r myers https://OFFLINEZIP.wpsho now with even more crypto art Fri, 19 Mar 2021 04:56:46 +0000 en-CA hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=6.0.1 38758512 Upgrade Art Now! http://OFFLINEZIP.wpsho2021/03/18/upgrade-art-now/ Fri, 19 Mar 2021 04:56:46 +0000 http://OFFLINEZIP.wpsho?p=3974 Shiva laser target chamber.jpg
Image taken from LLNL document “Laser Programs, the first 25 years”. [1], Public Domain, Link

Transferring a human mind into a computer system is known as “uploading”; turning a mortal into a Power is known as “upgrading.” The prototypical upload is the Moravec Transfer, proposed by Dr. Hans Moravec in the book Mind Children. The Moravec Transfer gradually moves (rather than copies) a human mind into a computer. You need never lose consciousness. – Eliezer S. Yudkowsky, “Staring Into the Singularity”

In the 1982 movie “Tron” (and its underrated 2010 sequel “Tron Legacy”) people are digitized body and mind to be uploaded into a simulation “grid” via the powerful SHIVA laser. They are returned to meatspace in the same way. If you only digitize the mind and don’t then return it to meatspace, you get an upload. And if you destroy the brain in order to do so you get a destructive upload. It’s half a teleportation. Made famous by Hans Moravec, explored fictitiously in William Gibson’s short story “The Winter Market” and Neal Stephenson’s novel “Fall; or Dodge in Hell” amongst others, and depicted graphically in the recent Amazon show “Upload“, destructive mind uploading destroys your brain layer by layer as its structure is digitized to produce the raw data for a computer simulation of you. We can’t be squeamish if we want our biological raw material to be ship of Theseus’d into cyberspace (in Moravec’s proposal) or captured as it evaporates in a burst of plasma (in “Upload”).

Back in 2018 I wrote a short story for Art Review called “The Large Glass, Burned” in which a famous NFT artwork is destroyed as the ultimate artistic provocation to a future in which physical artworks are of interest, if at all, only as curious historical footnotes to their tokens. I was reminded of this when Injective Protocol burned a Banksy and then sold it as an NFT earlier this month. If anyone wants to buy that token and send it to a burn address then that will complete this particular circuit (ask your lawyer about the moral rights implications of doing so first though, please and thank you).

Destroying an artwork after or, even better, by scanning it (in 2D, 3D or in time-based media) to produce a blockchain proxy is a form of destructive uploading. Given how we prize meatspace art, destroying it to produce a superior onchain “upgrade” in Moravec’s terminology produces a perfect fault line in understanding between legacy institutions that regard doing so as a newsworthy crime against humanity and emerging blockchain cultur(e|al)( superstructural) institutions that will regard not doing so in just as critical ethical terms.

Given the certainty of ownership, permanence, and reduced archiving costs of NFT art compared to legacy meatspace art as it circulates in the petrodollar artworld, added to the editioning and fractionalization opportunities of NFTs, why not upgrade art onto the blockchain? Burn out a Leonardo layer by line as you scan it with an electron beam and capture it forever with its hash anchored securely onchain. We can’t be squeamish…

Upgrade art now!

Welcome To The Dessert Of The Real http://OFFLINEZIP.wpsho2021/01/03/welcome-to-the-dessert-of-the-real/ Mon, 04 Jan 2021 00:55:38 +0000 http://OFFLINEZIP.wpsho?p=3946 On certain developments in the content of NFT art as we enter 2021

Non-Fungible Token art associates digital art to blockchain identifiers as metadata, producing a saleable ownership proxy similar in concept and usage to a certificate of authenticity for conceptual or video art. In itself this makes no demands on the artwork other than that it ideally be minimally problematic (legally and technologically) for any services or platforms the artist uses to create and sell it. But that art still exists within a technonomic milieu that holds very specific promise and appeal for those who might be interested in it as an environment in which to produce and experience art.

