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As the next phase of world history

Cryptocommunism
Forfatter: Mark Alizart
Forlag: Polity
(Storbritannia)

BITCOIN: In a book that is both wild, elegant and utopian, the accelerator Mark Alizart sees bitcoin as the very king's road to a classless society and a better future.

(Partly machine-translated from Norwegian by Gtranslate (extended Google))

Bitcoin makes Marx's dreams come true ", claims Mark Alizart. What dreams? Above all, the hope of a system that can distribute power among the people, a social order that enables equality and freedom without intermediaries and power classes.

Before the revolution came the Reformation, Alizart continues: As princes conveyed political power, the priests and the church conveyed the divine until Martin Luther laid the foundation for a direct relationship with God that everyone read the Bible for themselves. A distribution of a divine approach is here both the goal and the means. This does not end in anarchy, but in a new law owned by all in a new "communist" community.

Symbiosis, mutual help and usefulness characterize higher life forms.

The reference to religion also becomes an opportunity to point out that the word "credit" comes from the word "crede", to believe. Trust and faith are also the crucial but weak link in the monetary system. The modern state is, as Alizart reads Marx, itself a function of the market. Banks are the crucial intermediaries, which thus become the decisive power factor in politics as well as in the economy. By Bitcoin made trust in a code, and bankone is made redundant, according to Alizart. Thus, the people themselves will be able to distribute this money power and make the state redundant. The faith and trust that was conveyed and controlled by powerful institutions can now be written into algorithms owned by everyone involved in the monetary system.

A cyber-communalism

Marx further developed the work based on the work value theory: It is the energy that is put into the processing of raw materials that creates the value, a work that is utilized by the capital owner who takes out the profit or added value. For this reason, Marx is rather disinterested in the monetary system, which he sees only as an abstraction of more fundamental exchanges between human energy and matter. But money is information, Alizart points out, and it also makes a huge difference in the distribution of energy and work. With another monetary system, such as crypto- and blockchain, it becomes more difficult to extract added value or to manipulate the market – in short, to maintain capital power.

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With the support of both the Marxist structuralist Althusser and the theory of cybernetic self-regulatory systems, Alizart emphasizes impersonal system changes rather than strong political subjects. It is technology that enables new societies. Online utopians such as Stewart Brand and Kevin Kelly envisioned cyber-communalism in the 90s – a free-sharing society, which has also contributed to open-source initiatives and platforms such as Wikipedia.

But the commercialization of Internet, and the influx of money, has led to an enormous concentration of power, a feudalization of the internet controlled by Google, Amazon, Facebook and Apple. The next step will thus be to create a division-based monetary system and to break up these companies and the concentration of power of financial capitalism.

An alternative currency

But can a change in the monetary system change the world? Alizart points out that the socialist first futurist HG Wells already in the book The World Set Free in 1913 imagined a global brain that could incarnate the general intelligence of mankind. Not only did he predict the internet, but he also speculated about the possibility of an alternative currency, which was based on energy production and energy consumption. Similarly, Kim Stanley has Robinson in his latest book The Ministry for the Future (2020) given kryptovaluta og blockchain a crucial role, with a carbon crypto unit as the key to calculating CO2 pollution and sequestration (purification) directly into the money economy. This could break down the international financial market's iron grip on democratic state policy, precisely what has prevented drastic environmental measures.

Emphasis is placed on impersonal system changes rather than on strong political subjects.

But can a coding system like blockchain and bitcoin really make such a big difference in the development of the world? We must not underestimate the importance of codes and information systems, Alizart points out. DNA is a codesystem, and the key to all life on earth. Not only that, but it is a code shared between all the organisms that "use" and modify the code. The basic principles of life itself thus have a structure that works analogously to the cryptocurrencies. And although nature is characterized by fierce competition between carriers of different genes, Alizart further speculates, the tendency in nature is for organisms to become more integrated as they become more intelligent. Symbiosis, mutual help and usefulness characterize higher life forms. A blockchain-based social order will thus be able to create an organic unity between people, based on shared codes and nature's own organizational principles.

Utopian speculations

It goes fast in the turns in this book, which also does not shy away from demanding technicalities, such as Shatosi Nakamotos solution to the game theory puzzle with Byzantine generals, which gave rise to blockchain technology. Unless one is an expert in the many areas of knowledge the author draws on, it is, to put it mildly, difficult to take a position on the radical conclusions.

Alizart's speculations about bitcoin's potential must also not be confused with statements about what future we have in store. The reader must distinguish between genius and madness. In any case, we may have to come to terms with the fact that our own historical situation is a gigantic and confusing upheaval – where reality and the wildest speculations interfere with each other.

A thousand questions are of course left unanswered by Alizart, but he raises some objections along the way: Do we not already see a chaos of new cryptocurrencies? Does not the trend point towards wild economic speculation and competition rather than towards restraint and agreement?

But bitcoin is the biggest, and for important reasons: Although trust is written as an algorithm, bitcoin owners form a community with built-in democratic (and evolutionary) principles. If someone wants to break out or create a breakaway faction, they must first become large enough – and then prove that they are viable on their own. The desire to maintain confidence in the currency binds the players together.

Quiet revolution or wild acceleration

Will the bitcoin upheaval be a silent transformation – an invisible and peaceful revolution? Not necessarily, Alizart says towards the end Cryptocommunism. The Reformation and Revolution led to centuries of conflict between the progressives and those who defended the old regime. Any rapid development is also dangerous, he warns. On a deeper level, however, it is not a radical choice, but a kind of evolution, Alizart assumes: Bitcoin is part of the deeper transition from an energy-based economy and form of society characterized by competition and conflict to a more fine-tuned and peaceful form based on information and intelligence.

Unlike energy, information is not subject to the second law of thermodynamics, it does not deteriorate when it is distributed. Alizart also proves to be a kind accelerator, partly inspired by Bastiani's luxury communism: It is about producing a surplus of intelligence, information that is distributed among all people. When intelligence creates wealth, wealth will also create more leeway and more intelligence. Social change will go faster and faster to it with one "take off". Commonly owned intelligent solutions will replace exclusive ownership that gives political power and creates oppression. In this way, bitcoin will be able to free us from material restrictions and the iron laws of the energy economy. Something we can easily believe in as long as we assume that the conceivable is also possible.


also read interview with Armen Avanessian about accelerationism.

Anders Dunker
Philosopher. Regular literary critic in Ny Tid. Translator.

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