Categories
Internet Culture Startups

Day 1036 and The Right Direction

I’ve been in Europe for the last month. My itinerary included Tallinn, Helsinki and Amsterdam. It was a personal trip with work overlayed on top as the digital nomad as become a regular part of my life.

I have said it before but I don’t take as much pleasure as you might imagine from these trips. Much of the reason I spend so much time outside of America is simply that the State department won’t let in the kind of rare weirdo digital grey tribe talent from the portions of the world the United States has labeled as “bad passports.”

I’ve written about it extensively if you are interested. We’ve reached a crisis point in the dysfunction of our immigration and travel visa system in America and it weighed heavily on me and mine. It’s the most concrete evidence I have that America simply isn’t serious about being competitive in the global economy.

As I head back home to the states, I want to be sure I’m heading in the right direction with my priorities. I’ve been committed to crypto for close to a decade now. I’ve added in more focus as it’s become clearer we can’t rely on fiat and the dollar system. I’ve become part of the artificial intelligence explosion over the last two years. Now that the Network State concept is more formalized and we have rallying movements like e/acc, I feel as if some optimism is cautiously warranted. All it will take is twenty or thirty years of work and surviving the geopolitical tumult. No big deal right?

Categories
Finance Internet Culture Startups

Day 853 and Alignment on Our Consensus

Some narrative wars are being fought right right. Who owns the future and who gets to decide on what something is worth? That question is rippling through AI communities and crypto DAOs. And then the Federal Reserve raised another quarter point and Balaji explained probabilistic thinking and it went over everyone’s heads. And the beat goes on.

We are all looking at the consensus making in the market and applying our separate projections onto the great stage of guessing if you think you know what other people think everyone knows. What is common knowledge. Turns out calculus is useful!

You’d think the value of an honest days work would be common knowledge. But labor costs sure have gone up. Or maybe a gallon of milk. Politicians don’t know. How much do you get for a dollar? I’d like to know if you think it has changed. These are things you can evaluate yourself. You do not need a fancy expert. Though sometimes economists on Twitter will answer your questions.

But are we aligned on the measurements and valuations being used? What do you value vs Janet Yellen. I believe we have a right to ask for the people and technologies that run our lives to be accountable.

We have to agree on some collective civilization level norm on what we value and what the boundaries are on what things are worth and how we protect those valuable things.

It’s my personal opinion that we are all performing a bit of chaos magic as we ask that we align on a future that can collectively together build the most aligned consensus of agreement. Maybe it happens at the neighborhood level or maybe it’s a whole state. But we need to agree to some terms.

How gets to do that and how do we enable them? Maybe it’s humans. Maybe it’s humans guiding machines to make us more powerful. I myself believe that machines will need a valuation mechanism to sort priorities on our behalf.

People ask if I’m on team AI or team crypto. AI needs crypto to bridge the many different value sets and marketplaces together. Some of these types of value marketplaces may even be cultural values. That’s the goal of the network state. Align with the state that empowers your values. But then these states will also need to coordinate in various states of mistrust, distrust or if we dare trustlessness.

But aligning on how we govern and what rules we must abide by is a hard problem. We’ve relied on national liberty in America for a good while and it has produced many failures along the way.

But occasionally the utopians win a few rounds. Freedom does indeed reign it just takes a lot of fight. But we work to align as many of us as possible toward a consensus. Nobody said civilization was easy to maintain.

Categories
Community Startups Travel

Day 849 and “Oh I Follow You!”

I’ve been in Austin for Coindesk’s Consensus crypto conference. I’m flying home to Montana today after five intense days of work. But if the on the ground reception is any indication, I nailed this year with my talks and vibes. I might actually be good at my job.

Conferences can be tricky if you are a speaker. You’re obligated to hold attention & entertain while also getting across complicated topics like governance contracts. It takes energy and preparation to do it well.

This year I was a bit less academic than last year as Marc Hochstein and I hosted an interactive town hall which was spicy as hell and my loud carnival barker voice carried. A bit bigger than just a talk and I think it was a hit.

By the end the room was packed with folks passing by and stopped to see what we were discussing. A bunch of smiling energetic faces and a loud lady in a full length dress is a bit eye catching out on a convention floor stage. I got so much positive feedback.

Heck, I was in a bathroom where I overhead an attendee discussing the panel the next day with a gentleman who was also panelist. The attendee raved to the panelist and said “that chick” really held everyone’s attention on topic. A good performance all around.

