The Perils of Radical Co-Creation

As told by three ex-Citizens of BitNation

Blockchains are believed to be a medium for political evolution— from the present rule by a corporate oligarchy, into a nebula of voluntary associations— but process will be accompanied by titanic echoes as the pillars of centralization crumble.

TL;DR: BitNation is not able to address the complexities of creating a virtual jurisdiction [1], has not helped a single refugee despite their public relations campaigns[2], and is ruled by a pair of violent [3] (ex?) intelligence operatives trained by the US and UK[4].

Three ex-co-founders warn: Invest in BitNation’s ICO at your own financial and ethical peril.


Humans fated to share an elevator with me might say I go a hard on techno-spiritual optimism. It seems self-evident that the best devices with the right intentions can expand the range of our collective fractal consciousness.

When I was but a young space-kitten, grounded between Orlando and Florida’s endless swamp, my spirit yearned for deeper connections. I soon became enraptured by the online communities surrounding team games like Tribes. To be able to fly with a German pilot and a French bombardier on a joint mission, even if virtual, seemed imminently magical, as if the old patterns of violent division were at least softening.

The deep seated notion of separation at the core of my being from others— amplified by physical distance and national identity — seemed to melt away through the power of the internet. Technology can connect us in ways that seem telepathic… just as easily as they can fracture us into angry echochambers[8].

Some in my generation became connected to a global meme consciousness. From this nexus, one could see Anonymous transforming from a meme cesspool into a decentralized entity capable of throwing rocks at global organizations like Scientology, Tunisia, and the U.S. [7]

Although Anonymous was able to start threads of dialogue, the group’s birthplace, 4chan, was a centralized group; unable to properly coordinate effort and resources while maintaining resistance against threats made by the police. The rising tide of DAO’s — Decentralized Autonomous Organizations — will have skeletons made out of Ether, all but impossible to fracture.

Social entities running on crypto-networks might bring us a glimpse of self-sovereignty. At the very least, we will finally be able to manage our own identity: no longer dependent upon politically motivated structures to label and document our lives. Cooperative platforms built with these self-sovereign technologies may allow us to break free from state/corporate ruling class. Alternatively, blockchains may imprison us in a cypher-punk dystopia, bound to an immutable ledger where value is defined by the same leviathans that direct the entrenched political system[10].


Universal Basic Income directed me to blockchains and BitNation. UBI is at best one way for our current society to transitionmay one way for our current society to transition past its current led my initial interest in blockchains (and in turn, BitNation), was from researching Universal Basic Income; a radical idea that may be one way to transition to a post-scarcity(TM) society. UBI seems innately impossible in the deadlock of the U.S. oligarchy[9]. Even if a nation was capable of producing a Basic Income for its citizens, it would be perpetually fighting to limit who was considered a citizen, and this would only further ensure that some of the planet lives in scarcity while other parts experience abundance.

Can we provide the same services that nation states provide, without the need for meddling middlemen? Without a free monetary system, it is practically impossible to have a truly peer to peer economy. Blockchain provided just a glimmer of this possibility. BitNation has a taken this idea and polished it into a shiny beacon that has attracted the attention of millions.

When BitNation held its first token sale in 2014, it was ahead of the curve. Today, it competes amongst a crowded arena of contenders yelling as loudly as they possibly can to attract crypto-investments.

The State of the Crypto-Verse

Currently: idealogical backlash as states and corporations try to consume crypto-platforms.

Countless organizations are thriving off of minting crypto-anarchic hype, positioning their platform as vital to a less bleak future. While prudently cooperative platforms may deliver us from the darkest pits of capitalism, the cheery idealists hoping to develope these systems tend to have wolves in their midst.

Ripple will perhaps be the downfall of the too-big-to-fail banks and the creation of a system even more insidiously sinister: finance even more easily surveilled and controlled than our current system. Circle, a way to convert dollars to bitcoin, and Poloniex, a place to trade Bitcoin into most anything else, are now an extension of Wall Street, gaining preferential treatment from the SEC[15]. And Coinbase has been a mask for the U.S. Department of Justice for longer than many people claiming to be blockchain experts have had their own private keys[17].

Many projects have secured hundreds of Bitcoin and thousands of Ether through minting their own virtual tokens. BitNation is creating 42 billion of their own tokens for their second minting, hoping to a portion of them for Bitcoin and Ether equaling $30M. In BitNation’s case, as with most, a small group will control the funds secured[14]. While the distribution of funds flows from this central point, many crypto projects rely on large communities to actually develop their platform, and nearly as often, to take the blame for when promises aren’t delivered.

Despite the trash flooding the market: I do believe that there are many projects already building new societies and platforms that our ancestors could hardly imagine.

