My New Calling — in Web3
I’m starting a new job, not just in a different organization or even in a new industry. I’m moving into a whole new economy — on the blockchain.
“Web3” decentralizes and transforms the web. If the first version of the web was for exchanging information, and the second interactions, then this third wave is for exchanging value. I’ve been involved in the first two waves, and this third one is the most exciting.
Web3 holds the seeds for a new kind of work. It enables coordination on previously unimaginable scales, but this time without centralized control. Web3 will also help us tackle our greatest challenges, but only if we choose to use it that way.
It’s this excitement about Web3 that motivated me to resuscitate this old Medium account as a place to share my experiences and observations about venturing into what many now call the “Web3 rabbit hole.”
Down the Rabbit Hole
My first encounter with Web3 was in 2017 when I interviewed Jack du Rose about his work on Colony. I remember feeling at the time as though I were talking with someone from the future. That same year, I also consulted for a startup working a blockchain-based social network. The project didn’t pan out, but it did give me firsthand experience working in this new world.
Not long after that, I found myself developing some new ideas for large-scale socio-economic change. After banging around for a while, I eventually realized that what I was envisioning was really only possible with the blockchain. With that epiphany, I re-centered my work around Web3.
Going forward, most of my time will still focus on research and writing, but now with a focus on Web3. To ground that work with hands-on experience, I decided it was important to get involved with the new breed of Web3 organizations known as Decentralized Autonomous Organizations (DAOs).
I spent many hours over the last few months diving into Discord servers and Discourse forums, reading documents, tweets, and pretty much anything I could get my hands on. That exploration exposed me to some remarkable organizations, including The Commons Stack, Giveth, ixo, Regen Network, and Moonshot Collective. The flood of information proved overwhelming, however, and by October I decided to focus my energy on just one DAO.
That DAO is the Token Engineering Commons.
The Token Engineering Commons (TEC) is a DAO that focuses on…yep, you guessed it,… token engineering. Some of my current readers may not yet understand what that means. I hope to help you change that over time. For now, let’s just say that token engineering is how we will design our economies in the future. Building this new field of expertise is the TEC mission.
What I most appreciate about the TEC community is its simultaneous commitment to both the technical and cultural aspects of token engineering. It is a highly technical organization but it is also deeply human. As we build the foundation for what comes next, the cold logic of automated supply and demand curves needs to be wrapped in the warmth of the human soul.
So that’s the “token engineering” aspect, but what about the “commons” part of the TEC name?
It’s Commons Sense
A commons is a resource whose sustainability is a shared interest for many. Examples include things like the atmosphere, the English language, a technology protocol like Ethereum, or a field of knowledge — like token engineering.
Mainstream economic theory says that the commons is not something we can have. It views avarice as insurmountable, and assumes that shared resources will always be gobbled up by individuals operating in their own self-interest. The “tragedy of the commons” is seen as inevitable.
Elinor Ostrum disproved this view with painstaking research that outlines a set of governance practices for building a thriving and sustainable commons. I’ve been delighted to see that Ostrum’s ideas have found a new home on the blockchain. Yes, the Bitcoin community has a strong libertarian streak, but the divide between free market and community values seems a bit more fuzzy in this new world. Freedom is sacrosanct. But there’s also a sense that most of society’s problems boil down to coordination failures.
Web3 is governance technology that looks and feels a lot like coordination technology. We are seeing the birth of a movement that will use these new governance tools to transform our response to humanity’s greatest challenges. We face many problems, but one of the greatest unknowns centers on our relationship with rapidly accelerating machine intelligence. Web3 won’t just be our best bet for governing ourselves — it will also be the key to governing our machines. But more on that in future posts…
I can think of no better place to invest my time, money, and energy than a DAO that is creating a commons around this new field of governance. That’s why I have chosen the TEC as my portal into Web3.
Welcome to the Rabbit Hole
This post marks my foray into writing about Web3. I will publish in other places, but I am dedicating this space on Medium to sharing what I learn as I venture down this Web3 rabbit hole.
My hope is that these forthcoming observations will appeal to two groups. The first is newcomers who find themselves getting “curiouser and curiouser” about this new world. The second is the existing Web3 community. For you, my hope is to reflect upon the marvel of what you are doing and help frame it in terms of what the world so desperately needs from you right now.
P.S. for anyone who would like to know more about TEC, feel free to drop me a note on Twitter.