Article

Beyond Money: How Crypto Is Growing Up

// February 29, 2024

Let’s say it bluntly. Blockchain technology has made a lot of people very, very rich. Not just the well-moneyed tech bro cognoscenti, but bedroom coders, cryptography enthusiasts, and people who came 8th place in an online Starcraft 2 tournament back in 2011. From literally nothing, crypto’s market cap is now measured in the trillions, and the young buck has taken its place among the asset stags of gold, oil, and real estate as a measurable influence on global markets.

For the Millenial class and under who’ve seen their standard of living drop consistently over the last decade, crypto has given them hope that the Information Age might be a place for them, and that they’re not doomed to ever diminishing wage-labor under the technocratic autocracy of banking and Big Tech.

Manic Beginnings 

And so we saw the mania. One that on a macro 10 year lens is still very much ongoing. There were violent and volatile swings. Life-changing gains and nosebleed losses. Every twenty-something you meet with a nice watch at the bar is suddenly starting a crypto project. It was a market full of cowboys - some wearing shining suits. 

Celebrity Pump ‘n’ Dumps, streamers flogging worthless tokens to their kid followers, billions poured into JPEG collections. A whole generation playing a collective game of Uncle, praying they weren’t left holding the bag. If it sounds degenerate - it is. And they knew it. Those that played the game played in Pepe pachinko parlors, feverishly dashing for the next hot token under an avalanche of memetic sound and fury. It was great.

Moving Finance On-Chain

This was new money. A way to stick it to old money. A cause celebre for the intergenerational war. A way to take back control. A way to decentralize ownership of our money systems. To take it back to its roots. Crypto’s cypherpunk anarchist charm writ large against a backdrop of bank bailouts and widespread austerity. And it works - it’s true. If the world commits to decentralized peer-to-peer cash, it would be a great way to transact. 

Of course, as you know, current financial narratives in blockchain are much grander. Let’s put the whole dang financial system on-chain. Savings, loans, mortgages, Forex, remittance, insurance, underwriting, synthetic instruments, RWAs. Let’s tokenize the whole damn lot. Adoption, that once-mythic word, is now an active reality. 

By now though, the game - as we used to play it - is up. Any large financial institution not looking at integration of blockchain technologies in their portfolios or client services is not doing their job properly. The first chapter of crypto is complete, with all its overnight millionaires and fringe status. That’s not to say certain coins make you rich, that new blockchain innovative techs will flash and then perhaps fail, or that there aren’t still bad actors out there, but that the shudder ‘industry’, as crypto is increasingly referred to, is finally maturing. And that the idea of blockchain as a gold rush neon casino for retail - while still certainly true - is more of a remnant culture of a gestalt decade, rather than the narrative that’s driving the price itself. Crypto, in short, is growing up. And all the big boys want to play, despite how antithetical that feels to a crypto purist.

Ownership Economies

Yet that lens only speaks to finance - and to financial drivers behind crypto. And money, although a top-notch starting point, only speaks to a fraction of the capabilities of what blockchains - these decentralized supercomputers - can truly achieve for our society. 

The last decade, while everyone was distracted by the banks crashing the economy, Big Tech has quietly gobbled up more control of the internet, including the interfacing, the hardware, the routing. It has imposed rent-seeking behavior, it has claimed all permissions, and it now monopolizes most if not all our primordial cyberspace. As a result, Big Tech now accounts for a full half of the NASDAQ’s market cap, and its activities can decide the fate of anyone online. 

We see this on a small-scale with YouTube creators being demonetized. What people don’t realize is that by this point, Google can demonetize entire companies just by quietly giving their search less priority, Amazon can delist your product, Microsoft can ramp up your enterprise rents to an unsustainable degree. The once dynamic open internet garden that created the conditions for these companies in the first place has been completely salted, with us operating in walled garden environments, where our data and our privacy are pillaged at every turn. 

Opening Up the Means of Production

This is where blockchain’s legacy will be greatest. Not in buying coffee or remitting cash to Africa or tokenizing real estate, but in giving citizens a route to collective ownership of the online services that, in a very real way, now dictate their lives. 

By pushing centralized permissions, ownership, and capital to the fringe, we move away from a create-and-charge rent model to one of continuous value creation and distribution based on contribution. We can build horizontally scaling hardware networks that anyone can be a part of. We can create more democratic and meritocratic systems of governance around any activity whatsoever. We can invert the relationship between software and hardware - so that powerful corporations who own the ‘means of production’ can’t use that Compute to dominate any potential commercial or private operation. A dynamic open internet where startups can thrive and build the innovations that change our lives the way the internet did in the first place. We can create a global computer for everyone.

Crypto’s AI Antidote

This becomes particularly existential when thinking about AI. It can be hard for many to grasp why what we do at Source Network is so important. We all grew up using Google. We all book taxis with Uber. We all use Facebook to talk to elderly relatives. We’ve been indoctrinated not to care. AI, however, provides a graspable counterpoint. If all this computing and hardware power, all this software control, all this intellectual infrastructure - is owned by just a few companies, then those companies will have total control of any new AI models we create. Right now, it’s all fun and games. Once AI becomes a requirement for everyday life just to keep up, or the models become powerful enough to displace whole sectors, that concentration of power seems a nasty oversight. We’ve all read Sci-Fi of corporate AIs run amok. It might not be as far away as you think.

An Open Internet, a New Era

Crypto’s cypherpunk roots remain, then, just as old money swoops in to apply its first use case of a new financial system. However, blockchain and crypto is so much more, it’s a way - as Chris Dixon Founder of A16z says - to ‘create an internet which works better on behalf of users and creators ... .and return it to its original ideals of the 90s’. It’s ownership to the masses. It’s data to the people. It’s recognizing the fact our online lives are every bit as essential to our humanity as our physical ones. We are techno-sapien, but we let a few centralized actors control everything. It’s okay, we had no other choice. Yet Blockchain, and crypto, gives us that choice. Through building decentralized databases, decentralized infrastructure, and decentralized tooling for dApps, Source Network is delivering on the promise of an open internet, the next chapter in crypto’s astonishing story.

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