Emily Carr University of Art & Design – The Last Question: How can we design the blockchain towards systems that encourage equity, ecological integrity, and living within the planet’s carrying capacity?

Emily Carr University of Art & Design The Last Question: How can we design the blockchain towards systems that encourage equity, ecological integrity, and living within the planet’s carrying capacity?

“For us to reclaim our full humanity, we have to understand that this will come from creating new systems of being with each other. So that in the new system, the value of a human being is the full human value, their value as a poet, a thinker, a lover, a carrier of the culture. That’s what the value of a human being is, that’s what we deserve and need.” 

Ed Whitfield, Fund for Democratic Communities (F4DC)

Isaac Asimov’s short story The Last Question (1956) is a canonical sci-fi parable about technological innovation, that infers humanity is both the creator and created. 221A’s Research Initiative Blockchain & Cultural Padlocks (2019-22) aligns with The Last Question’s paradoxical message by looking at the ways that a relatively new and widely speculated technology, the blockchain, has the potential to develop new systems that will allow us to “re-common” land, data and objects. Through these investigations, Blockchains & Cultural Padlocks seeks ways to escape the limiting discourses surrounding technology in both techno-fetishist (solutionist) and techno-pessimist guises, instead grappling with technology as a co-evolutionary byproduct which influences and is influenced by social life at large. (Reed, Patricia. The Valuation of Necessity. Vancouver: 221A, 2020) Please join 221A, along with our partner Emily Carr University of Art & Design (Vancouver/Unceded Territories) for a panel discussion that will explore these challenges by asking the questions: How we can better design social, cultural and ecological value on the blockchain in ways that incentivize us to seek out new collective ideals? Are there ways to perform our work, and live our lives in ways that put humanity and the planet on a survival path amid the collapsing climate? 

“Expansionist thinking is rooted in abstract economic models and monetary analyses that are devoid of biophysical data and ignore fundamental physical laws.” 

William E. Rees, School of Community and Regional Planning, University of British Columbia

At Emily Carr University of Art & Design on Wednesday, January 22 (workshop 3–5 pm; public talk, 7–8:30 pm) please join Goethe-Institut Guest Matthias Einhoff, Artist, Designer and Director of Z/KU, Berlin (Centre for Art and Urbanistics) for a workshop (3-5 PM RSVP) will share his learning from the development of The Beecoin Project, which assembles human and non-human actors in a Decentralized Autonomous Organization (DAO), with the ultimate goal of caring for bees by incentivizing us to encourage qualities of our ecosystem which keep the most important pollinators healthy. Data becomes the foundation for a crypto-economic system that redistributes resources with the aim of creating ecological integrity. Einhoff will be joined by Lee White of ChinookX and Artist Julian Hou. ChinookX, a partner of 221A on the Blockchains & Cultural Padlocks Research Initiative, is an Indigenous-led nonprofit organization that is seeking ways for the blockchain to be designed with Indigenous consensus protocols in order to enable responsive resource management for traditional territories and data-sovereignty for First Nations communities. Julian Hou is an Artist Researcher working with 221A and is leading the development of a feasibility study for an artist-led community that draws from the notion of anoesis, a state of mind consisting of pure sensation or emotion without cognitive content. In Hou’s view, if this anoetic resonance can be used as an organizing principle for communities developing the blockchain, it has the advantage of leading us to places that are less about individual choices or cognitive judgments because of its undeniable quality of communication and perception that can encourage more harmonious coexistence. In Hou’s words: “ethical questions around blockchain should be tempered by an equal consideration of natural life – our coextensive relationship with nature should be built into the ethics of blockchain.” The workshop is intended for students, designers, artists, planners, urbanists, and developers engaged with the blockchain. The workshop will be followed in the evening by a public roundtable (7–8:30 pm, Room B2160) introduced and moderated by Jesse McKee, 221A Head of Strategy, with the workshop leaders and Maral Sotoudehnia, a Geographer working with the Province of B.C.’s Climate Action Secretariat on a carbon trading system designed on the blockchain. 

Project Support

Supported by the Goethe Institut, Matthias Einhoff also participates in a series of public events in Montreal / Tiohtià:ke tsi ionhwéntsare earlier in the month, with a seminar on the commons organized by the Observatoire des médiations culturelles at l’Institut national de la recherche scientifique, and a workshop convened by les Entrepreneurs du commun at the Phi Centre.

Blockchains & Cultural Padlocks is supported by The Canada Council for the Art’s Digital Strategy Fund

Canada Council for the ArtsEmily Carr UniversityThe Goethe-Institut