Discover more from America 2.0 (by Gary Sheng)
Web3’s Holy Grail is Censorship-Resistant Movement Infrastructure
The Hyped Up Space Will Be A Bust If It Doesn’t Empower Us To Out-Coordinate Evil
Web3 is synonymous with hype cycles.
And its fiercest critics rejoice every time a scammer pulls the rug under the banner of web3.
At the same time, many of web3’s leaders are some of the most inspiring optimist-realists I’ve ever met.
If I wasn’t so immersed in the space day-to-day I wouldn’t have as much conviction that I do that the space can be a massive net positive on the world.
Why do I say this?
I could point to dozens of protocols (aka foundational tech building blocks being built in web3) that seem promising to me.
But sharing a laundry list can turn into an exercise of missing the forest for the trees.
What’s the point of web3?
There are many good answers to this, but at the top of this list for me is this:
To empower regular people to out-coordinate evil.
What do I mean by evil?
I mean Moloch—the God of discoordination that makes it so hard for us to stop falling into “multi-polar traps” where we all lose in the long run. How do we coordinate to regenerate the world?
I mean dictators—the Putins of the world keeping millions of people from realizing their potential to flourish. How do stop the spread of autocracy?
I mean the devils in sheep’s clothing—the SBFs of the world who have mastered the language of “altruism” and seized new and old levers of power for their own gain. How do we stop these bad actors?
Web2 tools alone will never be able to challenge these Beasts. They are controlled by people who have a vested interest in the status quo.
This is why I argue that web3’s Holy Grail is censorship-resistant movement infrastructure—aka tools that can actually empower regular people to challenge and beat the most powerful people in the world.
We need tools to help us hold every force of evil accountable, no matter how much money they have. No matter how many elected officials they have bought. No matter how many intelligence agencies they have corrupted.
Challenging power can be a dangerous endeavor, especially in countries where activism is not culturally and legally protected.
By challenging a great enough of a Beast, activists may face physical violence, intimidation, or repression from government authorities or other groups. Additionally, activism can also put individuals and communities at risk of exploitation, abuse, or exploitation by unscrupulous actors seeking to exploit their cause for personal gain.
So how do we address the root issues that make activism difficult?
We need to build the following pieces of foundational tech:
Tools that make it easy for an activist to prove to other activists that they are trustworthy without giving up personal information that can be used to harm them. Tools like Gitcoin Passport, paired with Zero Knowledge tech like Holonym, will help fill this gap as they mature.
Tools that make it easy for movement organizers to keep bots and bad actors out. The best causes attract the most sophisticated scammers, and invite the powers that be to put a huge bounty on sabotaging those movements.
Tools that make it easy for movement organizers to fairly reward actual contributors with rewards. I discuss in this thread how a tool like Guild is essential for scaling movements by automating the process of getting people to contribute more. It's impossible for movement leaders to micromanage thousands of movement contributors.
Tools that make it easy to post information that mobilizes people in a censorship-resistant way. In my last post, I talked about the importance of “honest, participatory propaganda” in movement building. We need technology that ensures that truths that challenge power can always be spread.
Tools that make it easy to keep internal movement communications secure. It's essential to activists' safety that their personal data and communications are protected from surveillance and hacking.
Tools that make it easy to raise money for the movement, even if a government doesn't like what you're doing. It's easy for a powerful entity like a government to tell PayPal to shut down a user's account. It's much harder for them to shut down Ethereum accounts.
Why is "web3" well suited to build many of these foundational pieces? To me, there are five properties of web3 that steal the show:
Decentralization: Blockchains are decentralized systems that are not controlled by any single entity, which can make it difficult for governments or other powerful actors to interfere with or shut down activism efforts.
Transparency: Transactions on a blockchain are public and transparent, which can help to build trust and accountability among activists and the public.
Immutable record-keeping: Once a transaction is recorded on a blockchain, it cannot be altered, which can provide a permanent and auditable record of activism efforts.
Tokenization: Blockchains can be used to create digital tokens that represent assets or represent support for a cause, which can be used as a form of crowdfunding or as a way to build a community of supporters.
Identity management: Blockchains can be used to create decentralized digital identities, which can give activists more control over their personal information and help protect their privacy.
I may be mistaken in my optimism. Time will tell.
But after about 1.5 years of being deeply immersed in web3, it seems to be the perfect platform for building a movement infrastructure that empowers ordinary people to out-coordinate evil.
We need tools that make it easy for activists to prove their trustworthiness, keep out bots and bad actors, fairly reward contributors, post information in a censorship-resistant way, keep internal movement communications secure, and fundraise even when governments don't like what they're doing.
Decentralization, transparency, immutable record-keeping, tokenization, and identity management are just a few of the many unique power-ups that web3 offers to the movement-building space.
If we can build the right set of tools, web3 can be used to build a better world for us all.
I’ll end with a quote from one of the original cypherpunk visionaries, Timothy C. May:
"Cryptography is the ultimate form of non-violent direct action."