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Re: <nettime> In Praise of Cash (or just another luddite nationalist
t byfield on Sat, 4 Mar 2017 19:27:45 +0100 (CET)

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Re: <nettime> In Praise of Cash (or just another luddite nationalist

The rest of this "the left failed" thread is dismal, but not because it's right, true, or even accurate — it's mostly a variation on 'ritual hippie punching. In conservative-leaning circles (i.e., circles where identifying as 'leftist' would be unthinkable), hippie-punching usually comes at the beginning — in the same way that 'IANAL but...' introduces some legal opinion. A speaker tosses out some hippy-sounding idea, beats up on it to prove his/her conservative bona fides, then proceeds to make a leftish argument. But in left-oriented settings (nettime, for example), hippie-punching usually comes at the end, as a conventional way to wrap up a mini-editorial: '...and so, in sum, we can see that the left failed because/when they...' Where the writer places this 'the left failed' trope in their writing is a pretty reliable marker of where they sit on an (admittedly simplistic) left/right axis; the emphasis they place on it says a lot about the depth of their politics (another naive but workable geometric trope). So, for example, someone like Milo Yiannopoulos puts his just hippie punching front and center. Qualitatively minded people can use this as a heuristic way to suss out a writer's politics; sooner or later, some quantitatively minded person will do a visualization of it and it'll appear on reddit.

More could be said about all that, though it'd mostly be embroidering on meta / tragic / boring themes. But what prompted me to write was the witty brilliance of Morlock's insight:

On 3 Mar 2017, at 21:56, Morlock Elloi wrote:

product note to self: consumer electric heater that mints

This is GREAT. I don't mean someone-should-do-it great, though — it's more like chindogu, 'useless Japanese inventions' raised to an art form: a baby's onesie with a dust-mop front, so your infant can clean the house while s/he crawls around, or a pair of chopsticks with a fan attached to cool off your ramen between the bowl and your mouth. Or this piece of accidental chindogu, a bobblehead-esque solar-powered wind turbine executive desk toy:


A heater that mints bitcoin would reach degree zero when the value it generates precisely pays off your utility bill. But the infinitesimal frictional differential needed to recognize that exchange as such would leak, generating recursively exotic derivatives — which, in turn, would generate ad-hoc 'markets' for aggregating the infinitesimal, leveraging it infinitely, and gaming it randomly. The ensuing crashes would get bigger and bigger and come faster and faster, until they're just more background noise.

This kind of hallucinatory speculation can go on forever, but after a certain point its allure will wear off. The value of 'Bitcoin' — scare-quotes because it lumps together so many disparate things — has less to do with misleading extractive-industry metaphors than with the simple act of verifiably recording that some event happened, i.e., making it more efficient (for the time being) to record an event than to forge it. That's it. Right now, what's mostly being recorded is noise — not in the blockchain but in all the externalities this tautology contributes to (e.g., carbon emissions). The challenge is to figure out what's worth recording — which is literally the oldest problem in the book.


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