The protocol of greed: capitalism, machines and bitcoin.

My comment to the article “Bitcoin = Death Processors
First of all, we should separate “blockchain” as a general system of distributed ledger form Bitcoin, that is very specific implementation thereof. Blockchain needs no mining, blockchain uses NO excessive energy nor needs hijacked processing power. The fact that the author does not know the difference makes the whole rant much less viable.

As the rhetoric develops into more ornamental accusations, the author keeps using “blockchain networks” synonymously with “bitcoin”. Which is disconnected from reality, both technical and social. Bitcoin is not the only, and now even not the major implementation of blockchains. As the majority of accusations refers to peculiar aspects of bitcoin, I find the explicit appeal “The blockchain must be stopped.” arbitrary and not supported by any of the arguments given in the article.
I have my own reservations, regarding potential social toxicity of blockchain solutions, but this has nothing to do with the reasons laid out in the article.
If we filter out blockchain misunderstanding, whatever remains is quite reasonable, if baroque in form, diatribe against capitalism. While not clearly explained, recurrent pattern is that miners are doing meaningless, artificially complicated work, (ab)using environmental resources, producing nothing of practical usability — only symbolic financial profit. I agree.
This is a definition of great majority of wage labour and business activity (especially in financial sector). This is capitalism in action.
The conventional metrics (measure) of profit, accepted either voluntarily or imposed through economic violence, encompasses all efforts of those, who keep capitalism on their backs. The holy grail, “passive income”, when one is paid for doing no work at all, is available for just a fraction of population. The rest is striving to do as little as possible for as big gain as they can get. Thus the rise of the machines, thus the shitty jobs, thus the supremacy of symbolic work: finances, marketing, entrepreneurship.
So, yes, I agree with this aspect of the article. Bitcoin is a pure, refined essence of capitalism, and as such it shows concentrated traits of it. Its geeky pedigree made it harder to spot at the beginning, but now it is clear and visible.
There are also some good news, however.
There are already other types of cryptocoins, based on different paradigms. While Bitcoin uses “proof-of-work” to allocate new units, another known way is “proof-of-stake” which basically means “the more you have, the more you will get”. Within days from now ( we should see “proof-of-cooperation” implemented for new generation of Faircoin. And that would be both a game changer AND a radical remedy for Bitcoin flaws.
There are two ways to cancel the Bitcoin mining rush. One is to abolish capitalism. Another one — to wait, probably 2-3 years from now. The amount of units (21 million) is largely mined now. Expectations are that this year Bitcoin will be 80% mined. Also, as its advocates claim, the last 5% of the pool may be prohibitively hard to mine. Thus, the miners would loose their main job. They would remain the curators of blockchain ledger, but this is a real service for those who use Bitcoin, while much less resouce-hungry (and less profitable).
It will, perhaps, solve the problem of Bitcoin mining. But it will not solve the problem of capitalism. People who internalised the metrics of profit will always be looking for “cost efficient” occupation. The one with minimal effort (or the effort externalised through machinisation and slavery) and maximum financial gain. Keeping the money as a universal carrier of all relationships will keep the pattern perpetual. And because majority of people have internalised “the protocol of greed”, they are actively resisting any changes (see: proof-of-stake and “investment protection”).
What can be done, then? Well, quite a lot, I believe.
Some humans believe that the violent actions, disruption of the civilisation will set people free and let them “naturally” build new, non-capitalist reality. Be it a global revolution, climate change or any other big-scale game changer — I can agree that it would be an opening. But what next? The problem is that hardly any serious work is done to create comprehensive alternative proposal.
There is a little bit done under various post-capitalist banners, which some people find the best way. However, knowing the protean and ever-absorbing nature of the beast, I do not se a real chance to abolish capitalism through making it post-capitalist. Capitalism with human face, but still capitalism.
I believe that what is needed, it is a brand new area of economic and technological solutions, rationally derived from radical, non-capitalist assumptions. One of such examples is economy of gift, coupled with horizontal, consensus based self-governance. Laid-back as it may sound, it is one of the most demanding, morally and emotionally, ways to go. Certainly not for the masses.
Just recently, Cory Doctorow published a novel, Walkaway (YES! Read it!), conveying some kind of manifesto. Depicting exactly such a community, he shows that there is no need for revolution in a classic sense. It is enough just to walk away from capitalism. Turn our backs ad find a place where new social reality can be built.
Of course, we all know dozens of reasons why it would not work. Using his privilege as a storyteller, Doctorow “solves” most of practical problems in his story, introducing technologies that create universal abundance, making the walkaway life pretty comfortable and exciting. But he has a reason for it. Once he removes practical obstacles, we start seeing clearly, that the real problem is our internalised protocol of greed: greed for power, greed for resources, greed for attention. This is what was done to us: deeply ingrained belief that being a “superhuman” is to concentrate everything, at a cost of others. But, as the saying goes, it is not about what they did to us; it is about what we do with what they did to us. Now, as we see the problem, we can attempt to reprogram ourselves. As one of the novel’s characters says:
The best way to be superhuman is to do things that you love with other people who love them, too. The only way to do that is to admit you’re doing it because you love it and if you do more than everyone, you’re still only doing that because that’s what you choose.
Paraphrasing Woody Guthrie, “this machine kills capitalism”. :-)
The moment when thousands of people will be able to walk away from capitalism, into new reality of love and gift, is way ahead of us. And the amount of work, very practical work, to prepare new reality, is tantamount. But this is the only way to stop the monster, so vividly pictured in the article. The only way to survive the disruptions coming our way. And we are the only ones that can do the work.
On my minuscule scale I am trying to contribute to this work. You, Dear Reader, are invited to talk to me about it. Let’s compare notes and see what can be done together.


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