I am working on my talk on the prayer blockchain. And I wrote down a bunch of my thoughts on exchange and prayer that
are not appropriate for the talk but I figured I would post it.
The prayer blockchain is about rethinking exchange and value through the metaphor of prayer.
That is a long title and blockchain is sexy so you you know prayer blockchain
So lets unpack what I mean by a prayer blockchain and why I built it and what you can do with it
If you want more information please go to the first part of this post. I am going to talk about tech now.
So we have technologies for mediating these types of exchanges. We have money for mediating debt, we have parties and things for mediating gifts, and we have religion for mediating prayers. These are structures that enable us to create these types of exchanges and activities. They are a type of technology.
With the blockchain we have a true revolution in mediating debt. This is for three reasons that I have not created good names for but lets call it a) trustless, b) history c) programmability.
So first off trustless. Who decides what has value? This is what trust means. Why does the dollar have value – “In God We Trust”. This is not a quantitative value, like how do we know a dollar is a dollar, but an existential value. How do we know that something is worthy of value? How do we know this is a dollar and not monopoly money. Which system of exchange can I use this within?
The real utility of blockchain technology is that we can create a digital asset and know exactly (or limit) how many times it is exchanged or reproduced. This is a difficult issue because the defining characteristic of digital technology is that it is infinitely reproducible. A piece of software unlike a sheave of wheat or a bayblade has zero marginal cost and can be replicated with out any additional work. But something that can be infinitely generated can be a bad record or store of value if it is easy to create fictional entries.
With CONSENSUS we replace the the standard of value, which has been an authority institution such as the government or religious authority, with a concept or algorithm CONSENSUS. Now this can be an authority consensus, such as proof of authority used by many private blockchains, or it can be something else such as proof of stake or proof of work.
So who decides if a payment has been sent, or a gift has been exchanged, or a prayer has been made?
Does this matter for a prayer? We can kinda see why this would be important for a payment or a gift. It is a material exchange. A prayer is an immaterial exchange why do we care if there is a record of it? I am not sure. but I am curious what happens if we make all these invisible or immaterial desires manifest. What if we refine our prayers/intentions/affirmations? What will this do to our culture. We are in a time where all things that were once firmly material are in part immaterial, controlled by data and evolving algorithms rather than by physical mechanical processes. Perhaps the immaterial and invisible and half understood desires embodied by prayers would benefit from a material intervention. Perhaps a record of prayer would illuminate our prayers and help concretize them in some way. Since prayers are personal, it makes sense that we want to use an algorithm to determine what prayers have been made and who has made them.
What is at stake in a double spent prayer. I am not sure, It is perhaps, an idea of False Consciousness :
“False consciousness” is a concept derived from Marxist theory of social class. The concept refers to the systematic misrepresentation of dominant social relations in the consciousness of subordinate classes
from the internet – D. Little.
Lets say that prayers/affirmations/intentions are a representation of consciousness. To manipulate or falsify this consciousness is to some how damage society at large. To reveal a truthful map of desire is to elevate society.
Ok Lets talk about history.
The blockchain is money with a history. This is both exciting and terrifying. Do I really want to know where that dollar was before the store clerk gives it to me in exchange for a bunch of bananas? But maybe I do. With the blockchain the money itself is just a list of all the transactions ever made. With a prayer token. The prayers are a list of all prayers ever made. These things are cumulative. How do intentions and desires change, how are they refined. How can I build or augment the prayers of someone else? How do we share the same thing.
In our society there is a premium on uniqueness, on scarcity, and on innovation. With prayer we can reverse that, how do we all have similar prayers, the prayers that are the strongest are the ones that we share, and what prayers persist through time that express some deep ineffable sense of what it is to be a human being or cyborg (versus perhaps a robot or AI).
Now lets talk about programmability.
So this is nothing new, prayers have for ever been intertwined with algorithmic operations to achieve certain actions. We call this ritual. It is hard to look at something like the iching or geomancy and not see an algorithmic computational process. However, historically money has been divorced from action. In order for your money to do anything you need the help of the law (or business). In our society legal contracts enforce complicated economic transactions. With computational money (blockchain or otherwise), we can can create the contract as a piece of code attached to the money itself. From the point of view of prayer this is fascinating. What is the relationship between counting the rosary beads and saying our lords prayer, what is the relationship between burning money and praying to my ancestors, what is the relationship making a prayer and making a donation. What if our prayers executed the ritual itself?
Again,I am not sure if this is important. There is something about the physical act of embodying a ritual that makes it powerful. If we offload that to a computer what happens then? But there is also something powerful about conceptualizing a ritual in algorithmic terms and rethinking non-linear rituals, rituals of O(n log n) complexity. NP-hard rituals. Why do we have ritual activity in the first place? Is this just some sort of dysfunctional neurotic action that prevents us from doing something useful in the world. In which case YES – lets totally offload it to a computer. Does it satisfy some deep human desire to connect with something eternal, ephemerial, illogical, and/or unknown or unknowable? Perhaps yes too, but why not conceptualize it in the way that we have created conceptual art – what is conceptual prayer?
Is the blockchain the only technological enhancement we could have for prayer? No. We could have local, rumor based prayer on the scuttlebutt network. How is this sort of prayer different from a blockchain prayer. Popular prayers are popular because they are propagated by the network. In the a blockchain or token based prayer system prayers are cloned tokens. In a rumor based prayer system you are more interested in the prayers closer to you in your network, in a blockchain system, prayers are equally accessible. The blockchain is about exchange of value. By putting your prayer on the blockchain you are entering into an explicit exchange. Rumor networks are about communication. By sending or following a prayer you are not exchanging energy but amplifying. You are part of the prayer tech, you are not the one doing the praying.
What about a prayer consensus algorithm? When I first started this project I was thinking that we needed something like proof of prayer instead of proof of work. That I needed a new form of consensus. That prayers would only be executed (or prayed) depending on the number of nodes running the prayer blockchain -like prayer wheels. But I have been able to incorporate this into the prayer token smart contract. It may be more elegant to build a separate blockchain for prayer. I look at established religious institutions like the Catholic church and it is as if they have a separate blockchain with a distinct consensus algorithm running besides that which governs secular institutions. But then the Catholic church is just the structure of the Roman empire in new clothes, so these institutions themselves bootstrapped on top of existing structures.