Early NFT art that was not simply existing illustration art registered onchain became steeped in blockchain promotional imagery – project logos and figureheads. These were soon joined by easily consumed attentional lures appealing to viewers(/potential purchasers) pre-existing sensibilities such as naked human bodies and technological glitches. Where the problem of their technical production and content intruded, it was when an artist or a buyer did not understand the source of a library image or of a filter’s stylistic flourish. This was a problem because of the imported concept of ownership as transcendental possession and control, seen in NFTs as “true digital ownership”. Blockchains exist to establish ownership of digital assets with mathematical certainty. To own a piece of NFT art is to possess something unique with cryptographic certainty backed by a sizeable percentage of the Earth’s computing power. It is to possess it more securely than if it was stored in a vault (en-crypt-ed) at a maximum security freeport facility, and for the object of that possession to be more uniquely identified object than the Mona Lisa. Where the thing that you possess is a copy, a fake, or misrepresents its production or its materials in some way either intentionally or unintentionally, the unspoken contract of ownership is broken offchain. Or at least ironised and degraded in the hodler’s eyes.

Discussions of authenticity (as opposed to authentication) in “authentic digital art” emerge as a panic from this encounter between onchain mathematical certainty and the messy nature of human understanding offchain. To secure authenticity offchain in response to this is to destroy the value of onchain security – you might as well have a paper certificate of authenticity. A cypherpunk dark forest of aesthetics, completely disjoint from meatspace concerns of identity, reputation and career, would firewall artistic value from authenticity – a liberation that would upset art historians as much as any existing market. But security thinking can be a cold, lonely, corrosive lifestyle and is not for everyone. Or even for most.

A different approach is required within the slow recuperation of the cypherpunk imaginary that is wider society’s encounter with it, and one which engages more with the affordances and resonances of blockchain technology. This is not an ideological prescription, it is recognition of the factors that drive every artist and collector/purchaser’s attraction to NFT art and that must show returns if NFT art is to be coherent. Neither pre-established iconography nor discrete stylistic flourishes sufficiently establish aesthetic value worth securing and owning on a blockchain as blockchain art as transaction fees rise ever higher. Art is proof of work, whether Whistler’s “Nocturne” or an Abstract Expressionist act of heroism. There must be something to own, a parsable product of labour that represents the potential to exponentially multiply the value of an investment of time by the artist and cryptocurrency of the collector. Strategically, to achieve this, the artwork has very few moves it can make. One, modernist/post-modernist one, is to dramatize and reflexively intensify this experience of possession of something that lives in a world of dicscrete technological time. The more vivid this experience of ownership can be made – the more parsable, although absolutely not the more easily digested – the better.

This has led to accumulation of significant form in various registers for excess/surfeit, materiality/presence, and presentation/encounter in NFT art. The in-frame agglomeration of this is reminiscent of the bricolage of Post-Internet Art, its careful leading of the viewer is remeniscent of motion graphics in advertisements, cut scenes, and other liminal moments of guided significance. Where assets and shaders being from libraries would be an impediment to true ownership when presented in a two dimensional artwork consisting of the mere conjugation one or two of them, their composition and animation in time – the work that they do and represent – within the current wave of NFT art performs the requisite alchemy to make it clar that it makes the unownable ownable. Materials, interactions, choreography, assembled into brief microworlds with an aesthetic surfeit that makes very little sense as anything other than an answer to the problem of NFT art at this point in its development, and make very much sense as that.

There are limits to this (and any) strategy, but we are not there yet. Intensification or finding lines of flight from the elements of this strategy, in sum or individually, can take us very far beyond the current state of the market now we have broken this resistance level. Capitalism loves challenges to its property regime, they are how it expands it. True digital ownership requires something to own. Unproblematic commodities, consisting either of artistic originality or of commercially manufactured aesthetic swatches, do not provide a sufficient challenge or object to hang the predicates of desire for an ever-intensifying experience of possession on. The fact of the digital aside, this dynamic was as true of paintings of fruit or of music and dance based on peasant forms as it is of GPU-accelerated aesthetic flights of value.

