Antidotes to the Metaverse | An intro
How to avoid the afflictions of the future
You may have noticed... I fell off the writing wagon.
Life happened, good habits dissolved, and momentum was lost. But I'm crawling back; butt in seat as the dust settles after some major life changes.
My new quarrel: what to write about next?
The world has changed quite a bit since my last essay. Especially that of Web3. I mean, my goodness... the space is a flaming ball of turmoil, fraud, and maximum FUD (fear, uncertainty, doubt).
Mainstream media and Web3 tourists have been quick to write off crypto. 'Metaverse' is also under its fair share of flack and disillusionment (deservedly so, thanks Zuck...).
But if you've done your homework, and understand the tech in a more intimate way; how it works, the use cases, the problem space its addressing, its history... you'll know blatant dismissal is lazy and intellectually dishonest.
These implosions aren't proof of Web3's inevitable demise. And Meta's struggles/lackluster vision aren't a signal of what the metaverse has to offer.
If anything, FTX, 3AC, Celsius, etc. are walking advertisements for why we need more decentralized, transparent, permissionless systems. aka: bitcoin, decentralized finance, blockchain native NFT marketplaces.
These systems have weathered the storm and delivered as promised. Bitcoin keeps producing blocks, Uniswap smart contracts have always done right by customer funds, and LooksRare developers aren't front running NFT drops.
These other entities were exact replicas of centralized institutions of old. No different than an Enron or a major bank; pure black box operations with less than immoral actors at the helm, fueled by classic human conundrums as old as time: intoxicating greed, a surplus of ambition, and outright lies.
What happened in recent months is not unique to crypto and it should not be an indictment of the technology.
The railroad industry was initially riddled with its own form of fraudsters and thieves. As was the early days of the stock market, the cable industry, and the internet. New frontiers will always have their fair share of charlatans and money grabbers.
Would we have been wise to dismiss these other critical pieces of infrastructure?
Fortunately, the good actors outweigh the bad. And eventually with time, the garbage seems to always get exposed and washed out.
As painful as the process might be, this had to happen. And better now than later, when the tech and crypto ecosystem is more deeply embedded into day-to-day society.
I assure you, this is a classic anti-fragile event in the making. A hardening of the base layer protocols, their true value props, and their resiliency.
We'll look back at this moment — cryptos survival through scrutiny and hell, as its defining moment. A moment that was necessary to gain eventual legitimacy and faith.
You now have a choice to make. You can stop paying attention and move on to consuming information about a bad economy, fucked up politics, and a worsening climate.
Or, you can realize that the game was reset, and that its culture and rules are changing for the better.
You can now start doing the homework you could have been doing all along. And if you do, you might have a second chance to play and win.
In doing so, I think you'll see how this tech, both Web3 and spatial computing, can actually address the problems above (yes, even climate via Bitcoins strategic relationship to energy... we'll discuss down the road). That's my goal at least. But the solutions won't mature and take hold overnight. It's going to be an uphill battle, and rapid technological change is going to create severe growing pains along the way.
Just look what's happening with generative AI (Dall-E, GPT-3.5, Midjourney, Stable Diffusion, etc). If you've played with the stuff, you know... The world's about to look A LOT different over the next 5-10 years.
To be clear, when I say play and win, I don't just mean financial gain. I mean this more broadly, on the wider field of life, within both your inner and outer worlds.
In our efforts 'to win', we need to not only better understand the tech driving this change. We must also double down our studies in two other areas: the inner makings of the mind (aka: philosophy and psychology), and the inner makings of (or the precursors/inputs to) the tech that is impacting our minds (aka: science).
So back to my question at hand, what to write about?
I'm bucketing this next series of essays into three areas: technology, 'mind', and science. A coalescence of the three is the ultimate source of 'Medium Energy' (aka: striking the right balance between the things that matter most).
I think I'll call the series 'Antidotes to the Metaverse': How to avoid the afflictions of the future.
To better understand and navigate the tech, we'll start by going back to first principles within crypto and the version that matters most: Bitcoin.
