If you're a fan of Ethereum, then you might have had a visceral reaction when you read the title of this post. Maybe that's why you clicked on it in the first place. On its face, "Ethereum Stops Working" is a statement that seems to imply a cataclysmic failure that would wipe out a multi-billion dollar market and an entire industry. It's a statement we'd hope to never read in a news headline. But, it's a technically true statement about the transition away from using Proof-of-Work.
After approximately midnight tonight (if all goes according to plan) Ethereum will stop working. And yet we know that in another sense, it will continue to work... hopefully better than ever before. It will begin working in a new way that is more sustainable and less energy intensive, thereby setting itself (and the environment) up for a healthier future.
If you've been paying attention, you'll notice that this shift mirrors the world around us in many ways. The nature of our work life is in flux. Jobs don't last as long as they once did, and they aren't conducted in the same ways that they used to be. Additionally, costs of living are increasing, inflation is on the rise, and wages aren't keeping up.
The Great Resignation, Quiet Qutting, and Lying Flat are all happening because the way we work is (ironically) not working and people are tired. Things have to change. Like the Ethereum blockchain, we need a more sustainable way to work.
If we'll let it, The Merge asks us the question "what is work?"… and then beckons us into a new world in which the traditional structures of productivity can begin to dissolve, making way for healthier models.
The Merge can help us reframe our understanding of work and abandon the binary world view that it imposes upon our bodies and brains. It gives us a chance to see that working and not working are one.
The Merge is a reminder that the rat-race of hustle culture, corporate surveillance, and micro-management is an energy intensive method of control over human bodies that is not sustainable and is not healthy.
For my latest conceptual art project called "Proof of (No) Work", I've sold 365 NFTs that represent physical time cards that will be used with a mechanical time clock. Such time clock devices were historically used to keep track of how many hours an employee spent working so that they could be monitored for performance, attendance, and paid commensurately. The time clock represents the old way of doing things.
I designed the physical time cards that I will be using for this project myself, and each one represents a chunk of my time that will be spent unproductively on behalf of the owner of the NFT. Each card is square shaped to evoke the imagery of the blocks in a blockchain. I will punch in when I begin a "no work" session and then punch out when finished. A brief note will be hand-written on each card describing what I did. I will then update the NFT with new metadata and a scanned image of the physical card. This is the proof of "no work".
In a sense, people who bought these NFTs paid for my time, but instead of working on their behalf like in a traditional employment relationship, I am spending it as unproductively as I can... watching TV, reading books, meditating, taking naps, playing games, drinking coffee, going for walks, etc. etc.
Each activity may or may not seem productive or unproductive to any given person, and I expect that during each session I might wrestle with whether or not what I’m doing is actually unproductive. The reason for this is that the concepts of productivity and work are incredibly subjective and culturally defined. Some might even say they are deeply intertwined.
Proof of (No) Work is my response to the current state of employment and hustle. I hope that this project will help me (and you) think more deeply about the ways in which we do and don't work.
And so, when The Merge occurs and the Ethereum blockchain stops working tonight... so will I.