Episode #75: 📚 Book Club: “Radical Markets” with David Z. Morris
The CoinTalk book club returns for a discussion of Eric Posner and E. Glen Weyl’s “Radical Markets,” featuring David Z. Morris from BreakerMag, who attended the Detroit conference organized around the book’s ideas
CoinTalk is produced in partnership with Medium and hosted by Aaron Lammer and Jay Caspian Kang. Press “Listen to the story” above to play the episode. (You can also subscribe on Apple Podcasts, Google Play, download the MP3, or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org)
Aaron Lammer: I went on the Radical Markets website, which actually has a very well done, like, “You can get 80% of the value from this book by reading these five paragraphs.”
David Z. Morris: Exactly.
Aaron Lammer: Which I appreciate. I feel like that’s always an indication that someone’s not in it for the book profits, when they’re like, “Eh, here it is,” basically.
David Z. Morris: Yeah, but also the book itself is so wonky, it’s basically… Once you get into it, you realize it’s pretty much for professional economists, and so there’s actually, if I’m being honest, not a lot of necessity to actually reading it for most people.
Aaron Lammer: One of the reviews I read that I thought captured the book pretty well was like, “This book works better if you take it as a philosophical work, rather than a pragmatic political argument for the near future.”
David Z. Morris: Yeah, and I think it would have been perhaps a little bit more palatable if they had thought of it that way, because the fact of the matter is they do go into intense granularity about stuff that there’s no real way to make happen anytime soon.
Aaron Lammer: This was generally my… There’s a brief period where I worked as an editorial assistant in a publishing house, and the divide between academic oriented writing and pop writing couldn’t be further. I mean, almost everything that you’re taught to do in terms of writing as an academic is unentertaining, unconvincing to a lay audience, and is sort of inverting the, “Tell people the minimum amount they need to know to understand,” which I think as a journalist is usually actually kind of where you start in a story-
David Z. Morris: Yeah, well, and I’m actually also a former academic-
Aaron Lammer: Oh, are you? I didn’t know that.
David Z. Morris: … so I’ve seen the whole process, and it’s really big time enforcement of that from the structure, but what I don’t… Well, anyway, we’re getting kind of meta, but the-
Aaron Lammer: Well, let me pause there, actually for a sec, and introduce you. This is David Z. Morris of Breaker Mag. What kind of an academic were you in a previous life?
David Z. Morris: I have a PhD in social science, specifically in media studies, so media and technology was a big part of my focus, and then I eventually, because I was so frustrated by wanting to actually be a good writer, and being repeatedly punished for trying that, left academia and became a full-time writer about six years ago.
Aaron Lammer: I apologize for the sound of gushing steam that’s coming out behind you right now. Welcome to the crypto cave, for starters.
David Z. Morris: Yeah. I am glad to be here.
Aaron Lammer: It’s only about once every 24 hours, but it often does coincide with our tapings, that the boilers turn on behind you there, but it’s part of the atmosphere. As a former-
David Z. Morris: I have to… Before we keep going, I do have to let everybody know, because as a listener for a long time, I’ve been curious. The crypto cave is pretty much as cool as you might imagine.
Aaron Lammer: Thank you.
David Z. Morris: And if you’re into productive toys, he’s got a nice little setup in here.
Aaron Lammer: You need to put giant air quotes around the productive in that productive toys.
David Z. Morris: Well, you can put the air quotes. They look pretty productive from here. You’ve got things on peg boards.
Aaron Lammer: There’s a lot of peg board.
David Z. Morris: And that, to me, speaks to a seriousness of purpose.
Aaron Lammer: If you’re the… I feel like if you’re the kind of person who tries every single to-do app, the physical real world equivalent of that is turning-
David Z. Morris: Is a peg board, yeah.
Aaron Lammer: … every space into a peg board, and then perpetually reorganizing the pegs, which becomes possible once you get enough peg board real estate.
David Z. Morris: Until everything just fits together like Tetris and never moves.
Aaron Lammer: The fact that you’re an academic is a little bit helpful for me, because in some ways, the radicalism of crypto, the only corollary I actually have is academia, where you can say, be a Marxist scholar, who just sees everything through the lens of a worker’s revolution. And in common life, if you walk up to someone and say, “Hey, I’m trying to bring about a violent revolution,” they’re like, “What?” And that is sort of the rhetoric of crypto, like, “We’re going to torch the world,” not philosophically, like we’re literally going to destroy taxation, and national sovereignty. These are big ideas.
David Z. Morris: Yeah, I mean that’s part of what excites me and why I’ve, for the time being, dedicated most of my life to this, because it’s this practical implementation of extreme ideas, whether you agree with them or not, with real world consequences that we’re watching unfold. So, it’s kind of like… I mean, it is literally theory made physical and real. There’s a book coming out that I’m going to start shilling really hard-
Aaron Lammer: Shill away.
David Z. Morris: It’s just called Digital Cash. The author is Finn Brunton, and it comes out in a month and a half-
Aaron Lammer: Now, this is a dope tease, because this was going to be the next Book Club book after Radical Markets, which we’re talking about today, so I might just have to have you back on to talk about this book.
David Z. Morris: Well, it is one of the best things I’ve read about crypto ever, and it really goes into the long-term ideas that form the foundation for what Satoshi did in 2008, and they’re not uncontroversial ideas, obviously, but they are really rooted in, as you say, radicalism, which for anybody who hasn’t had this hammered into them a million times, comes from etymologically the word for root. So, it’s going down to the very basic fundamentals of reality, I guess, and especially social reality, and trying to figure out how they work, and maybe rethink them from the ground up.
David Z. Morris: So, we’re part of something really strange, in that this set of ideas has found in proof of work mining, a social structure that makes it real, and self-perpetuates, and has an impact on the real world.
Aaron Lammer: I would say that the dominant journalistic take is, “Look at all of this nonsense. It’s all going to amount to nothing.” And I always want to get a giant flag and be like, “You’re underestimating crypto,” and I’m not saying that because I believe in crypto, I’m saying that because the scarier outcomes of crypto are if it works, not if it doesn’t. If it doesn’t work, it’s just a blip. It’s a funny Reply All episode, 20 years in the future, where it’s, “Hey, remember what happened when everyone went crypto crazy?”
Aaron Lammer: The truly scary ideas about crypto are if some of these radical extreme ideas were actually to reach a critical mass in society, and I feel like Ethereum injected this idea of not only will we cause a great rippling change in society, but the token is going to invade every octopus tentacle of it, and now, Vitalik Buterin is not an author of this book, but would you say he’s a booster of this book?
David Z. Morris: Yeah, I mean he read the book, I think fairly quickly after it was published, and then he and Glen Weyl, and a Harvard grad student named Zooey [Heitsig 00:08:53] wrote a paper that expanded on some of the ideas, maybe about eight months ago I’m guessing, and they’ve kind of formed a nucleus, and we’ll talk about this more, but I was at what’s called the Radical Exchange Conference, which had its first meeting last month in Detroit, and I would guess maybe about… based on the ideas in Radical Markets, the book by Weyl and Posner, and I would guess maybe a third of the people there were in some way affiliated with Ethereum. So, that’s what, in this case, is fascinating to me, is there’s this nexus of tech people, blockchain people, who are suddenly getting involved in what is fundamentally a political/economic movement.
Aaron Lammer: Not only is it a political economic movement, but if you extrapolate from some of the core principles of Radical Markets, it’s not exact… I mean, it’s pro markets, but it’s not exactly anti-regulatory. It’s in some ways throwing out a bunch of the existing rules, and replacing them with rules that are more market dependent, but not more freedomy.
