was walking around a gentrifying area of Vancouver and listening to Bitcoin true believers in a basement. It was revised for publication with support from Furtherfield and Torque in 2016, then published in 2017 first as a stand-alone zine and later in the book “Artists Re:thinking the Blockchain”. During the editorial process I was surprised to discover that the story has a plot. Originally it was over 7,000 words, it was cut to 4,000 for publication. YS lost interactions with their schoolmates and a possible romantic interest (to which they are utterly oblivious) all of which brought their character into sharper relief and made the world richer but hid the off-screen action even more.

In addition to the leaner version of the story I produced a document called “The Ruinously over-explained Bad Shibe”, which is an almost line-by-line commentary. Here’s a sample:

* YS goes to school despite working during the day. The system works!!1
* The historical figure in question is the Doge of Venice. When I wrote this, doge was pronounced “dohgg”. It’s now pronounced the same as the Doge.
Teacher has much to say. They plot a U-shaped graph of occurrences of the word “shibe” over time. Then they show us a clip from a pre film about two bros in a time-travelling phone box. Next teacher explains what a phone box is. Then they talk about an old cereal that was designed for TV. Then they talk about what TV was. Much history.
* The film is “Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure”, which features two Californian teenagers who speak a curiously retro dialect of English that becomes the basis for a future civilization… This and the “U-shaped graph” are an excuse for a culture in the future talking vaguely like an Internet subculture in 2014.
* The cereal is “Cap’n Crunch”, a product that was created to be sold by television advertising. YS knows what cereal is. I’m not sure why.
Another new poster says “Tip your teacher!” and we do because we’re shibes. I remember teacher’s tippage and my earlier slippage (which rhymes) so I tip some more. Teachers gotta eat. Which reminds me, I’m hungry. As I leave class my phone pings above the hubbub of detarping shibes. Tipped for good homework. Wow.
* At this point, what YS is doing does look like straightforward tipping.
Back on the street, night is ramping up. Eggers are packing up for the evening leaving the sidewalk greasy. The swapmeet is starting under glaring LEDs. Such service to the community. Zero walking from school. Many shibes. Such goods to browse.
* Eggers fry eggs with sheets of metal in the anthropocene sun.
My fellow schoolshibes are gathered around cartwheel vendors mobbing for apples and wraps. Wow. Much noms. Is “noms” kitteh? I look around. Nobody heard me say it. I get thrown a maximally amaze apple and tip large for it when it also tastes good. What was that story with a big red apple in it? And a snake? I’m thrown a wrap. I kerbnom. Wrap is meh. I show its corpse to my schoolshibe sat next to me.
* YS is confusing Snow White and the Book of Genesis.
* Also YS is now buying fruit after spending the day picking it…
“Do I tip for this?” I ask them.
* Tipping starts to look like payment. ūüôĀ

The story is stuffed with references like these, all of which are part of its meditation on its theme.

As the notes say, in the story “doge” is pronounced with a hard rather than a soft “g” – like “goat” rather than “wage”. Likewise, most people now pronounce “shibe” as if it begins with “she” rather than “shy” This means that Post society is not called Shiberia. YS’s name is pronounced “why is” and was chosen after @coin_artist’s Snow Crash-derived handle at the time. The language of the story was an exercise in instant obsolescence that was less instant than I expected – you can still find Doge memes online and Dogecoin recently touched a market cap of a billion dollars – it is a combination of Doge and Reddit argot. If it works it’s like Nadsat (thank you to Juliet Evans-Lee for that observation), if it fails it’s like the language in a youth culture exploitation movie of the 1960s. Writing it is exhausting.

Bad Shibe was written before “The DAO Hack”, but the big off-screen threat in it is quite similar to it. If we assume that what YS is doing with “tipping” is actually transferring Dogecoin, we can date the hard fork that is intended to address the threat fairly accurately. A prize awaits the first person to do so (probably a copy of the zine).

There are two follow up stories to Bad Shibe which I doubt I will have the time to write. “Rise of the Shitlords” follows on immediately from the end of Bad Shibe and looks at the important question of who cleans the sewers (it is about economic failure in the same way that Bad Shibe is about technological failure). “To the Moon” is about what happens when the clocks stop and features the largest tip the world has ever seen (it is about social failure). At the end of it all someone sits at a table in the sun, waiting expectantly.

DEMODAY

DEMODAY, 2017, CounterParty Tokens.

DEMODAY is the first art show-specific crypto token.

It has been created for the show “Demo Day” at Kunstraum LLC, Brooklyn, from September 24 – October 28 2017. See here for details

https://www.kunstraumllc.com/single-post/2017/09/13/DEMO-DAY

Lottery Symbol

“Lottery Symbol”,2017, DApp.

A graphical symbol on the blockchain, chosen via a simple lottery (using the blockchain itself as a source of entropy).

This is a piece in a series of works that pair methods of allocation with aesthetic properties. It follows on from Democratic Palette.

You can access it via an Ethereum-enabled browser here and the source code is available in a git repository here.

Art Is 2.0


“Art Is”, 2014/2017, DApp.

People have argued about the definition of art for millennia.

We finally have the techonomic means to settle this argument.

