Social media is the tool which the capitalists use to direct advertising at you. It's truly an innovative product that allows them to insert themselves into your conversations so that they can efficiently influence your purchasing decisions by overwhelming you with advertising. It started so innocently, we could share photographs of our friends and family with our other friends and family and everyone could keep in touch better. Over time, we were told that our favorite brands were building their own pages on which we would be allowed to interact with them, perhaps influencing their manufacturing decisions while they reinforce our present purchasing habits. What a wonderfully symbiotic relationship.
So much so that today we should actually feel compelled to support small businesses on major social media sites. I wonder if Big Retail, who has been lurking in dark corners of social media for years and years, will find out who is making the best versions of the products found in Big Box Retail and steal their ideas. The good news is that when your friendly local small business-owner goes out of business, Big Box Retail will be right there, ready and willing to sell your a substitute, you know, "in the meantime." Thank goodness that Big Box Retail will know exactly when the social media pages go inactive!
Decentralization, at it's core, is a wonderful aspiration of the best-intentioned of all political theorists, The Libertarian. In fact, we might call decentralized finance a bit of a "fever dream" for The Libertarian. Now, if you don't have your very own The Libertarian in your life, you might be able to best identify this not-rare-enough woodland creature (read: a good candidate for the Endangered Species List considering that they won't be terribly missed) by a bookcase overpopulated with the works of writers like Adam Smith, John Locke, Milton Friedman, Ayn Rand, Ludwig Von Mises, and Friedrich Hayek. They probably quote them a fair amount too when discussing political theory. They point out the particular success of capitalism in Eastern Europe and grow strangely quiet when discussion of Pinochet's Chile comes around.
The Libertarian is actually explained through what may seem like a parable but is actually a true story out of New Hampshire. In all started when a group of libertarians, aided by the internet, recruited a large enough group to move into a local town and gain enough of a voting majority to change all the town codes to reflect their libertarian values. This was not an accidental experiment, after all, New Hampshire's motto is "Live Free or Die." It was called the Free Town Project and it happened in Grafton, Now Hampshire.
In the ruins of this political experiment gone awry, the area around Grafton now features some of the most aggressive bears in the world. After a century without a know bear attack, the area has experienced at least three since the Free Town Project arrived. The black bears in the area are particularly bold. Now, if you talk to a Park Ranger you'll find that bears tend to want to be left alone, like most of us. Not the bears in Grafton.
After the arrival of The Libertarian, they began to campaign to repeal almost all the town's ordinances and repeal all of the town's services. Voters, while some voice passionate objections in town hall meetings, were only too happy to, by principle, strip away funding for town services in the name of Liberty. Once the libertarians had overwhelmed Grafton's 800 voters and town services were non-existent, residents found that they needed something to do with their trash. They also found that they were free to solve the problem themselves, there were no town services available to encourage residents to secure their trash. Not only that, there was no effective way to deal with the bears that now began to encroach upon residential areas. Some residents fed the bears, others shot at the bears. The bears learned that there was just no way to predict human behavior from one human to the next. As a result, the bears became bolder and bolder, ignoring the threats of humans and disregarding any kind of boundaries set for the bears. It actually becomes a sort of strange sociological and behavioral lesson. Above all else, it is a lesson in how libertarianism and reality rarely mix.
In the wake of decentralized finance, an entire decentralized world is attempting to open up. There are a range of decentralized crypto projects where eventually the community itself will be responsible for decisions to situations where the community has almost no control and major stake holders and/or block producers control the network. But great communities embrace accountability, rules, and structure. That's what keeps them functional, after all, and this is particularly important when we look at decentralized social media projects. That is, unless we want them to be abusive for the sake of being abusive. After all, it is the abusive content on the internet that keeps the traffic moving, that is to say, it's the morally questionable and reprehensible content that gets the most engagement and "consumer engagement" is sweet, sweet pillow talk on Madison Avenue. Most critically, how will decentralized social media protect itself from being consumed by two groups of hungry caterpillars consuming everything in their path, the advertisers and the alt-right.
It is in this light that I approached the Tyler Durden column in ZeroHedge today, and, well, most days, complaining that Binance is limiting Bitcoin withdrawals to .006 BTC for users undergoing only the most basic identification verification requirements. While Coinbase is very much institutionalized, Binance was supposedly the Wild West of crypto trading. And now, they are turning towards the regulators in an attempt to charm them. While I can understand the disappointment on that side of aisle, I have to take issue with the position because they simultaneously begrudge Binance for giving into regulators while (likely correctly) pointing out that government-backed digital currencies won't look anything like the cryptocurrencies of today. Where Bitcoin was once seen as an instrument that could identify and shame people littering into the Sydney Harbor, for example, digital currency can accomplish the same but with more nefarious purpose. Imagine the advertisers finding their way into your wallet to where you can't even interact with your own money without going through them!
It would be entirely reasonable to conclude that an industry that refuses to concede much of anything to government regulations will be dismantled. It is also important to remember that an industry that puts up complex barrier to entry will often find itself left in relative obscurity. And it is so with the user experience associated with a great deal of DeFi. Sure, some people will endure a learning curve a month tall just to chase the promise of 140% return on a liquidity pool, but, many will not. And while I don't want to advocate for an over-abundance of liquidity entering the markets, crypto must be reasonable when considering on-ramps. It should be as easy as signing into a Google account, or <GASP!> an investment or bank account. The elitism behind demanding mass culture master the learning curve associated with DeFi is a quick path to long-term obscurity.
If we want cryptocurrency to succeed, at some point, someone is going to have to bend a little, give a little to get a little in return. There has to be a balance struck between anonymous transactions and the need for cryptocurrency to be seen as legitimate. We have to expect that, at some point, the big players are going to have to play by some rules. The wider audience demands it. Sober eyes are required to see that crypto is nowhere near ready for the bright lights of Broadway. And innovative minds are needed to bridge the chasm.