David Z. Morris: At least not seen from our current perspective, right? And so I guess this is a decent point to just do a quick review of let’s say one half of the main ideas, which is this thing called a COST Tax, which I had to write out what it stands for. Common Ownership Self Assessed Tax.
Aaron Lammer: It’s not since Wu Tang got into the Five-Percenter acronyms have more concepts been depicted through acronyms than in this book. Everything has an acronym.
David Z. Morris: But let’s be fair, also crypto in general, so maybe there’s another-
Aaron Lammer: That’s a good-
David Z. Morris: … crossover. We love acronyms.
Aaron Lammer: Yeah, it’s really true. I mean, it’s almost like crypto is a programming market language that works in three and four character bits, like anything in crypto that you can’t name a token is kind of like a useless word.
David Z. Morris: Yeah, and so… But the cost… Well, we’ll get into the parallels with crypto, I’m sure, but the basic idea, and this is where it gets really radical and the sort of less free part, in some ways, that you’re talking about.
Aaron Lammer: Yes. I’m putting air quotes around freedom and free, but yes.
David Z. Morris: But in this one really fundamental way it’s true, which is that there’s basically a lot of the fundamental ideas that we call property rights are gone, because… Well, let’s just start from the beginning. Here’s how it works roughly, and this is all going to be incomplete, but everybody has to take all of their property and put a value on it. Name a value that accurately represents how much that thing is worth to you in dollars. Then you pay a tax, and I think it’s 7% in the book, on that value, and then the other part of it, and this is where things get really wild, is that then anybody can come along and buy that property from you at the price that you have self-assessed. And you can’t tell them no, so the idea is that this will efficiently allocate all the stuff that exists in the world, because everybody… If you value it more, you’ll buy it, and if you value it less, you will name a lower price to pay less taxes on it, and it’s just kind of a constant perpetual free market in everything.
Aaron Lammer: And I believe, correct me if I’m wrong, that because every item in the world, let’s just say every piece of real estate, has a taxable value every year, the government actually generates more money, because nothing lies fallow, and therefore… I don’t know, they say that every family gets $24,000 a year share of the… basically the national average value of how much everyone valued everything.
David Z. Morris: Right, and they make a couple of-
Aaron Lammer: If you’re holding a bong right now, this episode’s just going to tip you over, so just get ready for it.
David Z. Morris: We’re going to go to some dark places. So, they say that it’ll grow the total economy by 5%. I have no idea whether that’s credible or not.
Aaron Lammer: Well, just put that as a… Normally we would say none of this is investment advice.
David Z. Morris: None of this is economic advice.
Aaron Lammer: None of this is economic advice, and any figures may be off by a factor of 10, at least.
David Z. Morris: Not that there’s any danger of government officials listening.
Aaron Lammer: And I do think that is a fact about me reading this book, is I would have no idea if they were right or wrong about any of these numbers or anything-
David Z. Morris: And you know, maybe I’m a little bit… I’m at least econ curious, you might say, but nonetheless, what they’re proposing is so complicated, and so different from what we’re used to, that it’s really hard to evaluate in the abstract. There are some specific cases-
Aaron Lammer: Literally unprecedented.
David Z. Morris: Yeah, and… To talk about the distributive aspect, there is some actually really interesting stuff there, so for example, they say they would replace the income tax largely with this property tax, which I mean, a property tax instead of an income tax is inherently progressive, and so I’m a little bit disappointed Jay couldn’t make it today, because I would have loved to hear the Marxist take on a land with no property rights, but all markets.
Aaron Lammer: Yes. There’s a lot of these… A lot of strange bedfellows takes, implicit in the overall Radical Markets take.
David Z. Morris: And that’s what really fascinates me, is that the entire thing, particularly the cost system is this weird hybrid of total communism, not even socialism, but literally communal property ownership, and some tweak of the free market. And that really fascinates me, because it does… Whatever you think of the whole package once you look at it from a thousand feet, it’s internally pretty consistent.
Aaron Lammer: Yeah. Well, the number, too, I want to talk about it overall, but in my opinion, the property stuff that you just cited, and the voting stuff… If I was going to… Those are my top two.
David Z. Morris: Those are the highlights, for sure.
Aaron Lammer: If someone’s like, “Hey, can you explain this to me?” And I was like, “There’s five basic points.” And they were like [inaudible 00:15:11], I would be like, “Okay, it’s that property thing, and it’s voting, and if I can just encapsulate the basic voting idea, it’s that you vote proportionally on the issues that matter.” You almost get voting tokens-
David Z. Morris: Well, you basically do. You get a pool of votes.
Aaron Lammer: So, the way things work now, you’re kind of voting, you get one vote on everything. Everything’s a bunch of yes, no, binaries.
David Z. Morris: On each election, yeah.
Aaron Lammer: And we also have a representative democracy, but even within the representative democracy you get one presidential vote, you get one vote for the governor of your state. This says if you want to go all in on one issue and get no say in anything else, go for it. Basically vote what matters to you, and therefore personally, if I was voting this way, i think I’d probably vote for healthcare. I might just go all in on healthcare.
David Z. Morris: I think a lot of people would, I think would think.
Aaron Lammer: I might just say, “Hey, this is wild, but I’m not going to vote against Trump. I’m just going to vote entirely for free healthcare for all. That’s my vote.”
David Z. Morris: Or you don’t care who your alderman is, or who the mayor is, and then the other part of that, which is the quadratic part, right? Which is if you want to put all your chips on one decision, they’re actually going to be less than if you spread them out. So, the first “vote,” the first point that you put on the table costs you one of your vote pools. The second point costs you two. The third one costs you four. I actually don’t know if I’m getting the math right, but it increases as you try and put more on one decision.
Aaron Lammer: I have a feeling this mimics certain ways in which fantasy sports drafts operate. It has a-
David Z. Morris: Okay, then you are the expert.
Aaron Lammer: … some of those dynamic. No, I mean… It’s all a little apples to oranges, but I think people get the basic idea, and all of these implementation details, honestly, I thought that they generally weakened their argument by… I like the idea of a game called Monopoly. You don’t need to tell me what happens when someone lands on Go the second time. The idea to me is better as narrative. I think this about a lot of crypto, honestly, that crypto does a poor job of selling its narrative, and wants to tell you the details of proof of stake, and it’s like, “Show it to me like a movie here.”
David Z. Morris: Certainly the relentless wonkyness is another overlap, especially to Vitalik, in particular.
Aaron Lammer: And there’s a third pool of overlap that I think applies to both of these, actually, which is this idea that we all need to learn game theory.
David Z. Morris: Yes, that’s a big one.
Aaron Lammer: We need to learn how to price our own property, and kind of… It’s a sort of anti-sentimental take. It’s like, “You’re going to have to overpay if you want to make sure you keep old grandmom’s house in the family, otherwise someone’s going to snatch it.”
David Z. Morris: No, and this is not an exaggeration, because they literally talk about how they would structure the pricing and taxation for family heirlooms and personal photographs, so when we say everything has a price, they genuinely mean everything. So yeah, the game theory aspect of it, and I can talk a little bit about the conference, because-
Aaron Lammer: And the voting also has a game theory aspect, which is you’re trying to allocate votes, and you’re trying to sort of rank their power, and have a vote matter, where maybe a vote might not matter in the current system. You’re supposedly getting more value for your vote, but therefore you also have more weird game theory, like things to think about when you vote. Not just who should be president, but like, “Should I go 30% on the president and save some of my money for local quadratic voting?”
