Biohacking Internet Culture Startups

Day 1297 and Crypto Libertarians in the Age of Cyperpunk Anarcho-Tyranny

We are living in the past’s version of the future. The Cyperpunk I read in my youth is now the stuff of my daily life. It’s not as sleek as in fiction but it’s hard not to feel like it’s William Gibson’s world and I’m just living it.

The clubs looked a little sleazier as we escaped the aughts but we had a renaissance in technical tools for producing culture. Digital music and multimedia have exploded entire social media economies. Could Vernor Vinge be right and our economies will turn to creating data to train for the singularity?

We are only now getting Idoru but we are veering towards Burning Chrome. Half the anime avatars in accelerationist e/acc chats are wearing Mirror Shades and everyone watches for crypto rugs. But we are getting our Mt Gox Bitcoin back right?

What about borderless corporate worlds and mass scale surveillance identity? That’s here too. When William Gibson wrote “Disneyland with the Death Penalty” I wonder if he knew it would be the nexus of the network state debate?

I can turn on club kid techno from 2002 and look at a reality in 2024 and its aesthetic is pretty close to the details Jonny Mnemonic. A global pandemic that affects the nervous system of those infected which was accidentally released from a lab.

Johnny Mnemonic movie poster.

We’ve even got the LoTeks in a Luddite rebellion against a world connected by dubiously transparent artificial intelligence owned by actual Zaibatsu multinationals with more power than nation states. Fact and fiction spinning hyperstition better than Nick Land ever dreamed.

The vulnerability of our entire world to our digital networks was made dramatically apparent yesterday when Crowdstrike took a hot knife through the butter of corporate infrastructure and left us with blue screens of death.

It’s not real but it could be

Snowcrash and Crash Override? It’s better. We got amazing memes and elaborate fakes of the Blue Screen of Death. It actually did suck for airlines and banks because regulatory capture is the stuff of systemic risk.

And lest you think we’ve got no biohacking in this Cyperpunk world after the pandemic we have a renaissance in systemic & holistic approaches to medicine. Suddenly everyone is aware of the risk in agribusiness. Seed oils is normie stuff. Instead of turning Luddite the Danish invented advance metabolic medicine to cope. Everyone is on GLP-1 agonists.

Mix in the rise of nicotine and THC and you’ve got a national post prohibition bloom of folklore cures whose research has been suppressed by pharmaceutical companies and regulatory bodies alike. Conspiracy? Maybe but just the sludge of industry.

When I look at my own work I see the future arriving. We fund decentralized compute and marketplaces for inferences. We fund open source database software. We fund multi-sigs for hyper transactional blockchains. We fund nuclear fission that pulls its materials the sky.

And in that all of the is our founders are global citizens who have to manage anarcho-tyrannical borders with visas controlled by incompetent governments and live through the geopolitics of wars fought with drones and propaganda. The future is already here. It’s actually pretty cool. Just watch out for nervous system tics.

Finance Startups

Day 1286 and Halfway There, Living 2024 On A Prayer

An estimated 50% of the global population is participating in elections across 60 countries. That includes as supra-national entities like the European Union holding major elections. Naturally this made anyone who has to do any type of planning anxious.  

Concerns about access to compute and adequate energy, overbearing and inconsistent regulatory regimes impacting exits, growth and liquidity events, and the post-ZIRP monetary policy driving up cost of capital have been in the foreground of startup communities.

I see this reflected in my H1 investments. Access to energy, access to compute, and decentralization of both compute & energy are directionally the major trends that I believe will matter over the next decade. 

CapEx concerns and hyperscaling may grip the Magnificent 7 and worry analysts at Goldman Sachs but I’d encourage students of economic history to look to Carlotta Perez and her theory of deployment in previous economic innovation cycles for a more nuanced take. I think simple reads of over-investment are for suckers. 

From where we stand, capital serves the founders who make things of real value. That takes time. Regular builders have simpler needs while they do it: the freedom to make what they want with readily accessible tools without interference. 

We originated #FreedomToCompute as a tagline that shows our values. Not only has it driven me deal flow, but the coalition of e/acc, crypto, and El Segundo hardware/deep tech autists even changed a political party’s platform.

I’ll admit that I was surprised by the Republican Party’s adoption of innovation in crypto, artificial intelligence, and space as a core policy plank. They must really be courting startups as a constituency but I’m happy to have as many as possible aligned with us.

