EIP0 Shared Values: My Answers

Responses from an Ethereum community member

Recently, the EIP0 initiative made a call for Ethereum community members to respond to the EIP0 Shared Values survey to a) inform new community members and b) serve as our collective compass. I decided to post my answers publicly here and would encourage others to do the same. I hope my answers are treated as no more than one opinion, based on a partial view into this vibrant space.

Besides Vitalik, who are 3 or more people in the Ethereum Community that make good role models? What do you admire in them?

I’ll also state the obvious — it’s hard to widdle it down to three. I’ll also avoid the obvious candidate, Kevin Owocki, to remove any implicit bias and to avoid having to shill Colorado (there is no explaining Kevin without explaining Colorado). Here goes.

Andy Tudhope. I have spent approximately 3 hours of my life with Andy, and that was enough to make this answer a no brainer. Those of you who know Andy will understand.

When a conversation with one person can span the gamut from philosophy, economics, linguistics, biology, and history naturally, you know you’ve come across a special person. If you have some spare time and a clear mind, his personal blog includes poems, fascinating articles, teachings from Alan Watts, and a little about this whole Ethereum thing.

Andy is clearly grounded in philosophy and values first. Then, because he senses alignment with those values — the Ethereum movement.

Dan Finlay. Dan quietly co-leads MetaMask, the 1 million+ user rails to Ethereum which somehow still feels under-appreciated in the ecosystem although it may be the number one single contribution to the growth of the dApp ecosystem.

He, like Andy, is a vociferous reader who thinks deeply about the ecosystem and the why behind Ethereum. I’ve never seen anything like his Web of Trust Map. It spatially coordinates new information about ideas and projects in the ecosystem. Though incomplete, it constantly grows and shows proof of a systemic thinker worthy of admiration.

Kames Cox-Geraghty. Many of you may not know Kames, but his energy for what is happening in the Ethereum ecosystem consistently amazes me. His work ethic, his technical understanding of the space, and his energy are all ever present. He has no ego and is always making plays for the broader ecosystem. He can be a little off-the-rocker at times, but that’s what makes Kames…Kames 🙂.

There are so many honorable mentions that it feels silly to try to do so, but I’ve had memorable interactions with Mitch Kosowski, Raul Jordan, Mark Beylin, Eva Beylin, Jonathan Sampson, Christian Jeria, John Lilic, Maurelian, Niran Babalola, Nate Rush, Sunny Aggarwal, Ashley Tyson, Richard Burton, Michael Sena and Hudson Jameson.

Perhaps more important than any of the philosophical details about Andy, Dan, Kames or the others— each is a kind, trustworthy person. While I know “the road to hell is paved with good intentions”, I feel safer going down the road knowing these people will step up and say something if they feel we’re going the wrong way.

What are 3 or more organizations, communities, social movements and/or ideologies that are (loosely) related to Ethereum?

  1. The early days of Linux is the no brainer. The Cathedral and the Bazaar should be required reading for anyone building in an open, decentralized manner. We reflected on the key takeaways earlier this year at Gitcoin.
  2. A less cited corollary might be Bridgewater Associates, the largest hedge fund in the world founded by Ray Dalio (author of Principles). Bridgewater’s cultural north star is as follows: We want an idea meritocracy in which meaningful work and meaningful relationships are pursued through radical truth and radical transparency. [Related: Check out the last section here on governance at Bridgewater]
  3. The Sovereign Individual meets Radical Markets.

What values does/should Ethereum embody? Why?

Decentralization as an operating principle is often conflated with decentralization as a blockchain concept. They are different things. I return to ‘idea meritocracy’ as a better way to embody what we want as an ecosystem, while learning and growing aside each other as a community.

What originally attracted you to Ethereum? Why are you still here?

Originally, the shiny objects: smart contracts, programmable money, and decentralized applications, Vitalik’s genius. Then, the people, the community, the ideas, the energy. That being said, a general belief in Vitalik’s once-in-a-generation vision definitely helps keep me here.

At some level, it’s true that Ethereum’s magnetism has brought in so many smart, seemingly well-intentioned people that Vitalik is no longer a schelling point. Ethereum can continue without him. But, at another, it’s completely ludicrous to understate his impact on the community.

A big name I met once called him ‘one of the three non-linear geniuses’ he’s ever met. It should be celebrated — although I understand why it’s downplayed. It’s a huge burden to place on one human.

