At the Edges of Activism
From a self-destructing cryptocurrency to a meditation on what is meant by “the world”, here are three ways activism is developing.
Bomb is a radical social experiment that expands the horizon of activist possibility.
I have been lurking in cryptocurrency since 2010. Back then Bitcoin was worthless. I still remember the bitcoin faucet that Gavin Andresen developed. It gave away 5 bitcoins to anyone who asked for them. Today that would be worth $17,870 USD, down from a peak of roughly $95,000 USD.
My interest in Bitcoin was renewed during Occupy Wall Street, a global movement in 2011 that was reacting to the same world-historic financial events of 2008 that the anonymous creator(s) of Bitcoin were responding to. And I was still watching when the competition between Counterparty, built on Bitcoin, and a new beast called Ethereum, first emerged. Through the repeated boom and bust cycles in the last eight years, I have kept a silent watch.
I have remained fascinated by cryptocurrency because the creation of new forms of money is a powerful activist tool.
In the years since Bitcoin's creation, regulatory pressures combined with the changing culture of the cryptocurrency scene have shifted the excitement and funding away from creating new currencies, towards using the Blockchain for other noble ends—such as, building a decentralized, global computer that runs programs ("distributed apps") on the blockchain. The fear of being charged with securities fraud, something the state is well equipped to persecute successfully, has pushed cryptocurrency away from its power as an activist tool.
Bomb is activist code that codifies new, irrevocable economic laws of resistance.
Building a decentralized computer is a good goal. It is an exciting goal. But a decentralized computer is not sufficient for the needs of activists unless that computer is being used to run programs that directly challenge the sovereignty of the state. The epiphany that got me hooked on crypto was the same idea that gave birth to Occupy Wall Street: the people ought to have more power than their governments because the people’s sovereignty is higher than the government’s sovereignty.
The founding documents of modern democracy assert unequivocally that the government’s sovereignty derives from the people’s sovereignty.
The creation of money is a sovereign's exclusive right. The issuance of currency and its use among the general public is a right that the state claims entirely. That is why the ability to create viable money, crypto currencies that at times threaten to overshadow fiat currency, is an assertion of sovereignty.
As I've argued elsewhere, all activism must be oriented around the capture of sovereignty, in its many forms from electoral sovereignty to martial sovereignty to financial sovereignty. The assertion of sovereignty implicit in the creation of cryptocurrencies is a tremendous leverage point that activists can utilize.
The more Bomb is used, the fewer Bomb will exist.
I caught Bomb's announcement three weeks ago on r/cryptocurrency and immediately saw the revolutionary potential. Bomb works because it is autonomous, simple and in contradiction to the existing concepts of money.
Bomb's premise is simple and direct. Bomb is a self-destructing hyper-deflationary coin.
Here is how the creators explain their creation:
A self-destructing coin whose scarcity dictates that its value will increase in relationship to its use.
The hardcoded supply limit ensures that the destruction of even just one bomb can increase the value of all bombs. The system rewards thrift and savings while also encouraging large transfers because of the way that the 1% transaction cost is calculated.
To see how alien the bomb's economic laws ("tokenomics") are from our own, consider what happens if you buy 1 bomb off forkdelta. The moment you pay for the bomb coin it, metaphorically, explodes and you are left with nothing.
This is because, unlike most other cryptocurrencies, bomb is not divisible. This is how the creator's describe the destruction process:
But why might activists want to pay attention to how this "social experiment" plays out?
What can activists learn from Bomb?
Bomb has irrevocably established a new economic law in contradiction to the arbitrary economic laws dictated by the recognized sovereign powers governing our world. In demonstrating that this is possible, regardless of the outcome, Bomb has expanded the activist’s repertoire of action.
In violating the rules of money, Bomb opens up a new avenue of potential activist tactics. Regardless of how Bomb's "social experiment" ends, and I hope that it ends well, activists ought to be emboldened that we have perhaps found a new terrain of combat that gives us an advantage over existing sovereign powers.
Activists have been turning the transformation of monetary systems into a form of protest for generations—from Silvio Gesell's experiments in accelerating the velocity of money (the greatest injustice, according to Gesell, was that money didn’t decay) to Enric Duran's tactic of taking out loans from corporate banks, giving the money to activist groups and publicly refusing to pay back the loan. Coincidentally, Duran is also working on a cryptocurrency: Faircoin.
But Bomb feels different than these previous experiments. It feels new, unencumbered by trying to design a currency that aligns with our ideologies. This experiment in directly contradicting the dominant economic logic is refreshing.
Thanks to the power of smart contracts, Bomb will exist autonomously and in perpetuity until they’ve all been consumed. The beautiful nature of smart contracts in general is their ability to run on the global blockchain computer without intervention from humans. Of course, some if not most smart contracts do not run completely autonomously. The most dangerous ones do. Acting autonomously is the highest possible assertion of sovereignty. And so while we may know the creators of Bomb, we will never be able to stop the experiment from unfolding. I can’t wait to see what will happen.
Shortly after the final version of the Bomb token was released into the wild 7,457 coins were destroyed through transaction fees. Bomb is being traded on the decentralized exchanges such as, Forkdelta, which also run autonomously and can never be shut down.
Finding bomb on Forkdelta is a bit tricky because the coin is so new. For now, click Other under the token drop down menu then enter, bomb’s contract address: 0x1c95b093d6c236d3ef7c796fe33f9cc6b8606714, token: Bomb, decimal points: 0.
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Activism Against Activism
Here is a visual representation of Micah’s recent keynote talk at the OLA Superconference in Toronto explaining the three reasons activism is failing: broken theory of change, broken strategy, broken activist culture. Click image to enlarge.
What is “the world”?
Watch this clip from the Activist Graduate School’s course How to Change the World as Chiara Ricciardone meditates on Hannah Arendt, what is meant by the world, and why activists need to expand our understanding of “changing the world.”