High culture is a strategy of enclosure, of proprietisation, of the transubstantiation of kitsch/low forms in an affirmation of the wider economy’s transsubstantion of resources into value. It is also a heatsink – symbolic resolution or closure for the untenable claims or other moments of a given (property) regime. You can see much more of the former than of the latter in the current state of NFT art, but the latter is present precisely in its engagement with the psychological requirements of ownership. How far the latter goes will depend on how blockchain technology engages with wider society over the next few years.

True digital ownership as a memeplex collapsed into aesthetics by assembling materials and competences to deploy in an intensive experience that can be owned onchain has produced an experience of moments of post-digital surfeit as an answer to the demands of artificial digital scarcity.

This is the world as it exists today.

Gender in “Bad Shibe” http://OFFLINEZIP.wpsho2020/11/01/gender-in-bad-shibe/ Mon, 02 Nov 2020 02:01:16 +0000 http://OFFLINEZIP.wpsho2020/11/01/gender-in-bad-shibe/ Pronoun Day reminded me that I still haven’t written “Rise of the Shitlords”, which contains an explanation of why YS uses “they” as everyone’s pronouns in “Bad Shibe”.

Names in Post society/Shiberia/whatever you call YS’s world aren’t like ours in Pre/Fiat/whatever society. The older ones are more clearly gendered (Mom1) the newer ones are very deliberately gender free (UnoY). Like cats and altcoins, gendered language is a taboo in Bad Shibe.

The in-world reason for this is that Post society really, really, really hates anything that makes them think of state centralization. Like identity documents. As with everything in Post society this effect ran away with itself. The original revolutionaries, survivors, or whatever they were used social media login name style handles probably due to AreWeThereYet or some other software they used to organize themselves, and by the time they were having kids they were coming up with names that were as unique and information-free as possible for this system.

The kids know that the adults are different – YS describes the trader they encounter at the swapmeet as a “salesbro” – but they themselves are whoever and whatever they want/need/happen to be, free from having to fit into any fiat state identity category boxes (or tackle any parental disapproval for that matter). Just don’t expect anyone to use your pronouns.

There are three things in “Rise of The Shitlords” that indicate that this may all unravel as well and that, like the other features of Post society, it isn’t working as well for everyone as it might.

The first is a scene with Mom1 and some tobacco plants, the second is a dare at the orchard that continues the budding romance that YS didn’t realize they were in from the unedited version of “Bad Shibe” and that was cut to make the published version’s word count, and the third is the salesbro trying to explain to Mom1 and YS why they are so upset with a statue that is being unveiled near the end of the story.

Given everything above you might wonder why the titular “Shitlords” are so named. That has to do with the structurelessness of off-chain power in Post society. You might further wonder why all of this is in a story that is ostensibly about cryptocurrency.

Well it’s a story about what the world would be like if early cryptocurrency idealism had won, creating a society based on both its stated and contingent ideological entailments and aesthetics , for good and for ill. Mostly for good, but nobody would want to read it if it was any more than “mostly”.

Push anything far enough and it’s contradictions will emerge. Nothing ever died of contradictions. But it may start to smell funny.

Certificate of Inauthenticity http://OFFLINEZIP.wpsho2020/09/18/certificate-of-inauthenticity/ Sat, 19 Sep 2020 00:56:00 +0000 http://OFFLINEZIP.wpsho?p=3912 “Certificate of Inauthenticity”, 2020, ERC-721 Tokens.

Provably inauthentic art.

A follow-up to my collaboration with Furtherfield.

Find out more here:


Or buy here:


Crypto Manifold http://OFFLINEZIP.wpsho2020/09/18/crypto-manifold/ Fri, 18 Sep 2020 23:56:53 +0000 http://OFFLINEZIP.wpsho?p=3909

2020.6.27 – 2020.10.25

Chronus Art Center (CAC)
BLDG.18, No.50 Moganshan RD., Shanghai

“crypto_manifold presents artists’ multifaceted exploration and affective investigation of the panoptic application of blockchain technology.”

