Technology extends our reach as people. It reduces the latency between thought, speech, and action by enabling us to act out our impulses on a whim. While this has its benefits, harmful manifestations of tribalism, such as racism, misogyny, prejudice, and xenophobia, have found particularly fertile ground for growth on the internet, enabled by the lack of accountability internet speech affords us.
Despite setting out to cure ills exacerbated by closed-source technologies, blockchain networks have given rise to a unique brand of crypto tribalism: coin cultism. The proliferation of various crypto networks, each with its own unique token and an army of financially-motivated supporters, has resulted in rivalries that recall the divisiveness of partisan politics which blockchain enthusiasts sought to escape. For blockchain technology to sail beyond the early adopter phase and into the sea of mass adoption, the spirit of open source and interoperability needs to be championed.
Despite setting out to cure ills exacerbated by closed-source technologies, blockchain networks have given rise to a unique brand of crypto tribalism: coin cultism.
The Competitive Caveman Gets On Twitter
The lives of our hunter-gatherer ancestors were shaped as a direct result of extreme scarcity as they prowled in search of food, shelter, and other resources critical to their survival. Today, despite the abundance we continue to enjoy, our Darwinian imperative compels us to compete with the “out group”, those not part of our “clan”.
Harmful manifestations of tribalism — evident anywhere from ardent sports supporters jeering the rival team’s fanbase, to the political arena, and in the most extreme cases, war — are exacerbated by the internet. Reasoned online discussions hardly go viral. Freed of the inhibitions of face-to-face encounters, keyboard warriors are able to express their most extreme views in the form of polarising, provocative content. Social media sites drive us further into our own echo chambers by using algorithms to target us with content that either reinforces our prior opinions or demonizes the other side.
Many thought the world of blockchain would be different.
Yet coin cultism, the ‘my chain is better than your chain’ attitude which Brock Pierce recently deemed as “the new religious fundamentalism”, continues to prevail on social media and other forums. Supporters and users of crypto networks have a vested financial interest in the success of their chain, further magnifying tendencies to stigmatize and ridicule ‘outsiders’ of a competing chain. If cryptocurrencies and blockchain technology are to usher in an era of truly open, transparent systems, inter-chain cooperation must replace the tribal attitude currently prevalent.
Blockchain Interoperability Sets The Stage For Positive-Sum Games
While blockchain networks may be viewed as competitors locked in a zero-sum game, in reality, they are more like complementary pieces of a Harley-Davidson, each carrying out a specific function in the larger scope of the blockchain machine. Some, such as Stellar and Worbli, are prioritizing financial services, while others, such as Tezos and Telos, are making governance a primary focus of their chain. The EOS mainnet was conceived of as the home of dApps — a scalable base-layer for decentralized applications that enables real end-user utility such as ride-sharing platforms, social media sites, and roleplaying games.
The missing link is interoperability. The capacity to move value seamlessly across all blockchains will enable each one to focus on their core competency.
The capacity to move value seamlessly across all blockchains will enable each one to focus on their core competency.
International trade sees nations specializing in goods for which they have a comparative advantage and then trading with one another across global markets, creating a net gain that benefits all parties. International treaties foster mutually beneficial trade relationships between nations by reducing tariffs on imported goods, thereby lowering the costs of trade. For example, the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a free trade pact which came into effect at the end of last year and covers 500 million people in 11 countries, has seen Japan increase its beef imports from TPP members by a sizable 50% as tariffs on imports fell by 29%.
Just as free trade pacts are necessary in order to ensure that gains from trade are not eliminated by excessive tariffs, interblockchain communication is crucial if we want to bridge value seamlessly across different protocols. LiquidApps recently introduced XIBC, one-way cross-chain communication, as a first step towards a fully interoperable future. EOS dApps utilizing the service can communicate with Bitcoin, Ethereum, and many other chains, reading from them in a trustless fashion. This service, one of many which DAPP Service Providers (DSPs) can provide on the DAPP Network, could potentially set the stage for multi-chain dApps with mainstream appeal.
Seamless interblockchain communication will enable blockchains to specialize in their area of expertise while communicating value between each other. EOS and Ethereum, for example, could strike up a similar positive-sum relationship with EOS specializing in scalable dApps, Ethereum focusing on decentralized finance (DeFi) and interblockchain communication allowing projects to harness both capabilities. Multi-chain applications could then emerge, fusing together superior components from various base-layer protocols. Onboarding the next group of users onto multi-chain applications will boost the overall worth of all the integrated networks. In short, walled-garden ecosystems have no place here.
Open-Sourcing the Future
Dreams of a world devoid of widespread sectarianism are driving tinkerers across the globe to create borderless, autonomous worlds run on blockchain. But blockchain is only a tool, and we builders are only human. We have managed to project our in-group bias onto the technologies we have created. Bringing our vision to fruition will demand greater collaboration, cooperation, and interoperability between various chains — both technologically and ideologically.
Beni Hakak is the CEO of LiquidApps.