The State of The Decentralized Union

andréa paige (andi X)
26 min readMar 15, 2019

Crypto’s Block Party in the Tokenized Depression

Pulling from Political Economy, an emphasis on ethics and a deeply globalized worldview, cultural commentator Andi X joins Yellow and TokenomX to declare: “2019: the State of the Decentralized Union”. With sass and unbridled assessment, she recounts a year of wading into the crypto-scene and hop-scotching through Blockchain bonanzas. ‘Where are we going?’ is her quest.

“You never change things by fighting against the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the old model obsolete.”B. Fuller

THE TOKENIZED DEPRESSION

By now the utopian bubble’s burst. ICOs have seen their day, and the bowl of halloween candy, wrapped in Venture funding — handed out to anything dressed up in Blockchain — has run out. Welcome to 2019. Those in it for the ethos of Decentralization, the revolutionaries, are separated like wheat from the chaff, excited about the cutting away of the fat in this movement. The rest, the fat, the carbs… those who were just passing through to make a quick cryptographic buck, bit or boogle, are whimpering away with their tails between their legs.

“Stop mourning the coming end of the world order. We’re already in a new one,” writes Steve LeVine. “Much time and angst have been spent the last two years kneading hands over the damage to the post-World War II order, the economic and geopolitical system that’s probably prevented a new great power war. But history suggests world orders die long before anyone notices.”

I can’t help but cross my fingers that the global capitalist architecture built in the 1940s has indeed died out and that seeds planted in its soon-to-be-compost are already sprouting. We are at the brink of massive generational change. This technology will likely be the impetus to that change. Though, current Blockchain technology “is like we are in 1996 of the Internet’s development. The reach of the Internet of Money will go far and wide,” says Matt McKibben, Founder of DecentraNet.

A Clifford Stoll article from exactly 24 years ago, doubting much of what has actually happened.

“Yea, I know someone who invested at 18K and held through the fallout. Now he doesn’t know what to do…” This commoner’s commentary in the land of crypto layman. The general public caught the whiff of the blockish buzz as prices soared high over the holiday season of 2017. Having invested long before, I was stoked when bitcoin hit 20k at the exact moment of my Saturn Return, and I thought we were really going somewhere.

But we can’t go anywhere if the route isn’t mapped — and moreover — if the rafts on which we will sail aren’t yet built. Most cryptic cavemen (or was it crypto laymen?) can’t even figure out how to buy into cryptocurrency. “A crypto application today is quite difficult to use,” confirms Jorgen Bø, Norwegian-born Founder of CryptoHouse NY. “Within the next 6–12 months there will be solutions that make it possible to deploy and interact with the app in the same way that you do with the Web 2.0 application. Which will be huge for the whole industry.”

Decoded? Crypto-for-Dummies and Blockchain-for-Business will be 2019’s best-sellers. Aka: This sh*t will soon get easier for everyone to use.

Fast-forward to today. Bitcoin currently stands at $3,917, and the total market cap has more than halved. Capitalist speculation is of little use. Trustees know that the boom and bust cycles are a natural part of development. Anyone who’s been in it since Mt. Gox knows this is par for the course.

However, Liraz Siri, Decentralized Systems Architect of TabooKey, tells me, “For those who believe the fundamentals are good, there has never been a better time to be a speculator. Be fearful when other people are greedy and be greedy when other people are fearful. If you buy when there’s blood in the streets and you sell when everybody’s dancing with irrational euphoria you will generally do well in the markets, but it’s hard to swim upstream.”

THE MECHANICS OF EXCHANGE

Leaves crunch beneath my feet as I run across the midwestern college campus. It is October 2008, days before the Bitcoin white paper drops. As the trees change color, I’m indoctrinated into the rebel artistry of Political Economy. A vision for another way to exist in society, awakened in me by a Japanese literary critic named Kojin Karatani. Swayed into seeing between the societally-fed lines, I rejected status quo (and my dreams to become a foreign service agent). Karatani’s 2008 paper “Beyond Capital-Nation-State”, incited inception in me: l’idee fixé… an idea beyond doubt, an idea that would take years of creativity and human ingenuity to decipher and develop. It was this — a dream of a society that was both economic and ethical — a situation where humans transacted on something other than production or time and money. This fiscal-temporal determinant has been a main player in uprooting connection and launching soaring rates of depression worldwide.

