[NetBehaviour] Work in Progress: Blockchain Temporalities

Alan Sondheim sondheim at gmail.com
Thu Jun 10 03:36:50 CEST 2021

Hi Rhea,

What I'd suggest is that you find a quantum physicist to work with,
seriously. I did some copy-editing and had some discussions with David
Finkelstein years ago; he was an expert in quantum logic, and widely
published in the field, and he talked about the deep untranslatability of
the mathematical frameworks into other areas of scholarship. A "QM"
invocation seems a bit problematic unless you specify what QM you're
talking about, what framework, and so forth. I've read books on the
philosophy of QM and it's really technical. Apologies if you already know
the math etc. I've just seen too many things of the sort Sokol wrote about.

Best, Alan

On Wed, Jun 9, 2021 at 9:07 PM Rhea Myers via NetBehaviour <
netbehaviour at lists.netbehaviour.org> wrote:

> Thank you!
> Yes I need to tune up the QM invocation, you are right. I’m trying to
> gesture towards limits on knowability within current physics rather than
> handwave with quantum woo. Any suggestions on how to improve that would be
> greatly appreciated. 🙂
> On June 9, 2021, Rhea Myers <rhea at hey.com> wrote:
> I also liked the sound of Iota, but:
> https://www.coindesk.com/iota-being-shut-off-is-the-latest-chapter-in-an-absurdist-history
> https://twitter.com/SarahJamieLewis/status/1161353122343604225
> 😿
> Each block in a chain does have every previous block as a (grand-)parent
> through the trail of hashes linking them. Making this an immediate
> relationship would be interestingly anti-patrilinear.
> 😺
> The space between the blocks is invisible onchain. Offchain, the time
> between blocks is spent gathering transactions for the block after the one
> being currently mined. These are very different universes.
> Also:
> https://rhea.art/simple-blockchain-art-diagram
> 😺
> On June 9, 2021, NetBehaviour for networked distributed creativity <
> netbehaviour at lists.netbehaviour.org> wrote:
> rhea, wonderful, thank you. a few thoughts-
> I've been looking at Iota lately. While coinbase and others describe Iota
> as a
> blockchain, their documentation says they are not a blockchain, but rather
> a different form of distributed ledger. They claim they're not a
> blockchain
> because each block refers to multiple parent blocks. In a tangled
> blockchain
> like Iota, blocks can share the same height.
> I wonder about a theoretical blockchain where the number of parents
> approaches
> the total number of blocks. While technically impossible, as a thought
> experiment
> it seems like such a thing would collapse the temporality by bringing all
> blocks
> to a block height of 1 and 2. Each block simultaneously being the genesis
> block
> and the first child block.
> From the perspective of any block on this impossibly tangled chain,
> it would be the most current description of the state of the chain,
> and every block, including itself, would be the combined origin of
> the entire chain.
> I know a block can't hash itself and no one can be their own grandpa,
> but it seemed like this thought experiment shared some characteristics
> with multiplicity and other things.
> --
> There's also something interesting about the space between the blocks.
> In the same way that motion is a perception our brains construct when
> multiple static images are shown in quick succession.
> Seems like the succession of transactions in bitcoin is a kind of
> montage of value exchange, and it makes me curious about what
> other mental models we're perceiving in the space between.
> with admiration, bz
> On Tue, Jun 8, 2021 at 7:34 PM rhea via NetBehaviour <
> netbehaviour at lists.netbehaviour.org> wrote:
> 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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