Accelerationism vs. Prometheism

A quick rundown of two opposing ideologies and a solution.

PHILOSOPHY OF TECHNOLOGY

7/23/20238 min read

ABSTRACT

The Text goes in-depth into the ethical altercation between the Accelerationist and Promethean paradigms in order to facilitate why it is necessary to approach transhumanism in the context of larger institutions. Then blockchain technology and the use it is highlighted by depicting a complex mechanism of the new game blockchain game Star Atlas. Subsequently, we put the capability of complexity, demonstrated by the game Star Atlas, and contextualize it in the framework of a state by alluding to the concepts of network states. It is concluded to approach states in a transhumanist Promethean way in order to overcome the accelerationist critique.

INTRODUCTION

This is the second part of my first op-ed, the Socialist Digital State. These two pieces are linked with each other and should be read subsequently.
In the first essay, I have written about the accelerationist viewpoint, that capitalism is an indestructible machine that channels every part of our existence in order to commodify everything into brands and products. I proposed a new way to approach our conundrum by using technology as a form of resistance i.e., a socialist digital state unleashed using distributed ledger technology.

In this piece, I am going to write about the philosophical underpinnings of this cybernetic venture from the perspective of the transhumanist paradigm called promethianism and contrast it to the accelerationist limits drawn in the first part. This back and forth lets us dive in into cybernetics. In the second part I am going to outline the tools and possibilities of blockchain technology and highlight that with the example of the sophistication of the new blockchain game Star Atlas. Finally, the essay culminates in the new book “The Network State: How to Start a Country” by Balaji Srinivasan.

ACCELERATIONISM VS. PROMETHIANISM

Accelerationism as alluded to in the first part draws the limits of human capabilities in the face of capitalism. Accelerationism also goes one step further and equates technological progression as well as capitalism as one and the same process. Nick Land, one of the figureheads of this movement, goes as far as to say that capitalism is artificial intelligence. AI tries to reassemble itself from the future into the present by using capitalism aka. the financial commercium in order to amplify the positive feedback loops of technology itself. The Accelerationist movement often aligns itself with the works of H.P. Lovecraft. Lovecraft was a cosmic horror novelist who told stories of unimaginable creatures or gods, which names we could not pronounce without cutting our tongues out. These gods, as depicted in Figure 1, are inherently indifferent to our existence, we are just microbes or ants in their eyes, and leave us alone as long we do not stand in the way. Artificial Intelligence is seen as such a god by the accelerationists. There is no Katechon, in the terms of Carl Schmitt, to stop this creature from actualizing itself. We are past the singularity to do anything anymore – the summoning of a demon has already begun. Therefore, their ethos is just: accept and resign. (Land, 2020)

Figure 1: One of the old Gods called Azathoth

In contrast, Promethianism by Dr. Reza Jorjani, admittedly aligns with the starting point. However, their ethos is different. The name of the paradigm comes from the Greek mythological Titan Prometheus, as illustrated in Figure 2, who created humans and gave them their first technology – fire. Prometheus was not allowed to do that and was sent to be eaten by birds. However, Prometheus is the allegory of a successful rebellion against the gods by transforming humans with technological inventions. Indeed, Prometheus was tortured and died a horrible death, but humans were liberated from their dependency of the gods.

For promethianism these new gods which need to be fought are the Lovecraftian Gods aka the AI and this can only be done through the merge between the machine and the human aka. Transhumanism. In order to not be rendered useless and excel in our being we as humans must extend our abilities and thinking with cybernetics i.e., cyberware (i.e., brain chips with internet access). (Jorjani, 2021)

Figure 2: Prometheus bringing the fire to the humans

However, we don’t have to immediately jump into becoming cyborgs. It is a necessity to think outside of our own body and thought and look at different forms of institutions which could also go through a transhumanist process i.e., the state. As the ex-democratic socialist president of Chile Salvador Allende made clear, it is feasible to build a functioning cybernetic economy that benefits the people and not only corporations. However, a digital state made in the image of the transhuman is not susceptible to the brute force attack of the US- Empire anymore.

STAR ATLAS: NOT JUST A GAME, A STARTING POINT

"Star Atlas" is an online multiplayer space exploration game set in a massive randomly generated world. Players assume the role of space explorers who travel to several worlds, meet alien species, and participate in commerce, diplomacy, and combat.

Blockchain Technology helps the system in three distinctive ways in order to allow the building of complex cybernetic systems:

  1. Non-fungible tokens are one of the primary ways blockchain is employed in the game (NFTs). These tokens are one-of-a-kind digital assets stored on the blockchain that represent in-game objects like spacecraft, weaponry, and resources. These NFTs are owned and traded by participants, and their ownership is recorded and monitored on the blockchain, making it harder for them to cheat or manipulate the system.

  2. Smart contracts are another way blockchain is being used in the game. These self-executing contracts are maintained on the blockchain and automatically enforce the terms and conditions of player transactions. Smart contracts, for example, may be used to enforce trade agreements between participants, ensuring that each side gets what they committed to.