But as the value of an idea begins to solidify into abstractions like money and bitcoins, tensions rise between the primary and secondary founders. Many token-backed entities are without a plan for transitioning into a place where the community holds the majority of the power. Many seemingly radical projects are just the same ol’ hegemony: wolves among sheep.t

An Introduction to the First BitNation

BitNation claims to be the first decentralized, border-less, voluntary nation. Certainly it is a vast mix of people trying to turn a collective vision into a shared reality. BitNation is a meme: shared, copied, borrowed, and expanded upon by those seeking radical solutions to some of society deepest problems.

Rather than directly attack the old systems, these citizens endeavor to build better ones. Why wait for governments to reduce their bureaucracy, when you can innovate and force them to compete with automated systems instead?

While hundreds of people have seen the self-evident truth of how organizations like BitNation might be able to pressure legacy Nation States to stop sucking quite so hard, nobody can point yet to an instance of this strategy working.

BitNation does have a code repository, but its contents are stubby proof-of-concepts. Its flagship project, Pangea, aims to be the world’s first virtual jurisdiction, where contracts can become notarized and organizations can be incorporated without the need for courts issuing commands backed by violence. Instead, contracts will execute themselves, asking humans for their input when disputes arise. In the coming voluntary jurisdictions, people will lose their reputation rather than their freedom when things turn out poorly.

BitNation’s constitution does not have procedures. It is a collection of ideals, without any means of enforcing them. BitNation does claim to be a “liquid holocracy”, without defining what this means. In my experience, this term was a euphemism for unchecked power, much like how “democratic republic” is used to make the U.S. oligarchy seem more palatable.

Perhaps Susanne Templehof Tarkowski’s role as an autocrat — glamorized as the “Chief Unicorn” — is for the greater good. She does seem to have a considerable hatred for the Western hegemony. While she may be able to transmute these feelings into abundance, this article illustrates why we aren’t holding our breath.

Bedazzling Splendor of the Modern Day Unicorn

My first trek to Amsterdam was primarily to scope out BitNation. I had quit my day job to pursue projects that might allow humanity to peacefully transition past this seemingly terminal case of crapitalism. I was reluctant to commit my energy if I wasn’t sure about the integrity of the project; in particular, of its leadership and governance.

BitNation’s first official “DevCon” was hosted in the heart of the city; in a massive brick building that once housed Amsterdam’s stock exchange but more recently had been converted into a trendy co-working space.

A small gathering was already present in the room when I got there, but the key organizer, Susanne, was nowhere to be found. The person permitting entrance seemed mildly annoyed. Evok3d, who I knew through the Slack chat as the primary developer of BitNation’s website, was maintaining some group coherence on decentralized governance but also seemed exasperated. Around two or three hours into the schedule, Susanne showed up and immediately all attention turned to her and the “bull of a man” she introduced to us: James Fennel, BitNation’s future Chief of Operations.

She spun us a champagne-soaked story of reuniting with James the night before; having not seen each other since they were both deployed as intelligence operatives in a conflict zone. The first night that they had met had been marked by car bombs going off in the background. This more recent night seemed to have involved similar intensity: Susanne announced that they had decided to get married hours into their reunion. Not through some legacy government, of course, but by notarizing their agreement on a blockchain.

The first night of the conference was an abundance of revelry at the Bitcoin Embassy; an ancient cafe that was friendly to crypto-anarchists looking to pay for their beers in Bitcoin. Susanne and James exchanged vows, and these, along with an agreement to be married for 3 years, with the option to renew, was turned into a text document. I, and some of the others present, were included in the list of witnesses. The final document was uploaded into the Horizon blockchain, signed using Susanne’s and Jame’s private keys using the BitNation Notary — the group’s only proof-of-concept that seems to be of any use.

The following day, I tried my best to push forward the agenda of sketching out Pangea, which was the impetus for the mini conference. The question of the which back-end technology seemed like something worth coming to a conclusion via group consensus, but Susanne assured me that would only insure that the wrong platform was chosen.

James and Susanne spent most of the day at a luxurious hotel suite to celebrate their union, meaning that the conference seemed have served no function other than introducing James to the fold.

Liquid Colonic Governance

BitNation acts like a swarm — when it’s convenient. Without a clear hierarchy, swarms permit a degree of autonomy that accelerates the flow of an idea into the public consciousness. For tasks more sophisticated than generating memes, queen bees can provide some much needed coordination. With both its first and second token sales, BitNation has ramped up its centralization for the sake of maintaining order. In both cases, this led to idealists hitting the unpleasant wall of reality when Susanne refused to give up her power.

