The State of The Decentralized Union

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.

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

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.

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.

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

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
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.

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.

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.”

The DDP teamed up with Unify for World Peace Day
Me, in rebel dress code, speaking on Human Optimization in Mykonos, July 2018
The Doge.

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?

“Baby I’m Worth It” by Fifth Harmony

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

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.

Japanese Bitcoin Ad, Quartz

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.

Gross National Happiness In Focus
Crypto is stirs regulatory pots worldwide

“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.

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.

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

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andréa paige (andi X)

andréa paige (andi X)

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