It’s pronounced ‘Zero Ex Omega’.
It’s the brainchild of two people who apparently have lots of time on their hands and a penchant for publicity stunts: artist Avery Singer, child of Ramona Singer, who seems to be someone on television, and Bay Area whiz kid slash former CEO of Augur Matt Liston.
Together at a conference at New York City’s New Museum, Singer and Liston unveiled 0xΩ. It’s a blockchain religion they invented.
Do we need a blockchain religion? Of course we do. Look at it this way: blockchain has always been a religion. Singer and Liston are just making it official—and, of course, decentralizing it.
Not a Critique of Capitalism, But…
“In our secular culture, we have sort of replaced religion with capitalism or, rather, this rampant consumerism,” Liston told Wired. “0xΩ isn’t a direct critique of that, but I think it’s definitely a clear point to make.”
Put that way, 0xΩ isn’t so different from the Church of the SubGenius, which satirizes everything on Earth to rough sketch a core dogma of meaninglessness and mayhem transcendable only by the attainment of ‘slack’. Or more recently, it resembles trends in chaos magick, which asserts that “nothing is true and everything is permissible.”
These anarchic belief systems (or anti-belief systems?) can be seen as responses to some of late capitalism’s gaping failures, namely the frenzied fervors of consumerism, epidemic feelings of void and alienation resulting from an absence of cultural roots, and the general collapse of institutional religion as a place to find any meaning or value.
From this climate emerges the great and terrible Dogewhal.
“We have this avatar I’ve created who is a narwhal with a doge head, a beret, tattoos, an infinity tail, an ethereum logo,” said Singer at the unveiling, while muffling laughter.
Is this a joke? Yes! Is there more to it than that? Also yes!
The rest of the crypto world takes itself so seriously, it can stand a little shake up from time to time. If nothing else, 0xΩ brings that relief. While ostensibly the meaningless antics of the clever, it could actually have some new ideas about how we approach belief systems, and some new applications of the block.
The Block X Religion
0xΩ is a custom religion, but it’s also a platform for existing religions. On 0xΩ, everyone in the religion has an equal say in which beliefs prevail, and what will be the content of sacred texts.
It’s a takedown of traditional hierarchies in which acolytes apply themselves to the instruction of a master who holds the keys to the kingdom, hierarchies which people are less and less interested in.
“We’re incentivizing mindsharing, and eventually mind upload to use consensus to form a structure of collective consciousness,” Liston said. This deliberate manufacturing of consensus reality, if it works, would make Peter J. Carroll proud.
Where Did This All Come From?
The name ‘0xΩ’ itself has gnostic overtones. The void, or the original nothingness, multiplied by the sum total of all material existence, signified by the character Ω. Nothing times everything. Whence comes the universe? From what void does it all spring? You could ask the same of Bitcoin, which spontaneously emerges from nothingness just as the universe did, or does, maybe.
Liston, who also previously worked with a decentralized prediction company called, ironically, Gnosis, says he “grew up Jewish.”
He was pushed out of his position as CEO of Augur in a series of legal battles surrounding one of the world’s first ICOs. Augur, a betting tool that rewards users for correct predictions on elections, markets, or even the weather, seems an apt place to start for someone whose business aspirations seem to revolve around the ethereal nature of belief.
Regarding his approach to blockchain, Liston says “I’m obsessed and very driven by what these technologies can do, but I’m bored with it being a space that’s dominated by engineers and finance people.”
Like What Does Religion Even Mean, Dude?
It raises questions like: Is a democratized religion even a religion? Do the people know best on matters concerning the secret laws of nature? What is the point of all this? The best answer to the latter is probably ‘well, what is the point of anything?’
Sure, 0xΩ may be dismissive of the cultural post that world religions occupy. It’s a bit like someone mouthing a bunch of gibberish and declaring they’ve just founded a language. But it disrupts the evangelical fervor of blockchain enthusiasts, and that, if nothing else, is a service to humanity.