Science and progress are values traditionally associated with liberalism’s left leaning parties, but it seems the axis of “the best is yet to come”  is a wide coalition. My heuristics have thusly been updated so we can remain up and to the right. 

Anna Gat’s Axis of Hope

Culture Politics

Day 1285 and Platform Changes

I don’t want to make this into a whole thing but the Republicans have posted the GOP party platform. The Silicon Diaspora is now such an important constituency we’ve got enough sway to move policy.

A network state of e/acc, crypto builders, Bitcoiners, El Segundo hardware startups, deep tech autists and white pilled Space dorks changed a political party’s platform.

And it wasn’t the one I expected. Scientific progress was something I’d come to associate with liberals. It would seem Democrats are not as certain about being technically progressive anymore. But the middle that builds is a constituency.

It’s such a small thing and I know politicians don’t have a track record of doing what they say. But the idea that a ragtag group of internet friends could get our issues given place of pride in a platform feels nice. A multimodal pro-social game yielded a positive sum.

We want more technology being built quickly by those with the agency to do so. We’ve got diseases to cure, climate change to adapt to, software to be coded, nuclear reactors to be spun up and a long path to space from there.

I hope the value of better medicine, better tools, and more ambition makes its way to everyone.

For now I think it’s cool that I can see where every line in this policy document came from. A very hodge podge group of internet weirdos in Discords, policy shops, Twitter communities, and group chats got politicians to agree with us. It feels kind of nice. I believe FreedomToCompute is a constitutional American right and we are proving our case

Internet Culture Politics

Day 1272 and GWOT

As an elder millennial fascinated by the mass media I have a lot of mixed feelings on the American government and how it waged the “war on terror.”

It is heavy on my mind with the current news of Julien Assange’s agreement with the American government.

I think a lot about media, and in particular the technology that powers media. An informed population can still act in its own best interests but what we get told affects what we perceive as our best interests. And as we become more informed naturally some skepticism of the intentions of power arise.

Media affects how nation states wage wars. As we’ve evolved from print to television to radio to the internet how we sell the costs of war changed. But there are always populations who pay enough attention to be skeptical.

The open internet was born of that skepticism of government even so much of the technology emerged thanks to America’s heavy investment in defense industries.

Scientists used to have a wide range of politics and it’s not a surprise that defending American interests is a popular idea amongst people who work for the government. But maybe you see things and fight for more accountability along the way.

The GWOT unevenly affected millennials. If you were middle class your kid probably didn’t join up unless being in the service was how you got to being middle class. There was no draft.

Being in Colorado I had exposure to folks who worked for defense contractors as a lot of the private sector had settled around the cluster of talent from Boulder’s science labs down to the Air Force Academy in Fort Collins.

But there has been skepticism in all the branches of government as it became harder to control the narratives. And Americans don’t particularly like the idea of having propaganda even though I’d argue we produce and consumer enormous quantities of it as a nation.

I wish I could be more cogent about any of this. I am regularly shocked by how little people seem to remember how we prosecuted these long wars. We quickly forget.

Don’t be too sure human nature had changed. Don’t be too keen to give the government power because you are afraid. We’ve already seen what they do with it.

Biohacking Emotional Work

Day 1271 and Documenting Practices

The winding roads of spiritual practice often cross paths with the more practical minded subcultures interested in practicalities.

Doing a thing can be more enjoyable than documenting a thing but documenting turns out to be quite helpful in helping others learn to do things.

As we knit together our individual experiences our capacity to measure and systematize improves which in turn scales access if you are inclined to experiment. Getting a look at more than our personal n of 1 enables us to practice kitchen table science in areas prone being illegible or inscrutable.

I believe we are accelerating a number of types of revivalism thanks to the network effects of the internet colliding with religious and spiritual traditions.

One area where I am tracking this has been Silicon Valley’s exploration of meditative practices and mindfulness. I read a wonderful piece by Jake Eaton today about his experiences with jhana practices. If you are interested in learning the practicalities of this type of practice Nadia Asparouva has documented it extensively as well.

There has been a rising interest in codification of various mindful and meditative practices in a number of my syncretic cultures. Engineering dharma bum connective mental map mindfulness seems to be an archetype doing the work of documenting.

Handing people what was once hidden knowledge naturally makes some people skeptical. We’ve gone from sharing breathing practices to documenting achieving spiritual ecstasy.


