[NetBehaviour] Work in Progress: Blockchain Temporalities

Alan Sondheim sondheim at panix.com
Wed Jun 9 04:56:21 CEST 2021

Find the reference to qm somewhat problematic but this is an absolutely 
stunning account - at least for me - I've learned a lot from it. Thank 

Wow! - Alan - hope there's a full essay/book emerging -

On Tue, 8 Jun 2021, rhea via NetBehaviour wrote:

> Date: Tue, 08 Jun 2021 18:31:08 -0700
> From: rhea via NetBehaviour <netbehaviour at lists.netbehaviour.org>
> To: NetBehaviour for networked distributed creativity
>     <netbehaviour at lists.netbehaviour.org>
> Cc: rhea <rhea at hey.com>
> Subject: [NetBehaviour] Work in Progress: Blockchain Temporalities
> Bitcoin secures itself by rewarding the people who run it with payments in
> Bitcoin. To get the rewards for publishing new blocks of transactions to the
> Internet every ten minutes (on average), Bitcoin miners compete to solve
> simple but time-consuming cryptographic puzzles. When Bitcoin launched,
> miners could use desktop computers. But as Bitcoin became more valuable it
> became worthwhile to use more and more powerful hardware in larger and
> larger amounts to continue competing for the block rewards. Bitcoin was
> written to handle this. Its difficulty algorithm creates a new target schema
> for the block reward puzzles This algorithm targets ten minute block times,
> and it will make the block puzzles as easy or as difficult as is required to
> do this.
> That singular objective, pursued without concern for externalities, means
> that Bitcoin's difficulty algorithm is a paperclipper. Its ever-increasing
> energy usage, which has caused such moral panic, would boil the oceans if it
> thought that the difficulty had to go that high - but then what wouldn't?
> This is the purpose that it embodies in unbounded cryptoeconomic incentives.
> For Bitcoin, securing the metronomic heartbeat/pulse/breath/throb of ten
> minute blocks of transactions is all that matters. Bitcoin exists to secure
> the value of those transactions over time. To nestle in that temporality is
> to subject oneself to blockchain temporality as surely as Stelarc's "Ping
> Body" was subjected to internet geometry.
> Block height is a clock. I've met people who have timed meatspace events to
> it. Block height has a calendar of "halvenings", block reward changes, that
> are treated as festivals, along with scheduled protocol forks and
> activations. It's more complex than that, though. Cyclical and linear time
> interplay in the blockchain as they do in capitalism, which is hardly
> surprising given Bitcoin's anarcho-capitalist roots. The different temporal
> scales and intensities folded into the blockchain in order to produce it
> make it a Deleuzean egg. Which, through a deliberate misreading, makes it a
> world. We can call it a welt if it helps, which it doesn't.
> The word "blockchain" does not appear in Satoshi Nakamoto's 2009 Bitcoin
> Whitepaper. Instead the pseudonymous creator (or creators) of Bitcoin talk
> about the creation of a timestamp server to ensure the succession of events
> (transactions) within a system. Time, for Bitcoin, is pure succession just
> as number is pure succession for XXXXXXXXX. It is in this sense that time on
> the blockchain is non-relativistic (as per Nick Land). Worse, that time
> occurs *in* time, breaking XXXXXX's argument that it cannot. We can recover
> from this a little by pointing out that it does not occur within itself, but
> in an outside temporality, and a reassuringly relativistic one. Still, it
> occurs in time, and produces a time of pure succession.
> Bitcoin is the technonomic instantiation of Deleueze?s fourth synthesis of
> time. It is an empty repetition determined by the future. For Bitcoin that
> future is the block height (not the date or the Unix timestamp) when all 21
> million Bitcoin will have been minted, and the reality of that future
> determines its present - a hyperstition secured with an increasing fraction
> of the Earth's computing resources  by the block difficulty targeting
> algorithm.
> This is a purely intensive world, an undialectical history within itself.
> Step back and the onchain world and its history are shown to be incomplete -
> the private keys that create its transactions are not part of that world.
> This veil of ignorance, similar to the sub-quantum realm's role in
> contemporary physics, also applies to on-chain time. The Unix timestamps
> placed in each Bitcoin block leak the offchain time that each block occur
> at, but they could be a lie. They must increase over time, but compared to
> the block height (the block number), they do so in irregular leaps. Block
> heights are certain, timestamps less so.
> Like cybernetics, block formation is probabilistic, converging on certainty
> over time as more and more blocks build on top of the chain. This process is
> irreversible, not just due to probability but to the trapdoor function-based
> proof-of-work system that secures the Bitcoin blockchain. Although it can be
> walked via the chain of hash values between blocks.
> Blockchain temporality comes into being with the blockchain, and vice versa,
> at the same moment. This is similar to the reciprocal emergence of
> capitalism with capitalist time as described by Anna Greenspan in
> "Capitalism's Transcendent Time Machine". This is important because
> different temporal orders afford different social orders. We can notice
> this, or we can continue to stan or sulk at atomic clocks.

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