Italian lemon grove.

The Merkle Tree of Life

If coalitional game theory is setting as a cornerstone to resolve the problem of multilateral cooperation in a world instantly communicating across geographical frontiers, then an artistic application to soften the hard edge of mathematical logic might be welcome.

And if this art borrows from the logic and history of allegories representing the roots to such an approach, it seems we look no further than the “tree” and its surrounding “garden”.

The existence of such places are found in both biblical and romantic texts, from the original Garden of Eden where Adam and Eve lose their paradise upon tasting forbidden fruit, to William Blake’s Garden of Love, where Blake’s playground (the “garden”) in a carefree childhood later succumbs to the “thou shalt not” of organised religion written above the closed Chapel doors now built in the midst of the garden “that so many sweet flowers bore”, but which is now filled with graves and tombstones.

Blake’s Garden of Love is part of his illustrated collection of poems in Songs of Innocence and Experience (where Innocence represents the unfallen world, and Experience the fallen world), depicting the journey from childhood innocence into harsher realities and experiences of adulthood and corruption and exploitation.

Moving by Nature

The allegory can now be seen in computer science in a hash tree or Merkle tree, and the implementation of this by Satoshi Nakamoto starts with a biblical reference to genesis — and where the game theory of a move by nature in an extensive form suggests the creator of this tree wasn’t personally interested in the outcome of the game by making the initial “fruit” (the coins in the genesis block) unconsumable.

Various stages of coalescence as the tree grows represents an expansiveness free of verbal complications or restrictive authority (such as the organised religion Blake detested) so that the agency of those playing can simply be accepted, allegorical to Adam and Eve’s original paradise and the innocence of childhood Blake wished to recover.

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