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Aeonic Epochalypse w/ Wassim Alsindi

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We return with Wassim Alsindi to survey the territories of Necroprimitivism & Bitcoin Thermodynamics & The Dark Forest of Bhutan & Baudrillard & Xenomoney & Anna Greenspan’s Capitalism’s Transcendental Time Machine & Timechains.

Wassim is the founder and creative director of the 0x Salon, which conducts experiments in post-disciplinary collective knowledge practices. A veteran of the timechain, Wassim specialises in conceptual design and philosophy of peer-to-peer systems, on which he writes, speaks, teaches, and consults. He has an editorial column at the MIT Computational Law Report, and he co-founded MIT’s Cryptoeconomic Systems journal and conference series. Wassim has curated arts festivals, led a sculptural engineering laboratory and published experimental music, satirical theatre, poetry, and speculative scripture. Wassim holds a Ph.D. in ultrafast supramolecular photophysics from the University of Nottingham.

Wassim Alsindi notes:

Dustin Breitling: Since the last time we spoke, there have been several projects you have been linked to, and you have also spearheaded a publication with Max Hampshire and Paul Seidler. First, let’s excavate into your Necroprimitivist manifesto, and Necroprimitivst rising, and your recent Prophet Motives Lecture. Can you weave together the nature of Necroprimitivism and Bitcoin as an inhuman Monetary System or a brute force thermodynamic race that, as you assert Bitcoin “locks capital and ecology into a zero-sum game where resource scarcity tips the balance in favour of competition as opposed to cooperation.” Can you expound on some of the pillars of your thesis?

Wassim Alsindi: Bitcoin, as protocol, network, thermodynamic jurisdiction

Bitcoin as an inhuman Monetary System
literal exemplification of incarnation via algorithmic ritual.
Code made object, instantiated through cryptography, game theory, and thermodynamics.
machine-to-machine economy
energy scarcity regime (solar light capture)
difficulty adjustment -> no satiety to PoW
it wants all the energy, and can pay for it

brute force thermodynamic race
mining as lottery
speed of light as constraint
PoW as mathematical violence, escalating as capital and time accumulate in the timechain’s ledger

zero-sum game
where resource scarcity tips the balance in favour of competition as opposed to cooperation

NP, petro-masculinity and thermo-Austrianism
The libertarian streak that runs through Bitcoin necessitates that everything has a price. To Bitcoiners, this is an improvement over trusted parties and authorities. What is the price of anarchy in Bitcoin’s agora, and in what ways does this price become due?

the cockroach of money
eternally contingent systems
‘timechains don’t pivot, they fork’ > ‘upgrade’ as schismogenesis & network secession
change-resistance of both protocol and timechain historicities that leads to a succinct encapsulation of the titular concept of necroprimitivism, proceeding by way of the ‘Capitalist Realism’ soundbyte via Fisher by way of Jameson and Žižek: 

it is more prophetable to imagine an end to the world, than a change to Bitcoin’s consensus mechanism

The Church and The Network, Zeal and Time, Death and Money, All sides of the same Coin. The Black Hole of Money, 0x Salon, 2022.

As the planet warms, new authoritarian movements in the West are embracing a toxic combination of climate denial, racism and misogyny. Petro-masculinity appreciates the historic role of fossil fuel systems in buttressing white patriarchal rule, as anxieties aroused by the Anthropocene augment desires for authoritarianism. Petro-masculinity suggests that fossil fuels mean more than profit; they contribute to making identities. Through a psycho-political reading of authoritarianism, fossil fuel use can function as a violent reactionary practice.
Cara Daggett, “Petro-masculinity: Fossil Fuels and Authoritarian Desire” (edited), Millennium: Journal of International Studies, 2018

Informed by Aristotle and Jevons, and cloaked in pseudo-objective concepts and lingo, the Austrian School considered that for objects to be enduringly usable in trading systems, they must be scarce and of limited supply. Bitcoin has some similarities with traditional monetary commodities that were chiefly precious metals—difficulty of production, limited availability, facile authentication—despite rather different bases of scarcity.
Bitcoin enforces algorithmic, universal scarcity via the ‘costly’ thermoeconomic process of calculating otherwise useless cryptographic hashes: the Bitcoin believers’ pseudo-monetary thermo-Austrian philosophy corresponds to a materialist logic of scarcity applied within a virtual environment that is otherwise ideally suited to logics of abundance. 