David Z. Morris: Yeah, and I think there’s a bias to all of this, which is that these are systems, and it’s hard to talk about this without seeming to denigrate some people, but these are systems designed by hyper-rational, very intelligent people, who to some degree seem to assume that everybody else is a hyper-rational, very intelligent person, who, not just about their native abilities, but that everybody spends as much time as them thinking about this stuff.
Aaron Lammer: And that everyone treats major decisions in their lives as implicitly game theory situations, in which one should take a market-based outlook, whereas people don’t really look at, say their own personal real estate, or their vote particularly as a game theory, maximize your value. The vote is closer, because you do hear people say, and I don’t think they’re wrong, like, “Don’t vote for the Green Party, your vote will be worthless.” That is a game theory statement.
David Z. Morris: Yeah, and I think… So, we’re not unused to that, and certainly when it comes to economic decisions, and the personal stuff is definitely a little bit, frankly, sketchy in my book, but at the macro level, it does become more compelling, because their broader argument is basically that, and they state it more or less in these words, that all property is a form of monopoly, which the leftist-
Aaron Lammer: It’s a great bumper sticker, if nothing else.
David Z. Morris: Yeah, and the leftist in me is like, “What?” My antenna immediately goes up, and they have really good economic arguments for that, and that’s why they say the entire economy would expand, because you have things like people who don’t sell stuff that they’re not using, because either they’re lazy and disengaged, or actively trying to harm a competitor, or something like that, and those are not good for the broader economy.
Aaron Lammer: Well, and you have Russian oligarchs squatting on prime Manhattan real estate, because it’s a good long-term investment, and it’s a good long-term investment because it’s protected, and no one can snatch it up who wants to live in… There’s a lot…. As you say, if you drill deeply enough into how these systems really work, you could argue that the property tax being X in New Jersey and X just across the water, that’s already a form of game theory, right?
David Z. Morris: Right, exactly.
Aaron Lammer: We’re trying to incentivize citizens to come here based on a taxation situation.
David Z. Morris: Yeah, I mean let’s not minimize this. Under the current system, for everybody who has income of above 120K or whatever, game theory becomes very real on an everyday basis. The decisions you make about your money are things that you spend a good bit of time on.
Aaron Lammer: Yeah, and I just paid my taxes, and I paid a guy a non-insignificant amount of money to help me with my game theory of how to true up my taxes.
David Z. Morris: Yeah, and so this would maybe make it, and it would honestly give people at the lower end more options to engage in that, perhaps, because one of the questions is wouldn’t the very wealthy come and just buy up everything? And the answer is no, because the taxation system is quite redistributive, and so there would be a lot of playing field leveling. The other point I wanted to make, as you mentioned the oligarch’s apartment, is when we’re talking about how wild these ideas are, it is important to keep in mind that the system we have right now is pretty wild, and basically doesn’t work, so that’s sort of parenthetical to all of this.
Aaron Lammer: Yeah, I mean it’s funny, I know that you’ve covered the Quadriga case a little bit, and the deeper I got into thinking about that, I was like, “Wow, this is so crazy. People were just wiring strangers money, and that money disappeared,” and then I was like, “Is that A, so different than any other exchange, and also are these exchanges really so different than… I don’t know, I wired a money to Fidelity.” I don’t know why I trust them, or you know, a lot of these things, it seems strange when you do it in a new way, or a new company, or a new system comes in, but yeah, we’ve…
Aaron Lammer: Certainly in the era of the internet, we’ve already accepted some pretty outlandish shit, and one reason I kind of believe a little bit in what Glen Weyl has to say is some of the trends you see about younger people not wanting to own houses, not wanting to own cars… As we’ve contracted as a earning base, college graduates, say, actually these things that are on this weird borderline between socialism and extreme marketism, which you could say that Air BNB is walking that line.
David Z. Morris: There is some similarities.
Aaron Lammer: Yeah, they seem to be popular. They seem to be a popular way to invent something new in America.
David Z. Morris: And that fractionalizing ownership is a big thing in-
Aaron Lammer: Definitely.
David Z. Morris: … cryptocurrency, right? And all of this is interesting. I’m actually personally kind of trying to move away from that. I’m trying to rent less stuff and own more, but there is definitely sort of macro efficiency that you might find from that, and there’s also the point that, and I think this kind of gets to maybe the crux of the whole thing, and another reason why I think Jay and I would have a lot to talk about on this, is that-
Aaron Lammer: Well, we can have a round two.
David Z. Morris: If you believe what I believe in, one of the foundations of my interest in cryptocurrency is that at least on some level, markets have proven themselves to be a very effective technology for managing this incredibly complex thing we call an economy.
Aaron Lammer: Absolutely.
David Z. Morris: And what Weyl proposes is this thing that is still a market, but that’s just structured differently, in a way that at least their goal is to make it more equitable, and more fair, and just, and to increase the total amount of human happiness, right? And so, that might be the most radical thing at the basic level about what they’re talking about, which is saying A, the market is a system that we can make conscious decisions about its design, which unfortunately, in America, we’re infected, and a lot of crypto is infected with this idea that the market “is just the state of nature,” that we’re all in the jungle fighting and trading objects, and it’s all just emergent.
David Z. Morris: But the reality is, and the reason this system have right now is broken in many ways, is that the market is itself designed. It’s inherently designed, and it’s always designed. There is no market in a state of nature, and so the first thing is to acknowledge that and say we have to think about what the market is, and we can collectively make decisions about ways to change it. But at the same time, and I don’t think this is what Bernie Sanders, or Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez actually believes, but some people will look at that line of thinking and say it’s about state control, it’s about intervention by this centralized authority, which again, personally, I don’t think that model for economic reform is at the highest level all that compelling. I think there are lots of individual cases where yes, we’re going to invest a centralized authority with the power to make some decisions that require disruption, and things like that.
David Z. Morris: But I think it’s not that controversial to say that a centrally planned economy, for example, doesn’t work all that well. It’s just too complicated. You have to have a distributed system. So that, I think is really… Whatever you make of the details of the ideas, this idea that A, we can design the market, and it’s inherently designed, and if we don’t make a decision, we’re still making a decision, and B, that should be oriented towards justice, not just efficiency. I think those two things together are very compelling, and they’re not all that widely adopted at this point. It’s not a way that people think, so I think it’s worth advancing that agenda, for sure.
Aaron Lammer: Let’s take a 90 degree turn here, and move away from the philosophical, and into the practical. Tokenization was supposed to be what made all of these wonders possible, right? All of these different economic concepts that have acronyms that we can’t remember right now, if the iPhone made ride sharing possible, tokenization was supposed to make the marketization of everything possible, and no one is more associated with that than Vitalik and Ethereum.
Aaron Lammer: I always took Ethereum more philosophically than practically, but I think it’s worth saying, now that we’re a few years down the line, we’re a few updates, how’s that working out? When these things are jumping across the uncanny divide, from the white paper to practice, how’s it going? Because I don’t really feel like I can really take Radical Markets in without a little bit of a like, “So, is it working? Is there anything that actually makes people optimistic about tokens actually being used in this way?”
David Z. Morris: Yeah, well first there is some nods at the technological element in the book, even though there was no blockchain connection when it was first written. They talk about how if you have a radical market system, a cost system, you can go on your phone and buy a piece of land, and it’s a frictionless market.