Day 1255 and Venture Nurture

I sometimes wonder why venture capital hasn’t coded more feminine. The cynic in me say because it makes money and money accords status. Where there is status there are men competing for it. Which is a good thing in my book.

I just happen to find the kind of investing I do to be so feminine in character. I’d never really thought of my gender when I got into startups simply because I was a founder with a problem and technology solved it for me. I was a nerd about a few very specific things and the market agreed with me.

But now as the wider world has forced me reconsider gender and how my identity gets used by others in how I do business. And I do see that I approach my investing in traditionally feminine terms. I wasn’t that kind of founder. But I am that kind of investor. 

I nurture. I love finding a weirdo working on something in a weird corner of the internet. Nothing makes me happier than telegraphing out that I am weird and getting back other weirdos. I like to listen. I like to learn. I don’t mind unpolished or outlandish or even absolutely crazy. My best deals all started in DMs

Nerds aren’t a polished people. They may lack all kinds of social graces. They will often not care about anything but the thing they are obsessing over. And I happen to find this to be a good thing.

Not everyone agrees that we should work with their lack of graces. Ruxandra Teslo discussed how weird nerds are being pushed from institutions like academia.

Weird Nerds are being driven out of academia by the so-called Failed Corporatist phenotype”

Ruxandra Teslo

I am just absolutely here for the weird nerds. They are my tribe and I see it as part of my path to help bring more of them up behind me. To nurture is a feminine virtue. I am happy to bring it to my founders. They should all feel safe coming to me because they know that I am one of them and my goal is to see them thrive.


Day 1254 and Zipppp

I hadn’t expected to have a busy day. I’m really not enjoying having Covid. It’s an inconvenience and it sucks.

But suddenly I was getting all good news from all sides. A startup with a round. Another founder preparing to go out for an enviable raise with exceptional traction. An SPV for a round everyone wants in on. A colleague who had been thinking of taking action on a thesis is going to run an experiment. It’s just all very much my investments and my ecosystem thriving.

I felt like I was in William Gibson’s Jackpot. Incredible things are happening across so many industries and the world is an absolutely chaotic mess. It’s nothing but wars, gerontocracy and resource constraints out there. But here we are working.

Chaos pulls acceleration out of us because we must solve the problems in front of us. War and geopolitical turmoil and climate change require us to shoulder more.

We have real engineering challenges in compute, nuclear, decentralized systems, artificial intelligence and open source to solve to get to meaningful breakthroughs.

The problems are not easy. But our tools are getting better and the compounding effect of this renaissance in intelligence is that we might be able to build for bigger things.

Doomerism wants to focus on how bad things are. And I am the last person to disabuse you of a realistic model of what we are up against. I live off grid in Montana, I own crypto and I like my freedoms.

Humans are resourceful. Given ingenuity and incentive incredible talent has the will to say that I will take on this piece of the future for all of us.

It’s such a privilege to be woven into the ecosystem that is getting us through the Jackpot. And dare I say maybe the application of our ingenuity gets a better result and we can improve on Gibson.

The fictional “jackpot” described in the novels is an “androgenic, systemic, multiplex” cluster of environmental, medical and economic crises that begins to emerge in the present day and eventually reduces world population by 80 percent over the second half of the 21st century

The Jackpot Trilogy.

Maybe we can improve on these numbers. We’ve got the doomer version in our imaginations so now we can find a solution. Life, as Jeff Goldblum reminds us in Jurassic Park, finds a way.

Internet Culture Startups

Day 1245 and AI: Tool Versus Master

A bad workman blames his tools


As we rapidly accelerate the power of our computing tools, machine learning has blossomed into the most heated topic in government policy, business strategy, and popular culture, as artificial intelligence begins to affect everyday life.

The focus on harms, and in particular singularity doomerism, has (ironically) pulled focus from the implications of the seminal “attention is all you need” paper.

Astonishing as it may seem at times, intelligence does not top out at “median human”, but can, and possibly will, go much further.

What a triumph this represents. We will all have access to tools that will enable our entire species to build. More intelligence applied to more problems means more solutions to very real human problems.

I am in Austin Texas for Consensus 2024. I’ll be participating a town hall to discuss how crypto’s mindset of open-source, decentralized computation might help us grapple with who builds, maintains, & owns AI tools.

