The blockchain is Janus-faced. On one side its traits of transparency and decentralization promise much in terms of fairness and accountability, but on the other its monetary roots born as a financial payment system, albeit grounded in open-source software, mean its implementations are often stridently capitalistic. Furthermore, those involved in its development seem to oscillate between radical ethical standpoints and reductionist technological determinism. The blockchain engenders what has been called a ‘digital metalism’1 with the ability, like a modern philosopher’s stone, to transmutate life through a distributed ledger. That such a pecuniary minded technology is being touted as a new technology to underpin a newfangled internet, compels an exploration of both its current state and how it may be rethought.

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