When I first looked over a Google spreadsheet and saw that I had been allocated .1% of all of Pangea’s tokens, I’ll admit my ego was quite pleased. I had helped clean up the White Paper, but hadn’t really made any meaningful contributions to the community. With an actual stake in the organization, I began to spend more of my time working on making Pangea a reality — making a landing website claiming that“Before Borders, there was Pangea”. Meanwhile, I was brought into the internal communication channels on BitNation’s Slack.

Gaining access to BitNation’s internal documents put me in an uncomfortable position. If the project took off, I would enter the dazzling realms of the crypto-bourgesois, never needing to work for toilet paper money again. On the other hand, it became undeniable that Susanne had no interest in sharing the organization’s power, and was ruthless in keeping it that way.

People were put on and off the token distribution table with no oversight. The % of tokens awarded became a source of contention between Toni Lane and Susanne. While Toni had been preaching about BitNation for three years — three times as long how long James had been contributing. James was allocated 3%, and Susanne had allocated herself 7% of all tokens.

This centralization of power — of being able to give and take fortunes at whim on an Google spreadsheet — didn’t alarm me nearly as much as my investigation into how the Bitcoin and Ether taken during the crowdsale would be managed. Although the wallet was supposedly a mechanism of decentralization — 4 keys were needed to authorize a transaction — Susanne was to be given control over 3 of these keys. This means that with the signature of her husband, Susanne is able spend BitNation’s funds with zero oversight or accountability.

Toni Lane Casserly and Susanne ended up sparring verbally, and the secret core channel soon became toxic. This led to Susanne creating an ‘OpSec’ channel that served as a means for operations to continue while cutting out the voice of dissenters; keeping a buffer around potential investors.

Whether or not Toni should have received more tokens isn’t important. But the integrity of the organization demands that there is some way to reward contributors beyond the whims of a single person. Tristan, Amin, and Eliott have all been had their allocations for contributions prior to Pangea have been removed.

Susanne was quick to remind public dissenters that they were most welcome to “fork off” — to take the code from the repository and start afresh. I can’t help but feel like this was a bit disingenuous considering there was nothing worth forking in BitNation’s codebase. Their alpha was just a re-skinned version of Secure Scuttlebutt. Their quantum-resistant mesh network is closer to being a diagram than a secure place to store your documents.

Former Citizens of the First BitNation

As a group develops a token sale, questions about how to distribute power and resources must be answered. Often times, this reveals a strong hierarchy, like an opponent’s royal flush punching you in the gut. Just prior to BitNation’s first token sale, a group of co-founders left the project, triggering a cascade of other contributors and potential investors to step away with them [6].

One of the main points this first group raised was whether they should incorporate in a legal jurisdiction. At the time, Susanne adamentaly refused:

“It would be very hypocritical of us to incorporate in a government-backed jurisdiction. I’m not sure why people who have a regulatory mindset would join a governance 2.0 start-up to begin with.” [7]

Incorporating into crypto-friendly jurisdictions is exactly what Susanne and James did in preparation for their second token sale. Her first token had been a mild success; for most larger investors, incorporating in a jurisdiction is an imperative.

A second wave of contributors came on board after BitNation’s first implosion. We helped build out the project on good faith that it would eventually become decentralized. None of us truly realized that so many had already become virtually exiled when they fought for the same[11].

evok3d

In Susanne’s words: “M. Amin Rafiee an Iranian-Australian … UI/UX developer living in the Netherlands [who] offered to redesign the Bitnation website … in the next few days … over 10,000 people signed up as Bitnation Citizens — an accidental but compelling proof-of-concept which heavily influenced our evolution”. [4]

Evok3d is one of the most perenially optimistic yet brutally truthful people I have met. He was one of the driving forces for the community, performing a lot of the key social work in maintaining a cohesive presence.

developsoft

As described by Susanne: “At the beginning of 2017 Eliott Teissonniere from Paris, France, swooped into the Bitnation Slack channel and began contributing with code. He took a look at the SSB [secure scuttlebutt] backend and completely redesigned the architecture … operating more efficiently through the decentralised Interplanetary File System (IPFS). Then he rewrote all of Bitnation’s other code … took on the role of Chief Technologist, despite his youth and relative inexperience” [4]

developpsoft is a precocious defender of freedom through coding. He might be an AI from my viewpoint. He generated many of the ideas and some of the proof-of-concepts that make up BitNation’s as of yet mostly hypothetical platform.

Tristan Roberts

My contributions to BitNation were substantially less than Amin and Eliott’s.

I can’t say that my experience with BitNation was all bad — soon after I had been arrested for spray painting “corrupt” on the F.B.I. headquarters[12], another BitNation member paid for a lawyer’s retainer to defend me without even having met me. That sort of community is undeniably powerful.