The modern University system (and thus commercial Academia at large) has sectionalized thought. We now have Political Science and [Capitalist] Economics. As if the two aren’t inherently interrelated… This reductionist viewpoint disempowers promising minds and inhibits critical inquiry. The notion of any other way is squelched. Democracy heralded in an age of open, free markets and endless growth.

Our new metric for success was GDP: Gross Domestic Product. How much your country produced determined how valuable you were to the world. The powerful surged. The less-developed entered a downward spiral of never-enough-production and sweltered under the heat of the mid-development sun. The result? We now see centralized capitalism as the only way to gain standing in the world. Few have continued to seek past, about what’s beyond — about what’s possible, and about how humans can find an ethical resolution to Marx’s concept of Verkner: exchange.

I’ve thrown in the towel on the modern world more times than I can count. I was “fully decentralized” before it was cool. Broken free from societal chains traveling the world for 13 years… I’ve lived in a treehouse in an eco-village, gone 40 days in silence off grid, survived without money in rural India… and more. Those were the canvases on which I painted a decade-long career as a public figure in Health and Yoga. It was my way to “stick it to the man”.

I couldn’t exist in a society with which I inherently disagreed. So I off-roaded and did my internal work. Then, at the end of 2017, I splashed some cosmic water on my face to remember who I am at my core: a hard-headed, soft-hearted Political Economist with a dream.

And what was this dream? Karatani seeks to reconstruct a Marxian social theory of formation around the notion of ‘exchange’. Four methods of exchange have existed throughout history: reciprocity, plunder + redistribution, capital exchange, and une idée fixe or X. He relates these modes of exchange to social formations, in a table defined by American theorist Noam Chomsky, with X as some form of libertarian socialism.

Then Karatani keys in on capitalist social formation and says, “the separation of the political and economic was the very product of the capitalist social formation.” The transition between social formations is simply a reorganization of the modes of exchange. Karatani advocates an optimistic return to Immanuel Kant’s idea of Perpetual Peace to formulate X: la idée fixe.

My notes from Fall 2008. Life-changing credit goes to my professor Joel Wainwright, PhD, in all his brilliance.

In an arid, Alkaline mirage oasis in Nevada, I found the closest thing to l’idée yet. Yes, you guessed it: Burning Man. Where people have absolved themselves of all three existing modes of exchange… One of the only places I’ve found — in more 90+ countries and counting: transaction upon nothing but connection.

The Burn’s ten core principles invite a society unseen — something available nowhere else in the world. Decommodification and non-reciprocal Gifting are the economic governors of “the playa”, backed by Communal Effort and Civic Responsibility. A society where no money is exchanged, abundance is guaranteed and generosity is the feed.

Photos from: Reuters, Techlepatic, Metroactive

Sure, it’s not always perfect out there. And yes, in the bigger picture, the consumption flanking the week in the desert can’t go unnoticed. Yet, for one, model-UN-type, mock-trial week of humanity‘s potentialIf we all dove into the dire work of self-exploration… If we retired from being rats in the race… If we entertained a moment of greater awareness. “What the heck are we all really here for anyway?!” In the coming age, when we’ll have a lot more free time, it’s a question to consider. To a perpetual optimist like me, this art-fueled expressionary gathering is a container for experimentation with what humanity could become. Untangling this potential is the ontological “why” of man’s swollen prefrontal cortex.

