I was reading the code of the June 23rd announcement of MultiModel Learning Across Domains (code) (blog) when (in that classic post-attention hyper-shifting net-mode) an article on Bancor Unchained: All Your Token Are Belong To Us somehow appeared to warn me:

“The only thing that matters is what’s in the code.”

Bancor Unchained highlights the fact that the smart contract is executed by compiled code, not ideas or promises. The features announced by an ICO, and the nuanced philosophical or theoretical whitepapers (pdf) that precede or accompany an ICO ( these mysterious mania-driven events) might not be fully reflected in the pragmatic reality of what the code (which is at its core the smart contract; the smarts of it being nothing more than the tedious encrypted tension of encapsulated processes reiterating) can do.

Reading the the Bancor code does not offer a glimpse of a theoretical paradigm leap in programming structure: the code begins with ‘pragma’ and ‘import’ statements (also found in Swift, Java, Python, Haskell, Go, Scala, Objective C etc…). It uses syntax historically indiscernible from other code.

In other words, as the lawyers are swept out and dissolve in a swarm of irrelevancies, a new tide carries in programmers, who distill and implement the ideals of politicals, who have imbibed on philosophies of deterritorialized egalitarianism, who have perhaps had a poetic epiphany or vision of another world. At each juncture of that flow, the idealistic impulse mutates, descending, concretized susceptible to selfishness.

Prepare for a new breed of power: the code-lawyer, a synthesis of programmer, lawyer and contractual negotiator. Prepare for gender bias in the tech and law world to continue. The law-ICO-programmer becomes the final interpreter who implements the subtle fine print, backdoors, and grift. Code is the new fine print:

the large print giveth and the small print taketh away

As David Graeber outlines in Debt, the Axial Age (from 8th-3rd BCE, which the existential philosopher Karl Jaspers identified as the birth zone of philosophy in India, China, Greece and Mesopotamia) was also the period when money and organized armies of mercenaries were born. These shifts consolidated numerous extraordinary transitions in culture and thought. Yet they did not change core hierarchical tribal territorial patterns of acquisitiveness.

We are in the midst of another Axial Age. Cryptocurrencies will eradicate paper currency. Smart contracts and blockchains are the foundations of new forms of business and community. Yet until the instincts of humanity mutate, basic inequity will persist.

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