The goal here will be to sanity check our original conviction, and show how Bitcoin is critical to ensuring the metaverse doesn't become a more authoritarian, more intrusive, and more 'Big Brother-esque' version of the internet.
While crypto's recent events haven't deterred me, I have indeed become more of a Bitcoin purist.
By no means am I falling into the 'bitcoin maxi' camp. I'm still a proponent of Ethereum, smart contracts, and NFTs... But I do believe Bitcoin needs to be separated from the wider Web3 narrative: as the only true implementation for crypto's primary use case: digital money in a digital world.
The chaos of FTX and beyond has forced a re-evaluation of what drew me to this space in the first place. It's led to a deeper dive into the elements that make crypto unique and important, and to understand these elements within the greater context of how the world works (or doesn't work) today.
This led me to a deeper study of Bitcoin's primary breakthrough: proof of work; the consensus mechanism that solves the double spend problem, that instantiates truth, that validates & secures the chain of custody of property, that allows a digital object to be tethered to the real world, and that for the first time in human history, allows something in cyberspace to elicit real-world properties.
When you really understand 'proof of work', and in a first principles way, I think your mind will be blown.
I've found the implications to be truly profound and enlightening. I'm confident you'll feel the same way. There's a lot to unpack on this topic, and it will be the focus of my next essay. Stay tuned.
From there, we'll take a jaunt into the realms of the modern mind, and what I think is the primary affliction of modern man/woman: mimetic desire.
Mimetic desire comes from the mind of Rene Girard, a renowned French thinker, writer, and philosopher. In a sentence, it's the study of what drives human behavior and what programs our desires.
More importantly, in terms of its application, it's the study of how to recognize and undo this programming. Because more often than not, our desires aren't born from what we innately actually want or need.
Sadly, in our efforts to determine 'the right things to want', we're creatures of imitation, programmed to create 'models of desire': templates of what others want and what others have.
These models usually comes from people who we respect, admire, or wish to emulate. It rarely comes from digging into the core of who we really are and what we really want. All things buried deep within the hard to reach crevasses that are the true essence of our selves.
This affliction is a remnant of our biological evolution within caves & tribes. The need to be admired in order to fit in and attract a mate. It comes with endless comparison and self-measurement against external things that don't really matter. Slicing through this programming is a skill that must be cultivated.
While this has always been a driving force behind human behavior, and inner turmoil, it's taken center stage in a modern world fueled by social media, endless connectivity, and near limitless insight into the lives of others.
This will force will only continue to magnify as the metaverse is actualized. Understanding its presence in our life, how it manifests, and how to navigate it will be key to survival.
The third essay in this series will be my first attempt venturing into the realm of science. We'll first explore complexity theory: the study of the emergent properties/phenomena via complex systems, including how they form, what they look like, and how they impact our world. Common examples of complex systems include a synchronized flock of birds, cities at scale, and decentralized networks like Bitcoin.
In a world that is now inherently and increasingly complex, I think this is one of the more powerful forms of science to understand. I think it also has major implications for the future of crypto and the metaverse: wildly complex systems in their own right.
So there you have it. A little roadmap of what's to come, and... a major breakthrough in the history of Medium Energy!
My FIRST short form post! (relatively speaking...) You're welcome.
Yes, this piece isn't packed with deep insights and musings. Frankly, it's more a selfish form of personal accountability, so thank you for bearing through it.
I've publicly exposed my intentions and now I must deliver on the essays above. Let's see how much discipline I can muster...
Why I do this to myself, I don't know.
Realistically, I'll likely find something else to write about along the way. Perhaps a new definition of the term 'metaverse', brain computer interfaces, generative AI, the human autonomic nervous system (a la Huberman), digital wallets and the future of e-commerce, consciousness within virtual reality... It's all fair game.
If so, well... who doesn't like a little surprise and delight here and there (See, there I go again... already giving myself an out... classic).
As always, let's see where the wind blows and let serendipity be our guide.
Thanks for reading, and I'll see you next down the rabbit hole that is Bitcoin and Proof of Work.
Oh, one more thing… the dreaded shameless plug: if you haven’t subscibed yet, please do so below to get these essays sent directly to your inbox!