Aaron Lammer: Totally.
David Z. Morris: So that’s where we get the tokenization connection. I think it’s really hard to make an evaluation of the Ethereum project at that level right now, because we’re in the… I forget the term, but like the valley of disillusionment right now, right?
Aaron Lammer: The trough of despair.
David Z. Morris: The trough of despair, something like that, because we’re just coming out of the ICO catastrophe, and that was basically premised on the idea we’re going to tokenize everything, there’s going to be a market for everything, so you need Dentacoin, and a rendering coin, and a storage coin, and a real estate coin, and a diamond coin, and all this stuff that’s going to move automatically through these super liquid markets.
Aaron Lammer: Well, in a way, almost like looking at the real estate as the thing, that would have been the Florida swampland boom. The minute we said you can sell all the real estate here, the very first thing the market’s going to do is scam people, and sell them the most worthless real estate under false pretenses. That land is all now sold, there’s no more swampland to sell in Florida that you can’t build houses on.
David Z. Morris: Yeah, and I think… I’m not going to go too far in this, but I do think that there are some things in the Radical Markets structure that would disincentivize speculation, so that would be… Again, this is all in theory, big time air quotes, but seems like that would be a little bit less of a risk.
Aaron Lammer: Yeah, well there’s a… One of the ways that it stops speculation is if you’re speculating, you’re like, “I’m going to hold this and then resell it,” you have this tax you’re paying all the time. If you set your tax too low, another speculator is just going to grab it, and grab your profit. If you set your tax too high, then you’re the sucker who paid the most that anyone was going to pay. Theoretically that should land you on the perfect balance between speculation and use.
David Z. Morris: Basically when owning anything has a cost, yeah, it makes it harder to just own random stuff for the sake of it. But yeah, so as far as tokenization in general, it’s tough to evaluate, because we’ve just had this big attempt by people to basically use it as grounds for a massive scam, or a lot of scams, but I do think that there will be some cases where it makes sense. Mostly cases where people don’t have to actually interact with the tokens, or the blockchain, or make the kind of game theory decisions that we’re talking about, where it’s just kind of the backbone for some system that’s running in the background.
David Z. Morris: A good example that’s complicated, but again in theory legitimate, is Tron bought BitTorrent because BitTorrent had done a lot of independent research showing that putting a token on a system would actually increase everybody’s upload and download speeds, so not a token where on a daily basis you’re going to pay X amount for a torrent, but just a way that your computer, or the overall system keeps track of your own download speeds. And so I think there are some clear and pretty well researched cases where something like that would work, and could actually kind of make, and this is going to get into a bigger topic that I think is important, is it’s not actually going to be experienced as hyper monetization, it’s going to be experienced as actually less monetization in some ways, because it all becomes automated and background, and you only have to engage with it at very particular points where you want to.
Aaron Lammer: Can I pause you and push back against the BitTorrent thing?
David Z. Morris: Sure.
Aaron Lammer: Briefly. Well, partially this is just because I feel like just, I can’t take any of Justin Sun’s work-
David Z. Morris: Oh sure, yeah. That’s what complicates the whole thing.
Aaron Lammer: But, so I’m a big torrent guy. I was really interested in torrenting when I was younger. I’ve downloaded many, many terabytes, and on private torrent trackers, they actually pretty elegantly solved this problem already through seed ratios, so that basically said, “Hey, you need to upload as much as you download,” and that’s actually hard, because those are both… That’s a scarce resource. Somebody has to be downloading for your upload to get sucked up, so everyone would start aggressively seeding in that situation, to try to get more bandwidth for their own downloads, much like crypto mining. It actually doesn’t… It’s another case of, “Wait, what does the token do?” All the token really does is keep track of your ratio progress, but I guess I wonder with a lot of these things, was money the wrong place to start? Or the fact that people think something like Ethereum is money… Ethereum’s not really money. It’s more like electricity or something like that.
David Z. Morris: Well, no, and I think most people who are really up to their necks in this stuff would agree with that. That’s why it’s named Ethereum, is that it’s supposed to be insubstantial, and always there, but never exactly tangible. And so, I don’t know if you would say that the people who created it went wrong by thinking about it as money, but certainly I think it reveals some bias to everybody else, by everybody else, that we-
Aaron Lammer: We perceive it to be money.
David Z. Morris: … inherently think of it as money.
Aaron Lammer: Well, I have this weird second take. Now that I’ve heated up my take, I’m going to throw some scalding oil on it, which is that if you put people in game theory-esque situations, they perceive what they win or lose to be money, regardless of what it is. It could be college scholarships, or it could be the right to rent affordable housing at some fee. Whatever. They’re all just sort of pluses and minuses on a ledger, and people have this emotional response to particularly losing money, but also to gaining money, and that emotional response weirdly makes them act in non-market efficient ways, often, as human beings, so just my personal experience, I’m a coiner. Are you a nocoiner?
David Z. Morris: I am not a nocoiner.
Aaron Lammer: Okay, you’re not a nocoiner. Props to the crypto journalist with some coins in the bag. Okay, so we’re both coiners, and one thing I’ve noticed as a coiner is every time I reach a game theory situation in crypto, Augur, all it is is a game theory situation. I’m confused as to what I’m supposed to do-
David Z. Morris: Confused, and afraid, and-
Aaron Lammer: All I can really think to do is to try to dominate my fellow man, and grab his crap. All I can think of is which of these properties can I grab, because he didn’t set the tax high enough on them, and I can turn a profit. It’s the classic, “All I know how to do is trade,” thing, and it’s interesting in the case of Radical Markets, because they’re in some ways saying, “You won’t have to. We’re going to free you from the tyranny of constantly trying to pull one over and get one pulled over by your fellow humanity,” but in my limited crypto experience, that’s been the whole thing.
David Z. Morris: Yeah, and it’s a big question. It’s maybe the biggest question for me, is-
Aaron Lammer: I may have just described capitalism accidentally.
David Z. Morris: Well, in the most abstract sense, you have, that everybody has this… Everything has this monetary value, it’s a number, it’s completely abstract and interchangeable, and everything is just a symbol, ultimately. And on the one hand, yeah, it makes people crazy, and it’s literally alienating from the experiences that we’re having on a day to day basis.
Aaron Lammer: It’ll make you not enjoy life.
David Z. Morris: Yeah, I mean for a lot of people, it makes them really not enjoy life. But on the other hand, I think that… and you can just kind of barely see this through the haze as somebody who has put quite a few hours into trying to, but not my entire life, that maybe at a certain point, if everything is money, then it goes away somehow, that you don’t think about it in those terms anymore, whereas right now, we do have this disjuncture, where at a certain point it becomes serious money, or at a certain point something costs money, but there’s other stuff that doesn’t. I don’t know. I can’t articulate it really well, but I think that that’s the maybe underlying presumption of the radical markets project.
Aaron Lammer: I’ll give an example that I do think confirms what you’re saying. I just paid my taxes. Was one of the most anodyne things I’ve done this year, like I basically put a bunch of numbers, and then I wrote a check, and wrote my Social Security number on it. It felt emotionally terrible.
David Z. Morris: Oh, it always does.
Aaron Lammer: Because it was money that I had, and then was losing.
David Z. Morris: Those numbers that you write, and then they’re gone, and you just like, “Ugh.”
