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First appearing ten years ago, The White Paper was a short but strikingly graceful outline of how an electronic cash system called Bitcoin might function without reliance on a central authority such as a bank or government, and was attributed only to a mysterious individual or group called Satoshi Nakamoto. At first glance, Ignota's decision to follow up last year's excellent Spells: 21st-Century Occult Poetry with a seemingly tangential examination of the birth of Bitcoin and blockchain technology might raise a few eyebrows. However, the reasons for this decision are made very clear in editor Ben Vickers' preface; The White Paper constitutes the origin myth not only of cryptocurrency but potentially of a system of knowledge capable of reorganising all human social and political relations. A decade on from Bitcoin's implementation and particularly in the wake of Nakamoto's long silence, The White Paper might be considered a magical text, a sacred doctrine that appeared from nowhere and contained the power to alter reality.
The White Paper itself occupies only nine pages of this volume, and while it remains a revolutionary text in its own right, what really shines here is Jaya Klara Brekke's highly accessible guide that accompanies it. Brekke unpacks many of the paper's key ideas—from obscure aspects of cryptography and computation to privacy, transparency, and trust—and illuminates them next to the political concerns of post-crash 2009 as well as those emerging in the years since. For those of us who struggle to maintain a slim grasp of the real-world implications of blockchain technology, or those of us with an interest in contemporary myth-making, this is crucial reading.