I called Consensus a “summer camp for adults” as it all your crypto friends get together for it. An expensive paid conference with a lot of talent and speakers makes for excellent serendipity. I felt like I made new connections and even a new friend or two.

It felt easy as in a small community someone like me gets to enjoy the benefits of niche fringe micro-celebrity. I kept hearing over and over “I follow you on Twitter” along with “she’s so funny on Twitter she says the shit you are thinking.” I’ve got to admit it feels good.

And I think it was fun for Alex who spent part of the week hearing folks tell him that while he’s great (and everyone loves his homesteading adventures) but they are really more excited to meet his wife. Dare I say I’m a trophy wife?

It’s super fun when your internet frens and parasocial relationships come together in actual reality. We were all happily saying “oh I follow you” to each other all week. I miss everyone already. But I’m happy to be home in Montana.

Categories
Community Internet Culture Startups

Day 848 and Summer Camp

I’m not a camp kid. I’m told there exists a group of kids whose formative summer experiences are at summer camp and I’ve watched enough American television to have the gist of the genre. It looks fun.

Professional conferences appear to offer a similar experience to adults. You have a yearly event or two that gets together various sets of old colleagues and professional teams that then overlap with social and affinity groups. I’ve been at Consensus which is one of crypto’s many conferences but somehow one of its most inclusive.

It’s a bit of a crossover event where a lot of different factions put aside their differences and ask why the fuck are we here and what the fuck are we even building anyway. And the answer seems to be every kind of kid you’d expect at summer camp. We are building a pretty inclusive place with a lot of weirdos.

You’ve got the academic nuanced protocol dorks, the tradfi to defi chads, the solar punk regenerative commons open source projects, developer tool companies, analytics firms and graph data scientists, privacy and OpSec nerds, and even the baroque online misogynists. And me, who is, I guess, a chaos magic witch or a pre-seed venture investor if you are nasty.

Crypto is for everybody and sometimes we aren’t thrilled by everyone who shows up but we do our best to make sure everyone is included in the effort. Maybe we even help cool down the radicals and maximalists right? Maybe we can reach a consensus?

Everyone who is here this year is down for the fight. There are a millions reasons why skepticism of centralizing authority and panopticon states is good. Mostly it comes down to insisting on finding a trust layer that we can all agree on. Even if you are a racist weirdo online.

And I’d imagine most marginalized identities can understand the basic skepticism how big institutions. I’ve only got a few issues (disability and gender come to mind) and even I see how institutions turn a blind eye to our needs if we don’t stand up. So we’ve got to agree on a common set of civilizational rules. If a state can’t do that then we better build alternatives fast. Trust layers matter.

So I’m glad that I’m in an aligned fight for those basic ideals. We are fighting for a consensus in a pluralistic world. Because that’s one where we can all prosper. And speaking as someone at summer camp for utopians, it feels pretty good to be optimistic. Just give us a decade or two to keep fucking around and finding out. With enough of us competing we will get there.

Categories
Community Startups

Day 847 and Erasure

I hosted an interactive town hall for Consensus this afternoon. The topic was the path forward for building communities online, offline and IRL with cryptocurrency, decentralized autonomous organizations and maybe even network states.

I’ve been working on this town hall for several months. I worked with Marc Hochstein to refine the thesis question, build the flow and topics, bring together speakers from unique ecosystems and projects, and horse trade the various bit of social capital required to get interesting content out the door. I worked hard on it. I felt I was one of the owners of the panel.

Builders of new types of communities – online, IRL, and hybrids – roll up their sleeves and discuss how they’ve addressed challenges from 60,000-foot strategy to immediate on-the-ground tactics in a zero-trust world with high trust expectations. Topics include: governance and accountability; organic scaling through consensus (who and what decides on whether it is achieved); the architecture of sustaining and driving loyalty; navigating regulatory hurdles; uncertainty around novel governance structures; and managing information and workflows around who and what is trusted.

I was proud of my first question as I felt qualified to ask having once been the founder and leader of an organization. Conway’s Law is a familiar adage in software design. Simply put, what we build is a reflection of who we are and how we communicate with each other. So I opened the town hall with this as the thirty thousand foot view.

If what we build is a reflection of the organizations that build it, then crypto is a reflection of this room. Assuming you believe our goal is economic and monetary solutions for everyone willing to align with our reformation, are we living up to this ambition?