“We’re here to burnify the world,” says Siri, “to create the kind of exuberant opt-in culture that supports and complements the crypto tech. We are evangelizing a wake up call to the realization that our existing legacy institutions are rooted in the unnecessary evil of coercion, and they are quickly crumbling under the weight of corruption and decay. We cannot place our trust in governments that monopolize violence. We must trust in voluntary interactions between ourselves. That if we do these things and recruit the best people to the cause, we have something to look forward to optimistically.”

A Camp Decentral Decree, infused with the spirit of DogeCon.

BIT BY BIT: A MODERN HISTORY OF MONEY

Money works because people have trust in it. This trust is what gives currency value as a useful means of exchange. If an ancient culture used gold or silver coins, their currency wouldn’t be worth anything to a culture who didn’t value gold or silver. This crypto movement is reinstating a basic decentralized standardization that can be applied globally. The purpose of money is, and always has been, merely to serve as a facilitator for exchange. When the value of money becomes untrustworthy, as it has under the fractional reserve central banking system, then we are in need of an overhaul. “In God We Trust” isn’t enough.

In 1933, the direct link between gold and dollar was broken by FDR, in the midst of economic instability and competing international currency devaluations. In 1944, the western financial elite at the decisive Bretton Woods gathering (led by John Maynard Keynes) discussed dispersal of one global currency that could be inflated at any moment. But the required technological infrastructure didn’t yet exist. At the end of WWII, the dollar was seen as as good as gold, and other countries began to collect US currency in lieu of the precious metal. By 1978, with a currency already completely detached from gold, the US continued to inflate, and began to run balance of payment deficits year after year. Translation? The US created useless value and tremendous debt, and money became a sham.

Economists, led by Milton Friedman, said we should get rid of gold and a pseudo-gold standard. “Let free markets and supply and demand of the global economy determine exchange rates!” He claimed this wouldn’t result in balance of payments deficits. The government would no longer need to interfere with gold. Between 1985–87 the US underwent major intentional inflation of the dollar. The Federal Reserve System (the printer of money) created $800 billion new dollars out of thin air in the 21 years between 1971–1992. For Americans, this resulted in a decline in productivity and living standards. Yet, for the government, it cemented an incentive to run massive deficits. Government spending has since exploded. Trillion-dollar deficits are norm. Mirroring the imbalance of overfed, disconnected, social-media-muzzled modern man, this isn’t healthy. And it certainly cannot continue.

Is there another way? Cryptocurrency certainly stands as a well-suited candidate. Requirements for any replacement currency are a finite, controlled supply, which doesn’t succumb to inflationary tactics, with [digitized] immediacy of exchange.

It’s been a decade since Bitcoin’s conception, parented by an unknown individual or group using the alias “Satoshi Nakamoto.” Actualizing the first use case of Blockchain technology, this decentralized mining architecture was a virus waiting to spread. Feeding on human greed, some might say, Bitcoin dawned the era of cryptocurrency. Its mitosis has since spawned a $350 billion market at its height. Like the wild girl in school who everyone fantasized about (but only the daring would pursue), crypto still garners attention. It’s attracted millions of investors of all types. From entrepreneurs to drug lords and day traders to hackers; crypto’s trustees now include institutions and acolytes.

Yes, a funny gimmick, no matter how shallow. Our hormones don’t lie. Nor does the seduction of disruptive change. Can we shy away from the equation of sexuality with wealth? More importantly: can we shy away from this movement being tied to wealth via crypto?

THE EVOLUTION OF VALUE

But what is it really about? Is this all just a new era of Drugs, Sex and Rock and Roll? Is it really all about money and fun? When we peel back the curtain, we do find promise of an Emerald City… And the “man behind the curtain” is Blockchain, a technology many claim could transform the current Internet into an Internet of Value. This would, in turn, host truly free global markets, thereby transferring value at a protocol layer uncontrolled by governments or corporations.

Blockchain technology itself, heavy in power consumption, requires a network of nodes to gain consensus. This creates an immutable (unchangeable) “ledger” or track-record. Said record is imprinted upon an encrypted, decentralized digital ledger. Said ledger is open and accessible to anyone… and controlled by no one. And this complex system may soon be as popularized and ignorantly accepted as the mechanics of your microwave.