Aaron Lammer: Whereas, if you just told me every time you do anything, every time you earn, every time money that comes in, we’re just going to nip it off the top silently in the background, I would never think about it again. In fact, I’d probably willing to pay more of my taxes that way, than I am with a check. It’s in some ways the fact that I am self reporting that makes me not want to pay taxes, and makes me want to minimize the amount of taxes that I pay. It’s the human intervention that makes me… Makes it unpleasant, and makes you want to cheat the taxes, and then you’re like, “Oh, it’s a bad idea,” and you end up not cheating, but you’re still like, “Did I do it right? Did I pay everything? Did I forget something?”
Aaron Lammer: It seems like an antiquated way to handle something that a computer can do in two seconds, like take 10%, 10%, 10%, 10%.
David Z. Morris: Yeah, and I mean it’s an appealing case for… I think this is a thing that we should talk about more in general in the crypto space, is that there’s… On the one hand, there’s the crypto that’s great for privacy. On the other hand, there’s the crypto that’s great for transparency, and I think that one vision is we put everything on the blockchain, it’s all automated. The system knows how much you’ve made, taxes you, everybody pays their taxes honestly, and there’s enough transparency that you can go in and check, and make sure that it’s all going right. And that’s a really… I think you’ve really hit the nail on the head there, that that’s an appealing vision in many ways.
David Z. Morris: Of course on the other hand, there’s the people who I think also in a very appealing way say, “No, we have to have a way to not be subject to that kind of oversight all the time in our lives.” Anyway-
Aaron Lammer: Can I pause on that? Because that… I mean, that’s a fascinating idea. I was in Finland earlier this year, and in Finland, your tax return is public.
David Z. Morris: Right, yeah.
Aaron Lammer: Any citizen can look at any other citizen-
David Z. Morris: Is that still the case? I thought they had stopped that at a certain point.
Aaron Lammer: I may be wrong about this. They told me-
David Z. Morris: But it definitely was at least for a time, and it still might be in.
Aaron Lammer: Until the modern, recent era, this was true, and it changes so many things about the world. Every news story, in the same way that you might refer to someone’s age, or what town they lived in, you could refer to how much money they’ve made. Not just this year, but in their lifetime, which is just… I mean, it’s wild. It’s probably horrifying to most of our crypto true believer listeners, but it opens up these unusual ideas, like I’m thinking about sending a child to preschool in the future. People talk about sliding scales in a preschool. Well, that’s a self reported sliding scale. You could say literally, “This is a 20 child class, and we’re going to split it proportionally based on the parents’ income to the cent.” That information is available in Finland, that a computer can just automatically charge people. It’s X percent of your annual income, and we’re going to split it up based on who goes to this school.
David Z. Morris: So, transparency-
Aaron Lammer: They don’t actually do that, but I’m just saying that could be done.
David Z. Morris: But I think it’s a good example of the fact that transparency, and sort of uniformity, can be a really useful tool for justice. For economic justice or whatever you want to call it.
Aaron Lammer: Yeah. You have to trust the state, though, in a way.
David Z. Morris: Exactly. I mean, that’s… Well, but again, if you look at… And this is one of the things that Glen Weyl said in an interview that we did a while back, that I thought was a little wild, but also a little bit interesting, which is that maybe the true… I think… I’m not going to quote him directly, but he says like, “Maybe the killer app of Ethereum is Radical Markets. Is this total rethinking of the way the market works in general.” And I think this is a good example of that, that what if the blockchain was somehow there, the smart contracts were all set up, they could be audited by anybody with the knowledge at any time, and they just handled everything in a way that we all agreed on. You do still have to trust, to to some degree, the system by which those are implemented or overseen, but you don’t have to trust to the same degree that we do now that an individual officer of the government is going to make a particular kind of decision according to the rules that we agree on.
David Z. Morris: Because the rules are enforced by the machine, right? And so that’s where the two kinds of radicalism kind of intersect, I think.
Aaron Lammer: Here’s something a little confused about. Maybe you can help me understand it. These are political ideas, right? Vitalik’s gone political with this thing.
David Z. Morris: Pretty overtly.
Aaron Lammer: But you wouldn’t say that Radical Markets, or the Ethereum Block are a political party unto themselves. It’s more like they’re suggesting the creation of a system that will eat all existing economies, and politics, and which many political parties will exist within, right?
David Z. Morris: Yeah.
Aaron Lammer: I mean, this is what would happen would be like I would become the healthcare party, and I would be like, “Give me all your… Just go all in on healthcare, and give me your healthcare votes,” right? People would start organizing politically within this quadratic voting system. It seems to me more realistic for Ethereum/Radical Markets to organize as a political entity within the existing system, that organizes internally on these principles, but doesn’t necessarily seek to infect all of America with this crypto thought virus.
Aaron Lammer: So, I’ll give an example. In Italy… Now I’m blanking. Is it the Five Star Movement? Or the Five Point Movement?
David Z. Morris: Five Star, I think
Aaron Lammer: Five Star movement. Now, I’m not saying I identify with Five Star Movement’s anti-immigration policies, and it’s… It’s got kind of a weird 4chan-y mix of internet politics, but it’s organized over a server. It’s not decentralized, actually, it would probably be better if it was decentralized, but it’s just on a server, and people who are members of this party vote on who to run, and the platform of the party, so in some ways, it operates as a futuristic take on a political party. What it’s actually produced as a kind of like shit poster’s world view, I think, and we should I think also be conscious that what Ethereum produces may not be that thing we wanted when we made… wired the whole world for Ethereum. It’s not inherent that this is going to produce anything other than worse tyranny, I feel like.
Aaron Lammer: But I guess my question is, if they’re going to make this Radical Markets idea real, isn’t the way to do it to do it themselves, first, rather than try to open source it to the world?
David Z. Morris: Well, I think that is kind of the strategy, and I kind of will give two parts to this answer, which is A, I think it’s better to think of it as an intellectual movement than a political movement, so I’m going to steel this from somebody who I think I heard say this at the conference, but it’s a revival of what in the 19th century was called political economy, that this acknowledgement, that the way we structure, again, the way we structure the market is a political process itself. We got to get away from this American illusion the market is this naturally existing thing, and so by talking about it in those terms, it becomes something that you put on the table.
David Z. Morris: So, it’s not so much that Ethereum people have a political agenda. I don’t know if they necessarily really do in any unified way.
Aaron Lammer: Pro unicorn.
David Z. Morris: Pro unicorn, yeah. But I think that they want to think about, yeah, game theory, market structure, and how you set the rules in a way that is productive, and I do think that even though I happen to think that the tokenize everything rhetoric is imperfect, and was obviously abused, I think there is a way you can see that that can form a model for game theorying the world, basically, and in the process yes, let’s be self aware about how we’re designing these systems so that they’re just, so that they’re transparent, so that they actually improve the maximum happiness of the most people. And so, again, it’s a model that maybe will actually evolve into a technology that can be applied more broadly, I think.
Aaron Lammer: I think my paranoia that if we gamify the world, instead of playing field being flattened, we will concentrate even more power with the gamers.
David Z. Morris: Yeah.
Aaron Lammer: I mean both literal video gamers, who I do think probably would be better at it, and generally the people who are playing it like a game. It’s a little bit like the way that professional sports, you wouldn’t say, “Wow, the people who are the most successful are the people who find the most joy in playing sports, or play it the right way.” No, it’s the people who play it the most savagely, the most cunningly, the most efficiently, who exploit the game itself. Those are the people who become, I think great, at games.
David Z. Morris: Well, but I think if your concern is what’s going to happen in the future, what you described is the world we live in right now.