Featuring !Mediengruppe Bitnik, CHEN Baoyang, Simon Denny, Grayson Earle, Sarah Friend, Marija Bozinovska Jones, Paul Kolling & Max Hampshire & Paul Seidler, Matthias Tarasiewicz, Lina Theodorou & Rob Myers

Details here:


Curators Bi Xin and Cao Jiamin have done a wonderful job of creating an installation of Lina’s awesome illustrations for Bad Shibe, with the story readable on a tablet as part of it.

They also got Lina and I to make short video statements explaining how we approached writing and illustrating the story, which was fun.

The show is open in Shanghai until October.

Aesthetic Comparison Games http://OFFLINEZIP.wpsho2020/09/18/aesthetic-comparison-games/ Fri, 18 Sep 2020 19:10:00 +0000 http://OFFLINEZIP.wpsho?p=3764 Using ideas from design theory, provable computation, and calculus we can construct games of aesthetic comparison with arbitrary precision. These games can be represented in a form that allows them to be resolved using blockchain smart contracts via reference to materials submitted to set up the game, by reference to on-chain precedent, or as a last resort by appeal to a third party oracle.

Game Setup

To construct the game, two parties must agree on two images, on the properties of the elements of those images under consideration, the relationship between them that is under consideration, and the degree of that relationship.

▲ = ▲ ?

The properties must be represented electronically and atomically, for example as RGB colours, as extremely small pixmaps, or as simplified bezier curves. The hashes of these values are then arranged as the leaves of a merkle tree for each image, in lexicographic value. A third three is then constructed by the first party of the hashes of tuples of pairs of leaves from each of the first two trees, the name of the relationships that is held to be true between them, a stated tolerance for deviation from simple mathematical equality in that relationship, and the weight of these properties as evidence in the aesthetic assertion being made accorded to that relationship (this must sum to 1.0 for all leaves). A threshold for property significance is declared (e.g. 0.001), this may be updated in later rounds of the game with mutual agreement or by appeal.

These trees are then combined with the root of two further trees – the precedent tree and the adjudicator address tree – to produce the merkle root of the game setup. It is vitally important that both parties agree on the representation of each image contained in the tree and on the tolerances and weights accorded to elements from them. It is trivial to make green into red with a high enough tolerance for colour difference, for example. Tools to automate preflight tests for game trees will be important.

For a multi-stage merkle tree acceptance phase, use rounds of committing/revealing proposed trees with increasing stakes. Accepting a tree returns the stakes. There may be a time or round limit for this phase, or no hard limits on agreement only exit rules.

Compulsory/voluntary comparison games may require different agreement, comparison and appeal phases to avoid griefing. Or a single well-understood workflow with well-understood and clearly described failure modes in each contect may be easier to reason about and therefore ultimately more reliable.

Game Rounds

Once the game root has been registered, the comparison proceeds in rounds of assertions made with reference to the content of the subtrees that the root anchors.

If the comparison can be made automatically (e.g. #FF0000 == #FF0000), this proof can be offered onchain. An uncontested assertion of this form wins.

Example comparison relations and properties include: =, ≠, ≈, ≉, ⊂, ⊄, ⊃, ⊅, <, >, geometric affine transform, colour difference, freeform textual statement.

Beware of image content when comparing. Steganographic information may mislead automated comparison.

Where statements can be phrased equivalently, the one that would place the lowest value on the left branch should be used.

Unrealistic trees, e.g.

 / \
◯   ▧

can be rejected by submitting a contradictory precedent or an appeal if evaluation is binding, can be replaced with a more accurate proposal in a multi-stage MAST acceptance opening phase for a comparison game, or simply not entered in to if an evaluation is not binding.

If comparisons can be reduced to precedents, cite them. This means that if a comparison has been resolved in a previously successfully completed comparison, submit the merkle path of that proof and the merkle path of the properties that it matches in the properties tree instead of starting an appeal. An uncontested assertion of this form wins.

