#14 Albert Wenger, USV: A Blockchain World After Capital

I’m excited to kick off Season 1 of Creating a Humanist Blockchain Future (Youtube, Soundcloud, iTunes), by interviewing Albert Wenger, a managing parter at Union Square Ventures and the author of World After Capital. This is also the first episode in Series A: Macro Systems, where we discuss the future with philosophers and venture capitalists (or, in Albert’s case, both!).

In this episode, Albert and I explore:

  • The nonlinear transition to a World After Capital from a 1st principles perspective around marginal cost and universality.
  • Overlap with Ben Thompson’s Aggregation Theory, anti-trust, network effects, and user-controlled computation.
  • Albert’s issues with Yuval Harari’s definitions of humanism in Sapiens and Homo Deus.
  • Trump, ISIS, and Brexit as backwards-facing narratives and why values are necessary when we unleash the freedoms of in a World After Capital.
  • Blockchain as a new kind of organizational technology that has the motivation and coordination benefits of a network without the centralization. (See Albert’s Blockstack Summit talk.)
  • The overlap of two macro trends that come rarely: a nonlinear jump in a macro scarce resource (3rd such jump in 10,000s of years) and a new organizational technology (5th such innovation in 1000s of years).

Albert also answers my push back around the questions:

  • Are we really transitioning to an attention economy? Isn’t saying “attention/time is scarce” obvious? Of course time is ultimate scarce resource.
  • I understand the argument that markets can’t measure long-tail risk. This leads to a desire to exit our market absolutism into a world of enhanced commonism and individual freedoms. But is that exit necessary? Markets can measure long-tail risk if broken down into their component parts. Can’t markets work for long-tail risk impact too?

My favorite quotes:

  • A lot of people treat computers as just another machine. They are not.
  • This nonlinear transition to a world after capital means we will need to change everything from religion to how humans procreate.
  • [To diminish the downsides of internet network monopolies] we need to shift computational power back to the edges in the network.
  • The power of knowledge is objective basis for putting humans at the center of the earth. With great power comes great responsibility. It is we who have the responsibility to save the dolphins, not the other way around.
  • We’ve become market absolutists. We want to do everything with markets. Right now, 80% of humans are engaged in economic activity. Later, 10% will be engaged in economy activity and 90% will be in attention-based activity.
  • I would argue that we have both an individual and collective crisis of attention. I want to get us to the point where we can’t be emotionally hijacked.
  • What makes us distinctly human is that we can talk and write songs about emotion.
  • From an organizational technology perspective, the promise of blockchain is that we can have networks with better coordination relative to the market and better motivation relative to the firm, while not being centrally controlled.
  • But this is not enough. We need the technology AND the values. What do we want to build with the technology?
  • [Given blockchain and the nonlinear transition to a world after capital.] These kinds of innovations come in clusters. It’s a bunch of things all happening at once. They both make the phase shift possible and necessitate it.
From Albert’s Blockstack Summit talk: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LgQT874KHuw

Books referenced:

You might also enjoy these podcasts from Season 0:


Thanks to Keith Klundt, Mike Goldin, John Desmond, Colin Wielga, Harry Lindmark, Joe Urgo, John Lindmark, Daniel Segal, Jacob Zax, Katie Powell, Jonathan Isaac, Brady McKenna, Jeff Snyder, Ryan X Charles, Chris Edmonds, Ramsay Devereux, Ned Mills, Kenji Williams, Scott Levi, Peter Rodgers, Kenzie Jacobs, Jon Frechin, Nathan Schneider, and Kash Dhanda for supporting me on Patreon!

Thanks to Shapeshift for sponsoring the show!

About Me: My name is Rhys Lindmark and I’m a social entrepreneur. I’m creating a humanist blockchain future by writing, speaking, and advising at the intersection of Effective Altruism, UBI, the Attention Economy, and Blockchain. I lead the Colorado chapter for Effective Altruism. I’m an alumnus of Techstars Boulder 2015 (Edify). Please reach out if you’d like to connect or have feedback! I’m curious about what you’re working on. You can support me on Patreon, follow me on Twitter, or connect on LinkedIn.

Disclaimer: I own less than $100 of any given cryptocurrency, so my monetary incentive is not directly aligned with Bitcoin, Ethereum, etc.

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