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A Gnostic Internet

Blockstack aims to fundamentally change how we, as digital citizens, interact with each other within the digital realm. In many ways, Blockstack and similar initiatives bring back the Internet to its original intention— to help connect us to each other, share knowledge, and thrive.

I interpret Blockstack’s views on the Internet through a theological frame. I am not overtly religious but have always been fascinated by historical echoes of how technology affects our contemporary lives. I find the current tensions of decentralization similar to the early struggles in organizing the Christian faith.

The Gnostics believed that every individual human mind was capable of realizing God consciousness.

These teachings ran counter to the then contemporary forces of consolidation and centralization to organize the often cryptic teachings of Jesus Christ. These organizing forces led to a form of spiritual top-down bureaucracy that later expanded to many layers of middlemen (Popes, Cardinals, Bishops, Priests, Nuns etc.) who promised a path towards TruthDB.

The organized church based its existence on the premise that the individual was incomplete and would require some third-party support to connect with TruthDB.

It is therefore unsurprising that Gnosticism was decreed as heresy, actively stamped out by Bishops, Popes and Crusaders across Western history as it posed an existential threat to the afore mentioned spiritual bureaucracy.

The 2009 whitepaper titled “Bitcoin: A Peer-to-Peer Electronic Cash System” was discovered on similar backwaters of the digital rivers, a cyberpunk mailing-list called and has created problems to the hard won and increasingly calcified interpretations of the financial system as we know it today.

In my eyes and many others; Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Google, Microsoft, and nation-states have increasingly evolved to become the digital equivalents of megachurches in Vatican proportions.

Digital Megachurch in context. H/T BusinessInsider + Reuters

These popes, bishops, priests, nuns, and middlemen of our digital monopolies & megachurches spin glorious tales of salvation through digital means (often embedded in cookies that capture your personal data and track your online behavior). It is tempting to compare these to the wafers and sacramental bread handed out during communion but I might be stretching it.

(L) Facebook cookies keeping tabs on you (R) Sacramental cookie that preserves faith through ritual. The comparison may be unfair but tempting. Apologies.

These middlemen also include the vast cyber-security military-industrial complex who take on roles not dissimilar in motivation & coordination to crusaders, and dare I say karsevaks, jihadists, and similar entities who define their actions by protecting us from foreign hackers out to pillage our digital lives.

Digital salvation in an ecclesiastical Internet is achieved by living in harmony within a paternalistic panopticon that forces us to engage in a submissive relationship with our digital overlords who promise protection of our digital identities and personal data as a condition for offering us a service towards TruthDB. This doesn’t need to be the way the Internet works.

If our digital lives, like our spiritual lives, are intrinsically tied to matters of identity, then a Gnostic versioning of the internet offers a digital life based on emphasizing individual control of our digital identities and personal data.

Digital salvation on a Gnostic Internet implies living with the gno-ledge that our identity and data lie within our control and that we can engage in a narrative that ensures a digital communion with a larger community of smaller service providers.

Only time will tell whether we will see yet another digital inquisition to stamp out the resurrection of Gnostic ideas on the internet or whether, this time, the megachurches will fade away into obscurity and provide us with the means and ends to thrive alongside one another.

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