Just last month, I saw an IBM Blockchain commercial on mainstream TV! It seems every industry is bidding to build Blockchain into its infrastructure, from simple supply chain management or agricultural output, to fashion and logistics. Top global corporations have already announced exploration of Blockchain’s potential. “Once liquidation happens, Blockchain is unlocked and Fortune 500 companies can easily use it,” says Joshua Johnson, the Blockchain consultant dominating the Chinese sphere.

However, Blockchain use cases still fit best for financial transactions: stocks, property, banking and currency exchange, contracts and personal identification. Proponents believe this technology will solve 21st century problems: on and offline.

Undeniably, Blockchain has the potential to corner corruption, plagiarize privacy, seal in cybersecurity and usurp the concentration of power out of the hands of the corporate and capital-driven elite.

This separation of bank and state, described to me by young tech revolutionary and crypto maverick Michael Healy, will change how we perceive the economy. Michael believes all people can have their own personal coin in a future tokenized society. “We will begin to exchange on the basis of true value and worth, and this will have nothing to do with governments.” Healy says this revolution in tokenization will be “more impactful for the world than the phone and the internet, put together.”

With mega-monoliths like JP Morgan recently institutionalizing their own coin, seems the tide is washing in towards Healy’s vision. Think about the potential for crowdfunding municipal infrastructure instead of awaiting corrupt government. Or tokenizing the success of your favorite musician. “This will level the playing field to maximize transparency and minimize corruption,” says Gary Lachance, Decentralization evangelist and Founder of the Decentralized Dance Party (where hundreds of boomboxes synchronized via portable FM transmitter play the same song in a giant mobile dance party).

The DDP teamed up with Unify for World Peace Day

This pitch at redefining value was first drilled into my psyche last summer at a chic champagne and ketamine-fueled party on the Greek island of Mykonos. I was invited to speak on “Human Optimization” at an event thrown in the supposed name of consciousness, by a group who’ve branded themselves with a name you might misread as “The Illuminati”. It was here when I first saw how the spiritual materialism of the modern Yoga movement and the laissez faire attitude of the nouveau riche interbreed. Feasting upon one another in the fierce Grecian summer sun, models cloaked in designer togas dangle insta-worthy grapes. The funniest part was that they weren’t hired. They were real. This is what it had all become. A fashion show for the future.

Me, in rebel dress code, speaking on Human Optimization in Mykonos, July 2018

Alas, I digress—there in Mykonos, I listened to a panel about “The Evolution of Value,” (This was one of the only presentations that began to expand towards an actual conversation.) It was hosted by a high-rolling East Asian VC firm founder, and on the panel was a bold 22-year-old, frizzy haired, self-proclaimed goddess who dresses for Burning Man year-round. She rocked my world with her platform to tokenize self-development. To reward both “healer/therapist” and the person doing the work… in such that the precise self-work itself, which currently only holds intrinsic value, through tokenization, would gain extrinsic value as well. Now we’re talking. That’s the “walk your talk” kind of movement that we see with Marianne Williamson (American spiritual teacher) running for President 2020.

So how about all those still riding out crypto? Lachance is excited about the current state of events. He’s been bit-invested since 2011 and is a leading proponent of Dogecoin, (iconized by a randomly-Googled Japanese Shiba Inu) which he oft refers to as “the most benevolent currency in existence”. Lachance recounts 2018: “Last year we were riding high on top of the world…” and says that even though markets are down, people who are “ideologically and philosophically behind this movement and these new technologies are just as faithful as ever that we’re going to turn the world upside down in weird and wonderful ways.” He says that Blockchain and open-source tech will “indeed be the tools that will maximize freedom, creation and loving connection all over the world.”

The Doge.

