Works in progress: the next blockchain book, and Roko’s Basilisk

Bitcoin remains a dumpster fire — but it’s just been quietly burning away, filling the neighbourhood with its unique fragrance and not throwing out any remarkable gobbets of flaming toxic waste. So I’ve been getting on with the next books.

I have two books in the works, because why fill your brain with one project, when you can start two and fill all your brains. One is the very mainstream book for very mainstream people — the other is the art project, that I have to somehow make digestible to people who aren’t me.

Attack of the 50 Foot Blockchain

Attack of the 50 Foot Blockchain has been shockingly successful. I started it in October 2016, when Bitcoin was this fad that had passed a couple of years before and nobody cared — as David Birch put it, it was like covering the history of CB radio — and I literally expected to sell 100 to 200 copies on Kindle. I’d have called that a huge success.

But then Bitcoin took off again in April 2017, and by release in July it had a market. And I had a self-published hit on my hands.

Sales to date, if you’re curious, are: 7295 paid-for copies. 2135 paperbacks, 4610 Kindle, 281 SmashWords, 144 Draft2Digital, 125 Google Play. This is pretty good for a book through a publisher — 1000 is not a failure, 5000 is most pleasing — and ridiculously successful for self-publishing.

So my advice for self-publishing success: pick your lottery numbers carefully!

The loved one puts up with me talking blockchain guff all the time because the Amazon receipts turn out to be a convincing argument. As the self-publisher, I get the publisher’s share too, and it’s made our lives just that little bit better. But it’s nine months on and sales are slowing right down. Time for a sequel!

Bride of the 50 Foot Blockchain

That’s not the title — I don’t have a title yet. “Attack of the 50 Foot Blockchain” was a silly working title that I took to — even if it did turn out to be untranslatable. And that working title’s incomprehensible even in English. Title suggestions are welcomed — keeping in mind this is the very mainstream book for very mainstream people.

The content will mostly be the blockchain world since mid-2017, which was my cutoff for Attack.

Even starting with all the words I’ve generated for this news blog, just my notes for possible content are 5000 words. And there are so many stories I haven’t even touched upon. Not looking forward to explaining Tether …

Roko’s Basilisk

The artificial intelligence at the end of the universe — its existence will be so good for humanity that if you don’t donate for its creation, it will regrettably have to torture your simulation as incentive. No, that makes no sense. Yes, people believed this. And still do.


I hung out on LessWrong from late 2010 to 2014. I arrived a bit late for the original “Roko’s basilisk” post, but it was clear something big had happened. RationalWiki had an article on LessWrong and someone had added mention of the “forbidden post” to it … so RationalWiki was the only place talking about it, while discussion was ruthlessly suppressed on LessWrong itself.


Don’t blink!


So I, and other RationalWiki editors, started getting emails from LessWrong readers who were worried about the Basilisk! It turns out you can’t reason your way out of ideas you did reason yourself into either.

So we started the RationalWiki article on Roko’s basilisk. Then David Auerbach cribbed large chunks of it for Slate, and XKCD ran a cartoon mentioning “the Roko’s Basilisk people” in the tool tip. And it was famous and entered popular culture. Now there’s even a Doctor Who episode based on it.

And there’s Neoreaction a Basilisk by Elizabeth Sandifer (UK, US), the reasonably successful book that’s directly responsible for Attack of the 50 Foot Blockchain. And seems to be part of a marketing cluster on Amazon with Attack, The Politics of Bitcoin (UK, US) and The Basilisk Murders. Elizabeth has been nagging me to get the hell on with the Basilisk book, as the obvious artistic move. Which it is.


Fig. 1: The Amazon algorithm.


My current working title is Roko’s Basilisk: A Savage Journey to the Dark Heart of the Transhumanist Dream — because go big!

Now I just have to take this strangely compelling art project and make it a book that answers the question “yes, but why are you telling me all of this.” Though multiple paying subscribers — thank you, I love you all! — have told me they’re looking forward to it.

This may have slight commercial potential — science journalist Tom Chivers got a contract for The Rationalists: Artificial Intelligence and the Geeks Who Want to Save the World, and even though it’s much more likely that was for being Tom Chivers than for the subject matter, I spoke to him for his book and we think our books will sell each other. One book is crank fodder — but two is a movement!

What would you like to see?

What would you like to see in each of these books? What “take that!” stories would you love to see? Do you have title ideas? Have you bribed the Basilisk today?



Rococo Basilisk — apparently.

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3 Comments on “Works in progress: the next blockchain book, and Roko’s Basilisk”

  1. Bride of the 50 Foot Blockchain is a bit of a stretch, but how about War of the Colossal Blockchain? (Or, as you’re self-publishing and haven’t to worry about high sheriffs, you can go ahead with A Buttful of Fistcoins.)

    1. While A Buttful of Fistcoins definitely has a certain something, that something is being a title that even I won’t use. Tempting as it is. Maybe a “Collected Works of Buttcoin”.

      1. Keep that one for a future Chuck Tingle collaboration methinks.

        I would suggest “Metagalactic Cryptocoin Battle At The Edge Of Time” but that might just be a fondness for old Jeff Minter shoot-’em-ups…

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