Design and Violence


‘Satoshi Nakamoto’, 2008

Can code replace trust?

Blockchain is a proposal for a way to record financial transactions in a shared, visible accounting system that is distributed across many computers worldwide. Whereas banks and governments create and track the movement of money through the centralised trust and internationally-recognised authority they hold, blockchain proposes that strong encryption techniques for security, combined with complex algorithms to record information, will create a new form of distributed ledger outside the control of any single authority. The proof of this concept, proposed by its pseudonymous inventor Satoshi Nakamoto, is BitCoin, one of the first virtual currencies. The design of currencies like BitCoin is a potential challenge to the violence of centralised financial systems. However, because of the anonymity it offers, BitCoin also gained an association with violence of a different kind — the currency’s first main use (and subsequent public visibility) was for the purchase of items on the Silk Road, a dark web marketplace which sold guns, drugs, stolen information, and illegal services, amongst other less nefarious goods.

Screenshot of real-time blockchain animation courtesy of