Lately I’ve publicly documented the use of an experimental gene therapy[6], the context of which will be explored in the second part of this series.


The Problems Facing Pangea

“I have no qualms about autocracy when it’s ruled by a benevolent genius.” told me someone who had worked on the start of Ethereum’s community. “Susanne is neither.”

Amin, Eliott, and Tristan were contributors to Pangea’s White Paper. None of us believe that BitNation, as it is currently structured, is capable of executing a project of this scope.

For instance: a reputation system is necessary for preventing scammers and bots from attacking the system. Rather than address this problem, Susanne simply shunted it onto “Lucy”, a fictional A.I. that has a few stubs written about it on BitNation’s Github. [13]

Just as crucial a question is how legal documents will be preserved in a way that preserves confidentiality without relying upon centralized servers. Many projects are tackling this deep issue but none of them are mentioned on the whitepaper.

BitNation’s former technical architect Developersoft’s notes on the challenges facing Pangea.


It it’s easy and convenient, it’s probably trying to steal something from you.

Every time we consent to regimes — whether they be facets of surveillance capitalism like Facebook, or sparkly autocracy like BitNation — we give up fragments of our freedom; of our ability to control our own thoughts and actions. Most times, we do not even consciously realize we are doing so. Even if the optimists among us believe we are transcending these old-systems of greed and control through adopting blockchain solutions, it is all but impossible to avoid the same temptations of recklessly accumulating power as the crypto-verse matures into an economy of its own.

In every time of darkness, heroes are made in an abundance. At the time this post’s authorship, a broad potential for humanity’s transcendance over its physical limitations and poisonous memetic beliefs seems capable by condensing ideals into the solidity of Ethereum. Anyone can grasp these potentials with their minds… to envision a society built upon trust and compassion rather than profit and the threat of violence.

Even if the hybrid corporations/nation-states that rule our planet do not collapse overnight, there are glimmers of new societies forming. The once inescapable Leviathan of Hobbes — the underlying, monstrous tension of organized physical violence that gives our society structure — seems to be fumbling blindly into the new age; unable to keep pace with human ingenuity.

Our energy feeds the systems we use. At our best we are creating the future pillars of society, for our next aeon supported by Etheric mastery. At other times, we are silently consenting, our attention turning towards the unending scroll of our social media feeds. Whether humanity become a galactic empire of conquest, or thrives as a loose federation of peace, is determined by our actions. If we humans are capable of building a better future before depleting the planet, it will only be through our active involvement and discernment. To not just contribute to seemingly benevolent projects, but only those projects that actually have a chance of getting off the ground.

By actively creating new reality, we seem drawn towards those who are also building a brighter constellation of human possibility.

You can choose your own adventure these days. Your actions may just be the final push in preventing this society from reaching the point in which Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman stop pretending to take orders from U.S. elected officials!

If BitNation succeeds in disrupting the status quo, it will be in spite of Susanne, not because of her.

We — the whole cooperative platform movement , in its many names — are making something bigger, and better, that transcends freedom and abundance.

If you are ready to approach the new types of organizations — DAO’s, co-ops, platforms — do so with prudence. Strive to understand whether an organization is actually decentralizing power, or if it is simply presenting itself that way to get free

SIGNED, SINCERELY:

Tristan, Amin, Eliott

🙌🌺🌎💫🌟


2: Logs coming soon: confronting Susanne about whether there’s been any impact

3: Logs coming soon: Susanne threatening violence against Amin for speaking up

7: 4chan is an image board — A prototypical forum for sharing text and images- and then quickly altwas fueled by 4chan’s ability to share and spread information — to be able to post a meme and make it open for further modification.

8: Or it can give profit to those fracturing us into a cacophony of angry echochambers. Cambridge Analytica only benefitted from using Facebook’s core business model: selling our data with no chance for us to share in the profit.

9: It seems if UBI is implemented by the U.S.’s second republic, it will be to stall further revolution as the techno-plutocrats continue to suck the planet dry

10: The US is Functionally an Oligarchy — http://www.bbc.com/news/blogs-echochambers-27074746

11: The Bitcoin raised from the first token sale was controlled with zero transparency or accountability, and generated no useful technology.

13: Kleros.io handles this problem in a trustless manner using game theory dynamics. Check out their white paper.

14: While I still had access to internal documents, Susanne was marked as having 3 signatures for the ICO multisig wallet. Most recently she there will be a 4/6 but I have no idea who the keyholders are and whether or not she is stilll holding multiple. At the time of my departure, Susanne could approve any transaction with a single other co-signer such as her husband.