The snarled root of necroprimitivism appears to arise from a nihilistic union of the NP-hard commodity-money belief of thermo-Austrianism, the abundance framework and petriarchial logics of petro-masculinity, and the immutable whitepaperism and computationalist absolutism of (protocol-)code-as(-network)-law.

The Necroprimitivist Manifesto, 0x Salon.
In The State-Machine of Nature (Nothing Will Be Lost, Life Is Nasty, Brutish, and Short)
A reified sacrifice to the Networked Gods.
Global consensus is the crowning achievement of the Universe.
A new bedrock of veridicality $WE must defend at all costs.
The means justify the ends, because there is no end.

Behold $MY Distributed Ledger Theologies.
$I am the Code, the Law.
The Slow Chancellation of the Future.
Contagion The Baptist.
Dice ex nihilo. Vita negativa. Ecce HOMOlogy.
$MY Book of Contingenesis: stasis as a form of grace.
$MY Holy Coinmunion.
Transaction as transubstantiation.
$MY hashes as sacrament. 

DB: Further untangling the Prophet Motive presentation, one of the key slides Then & Now Conceptual Art, Materiality, Labour & Value. I think another key figure, or perhaps the ‘simulated prophet’ you draw upon also becomes Baudrillard and his work Symbolic Exchange and Death. Can you draw out the link between his work in relation to the nature of XenoMoney and NFTs?

WA: “We now live in a world dominated by the free play of the ‘monetary sign’ that is beyond reference to any ‘real’ of production or even a monetary referent in the form of a gold standard. In this world, the idea of a ‘real’ value (of equities, of commodities, of houses, of anything) is meaningless as what matters instead is not value per se but ‘infinite speculation’…this new world is marked by the emergence of a ‘brothel of capital…not for prostitution, but for substitution and commutation.”(Baudrillard, Symbolic Exchange and Death)

Three stage genealogy leading to this ‘hypercapitalist, neoliberal moment’: 

i) [raw commodity form]  // natural value (agricultural economies)

ii) [refined commodity form]  // social value (production economies)

iii) [symbolic form] // post-social monetary signs (meme economies)

ii) ↔ iii) 

The collapse of commodity value forms. separation of capital from class, the implosion of the social into the mass

The strategy of the system of power is to displace the time of the exchange, substituting continuity and mortal linearity for the immediate retaliation of death. It is thus futile for the slave (the worker) to give little by little, in infinitesimal doses, to the rope of labour on which he is hung to death, to give his life to the master or to capital, for this ‘sacrifice’ in small doses is no longer a sacrifice – it doesn’t touch the most important thing, the différance of death, and merely distils a process whose structure remains the same.

Labour is slow death. This is generally understood in the sense of physical exhaustion. But it must be understood in another sense. Labour is not opposed, like a sort of death, to the ‘fulfilment of life’, which is the idealist view; labour is opposed as a slow death to a violent death. That is the symbolic reality. Labour is opposed as deferred death to the immediate death of sacrifice.

Labour power is instituted on death. A man must die to become labour power. He converts this death into a wage. But the economic violence capital inflicted on him in the equivalence of the wage and labour power is nothing next to the symbolic violence inflicted on him by his definition as a productive force. Faking this equivalence is nothing next to the equivalence, qua signs, of wages and death.” (Baudrillard, Symbolic Exchange and Death)

>> Money as Simulacrum: The Legal Nature & Reality of Money, Hastings Biz Law Journal, 2009

This paper contends that such a world exists because money is a pure simulacrum that has taken on a reality of its own, a reality that is now untethered to the fact that money’s significance used to be limited by its role as a symbol of an underlying thing of value. But money is now a pure thing in and of itself, with value, existence and purpose that is independent of any signified thing. When money became released from its role as symbol, the foundation was laid for the world we live in today. 

>> Baudrillard The Ecstasy of Communication

“There is no longer any system of objects…only projections”

DB: Let’s examine your recent publication of the book edition of Anna Greenspan’s PhD thesis ‘Capitalism’s Transcendental Time Machine’ which was co-edited with Max Hampshire, Paul Seidler. What drew you to the project? Can you situate Greenspan’s work, which arguably is a departure in tone from the vertiginous, propulsive, and deranging tone of CCRU’s work? 