In “Art Is”, people can use the Ethereum network to pay to define art at a price equal to the strength of their certainty in the correctness of their definition. The results are an economically rational definition of art, far stronger than discourse paid for by third party cultural institutions.

The original “Art Is” from 2014 suffered from bitrot so I re-implemented it.

As ever, you can access it via an Ethereum-enabled browser here and the source code is available in a git repository here.

About “Is Art”

This is the text for the current showing of “Is Art”.

“Is Art”, 2016/2017, Ethereum DApp, Rob Myers.

Late 1960s Conceptual Art and mid 1990s net.art are useful inspiration for thinking about the blockchain and smart contracts. These art movements stood in critical tension with the systems of communication, law and commerce of their eras. Each treated rootless information, whether about sense data or network messages, as the critical subject of art and a new potential artworld. Their promise and their eventual recuperation by the existing artworld chimes with the historical experience of the blockchain.

“Is Art” takes the Conceptual Art ideas of dematerialisation (art that is not presented in a fixed physical form) and nomination (something that is art because someone or something says it is) and combines them with the net.art idea of the interactive artwork that exists in or interferes with network protocols.

In it, an Ethereum smart contract contains the assertion that it either “is” or “is not” art. A web page connected to the Ethereum network displays the state of this assertion to anyone who can access the contract and allows them switch it between states. When they do so this will become a fact secured in Ethereum’s blockchain with the strength of millions of dollars of computing power a day.

Is this sufficient to determine whether the contract is or is not art? Where and how is the claim really being made and determined? How does this relate to historical examples of such artworks? And how does it relate to other claims of fact stored in other smart contracts?

To Change The Status Of The Contract

1. Click anywhere on the screen.
2. In the dialog that opens, click “Update”.
3. And in the dialog that opens in response to *that*, click on “Accept”.
4. Watch for the update on both screens.

“Bad Shibe” at New World Order

Lina Theodorou’s installation at Furtherfield’s “New World Order” featuring their wonderful illustrations for my story “Bad Shibe”.

You can buy the print version of Bad Shibe, featuring those illustrations, at the show or online via PayPal or with Bitcoin.

Via Furtherfield – https://twitter.com/furtherfield/status/865569017515438084

“Is Art” at Ethereal

Is Art” in the FOAM space at Ethereal summit in New York. You can manipulate it using the MacBook and watch its state update via the blockchain on the tablet next to it.

From show curator the awesome Sam Hart (thanks Sam!) –¬†https://twitter.com/hxrts/status/866447265229156353

New World Order

My novella “Bad Shibe” and¬†Lina Theodorou’s amaze illustrations for it are in Furtherfield Gallery’s show “New World Order” from Saturday 20 May – Sunday 25 June 2017.

Click here for more details, including the press release and catalogue for the show.

As well as Bad Shibe, I have an essay in the book “Artists Re:thinking the Blockchain” being published during the show and blink and you’ll miss me talking about smart contracts in the blockchain documentary “Change Everything Forever.”

From the press release:

A mysterious and controversial technology is among us. The Blockchain underpins digital currencies and makes possible dramatic new conceptions of global governance and economy, that could permanently enrich or demote the role of humans – depending on who you talk to.

A self-owning forest with ideas of expansion, a self-replicating android flower, a tale of lost innocence, a DIY money making rig, a Hippocratic Oath for software developers, a five minute marriage contract; this exhibition presented by Furtherfield shows us life with blockchain technologies Рthrough artworks by Jaya Klara Brekke, Pete Gomes, Rob Myers, Primavera De Filippi of O’Khaos, Terra0, Lina Theodorou and xfx (aka Ami Clarke).

Imagine a world in which responsibility for many aspects of life (reproduction, decision-making, organisation, nurture, stewardship) are mechanised and automated. Transferred, once and for all, from natural and social systems into a secure, networked, digital ledger of transactions and computer-executed contracts.

The artworks in this exhibition envision future world-making by machines, markets and natural processes, free from interference by states and other human institutions.

Bad Shibe – Out Now!

Cover Illustration for “Bad Shibe” by Lina Theodorou.

Bad Shibe, Novella, 2017.

“Bad Shibe” is the story of a young member of a near-future cryptocurrency-based utopia. YS works in an orchard in the day, goes to school in the evening, and tips everyone like a good shibe. Until one day they start feeling jealous of a newcomer and start digging in to how their world really works…

My page about the project, with some reading notes, is here: http://robmyers.wpengine.com/bad-shibe/

It’s published by Furtherfield and their page about the project, where you can order a print copy or download the electronic version for free, is here: http://www.furtherfield.org/projects/bad-shibe-sci-fi-novella-rob-myers

Massive thanks to Lina Theodorou for their wonderful illustrations, and to Ruth Catlow for their excellent afterword (and tireless advocacy for the project). You are amaze.

Geneses

Geneses

A poem consisting of the genesis block hashes from the hundred cryptocurrencies with the highest market capitalization on January the Second, 2016 encoded as BIP-0039 mnemonics.

It begins:

abandon abandon abandon ability output crowd ice area thumb clown sibling charge youth range ribbon stairs plug argue provide toddler gaze edit meadow update

Details on how to order the book can be found here:

http://robmyers.wpengine.com/geneses/