• What is ‘tokenization’?
I use this term primarily to refer to common practices of abstracting meaning, function and identity from experience and encoding them in language (or concepts). Effectively, this is a process of unacknowledged wholesale reductionism, which has catastrophic effects on our experience of identity itself. These effects are local to our persons in that they limit and preframe our relational potentials as well as our interpretations and evaluations of experience and opportunity. They are also highly distributed because our own actions and inactions affect vast terrains of (many kinds of) others directly and indirectly.
Tokenization also occurs beyond the specific dimension of language, however, and I believe that there is some evidence that the process which results in tokenization has its basis as an expression of an initial experience of loss, which (from one perspective) is the common experience of time. Money is a tokenization of what we might refer to as ‘value itself’. We may thus imagine that as our species ‘lost contact’ with the dimension of ‘value-ness’ in direct experience, various modes of tokenizing this ‘lost experience’ eventually resulted in money. From this perspective, and others, we can see that, tokens (money, words, dolls, concepts of identity and value) are forms of extrinsic memory. Though I believe we must each explore this matter personally, I suspect that we will commonly come to realize that language, sign-making, and other similar forms of behavior are actually very primitive forms of extrinsic memory. I suggest in the essay ‘dolls’ that some of this behavior may have developed during our cognitive and social evolution as a method of dealing with the peculiar problems posed for intimate social groups by the loss of members.
The primary problem is that we confuse the ‘tag’ or token, with the real entity (or symmetry(ies)) in question in a way that strongly and secretly suggests that the subject actually lacks all qualities, functions, and aspects of identity not overtly implied by the token we selected to represent it. We have the potential to experience and express a relatively dynamic experience of identity, meaning and value, but we almost never get the chance to explore this. Instead, our basic cognitive nature and momentum gets highjacked by structure, which proceeds to overwhelm meaning to the point where content itself is experienced as a non-sequitir.
What is implied here is not exactly that tokenization is ‘bad’, but rather that it is intrinsically dangerous and extremely confusing. I believe that the common loss of the overwhelmingly powerful imaginative and creative capacities of childhood are, in some part (probably in large part) due to the onset of relations with tokens, in general — and language in particular. Ongoing immersion in cultures that vastly overcredential words, names, and categories when expressing or evaluating identity converts many aspects of our innate cognitive prowess and potential to its own purposes — leaving us relatively bereft in the face of our actual endowments. The topic of tokenization and its relationship to knowledge, cognition, and experience is still a very new branch of exploration, however I hope that I have been able to sketch, in broad strokes, some of the foundations of this subject.
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