WA: Came to it from a place of practical necessity: working with the timechain, and thinking of blockchains as time machines since at least 2018’s forkonomy which used network schisms as an opportunity to make ‘apples-to-apples’ comparisons with networks that share a common origin 

Nascent: the exit tech / time-art studio operated by Seidler and Hampshire had been interested in Greenspan’s work for years, and their Temporal Secessionism reading group on Urbit led me to read the thesis on a long-overdue sabbatical from the MIT journal and conference series I’d been running in the summer of 2020, alongside many of the wilder and more “canonical” CCRU texts. It left me dizzy: these were exactly the pieces of the conceptual puzzle I’d been missing as a practitioner attempting to mix data science and epistemology, thinking I was doing theoretical computer science and getting disappointed when CS conferences would reject my papers. Here was a clear (to an analytic &  continental philosophy outsider), legible, and well-researched trajectory of temporal thought which began a little later than my scientific one but provided the necessary structure for me to develop my theories of Bitcoin’s “chronaissance”.

Greenspan’s style of writing in Capitalism’s Transcendental Time Machine is concise, measured, and didactic in tone—a sharp contrast to the wilder nature of the CCRU corpus. Having said that, both the thematic content of Greenspan’s work and her methodological approach are no less prescient or evocative; they are arguably more so. Greenspan’s materialist analysis of the concept of time is mediated through thinkers as diverse as Plato, Marx, and Foucault. As a result, the text incorporates philosophical positions from ancient to modern eras, in parallel with associated conditions of social and material production. Despite the breadth of the work under discussion, Greenspan’s clarity of thought allows a reader to approach Capitalism’s Transcendental Time Machine without any prior knowledge of either contemporary philosophy, or the adjacent CCRU body of work. Indeed, Greenspan’s discussion of transcendental materialism, planes of immanence, and machinic autonomy with reference to the temporal drives of capital increases the legibility of other CCRU texts and concepts.

DB: Can you elaborate or provide a bit of an exposition that you see perhaps Anna Greenspan’s work foregrounds that also echoes Amy Ireland tweet “that, fundamentally, Acceleration is a theory of time?” Greenspan enlists an array of thinkers that are at the crux of her work particularly the work of Kant. Can you unpack how his work is situated within Greenspan’s book? Additionally, your research has dovetailed a focus on the materiality of timekeeping, how did Greenspans work “concrete and material practices of timekeeping to establish a connection between the abstract concepts of transcendental philosophy, and the technologies of time measurement”, shape your interest?

WA: (Newton >) Kant > (Bergson >) Deleuze > Greenspan

The notion of time is, inarguably, one of the most crucial pillars of the CCRU theoretical fabric, later referred to as ‘accelerationism.’ Isomorphism accelerationism <> theory of time & its end.

For Greenspan, as well as for Ireland, the development of conceptions of time can only ever be thought of in relation to emerging techno-capitalist apparatuses—which themselves generate time—and it is the distribution, ordering, and arbitration of time that these apparatuses control. Capitalist time is ultimately born of strict equivalence with capital. In essence, ‘Time = Money.’

Time <> Capital <> Labour
Time production <> Capital production <> Control of Labour

Kant’s time as an inner form, no longer subjected by space
a transcendental structure, with a barrier to the outside

Time becomes the necessary precondition for any potential experience, inverting the dependency-relation of pre-modern thought that follows on from the Platonic tradition wherein space is the necessary precondition for subjective experience. For Kant, time is abstract in that it undergirds the potential for experience to even be understood.

Reason is not evaluated as an ordering principle, but rather as a misguided by-product of a process that originates within the realm of the transcendental. The Cartesian notion of the ego as an intentional, legislative force is washed away by the autogenerative alterity of time, with the ultimate determination of human interiority arising from the outside. Given that the interiority of the subject is defined by ‘what happens in Time,’ the exterior is the a priori productive force of time itself. As a consequence, the human no longer appears to be an enlightened subject guided by reason and free will, but instead resembles a puppet unable to grasp what is pulling its strings.