If either party wishes to reject an assertion they can provide the merkle path to a contradictory assertion.


If the content of the game tree root is exhausted by assertions without a simple winner emerging, either player may attempt to establish a new prededent by assembling a pair of merkle paths from the property trees of the attacker and the defender, staking a pre-agreed amount of value that will be forfeited if they lose the appeal, and sending the appeal to a third party tribunal implemented using prediction markets, an ombudsman oracle DAO, or some other means.

The outcome of the appeal becomes available as a precedent for future games.

Game Outcome

Ultimately a winner will emerge, in which case they can exercise the right granted to them by a pre-game commitment to update a DAO’s state or receive an amount of cryptocurency or some other action that a proof of resolution can enable. Or both parties can co-operate to declare a winner or a draw before that, either returning any stakes, burning any commitments, or co-operating to exercise the commitment that the winner would have been able to exploit.

Intensive and Extensive Aesthetic Property Token Composition http://OFFLINEZIP.wpsho2020/09/18/intensive-and-extensive-aesthetic-property-token-composition/ Fri, 18 Sep 2020 18:44:52 +0000 http://OFFLINEZIP.wpsho?p=3802 ERC-721 tokens can be composed into tree structures using ERC-998 tokens. Where those ERC-721 tokens represent images or image elements, that tree structure becomes a rendering tree or two-dimensional scene graph (three-dimensional scene graphs will have to wait for 3D Rare Art standards to solidify). To lay out the elements of the image we must be able to transform them in various ways, changing their position, size, colour and other intensive and extensive aesthetic properties. We can represent these aesthetic properties as ERC-20 tokens with 18 digits of precision as they are continuous quantities.

To apply these properties to an ERC-721 token we can attach them using an ERC-998 composable tokens in an SVG-style tree hierarchy. Each ERC-998 token has one or more quantities of ERC-20 aesthetic property tokens attached, one or more child ERC-998 tokens, and zero or more (usually zero or one) ERC-721 tokens attached. The properties expressed by the ERC-20 tokens attached to each ERC-998 token are applied to any attached ERC-721 token(s) and transitively to the children of any attached ERC-998 tokens.

Where the values we wish to represent should be limited to a given range (e.g. 0.0 .. 1.0 or 0 .. 255), we can either assert if too many tokens are are sent to be attached to ERC-998 tokens (we might also be able to refund them in an additional transaction, but this would affect the gas required – and as per the ERC-20 standard we should not accept fewer tokens than are sent), we can treat higher values as meaning the maximum (e.g. 3.1 is 1.0, and 1337 is 255), or we can scale values relative to the largest quantity.

When the values must be both positive and negative (for example if we are representing co-ordinates around an origin, especially relative co-ordinates in a group hierarchy), we can use a second token to represent negative values (this would be better represented using ERC-1155 tokens but ERC-998 does not support this standard). If both positive and negative tokens are applied their values should be summed. For co-ordinates we can use only positive tokens by treating group origins as their top left rather than their centre and only adding positive offsets to child ERC-998 tokens.

Affine transformation ERC-20 tokens are applied as a transformation matrix to the children of the ERC-998 token they are attached to. This means that children-of-children multiply their parent matrix with their own. There is an implicit graphics state push/pop for each ERC-998 token, so transformations do not affect sibling tokens, only child ones.

For colour or alpha (transparency) values, these values are added to the colour values of the image represented by the token. This may not be the expected behaviour. As with co-ordinates, using only positive values can be achieved by carefully structuring the hierarchy of the image so that child ERC-998s only need to add rather than subtract colour values to represent their colour scheme. Alternatively we can treat colour tokens as scale, allowing both increases and decreases of colour to be expressed across the token hierarchy, and source primitive forms to be arbitrarily coloured if they are white. More complex colour interactions and other filter or layer behaviours could be specified by additional tokens.

