[NetBehaviour] Work in Progress: Blockchain Temporalities

Paul Hertz ignotus at gmail.com
Wed Jun 9 05:40:24 CEST 2021


Yes, thanks. Lot to mull over.

-- Paul

On Tue, Jun 8, 2021 at 9:56 PM Alan Sondheim <sondheim at panix.com> wrote:

>
> 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
> you!
>
> 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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