Aaron Lammer: That is a very fair pushback, yes. The people on Wall Street are gamers.
David Z. Morris: Yeah, exactly. Exactly. And I mean, the crypto traders are the ultimate exemplification of this, where you’re literally often trading nothing.
Aaron Lammer: Yes. Knowingly.
David Z. Morris: Based only on the expectation of what somebody else is going to do, and yeah, knowingly. So, I’m not sure that… I think again, you just have to acknowledge that what we’ve got now was designed by somebody, it has a certain bias, and it doesn’t necessarily have to be this way, and if you can change the rules of the game, maybe do that thoughtfully, but don’t delude yourself that we’re not living in a game already.
Aaron Lammer: Tell me about this conference. So, this is the first one, right?
David Z. Morris: Yeah, so this was the first one. It was in Detroit, which is… What’s going on in Detroit is a whole other discussion.
Aaron Lammer: Yeah, was that… Is that coincidental? Or is it because of a symbolic link between what’s happening-
David Z. Morris: I think it’s…. Well, honestly I assume it was mostly geographical, but certainly Detroit represents, depending on your perspective, both the failures of the current system and the potential failures of the proposed system, right? Because the current system produced this tragic downfall of a city that was dependent on a single industry. The thing that struck me being there was that Detroit today is the worst case scenario of what you’d imagine happening with a constant free market in land, which is Detroit’s value collapsed over the course of half a century as a city, mostly due to racism, and over the past decade, basically white people have come in and bought up or otherwise taken over the center of this city that was originally devalued by white racism. And if you go to downtown Detroit now, it’s frankly quite disturbing. It’s an 80% black city, where you actually have to go out of your way to find a black owned business to patronize in downtown Detroit, that is sort of catering to, let’s be honest, the hipster upper middle class patron that I am.
Aaron Lammer: Single origin espresso.
David Z. Morris: Yeah. Yeah. So, it’s… Anyway, the Detroit revival has been mischaracterized in the press. I won’t go any further than to say that. But the conference itself was really, I think, very exciting to be present for, in large part because Weyl and the other organizers really went out of their way to not have it be a convention of yes people, and there were a lot of dissenting voices, some of them very vocal, that… One of the main stage speakers was an African author named Yvonne… Oh, God. I’m going to get her name wrong. I’m so sorry. Yvonne [Okafor 00:51:07], I think might have been… I might ask you to put that in the show notes.
David Z. Morris: Anyway, and she made the point that another angle on the whole marketization thing is people in marginalized populations, and marginalized geographies, and particularly people of African extraction, markets and auctions don’t have the most positive connotations, and I think it basically drove home the point that for people with now economic power, premising things on markets is inherently a disadvantage, and so that kind of thing was really widespread. There was lots of pushback, and that produces good dialogue, so that made it really fun.
Aaron Lammer: There was a… We did an episode a few weeks ago, I can’t remember why we were talking about this. We were saying it was funny that there’s this libertarian idea that humanity in its natural state is perfect capitalism, perfectly efficient markets, but if you really look at the world, corruption is the dominant primal state of people. Corruption is what you find in every developing economy. It’s a state that societies go through. There’s never been a society that has not dealt with corruption. Corruption is much more people acting in their element than people going to a market and doing a respectful, perfect transaction, where both people know the exact value of something.
Aaron Lammer: So, who goes to these conferences? Who are the attendees? Who pays their own way to the conference?
David Z. Morris: Yeah, so like I said, it’s about a third Ethereum people at this particular one, but-
Aaron Lammer: Do you know them by their t-shirts?
David Z. Morris: Boy, how do you know them? Probably mostly just by their haircuts, but yeah, but I mean literally, you know them by their t-shirts, because they’re the one wearing the t-shirts. Then there were actually a basically pretty healthy population of artists, who were dressed a little bit more creatively. There were a few business folks, development folks, politics folks, and they’re wearing the suits. So you know, there was an admirable mix. I think they have… I don’t remember. I’m not going to remember the four tracks that the… The organization is now called RadicalxChange, and they have this focus on art, communication, technology, and politics. Something like that. They have… Oh, academia is one of them, which… So, there were some academics there, as well.
David Z. Morris: They’ve really, I think, did a good job of engineering a good mix of people, especially from the perspective of the crypto community. It’s really heartening to see a space where people who are just kind of heads down programming nerds, but who have kind of pretentions to be interested in economics, actually are face to face with people who work in that field exclusively, and maybe offer them a broader perspective on the complexities of the world. So, I think that that’s very healthy. And in addition to Vitalik, Zooko Wilcox was there, the founder of Zcash, did a presentation on I think some variation of universal basic income, and yeah, a lot of people from companies that are more or less trying to marketize everything, including the democratic process. Good intentions is what made up the bulk of the crowd.
Aaron Lammer: Jay and I were talking last week about how when we got into crypto, there was a new project that people were excited about like every three days. I was running out of space in my brain to even memorize the logos of the things we talked about, and it’s been kind of a quiet year, which I assume we can… The ICO boom. But is it… Is there anything new coming out of this? Not idea wise, but crypto coins you can actually buy, or projects, or anything like that? Is that just over?
David Z. Morris: Yeah, not that I know of, that specifically come out of RadicalxChange. There are, like I said, there are a sort of cluster of mostly Ethereum based startups that in one way or another, either have parallel ideas, or trying to draw on those ideas directly. So, I’m not going to do a good job at this part of it. I’m not going to be able to rattle off the 12 projects that have similar ideas, but I think there is definitely some symbiosis going on, like there was… After the bulk of the conference was over, there was a large meeting of Ethereum developers, and miners, and other people, to talk about a proposal that I think is going to become a big issue in the next couple months, to actually take some block rewards on Ethereum, and set up a development fund, similar to the Dash Treasury.
David Z. Morris: Again, it’s economic design. It’s talking about motivations and game theory, particularly for miners, and it’s happening under the umbrella of this larger organization that takes that as its kind of raison d’etre.
Aaron Lammer: There’s some echoes of… We were pretty interested in the launch of Grin. I guess that was what, three months ago? Three or four months ago?
David Z. Morris: Yeah, give or take.
Aaron Lammer: And I think after Jay said, “It seems like it’s too good to be true,” on the show, jinxing Grin forever, the minute they tried to raise money to pay the one guy who was… It was like there was like hundreds of millions of dollars of mining interest, and no one could kick enough money into the hat being passed around to pay for one developer to work on it.
David Z. Morris: I should say, I don’t know if you’re working towards a point with that, but I think that that particular story might have been overplayed. I think that their funding situation is better than that anecdote suggests.
Aaron Lammer: And maybe also that that guy, what’s his name, Ignatius something or other?
David Z. Morris: Peverell.
Aaron Lammer: Is like a dick, possibly, also? He was kind of just bitching about it. That was mostly what I was responding to, but I do think that there is a realistic thread, whether the Grin thing is true or not, that if you create an opportunity for people to profiteer in crypto, there will be a line out the door. If you say like, “Hey, let’s get together and work on that,” pro bono or what have you, there aren’t that many examples of successful cooperation, outside of Bitcoin itself, and Bitcoin Core, and maybe a handful of other Ethereum world projects, but mostly you see 20 profiteers for every person who sort of views it as a community, and I’m curious if some of those really early community, sort of open source ethos things, are even possible now that the money has come in. Now that the minute Grin appears on people’s radar, people had the whole Grin thing figured out, you know what I mean?