This gives us the following ERC-20 tokens:

X x co-ordinate offset values in distance units.
Y y co-ordinate offset values in distance units.
WIDTH width in distance units.
HEIGHT height in distance units.
ROTATION rotation in degrees.
Unbounded, wraps around past 360 as usual.
RED red scale.
Unbounded, although values that multiply the source value higher than 1.0 will have no additional effect.
GREEN green scale.
Unbounded, although values that multiply the source value higher than 1.0 will have no additional effect.
BLUE blue scale.
Unbounded, although values that multiply the source value higher than 1.0 will have no additional effect.
ALPHA transparency scale.
Unbounded, although values that multiply the source value higher than 1.0 will have no additional effect.

What is to stop the owner of an artwork created in this way from breaking it up, re-arranging it, or adding to it?

Nothing at all…

Isn’t this an extremely expensive way of assembling art on-chain?

It depends on the value of the work that is made using it…

AI Art, Ownership, Blockchain http://OFFLINEZIP.wpsho2020/09/18/ai-art-ownership-blockchain/ Fri, 18 Sep 2020 18:31:30 +0000 https://robmyers.wpengine.com/?p=3199 Questions of “ownership” in art can be a matter of law, of social norms, or of art theory. New art forms and new methods of producing art can fall foul of existing answers to these questions or creatively re-open them. Often they do both. “AI Art” produced using contemporary “Artificial Intelligence” artificial neural network software is a good example of this. “Rare Art” produced using blockchain token software is another, which we will consider below in relation to one particularly notorious example of AI Art.

“Portrait of Edmond Belamy” was produced by the artist group “Obvious” using an existing artificial neural network model trained on a corpus of images of classical paintings. Obvious did not credit the author of that network model, or any of the artists whose paintings were included in the corpus. At this point there are already three different layers of questions around ownership.

Firstly, the assembly of an image corpus. Accurate reproductions of paintings that are no longer in copyright should not attract copyright, and in the US at least this is quite rightly the case. A collection of such reproductions may attract copyright on the collection itself, but this should not affect individual works within the collection. If the images were of paintings that are still under copyright, copying each image might infringe that copyright. I say “might” because doing so might fall under fair use/fair dealing (hereafter just “fair use”) exceptions to copyright. These exceptions are popular both with artists who work with appropriation and with large Internet companies who work with search and advertising. Both groups, and others such as Digital Humanities scholars, might wish to assemble such corpora of images so it is difficult to generalise about motives and outcomes regarding them. In the case of art, however, fair use for artists is a key defence of artistic creativity in an age where the visual environment is dominated by corporate media.

Beyond this legal view is the ethical and art theoretic view. Is it right to treat individual artworks in a corpus as tokens of a type or as just part of a set, as fodder or as raw material for an industrial process? With apologies to Clement Greenberg, does discarding the tactile elements of painting still meaningfully capture it, and does discarding visual detail and differences in scale discard more for processes of derivation than processes of study?

Secondly, the training and use of the artificial neural network model on that image corpus. The model is trained by processing images in the corpus, by copying and reading their data. The model will contain representations of parts of the images from its training corpus, and its output will also resemble parts of the images they are trained on. Mechanical copying and creating derivatives of images are covered by copyright. Cutting up images and juxtaposing them with the work of other artists is covered by the moral rights that accompany copyright. Again, copyright does not apply to works that are out of copyright (moral rights vary by country…), and artists should have a claim to fair use of such materials. The degree to which artistic use of source materials transforms them should be a factor in establishing that such use is indeed fair use, and the output of artificial neural networks certainly transforms the images that they are trained on. Style is not copyrightable (let’s not talk about “trade dress” here), but forgery and “passing off” can be legal matters, and the application an artist’s signature style to a work that they have not made but is sold under there name is the same whether performed by human hand or algorithm.

Again, the ethical and art theoretic view raises more questions. Signature styles are a matter of pride as well as profit for artists, and while this can be critiqued within art theory it is a strongly established norm that simple imitation of style, without a critical framework for doing so, is a breach of artistic norms. Artificial neural network models need not operationalise an individual artist’s signature style in order to devalue the concept of signature styles in general.

