Lore is No Joke

I spent most of last weekend reading about how game engines work and the history of the steam engine.

I did this because, the more I study it and think about it, the more I realize just how monumentally significant the invention of the DeFi engine is (and will be) in the history of finance. This is what Radix has uniquely done (for now, since more are invariably going to come along).

The parallels are there and it’s incumbent on me to tell that story as effectively as possible.

I have a stack of articles on my desk that I intend to use as reference material and, while it’s possible that I’m procrastinating a bit since the implications of the Radix DeFi engine are so important, I’m going to choose to focus for today on a different article I read last weekend, by Venkatesh Rao, called “Lands of Lorecraft.”

I’ve written about Rao’s deep intellectual style before and this one really challenged me to think outside of the proverbial box, but I think the basic point he makes is that there’s a new style of management thinking which he calls “lorecraft.”

The common feature in the work of these emerging thinkers is the centrality of lore, as in folklore, the lore of a fictional extended universe, or more pertinently, the water-cooler lore of an organization, in the framing of the traditional concerns of management and organizational theory. Lore, you might say is the feedstock of both stories and world-building, but is neither. It is raw cultural phenomenology.

He cites one of the leading thinkers of this new management school, Rafael Fernandez, who provides the following framework (the red is from Rao).

Essentially, Rao argues, we’re entering an era where the bulk of actual “work” is done by machines, protocols, and processes.

Both on-demand Web2 cloud infrastructure and Web3 decentralized protocol infrastructure automate vast amounts of hard-edged bureaucratic functions that were previously wrapped in multiple layers of human agency and affect. With Web3, this technological evolution is headed in the direction of complete automation at the core.

So, instead of the “hard management disciplines” that were hallmarks of the Taylorization of industry and the precision of the industrial revolution (e.g. six sigma), less and less of that becomes the manager’s problem/challenge.

Instead, the challenge/opportunity is to craft narratives (‘lore’) that serve to motivate the ‘inside’ group and keep them oriented on the mission and, more importantly, the “why” of the mission.

It’s “storytelling,” a profession which has come into vogue over the past 10-20 years, but not in the service of marketing, which Rao says is what we say to convince the so-called “outsiders” about why our group is special.

Instead, the “lore” is the story the ‘insiders’ tell themselves about their unique, special calling in the world.

However, “lore” can’t just be manufactured in the way that a story narrative can be. As he writes:

You cannot, for instance, set out to write an origin myth. At least not one that will work as lore (though it may work as part of a grift). You can only recognize and institutionalize one.

There is an origin myth to Radix, as there is to Bitcoin, and pretty much any start-up. The opportunity is to find it, uncover it, celebrate it, and then, over time, build the lore up via symbols, rituals, customs, and rhythm.

It’s tribal at global scale.

And it’s no joke.

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