John McAfee called Blockchain “the greatest technological revolution since agriculture.” Agriculture required a centralized world, “and Blockchain will allow us to again decentralize, to take life back into our own hands. Yet, this bigger-picture impact isn’t yet known to the general public. Public receptivity is questionable. Most people miss the message of this medium and what it’s going to mean. When the public sees paranoia and bad press, they shut down,” says Lachance. “It will shake out people who were in the movement for reasons that won’t benefit building a new world and new-paradigm social operating systems.”

But what’s so revolutionary about Blockchain right now? “For the first time in history, we have incentive structures and social contracts that are enforced by the power of opt-in consensus instead of a gun barrel. Instead of trusting politicians and bankers, we trust cryptography and math. We can choose to opt out at any time,” says Liraz Siri. “If we don’t like the rules we can change the rules and hard fork. We can experiment freely knowing most experiments will fail, but those that don’t may lead to priceless innovations.”

DUBAI: A CRYPTO COMMUNITY CASE

As I get the phone call requesting me to write this article, Friday evening prayer howls through the streets. I’m in Dubai, attempting to land funding for one of my AI projects. It’s 5pm, and the sun is just about to set on this land of Arab innovation. I inhale the irony, as Dubai encompasses the dichotomy, embraces the best and the worst of humanity, not unlike the crypto scene of 2018. I reach out to a friend in the Blockchain space, who’s also passing through the Middle East, and he tells me about a crypto meetup — that very night. “Perfect,” I text back, as the stars align.

Downtown Dubai with the Burj Khalifa during the Blue Hour by Lukas Petereit

In the cab on the way, my friend, his business partner and I discuss the current battle: ETH vs. EOS. My mind drifts off to a land where coins become cult followings about which superhero comic book you’re going to buy. Will it be Satoshi or Vitalik? Pierce or Lubin?

We walk inside the hotel bar/restaurant with big bubble lights labeled with random European words strewn from the ceiling. The 23-year-old German Blockchain developer who sits down next to me declares that the Emirati “Blockchain everything” by 2020 plan won’t work. Two medium-height men strut over and stick out their hands in this globalized American greeting. They’re like twins: sleek, LA-hipster type, spotless canvas tennis shoes-wearing in button ups and slicked back hair. They tell me they run a blockchain consultancy. People still fall for that..?! I choke back a giggle as I think to myself. Last year, sure… but now?

There’s an infective energy in the crypto scene that’s undeniable. As the host stands up to welcome the group and speaks about how he was hacked and lost 31 million “of today’s money” in Mt. Gox. He says that anything’s possible, and if you think there’s competition — then you’re wrong. His widow’s peak is wind-swept in excitement. He’s made it. A bitcoin miner from 2011, it doesn’t matter if the cap is 350B or 500M, he’s set. He predicts bitcoin won’t hit 20k again until 2021/22. “That’s what I would tell my mother,” he jokes and goes on to say “we aren’t even close to bottom out, we have another 20% to go…” and predicts that will happen in Q3 of 2019. I realize the current crypto cosmic joke may be riddled with the madness of gambling.

Between comments that he indeed used to gamble 200,000 Dogecoin per day, I notice his pleather pants and a twill jacket, and I decide he’s endearing. As he sets us free, he tells us: “Unless you have 20 mil to give to IBM — which none of you in this room do — this is your playground. Now go and make connections.” He says “I create collision spaces” and quotes Tony Hsieh as the song “Baby I’m Worth It” comes on in the background. Everything makes more sense a bit later on, when I get to sit down with him, and he tells me that he used to be a stock broker, and Tony Robbins is his guru.

“Baby I’m Worth It” by Fifth Harmony

The evening ensues with discussions about Malta and Cyprus, residency and legality… They get elaborate with the tongue ties to describe the 2018 “bull market bubble burst”. Say that ten times fast.