Policymakers and Silicon Valley executives are both calling for regulation of artificial intelligence as fears grow over its potential harms. But others warn of entrenching a dominant, opaque, centralized Big Tech model and instead advocate for open-source code, decentralized computation and distributed data sourcing. Whom should policymakers listen to? What, if anything, can governments do to help this vital technology evolve in a pro-human way?

Thankfully, we aren’t starting from scratch in building a regulatory framework for artificial intelligence. Code has been treated as speech in Bernstein v. United States Department of State. It would seem like a reasonable precedent to consider algorithms speech as well.

And let us be clear, math and computing power are as essential as speech. In today’s world, they ARE speech. Humans may speak in natural language, but the way we extend ourselves, build things, and grow as a species is through our tools. Computation is a tool. To presume that these tools do harm is to make us bad workmen.

Now of course incumbent powers may try to keep the disruptive and democratizing power of these tools out of the hands of the populace “for their own safety”, but imagine if the first amendment had been frozen in time at the printing press and didn’t protect the internet? We cannot accept permanently lowered standards of fundamental rights.

The 90s era fight for strong encryption enabled a flourishing of digital businesses from finance to e-commerce. We must insist that the freedom to innovate remains the default for U.S. digital policy.

Ultimately, I agree with R Street’s Adam Thierer. He says “fear based narratives that prompt calls for preemptive regulation of computational processes and treat AI innovations ‘as guilty until proven innocent’ are no way to make good policy.”

America does not have a Federal Computer Commission for computing or the internet but instead relies on the wide variety of laws, regulations, and agencies that existed long before digital technologies came along.

R Street Comments on NTIA

If we are to regulate sensibly, let us treat artificial intelligence as we would any other tool and let us do so within the existing framework of our constitutional rights and their interpretations within past precedents.


Day 1230 and Alignment is Consensus

Over the last decade I’ve gone deeper into a set of values that guide my relationship to what we should be building and for whom.

Consensus and alignment will be the twin sisters of our shared reality.

We achieve consensus through open networked & decentralized systems of governance and value. A trustless system reaches consensus we all agree upon through the mathematical verification of compute. Decentralized collaborative approaches are the path to alignment.

The further we get from truth as a set of shared experience we agree upon as humans, the more crucial a trustless future becomes.

AI and crypto offer us transparent solutions to agreement. Machine intelligence needs machine money and machine governance.

Humans beings are not truth seeking animals. We are social animals. We decide the boundaries of culture together. Rationality is an aspiration resting atop faulty sensors and emotional baggage.

But we can reach a consensus. Mathematics gives us the tools to differentiate between thing and not thing. We can encode quite a bit into binary.

We can seek to know things impartially. From there we share our experience with others. We measure and compare. Trial and error is collaborative. To be able to come to an agreement on a shared truth is the whole goal.

To be able to collaborate widely and through shared and mutually agreed upon standards remains the ambition of civilization. Coordination unlocks progress.

With artificial intelligence we can extend out the realm of what we know. Networking together all our emotionally faulty sensors, conflicting pieces of cultural & emotional knowledge together reveals bigger things.

If, from that networked reality, we are then able to scale the abstract business of solving specific and concrete problems all the better.

Building within reality requires us to agree on an acceptable consensus. We can verify positions and align incentives together. The alignment is all of us coming to a consensus on how we allocate our attention, willpower, and resources.

We reach for technological progress through alignment which is organized through the network consensus layers of governance and value.

The freedom to compute is essential to alignment. In a trustless world, we are able to reach consensus we can all verify.


Day 1180 and Renting Picks and Shovels by The Hour

The board needs to see that we are doing “something” and so management consultants have done a lot of paddling aggressively. Everyone is making money of artificial intelligence right? Well, wrong.

My belief is that this is a result of not having adequate developer tools at the enterprise level so no processes are repeatable or simple yet. Not for lack of trying in a frenzy of weird media panics around whether chat bots are gods or just malign spirits. Which like lol.

This isn’t something that gets solved overnight. Value accrues in strange ways to very particular forms of automation. Whether that gets bought up in bidding wars over core technologies over time or in simple breakout solutions isn’t actually as predictable as you’d imagine it. It’s very much about people who build things that other people want in reasonably reliable ways.

But right now a lot of software is being built in silly and not terribly repeatable ways. It reminds me a little bit of having been at a specialty retailer trying to figure out ecommerce and making a bunch of mistakes. Eventually the market solves it and then it demands a return on investment.