Nmherman on Thu, 28 Jun 2001 01:48:37 +0200 (CEST)

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[Nettime-bold] Re: <nettime> Echelon, privacy and property

In a message dated 6/26/2001 10:12:35 PM Central Daylight Time, 
seanc@waikato.ac.nz writes:

> Money, and this will come as no surprise to anyone growing up in the age of
>  finance, is a mode of communication. It is communication because it is a
>  medium for relationships between people (and between people, objects,
>  animals and machines, but that's another story).

This was an excellent post Sean.  Money is a medium, one which is written 
(interest rates, stock market manipulation, IMF, tax laws, labor laws, prison 
terms for theft, ad eterneum) and painted (the new Franklins) and 
exchanged/mutated among its users (when I buy a bicycle I'm writing with 
power the life of the bicycle maker and seller).

The best parallel to the hoardable medium of cash is agricultural produce.  
Silos can be filled, and full silos feed peasants and soldiers and can be 
sold for cash to buy ships, textiles, machines, fuel, and shares of stock.  
Smith's invisible hand is based on what to do with extra grain, a cumulative 
model of money.

As the world shrinks relative to the size of human economy, externalities and 
other important dynamics emerge.  This is why the free market failed so often 
and so catastrophically during most of the twentieth century.  Smith is the 
Newton of economics.  Carlyle said much the same thing:  "There are no laws 
on paper; the laws are merely thoughts in people's heads."  

>  The odd thing about money, when compared to other modes of communication
>  like speech, gesture or even books and records, is that it can be hoarded.
>  In other words, this mode of communication, the dominant medium of the
>  early 21st century, is actually even better at stalling and even blocking
>  communication flows than at instigating them.

All media have been hoarded since day one.  (The freedom of assembly--to get 
ten or more people in a room to talk--was reserved for kings until very 
recently.)  You have a fine point though; nothing is so easy to hoard today 
as money.  

Here's the way I look at it:  partly thanks to Mark's essay on my site 

What we call artworks are really nothing in themselves; they are materially 
transient.  You can compare the artwork to the koan, a means to a cognitive 
end.  There's nothing intrinsic to the artwork.  And a koan is defined as 
"official or juridical document; document of official value; essence of a 
conversation" (in Zen Keys by Thich Naht Hahn).  So, the artwork is a unit of 
value, a unit of cash, a talent.  

You're right to mention the romantic belief that by making a bunch of 
artworks the artist or anointed genius accrues in value and fulfillment.  
This belief has its origins in the professional role of the artist in the 
late 18th and early 19th centuries.  Also in the art-buying habits of the 

To beat a suffering horse, hoarding koans goes against their purpose:  to 
prompt or make space for original and direct cognition generated within the 
brain.  This as opposed to a transfer of content from the object to the user. 

Another good source to bring in here is Austin, who wrote "Zen and the Brain" 
in 1998 and won the best neuroscience book award from whoever gives that 
award.  Austin proves that the mental event Zen is describing is quite 
biological.  The brain meditates and stills immediate input so as to 
rearrange and process and assess what is already in it.  In this manner the 
brain doesn't overload and jam/crash.  Austin proves this with his expert 
knowledge of neurons and dendrites and bloodflow in the brain.  Compare it to 
digestion or the immune system; it's a simple fact of biology.

All of which means:  when brains stop doing what the koans are supposed to 
help them do, they deteriorate and cease to function.  (Mark is correct that 
the human brain has already ceased to function this way; it may start again 
or it may not.  The uncertainty derives from the immense power that the 
residue of human activity--cumulative money--now controls the future.)  

Human brains won't be doing this thing called zen or Genius 2000 anymore 
unless everything about money changes.  The demands of war resist any 
changes.  And art must change too, with equal enormity.  Essentially art will 
cease to exist as it has in the past.  It won't be cumulative anymore, but 
transient like say the 12-hr jpg, which is to say, like the transience the 
12-hr jpg is talking about.  And this isn't curation, it's neuroscience.  

Two last points:  the little papers I give out and throw about are called 
"talents" (or "leaves of redemption" or "tickets", same difference, koans).  
A bunch of them were in the SF MOMA -- see 
Also, the Marxist aporia is more fiction than science.  Control of the means 
of production in the worker's behalf by informed or enlightened consumerism 
is a fully valid solution.  When I buy shoes, I'm not buying shoes, I'm 
buying the life of the person who made the shoe and the swamp where they dump 
waste shoe-paint.

The problem with the flat-earth theory is not that the round-earth theory is 
too hard to explain.

Max Herman
The Genius 2000 Network

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