A Bitcoin-maximalist’s eyes well with tears as he recounts to me the story of German authorities knocking on his door in 2017 to find out everything they could about crypto, threatening take all he had. He didn’t have proof of anything for his mining (except work or stake!), surely nothing tax-sufficient. He didn’t even have an energy bill — just the void that the paperless trail of crypto leaves in its wake. So with arms bound and the faith in wings to fly, fly he did. Moved everything he had to the Med. This included his dog: named Satoshi Nakamoto, proud puppy passport holder in Cyprus, where they now maintain residency and registration: only 60 days yearly tenancy required!

When the wave of change washes in to immerse us, we can only get glimpses of it a bit at a time. The bigger picture goes beyond Blockchain, and certainly beyond crypto. It’s a movement about Decentralization — and hopefully ensuring an upswing of self-sovereignty — that will ride this wave home.

I sketched you a diagram. Imagine sovereignty as everything that’s beyond!

THE CRYPTO SOCIAL SCENE & GENERALIZED ETHOS

Having grown up in upper middle-class middle-America, I was taught to Hodl before it was cool. Living a stingy backpacker life traveling the world through my 20s, one of my 2018 resolutions was to learn to spend money. And frankly, there’s no better way to do that than the crypto space: where grown-up kids play with made-up currency.

A clever Hodl meme

When Laurie Penny’s Coinsbase cruise commentary “Crypto’s Nouveau Riche” was released in December, I was at Art Basel for a slurry of Crypto/Blockchain bonanzas. This included a yacht party, launched from a co-working house in Miami’s exclusive Sunset Islands. I spent some time there with a friend from Camp DECENTRAL at the Burn. “The Crypto Mansion” is inhabited by 18–23 year olds who had, in one way or another, made it big on the market. As I watched young, bubbly arm candy wrestle the floating unicorn in the pool, I snagged the samurai sword off the mantle and cracked open coconuts. “Those are coconuts?!” One of the native youngins asks me. “Yes”, I laugh, as a woman who’s spent half of her life in the tropics. “And we can even drink them…!”

Back in Dubai: “If you don’t think you’ve been hacked before, you’re crazy,” our fearless leader submits. “You sent your DNA to 23 & Me… you put your fingerprint on your phone…” And then (a good 20 minutes before this group discussion actually comes to a close) he remarks: “I always end my speeches with ‘this is the most exciting time to be alive’.” I have a cynic’s cringe reaction to the uber-kitch tone, yet, something amongst us reeks of truth.

We go on to throw around the phrase “exponential change” like it’s an inflatable beach ball. I’m happy to join in, because we’re all already hopped up aboard this train to a destination unknown, and hope’s velocity intoxicates.

The rest of the crypto meetup is filled with discussions of Web3, Crypto4who? and the next big thing about airspace: autonomous drones flying off Blockchain. From security tokens to stable coins and the ins and outs of data privacy, everything’s just an idea until it’s built. I catch a certain glimmer in a Russian programmer’s eyes, a seductive youth. I can’t tell if it’s enlightenment or Adderall. One mention of Tim Draper and girls in bikinis at an upcoming “Blockshow” in Istanbul as the sales pitches fire.

But will we ever escape models at trade shows in male-dominated industries? No one can deny that the crypto/Blockchain space is still XY heavy, and females are hired in order to bridge the gender gap. When I’m in these circles, it feels like my currency is stored in my bra or between my thighs. If I want to up the ante, a manly anger-attitude and take-no-prisoners modus operandi rules. But, I won’t submit to any of that.

As Penny put it: “The men I meet are only too keen to tell me how refreshingly different I am from the other girls here. They’re right. I’m different from the other girls in that I’m older, have more social capital, and am probably getting paid more. That means I can afford to have less patience.”

