Anyone Who Thinks Blockchain Technology is ‘Evolving’ Put Your Hand Up
You will be forgiven for holding this view now, of course, since most whose hands are up (including computer scientist, cryptographer & legal scholar Nick Szabo) probably do not think there is any other option than taking an ‘evolutionary’ view of everything. Nevertheless, the outdated and unnecessary thinking implied in using ‘evolutionary’ language related to technology creation has long since passed its expiry date. It now needs to be put aside into the trash heap of historical ideas, in order to help people interested both in blockchain development and community technology building to move forward with their blockchain plans freed from dehumanising logic.
Blockchain technology, rather than ‘evolving,’ involves human intention and creativity focussed on shared decentralised communities that transfer information and knowledge in which people participate interactively in value transactions with various states of known identity or anonymity. Signing-up for blockchain, whether in buying a cryptocurrency, developing or using blockchain software tools, is not merely a fatalistic or programmed response that people are forced into making due to external pressures. Instead, individual decisions to participate in blockchains count meaningfully towards the current and future directions, purposes or aims of blockchain communities. In short, the time has come for more people to agree with this basic observation by Jaron Lanier (2000): “[W]hile I love Darwin, I won’t count on him to write code.” Let us free the world from the regrettable Darwinian stranglehold over some peoples’ mode of thought as we embrace the current and upcoming changes in the electronic-information era enabled by blockchain.
Evolutionary theories are now widely abused and the term ‘evolve’ now carries an almost mystical allure or religion-substitute for some people. For people in blockchain space, ‘evolution’ is a term with a particularly dehumanising meaning of ‘change’ that it is best to do without, for reasons I will expand on below. Satoshi Nakamoto did not ‘evolve’ his peer-to-peer electronic cash system and it would be an insult to human creativity and invention to suggest that his innovation was merely a ‘meme’ that ‘took him over’ without his knowing it, as if a passive vessel of a virus. Such a fatalistic view of humanity has unfortunately been foisted upon many unqualified thinkers as if it should be taken as a new ‘gospel’ according to certain natural scientists in their myopic view of human existence, Richard Dawkins perhaps first and foremost among its proponents.
For those who are already wondering: “Why would anyone make such an unusual critique of an innocent term?” let me give 3 simple yet powerful reasons that choosing a more appropriate and potent term than ‘evolution’ is the better option.
- The term ‘development’ is a more accurate term based on the technical meaning of change that happens in a single generation, rather than across multiple generations as a population-first phenomenon. The development of blockchain technology, as new as it still is, has the wonderful characteristic that it is easy for just about anyone to follow the evidence for themselves in ‘real time.’ Much of the evidence is publicly available, having been posted on the internet in open access forums, company sites, bulletin boards, blogs, etc. We are watching blockchain develop before our eyes and a growing number of people are participating in its development. Given that we are talking about only EIGHT years since the first blockchain (i.e. BTC) Genesis Block was completed, this is surely NOT an evolutionary phenomenon according to technical definitions of evolution as change that happens gradually over long periods of time.
Here’s a typical example of someone who confuses ‘evolution’ and ‘development’ in the very same sentence; it is something that I’ve seen countless times. This is from John Dean Markunas: “The [blockchain] technology itself will continue to evolve along with a wide variety of creative applications developed on top of it, similar to the development of the internet and world-wide-web.” Markunas’ confusion is one easily rectified by distinguishing ‘development’ as the common term for purposeful change in human-made systems, and ‘evolution’ as merely a borrowed term from (its legitimate uses in) natural science, e.g. biology, botany and ecology, loosely used and misapplied to technology and culture in the wrong field of study.
For that matter, here’s another demonstration of the same confusion about evolution, revolution and development by someone you really wouldn’t normally want your ideas associated with, but there it is: “man can be said to be the highest product of evolution and the most developed material being. However, if man had not formed a social collective and had not lived and worked in the social relationship, he [sic] could not have developed as an independent, creative and conscious being no matter how developed his [sic] organic body may be.” Those who continue to use the term ‘evolution’ when describing blockchain development are in the same philosophical and linguistic strata as Kim Jong-Il and the soulless, fight-first Juche ideology of the Democratic Peoples’ Republic of North Korea (DPRK).
2) Blockchain is more accurately said to ‘extend’ from the choices that people, both individuals and teams or groups around the world are making on a daily, hourly and minute-by-minute basis. This recognition of active willful participation is a most empowering change of focus — from evolution to extension — to help enable the formation of new ledger communities and intermediary reduction possibilities in the blockchain era. The ‘extension of blockchain’ marks the development of blockchain technology on the basis of intentional and purposeful decisions to develop it and use it in our lifetimes and for the betterment of societies and economies of the future. People are now actively choosing to focus their attention on building blockchains and/or using digital currencies, converting their government-backed money into community-based money and reputation value in the form of tokens or digital coins. People are not being forced, at least we hope not, to build blockchains or to buy digital currencies against their will. The mass transition from physical (paper or metal) to digital currencies is thus not technologically determined, but rather consensual and voluntary.
3) It is absurd to suggest that if a person rejects ideological evolutionism (the exaggeration of evolutionary theories beyond their proper usage) then they must also reject history. Such a position conflates history with evolution and cannot tell them properly apart. It demonstrates most clearly how evolutionists have tricked people using ‘just-so stories’ and, in my view, this is primarily because they loathe one particular rare and small case of ideological creationism perpetrated by under-educated anti-science crusaders. Let us along with ideological evolutionists also put aside the ideological creationists whose religious views have become corrupted by ideology, with no offence meant to their usually genuine will to believe properly in religious teachings. It is easily possible, let us openly and freely admit, to include deep and rich studies of non-evolutionary change, such as revolutionary change or trans-evolutionary change like human extension, without rejecting or avoiding history or historical processes. What people who earlier put their hands up need to realise as clear as sunshine on a cloudless day is the option to engage in rigorous, complex and detailed studies of human history, while at the same time keeping good proportion in rejecting the exaggeration of evolutionary explanations, especially in society, economics and culture.