We had a lot of ground to cover. Issues of institutional distrust, transparency, governance, and decentralization’s promises for inclusion. But reactivity means we go to base emotions. An older woman asked the panel (not me though) why there weren’t more women on the panel. Needlessly to say I took that personally. Ain’t I a panelist?

I just brought the hammer down on this poor woman who wanted to call my panel a “manel” because lady it’s fucking erasure I worked for months to bring this group together, I’m on the stage as an expert, and you think don’t I count?

She said I was the moderator. Which like yeah it’s my fucking show because I have the expertise to bring the leaders together as I’m a peer. I shut it down as we had deeper questions on what inclusion means than Boomer feminism or Girlbossing woke-ism can manage.

The beauty of Bitcoin and Ethereum and the ecosystem of L2s like Stacks is any of us can validate what’s going on. There is no “man” or patriarchy or systemic oppression keeping you out of learning and using the tools. Maybe they reflect their builders who haven’t always been inclusive but now all of us together can earn and build like anyone else. We can make our tools reflect us by insisting on being seen.

I regularly have my background and expertise and existence questioned by everyone. And I just keep showing up. So I’d like to say sticking a girl on a panel does nothing for inclusion. But being a woman who organized a serious (ly) weird town hall on community should also mean my experience counts as much as anyone else’s.

I want everyone to count. You count. I count. Your gender or sexual orientation doesn’t discount you unless you discount yourself first. I regularly make sure I’m seen and I want you seen too.

The way to count is by speaking up and making sure that men aren’t the only ones who contribute. Don’t want to make your gender or sex a thing?

Go ignore gender & sex and & identity entirely and be an anon with a Milady pfp. I came to crypto to be a sovereign of my own body and choices. It’s your choice. None of us are victims.

I was amused as dozens of women came up to me after with enthusiasm about how we do inclusion in crypto because we don’t need to be restricted by Girlbossing or Boomer feminism. We include ourselves as the system is inclusive by design.

Decentralized systems include us all. And that’s a future they can’t exclude us from. Do you want to categorize every identity into perfect little corporate identities and slogans? I don’t. We can build a future where we are free to be you and me. Ok Boomer?

Categories
Finance Internet Culture Preparedness

Day 807 and Hyperinflation

Everyone calm the fuck down and stop panicking while we consider the most dreaded phrase in Silicon Valley: “Balaji was right”.

Sometimes people use a method of persuading you from the extremes. Remember “he means it seriously but not literally?” It works, it nudges the new position into your frame of reference and anything else feels moderate by comparison. But you get to choose what you adopt. You can be optimistic, you can chose new ways of being, you control yourself. But warning: it takes so much energy and effort, which I know because I did a lot of work to adjust my life to tail risks while still believing that you have to live your life.

Also, I’m not going to censor anything, so if you’ve got an inclination to cuss me out for not being on your “side”, I’d ask you to remind you that I’m human and winging it just as much as you are. Let’s all remember our humanity.

So are we going into hyperinflation in the next 90 days with Bitcoin going to $1,000,000?

The Next 90 Days

I mean, an apocalyptic scenario is pretty hard to do in ninety days no matter what is happening. Because life finds a way and as my husband Alex likes to say, people revert to the mean. So while I don’t fucking know and neither do you, I don’t think on balance the physics of hyperinflation in 90 days works from where we are now, when talking about the US in particular.

I’m not doing elaborate math though I’ve read the materials. I can make some good guesses based on logical observations of my available data and on human nature. And I think a shock of that magnitude is basically the end of the world. And as much as I think we’ve got to end denialism about how bad shit is for a lot of people, I’m also not sure it’s going to go sideways that fast. Maybe I’m over indexing on having read Gibbon’s “Decline & Fall of the Roman Empire”.

And to the idea that “it’s ok, we’ll all just move to a Bitcoin economy: we’ve got a so much work ahead of us to make crypto and in particular Bitcoin work as a viable alternative for a practical economy it’s not even funny. I think I’m reasonably active in crypto (though probably not as much as you think on a day to day basis). I participate in some DAOs, I have bags with Bitcoin. I believe we can build a better future. But we are small and the problem is big and we need more of you to come in and build it with us if you want an alternative economy that’s actually usable by everyone.

I think this is a good thing because I have had some good experiences with how American capitalism works but I think we can do better. I have some money but I’m not .01%. I like capitalism but I’ve experienced the deep lows of navigating a chronic illness in America before everyone became obsessed with fragility. I’m not saying the systems works.

