[NetBehaviour] Work in Progress: Blockchain Temporalities

Rhea Myers rhea at hey.com
Thu Jun 10 02:54:22 CEST 2021


Yes it puts a spin on the “blockchain solves the problem of spacetime”
meme.

>From software eating the world to blockchains eating spacetime…

On June 8, 2021, Soenke Zehle <s.zehle at xmlab.org> wrote:
> Thx very much for this. It seems (no tech expert speaking here) that
> the shift from proof-of-work to proof-of-space-and-time is putting
> another twist on the question of blockchain temporality?
>
> Btw, as (budding) fan of Blumenberg / theories of metaphor I continue
> to be astonished by the poverty of language when it comes to tech.
> Chia's recipe for success ("A farmer’s probability of winning a block
> is the percentage of the total space that a farmer has compared to the
> entire network", https://www.chia.net/faq/), for example, sounds just
> like sth from the EU's infamous "general agricultural policy" world
> (you scale you win) - and it came right with a global shortage of
> storage systems
> (https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2021/may/26/new-
> cryptocurrency-chia-blamed-for-hard-drive-shortages).
>
> Soenke
>
> Am Mi., 9. Juni 2021 um 07:11 Uhr schrieb Eryk Salvaggio via
> NetBehaviour <netbehaviour at lists.netbehaviour.org>:
> >
> > Great work. Struck by the absence of “blockchain” from the original
> white paper and the wide possibility of reimagining the “timestamp
> server.” The blockchain has always had a gears-in-clocks aspect of it
> for me. I explained it to some Swiss folks this way once. In San
> Francisco I explained that the blockchain are the panels in an
> infinitely written comic strip: “this happened, then this happened,
> then this happened.”
> >
> > But now I have a question: I’d always assumed block time was also
> being pushed forward by demand, by transactions. No transactions, no
> new blocks, no puzzles. With Bitcoin the story in my head is a clock
> ticking at the speed of commerce. In the same way that if we all stood
> still maybe the clocks would too. (With Ethereum the story gets more
> complicated).
> >
> > Now I’ll think about the sky’s potential as a timestamp server: a
> mechanic sundial designed to spin a small shadow-casting shape in time
> with the system, the sun writing new blocks into a photogram cyanotype
> until it’s fixed by rain.
> >
> > Thanks for this!
> >
> > -e.
> >
> >
> >
> > On 8 Jun 2021, at 8:42 pm, Paul Hertz via NetBehaviour
> <netbehaviour at lists.netbehaviour.org> wrote:
> >
>> > 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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> >
> >
> >
> > --
> > ----- |(*,+,#,=)(#,=,*,+)(=,#,+,*)(+,*,=,#)| ---
> > http://paulhertz.net/
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