Aaron Lammer: The miners were already ready. Everyone was kind of ready to go. The only people who weren’t ready were like people working on Grin.
David Z. Morris: People [inaudible 00:58:13] building it, yeah. I mean, I think Grin is a good project, and I think they’re fairly ready, but I get your point. It’s a massive, totally under analyzed issue, because this idea of open source is itself way more recent than I think most people realize. The coin was… The term was only coined in like the late 90s, I think, so this idea that we’re going to build something, and we’re all going to kind of contribute to it, is in and of itself unresolved, and then you add money to it, and it becomes a… Speaking of game theory, again, like an absolutely unmanageable mess of competing motivations.
David Z. Morris: And the example that people often point to in the open source world is Linux, where IBM has people who are full-time working on it. A lot of companies-
Aaron Lammer: Speaking of run by assholes.
David Z. Morris: Oh, I’m not familiar with that, so no comment there, but there are all these different companies that profit in some way off the Linux infrastructure, and then they also have people assigned to working on it. But Linux is itself such an outlier, even within that space-
Aaron Lammer: Yeah. And Red. I mean, and RedHat is I think publicly traded or something. I mean, it required… For Linux to come to full fruition, it required a sidecar company of a IPO scale, working on it in parallel, to create the corporate version of Linux, because people wouldn’t accept the open source version for things like your airplane… I always notice when they reboot the airplane, you can see RedHat Linux installation booting on your screens.
David Z. Morris: Yeah. Yeah, and actually this is… I should shill for a second here, because this is going to be a topic of one of the panels at Breaker Con, which is our event coming up for blockchain week.
Aaron Lammer: When is that?
David Z. Morris: That is May 15th. We’re keeping it small this time around, but we’re going to have the CEO of Beam, the counterpoint of Grin-
Aaron Lammer: I was going to bring that up.
David Z. Morris: Of Dash, and of Decred, and there’s one other person on that panel, I’m forgetting who that is-
Aaron Lammer: Komodo?
David Z. Morris: But they-
Aaron Lammer: I always hear Komodo mentioned.
David Z. Morris: Yeah, I’m not sure. They’re a little different, but those three are projects where you have this centralized team, and in Beam’s case, they’re actually VC funded.
Aaron Lammer: Yep. Israeli, right?
David Z. Morris: Yes. And they’re trying to build this decentralized platform that they’re going to basically build, and then they’re going to work on it for a while, and over time they’re giving up power. So, like Decred just started pretty recently allowing stakeholders to vote on their development fund. All of them are bit by bit, kind of leaving power to decide, but remaining this kind of custodian over the long term, and that’s a model that might be better than Bitcoin, or Grin, where you’re just like, “We’re going to let this loose in the wild and everybody just work on it if you want to.”
Aaron Lammer: In my mind, I want Grin and Bitcoin to win, because it just sort of confirms something deep inside me, that I guess wants anarchism at some level, or like no human intervention, but then-
David Z. Morris: Or maybe just wants cooperation-
Aaron Lammer: Yeah, but then on a practical level, I see what’s going on with Grin, and then I see Beam, and I’m like, “Well, they’re basically the same idea.” I’m like, “Oh, maybe it is a little easier if there’s just some Israeli CEOs running this shit for a while.” They have no funding anything to deal with, right? That’s all already set out. Looking at them, I’m not sure I would say Grin is more likely to succeed than Beam, because they got out of the way. In fact, I would say it seems more likely that Grin would go down in flames in the first couple years, because anything like that has to… I mean, Bitcoin had to go through a lot of trial by fire.
David Z. Morris: Yeah, and I think that that’s also one of the big mistakes, is that I don’t think you can reproduce what happened to Bitcoin. It’s unique. It’s the only thing, and it’s the only thing like it. It’s the only thing that will… I’m going to make a controversial statement. I think it’s probably the only t thing in this space that will ever be like it.
Aaron Lammer: Yes. I agree.
David Z. Morris: It’s the one, and you can’t do that a second time, or a third time, or a fourth time.
Aaron Lammer: There’s a weird voice in the back of my head that’s like, “It’s kind of silly, we’re all talking about the Grins, and Beams, like these are all minor, minor footnotes in this history, that has this looming obelisk coming out of the ground.” I’m like, “We should talk about the obelisk before we talk about the [crosstalk 01:02:49]-”
David Z. Morris: The chips falling off of it.
Aaron Lammer: You know, gift store replica of the obelisk, that has got the same dimensions of the obelisk, and is made of the same material, you know what I mean?
David Z. Morris: Yeah, yeah.
Aaron Lammer: The obelisk seems like there’s only one obelisk. There’s… God, how many different projects are we going to know about if we stay following this space? I mean, are you… Just zooming out a little bit, are you getting at all exhausted of this blockchain stuff?
David Z. Morris: Oh, no. I’m totally in pig heaven right now, because until I started Breaker, I was covering all tech and politics, and mostly at a pretty superficial level, so the last eight months to a year for me have been just like, “Yes, let’s go. Let’s learn about all of it. Let’s get deep,” because of all these granular decisions, like how do we set this up? How do we administer it? How do we make decisions? This is all stuff that continues to fascinate me.
Aaron Lammer: How do you talk, like when you meet a more mainstream journalist, like people you used to work with in the political business sphere, you’re like, “Yeah, I’m ball deep on Bitcoin,” and they’re like, “Isn’t that a scam?” What do you say about what you’re doing?
David Z. Morris: I don’t think it’s, at least for people who are in the tech and business world, that’s not the response you get. I mean, the people that I used to work with at Fortune, all great people like Jeff John Roberts, they’re-
Aaron Lammer: Fortune went deep on blockchain from the jump.
David Z. Morris: Yeah, I mean they have their own Bitcoin thing, or like your friend, and we should talk afterwards about Joe Weisenthal and our relationship, but they’re fascinated by it, and they… Most of them implicitly acknowledge that they believe this is a hugely important thing.
Aaron Lammer: But you’re talking about the minority that believes that. I truly believe-
David Z. Morris: That’s true.
Aaron Lammer: Maybe outside of the business space, but the majority of smart journalists I know totally discount Bitcoin.
David Z. Morris: Yeah, and I mean maybe you’re more in touch with people who are culture or politics writers.
Aaron Lammer: Yes, sure.
David Z. Morris: So I couldn’t speak to that, because those aren’t people who I have a lot of-
Aaron Lammer: You don’t… Yeah.
David Z. Morris: … relationships with.
Aaron Lammer: What are the strands that are really exciting to you? What do you expect are going to be the big things you’re going to be following over the next year?
David Z. Morris: Like I said, Ethereum development funding I think is going to be… It’s either going to die as soon as people become aware of it, and it’ll never happen, or it’ll become a giant controversy and fight, and we’re generally… We’re talking about this question of leadership. I think Ethereum is in a really risky place, because it’s kind of in between those two. It’s sort of early enough to genuinely be an ecosystem where there are a lot of people contributing, but there’s enough really big and important decisions that still need to be made, that might not get made in this distributed manner, that there’s a real danger going forward.
David Z. Morris: So, Ethereum scaling I think is maybe the biggest story for the next year, two year, three years.
Aaron Lammer: It’s kind of incredible, because if we were making a movie about the history of Ethereum, that fork, that Grin, Beam fork we described, Ethereum literally went through that rubicon, where there was a faction that wanted to turn it into a for-profit company, and there was a faction that wanted to be a nonprofit, open source organization, and that faction won out.
David Z. Morris: Yeah.