Thirdly, Obvious’s use of existing neural network software to generate an image has caused widespread debate. “Signing” the image with the algorithm used by the artificial neural network software to produce it functions as a double-bluff whatever the intention behind doing so. We know that Obvious produced and sold the image, their attribution is not threatened by this. But it erases the work of both Robbi Barret in producing the model of art that the image is simply a product of and of the artists that the neural network’s model already erases the authorship of, both in terms of attribution and in terms of control of their work (even if from beyond the grave in the case of the corpus artists). Software authors should not be able to control uses of the tools that they produce – Microsoft should not be able to censor your writing using Word or claim joint authorship of everything you write using it. But a trained artificial neural network model is a more complex thing than a text editor from this point of view – it is as much content as it is tool. Microsoft should not be able to tell you how you change the contents of an empty text document, but changing a novel or a painting whether represented physically or digitally may infringe on the copyright and moral rights that it may have. Again fair use should be strongly considered for artistically transformative use of artificial neural network models.

Art theroretically, such direct and uncredited use of existing materials, even materials created by another artist, may count as appropriation art, which is an established category within the arts. Appropriation art is deliberately transgressive, often for critical effect. Appropriating non-art or low-art materials is very different from appropriating canonical art or the art of leading contemporaries but both can be critical moves. Artistic labour can be appropriated directly, in the case of contemporary artists who use studio assistants to produce art under their own signature such as Jeff Koons or Damien Hirst. The signature that the products of this labour are exhibited and sold under is a key part of its erasure. And where software used to make art is free software(/open source), attribution may or may not be a strong social norm but past a certain point that attribution is useful information to have for artistic, critical, and art historical engagement with the work.

Prior to this, Obvious had already encountered the question of ownership and found an answer that led directly to “Portrait of Edmond Belamy” being sold at auction. That answer was based on AI’s twin in contemporary technological hype, the blockchain.

Christie’s discovered Obvious via their work on Superrare, a blockchain-based “Rare Art” platform. Rare Art is named after the “Rare Pepe” project that developed the techniques of using cryptocurrency and blockchain token technology to record limited edition certificates for digital images. This produces “artificial scarcity” and allows a form of ownership for pieces of digital art art that would otherwise be infinitely reproducible. This use of certificates as ownership proxies for art was pioneered by conceptual art. Compared to a flammable piece of paper with a handwritten signature on, the authenticity of a blockchain transaction secured by a not inconsiderable fraction of the world’s computing power each day only increases over time. It may not be entirely clear what the authenticity is of, but the terms and conditions of Rare Art platforms and the community norms of their users and consumers do produce a vivid image of a novel and very strong concept of ownership.

“True digital ownership” on a blockchain secured by cryptographic keys is seen by its proponents as stronger, more trustworthy, and more absolute than previous conceptions of property. This makes AI art a natural fit for Rare Art because each has needs that the other fulfills: ownership in the case of the products of AI art, strongly perceptible uniqueness but also recognisability as art in the case of Rare Art. Sale at auction also provides this kind of closure for the financial value of art, but new art and in particular digital art faces a bootstrapping problem in which it must establish its value in order to be sold at auction but cannot be sold at auction without first establishing its value. Christie’s saw art by Obvious selling on Superrare and could react to that market signal more quickly and with lower risk than with signals from gallery or online sales of physical goods.

It is a truism of International Art English that art questions things. There are many questions in play in both AI Art and Rare Art. They involve the concept of ownership considered in terms of the law, of social norms, and of art theory. The answers to these questions from within each of these realms individually may be obvious and simple to their practitioners, but between them they may be more at odds than each realises. Negotiating this without closing the door to cultural creativity or opening it to corporate exploitation is a task that is of interest far beyond the artworld.

(I am not a lawyer, etc.)

