Crypto-Current (024)

§2.6 — A range of economistic and techno-materialist critical discourses of particular relevance to Bitcoin, and network theory more generally, displaces transcendental-empirical difference onto the distinction between a fundamental infrastructure and the traffic it supports, whether conceived as capital / commodity; system / component; network / node; or transport layer / application layer. The distinction between a ‘transport layer’ and an ‘application layer’ is a difference implied in the very idea of a network protocol, which necessarily separates a continuous communicative functionality from any specific communicated content (or message). This is a distinction applicable not only to the Internet, but to standardized communications infrastructures and cryptosystems of all kinds, and very definitely – as Eli Dourado insists* – to the Bitcoin protocol specifically.

§2.61 — ‘Bitcoin isn’t Money – It’s the Internet of Money’, Dourado proposes, in an article whose title, on its own, composes an entire (if highly-compressed) transcendental argument. The ‘transport’ infrastructure that supports applications is not itself an application. In Dourado’s terms:

The Internet is a telecommunication system, but it was not our first telecommunication system. Telegraphs and telephones have been around for over a century. Like these older systems, the Internet allows us to communicate, but it differs in some important ways. Perhaps the biggest difference in the Internet model is the abstraction of a separate “application layer”, Core Internet protocols, such as TCP, part of the “transport layer”, shuffle packets of data around, but they don’t define how the exchange of packets is then used to create meaningful communication. Internet applications, such as email and the World Wide Web, are defined in protocols implemented on devices at the edges of the network, like servers and home computers, not in the guts of the network: routers, switches, hubs, and exchange points. The lower layers of the Internet can be completely oblivious to the specific applications that are in use; they just focus on getting packets of data to the right place.

§2.611 — Layers – strata** – are not given archetypally. They are produced by a machine (not a ‘device’ or ‘gadget’, but a megamachine – a system – characterized by some substantial capacity for auto-production). We are directed, diagonally, or critically, into the synthetic cosmos of transcendental machinery. Such mechanisms, by philosophical definition, cannot be exhaustively constituted as an object for any possible subject. Objectification – the production of objectivity – is their work. If they grasp themselves, dynamically, in the attainment of intellectual intuition, they close a circuit, or diagonalize, dismantling all settled configurations of subjectivity upon the same oblique line. At the real historical limit, intelligence explosion cannot be framed without being metaphysically misconceived.

§2.612 — Within the belts, or layers, of the strata, or the stack,*** something like a law is practically separated from the cases that fall under it. Division between the generic and the specific is technically – and not merely logically – established. The instance is produced and reproduced. The distinction between Bitcoin and bitcoins is, once again, our example, though the possibility of the example (in general) belongs here.

* See: ‘Bitcoin isn’t Money – It’s the Internet of Money’, The Ümlaut (2014/01/08)
In Dourado’s account, money – as a delimited (empirical) application – is to be conceptually distinguished from the (transcendental) protocol that facilitates it.

** Stratoanalysis provides transcendental philosophy with its materialized architectonic. Strata are not merely distinguished by empirical succession in a column. They are implementations of transcendental (or ontological) difference. It is not, therefore, that stratoanalysis falls under a general epistemology, rather, it envelops this latter, as well as every other conceivable (or inconceivable) resource for pseudo-transcendence. The epistemic relation is a product of stratification, rather than a superordinate (transcendent) window onto it. Enveloping all epistemological perspective “… there … occurs upon the earth a very important, inevitable phenomenon that is beneficial in many respects and unfortunate in many others: stratification. Strata are Layers, Belts …” (ATP 40)

*** See Benjamin Bratton, The Stack: On Software and Sovereignty (2016).