The women collected at this evening’s gathering can also afford to not put out. Yet still, irony wells in my veins as the Meetup leaders introduce two Indian founders of a new, specialized fembot Blockchain/crypto, full-suite legal/financial consultancy service named after the spiritual concept of Karma. Their first big project was an organ donor tracking dApp that launched last week at Arab Health. Decentralized organ donor sourcing, what more could you want?! (Sure could foil the Chinese Government’s Falun Gong harvest game plan…)

Japanese Bitcoin Ad, Quartz

Fingers crossed that the sexism and escort-ethos of the crypto 2018 heyday will wash away in the wake of #metoo. “The first rule of being a woman in crypto is you do not talk about being a woman in crypto,” wrote Karen Hao. Though, some women fiercely holding the helm feel differently. Co-Founder of the Digital Trade Asset Association (DATA) and well-known Cambridge Analytica whistleblower Brittany Kaiser says:

“Contrary to some reports, I’ve found working in blockchain to be one of the most empowering sectors for a woman. I come from tech and politics, and I’m used to old white men being hired above me and then me doing their job for them. In fact, most of my colleagues in the blockchain space promote me as a founder and thought leader instead of looking for the man behind me to be my boss. That’s one of the best feelings in the world as a young professional woman.”

Women have come forth in all sorts of ways to support this bustling industry. From marketing firms to event planning. Even I got my hands wet in an Emotional Intelligence Consultancy “Developing Developers” for the Blockchain/AI space. Yet, perhaps there is a need for more actual building of infrastructure and less auxiliary services. According to McKibben, “there are only a couple thousand blockchain developers who actually know how to build…” and we have a long way to go to move this industry foreword.

In speaking about the future of this movement, Jorgen Bø says, “We basically started out with a model that doesn’t incentivize people to build products. And now what we’re seeing is a shift in the market… for you to be able to get your product going, starting to build and showcasing your ability to build is a better indicator to see if the team will get support. Also with UX changes, it will just take time to develop.”

Though my heart thumped for Penny’s Crypto Cruise observation: “Nobody talks about the glittering shitcoin-spangled future very much beyond the stand-up sales pitches. But they don’t talk much about the present, either,” I noticed that tonight was different. 2019 is ushering in a wave of change, and futurist technologies are beginning to interweave. At the Genesis Block of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, AI grows on Blockchain, and the importance of anonymity and facade of privacy take shape on our tongues. We are finally talking about the present, as it arches us over into the future.

DECENTRALIZATION: TOWARDS SOVEREIGNTY

As I’m finishing this piece, I walk past a TV playing a daytime drama about an African American girl with a chance to attend a ballet prep school and become the first recognized black ballerina. Her mother and father discuss that they’ll have to work overtime. In financially-stricken fear, they implore the daughter if this is really what she wants. As she nods, my sappy sense of sentimentality nearly brings me to tears. This is what we’ve been told: that our hard work — for the man — will determine our enjoyment of life. That money does buy happiness, and that we have to create economic growth to enjoy the privilege financial stability will bring.

We trade our time for money and we get an ability to buy things on the market in return. Ohhh, and how there are so many THINGS to buy…! Immanuel Kant said that in a capitalist economy, humans are treated as a means but not as an end. There is a gaping need for ethics in our economy today.

“Human beings should be treated as ‘ends’ and not as ‘means’. Act in such a way that you treat humanity, whether in your own person or in the person of any other, never merely as a means to an end, but always at the same time as an end,” Kant wrote in The Categorical Imperative, his theory of morality.

But what if there could be another way? I take a breath to come back to earth… I feel high as I’m writing this to you. Last November I traveled to the Himalayas to become an Emissary for the Gross National Happiness Movement. One in which the 4th King of Bhutan asked this very question. In light of impending development, he wanted to lead his country down a different path. One where financial growth and its populace’s ability to spend and produce was not the only value. Along with willfully giving up his monarchy for a freely-elected Prime Minister (the first of any king in history), by instituting Gross National Happiness, this King made a statement most leaders were too stupid or fearful to make.

Gross National Happiness In Focus

He, too, has a dream. And that dream is currently being spread — little by little — into a metered paradigm, to determine people’s true level of fulfillment and experience in the world, regardless of their apparent economic standing. Transacting on something other than time and money, production and consumption, give and take. Transacting on Presence, perhaps. As a species, we realize that money can buy us the luxury of thinking beyond survival. Little by little, we realize that it cannot buy us happiness.