Oracles Are The Oracle Problem http://OFFLINEZIP.wpsho2020/09/17/oracles-are-the-oracle-problem/ Thu, 17 Sep 2020 22:13:36 +0000 http://OFFLINEZIP.wpsho?p=3902 In computer science, an “oracle” is a source of truth from outside the system. On a blockchain, this means that oracles provide information that is not part of the transaction protocol. This can be the price of the US dollar, the weather in a particular location, whether a particular celebrity is still alive, or other facts that are not simply protocol-level transfers of coins secured by cryptographic signatures.

The introduction of truth that cannot be enforced at the protocol level or checked entirely by reference to the prior history of the blockchain means that oracles introduce a question of trust. Like the economic trusted third parties that Satoshi Nakamoto sought to exclude from the original Bitcoin protocol – who are better understood as treacherous third parties (to channel Richard Stallman’s critique of DRM for a moment) – oracles introduce trusted third parties for knowledge. Since demand for the information that oracles provide is ultimately economic, this amounts to the reintroduction of economic trusted third parties.

Various mechanisms can be used to address the risk of trust in oracles. Reputation on- or off-chain, or economic incentives enforced using different rewards and punishments, for individual providers or communities or markets providing information. Each scheme has its failure modes, and each ultimately requires trust in the behaviour of off-chain participants to act in an economically rational manner.

Oracles are unavoidable for a large class of problems but where they can be creatively avoided it is worth exploring alternatives. The use of token trade volumes and prices over time in DeFi applications to establish interest rates is a good example of this. Where on-chain facts cannot be tautologies, if they can be inferred from other on-chain facts this will be more robust than oracles if those facts cannot easily be manipulated. Ideally this means protocol-level facts, or at least facts with robust on-chain incentives for truthfulness.

Given this, “the oracle problem” is not how best to implement trusted oracles. It is the existence of oracles. Let’s continue to find creative ways to extract off-chain information from on-chain truth.

It All Sounds The Same http://OFFLINEZIP.wpsho2020/09/16/it-all-sounds-the-same/ Thu, 17 Sep 2020 04:32:20 +0000 http://OFFLINEZIP.wpsho?p=3900 In the early 1990s, on a show called “A Stab In The Dark” that was a disastrous attempt to revive the TW3 format, the comedian David Baddiel demanding that audience members name random acid house tracks played over the studio PA. One embarrassed young man eventually helped Baddiel out by admitting that he couldn’t.

“It all sounds the same to me” is a dismissive and often reactionary comment. But it is also a judgement and an account of identity or rather of its lack. It renders something indifferent.

In a review of an album by the electronic music outfit Autechre on The Quietus website, reviewer Charlie Frame was faced with the opposite problem when they wrote:

It would now take a machine with a capacity and patience far exceeding that of any mortal being to keep track of their increasingly arcane song-titles alone, which are deliberately alienating in their anonymity, as though they’d been randomly selected from sections of a printer test page. I’d wager Autechre themselves have trouble differentiating between their ‘Chenc9-1Dub’s and their ‘Nth Dafusederb’s…

Whether Autechre or acid house, and whatever you call it, electronic music is clearly different from, say, Shostakovich. And the first and second Autechre tracks, and the two acid house tracks, will have differences when played one after the other. You cannot identify precisely which track is which compared to the other if you are just dropped into them midway through, you may not be able to find them afterwards, you certainly won’t be able to name them, but when faced with them you would be able to tell what is different about them, even if only that they do not occupy the same moment.

You can also tell what is different between two tracks by Autechre and two classic acid house ones. You don’t even need to know that they are Autechre or acid house. Each track is different from the other in the pair, and the differences between each track in each pair are different from the differences of the other pair. If not in their immediate sound then in their production or some other property. It’s the same with the music events that these tracks were and are played at. Each event in a series of events is different from the others, and each series of events also has different differences from the other series.

This is Deleuze’s “Difference and Repetition”. Differences, differences between series, differences of differences, and repetitions that make the differences. I have named the things that are different here, but if we remove the names the point stand. It is not removing the names that removes the identities. Rather it is recognizing that the identities are neither necessary nor sufficient to identify what is named here.

If you don’t believe me, just listen to Autechre on shuffle. 😉