Concrete practises of timekeeping – clock, calendar, factories, empire time, GMT > the universality and alt-historicity of the timechain

DB: In your forward you also advance and expand upon Greenspan’s thesis by anchoring the nature of temporality within the role of Blockchain. We are familiar with Land’s infamous, pithy contention that “Blockchain solves the problem of spacetime.” Can you also situate how your foreward extends certain strands and contributes a new field of considerations with respect to temporality concerning blockchain? Perhaps, we can moor a few considerations orbiting around “The temporal production via Bitcoin’s network, proof-of-work, and the timechain ledger proceeds in two modes.” Could you expand on that?

WA: cyber-clock, immmanent, virtual events… ~Kairos/Aeon

block-clock, timechain, strictly sequence, ordinal, pure Chronos

First of all, let’s say something about Greenspan’s teleological termination point of Y2K, and how it heralded a new dawn of machine time.

Our goal is to situate and further develop Greenspan’s theories in the context of the present day (2022). Within the moment of Y2K, there was present an understanding that the machinery of networks and digital computation facilitates new potentials for universalities and totalities. The remainder of this accompanying text serves to propose an extrapolation from Y2K to the present, through a historical examination of different modes of networked time, culminating in Bitcoin’s decentralized clock.

All of the techno-economic affordances of virtual capital flows through cyberspace are rendered achievable through the proliferation of chronometers for cyberspace, in the ascendance since Y2K. Digital timekeeping at scale began in earnest at the dawn of the 1970s, with the creation, ex nihilo, of Unix Time.

Bitcoin is a decentralized timestamping server, and the transactions are simply messages changing the effective balances that each network participant has access to. These balances are denominated in the native unit of the system, BTC, and are used to pay transaction fees to miners, functioning as the de facto currency with which value is redistributed amongst the users of the network. Satoshi Nakamoto used the word ‘timestamp’ on fourteen occasions in the Bitcoin whitepaper. Bitcoin is an abstract timekeeping daemon incarnated through cryptography, economics, and thermodynamics. After Kant, Deleuze and Guattari, and Greenspan, we can regard Bitcoin (and other timechain networks employing peer-to-peer consensus mechanisms) as a new form of time production that is ever more deeply connected to capitalist processes than anything that preceded it.

Timechain technology achieves its own temporal synthesis vis-à-vis the mediation of both a virtual and recorded event by way of a ‘schizotemporal duality’ extant in such peer-to-peer networks. Proof-of-work functions as a leaderless consensus mechanism whereby the recording of virtual events (transactions) towards a ledger takes place, creating a chronological, numerical order, thereby materializing the potential of an immanent peer-to-peer network through computation and energy.

Characterising this biphasic dualism is far from straightforward, but Greenspan’s work relating to cyberspace time provides a sound baseline from which to make onto-epistemic approaches. Aspects of cyber-clock time and block-clock time were characterised by Greenspan in Capitalism’s Transcendental Time Machine with reference to a more general conception of “cyberspace time.” Greenspan considered cyberspace time to be inhuman, mechanically simulatory, and implying quantisation. As cyberspace is nonlocalizable, its regime of time would be transglobal or post-global—today we might use the term decentralized. An immanent machinic culture (peer-to-peer), cyberspace-time would measure nothing outside of its domain of orientation (hard-bounded). As an abstract yet empirical method of timekeeping, cyberspace-time would require a larger paradigm shift than the clock was to the calendar.

The temporal production via Bitcoin’s network, proof-of-work, and the timechain ledger proceeds in two modes. Firstly, a continuous cyber-clock mode exists where nodes propose transactions in ‘real-time.’ After being broadcast and propagated through the network by nodes relaying transactions to their peers, these ‘unconfirmed transactions’ are then held in mining nodes’ working memory, typically traditional RAM. Collectively, this provisional memory is referred to as a network’s ‘mempool’ (memory pool)—itself pure virtual potential—as the sequence of events to be confirmed and canonized has yet to be determined. This is an existence outside of time, in deep contingency.

Secondly, a discrete block-clock mode ticks to the sequential cadence of confirmed blocks that is strictly under the regime of Chronos. In this sense, proof-of-work is the immanent timekeeping mechanism, which leaderlessly transmutes virtual network activity through the computational power of capital into ordinally sequenced batches of pure Chronos. The affect of abstract virtualities such as capital itself leaches into the sequencing and ordering of time itself.


Baudrillard, J., 1976. Symbolic Exchange and Death. SAGE Publications Ltd.

Greenspan A., 2023. Capitalism’s Transcendental Time Machine. Miskatonic Virtual University Press

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