The community is stickiest now because of all of the other amazing work and thought bursting out the seams. Brave is an amazing browser. 0x is taking off. MetaMask, Infura, and Truffle provide rails to the ecosystem. We hope we’ve found something with Gitcoin. It’s a wild, exciting time where ideas are everywhere, and where the community is focused on building.

It’s also uncertain. It can all be lost. We must be vigilant, we must be value-driven, we must work hard. There’s an excitement in the unknown.

What is your happiest memory related to Ethereum? Why?

ETHWaterloo. I hacked on Mazi with Niko Lazaris and Matthew Siu and we stumbled into a prize winning submission. Along the way, we slept little, got feedback from great people like Jeff Coleman, Joey Krug, Mark Beylin, and Vitalik. We nerded out with hackers like Yondon Fu of Livepeer and the Cryptokitties team (hustling with Pokemon Cryptokitties at the ice cream stand!). I first met Owocki and heard about his interesting project, Gitcoin.

We enjoyed great food and hospitality from the organizing team (shoutout to Liam Horne, Kartik Talwar, and Mark Beylin, among others). And simply, I got a first taste for the open community that was being built.

Is there anything in the community that exhausts or tires you?

More a microchasm of society than anything, but blockchain Twitter can easily turn into reality TV. I hope to spend more time on ETH Research and less on ETH Twitter in the coming months.

Is there anything we ‘failed’ or are ‘failing’ at?

The DAO was no fun, clearly. It’s okay to call it a failure. It’s also important that we have proven antifragile to the split, at least at this scale. Ethereum and Ethereum Classic are still amicable communities. EIP-999, however, points to a more systemic governance question which has followed through the DAO.

EIP0 is a a step in the right direction, although I’m not convinced that ‘formalizing governance’ is the right approach. It’s with shared values that we’ll create the future. That’s why I appreciate the space to write this post.

I also believe we still have a huge capital allocation problem. The opportunity cost of sitting on capital has to be systematically evaluated. In a nutshell, this is why ConsenSys is so important — because Joe is willing to make bets and put Ethereum out there on the world stage.

The community is sitting on a war chest of funding which could be put to good use. I’m excited to see the progress Aya, jon choi, and the ECF team (Cassandra Shi, Awa Sun Yin) are making here. Getting developers excited about working on important infrastructure problems is the most leveraged play we can make.

In your mind, what would make a good Ethereum community member?

Kind, trustworthy, and as independent as possible in their thinking.

What are the values/principles you use to help guide your life?

Here are the seeds of an ever-growing list.

  1. If everything is important, nothing is important.
  2. Set goals, then build systems.
  3. Self-love is the first step to all other love.
  4. “At the end of the day, self-esteem is whether you lived up to your expectations. You’ll always know.”
  5. Don’t say yes to everything… say no, sometimes, to follow your dreams.
  6. We all have angels… We all have demons.
  7. Starting things is easy, finishing things is hard.

What kind of future do you envision?

  • A future where respect for borders remains, but respect for the freedom of the individual is prioritized.
  • If we learned from the Lessons of History, inequality always eventually reaches a breaking point where the underserved (violently) revolt against the system which oppresses them. Capitalism thus breeds socialism, and socialism eventually breeds capitalism.
  • An outstanding question: can overall abundance created reduce the effects of this cycle, or will human nature dictate that the oppressed still want a fair shot at more, even if Maslow’s needs are met?

Are there any fears you hold that you think are relevant to Ethereum?

  • Baking assumptions of rationality into complex systems built for irrational humans has not traditionally ended well.
  • How will the ecosystem react to inevitable future shocks?
  • Inertia is a strong force. Did we give too much to too few, too early? Will these people provide on ramps?
  • Tribalism is dangerous. I feel drawn to the Ethereum community, but would echo Vitalik from Deconomy 2018.
This is not about Ethereum. This is about enabling platforms that allow open and global economic coordination, trust minimization, and censorship resistance through decentralization. All our goals are ultimately a means to these ends.

What gives your life meaning? Why?

To be in constant pursuit of knowledge, and to use this knowledge to help as many people as possible by working on projects which create a markedly more productive society in line with my passions and unique set of skills, alongside amazing people with whom to share triumphs and sorrows.

The ‘Ben Franklin’ Effect is real. That is to say, spending time writing this up probably pulled me further down the rabbit hole than anything else. I hope it encourages you to do the same. It’s important to collectively state why we’re all here, for others and for ourselves. Thanks to the EIP0 organizers for providing this space. The survey is here, and below. Thanks for reading this far!