Aaron Lammer: There’s like a wacky alternate world, where Ethereum has a Ripple company attached to it.
David Z. Morris: Yeah, and I mean I don’t think I’m prepared to totally dive into this, but I think that the world we live in is better than that world. I think-
Aaron Lammer: I agree.
David Z. Morris: … having Ethereum be at least nominally decentralized, and you can debate about the influence of certain people-
Aaron Lammer: Well, even if it’s centralized, it’s not centralized by a company, per se, unless you want to say Consensus is such a big piece of the pie that they represent that, which some people might want to say. But you know, for the most part, yes, the nodes are somewhat centralized. It’s difficult to deal with the chain on your own.
David Z. Morris: Again, a problem that needs to be solved, that ironically a central authority would be helpful for, but-
Aaron Lammer: Absolutely. I think I prefer this timeline, but I am curious what would have gone differently if it was a company. I think a lot.
David Z. Morris: Yeah. Shout out Charles Hoskinson, who would still be involved.
Aaron Lammer: You’ve been on the Hoskinson Beat.
David Z. Morris: Yeah, so to speak. Not a great person. And you know, I think that it would be way less interesting. I think it would be way less diverse, and way less stuff happening, and way less weird stuff happening, and it would just be… There would be less, period. Because I think when Vitalik made this decision, his point was explicitly that people are going to be less willing to develop and contribute to something that is controlled by a centralized company. And I think he’s been proven right. Sustainability is still a question, but I think that the principle that you make something accessible and people will be more likely to participate in it, I think that’s true.
Aaron Lammer: I mean, I’ve been thinking a lot about protocols, and that’s the best way I can describe crypto to someone who is a skeptic of it, is that these are new protocols, dealing with money and value, and there’s never been a meaningful protocol built by a company.
David Z. Morris: You probably know more about that than I do. I was listening I think to the most recent episode, you were talking about email, and I think that’s true. Yeah.
Aaron Lammer: I mean, I’m sure I’m going to get some emails saying that this is wrong, but there’s something powerful about the idea that even if it comes from the DOD, that’s still not a for-profit company. The DOD is not like, “Yo, we got to keep our hands on this internet thing. We could really make some big good money on this thing.” There is this power to things that come out of public organizations that literally, you can’t pivot. Once you’re a nonprofit, or you’re a government organization, whatever, you can’t pivot to for profit. It’s like when athletes go pro, you can’t go back and play on the amateur circuit, and just ending that speculation seems like a powerful move. Ending the, “We could all get rich,” thing, although ironically, in all these cases crypto, you still can get rich off of protocol, just by being there early.
Aaron Lammer: I don’t know. Maybe this metaphor’s all [inaudible 01:09:23].
David Z. Morris: Yeah. It’s tough for exactly that reason, and I mean, let’s not delude ourselves. Everybody involved in Ethereum was hoping to get rich way back in 2015.
Aaron Lammer: And they did.
David Z. Morris: And they did, and you know, for the most part, more power to them. It was still a gamble. I think it’s crazy to look back, I think that the initial Ethereum crowd fund raised like $20 million, which from the perspective of today, is just a minuscule amount of money.
Aaron Lammer: I think the biggest individual was Anthony D’Auria put in $300,000.
David Z. Morris: That’s insane.
Aaron Lammer: I think that was the biggest bag.
David Z. Morris: Oh, that guy is a billionaire now.
Aaron Lammer: I think he just bought-
David Z. Morris: I mean, probably not anymore, but-
Aaron Lammer: I think he bought the most expensive piece of real estate in Toronto history recently.
David Z. Morris: And yeah, shout out to Anthony, who in contrast to some others, has always struck me as a good guy. So, speculation is inevitable, and again, Ethereum in a… If Bitcoin is the one, the thing that can only happen once, Ethereum is like one point… I don’t know how to extend that metaphor, but it’s still this unique thing that is not going to happen again.
Aaron Lammer: It’s a thing that now that it’s happened, you can’t do another Ethereum.
David Z. Morris: Yeah.
Aaron Lammer: Yeah, there’s a unicorn element to all of this, where once someone has done it, anyone else who’s trying to do it is scamming.
David Z. Morris: Yeah. Yeah. And I mean, you know, even that’s debatable. You have things like Polkadot, and where people are sort of offering improvements, or a different approach, or something, and seem to be above board, but what matters most, I think, is that when you have these singular events, and singular platforms, sure, we’re going to have interoperability, but there is something powerful about everybody being on a level playing field, and all the rules being the same, and everybody being able to talk to each other through this protocol. Protocol obviously being the operative word, and those are the benefits that you get, again, from being at least nominally nonprofit, and at least nominally decentralized, and if you continue working towards that, this just becomes the fabric. This becomes the background, and global reserve currency, baby.
Aaron Lammer: This has been great. Would you come back and talk Digital Cash once we get to it?
David Z. Morris: 100%. Yeah.
Aaron Lammer: Okay, I promise Kang next time.
David Z. Morris: Yeah. I mean, and this will be… It’ll be a more obviously fun discussion, because for anybody who doesn’t know it, the book is amazing, and you should keep an eye out for it becoming available as soon as possible.
Aaron Lammer: Okay, we’re going to… I don’t know. I have a galley here. I don’t know what the exact, actual release date is. June.
David Z. Morris: June, so it’s a ways off.
Aaron Lammer: Come back in June.
David Z. Morris: Yeah, for sure.
Aaron Lammer: We’re going to have a little Digital Cash conversation. Between now and then, where can people find you?
David Z. Morris: Yeah, so Breaker is at breakermag.com. I’m at David Z. Morris on Twitter. Definitely follow me, I’m mildly funny.
Aaron Lammer: Are you doing any events at Breaker Con?
David Z. Morris: Yeah, so Breaker Con is May 15th. Unfortunately, access is pretty restricted to that, specifically.
Aaron Lammer: Can you hook me up?
David Z. Morris: We will definitely hook… I think, if we haven’t already, that’s on us. Breakermag.com, just keep an eye on-
Aaron Lammer: Are they going to put the stuff on… Is the Breaker Con stuff going to end up online? Or it’s just for the in crowd?
David Z. Morris: I’m not sure. This is basically our pilot season.
Aaron Lammer: Got it.
David Z. Morris: So, we’re keeping it pretty lean, including the cost for streaming and stuff like that, but there will be ways to at least be aware of what’s going on, and then the real mega fest will be next year.
Aaron Lammer: I’m going to put a plug in here, because I enjoy it, to the Breaker Mag weekly newsletter that you can sign up for on the site. If you feel overwhelmed by this stuff, which I frequently do, I frequently feel like I don’t want to even put my toe into crypto Twitter, because I’m like, “I don’t have a whole day to dedicate to Craig Wright and Calvin Ayre threatening to sue people, and people changing their pictures to cats, and that kind of stuff.” I feel like there’s no better once a week check-in. You could just get the Breaker weekly newsletter, and listen to this show, that’s enough crypto for you.
David Z. Morris: Yeah, shout out to Jess Klein, who puts that together for us.
Aaron Lammer: That’s a healthy amount of crypto in your life. You should pause before you put more crypto than that in your life.
David Z. Morris: Yeah, seriously consider your choices.
Aaron Lammer: Thanks, David.
David Z. Morris: Great. Thanks so much for having me in the real crypto cave.
The official podcast of Bitcoin crashes. Hosted by @aaronlammer and @jaycaspiankang. Mailbag/contact: email@example.com
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