So while I think a change is ultimately coming (and I’ve made plenty of bets to that effect), I’m not so sure I want the apocalypse to come just to further that end.

After all we can’t build software if it’s the end of the world. Which isn’t a huge leap to make if the dollar hegemony collapses before August. Literally nobody wants that. But a lot of people want more options and it’s our jobs to convince them we can provide it.

So we can use Bitcoin but again, let’s not get ahead of ourselves.

Changing Systems

But I want to be transparent about what I am weighing. I believe we have some negative trends that haven’t been addressed in fractional reserve banking. I believe our world has strained trust about state run capital and currency feels inherently political.

We aren’t that far off the church and state separation, historically speaking. And it took a long time for the separation to hold. But even if time moves faster now, I’d be surprised (though not shocked) if we took down money and state in a quarter. Maybe I’m underestimating dramatically on the exponential. I clearly don’t think it’s impossible because I live in Montana and my revealed preferences tell you something. But I also live near a yuppie city and I make investments in a market economy. I’m torn.

So do I think it takes more time to unwind an empire? Yeah I do.

Do the network affects at play impact monetary policy? You tell me.

We poured a lot of cash into a lot of hands and we have the option of gossiping at scale in public. It feels like no one learned anything from GameStop but I can assure you I did. We don’t totally understand emergent behaviors. Egregores are real and we can summon demons, though we probably shouldn’t and I think it’s a little weird to do so because I’m not confident it won’t kill me.

And there’s a lot of new ground to cover. More deeply tied financial systems, and networks magnified 1000x. Last time around we barely had a functional Twitter and now we have, well ok it’s barely functional now (jk but not).

So we shouldn’t in fact continue to do that by building credibility through showing our work and support and investing in that future?I think so. It’s astonishing it’s as cheap as it is now given how much opportunity it provides. But again we have to keep building it out.

Opening the Window

Finally, one tactical issue I want to address is that Balaji may simply be trying to expand our minds on the possible in front of us and how fast we can do it. I believe the most pejorative way of describing it is manifesting but you can in fact apply energy to making a system move in your favor.

One way you do that is by opening the Overton Window on what is possible and seeing if people step up to the plate to build norms and tools that further your cultural view of the world.

So if you really believe that a change is coming and that people need to prepare for it, yes you push even farther than you might think is actually going to happen. That way, even if someone only comes halfway there, they’ve landed right where you think they need to be.

All this to say: chill out everyone – we’re living in the fastest, craziest times there have ever been and it’s damn easy to get sucked into the vortex. So take a step back, breathe, and make your decisions from a place of calm, not panic.

Categories
Politics

Day 801 and Not Today

It’s been a rocky few days watching the crisis unfolding around Silicon Valley Bank and what would happen to its depositors. We’ve received our answer.

After receiving a recommendation from the boards of the FDIC and the Federal Reserve, and consulting with the President, Secretary Yellen approved actions enabling the FDIC to complete its resolution of Silicon Valley Bank, Santa Clara, California, in a manner that fully protects all depositors. Depositors will have access to all of their money starting Monday, March 13. No losses associated with the resolution of Silicon Valley Bank will be borne by the taxpayer.

So that’s been a wild and scary ride and I guess we are kicking the can down the road. But I wasn’t emotionally prepared for a contagion on Monday.

Categories
Politics Preparedness Startups

Day 799 and Black Friday

I suppose it’s now quite clear why I felt like I was driving through a snowblind yesterday. For someone who spent the year telling everyone to watch Margin Call you’d think I’d be pretty prepared for the inevitability of pricing affecting risk.

I am, of course, discussing the collapse of Silicon Valley Bank. We’d discussed in our household scenario planning around what would happen if we saw banks forced to compete on better interest rates. Perhaps the same old story of mis-pricing your risk would play out. Discussions of contingency planning and multiple accounts and insurance policies both personal and professional. I really didn’t expect for any of the emergency use cases to manifest as to even contemplate it is simply too horrifying.

But horrible things happen every day and I am skeptical of my capacity to judge my own need for a comfort in a situation in which there is none to be found. I do however believe that in the wake of the Great Recession we’ve come to believe that money always gets bailed out. And why would Janet Yellen (of all people) hang out the singular shining star industry that keeps the lights on in the hollowed out shell of post-industrial American capitalism.

That said humans have been known to do spitefully stupid things that hurt themselves so long as it also hurts someone they dislike. Cut off your nose to spite your face. I don’t know if the drive for vengeance is strong enough for some populist reactionary spill over. I’d want to at least offer up a scapegoat and I’ll be curious to see who has this fate.