But can these technologies support equality to give a shot at happiness to those in less-developed countries still in survival mode? Kaiser said she came to the Blockchain space to empower financially challenged individuals to access services otherwise not thought possible:

“I began with designing programs for youth in rural Mexico to be able to earn for themselves and their families through Blockchain-based reward incentives and have access to remote education tools. Now I’m here for people to be able to empower themselves to own their human value they produce everyday, instead of giving it away for free to the big tech companies.” Join this movement and #OwnYourData.

“A key thing for people to remember is that this is all about Decentralization, and that revolution has started — no matter what happens with ICOs… or Blockchain technology for that matter! says Cryptohouse’s Bø. “The cultural revolution is really the biggest thing that the whole crypto and Blockchain space has really accelerated. Within a fair amount of time, it will be clear that this technology is here to stay — but most importantly the people within it and the culture it creates will be this century’s biggest disruption.”

And where are we in the bigger picture, and where are we going from here? “We’re down from the highs of last year, but we’re still far, far, far ahead of where things were two years ago,” Says Lachance. “There’s still hundreds of thousands of people — an army of people who are dedicated to open source software and open sourcing the world… and who are creating, communal, collaborative societies which are going to make everything more free and fun and equitable.” Lachance concludes: “We haven’t slowed down, and we’re just going to keep building and never, ever, ever give up, because this is the way forward.”

Crypto is stirs regulatory pots worldwide

Just how far has the decentralization movement already spread? “The scene is global… because this distributed ledger allows us to create services that are ‘the next best thing’ to the failing existing services,” Says McKibben:

“For example, in places like Venezuela or Argentina, they’re starting to adopt cryptocurrencies as the next-best-option to their current failing systems. As we continue to do this and develop the infrastructure and networks, we’ll see that happen for all types of government services, all sorts of things that we rely on centralized institutions to do. It will just be that the next-best-option is better than the current one. And it’s probably not going to happen in the United States. It’s not going to be in Western Europe, where we already have strong institutions. It will be in developing nations in South-East Asia, in Africa, in Latin America… places where they traditionally didn’t have strong western institutions for their government services. It’s the next best option.”

“AND IN THE END, THE LOVE WE TAKE IS EQUAL TO THE LOVE WE MAKE”

Laurie Penny eloquently stabbed a knife into the crypto-crumble when she said: “…no amount of mathematics can delete human prejudice, and no ledger can logic away human cruelty. If the crypto community hasn’t realized that yet, it soon will.” Though, as the crypto-sleeze scene dissolves, we’re left with those who truly care and understand. We are building the new world. Creating a system of transparent social accountability that has never been viable before, providing incentives for better behaviour. And at the end of the day, we have to remember that in the world of tech, humans can still pull the plug.

Last month, a friend from our Crypto-Consciousness camp at AfrikaBurn, asked me: “Andi, what do you actually do in the crypto space…?!” Am I really just a groupie? Definitely not a developer or sales girl, and resisting the offer to launch an ICO to crowdfund my forthcoming book, I’m here because I know it matters.

I told him: “My role in the crypto world is to hold up a big mirror, to keep everyone conscious of and accountable for their actions. Think of me as an embodied social lubricant ledger for the decisions we make as we create history.”

By the time I get home from the Dubai Crypto Meetup, entering my cockroached apartment owned by the prince, in the hooker-heavy ghetto of Al Barsha, I sigh. That feeling has washed over me again… the buzz, the knowing… the feeling like we’re onto something… It’s infectious. I palpably recall the same sentiment walking out onto Union Square each evening during SF Blockchain Week. Outside of the conference hall doors — it’s as if everyone around us is clueless. As if they’re all still running analog, and we’d invented digital.

--

--

andréa paige (andi X)

Illicit lovechild of Doctor Seuss & Lara Croft. Writer of Cultural Commentary. ||Futurism||EQ||Fasting|| ↠ andix.ai