Conditions for the possibility of exit

John Ohno
5 min readAug 10, 2018

A response to The Conversations that Cryptocurrency Killed by Sonya Mann

Exit (and the right to exit) is fundamentally important and too-often ignored. But, we should be careful to be clear about to what extent we exit, and how. Many technologies that are promoted as revolutionary tools don’t actually provide the capacity for exit in the way they seem to at first glance. Had the article been called ‘The Conversations that Encryption Killed’, I would not feel the need to respond, but the ‘crypto’ prefix in ‘cryptocurrency’ is misleading and bitcoin-style distributed-public-ledger-based systems are not compatible with anything more than a ‘limited, voice-buttressed exit’.

When we perform a true exit, we have made ourselves no longer subject to the power structure we have exited from. In the politico-social domain, there are several power structures we might want to exit: the domination of the state (i.e., the rule of law), the domination of finance (i.e., dependence upon existing systems of trade for the means of survival), and the domination of old money (i.e., existing debts, and the advantages produced by access to money in the past). Cryptocurrencies do not provide the conditions for the possibility of exit from any of these three power structures, in part because of myopia in both the technical and cultural design of bitcoin and in part because of the fungibility of power.

Cryptocurrencies based on public ledgers do not provide an exit from the rule of law, nor do they provide an effective…

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John Ohno

Resident hypertext crank. Author of Big and Small Computing: Trajectories for the Future of Software. http://www.lord-enki.net