PILL: The Alchemical Engine - Protocols as the Esoteric Language of Technology

The role of protocols will be viewed as the invisible backbone of the digital era in a series of thematic paintings. The paintings will illustrate how these sets of rules, echoing the symbolic language of ancient occult practices, shape the flow of information, create new forms of digital existence, and influence our interactions with technology. As users engage with these digital systems, they unknowingly participate in a form of “digital alchemy,” transforming raw data into knowledge and shaping the very fabric of cyberspace.

Themes:

  1. The AIchemical Transformation: This theme draws parallels between alchemical rituals and digital contracts. It illustrates how base data to be transmuted into valuable ideas and knowledge. Users, seeking to understand communication within these systems, become akin to seekers deciphering the mystical information flows of transformation.

  2. Shaping the Order of Crypto-Existence: Here, protocols act as blueprints for the “micro-cybercosmic” realm. They dictate the formation of a digital web of dispersed ideas, laying the foundation for new forms of digital existence.

  3. Discovering Hidden Potential: Across the vast network of digital “webs,” protocols guide user behavior, charting pathways towards unforeseen possibilities. Users become explorers, uncovering the hidden patterns that shape their future engagement with these new protocols.

  4. Reaching Higher Realms: With deepening engagement, interaction takes on a ritualistic quality. Repetitive actions, agreements using codes, and specific sequences weave a digital rite – a symbolic act that unlocks new functionalities and advancements within the system.

  5. The Ether of Cyberspace: Protocols, diffusing across the digital landscape, create a “technomantic dominion.” Their continued use establishes new rules and acts within this emerging technological realm.

  6. The Architects of Mimetic Evolution: The “macro-cybercosmic” realm, built upon these protocols and contracts, influences the dynamics of societal knowledge and narrative evolution. The digital and the mystical converge, weaving a “mimetic totem” – a symbol representing the interconnectedness between these two seemingly disparate realms.

This project calls for closer attention to the hidden connections between ancient wisdom and the digital future. By uncovering these occult influences, it is possible to foster a broader comprehension of the significance of protocols.

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What is the point of making connections between technology and occult/magical references? ie. are rituals a kind of protocol? Right now I don’t see exactly what your reason is for making them. I also wonder if there might be some potential risks introduced by focusing so much on pseudoscientific topics at a time when AFAIK the cryptocurrency world is trying in general to become closer to the cultural mainstream, but I’m not an expert on those challenges.

I’d also be curious if your proposal could potentially reference more specific cultures and historical traditions of magic, from specific parts of the world; otherwise you might be referencing some cultures over others without directly acknowledging them.

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Thank you very much for your feedback on my project proposal. I appreciate you raising these important points.

At first glance, the connection between technology and occult or magical references might seem unconventional. But there is a the deeper philosophical and historical connections between these seemingly disparate fields. The example of Johannes Trithemius is a good illustration of how occult ideas influenced the development of cryptography. Johannes Trithemius known as the first cryptographer in the modern sense. His books, Steganographia, a seminal work in the realms of cryptography and steganography, which was initially presented under the guise of a magical text. This connection illustrates that the boundaries between the mystical and the technological have been intertwined since the inception of cryptographic thought. It also suggests that current digital protocols can be viewed as the modern evolutions of ancient alchemical and mystical practices.

The proposal posits that there exists a philosophical continuum from ancient alchemical practices to modern digital protocols. Both realms strive to transform the mundane into something of greater value—whether turning base metals into gold or raw data into meaningful insights. This transformational process reflects a shared underlying urge for external augmentation and the invocation of higher powers or principles.

I understand your concern regarding the potential association with pseudoscience. However, I would argue that many historical movements, such as mysticism, while not strictly scientific, have significantly contributed to cultural progress. Many early scientific innovations owe a debt to esoteric knowledge. It’s important to remember that Newton devoted a substantial portion of his time to alchemy. Drawing connections with esoteric elements may not seem as straightforward as rocket science, but it is not necessarily pseudoscientific.

Between pseudo-scientific superstition and scientific technocracy, there is a huge grey area, where could be a fertile ground for innovation and creativity. From an artistic perspective, the analogous processes of designing smart contracts and conducting energy exchange rituals demonstrate a shared foundation of external support and higher intervention. The project intends to encourage a cross-pollination of ideas between ancient mystical practices and contemporary technological solutions, find a middle ground between the purely scientific and the esoteric, exploring how these seemingly contrasting thought forms can influence each other and potentially lead to new creative solutions in the digital world.

You raise a valid point about cryptocurrency striving for mainstream acceptance. However, the quest for mainstream acceptance raises important considerations about what constitutes the “cultural mainstream.” I would argue that mysticism has played a pivotal role in shaping societal norms and cultural movements. If we look back at the 20th century, mysticism help to explore new social and cultural concepts. Its experiments covered a wide range of areas, including women’s rights, free concepts of body and sexuality, self-exploration, anti-colonialism, etc… Several important cultural movements, such as symbolism, surrealism, post-modernism, also had their roots in mysticism. Most recently, the New Age movement in the 1980s significantly impacted mainstream culture through its influence on literature, music, and art. The terminology in cryptocurrency itself – forge, mint, ETH – already demonstrates existing tendencies of connecting with alchemy and esoteric traditions. That’s to say, esotericism may not hold a position in the cultural mainstream currently, but it definitely could serve as an ignition key for new cultural movements. Therefore, integrating these mystical perspectives could enrich, rather than hinder, cryptocurrency’s cultural impact.

Your suggestion to highlight specific magical traditions is well-taken.
I agree that various sub-groups perceive and interact with the concept of protocols through their own mystical frameworks. In the microscopic level, it would be interesting to draw the parallels between these ancient practices and the principles governing digital interactions today.

As we move from the micro to the macro perspective (the project aspires to create a “holographic” depiction of digital protocols), the project will illustrate how these diverse views coalesce into a unified system underpinned by digital protocols, thereby fostering a new order and culture shaped by these technological tenets.

At the end of my reply, I also list some of the relevant references. I am available for further clarification on the proposal. Thank you so much for your comment.

Eliade, Micea. 1978. The Forge and the Crucible. University of Chicago Press.
Principe, Lawrence. 2013. The Secrets of Alchemy.University of Chicago Press.
Principe, Lawrence. 2011. The Scientific Revolution: A Very Short Introduction. Oxford University Press.
Szulakowska, Urszula. 2011. Alchemy in Contemporary Art. Routledge.