[NetBehaviour] Blockchain & Bureaucracy

Rob Myers rob at robmyers.org
Mon Jul 25 06:52:48 CEST 2016

On 23/07/16 07:21 AM, ruth catlow wrote:
> On 22/07/16 23:26, Rob Myers wrote:
>> Yes there's a gulf between the world-changing rhetoric and the
>> money-grubbing behaviour that is sadly familiar from past developments
>> in tech.
> WOW that's a thought!
> When I remember the utopian verve with which I embraced the early
> development of the WWW...

Yes. I think that the comparison to the early web is pretty much perfect.

The difference being that more people at least played critically with
the web.

> I had thought that the skepticism that Blockchain arouses within me was
> to do with the fact that it converts every exchange into a transaction
> as part of a global market. But you are probably correct- this is pretty
> much business as usual.

Under neoliberalism, every exchange is a transaction in the global
market, Bitcoin just reifies that.

Discuss. ;-)

I have some lovely little Bitcoin badges that say "Free The Markets,
Free The World." I think people genuinely believe that. But as Nick Land
says, the idea of an "individual" in those markets in Bitcoin is the
same as in classical economic liberalism. You are an individual, and so
am I, and so is any corporation that has a Bitcoin address...

>> Possibly a cognitively necessary one.
> What, really, why?

Oh for the people working on writing systems for banks while talking
about freeing society from third party intermediaries. :-)

>> What's new this time around is the full-stack entitlement to passive
>> income and return-on-investment.
> Yes!

And it feeds into the scams. Oh, the scams. We need to hold a seance to
summon the ghost of Charles Mackay, as it's a shame they missed this.


>> "Financial inclusion" is a strong driver in conventional
>> cryptocurrency - won't someone think of the unbanked?
> Brett Scott wrote about this here http://www.unrisd.org/brett-scott

Oh I must read that. So many whitepapers, so little time. :-)

There's a digital humanities project to be had in the study of the
language, rhetoric and imaginary of cryptocurrency whitepapers...

>> Recuperation is the fate of any technology under capitalism. What's
>> extraordinary about this particular technology is that it turns so
>> many of its critics into technological determinists.
> I think that this is a function of its inaccessibility too.

Yes that's a very good point.

> Unlike the
> early WWW we (the mass of amateur experimental tech adventurers- of many
> ages and values) can't so easily get our hands on the code. In the early
> 90s I could take a piece of simple html, upload it to a computer and
> then share it around the world.... we can't mess with BC software in the
> same way...

I simply hadn't considered it in these terms (although I have often made
this comparison for inaccessible *web* technologies). o_O

> Rob- perhaps you know of some cut-and-paste DIY resources that we could
> play with together.

Hmm I'm not sure what a good mapping from HTML to the Blockchain is.

Here's the wrong answer to hopefully inspire an objection that can lead
to the right one :-) :

Things Everyone Can Just Do

Get a wallet, e.g. -




Accept Bitcoin:


Get Familiar With How Things Work

Watch transactions and blocks in real time and analyse them:


Play with various Bitcoin features in the browser (addresses, units, etc.):


Learning the Coding Side

Play with generating Bitcoin wallets of various kinds in the browser:


Play with Bitcoin transaction scripts in the browser:


Play with Ethereum contracts in the browser:


Learn how to set up automatic Bitcoin charge/payment systems with 21
(possibly the most interesting but most complex of these):


- Rob.

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