The Cybernetic Ethos of Cryptocurrencies: Economic and Social Dimensions


Abstract


The last years have experienced an effervescence in the field of monetary innovation, concerning both complementary currencies and cryptocurrencies. The scenario of innovation has been intensively investigated with regard to economic and socio-political aspects. Against the peculiar multidimensionality of the phenomenon, the paper argues that the analysis should take the opportunity of grasping a cobelonging between the economic and the social. Whether they seem related to a proliferation of new forms of sociality (as in many experiences of complementary currencies) or to a disquieting desocialization (as in certain domains of the cryptocurrencies' world), the social dimensions of the new monies can be fruitfully analyzed by focusing on how they are consonant with certain basic conceptions of economic life. After a brief discussion of this point with regard to complementary currencies, the above-mentioned theoretical approach is used to investigate the cybernetic ethos of cryptocurrencies. The analysis shows that the socio-technical imaginaries of some cryptocurrencies (with particular regard to Bitcoin) call into question the relationship between human and non-human agency and are complicit with certain ideas of economic life, one of whose main traits concerns the demand for unconditionally "assuring" the economic and for denying the dimension of uncertainty.

Keywords: complementary currencies; cryptocurrencies; cybernetic ethos; monetary innovation; economic dimensions; social dimensions

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