Crypto and Consciousness

Matthew Schutte
Oct 27, 2017 · 3 min read

This weekend, I’ll be part of an un-panel and hosting a breakout session at the Crypto Consciousness Conference (CryptoConCon) in San Francisco. I was asked to prepare a comment and a question. I’m looking forward to hearing what the conference attendees have to say, but I’d also like to hear your thoughts.


We become informed, only by being transformed. You notice the sound of my voice because it moves your eardrum which then creates electrical impulses that are carried to the brain by sensory nerves.

And yet we are only capable of perceiving some signals and not others. Sound, but not radio waves.

Many things in nature do exactly what your ear does — they transform a signal (or fluctuation) in one medium (the bumping atoms of a sound wave) into a signal in another medium (electrical impulses).

And thank goodness they do.

This sort of “bridging” between mediums enables us to extend our sense-making capacity well beyond the limits of our own bodies. Our phones “speak” light, and sound, and touch … and radio wave. That last bit lets us send messages farther and faster than any amount of hollering might accomplish.

This translation function is present not only in communication — it is present in all of life. Grass uses light to strip a carbon atom off of carbon dioxide and combine it with water to create glucose as well as oxygen. Cows transforms oxygen and grass and water into milk and beef and bone — and most notably carbon dioxide — the very thing the grass requires as an input.

The cow could not survive without grass. But it might also be true that the grass could not survive without cows. A grass only world would quickly turn all Carbon Dioxide into Oxygen and grass would suffocate.

The whole thing is powered by sunlight. Yay free energy. But the key point is that a regenerative system requires a diversity of forms — of consciousnesses — to persist. Each organism relies upon others to do work that they themselves are incapable of doing. And together they form a sort of “cow/grass meta-organism” that could be said to have its own capacities for sensemaking and impact.

Nature does not favor monoculture. This is because a monoculture does not have the one thing required to permit adaptation — variety.

When I hear many in the crypto space and AI space speak about the future, the world they describe often sounds to me an awful lot like a monoculture. Solutions that happen at a “global network layer” mean that diversity in sense-making is lost.

Now, I work on crypto (with Holo). But I am not working toward the manufacture of global “network truth.” The things that we might all agree on are limited in number and not all that interesting, if you ask me.

But I and many others desperately want to see a world with a thriving vibrant ecosystem. Which means one filled with many different organisms and emergent social organisms, each with their own particular capacities and each also capable of relying upon others to help them better:
Sense
Interpret
Decide
Prioritize and
Act

So my questions are:

What are the ways in which a crypto-enabled world simply extends the bottom-up patterns that nature has favored after billions of years of trial and error by applying them in new “mediums” of communication?

And what are the ways that we might wish to “design differently” and at what risk to our diversity, our humanity, our resilience?

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