This seems like the crumbles to me. The logic of the Jankening is that we cannot always predict the downstream effects because this is a complex system. All I know is that to let a large chunk of the wider technology ecosystem fail would be catastrophic.

However, we have now effectively put in the minds of a new generation that banks do stupidly silly things occasionally (Lmao) and you have to be careful who you trust with risk. Everyone is running to the big banks and that will have its own consequences. I am curious to see what the downstream consequences will be.

Be careful who you trust, use some common sense and don’t be overly sure of the value of powerful people telling you want to think. They might not have your best interest at heart.

Categories
Finance

Day 684 and Newcomb’s Paradox

I like mathematics. I’ve got very little talent for arithmetic but formal proofs were something I could feel my way through. I only learned this by failing regular calculus so badly and getting rescued by my roommate who is the scion of a very important family in algebraic topology. Bet you didn’t know that was a thing did you? He showed me that mathematics isn’t about numbers at all but about the logic of the universe. Also he kept me from flunking out. Thanks Tom!

I know the above sounds silly, but in academic circles math is one of those “purest” of institutions where cognitive processing power matters a lot and absolutely nothing else. They are some of the most deeply impractical and removed from reality types of humans you will ever meet.

I’m autistic enough that I found the company of this type of human deeply comforting as they comforted me though my shame based need desire to be normal. Literally no one will make you feel more normal than someone that works in formal logic and it’s adjacent philosophy of decision theory. I bet a lot lot of pretty girls with daddy issues have found this to be true if the LessWrong community is to be believed.

Because of how close I was to my roommate (and still an even though we don’t see each other enough) I got to spend time with a lot of utterly bizarre math people. And it really runs the gamut from those who are functionally pirates who can barely feed themselves to the founders of Renaissance Capital. They are a good time generally speaking. Extremely chaotic people who drink thousand dollar bottles of champagne from solo cups while discussing science fiction are my definition of a good hang.

But they are not what you’d call standard issue humans. If you’d like to know exactly how, ask them to explain how being three standard deviations from the mean has affected them and don’t interrupt them for thirty minutes. I am an outlier in many ways. But I don’t hold a candle to some of the folks I got to meet.

The reason I titled this post Newcomb’s Paradox is because it is thanks to early exposure to mathematics that I got to explore the complete irrationality of rationalism. Newcomb’s Paradox in its simplest format tells us that in an irrational system it is not rational to behave rationally. It is a paradox because this is both true and not true.

If you have some common sense you are not immediately knocked on your ass by this revelation but it turns out to be so unnerving. Unfortunately for some folks at the edge, which is most folks who are mathematicians, it might also break their brain. Effective altruism is now being blamed for its adjacency to the entire Sam Bankman Fried committed fraud at FTX scandal because they took the paradox entirely too literally and not at all seriously.

And given the dangers that can come from extremes perhaps more of us should be spending time with mathematicians. Math pirates when combined with high finance and potent philosophies might need tempering by those of us only two standard deviations out.

Categories
Finance Internet Culture

Day 678 and Winging It

I went for a haircut today. I’d been riding a haircut since May so it was a little embarrassing. I’d let it go from princess to dirty hippie.

Joking with the hairstylist a bit about being a bit weird we ended up commiserating over how much we enjoyed Twitter. She agreed that Twitter always felt like it was more real. Like people let it all hang out. And recently we all collectively realized that everyone is just winging it.

Nevertheless it can still be kind of a shock when it goes from “oh anyone can become one someone with hard work” to “oh fuck everyone is a fraud.”

I am I’ll admit a little shook about Sam Bankman Fried. I’ve got minimal exposure but I have interests that have been funded by funds that do. And that is really distressing to me. It always feels like at the center of the bullshit in this industry lurks some traditional finance fuckers not doing their math. And I do admit that chaps my ass. Sets us all back.

I do think plenty of the world is just winging it with a good faith and open heart. But for the sliver of sociopaths who know enough about governance and fiduciary duty and still decides that nah I’ll mix up some assets and ownership. Fuck you that’s regular old fraud and it sucks.

And what’s worse is you bring this on to our house. The people who do want to build a Plan B and who sincerely believe that a fairer more open accessible financial system is a global good. The people with shitty passports and communist governments actually need access but go ahead and you do some light self dealing. This isn’t important enough to you. Cool. Whatever. Nothing was riding on this.