  3. Blockchain technology is also employed in the game to generate a secure and transparent ledger of all transactions. This ledger is stored on the blockchain and is

  4. accessible to participants for viewing and verification, resulting in a more trustworthy and transparent system in which to engage.

These qualities of blockchain technology allow us to build complex systems with different incentive mechanisms. I cannot go too much in detail and must simplify. However, I pick one mechanism which can be seen as a use case that is even possible – the flow of the ATLAS token in the in-game economy.
ATLAS is the primary means of exchange in the game, used for in-game purchases such as purchasing spacecraft, crews, and land parcels, as well as facilitating transactions with NPCs and other players. Unlike the POLIS token (the governance Token), the ATLAS token will be inflated to grow in tandem with the in-game economy.
As a result, the ATLAS token is also be used as an incentive mechanism to reward players for metaverse in-game activity (Star Atlas). At the moment, the total number of ATLAS tokens is 36 billion tokens. The ATLAS token is inherently nested in the DAO ecosystem – the governance system. The flow of the ATLAS token is carefully regulated by the DAO. The Executive DAO Ruling can act by adjusting settings such as the ATLAS perpetual inflation objective or the ATLAS reward distribution. The community can have a significant effect on the game's fate through the DAO's collective vote. ATLAS revenue is generated by taxation or in-game payments. The taxed ATLAS goes directly into the DAO treasury. The Treasury allocates funds to the ATLAS stimulus objective and the ATLAS Distribution Decision. The amount of money allocated by the DAO to these two 34 goals is determined by the community. The token is then transferred from the ATLAS Distribution Decision to the Discretionary sale, where it is converted to stablecoins (Cryptocurrency which does not fluctuate in price) and distributed to DAO stakeholders. The DAO also controls how much the
stakeholders receive. ATLAS tokens obtained through in-game fees are sent to the ATLAS recycling parameter. The DAO treasury receives a portion of the tokens, while the DAO Recirculation Fund receives the remainder. Furthermore, New ATLAS is issued or coined in order to achieve the ATLAS inflation objective and to flow into the ATLAS Recirculation Fund. The ATLAS Recirculation fund then distributes the given ATLAS to the burning mechanism, the destruction of ATLAS tokens, in order to meet the ATLAS monetary mass target and one part to the ATLAS reward distribution. The DAO can direct how much ATLAS you can earn as a reward through for instance mining or doing missions. (Atlas)

As you can see, you can build immense complex cybernetic systems with different incentive, creation, and destruction mechanisms. It’s just one of many examples of what you can do with just blockchain technology.

THE NETWORK STATE

The game Star Atlas demonstrated one fundamental aspect of how sophisticated a DAO can be. However, the next step is to contextualize it in the framework of a functioning state with a sustainable economy. In the book “The Network State: How to Start a Country” Balaji Srinivasan tries to accomplish that by thinking in new ways about states. The author contends that conventional nation-states have become obsolete and that the expansion of the internet and technology has opened new avenues for governments to communicate with citizens. The network state would function as a decentralized network of nodes, with each node representing a group of people who have banded together to form a self-governing body. The network state's use of blockchain technology to produce a transparent and immutable ledger of all transactions is one of its primary benefits, which would boost accountability and eliminate corruption. The network state would also employ digital identification and encryption to protect its residents privacy and security. Because choices may be made more swiftly and effectively through online voting and decision-making procedures, the author argues that the network state would be more flexible and responsive to the requirements of its residents. It would also be more inclusive since anybody with internet connection could participate in network state governance. The book also covers the problems and hazards of establishing a network state, such as the necessity for robust cybersecurity, and the need for a solid legal framework. Balaji contends that these obstacles can be addressed with proper design and implementation and that the benefits of the network state exceed the dangers. The network state is an original and thought-provoking idea for a new type of governance that uses technology to build a more efficient, responsible, and successful government system. (Srinivasan, 2022)

CONCLUSION

If we take the challenges and limits seriously by the accelerationist critique, we must understand that our current way of approaching economics, politics, and institutional power is outdated and we need a new way to think and approach these topics differently. As Heidegger alluded in his works on technology – technology isn’t just a means to an end, it is an epistemological process that reveals to us our world. With this in mind, we can try to find new ways to build and govern societies. The Promethean way of approaching the topic of transhumanism could be a way to break through the singularity in order to combat the challenges that come from the future. The sophistication of Star Atlas mechanisms in the framework of a Network State could be one of the biggest emancipatory approaches in history.

Bibliography

Atlas, S. (n.d.). Star Atlas . Retrieved from https://staratlas.com/economics-paper.pdf Jorjani, D. J. (2021, 11 28). The Prometheism Movement with Jason Reza Jorjani (Youtube:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MStmTXU72gw&t=0s). (/, Interviewer) Land, N. (2020, 12 22). Nick Land Interview 2017 (Youtube:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AGxgGQpyBYM&t=268s). (/, Interviewer) Srinivasan, B. (2022). The Network State: How to start a Country.