Let us make no mistake about it, if you put your hand up at the beginning you have signed-up to a Faustian bargain, as if technology were in control of your life, rather than you having any control, mastery or even responsibility over your own decisions involving adoption or avoidance of blockchain technologies. Please be very careful of the implications of this kind of thinking and talking because it does have an impact on how people actively live their lives both in community and also alone. Evolutionism is a disempowering ideology when applied to fields in the social sciences and humanities that distorts our understanding of choice, creativity, invention and innovation with externalist logic. This often results in various forms of dehumanisation, rather than in the supposedly ‘enlightened’ view of life that some dilettantish philosophists would have us believe, based on their natural scientific authority to just say so.
With this direct yet simple counter-argument to evolutionism made respectful of all people considering the new blockchain opportunities, let it be a source of liberation from bad philosophy, rather than taken as an insult to colloquial usage of evolution, that it may save time for clearer thinking. No one should feel forced by external pressures to participate in the blockchain global-social renaissance; it is up to you to participate or not participate. Instead, as myself and many others before me have already done and are now doing, we are exercising our choices voluntarily to join in building blockchain ledger communities. This will lead to an emancipation of humanity that will open up a trans-evolutionary understanding of human innovation and cooperation using blockchain technology, validated and verified by time-stamping and the use of smart contracts. The infusion of choice-based, intentional blockchain communities will comprehensively disqualify evolutionist ‘logic’ of technology creation from any longer being credible or believable or how young people should emulate to speak.
If you put your hand up believing blockchain ‘evolves,’ please don’t feel embarrassed. You likely didn’t think there was another linguistic option available until now. The question itself — “what are examples of things that don’t evolve?” — is much less important than the ones that follow after it relating to blockchain: how are we going to pool our resources, ideas, histories and hopes to develop blockchain technologies and open up new distributed ledger communities as we move purposefully to build better societies in the future? Engaging this question together constitutes a huge gauntlet thrown down to us by this new technology as it comes to shape the way we relate to each other and interact with people locally and globally. It will require us to develop a new theory of human tension as we navigate the difficult pathways ahead to the new economic and social realities blockchain is bringing to us, both together and alone.
Can we develop non-nihilistic blockchain communities that elevate human values and relationships between people both locally and globally in a way that Darwin could never have imagined? Can we move beyond that backwards perspective, a sometimes Darwin-worshipping worldview, that is mainly used as a scientist-corrupted hatchet against the respective worldviews of religious people around the world? Yes, it is possible to do this and the opportunities are ready for people to embrace with hope and commitment to build a new form of community and society, which can now be forged with the development of blockchain.
 To support this view, it can easily be shown that, “a very large number of popular books over the last 30 years have been written in an attempt to extend the principles of Darwinian evolution to human culture.” — Richard Lewontin (“Does Culture Evolve?”) In response, a counter-argument has been made (and not by a ‘creationist’) that, “the theory of cultural evolution [is] to my mind the most inane, sterile, and pernicious theory in the whole of science.” — Berthold Laufer
 Cf. David S. Wilson’s inanely pretentious ‘evonomics’ along with his naive naturalistic promotion of a new Social Darwinism
 Evolution is “the only known theory that could, in principle, solve the mystery of our existence.” — Richard Dawkins (The Blind Watchmaker: xiv)
 Thus, the recent unintentionally trapped words of Canadien blockchain developer Francis Poulliot in “Catallaxy: the origins of Bitcoin, innovation and spontaneous order”, in which he states, “Innovation cannot be designed,” clearly due to his embrace of evolutionist ideology.
 Kim Jong-Il (1996). “The Juche Philosophy is an Original Revolutionary Philosophy.” Discourse Published in Kulloja, Theoretical Magazine of the Central Committee of the Workers’ Party of Korea July 26: p. 7.
 Aside from the fact that the author of the article mis-defines ‘creationism,’ the words of the Archbishop of Canterbury against ideological creationism as a distortion of religion reflect my own: https://www.theguardian.com/uk/2006/mar/21/religion.topstories3
 This paper, though conceived a few weeks ago, was spurred to completion by a friend in Vilnius, Lithuania a couple of days back, who responded to my critique of his use of the term ‘evolution’ in blockchain discussions with the following question: “What is wrong here with evolution? Yes we do develop blockchain actively, yes we do disrupt legacy systems etc., so blockchain technologies they help us, the people, evolve. When we grow as a society, when we become more sophisticated as a humanity, when we start thinking about sustainable living — it’s evolution, isn’t it?” I have heard my friend’s innocent question hundreds of times and the answer I give is basically the same one each time, after which point the dialogue ends: “No, it’s not evolution. Development is purposeful, goal-oriented, with an aim, strategies, etc. Evolution is environment-first, fitness ‘pressures’ & randomness-oriented. It is disempowering ‘externalist’ logic. That language you are using is for people with a low ‘locus of control’ who think they have little or no power over circumstances. It is a misnomer … that still a lot of people loosely use. When you speak about “grow as a society”, sophistication, etc. then human development & extension are better ‘agent-centred’ terms. You are yourself promoting [the U.N.’s] Sustainable DEVELOPMENT Goals, not ‘evolution’ goals, and that is for a very good humanising reason. Human development is trans-evolutionary, so it’s time to start thinking differently without Darwin’s magic wand.”